October 22, 2017 · Cloud Computing · Comments Off on Ivanka Trump's Punk Phase and Ted Cruz's Tweeting Top This Week's Internet News

Following a week in which Twitter announced a schedule to try and make the platform less awful and the Scaramucci Post seemed hellbent on proving all of its critics right, it’s important to take a moment to think about what’s really important in life.

Please remember @catsu as you explore the mixed bag of randomness the internet offered over the last seven days. It might be the only thing that will keep you sane.

Punk as … Huh?

What Happened: Of all the Trump children, which one do you think is the most likely to have listened to Nirvana and really felt bad when Kurt Cobain died? The answer may surprise you, if you were thinking Eric or Donald Jr.

What Really Happened: Even this far into our relationship with the First Daughter, Ivanka Trump knows how to surprise us all, it seems.

The story came from Ivanka’s latest memoir, Raising Trump, in which she writes about her “punk phase in the nineties,” when she was “really into Nirvana.” Twitter was, shall we say, somewhat unconvinced:

While the media reported on Ivanka’s Twitter dragging, someone realized folks could simply go back and look at photos of Ivanka during this punk phase and see the evidence first-hand:

The Takeaway: Oh, it’s easy to mock, but there are always more layers to the truth than people think.

Thank You for Your Service

What Happened: If there was one issue being discussed more than any other on social media last week, it was the ways in which a president should console grieving military families.

What Really Happened: In one of the stranger moments of political theater in recent months—an increasingly competitive space, let’s be honest—President Trump responded to a question about his lack of comment on the deaths of US soldiers in Niger by criticizing President Obama over whether or not he’d called families of fallen soldiers. Trump, of course, said that he would certainly call the families of the dead soldiers when he felt it was appropriate, which seemingly turned the whole incident into an even bigger embarrassment for all involved.

Wait. What? The report came from US congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Florida), a friend of the family of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, who heard Trump’s call to his widow on speakerphone. “We were in the car together, in the limousine headed to meet the body at the airport,” Wilson would later tell CNN’s Don Lemon. “So I heard what he said because the phone was on speaker.” Twitter was … not impressed.

While all of this undoubtedly looked bad for the president, it was almost certain that the White House would announce that he didn’t actually say that…

OK, sure; WH spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders might not have denied it, but the president himself certainly did.

How could he have not? After all, it’s the perfect defense for him, considering that the reports had come from a representative of the opposing party. And it’s not as if the widow herself had confirmed the report. Sure, the soldier’s mother did confirm it, but all that really meant was that the back-and-forth was on.

Let’s not forget that the president said he had proof that Wilson was lying. What kind of proof was he talking about?

It would turn out, days later, that there’s apparently an official transcript of the call which, inexplicably, the president’s family has apparently read. But if White House chief of staff John Kelly was present, surely he—a military veteran who has lost his own son in service—would back up the president.

Oh… Good?

The Takeaway: Well, at least the president didn’t speak to any other grieving parents.

Melania, Is That You?

What Happened: As if 2017 wasn’t strange enough already, last week Americans found themselves asking, “What if the First Lady of the United States wasn’t actually the First Lady of the United States?”

What Really Happened: This one is surreal and wonderful. Early last week, the president made a public appearance accompanied by his wife Melania. Except, to some, she didn’t quite look like Melania.

For whatever reason—paranoia, boredom, the sheer glee of starting such a ridiculous meme—the internet quickly embraced the possibility that Melania Trump had been replaced by someone else in public appearances.

Unsurprisingly, mainstream media couldn’t resist joining in on such a dumb, great idea. One report even claimed credit for the Fake Melania idea in general, suggesting that the real deal is currently hiding in “a small town somewhere in Missouri, where she works on a volunteer basis at a center offering counseling and support to refugees and immigrants.” Well, it’s not impossible

The Takeaway: If nothing else, it’s a silly enough idea that people want to believe it.

Here’s Another Clue for You All

What Happened: Sometimes, it might not be the best idea to try and reclaim a meme that involves you being a serial killer.

What Really Happened: Hey, remember that meme that perpetuated the idea that US senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was the Zodiac Killer? Well, last week Cruz himself got in on the joke.

…Yes, really. That’s not a mistake, or even the kind of thing that is claimed to be a mistake after the fact; Ted Cruz actually tweeted out a letter from the Zodiac Killer. There is, of course, context for why he did this, but why ruin everything by looking at facts?

Not everyone was a fan of Cruz participating in his own meme, however.

Certainly, while the media was thrilled Cruz was joining in, some believed that he had killed the joke by doing so. Then again, maybe there was an entirely different reason for Cruz to post the meme.

Does he? And how has that worked out for him?

So, yes. It’s all going swimmingly, if that was his intent. Good job, Ted!

The Takeaway: Before we leave Cruz to ponder how much the senator has embarrassed himself here, let’s appreciate the very best response of all.

(Get it? No? Read this.)

Louder Than Bombs

What Happened: In the case of Florida v. Richard Spencer, the Sunshine State came out on top.

What Really Happened: White supremacist, alt-right leader, and punch receiver Richard Spencer had a public appearance at the University of Florida last Thursday. It was certainly something that seemed like a big deal ahead of time, with the state governor declaring a state of emergency before the event, fearful of violent protests. And, sure enough, ahead of the actual appearance, everyone was very aware of the possibility of something going down.

Sure enough, at the event itself, there were protests—but they didn’t go the way anyone expected.

Also: Campus bells played “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as Spencer prepared to take the stage. Only two arrests were made, according to local police, and Spencer was stymied and humiliated.

The Takeaway: Still. White supremacist speech? There has to be a better way to describe that…

Tech

October 21, 2017 · Cloud Computing · Comments Off on Tanium CEO’s Refreshingly Honest Take on the State of Internet Security

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On Tuesday, the wood-smoke air of California’s wildfires descended on the Bay Area as cybersecurity professionals gathered at the Palace Hotel for an industry event.

I spent the morning interviewing Orion Hindawi, CEO of Tanium, the world’s highest privately valued cyber startup (worth $ 3.75 billion at last appraisal in May), for a fireside chat at his company’s second annual conference, Converge 2017. Hindawi has a no-nonsense approach to business–a suffer-no-fools attitude that landed him in the sights of a couple of unflattering stories about his management style earlier this year. (He later apologized for being “hard-edged.”)

On stage the chief exec delivered his peculiarly unvarnished view of the state of Internet security. “The idea that we’re going to give you a black box and it auto-magically fixes everything, that’s a lie,” Hindawi told the audience. (One could almost hear a wince from part of the room seating his PR team.) “All I can tell you is we can give you better and better tooling every day. We can make it harder for the attackers to succeed. That’s the best I can offer.”

Hindawi is a realist through-and-through. His outlook is perhaps best summed up by his response to a question about whether he subscribes to a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty view of the cyber threatscape. His reply would become a running joke for the rest of the conference. He said simply, “It’s just a glass, dude.”

Other tidbits of wisdom from Hindawi: not all hackers are Russian spies (the majority are lowly criminals). Unsecured Internet of Things devices pose a risk to everyone. And sometimes cyber insurance is the way to go when old systems are all but impossible to patch; the decision boils down to managing “operational risk, like earthquakes,” he said.

Hacking is not a dark miasma that penetrates all things, although it can sometimes feel that way. Companies, like Tanium, that are building the tools to swing the balance back in defenders’ favor without over-promising provide hope. Enjoy the weekend; I will be heading north of San Francisco, visiting friends who, luckily, were unharmed by the area’s recent conflagrations.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach me via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

THREATS

Always use (advanced) protection. Google debuted an opt-in mode for high-risk users who wish to lock down their accounts on services such as Gmail, Google Drive, and YouTube with extra security. (Paging John Podesta.) The feature requires people to log-in using a special USB key (or Bluetooth dongle for mobile devices), it prevents third-party applications from accessing your Google data, and it adds beefed up malware-scanning of incoming documents. This author plans to sign up.

Gather ’round the good stuff. Pizza Hut warned customers that their personal information and payment card data may be at risk after hackers gained access to the company’s website and app for a 28-hour period starting on Oct. 1. An estimated 60,000 customers are thought to have been impacted. The company is offering victims free credit monitoring for a year.

Unicorn? More like Duo-corn. Duo Security, a Mich.-based cybersecurity startup whose tools help companies manage people’s digital identities, said it raised $ 70 million at a $ 1.17 billion valuation (including the capital raised) this week. Th round catapults the firm into “unicorn” territory, the swelling ranks of private firms occupied by young guns valued at $ 1 billion or more. Alex Stamos, Facebook’s security chief, recently praised Duo as the maker of his favorite cybersecurity product.

KRACKing Wi-Fi. A couple of Belgian researchers published a paper containing proof of concept code that exploits vulnerabilities in the way cryptographic keys are exchanged over Wi-Fi, allowing hackers to steal people’s data. Big tech companies like Microsoft issued a patch for the so-called KRACK bug on Oct. 10, Apple is in the middle of testing patches for iOS and macOS, and Google, whose Android 6.0 devices are the most vulnerable, said it would release a patch in early Nov.

Cyber insurers are going to get Mercked. Cyber insurers might be on the hook to cough up $ 275 million to cover damage to drugmaker Merck as a result of a June cyber attack, dubbed “NotPetya,” according to one firm’s forecast. The companies at issue have not yet disclosed figures themselves.

Surprise! It is depressingly easy for penetration testers to break into places where they are not supposed to be.

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ACCESS GRANTED

Boycotts are hardly an option: To opt out of a credit score is to opt out of modern financial life itself. As Equifax’s now former CEO Richard Smith testified in October, if consumers were allowed to abandon the credit system, it would be “devastating to the economy.” The better answer is systemic reform to the credit oligopoly.

–Fortune’s Jeff John Roberts and Jen Wieczner explain what practical recourse consumers and regulators have when it comes to dealing with the major credit bureaus in the wake of a massive data breach at Equifax.

ONE MORE THING

The adventures of John Titor. Namesake of a bygone Internet hoax, “John Titor” claimed to be a man sent from the future to retrieve a portable computer. Titor sent faxes to an eccentric radio program, Coast to Coast AM, that specialized in the paranormal. Here’s an oral history of that running joke; the pseudo-scientific explanations of time travel are delightful.

Tech