Some more things I found interesting recently

Updated: Feb 27

The premiere of this series was a roaring success, with a total of 28 views (that's right, two eight). The folks at home clearly demand more Things I Found Interesting Recently. Here they are.



 

Quick navigation:


Triple Ransomware


Games that I've been thinking about

Elden Ring

Death Stranding

Disco Elysium

Deathloop


Music that I've been thinking about

Wet Leg

Got A Girl

Muse


Job lot of bonus bits

Hacker Health return

Global conspiracy by Big Mattress

The big signpost I saw

Ukrainian hackers taking over Russian radio frequencies

 

Feedback from the last instalment of this blog included "I found this interesting" and "you have a stupid face", so I've decided to change absolutely nothing and plough forward with more facts and observations, the expected quality of which range from barely passable wisdom to unbearable brain noise.


"Mousetraps are like mathematics. Two and two is four, and a mousetrap has got to catch a mouse."


— Coffee-guzzling creative madman and undisputed winner of the ice bucket challenge, David Lynch, running circles around Jay Leno for eight minutes straight




Double Ransomware is the past, Triple Ransomware is the present, and Quintuple Snake Oil is the future


A brief history for those not in the know: ransomware started happening a long time ago, then happened some more, then for a while it really happened, then eventually some of the crews poked the bear (specifically the bear's major oil pipelines) and got wrecked by Russian intelligence or had $10 million bounties placed on their heads by the USA.


In October 2021, Ukrainian police released a video of some police-looking police officers smashing down doors and seizing the cash-looking cash of some alleged ransomware operators, one of which had several pouches of Capri Sun orange juice sitting atop their computer, which I now consider to be the official drink of crime.


Capri Sun did not respond to my email asking for comment.


The craic in 2022 is as follows: the major groups are vaguely reforming under different names with old and new tactics. These include cranking up the extortion game by manually perusing victim files for the juicy bits on top of encrypting them (the double ransomware) and then threatening to launch a cheeky DDoS for the triple.


In the past the ransom lads have also dabbled with subscription schemes which would allow anyone to pay cryptocurrency to get the latest scoop on upcoming victims, presumably then giving customers the chance to execute some stock market movements to capitalise on the temporary tanking of a company's value.


The best writeup of the now is this one, which goes into detail about the latest technical gubbins and affiliate payment setups. Ransomware as a service is the thing, though the vetting is getting more thorough due to the high level operators putting extra skill points into Savvy after countless spook and/or threat intelligence types trying to wrangle free samples over the years.


Snake oil is obviously pouring down the walls and it's always amusing to remind vendors that a bunch of ransomware is still social engineering, the perpetrators probably don't care who you are, and in all likelihood you get hit by accident as part of an automated campaign. Hey, Travelex paid the ransom, and that vuln already had a UK government advisory out 6 months prior. That's the way it goes sometimes. It's a messy business.


Now, I don't know how useful that all was to a non-technical reader. But at least it's slightly less misleading than this tabloid front page from a few days ago:



Games that I've been thinking about


Elden Ring

It's all about Elden Ring hype at the moment. When this blog hits the information superhighway, Elden Ring will be about a week away from release. If Elden Ring had already been released, I wouldn't be writing this, I'd be playing Elden Ring. In my mind, From Software can't make a bad game.


I'm optimistic about the general difficulty being slightly reduced since Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. I like challenging games, I love Souls / Bloodbourne, but sweet gravy, how can anyone beat the final boss of Sekiro? I could barely cheese my way through the minibosses.



Death Stranding

My excitement for Elden Ring's launch is probably equal to Death Stranding, which was a masterpiece in nearly every way, both in its in-game beauty and ability to troll mass audiences who angrily called it a walking simulator and got progressively more salty at Hideo Kojima.


The best gem of all came about after various journalists called the game too hard and kept whining about how much they were falling over with their cargo. In response, Kojima Productions released this short video called "hard work", in which the game's main character staggers about in the rain, falling over again and again in increasingly clumsy ways, as sombre music plays in the background.


I remember playing Death Stranding on the day of its release and enjoying one of the nicest gaming communities I've ever seen. Nobody knew what was going on, and everybody was helping build other players' structures and deliver their packages. It's the anti Call of Duty. Toxicity is almost impossible by design. Kojima is onto something.


Disco Elysium

Definitely the best game in a few years. In Disco Elysium, you play a complete alcoholic failure of a detective, wandering around a sort of Twin Peaks meets China Miéville town searching for clues about a recently discovered dead body.



The game is basically one long existential crisis. Your skill points are also side characters: the various voices and thought processes inside your own head, which often conflict with each other and tempt you in different ways. The Electrochemistry skill will chime in advising you to huff some magnesium you find on the floor, whereas Physical Instrument will usually steer you towards kicking inanimate objects to defeat atoms which are waging a conspiracy to form shapes that you don't like.


At one point your sense of smell heightens to develop a "politico-olfactory cortex", allowing you to literally sniff out communism in the area, which you can then partake of or attempt to disband.


A heavy investment into the Rhetoric skill will allow you to convince the townsfolk to give up their delicious foodstuffs, which you can freely decide is a far more worthy endeavour than solving the murder.


The dialogue plays with tabletop mechanics mostly centered around dice rolls, where a total of 2-12 is added to your skills' base points to determine a victory/loss.







Unfortunately I'd built my character into a hybrid mix of physicality and psyche, so intellectual pursuits like Rhetoric were coming up short.


After a failed dice roll, my character decided to deploy political tactics, suggesting the food was a tool of the oppressors and that I should have it.


In the end I did not relinquish Gaston of the bourgeoises guilt sandwich.


All the while my sidekick, Kim, one of the best written game characters in recent history, watches on in disbelief as I pursue sandwiches instead of probing these locals about the murder.




Disco Elysium is also a game for non-gamers, not requiring any learned button combinations or Mountain Dew fuelled reflexes. It's asymmetrical, point-and-click, dialogue-driven, and has no real time pressure.


However, you will be faced with the grim yet oddly refreshing prospect of playing an absolute fuck-up of a main hero, 'resting' in a filthy in-game bed, with your character's ancient reptilian brain advising you to give up, down a few bottles, and sleep in the trash.


Oh, and it beat Death Stranding for Best Narrative Of The Year.


Deathloop

I didn't like Deathloop very much and am annoyed with myself for having spent a total of 30+ hours with it.


Music that I've been thinking about


I like music. It sounds pretty good in the ears from time to time. I like movies too, but only in a maximum of three dimensions. Cinemas trying to throw us the sounds and moving images in any more dimensions than that should immediately stop.


The fourth dimension isn't wind or rumbling seats or seaweed being thrown at the audience. I'm not quite sure what the fourth dimension actually is, but I'm pretty sure it isn't any of those things.


Wet Leg

The Isle of Wight duo's debut album unleashes in a couple of months. I'd like to take this opportunity to cash in pathetic hipster scum points and say that I saw them live, as a support act, 6 months ago, and my friend and I walked out after their set ended because we didn't care about seeing the main band. Instead, we went and ate chicken and discussed Wet Leg some more.


They ran out on stage to the sound of Howard Shore's "Concerning Hobbits". Enough said. They're hitting America on tour shortly, and that'll be the ticket. Nobody doesn't like Chaise Longue.


Got A Girl

I'd already heard - and been hypnotised by - the single Did We Live Too Fast, but hadn't bothered to listen to the excellently named album by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Dan the Automator, I Love You but I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now.



Halfway through, out of nowhere, an unexpected sound occurs. It is the unmistakable deep voice of Mike Patton, appearing on a single track and inserting an incongruous verse about Primanti Brothers sandwiches in a seemingly on the nose (at first listen) love song.


I had to pause from laughing and replay to understand what just happened. Yes, Mike Patton randomly appears and starts singing about sandwiches for no apparent reason.


Why don't we get married?

Baby, till we're buried

Maybe we will be together forever

Turn the lights out, rest your head now


Hush, my darling, it's time to dream

Feel your breath go to the cradle

Hush, my darling, you're here with me


You know what?

You know what, baby?

You know what'd be nice?

A nice Primanti Brothers sandwich

You know, they put fries in the sandwich

With that mortadella


Turn the lights out, rest your head now

Hush, my darling, it's time to dream

Feel your breath go to the cradle

Hush, my darling, you're here with me


And that's it, no more Mike Patton for the rest of the album. It is truly unfathomable and sort of amazing. The only sense I can pull together is that he collaborated with Dan The Automator in the past on Lovage, who produced an album that needs no explaining, which is a boon because it can't be explained.


I am now convinced that Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a genius.


Muse

The build-up to the next release of Muse noise has been notably bigger than normal. They've gone pretty heavy with their latest single, throwing in a very unexpected breakdown. This is the sort of Muse that hasn't really surfaced beyond the occasional track like Stockholm Syndrome or Dead Star. It's no Wet Leg hype, but it's hype.


Muse have been hit and miss for a lot of people over the last decade, but for me the 2015 album Drones is an impressive piece of work. Wikipedia describes it best:


Drones is a concept album following a soldier's abandonment, indoctrination as a "human drone", and eventual defection. It also comments on the Obama administration’s drone program.


There was some chatter from Matt Bellamy about turning Drones into a West End musical, which could definitely scoop up some nominations from the Matt Stone And Trey Parker Show, sometimes also known as the Tony Awards. The concept-album-to-rock-musical idea worked out fairly well for Green Day.


Job lot of bonus bits


Buy It Now for 5 minutes of reading time or make an offer.


Hacker Health return


More products for the Hacker Health shop will materialise soon. Until then, some updates: Cyber Bananas are back in stock. Criminal Record Enhancement Pills have received a formula upgrade which passes computer fraud charges straight to your kidneys for faster action. Ransomware Spray bottle now comes with early release Decryption Wax. Finally, the recommend dose of OpSec Oil has been increased from three drops to eight drops in line with industry standards.


Offensive security products currently being tested include Weaponised Anti-CCTV Spiders, Keyboard Vaccines, and an improved Hacker Health $16,000 Wrench to whack adversaries who possess a Hacker Health $8000 wrench and are currently deploying it against those wielding a Hacker Health $4000 wrench.


Global conspiracy by Big Mattress

I heard an advert during a podcast the other day from a mattress company offering a luxurious new model, which assists customers in "getting their full seven hours of sleep". Those were the words used.


I always thought it was eight. Eight hours of sleep. But the voice in the advert said it with such cheery confidence and assertion that it made me briefly question my long-held beliefs, or at least the ones concerning mattresses.


"Seven hours of sleep" is not the known thing we say as a society, yet here it was, being nudged into place by the powers that be at Big Mattress. Clearly it's a sinister and multifaceted global plot, the purpose of which I've yet to discern.


The big signpost I saw

I saw a large building sign coming into view when sleepily looking out of train window recently. It began to say "PEAC" and I thought it would be something nice. Then it revealed in full to become "PEACOCK OIL & GAS EXPLORATION". I frowned and looked away.


Ukrainian hackers taking over Russian radio frequencies


According to IntelDoge, the Russian UVB-76 radio station had some sneaky happenings on the waveform, displaying Telegram groups and the Ukrainian coat of arms. At one point, musical trolling came into effect, with various meme songs being blasted across the airwaves.


For those unfamiliar with how radio hijacking works: someone blasts their thing on the frequency louder/better than someone else, ideally from a big fat antennae, then they keep doing it repeatedly. Broadcast signal intrusion.


Then I heard that Coldplay was being forced onto the radio. The ultimate offensive cyber weapon.


Edit 21/02/2022: There were some more Coldplay-based jabs here which I drafted about a month ago before the situation developed. They're removed now because, despite my overwhelming urge to mock Coldplay, the Ukraine/Russia situation is a fair bit too serious at this point to be crafting silly jokes around.


Thanks for reading and come back next time for more Things I Found Interesting Recently.