Tech News Weekly 303 Transcript
Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.
Jason Howell (00:00:00):
Coming up on Tech News Weekly. I'm Jason Howell and I start today's show talking with Kyle Orland from RS Technica. He joins to talk about the unity price structure change and how developers are upset. And I'm Micah Sargent and we talk to the Mozilla Foundation's own Misha Reov about how cars are the worst product category they've ever reviewed in terms of privacy and security. Man. Yeah, that's some pretty scary stuff. Also, my story of the week about M G M and Caesar's. The Vegas properties, well as around the US and other places, ransomware attacks, they each have a very different strategy for how they deal with it. Plus the US has kicked off its 10 week trial with Google. It is the modern webs. Look at a company that may be trying to take over the internet at least when it comes to search engines. All that and more coming up on Tech News Weekly podcasts you love from people you trust. This is tweet is tweet.
This is Tech News Weekly episode 303 recorded Thursday, September 14th, 2023. Developers Unite Against Unity. This episode of Tech News Weekly is brought to you by our friends. IT Pro tv now a C I Learning IT Skills are outdated in about 18 months. Launch or advance your career today with quality, affordable, entertaining training individuals. Use Code TWIT 30 for 30% off a standard or premium individual IT pro firstname.lastname@example.org slash twit and by express V vpn, if you really want to go incognito and protect your privacy, make yourself as invisible as possible with a number one rated V P N Express VPN. For three extra months free with a one-year package, go to express vpn.com/tnw and by Giada. All too often security professionals are undergoing the tedious and arduous task of manually collecting evidence. With Rada, companies can complete audits, monitor controls, and expand security assurance efforts to scale.
Say goodbye to manual evidence collection and hello to automation. All done at dda speed. Visit dda.com/twi to get a demo and 10% off implementation. Hello and welcome to Tech News Weekly, the show where every week we talk to and about the people making and breaking the tech news. I am one of your hosts. Micah Sargent. I'm the other guy. I'm back. Jason Howell. Hello Jason to see you Micah. It's good to see you too. Yeah, thanks for covering for me last week while I was at my nephew's wedding. It was beautiful, it was wonderful and as is always the case, you take your foot off the gas pedal of technology news even for a week and then you go and then you come back. Yes, it really is a scramble. It's like how do I recalibrate? I'm still paused on the fact that you have a nephew old enough to be married.
Me too. I wouldn't expect that. I can't believe that. Congrats to your nephew. Yes indeed. Yeah, it's crazy to watch the little ones become big ones and then suddenly get married. Anyways, let's talk about some tech news and actually this story is a biggie, especially if you go to the Ars Technica article that we're going to be discussing today. You'll see it has an insane amount of comments, which means people are angry. The gaming industry in upheaval this week with the news that the Unity engine was implementing a new fee structure and I'll give you three guesses. It's pretty divisive is what it is. Kyle Orland wrote about this for ours and is here for a return visit. It's good to have you back, Kyle.
Kyle Orland (00:03:49):
Hey, thanks. Good to see you Jason.
Jason Howell (00:03:50):
Yeah, good to see you too. So before we get into the massive amount of changes and all the work that you're doing, kind of tracking the legal issues of this story, first of all, what is Unity's pricing structure now? Because it's easy to think that the change happens immediately. It doesn't happen until the end of the year, but it's coming, it's looming and people are upset about it. What is it prior to the change at this point?
Kyle Orland (00:04:16):
So right now Unity is proudly the royalty free game engine and that's why it's been so popular with a large segment of the game development community. In fact, if you're using the personal version and you're not making I think a hundred thousand dollars a year in revenue, you can get it completely free. You can release your game and not have to pay any other fees, any other percent of revenue or anything. Now, once you start making a little bit of revenue, you have to start paying for the pro or industrial versions of the engine, but that's just a per site license like you would have for any other software where you pay a few thousand dollars and you get full access to the full version of the engine for all your developers, but you still don't have to pay any percentage of your revenues, you don't have to pay for every sale a small bit like you do to steam for instance. You just get the engine and you use it and that's why people like it.
Jason Howell (00:05:05):
And is it kind of a loan or rather has it been somewhat alone in that regard? Has it been the choice for indie developers because of this low to no price structure compared to some of the other competitors out there?
Kyle Orland (00:05:21):
Yeah, big and small developers actually like it because of this. Unreal has in recent years introduced a structure where the first million dollars of revenue are royalty free because they want people to the smaller developers to actually try out Unreal. But after that you have to pay I think 5% of your revenue to Unreal once you have a million dollar game and everyone thinks they're going to have a million dollar game so they're like, eh, I'm not really sure I want to go with Unreal. So a lot of people stick with Unity, especially as students since you can get the free educational license, a lot of schools teach Unity and just give all their students unity to make these projects that aren't going to make money. So why not use a full functioning free engine essentially?
Jason Howell (00:06:06):
Yeah, yeah, indeed. Alright, so obviously things are changing, otherwise we probably wouldn't be talking about it in these terms. So what is the new pricing structure and why is everybody so upset?
Kyle Orland (00:06:15):
So the new pricing structure introduces a per install fee once you get to a certain level, it depends a lot on whether you're using the free personal version or the pro versions that you have to pay for initially, but once you hit a certain threshold of success, it starts at $200,000 of revenue and 200,000 installs, then you have to start paying per install up to 20 cents per install. Now this is kind of unique in the industry. There are revenue shares all over the place, steam Unreal, like we talked about. Paying per install is not really something that's ever been done. Unity says they have this unique algorithm that can track how many times your game is installed without actually using any privacy invading phone home technologies, but they're reading really vague about that and people are really worried about that. So that's just one side of it. There are a lot of issues not just with the way they're doing this, but that it's a change. For years they've been proudly the company that won't nickel and dime you, I think there's a 2015 quote, there's no royalties, we're completely free and that's what they've sold themselves on and now out of nowhere, if you're successful with a Unity game, you could end up paying a lot more than you budgeted for. And this will also apply to games that are currently out, not previous installs, but future installs of current games, if that makes sense.
Jason Howell (00:07:50):
I mean what you said makes sense. It doesn't make sense that that would be the case, but
Kyle Orland (00:07:57):
It's a little hard to understand where they're coming from here, especially for developers that have counted on this structure for years or might be in the middle of a project that spent two, three years making and now they're pretty much, you can't start over after that, but now you have a big line item for unexpected fees that Unity really gave no indication we're coming.
Jason Howell (00:08:19):
Well, and I mean you can't start over necessarily or can you? I mean there are some game developers who are saying, and actually credit to John Ashley who linked me to a page about Mega Crit and S Slave Aspire and they're basically saying, we've invested an insane amount of time into this. We chose this platform for a reason and now we're facing the reality that if these changes that are about to occur aren't undone, it sounds like they're basically going to give up on this and change course. And I'm pretty certain they're not alone in that some other developers are probably making pretty drastic decisions as well.
Kyle Orland (00:09:05):
So there's quite a few developers I've heard from who are basically locked into Unity for the time being they have to finish out their current project because to start over again and rebuild from the ground up on a new engine would be too hard. But pretty much universally everyone I've heard from is saying there's no way we'll use Unity for our next project and we can't recommend anyone else to, because even if, if you can afford this for a big project, if you're selling, I dunno, a $20 game, even a 20 cent install fee is not going to break the bank. What it is though is kind of represents a breach of trust is what the developers are thinking. They went into this with one idea of what Unity was. They were paying a per site license just for the engine. They figured they could get that and now just changing it in midstream Unity has erased all of that goodwill and there's no guarantee that they won't change things again in the future. So why would you use an engine like that if you don't have a partner that you don't feel will just take as much money as they can with new rules that they make up later?
Jason Howell (00:10:15):
You know what? Either fairly or unfairly comes to mind for me. I can't help but think about Google and as kind of a point of comparison when it comes to trust of a brand and year after year, time after time, Google will roll out and I guess Stadia is a great gaming related example of this. Google puts out this thing to much bally who within the company, we love this, we are behind it and they're hoping that everybody's going to buy into it and make it a success and at some point they deem as any business has the right to do, they deem that this thing is not meeting our expectations as a business, as a company. And so it's undone. The downside to that is like what you're saying, it really impacts customer and developer trust in even going in that direction to begin with. I'm really curious to see the level at which this threatens Unity's position in the gaming market and if they will undo it. I mean we've seen Google do that where they're like, okay, wait a minute, maybe we need to do about Face. They don't do it very often, but could you see Unity doing that in this case?
Kyle Orland (00:11:26):
Yeah, we'll see, the Stadia situation was a little different because I think if you bought a Stadia game, I think you had the understanding that okay, maybe Google will not support this forever, especially if you were paying attention to the industry with Unity. I feel like if you developed a Unity game three years ago or started on a game or put out a game, you had this feeling that okay, unity for years now over a decade has been this royalty-free company. That's their whole thing. They're going to keep that and then all of a sudden on a random Tuesday they say no, now you actually have to pay us starting next year for every install even on games that were already released. So that's just an even bigger breach of trust than just getting rid of a product that didn't succeed. What it brings to mind for me, actually, I don't know if you remember at the beginning of the year, Hasbro, the makers of Dungeons and Dragons tried to change the licensing terms for their products.
People who were making modules for the game would have to start paying some ridiculous licensing fee once they started making money. And there was a huge fan outcry about that. There were weeks of wizards trying to backtrack, trying to ameliorate things, and finally they just turned around and said, we give, we are going to totally turn this around. Forget we ever said anything for Unity. I mean that could happen. The game development community is that mad. It's very similar in that regard. The difference here is I'm not sure that Unity cares as much about those creators. What this is probably focused on is a few large free to play game makers or companies like Blizzard who have been using Unity and getting away very cheaply and they want to get some revenue from those big guys. If that means that some smaller companies can no longer use Unity and are no longer paying a few site license fees and move on to another engine, they might not care as much if all they really care about is the bottom line. That's a good
Jason Howell (00:13:26):
Point. Yeah, really good point. Somebody in our Discord actually just linked to a story posted yesterday about C E o Rickett tlo, is it Ricky tlo, I'm probably mispronouncing his name, but how he sold around 50,000 shares this year of stock. Obviously with this coming ahead, and I know that you mentioned in pre-show that you've been tracking a lot of the legal ramifications of this. I don't know if you know anything about this particular story or if you've been looking into this, but in your work, really, really scrutinizing the potential legal aspects of that this, what's your take on where this goes from here?
Kyle Orland (00:14:07):
Yeah, I want to be careful with the insider trading allegations. He's sold stock in the past and apparently this recent stock sale was a very small part of his holdings. It could be totally coincidental. Maybe he wanted money for a beach house or something. So I don't want to get into those motivations, let the s e C do that. But as far as the legal issues, it's kind of surprising to people that they're allowed to just change the rules midstream like this, right? If you put out a Unity game in 2019, you read their terms of service and you thought you had, oh, it says, oh, we're not charging fees. And you thought, oh, okay, that's what I'm expecting. And now to turn around and say, no, that game in 2019, now if people install it and it reaches a certain threshold, we are going to charge you.
Can they really just change the rules like that? As far as I can tell, I'm still looking at years of terms of service and updates and such, but it seems like they have a good case that they can, there's the clause in the terms of service that basically says we can change these fees, we can change these terms whenever we want. There's some conflicting things. There was a thing in 2019 where they said, we will always let you keep the old terms if you don't update the game. But then they got rid of that. So there might be some legal avenue there. It gets very complicated very quickly and there probably will be some sort of court case over this. If I had to guess some class action of developers who said, you misrepresented this to us that it's going to cost us money. Certainly, I'm not sure how on the legal route, I'm not sure how successful that will be, but beyond the legalities, it's really more about trust. When you're in business, these contracts can protect you, but really you're in business with a company that you have to trust will treat you fairly and trust will be a good business partner now that they've made this move. I'm not sure a lot of developers are going to feel that way no matter what the legal contract says.
Jason Howell (00:16:04):
Yeah, yeah. Kind of poison the well at this point as they say. Well, Kyle always appreciate, excuse me, always appreciate your work at ours. I love the work that your entire team does and I love following your reporting. This is a very detailed and scale and scope of this particular story. So thank you for writing it. Thank you for coming on to talk with us about it today. Kyle Orland at RS Technica. If people want to follow you online, obviously they can find it on the site. If they want to follow you on the socials, where can they find you?
Kyle Orland (00:16:37):
I'm Kyle, o r l on Blue Sky, which is where I do most of my posting. So hopefully you can get an invite.
Jason Howell (00:16:43):
Yeah, indeed. Right on. Kyle, thank you so much and keep up the great work. We'll talk to you soon.
Kyle Orland (00:16:48):
Thanks. Talk to you later.
Jason Howell (00:16:48):
Alright, bye. Alright. It turns out that new car smell comes with a large amount of privacy trade offs. The good news you got new car smell the bad news, your privacy is destroyed essentially. So that's coming up here in a moment, but first, this episode of Tech News Weekly is brought to you by our friends at IT Pro tv. Now a c I learning, our listeners know the name IT Pro tv. As one of our trusted sponsors for the last decade, they've been on the network for so long as part of a c I learning IT Pro tv. Now IT PRO has elevated their highly entertaining bingeable short format content with over 7,200 hours to choose from. New episodes added every single day. A C I learning's personal account managers will be with you every step of the way, fortifying your expertise with access to self-paced IT training videos.
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Alright, Micah, over to you. Yeah, so it's very easy to look at this device that I have in front of me or perhaps my phone and say, you know what? There are a number of ways that this thing is tracking what I'm doing. I look at my browser and I think about how when I visit websites, it's looking at my behavior, it's paying attention to what sites I visit and to be able to reconcile that, to handle those privacy concerns in certain ways, and especially in the state of California, to be able to opt out of a lot of that stuff because of the protections that we have here. Or if you're lucky enough to live in a place protected by G D P R, in some cases even more privacy. But one place people might not be looking and should be looking is at the vehicle. They're driving around joining us today to talk about the worst product category they've ever reviewed. For privacy, it's the Mozilla Foundation's own. Misha Reov, welcome back to the show. Misha.
Misha Rykov (00:21:16):
Mikah Sargent (00:21:17):
Hello. It's good to have you back. So I think it's important, I think the last time we had you was back in 2022. Could you start by telling us about the Mozilla foundation's privacy, not included work, the work that you do, what it is, how you go about doing it, how it came about, and then tell us about what you call privacy dings.
Misha Rykov (00:21:40):
Sure. So we started in 2017 as a consumer guide. We reviewed, so over this time, over 500 products, mainly connected things like cameras, the Alexa and all things like Google connected things. But last year we looked also a lot into the apps. So what we do, we look through all the privacy documentations, we also do some privacy and security checks and we ask three main questions. One is what data is collected and what's done with it? Is it being shared? Is it being sold? Second question, what can users do about it? Can they opt out or can they delete data collectively about them? And third, what is the known track record of this particular things? Yeah, have you seen a lot of data leaks in the past with Facebook or was it a decent and nothing bad happened so far? On top of this privacy questions, we also check the minimum security standards.
Mikah Sargent (00:24:30):
Understood. Okay. So with the dings figured out and the understanding of the guide, this is what really stuck out for me in this latest research that you did because I'd argue that folks don't really think of cars necessarily when they're thinking about tech privacy and security. Certainly they look at the review guides and look at the safety concerns for the vehicle. They look at the mileage for the vehicle, they look at if it's an electric vehicle, the range for the vehicle. But this is a category that I would argue kind of flies under the radar. So what led the team to actually set their sights on the automotive industry who had that thought in the first place that, oh, this is somewhere where we should be looking.
Misha Rykov (00:25:13):
So we have heard some rumors just on the internet, but also from some of people who drive cars from different directions. It didn't come for me because I live in Europe and I just bike around. I would never think I'm more concerned about e-bikes and coders here. But some of my colleagues in the US told us that after she bought a car, the dealer kind of forced her to download an app and without it she would not. He would sign some paper. Another thing we have heard from one of our colleagues is that he rented the car and then he connected his phone to the car and then the smart car started in the line of like, okay, we now downloaded something from your phone. And then he shared it with us and we looked on the web and indeed there were a lot of stories how people just lease a car for one week, maybe going on vacation.
And then later in this car we found their SS m s, their pictures, their contact lists. And then we realize that actually car has, can have much more data than a phone. And on top of it, it has a lot of sensors, it has cameras and it has telematics devices, all kind of third party things on it. And also you connect it to a lot of apps. So sometimes you have app from your car manufacturer and you also use a lot of entertainment apps or people use navigation apps and all of this looks like a big soup on top of it. Insurances pay as you go on top of it. Wifi services or network services that exist at their huge data broker industry that is happy to buy the data and sell this data. And then yeah, we got really, really curious about what's going on there.
Mikah Sargent (00:27:42):
Understood. So then let's talk about, you did briefly mention this, the kind of data that car brands are collecting on us. So you talked about where they're collecting the data, let's talk about what data is being collected because someone might go, wait, I just thought they knew how fast I was driving. Or perhaps if I'm putting in my location into the maps, then they know where I'm going. But according to this guide, they're gathering a lot more and some of them are gathering some categories you might not expect.
Misha Rykov (00:28:16):
Yes, yes. So again, what we can assess is what they write. So here we can only access by trusting them, but also if they mention something we don't know if they actually collected. So based on the privacy documentation that this companies published themselves, we are just shocked by the amount and by different types of data being collected there. So it starts with the obvious stuff with stuff that they say they collect for safety, such things like speed, acceleration, location, how much you use brakes and when. So how you'd open your window glass, some simple things. Then it moves on to more creepy things like recordings of the sound of what's going on in the car and video recording or other sensor recordings. And then we saw in a lot of cases that they can also collect things like gender, race, immigration studies, and then it goes creepy with some mentioning information which is genetical or information about sex life. Wow. Yes. Wow. Here
Mikah Sargent (00:29:57):
Misha Rykov (00:31:01):
I don't know. I don't know. And that's exactly the problem. So me and my colleagues spent 600 hours looking through the mass of myriads of different documents these companies put out there. And then the question is, how can a user possibly understand what data collected, why, how, and for what purpose? And it's becoming even harder when you try to get location specific answers. What if I'm located in California? What about me being in Vermont? What if I'm in India or I'm in France? We could not find also that stuff. So all we know is that some S and it's Kia and it's also Nissan, say that they may collect sex life data or sexual information. We don't dunno what it means. I would be very curious myself. We dunno how exactly, but technically it might be possible through the sensors and cameras and of course audio that's there, it's possible that their legal department just copy paste it. All things that are even possible to be collected and then pasted there just in case. I don't know.
Mikah Sargent (00:32:31):
Wow, wow, wow, wow. So many of the largest online sites and services offer ways for users to opt out of data collection and in some cases delete personal data that gets hoovered up by them. We've got cookie notices, we've got G D P R banners, we've got in California banners that let us click a button that says, do not sell my personal information. Do these car brands offer the same? Can I tell Kia to stop listening to the sounds I make in my vehicle?
Misha Rykov (00:33:03):
Many do, yes, many offer some ways to opt out from selling data or to opt out from targeted advertisement or some others say that they only do it with your consent. The issue here, a once some data has been collected, you lost control over it already. So deleting data in general is hard thing to do with this 2025 brands only with one, and this is French Renault, we could prove that they really respect the request to delete data with any user regardless of where they are. Everyone else only promise it to people who are in Europe or to people who are in California, Colorado, my colleague who has a Mazda asked Mazda, okay, what data do you have on me? And they answered, we don't have to answer because you are in Vermont, you are not actually based, you're not covered by the C C P A.
So she was not even able to know what data has been collected on her yet alone, deleted. So we also expect this opt out to be tricky things. And finally we stand strongly with the position that this should not be opt out, this should be opt in thing. So users should have the right of informed decision about it. So at least it should be standard like we see with the cookies on the web, this annoying popup asking you, are you okay with us collecting cookies? And then you can answer, no, this is also manipulative and annoying thing, but at least you get asked and you see that you get asked in case of cars. They don't ask you, they just automatically collect, sell, target you with ads and if you want to do an optout, it's really good luck. Try find how to do it. Good luck trying to actually submit this request. And then yeah, it might be tricky again if you're not in California, for example. Yeah.
Mikah Sargent (00:35:38):
So we will wrap things up here here pretty quick. I would ask you to tell us the car brands that were included in the guide, but there are 25 of them and of course folks need to head over and check out the privacy not included guide on this to learn more. Not only do you get kind of an overview, but you also get individual reviews of these car brands. So I was hoping though you could tell us maybe the top three worst offenders and then maybe what was the most glaring bit of discovery that you had when you were looking at these car brands along with the sexual activity for example, why did the worst offender rank so poorly as the worst offender? So yeah, top three and then kind of what made the worst one the worst.
Misha Rykov (00:36:32):
It is not easy. A lot of them are really bad. So now you are showing how they're sorted from best to worst. I would say that the worst group will probably include Kia and Nissan and also GM for Lingle because they collect sex data, sexual orientation data or genetical data and on top of it we could not confirm with any of those if they encrypt data that sits on the car and on top of it, they all have track record of huge data leaks that would affect usually millions of users. We are talking about sometimes this database is popping up on the dark web with names and social security numbers and addresses of people who use these cars.
Mikah Sargent (00:37:33):
So I just want to double down on that. You're saying that with those brands you were not able to confirm that the data they're collecting this private information and secure information should be, you're saying that that data they're collecting, you could not confirm that they are encrypting it and so given that they may not be encrypting it, they are also some of the most likely to be brands that have had their data leaked in the dark web. So on top of potentially not encrypting the data, they also are the victims of massive data breaches. So you have one plus one equals two in the case that unencrypted data may potentially be getting leaked with some regularity to the dark web and that of course, yeah, that would make you one of the worst offenders on the list.
Misha Rykov (00:38:29):
Yeah, it does indeed looks like one, one plus one equal two. So when I talk encryption here, I'm talking about encryption at the car. So with most of car brands, we could not confirm. This being said is typical technical task and it looks like only Tesla really took it seriously because they did engage people offering them huge money. If they hack the car, Tesla still got a lot of dings. It's not the best at all, but they kind of pushed hard and encryption on the car thing. Everyone else encrypts something and don't encrypt something. So that's a problem because it means that individual cars can be hacked easily On top of it, when I talk data breach at scale, it means that the databases that are sitting somewhere there in the cloud with data on millions of people, they are also vulnerable to the attacks because we see often some malware going on or again, this databases being leaked to dark web. So we are talking about weak security both on the car and on the database level, be it cloud or some physical data center, whatever they have, it looks to be weak.
Mikah Sargent (00:40:08):
Understood. The last thing I'll ask you here, this does leave me feeling a little bit hopeless. Is there anything that car owners can do to protect their privacy and their online security? What's the recommendation at this point other than to bike instead of drive a car?
Misha Rykov (00:40:27):
Well, we invite everyone to sign up a petition on our webpage. We are also preparing Crown to ask for the federal privacy law so that not only people based in California, but everyone in the US can have similar protection, like all Europeans have it covered by K D P R. But if you just have a car now, we would suggest you to do opt out from selling your data. We would suggest you opt out from targeted ads of your data and maybe go to our page and take a look at what's written about your car and we give their individual tips about it.
Mikah Sargent (00:41:15):
Oh, wonderful. Excellent. Misha, I want to thank you so much for your time today, for the time that you and your colleagues spent 600 hours working through all of this information. I think it's incredible what the Mozilla Foundation is doing in terms of doing the hard, hard labor to protect all of us. Of course, they can head over to foundation.mozilla.org. We'll have a direct link to the Privacy Not Included guide, but is there anywhere where folks can go to follow you online to keep up with what you're doing?
Misha Rykov (00:41:47):
The best is to go to privacy not included.org.
Mikah Sargent (00:41:51):
Oh, excellent. Alright. Yeah, that's a much easier U R L. Thank you so much. I'm sure we'll have you back on the show in the future for the next round of whatever you happen to be looking at. And yeah, keep up the great work and we'll see you soon.
Misha Rykov (00:42:05):
Mikah Sargent (00:42:07):
Alrighty folks, up next we have Jason Howell's story of the week, all about kind of a really big cyber attack and we don't see this too often, but actually kind of playing ball with the hackers and you hear that, what is that phrase? We don't negotiate with terrorists, but occasionally that can happen. We will be back with that story of the week. But I do want to take a quick break to tell you about one of our sponsors today. It's Express V P N. We're bringing you this episode of Tech News Weekly. I'm curious, have you ever browsed in incognito mode? Well, keep in mind that it's probably not as incognito as you think. Incognito mode, like the Chrome browser itself is a Google product and Google has made its fortune by tracking your movements online. My story of the week has to do with that actually there's even a $5 billion class action lawsuit against the company in California where it's accused of secretly collecting user data.
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So if you really want to go incognito and protect your privacy, secure yourself with the number one rated vpn, visit express vpn.com/tnw and get three extra months free with a one year package. That's EX P r e s SV vpn.com/tnw. Go to express vpn.com/tnw to learn more, and of course, our thanks to express VPN for sponsoring this week's episode of Tech News Weekly. Alright, we are back from the break and that means it's time for your story of the week. I'm going to do my best Steve Gibson impression for this story. No, actually I'm not going to do any sort of impression. Guarantee you Steve Gibson is going to be talking about this story next week on security now, so definitely check that out TV slash ssn. But M G M resorts, not just in Vegas, but around the country, around the us, were shut down still in certain ways are shut down as a result of a major ransomware attack.
At first it was kind of unconfirmed, but now we're kind of getting more information today that it indeed happened. It's the most notable hotels when you're in Las Vegas. So that's Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, the Cosmopolitan, also six other hotels around the country all impacted by this ransomware attack, taking down all sorts of things. This was first detected Sunday in the evening and the attack was executed by social engineering of course, because that's always, we say it so often on this network and I know on security now as well, social engineering is just such an Achilles heel when it comes to keeping places secure and keeping security running smoothly. In this case, it was social engineering that allowed for the attackers to identify an M G M employee who worked in IT support, and that happened via LinkedIn and then they called D M G M help desk with that information.
And through that we're somehow able to get access total attack time, reportedly 10 minutes of time. Oh, humans are ultimately the vulnerability almost every time. No kidding. Right. And you have to imagine groups that do this, and especially at this level, they're really good at the social game, getting on the phone with they know how to talk the talk as far as that's concerned. This is a company that's valued at 34 billion and took 10 minutes to do this, executed by a ransomware as a service group called A L P H V. And this resulted in, I actually first heard about this from my sister. She and her husband have a solar company and they were there for a solar convention and I just happened to call and she's like, yeah, it's really weird here we're staying at one of the M G M hotels and everything is just dead silent because the rooms were locked.
So hotel guests were getting locked out of the rooms because their cars didn't work. Digital key keycards inoperable. So that made charging of goods and services unavailable. The mobile app was disabled and actually still is disabled today. Here we are at the end of the week. So the hotels were resorting to running transactions manually, which you imagine with the numbers that they're dealing with, just how much of a nightmare that probably is. Check-ins, taking hours to complete slot machines, completely unavailable. That was one thing my sister mentioned. She's walking through the room. It's just, it's so eerie. You're used to these, the sounds of slot machines everywhere and it's nothing. It's just dead silent. That's almost enough for me to celebrate because that means people weren't just losing their money totally. Right. For at least a few hours. For at least a few hours. Well, they were probably going to another place.
You know what I mean? Dang it. You're right. And that's what she was saying. She was like, it's dead here. I mean, people obviously realize they can't spend their money on these slot machines that they're going somewhere else. As of yesterday, the M G M resorts website had been down for more than 84 hours. Is it still down M G M resorts? I haven't visited it today, but I have a feeling. Yeah, it's still down. So I mean, pretty severe impact on a company worth an insane amount of money. The F B I and M G M have been pretty mum on the details of the breach, but it does appear that M G M is not giving into the ransomware payment demands. That's actually news as of this morning. And what's interesting also about this is not the only thing of this nature that's happened in the last handful of weeks.
Weeks ago, Caesar's Entertainment had its own cyber attack. Wow. Data stolen, threatened to be released. The hackers in that case successfully extorted money from Caesars, and the Wall Street Journal just reported that Caesars paid a $30 million ransom order to do it. So the two different organizations taking completely different approaches and the risks associated with paying versus not. And it's my understanding that federal groups are against the pay because then it does make it a valuable thing. And so there's been even kind of trouble with insurance companies offering insurance for cyber attacks in the US because the federal groups don't want those insurance companies to pay out to the ransomware attackers because then it potentially encourages others to be able to do the same. So I'm surprised that Caesars was, I guess, allowed to do that or if they chose to do that without consult. I don't know how that all works.
I don't know how that works either. Are they actually beholden to, right? Yeah, because at the end of the day, it is their money. It's their money and their company. And that could be the difference. Maybe if it's a government body that gets ransomware, they aren't allowed to pay for something. But then I'm also curious, you said it was a ransomware as a service group that did it, did the ransomware as a service group, so the company, the group that makes the ransomware for sale actually do this attack as sort of a case study to sell their product? Or did someone buy the ransomware as a service product and then execute this attack? Yeah, that's a really great question. I'm guessing the latter, not the former, but again, there's still not a lot of information that they're being very, that's kind of the whole point forthcoming about, because I imagine the more information that's out there, the more difficult it is for them to kind seal up and control what's going on right now.
But yeah, pretty major stuff impacting a heck of a lot of money and just, you just don't see that very often to shut down that much of Vegas. Just as one example, I mean it, it's chilling feel like it's a movie plot. It does feel like a movie plot, and I think it's relatively low stakes. The company itself doesn't feel that way, I'm sure. Sure. But it's low stakes in terms of sort of public safety. And so what's chilling to me about this is the fact that they're able to shut down that robust network that by doing that, they have the app, they had the website, they had the keys, they had the slot machine, they had everything. And so think about them doing that to a power supply or to a water purification plant chilling about are just much higher. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean to wheel back to M G M.
Yeah, that's scary stuff for sure. As far as M GM's business, it's also interesting to kind of see how this impacts, oh, it actually kind of ties in with the unity conversation from earlier customer trust. And if you are someone who goes to Vegas who stays at M G M resorts and then you just happen to go during this time and you can't do what you normally go there to do, does that impact your trust to that brand going forward? There's going to be some, I think I've read some articles that say a very material impact, long-term material impact for mgm. I'm not saying something that M GM place, we're going to go somewhere else. They can't protect themselves, so we don't, and maybe they don't even know as far as that goes, we were there and I couldn't we the slot machine, so I'm going to go somewhere else from now on.
I couldn't put my money in that machine and watch it go away. The place that I went to with the fire alarms going off every night at midnight and 4:00 AM I don't want to go to another one of those properties again. And it's not really their fault. If it was a malfunction, then yes, but what I believe it to be, which was somebody being a turd, a jerk and going around and pulling it, but it's still left a bad taste in my mouth as the best place goes. So something as bad as all of that waiting hours to be able to check in. People don't like to be inconvenienced, so No way. No way. So interesting stuff. Like I said, surely Steve Gibson's going to be talking about this. I'm sure we're going to learn more over the weekend, more details about what's actually going on here.
And Steve would probably have a very good explanation as far as absolutely ransomware as a service, who is actually the perpetrator as far as that's concerned. Yeah, I'm looking forward to hearing about it. Yeah. Alright, coming up next, another story that I considered for my story of the week, which is the Google Antitrust trial. And so Mike is going to talk a little bit about that. But first, let's take a break and thank the sponsor of this episode of Tech News Weekly, and that is Rada is your organization finding it difficult to collect manual evidence and achieve continuous compliance as it's growing and scaling? While as a leader in cloud compliance software by G two, draw to streamlines your SOC two, your ISO 27 0 0 1, your P C I D, ss, S G D P R, HIPAA and other compliance frameworks, while providing 24 hour continuous control monitoring so you can focus on scaling securely with a suite of more than 75 integrations.
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So say goodbye to manual evidence collection. Say hello to Automated Compliance by visiting dda.com/twit. That's D R A t.com/twit, bringing automation to compliance at DDA speed. And we thank DDA for their support of Tech News Weekly. All right, this is a big week for Google when it comes to this whole antitrust threat, the threat of going to court and changing really upending potentially Google's business. It's been more than 20 years since we last saw big tech at the forefront of something sort of facing off with the federal government at this level. More than 20 years ago, the federal government looked at Microsoft as a potential monopoly, and that was a messy, messy, messy time where lots of money was spent and perhaps not all eyes were. It's interesting, more than 20 years later how the landscape of reporting has changed too. So I think that there's more opportunity for more eyes to be on this.
The US Justice Department plus 38 states and territories have kicked off as of Monday, September 12th. No, that's Tuesday. September 12th, isn't it? Tuesday? Yeah. Yeah, Tuesday, September 12th, a 10 week trial with Google. They're trying to see if Google has basically used its place in the marketplace and the agreements that it's made to do what they call monopolist, flexing, flexing the so buff, they're looking at Google's different tactics and seeing if any of what it's done has been illegal as a way to keep its search monopoly. So this is specifically about its search monopoly. Now, one of the big concerns here is the fact, and we've known this for a long time, that Google pays Apple quite a bit of money in order to be the default search provider on iPhones. And so what happens there is when I use Safari on my phone, which is the browser that most people are going to use on their iPhones, and I type something into the bar at the top, it's going to use Google as the search engine to do that.
I have the option to go into my phone and choose a different search engine, but most people do not opt to do so. And so how much does Google pay Apple to keep that default search engine provider? 10 billion annually? I talked about this yesterday. Well, I should say, we talked about this yesterday on Windows Weekly with Richard Campbell and Paul Thoro, and one thing that Paul said is what that tells us is that Google is making at least 10 billion on this deal to be the default search engine provider to pay 10 billion. They have to at least be making 10 billion a year to be able to do that. Otherwise they would not do that. Because what it results in is when I do a search and as I'm looking through my Google search results, I'm getting the ads that are included in that, although I'm not, because I have different stuff in place to keep me from seeing ads, but the average person is seeing ads, and so the company is making money off of serving up those ads.
And when you consider how many iPhones are out in the world and other Apple devices, that results in a lot of income for Google. So it happily hands over 10 billion annually. But the government doesn't like that, does not like the idea of Google paying money to get that default search engine provider on its own operating system. Android. It is going to be the default search engine provider. And so when you look at that, then suddenly, if you've got Android and you've got iOS and Google gets to be the search engine on both of those, that's the swath of all of the stuff out there. So I, maybe there's something to, this is what I'm saying. I'm no lawyer. I don't even play one on tv. But arguably there's something there, Google or the government is going, look, these seem to be a way that Google is not only solidifying its dominance as the search engine of choice, but also to eliminate rivals.
Any search engine that tries to come along and compete doesn't seem to be able to compete because most people don't know to go in and change their search engine. And I would argue that in the cases where people have maybe dabbled with other search engines, it ends up not that great. Yeah, I think that's a really important point. Yeah, so critical. That too is see then that's why this isn't, I think just an open and shut case, right? Because I agree. There's an argument here that if you make the best thing, that's the whole point of anti-monopoly stuff is, or not anti-monopoly stuff, but the capitalism is if you can make the best product, then you should be the one that makes the most money and that competition is what's supposed to result in that. Now again, we haven't seen anything like this in so long and when the Microsoft thing happened, it did have a huge impact on the industry at the time, but the industry has changed so much in more than 20 years that we are looking at this as a whole new kind of, we can't look back to that too much as a determining factor for what the impact is going to be.
And there are kind of two outcomes here. The government wins and big tech is going to start cowering. It's going to have to start cowering a little bit because it's seeing that in a modern world and a new way of the internet and with modern technology that the federal government can make an argument that holds that big tech needs to watch itself. Or if Google wins, then this could be precedent set for all of the other bills, all of the other laws that are in place that are trying to limit big tech. So it's a gamble for the federal government in one way because if it loses then this focus on big tech and trying to kind of reign in some of the powers there could be that drive could be harmed. But if they win, then this is the first of what we could probably see many instances of regulations and laws going forward.
There are other lawsuits against Google itself, meta, which is Facebook's parent company, Amazon and Apple that are under consideration. So the federal government is not just looking at Google, this is just the first one that's kicked off. And again, most of this surrounds Google outside of its own ecosystem, choosing to make it, what's the word? Working to make itself the default search engine provider. Now that said, Google's big argument is that in the modern web, Googling is only one type of searching content. They argue, for example, that when you go to Amazon, you don't Google search on Amazon, you use Amazon search to find products. When you go to Instacart, you don't Google search to find the groceries. You use Instacart's own search engine. When you go to TikTok, you don't have to search at all, it'll just pop up for you. But if you do search there, that's TikTok.
So it's saying, look, we're just one of many search engines that people are using these days. We're just that old school search engine. How do you do fellow kids? We're just that old school search engine just existing in this modern place where there are so many ways that people search for stuff. I totally agree with that. So it sounded to me like you feel that Google, well, I'll just ask you, how are you feeling about this? How do you feel? Where do you stand on this? We talked about this a little bit yesterday. On this week in Google, it was kind of at the top of the story heap because it is big news and it's been a long time coming and I think for the most part we were all in agreement that, I mean when it comes to a search product, there is competition.
It does exist. People do have a choice, and Google's product is the best. I mean in our opinion, but I think resoundingly that is more likely people are going to agree with that statement than others. If you're a business, you are working to create a product that is the best in its category. There's nothing criminal about that. Correct. If Google is doing something that eliminates others and eliminates their ability to compete, I mean that is the essence of what we're talking here. That's a problem. I mean, when you're talking about Google search on iPhone, this is a deal that Apple A has agreed to and Google's paying them money. I guess it just kind of falls apart. There's a whole lot of, for something that makes for antitrust to be all about a lack of choice, I feel like there's a lot of choice. Yeah, I mean literally on my phone I can choose between the five.
It's just what is chosen by default. Yeah, sure. It's almost like we are saying that sometimes this stuff feels so cynical because I think that it treats human beings or it assumes stupidity in human beings almost. And it's like because it's the default search engine, stupid dumb human isn't going to know they can and it's, that's kind of cynical and I don't know. I think we're more sophisticated than that words behaviorally. Yes, you often don't make that choice to change, but the choice is still provided. Yeah, it's there. It's been provided. Do you choose to use it? Is it being buried? Is it being intentionally buried so that people don't do it? Microsoft has done some of that in the past and even in the modern way of doing things where it was very hard to change your default browser on Windows and then they straightened up and flew right after a while.
That I argue is, but this setting has been in the same place for as long as I can remember the same time place to go to get it. I would say this, I think that it wouldn't be a bad idea for Google to stop paying Apple 10 billion to be the default search engine and then let Apple handle the way that it does that going forward. I think that that could be the one concession that it makes and then all the rest of it, I am just a hundred percent on board with they're making the best thing it does, the best searches, it's good at what it does, and there are other ways to do this sort of thing there. Like Google, a search engine is no longer the only the be all end all as far as this is concerned. The number of times that it talks about that Apple deal leads me to believe that that's their biggest issue.
And so if they get rid of that, then yeah, suddenly, and then it's just Apple's choice. Does Apple, even though it's not getting paid anymore, does it keep just Google as a default search engine? Right? What does Apple then have a setup option where you choose, and this was something that Paul Thoro pointed out that I thought was really important as that. What happens if Apple defaults then to another search engine? So let's say DuckDuckGo just for example, or binging even. Let's go with binging. And the story suddenly becomes, for the first time in the history of iOS, people know how to change their default search engine because they're all changing it to Google. You know what I mean? Yeah, right. That becomes the story that people suddenly, the most searched term on Google is how to switch to Google search. You know what I mean?
And that would be a PR nightmare for any search engine that is other than Google, because I think that that would, people I think would end up going and switching it to, they'd see the search results from the other thing. They would more likely do that, what is this? This doesn't work. I want what I have before, back wait minute, where you go. Yeah. I will say this too though. Google on my iPhone has gotten a lot worse in helping me find what I'm looking for only in recent months even. It's not even been in recent years, in recent months, it's becoming like a recipe blog on a website where there are nine pages of stuff you don't need before you get the actual search result. And I don't know what that's all about, but it's like trying to be smart and then as you keep scrolling, then it's like maybe you want to search for terms relative to this.
No, I don't. I just want what I was looking for. So that's been kind of frustrating. Have you dabbled at all with the AI search experience at all? No, I think it's because it is just like Siri. Siri disappointed me one too many times in the early days, and so I hardly ever use Siri anymore. Bing or not binging, but Google, Bard Searchy stuff has just been not good, was not good for me enough that I just don't even, I don't have the time to mess around with. I don't want to. Although I did just get access to the Notebooks ML system, so I am looking forward to trying that out. Super interesting. Yeah. Yes, indeed. Well, I mean, you said it was a 10 week trial ish, somewhere around there. Anyways, 10 week trial plus all of the years of back and forths that I'm sure to come afterwards.
Yes, indeed. Yeah, this is nowhere. Yeah, we are nowhere near the end. We're at the beginning of the trial, but it's not like 10 weeks from now. It's all done. This is also part of the big swirl of cracking down on big tech, and this is just one of many aspects that I'm sure we're going to see many more cases in the next couple of years for sure. Indeed. Alright, and we will talk about it here on Tech News Weekly when that happens. Twit TV slash tnw, we do the show every Thursday morning at 11:00 AM You can actually watch us live if you liked Twitter tv slash live, but even if you do that, please subscribe. Go tow tv slash tnw, find all the ways to subscribe to this show. That's really the most important part for us, is that you subscribe and you get it automatically.
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Check out later today. If you're a Club twit member, hands on Mac, you can check out on Sunday. Ask the tech guys, Leo LaPorte will be back, and we'll be answering your questions live on air and on Tuesdays. You can watch iOS today with Rosemary Orchard and yours truly, where we cover all things iOS. And if you've got time, this Saturday at 3:00 PM Pacific, I'm running a d and d live stream. It's a high level game that is going to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The donations that you make will actually impact the game, so you can give some of the players like potions and items, and if you want to really make them squirm, you can summon monsters and all of this money goes to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. So that starts at 3:00 PM Pacific, at Twitch tv slash relay fm.
So consider tuning in then. Jason Howell, tell us about you. Good stuff. Yes, I am working on an AI show with Jeff Jarvis. I think we've landed on the title AI Inside, and that is going to be in the club for now, Twitter tv slash club Twitter. But you can actually, if you're not in the club and you want to watch it being recorded, you can check out the live stream. We're going to be live streaming that. So that happens every Thursday at 1:00 PM Pacific. You can find me at Jason Howell on Twitter. You can find me Twitter social slash at Jason Howell and Master on. Really just go to your social network and do a search for Jason Howell, and you'll probably find my account. Hopefully you don't find my doppelganger.
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