Tag Archives | Computers

Against Tech Solutions To Our Surveillance Problems

solutionsVia Wired, Jathan Sadowski writes that “tech hacks” to shield our own privacy shouldn’t be the answer we are looking for:

The notion of tech-centric solutionism: what tech hack, device, or app can I turn to for a quick fix to my privacy troubles? There’s no shortage of articles and how-to guides for securing privacy, with headlines promising “Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you.”

Here’s the thing, though: We shouldn’t resolve ourselves to a life where cyber-hygiene and an obsession with technological solutions fools us into thinking we’ve somehow preserved our privacy.

It’s always going to be a losing battle when going against a panoptic titan whose methods are wide-reaching, constantly evolving, and classified. Just look at the fates of Lavabit and Silent Circle, the two email services that shuttered last week.

The fundamental belief in technology’s ability to “fix” everything ignores the fact that not everything needs to be fixed in the first place.

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Rebuilding A New Internet Using Meshnets

meshnet

Time to start the internet over with? New Scientist reports on the burgeoning world of meshnets:

The internet is neither neutral nor private, in case you were in any doubt. So some people are building their own net from scratch.

Across the US, from Maryland to Seattle, work is underway to construct user-owned wireless networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. They are known as meshnets and ultimately, if their designers get their way, they will span the country.

Each node in the mesh, consisting of a radio transceiver and a computer, relays messages from other parts of the network. If the data can’t be passed by one route, the meshnet finds an alternative way through to its destination.

While these projects are just getting off the ground, a mesh network in Catalonia, Spain, is going from strength to strength. Guifi was started in the early 2000s by Ramon Roca, an Oracle employee who wanted broadband at his rural home.

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On The Death Of The Global Internet

global networkVia the Guardian, John Naughton writes that the most significant development heralded by Edward Snowden’s revelations is the end of the internet as a global network:

The days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, i.e. divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.

The Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant. “Today,” he writes, “the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.”

They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data.

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Defcon Hacker Conference To Detail How Moving Cars Be Remotely Sabotaged

defcon

From now on, are all notable car crashes suspicious? Engadget reports:

Famed white hats Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek are preparing to unleash a 100-page paper at the annual hacker conference in Las Vegas, and notably, hacks that overtake both Toyota and Ford automotive systems will be positioned front and center. The information was gathered as part of a multi-month project that was funded by the US government, so note that the specifics of the exploits will not be revealed to the masses; they’ll be given to the automakers so that they can patch things up.

Using laptops patched into vehicular systems, the two were able to force a Prius to “brake suddenly at 80 miles an hour, jerk its steering wheel, and accelerate the engine,” while they were also able to “disable the brakes of a Ford Escape traveling at very slow speeds.”

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Google Plans Wearable Computer For Dogs

Hund der in den Computer schautCan you imagine your favorite mutt using its wearable computer to tell you to take it for a walk… NOW!?

You might not have to imagine it for much longer as Google moves beyond its Glass project, reports MIT Technology Review:

…[W]earable tech needn’t be just for people. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, visiting associate professor Melody Jackson, professor and Google Glass technical lead Thad Starner, and research scientist Clint Zeagler are working on a system called FIDO, which stands for “facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations.”

Jackson, who has been training assistance dogs for about 18 years, says FIDO is meant to make it easy for the animals to communicate clearly with their handlers (whether a disabled person or a police officer) by activating a sensor on their vest or collar to transmit a verbal command the handler can hear through an earpiece or see on a head-mounted display.

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Three-Quarters Of All Smartphones Contain NSA Code In Operating System

androidGoogle confirms that Android phones come with “Security Enhancements” added by the NSA, Bloomberg reports:

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano confirms that the company has already inserted some of the NSA’s programming in Android OS. “All Android code and contributors are publicly available for review at source.android.com,” Scigliano says, declining to comment further.

Through its open-source Android project, Google has agreed to incorporate code, first developed by the agency in 2011, into future versions of its mobile operating system, which runs on three-quarters of smartphones [globally].

NSA officials say their code, known as Security Enhancements for Android, isolates apps to prevent hackers and marketers from gaining access to personal or corporate data stored on a device. Eventually all new phones, tablets, televisions, cars, and other devices that rely on Android will include NSA code, agency spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines said in an e-mailed statement.

In a 2011 presentation obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, the NSA listed among the benefits of the program that it’s “normally invisible to users.” Vines wouldn’t say whether the agency’s work on Android and other software is part of or helps with Prism.

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Playing for Keeps: AI Enters the World of Online Poker

poker-botsA poker bot able surpass human competitors still has other bots to contend with. Is online gambling poised to become cyperpunk? From Gabriel Dance at The New York Times:

Bryan Taylor, 36, could not shake the feeling that something funny was going on. Three of his most frequent opponents on an online poker site were acting oddly, playing in ways that were so similar it was suspicious.

Mr. Taylor, who started playing poker professionally in 2008, suspected that he was competing against computers — specifically bots, short for robots — that had been programmed to play poker and beat the odds.

And he was right. After an investigation, the site Mr. Taylor frequented, PokerStars, determined that his opponents had been computers masquerading as people and shut them down.

Poker bots are not new, but until recently they were not very good. Humans were better at the nuances of the game — at bluffing, for instance — and could routinely beat the machines.… Read the rest

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German Bank Worker Accidentally Transfers Nearly $300 Million By Falling Asleep On Keyboard

falling asleep on keyboardSomething tells me that the falling-asleep-on-keyboard mistake will eventually be how the world ends. Via FRANCE 24:

An obviously tired German bank employee fell asleep on his keyboard and accidentally transformed a minor transfer into a 222 million euro ($293 million) order, a court heard Monday.

The Hessen labour court heard that the man was supposed to transfer just 62.40 euro from a bank account belonging to a retiree, but instead “fell asleep for an instant, while pushing onto the number 2 key on the keyboard” — making it a huge 222,222,222.22 euro order.

The bank discovered the mistake shortly afterwards and corrected the error. The case was taken to court by the man’s 48-year-old colleague who was fired for letting the mistake slip through when verifying the order.

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Alaskan Children Use Phishing To Take Control Of School Computer Network

alaskan schoolchildren use phishingBeware the children. Via the BBC:

A group of pupils at a middle school in Alaska took control of their school computers after phishing for administrator privileges.

They asked teachers at Schoenbar Middle School, for 12 to 13-year-olds, to enter admin names and passwords to accept a false software update, according to reports. The pupils used those details to access and control classmates’ PCs. Classmates then complained that their computers were not responding normally.

At least 18 pupils were involved in the phishing, which gave them control over 300 computers allocated for student use at the school in the Alaskan town of Ketchikan. Those computers have now been seized.

Casey Robinson, the principal, told community radio station Ketchikan FM: “I don’t think there was any personal information compromised. Now that we have all the machines back in our control, nothing new can happen.”

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Did The Internet Destroy The Middle Class?

destroy the middle classVia Salon, virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier puts forth his argument that it is so:

The photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. The number of people who are contributing to the system to make it viable is probably the same. Instagram wouldn’t work if there weren’t many millions of people using it.

So there’s still a lot of human effort, but the difference is that whereas before when people made contributions to the system that they used, they received formal benefits, which means not only salary but pensions and certain kinds of social safety nets. Now, instead, they receive benefits on an informal basis. And what an informal economy is like is the economy in a developing country slum. It’s reputation, it’s barter, it’s that kind of stuff.

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