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Blue Origin sues NASA for awarding SpaceX $3bn contract to land next American boots on the Moon • The Register

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Updated Blue Origin sued NASA late on Friday, claiming the space agency unfairly awarded top rival SpaceX a $2.94bn contract to develop the next lunar lander.

That lander will – fingers crossed – be part of NASA’s flagship Artemis mission to put the first woman and next American man on the Moon. Three teams, including SpaceX and Blue Origin, submitted plans for the spacecraft. Ever since the contract was given to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in April, Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin has fought tooth and nail to reverse NASA’s decision.

First, Blue Origin filed an official protest with the US Government Accountability Office. Dynetics, the third competitor for the contract, also filed a complaint. Bezos even wrote NASA an open letter offering a $2bn discount. But the Amazon supremo was snubbed, the auditors dismissed Blue Origin’s complaints, and earlier this month NASA was given the green light to continue working with SpaceX on the lander.

Unwilling to accept defeat, Blue Origin has now decided to take NASA to court to challenge the contract award. The lawsuit was, last time we checked, sealed.

“Blue Origin filed suit in the US Court of Federal Claims in an attempt to remedy the flaws in the acquisition process found in NASA’s Human Landing System,” a company spokesperson told The Register. “We firmly believe that the issues identified in this procurement and its outcomes must be addressed to restore fairness, create competition, and ensure a safe return to the Moon for America.”

In Blue Origin’s complaint to the accountability office, the aerospace biz argued it was unfair to award the lander deal to one supplier at this early stage. At issue was the fact that NASA at one point promised to fund the development of multiple lander designs, and then pick one for the actual mission, whereas it ultimately decided to just go with SpaceX.

Kenneth Patton, the watchdog’s managing associate general counsel for procurement law, said NASA didn’t violate procurement law or regulation in its winner-takes-all approach. Even if NASA wanted to award multiple companies, it couldn’t afford to do so, anyway, with its current budget.

The 76-page report from the accountability office stated that NASA only had $345m available for this fiscal year 2021 as a first installment payment to kickstart Artemis’ Human Landing System project. NASA picked SpaceX because it was the cheapest option out of the three proposals. The space agency didn’t have much choice really, Patton argued.

GAO_report_NASA_contract

NASA’s evaluation of the three proposals from each manufacturer … Source: US Government and Accountability Office

Still, Blue Origin isn’t giving up on all those billions and the chance to build the space ferry to take the next future crew of American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. An infographic on its website claimed SpaceX’s Starship rocket was too complicated and risky to fly the future lunar lander.

blue_origin_spacex_dig_infographic

Why NASA apparently shouldn’t pick SpaceX … Image Credit: Blue Origin

Elon Musk hit back at the lawsuit, tweeting: “If lobbying and lawyers could get you to orbit, Bezos would be on Pluto right now.”

A spokesperson for NASA was not available for immediate comment. Lest anyone forget, Amazon went to court because Microsoft won the Pentagon’s $10bn JEDI cloud contract … and Microsoft protested Amazon winning an NSA IT deal. ®

Updated to add

The US space agency has got back to us regarding Friday’s lawsuit.

“NASA was notified that Blue Origin filed a bid protest with the United States Court of Federal Claims following the denial of the protests filed with the U.S. Government Accountability Office regarding NASA’s selection for the human landing system Option A award. NASA officials are currently reviewing details of the case,” a spokesperson told The Register.

“NASA is committed to the Artemis program and to maintaining the nation’s global leadership in space exploration. With our partners, we will go to the Moon and stay to enable science investigations, develop new technology, and create high paying jobs for the greater good and in preparation to send astronauts to Mars.

“As soon as possible, the agency will provide an update on the way forward for returning to the Moon as quickly and as safely as possible under Artemis.”



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Older people using TikTok to defy ageist stereotypes, research finds | TikTok

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Older TikTok users are using the online platform, regarded as the virtual playground of teenagers, to defy ageist stereotypes of elderly people as technophobic and frail.

Research has found increasing numbers of accounts belonging to users aged 60 and older with millions of followers. Using the platform to showcase their energy and vibrancy, these TikTok elders are rewriting expectations around how older people should behave both on and off social media.

“These TikTok elders have become successful content creators in a powerful counter-cultural phenomenon in which older persons actually contest the stereotypes of old age by embracing or even celebrating their aged status,” said Dr Reuben Ng, the author of the paper Not Too Old for TikTok: How Older Adults are Reframing Ageing, and an assistant professor at Yale University.

Interestingly, said Ng, most TikTok elders are women who “fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed,” he said.

The immense reach that these older TikTok users have means they have the potential to transform negative age stereotypes that proliferate on social media.

“There is considerable evidence that ageist stereotypes preponderate among the young on social media,” said Ng. These prejudices reached an all-time high during the Covid pandemic, during which the deadly virus was labelled a “Boomer remover”.

“The strength of anti-age prejudices means the participation of older adults in social media is vital in ensuring that such ageist ideas are not left unchallenged,” said Ng, whose paper is to be published in the Gerontologist journal.

The paper looked at 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users who were aged 60 or older and had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, their videos, all of which explicitly discussed their age, had been viewed more than 3.5bn times.

Ng found that 71% of these videos – including those from accounts such as grandadjoe1933, who has 5.3 million followers, and dolly_broadway, who has 2.4 million followers – were used to defy age stereotypes. A recurring motif was the “glamma”, a portmanteau combining “glamorous” and “grandma”, with videos including those of a 70-year-old woman joyfully parading around the streets in a midriff-bearing top.

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Almost one in five of the videos analysed made light of age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 called out ageism among both younger people and their own contemporaries. Other videos positioned older users as superior to younger people. “I may be 86 but I can still drink more than you lightweights” says one clip. “I may be 86 but I can still twerk better than you,” says another, showing an octogenarian leaping up from a fall down the stairs with a twerk.

Analysis by the Pew Research Centre has found a remarkable uptake of technology by older Americans during recent years: in 2000, 14% of people aged 65-plus were internet users; in 2019, it was 73%. Only half of adults owned smartphones in 2014, 81% of those aged 60 to 69 have them today.

Emma Twyning, the director of communications at the Centre for Ageing Better said: “We need to see much more diverse portrayals if we are to truly shift attitudes and cast off negative perceptions of growing older. Social media is the perfect platform to do this and to call out ageism more generally.”

Stuart Lewis, the chief executive of Rest Less, said TikTok was the ideal platform for midlife influencers to take to the stage and defy ageist stereotypes. “Creators are encouraged to be original, raw and unedited – making it the ideal soapbox on which to stand if you want a space to debunk stereotypes and be your uncensored self,” he said.

Prof Fiona Gillison, from the Healthy Later Living Network at the University of Bath, who is leading work on challenging stereotypes about ageing, said the study was important. But she added: “There is a balance to be struck in challenging stereotypes about ageing while also accepting that it is OK to want different things from younger people as we grow older, and accepting that our interests and abilities may change.”

Ultimately, she said, people need to “take the stigma out of needing adjustments as we age while also challenging assumptions that can accompany these. For example that having a hearing aid somehow implies that we are ‘fragile’ or ‘infirm’ in other ways.”

The older users showcasing their energy and vibrancy

@grandadjoe1933

The 88-year-old Staffordshire man is TikTok’s wealthiest “granfluencer”, his videos apparently earning him about £134,000 a year. Grandad Joe has won 5.4 million followers and 156.7 million likes for videos including one of him giggling after his youngest granddaughter gives his grown-up daughter “attitude just like she gave me [when she was younger]”.

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@grandma_droniak

92-year-old Grandmother Droniak went viral, reaching 4.2 million followers, after laying down rules for her funeral including “Cry, but not too much,” “Bertha isn’t invited” and “Get drunk afterwards”.

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@grandmaann2

Grandmaann2 lures viewers to her account with the strapline “I’m old so follow before I die”. Two million people couldn’t resist, and to date they have given her lip-syncs and comedy skits 63.5m likes.

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@its_j_dog

Jenny Krupa, 87, has won 2 million followers and 93m likes since a 2019 video accidentally posted by her grandson, Skylar Krupa, titled “Perks of being old” reached 1,000 views in about 15 minutes.

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@dolly_broadway

The latest video for her 1 million followers shows 89-year-old Dolores Paolino dressing up in a Marilyn Monroe-type dress and telling Kim Kardashian she looks better in it than her.

Other videos show the grandmother from south Philadelphia wearing sequined jumpsuits and swigging from a bottle on her birthday, and pushing ice-cream cones into her grandchildren’s face.

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Monero-mining botnet targets Windows, Linux web servers • The Register

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The latest variant of the Sysrv botnet malware is menacing Windows and Linux systems with an expanded list of vulnerabilities to exploit, according to Microsoft.

The strain, which Microsoft’s Security Intelligence team calls Sysrv-K, scans the internet for web servers that have security holes, such as path traversal, remote file disclosure, and arbitrary file download bugs, that can be exploited to infect the machines.

The vulnerabilities, all of which have patches available, include flaws in WordPress plugins such as the recently uncovered remote code execution hole in the Spring Cloud Gateway software tracked as CVE-2022-22947 that Uncle Sam’s CISA warned of this week.

Once running on a compromised system, Sysrv-K deploys a Monero cryptocurrency miner, which will siphon compute resources from the system to generate digicash. It can also rifle through WordPress files on compromised machines to take control of web server software, and use Telegram as a communications channel, Microsoft warned.

“A new behavior observed in Sysrv-K is that it scans for WordPress configuration files and their backups to retrieve database credentials, which it uses to gain control of the web server,” the Microsofties wrote in a series of tweets. “Sysvr-K has updated communication capabilities, including the ability to use a Telegram bot.”

Sysrv-K, like previous variants, also scans for SSH keys, IP addresses, and host names on infected machines so that it can use this information to spread via SSH connections. The researchers warned that these invaded systems can be rolled into a remote-controlled botnet relatively easily.

“We highly recommend organizations to secure internet-facing systems, including timely application of security updates and building credential hygiene,” they wrote, adding that their Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, natch, detects both Sysrv-K and older variants as well as related behavior and payloads.

A quick study

Sysrv was spotted in December 2020, and has evolved rapidly since. In a blog post in the fall, Dorka Palotay, senior threat researcher with cybersecurity vendor Cujo AI, noted that the worm and cryptominer malware has undergone several iterations.

One way that it stood out was the use of the Go programming language, which brings with it easy cross-compilation capabilities – it has a single code base that can output executables for disparate architectures – and its large file size makes the binaries a pain to reverse engineer, Palotay wrote.

“At its core, Sysrv is a worm and a cryptocurrency miner,” she wrote. “The two modules were in separate files in its early versions, but its developers have since combined the two. The worm module simply initiates port scans against random IPs to find vulnerable Tomcat, WebLogic, and MySQL services and tries to infiltrate the servers with a hard-coded password dictionary attack.”

As the botnet evolved, more exploit code was added to enhance its worm capabilities. The malware starts with a simple script file that deploys modules of exploits against potentially vulnerable targets.

“People used to say that Linux was free from malware,” Palotay wrote. “Well, not only was it not true for the past 25 years, but we now live in an age where Linux is as promising a target for threat actors as some Windows endpoints due to its widespread usage as an operating system across many organizations. And, even more importantly, it serves as the OS for popular Internet-of-Things devices.”

She listed more than two dozen Sysrv exploits that are useful against a range of software suites, including Jboss, Adobe ColdFusion, Atlassian Confluence and Jira, various Apache tools, and Oracle WebLogic.

“Sysrv included a small set of exploits in its initial campaigns. Over time, as it was developed and transformed, Sysrv continually incorporated new exploits to spread more effectively,” Palotay wrote.

“Interestingly, we not only saw exploits being added to the code, but also some specific exploits undergoing several development stages. Sysrv’s developers updated some functions in multiple samples until they either reached a satisfying result or simply got rid of them. Some exploits were used only in one or two samples, while others proved useful and stuck around.” ®



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Galway’s Vivasure Medical raises €22m for its intravascular patch tech

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The funding round was led by an unnamed multinational, which has the option to buy Vivasure upon reaching ‘certain milestones’.

Vivasure Medical, a medtech company based in Galway, has raised €22m to help fund the clinical development and regulatory approval of its percutaneous vessel closure technology.

The company has built a device called PerQseal, which it pitches as the first sutureless and fully absorbable synthetic implant for large-bore arterial vessel punctures, available to physicians across Europe for use in endovascular procedures.

Future Human

Its proprietary bioabsorbable intravascular patch seals blood vessels from the inside, returning the artery or vein to its natural state without leaving behind the remains of any materials such as collagen, metal implants or sutures commonly used in other closure methods.

The fresh investment was led by an unnamed multinational strategic corporation. The financing includes the option to buy Vivasure Medical when it reaches “certain milestones”.

Existing investors Fountain Healthcare Partners, Orchestra BioMed, LSP Health Economics Fund, Panakès Partners and Evonik Venture Capital also participated in this round.

Vivasure, which has been previously backed by the European Innovation Council, said this is just the first part of a Series D round that could to raise up to €52m in total.

“As minimally invasive approaches have become the standard of care for cardiovascular procedures, conventional vessel closure techniques have proven to prolong recovery and lead to bleeding complications for patients,” said Vivasure CEO Andrew Glass.

“We are encouraged by early clinical progress from leading heart centres participating in studies currently underway for PerQseal+ and PerQseal Blue, and we look forward to initiating a US pivotal study for PerQseal+ later this year that will support our submission to the FDA.”

While PerQseal and PerQseal+ are medical devices for arterial closure, PerQseal Blue is for venous closure. The financing will help fund the clinical development and regulatory approval of all three devices in the US and Europe.

“While tremendous progress has been made for minimally invasive structural heart procedures, vascular issues related to the closure of the procedure remain the most common complication of these interventions,” said Azeem Latib, MD and director of interventional cardiology at Montefiore Health System.

“The novel PerQseal technology is designed to address these shortcomings and has tremendous potential to improve patient outcomes and enhance procedure efficiency.”

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