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Technology

Archive | Technology

Parody Site for DC Metro Riders Launches

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Metro station in Washington DC. Photo: Ben Schumin

There’s a multitude of great websites out there that we all secretly have bookmarked and that we find ourselves drawn to for a quick laugh or to waste away some hours of unmitigated boredom.

Metro station in Washington DC. Photo: Ben Schumin

Indeed, such sites can become the bane of our existence and an outlet for procrastination when there’s work to be done, but the humor engendered by a quick peek, a speedy view, or a riotous situation never ceases to attract. From Lamebook, RichKidsOfInstagram, to PeopleofWalMart, if the ridiculous or unbelievable are seeking an outlet, there is a surely a website dedicated to recognizing their existence and highlighting (often forever memorializing) the beautiful power of the Internet and it’s propensity to make things viral.

Enter in a newly launched player in the game called: The People of the DC Metro. The creator of this new site choses to go by an online pseudonym, “Derek W” and steadfastly refuses to provide his true identity. Explaining the reason for this desired anonymity, “Derek W” tersely observed, “I don’t want to use my real name because I’m not a complete attention wh***.”

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Hacking and Mt. Gox, But from Whom?

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Kolin Burges, a Mt. Gox customer, holds a placard while protesting outside a building housing the headquarters of Mt. Gox in Tokyo on Feb. 25, 2014. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota

By now most everyone has heard about the demise of Mt. Gox, the granddaddy of bitcoin exchanges. I am finding their tale of “hackers” stealing bitcoins nominally valued at half a billion dollars rather hard to believe. Let me explain why.

Kolin Burges, a Mt. Gox customer, holds a placard while protesting outside a building housing the headquarters of Mt. Gox in Tokyo on Feb. 25, 2014. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota

According to the alleged leaked document, it looks like hackers had been exploiting that bug for two years, and even removing bitcoins from supposedly secure “cold” wallets that the company had stored offline. Offline wallets are disconnected from the internet and cannot be emptied by online attackers. However, supposedly “cold storage has been wiped out due to a leak in the hot wallet.”

I’m sorry. That is gobbledegook. I was a top end software engineer for 20 years. I’ve worked inside everything from banking to factory automation. I’ve written code from device drivers and math routines to computer integrated manufacturing, simulation and CASE. Flatly, there is no such thing as “a leak in the hot wallet” unless software specifically is written that accesses the “offline” wallet. But if it can be accessed “hot” then it’s online, not offline. If it’s offline, it’s offline. If it’s online it’s online. There isn’t something in between. Bitcoins are data. That’s all they are. The files are either accessible or they are not.

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The Wild West of Cyberwarfare

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Cyberwar transcends state boundaries. Source: Tech Week Europe

“The collective result of these kinds of (cyber) attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor; an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life. In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation.” – Leon Panetta

Cyberwar transcends state boundaries. Source: Tech Week Europe

During a recent speech to university students, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei urged the country’s students to prepare for cyberwar, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported last Wednesday. Calling the students “cyberwar agents” he reminded them of their special role in this particular kind of war and that Tehran is prepared for a cyber battle against the United States and Israel. Ayatollah Khamenei’s remarks are believed to be a response to Israel’s Major General Aviv Kochavi, who went on record as saying, “cyber, in my modest opinion, will soon be revealed to be the biggest revolution in warfare, more than gunpowder and the utilization of air power in the last century.” These remarks are a powerful reminder of the uncertainty of future international cyberwarfare and how unregulated it is.

Over the past decade, the United States and Iran have changed the definition of traditional warfare giving the international community a glimpse into what future wars will look like. In the past decade, both countries have extensively built up their cyber arsenals launching sophisticated assaults on each other’s computer networks, banks and sensitive infrastructure. It could be argued that the United States has been more successful but Iran is catching up. It is clear that when these cyberattacks do grow in escalation they may potentially have a serious humanitarian impact. Yet, international law has not been absent in addressing the cyberwar domain. For many, cyberwar and cybersecurity is seen as still the ‘stuff’ you see in summer blockbusters and not for what it really is: serious, perplexing and scary.

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World War Three Will be Pre-Fought on Twitter

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Barack Obama texting on the campaign trail

I would recommend that readers who have not yet done so create a Twitter account and subscribe to my feed (@chinahand).

Barack Obama texting on the campaign trail

To my embarrassment and surprise, I’ve churned out over 800 tweets since I started up my feed last November. Some of it is meaningless ephemera, of course. But sometimes the twitter stream carries in it telling or insightful tweets that illustrate the dynamics of debate over US foreign policy as it evolves over a month, a week, or maybe even a day and are worth retweeting. And, of course, I put in my own two cents worth, hopefully in a telling and insightful fashion, on subjects that are perhaps too fleeting or developing too quickly for a post, but are significant nonetheless.

For instance, I’ve become more attuned to the back-and-forth between US pro-Japan China hawks and the (relative) moderates in the Obama administration and the role of the Abe administration’s role as observer, participant, and victim or beneficiary depending on how the debate evolves. One set of my tweets addressed the PRC inserting itself into a spat between the United States and Japan concerning Japan’s footdragging in returning a few hundred kilos of weapon-grade plutonium.

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Hackers Allegedly steal $2.7m in Bitcoins from Silk Road 2

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Bitcoins. Antana/Flickr

An administrator for the site said hackers had manipulated computer code enabling them to withdraw $2.7m (£1.6m) worth of the virtual currency.

Bitcoins. Antana/Flickr

It follows similar attacks on two exchanges that trade in bitcoins earlier in the week. Silk Road 2 is known for selling drugs and other illegal items. The site is only accessible through Tor, a network that allows users to browse anonymously online. The virtual currency Bitcoin is often used in transactions as it also grants users a degree of anonymity. The original Silk Road site was shut down by the FBI in 2013 but those behind it said they would start a new site and shortly afterwards Silk Road 2 appeared online. In a statement posted on Silk Road 2 forums, the administrator of the site, known as Defcon, said: “We have been hacked.”

“Nobody is in danger, no information has been leaked, and server access was never obtained by the attacker. Our initial investigations indicate that a vendor exploited a recently discovered vulnerability in the Bitcoin protocol known as “transaction malleability” to repeatedly withdraw coins from our system until it was completely empty,” he said.

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A Sane and Sober Look at the USS Reagan Radiation Contamination Incident

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Sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan scrub down the flight deck in an effort to remove any potential radiation contamination during Operation Tomodachi, March 23, 2011

“The U.S. Navy took proactive measures throughout and following the disaster relief efforts to control, reduce and mitigate the levels of Fukushima-related contamination on U.S. Navy ships and aircraft.” – Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Anthony Falvo

Sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan scrub down the flight deck in an effort to remove any potential radiation contamination during Operation Tomodachi, March 23, 2011

During the Manhattan Project, a squad of infantry soldiers without protection dug foxholes a quarter mile from one of the Alamogordo bomb tests. When the atom bomb exploded atop its tower, it was so bright a soldier said he saw through his eyelids, through the blood vessels, skin and muscles of his arm, to the grains of sand on the side of his foxhole. After the blast, the squad marched to ground zero as ordered and disassembled their rifles…The squad reassembled their rifles and marched out through clouds of dust. All of them got serious radiation sickness.

All of them recovered, went home and had families. Their children were normal. At 20 years past their exposure they started to die of lymphomas and sarcomas. By 30 years, all of them had died of some type of cancer. Even with a dose that nearly kills you, it takes decades to develop cancer – if you do. – Radiation – Exposure and its treatment: A modern handbook, Brian P Hanley

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When Your Smartphone is Not Your Friend

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Apple's iPhone.  Photo: Vincent Lee

Gadzooks! They’ve cracked the iPhone!?

Apple’s iPhone. Photo: Vincent Lee

Newly leaked documents from the National Security Agency highlight Dropout Jeep, a piece of software that could target one of the country’s most popular devices — the iPhone.

According to documents published by the German news website Spiegel Online and dated Oct. 1, 2008, Dropout Jeep would give the NSA the ability to retrieve contact information, read through text messages, listen to voicemails and even turn on the iPhone camera and microphone. The document goes on to say that while Drop Jeep was currently limited to installation through “close access methods,” the NSA would research ways to install the program remotely in future versions.

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Techie Code of Omerta For Colluding With NSA

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Rally in Berlin.  Photo: PM Cheung

With RSA, a big and respected name (actually initials) in cryptography, currently getting flayed in the public press for taking $10 million from the NSA and, in return, embedding a dodgy, NSA-compromised random number generator a.k.a. DUAL EC EBRG in its products (RNGs help generate encryption keys; a compromised RNG yields a limited, more crackable set of keys).

Rally in Berlin. Photo: PM Cheung

First, as is probably recalled, the compromised character of the NSA RNG was revealed in a previous tranche of the Snowden documents in September, and an embarrassed RSA quickly issued a recommendation that users cease using that particular RNG.

Second, even back in October, there were rumblings about possible financial considerations playing a part in RSA’s willingness to include the RNG in its products. Here’s a snip from a piece I wrote at the time:

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Twitter’s IPO: The Illusions of Technology

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Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

“This is the story of the next half-century as we effectively become cyborgs.” – Joshua Foer, New York Times Magazine, May 18, 2011

Scott Beale/Laughing Squid

It says much that one of the great technological achievements of the last twenty years is a creation emphasising the writing of 140 characters, the tailored, high-speed medium of communication that has effectively created a virtual community, with a set of virtual ethics and codes of misconduct. It has become the parasite of conversations – one doesn’t so much have conversations as fingering sessions on blackberries and iPhones. The real, a term that has ceased being popular, is left behind.

Twitter addicts are incapable of actually having a conversation beyond the cyber community they have constructed. Therein lies salvation, and perhaps destruction, for them. Then comes the other side, one of revolt against such tendencies. Either you stay off it or at the very least escape the Blackberry world. This is an option suggested by Gwyneth Paltrow. Go to Spain, she suggests, where she assumes that a relaxed life repels the need to be on the grid. The Spanish “don’t always have their Blackberrys on.”

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Unnecessary Necessaries: The NSA, Storage and the Marina Program

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James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testifying on Capitol Hill. Kit Fox/Medill

Civilisation, claimed Mark Twain, involves the limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries. Intelligence gathering can be seen to be a byproduct of that fascination: bureaucratic necessity has become its own rationale; the need to protect civilisation by means of ever sophisticated, economically legal systems of protection, the great “unnecessary necessary”.

James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testifying on Capitol Hill. Kit Fox/Medill

The latest metadata program to come out of the Edward Snowden digest via James Ball of The Guardian is known as Marina, the sort of innocuous name one would give a cyclonic disturbance. But the better analogy would be to see Marina as a port of call, a storage facility that accumulates data that is stored for up to a year without apparent justification.

Such revelations keep putting the Obama administration, along with its still to be employed intelligence officials, at odds with the general argument that the NSA only records material of those it targets. Their main line is that such a gathering of information is authorised by Executive Order 12333 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA). No warrants are required under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act provided the data exchange involves a non-American source outside the United States. “All data queries,” claimed an official from the NSA, “must include a foreign intelligence justification, period.”

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Turning Back Dystopia: Information in the Twenty First Century

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President Obama has promised to consult with Congress on reforming how the National Security Agency collects data and will work with a new review panel. Charles Dharapak/AP

Louis D. Brandeis and Samuel D. Warren were right when they argued in 1890 that “the right to be let alone…secures the exercise of extensive civil privileges.”

President Obama has promised to consult with Congress on reforming how the National Security Agency collects data and will work with a new review panel. Charles Dharapak/AP

That ownership of being, secured by legal protections, remains one of the most powerful features of any state which regards personal liberties as sacrosanct. It ensures spatial protection. It enables identity, however peculiar, to flourish.  Unfortunately, the hollowing out of the state’s activities, the interlinking with the corporate sector, and the privatisation of security services, has made an assault on such concepts as privacy relentless.

Technology has made sifting bureaucrats indifferent, executing state directives with a degree of moral flabbiness. U.S. President Barack Obama takes the standard line that the Peeping Toms of security are gathering information on subjects responsibly, without a sense of villainy. “They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking for content. But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism.”

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Bletchley Park, Best-Kept Secret of the Second World War

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Code-breaking personnel at Bletchley Park, 1943. Source: Bletchley Park Trust/SSPL

Creating and staffing Bletchley Park, a highly secret government organization, took place during the hard days of fighting and dying of the Second World War. The organization’s goal was to defeat the use of the German’s coding warring information. Bletchley Park was one of history’s most covert operations and was under close protection from enemy disclosure.

Code-breaking personnel at Bletchley Park, 1943. Source: Bletchley Park Trust/SSPL

As the home of one of the first computer and code breaking equipment, Bletchley Park ultimately broke the German Enigma code. The British cracked the German codes to uncover enemy schemes and the secrets of Hitler’s plotting. Deciphering the German forces hidden encoded messages was the accomplishment of brilliant dedicated men and women, including chess champions, mathematicians, cross word experts and a variety of other fields. Bletchley Park’s Alan Turing is credited for breaking the enigma code.

Bletchley Park enabled Allied forces to uncover hidden messages encrypted into German radio traffic and was a useful defensive weapon of the intelligence network. Iain Standan, CEO, of Bletchley Park Trust said, “Many historians these days often estimate that the work here at Bletchley Park shortened the Second World War by two years thereby saving millions of lives.”

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Washington D.C. Tech Scene Flourishing

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Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. area innovators and entrepreneurs in the technology field are seeing their collective hard work pay off, and paving the way for future generations of technology disruptors to follow in their footsteps.

Washington, D.C.

In fact, private companies in the DC-area, specifically, are experiencing a surge in venture capital financing and interest. According to a newly released report called the ‘MoneyTree’ by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and the Virginia-based National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), more than $418 million dollars have been invested during the second quarter of 2013.

These new figures, based on data from Thomson Reuters, represent more than a two-fold increase year over year in comparison to the same quarter of 2012. The infusion of venture capital interest is now at its highest level since 2007.

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New McAfee Study on North Korean Malware

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Disconnected computer monitors are seen at a visitors center of Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) headquarters in Seoul on March 20, 2013.  Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

According to news reports, there is a new piece to the Dark Seoul puzzle.

Disconnected computer monitors are seen at a visitors center of Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) headquarters in Seoul on March 20, 2013. Kim Jae-Hwan/AFP/Getty Images

A new Malware is on the loose and it’s after information on South Korean and U.S. Military secrets. The report does not identify which government networks have been targeted specifically, just that it’s looking for information on the two specific countries. The researchers have found it’s been gathering information since 2009, but the attack wasn’t discovered until March 20, 2013.

It’s called Operation Troy, after the historic city in which the Trojan War took place. A significant reference considering how much of a historic impact the war had on Greek literature. Not to mention that the city of Troy fell due to the enemies breaking through with the famous Trojan horse. All familiar references in modern day hacking and hackers love their references.

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DNS Amplification Attacks

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Exterior view of Google Inc. company headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.  Paul Sakuma/AP

There are many types of DNS (Domain Name Server) attacks out there but a recent one is the Amplification Attack. But first let’s go over what a DNS is before we go into why an Amplification Attack is more complicated and a bigger threat. Domain Name System servers, are servers which map domain names such as “google.com” to an IP address of the host server for the particular website.

Exterior view of Google Inc. company headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Paul Sakuma/AP

When a user of a web-browser types “lintcenter.org” into a web-browser, the browser will ask a pool of DNS servers what the IP is for that server. Only then can it ask the server for the appropriate web page. Think of the DNS servers as dictionaries, where each word (domain name) has a server’s IP as its definition. But there can also be more information in that dictionary such as backup name servers, aliases, mail servers, etc.

An attacker can take advantage of how long it takes to compile a whole zone worth of definitions. In fact DNS servers can be just as vulnerable to DoS attacks as other servers with this. A Denial of Service (DoS) attack is a set of methods that can be used to make a server unreachable. By far the most popular are Distributed DoS attacks, where multiple parties (or a single party controlling multiple vectors) attack a single victim.

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