VnutZ's Articles, Page 11 of 71

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03 Feb 12

Judges Rules In Favor of Forced Decryption

Despite the impressions of America’s glass-half-empty types, our society tries to pride itself on the precept of “innocent until proven guilty.” That concept is Constitutionally protected through the Fifth Amendment, generally interpretted as protecting the accused from having to incriminate themselves.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

28 Jan 12

Arab League Ending Syrian Monitoring Mission

Syria has been discussed on OmniNerd before … mostly me calling out the Europeans on their hypocrisy for being involved in Libya but not elsewhere. Nevertheless, violence continues unabated. The most recent outbreak has resulted in the Arab League withdrawing their monitors from Syria citing it was now too dangerous. Observers will remain in order to report on the violence, but the monitors checking on the Damascus plan to end bloodshed is coming to a close. Naturally, the Syrians are citing the Arab League’s actions as a ploy to draw more attention from the UN for external intervention.

26 Jan 12

Star Wars Uncut

Star Wars is certainly a movie that has enamoured its fans for the past thirty years. Between arguments of who shot first at Mos Eisley or the merits of the remastered editions, the movie continues to endure. Now it lives on in yet another edition, one compiled from segments re-created/enacted by fans known as Star Wars Uncut. Prepare yourself for two hours of conjoined clips held together loosely by The Force.

25 Jan 12

Shutdown of Megaupload Site

If you follow the government’s logic, shutting down the file-sharing website Megaupload is going to make a dent in on-line piracy. Granted site was a cornucopia of all the dark seedy things generally frowned upon – pirated video games, movies, TV shows and porn – but all of this stuff existed before and will continue again. As a testament to just how much volume the site generated, investigators estimate Megaupload drove enough traffic through ads and fees to earn $175 million. Of course the action has driven the usual response across the Internet. The hackers have gotten their feathers all ruffled up and spun the Anonymous hacks left, right and sideways against federal websites. More annoyingly, companies having any sort of file-sharing twist are crippling their own services to avoid similar indictments and lawsuits. How different is sharing files through DropBox or Google Documents, really?

16 Jan 12

NSA Releases SELinux for Android

SELinux was released ages ago by the National Security Agency to tighten up security on the popular, open-source operating system. The work set up ACLs around nearly everything in the OS and much to the chagrin of regular users, had a configuration so undocumented and difficult that most people just tend to turn it off. Given the rampant external rooting of Android and malware plaguing app stores, it was only a matter of time before SELinux has been brought to the Android platform. Given the NSA’s mandate for securing strategic, national communications, it would seem Android is the government’s chosen platform for future federal and military use.

16 Jan 12

Colbert's Faux Presidential Run

Thus far, the Republican party has put out an incredibly weak showing of candidates to pit against Obama for the next election. They’ve been so bad that when comedian Stephen Colbert announced his exploratory committee for election candidacy, it makes one pause and wonder – would he actually be competitive given name recognition and general political disgust? The theme may have been the subject of Robin Williams’ comedy Man Of The Year but given the present political scene and the absolute distaste Americans are holding for professional politicians, Colbert’s joke just may go further than he thinks.

13 Jan 12

Doomsday Clock Advanced

p. The Doomsday Clock has been showing mankind’s precipitous proximity to self-imposed apocalypse since 1947. Although nuclear holocaust was the primary driver during the Cold War of it’s figurative midnight alarm, the clock itself is tied to many factors such as climate, economics and science. Mankind was closest to obliterating itself in between 1953 and 1960 when the clock showed two minutes to midnight and had backed all the way to seventeen minutes to midnight during the ‘90s. The clock has slowly been moving back towards midnight with a recent adjustment to advance within five minutes. For reasons including corporate carbon output, failure to ratify weapons treaties and other concerns, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists commented on the clock’s advancement:

05 Jan 12

Help Teach a Fledgling Cryptographer

So I was e-mailed a crypto puzzle the other day with a challenge – decrypt this. It’s coming from a high school student looking to learn more about the subject of cryptology. I thought I’d post it here for two purposes:

  1. Nerds – try your hand at decrypting something.
  2. Nerds – help point him in the right direction to learn more.

Fortunately, he has provided the key as well but relies on keeping the algorithm itself a secret. Bash away, but please do so constructively.


Kfpmt Nczy, kfdn mdq fhksjktk wkav olbxaim. Qj zxb dgw onc pl poob ipd rjet sere rw pevjea. Fqst tgv pf rpt noc dcvx.

03 Jan 12

Top OmniNerd Content of 2011

As 2012 begins, OmniNerd enters it’s eighth year of existence. Here’s a quick look back at the site’s changes and some of the top content from 2011 in various categories.

Visually, OmniNerd didn’t change too much but there were major changes to the site unseen to the naked eye. Mark converted the entire architecture to Rails 3.1 and migrated us to new hardware to keep up with the times. Matt added some moderator tools to deal with spammers along with the “Looking Glass” feature to revisit content from 1, 3 and 5 years past. Additionally, the promotion links were changed to better support FaceBook Sharing and Google “+1s”. Our nerds contributed 193 new articles, 38 links, 16 books and 41 polls all while debating each other with 1793 comments.

26 Dec 11

Protesters as Person of the Year

2011 is certainly not the first year that Time magazine elected to not highlight a particular individual but rather an entire class of individuals. For 2011, Time chose “the protester” as its Person of the Year. Given the events of 2011, that spans Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street and other outbreaks across the globe. A worthy choice or editorial cop-out?

24 Dec 11

Violence in Egypt, Syria and Yemen

Uh huh … tell me again NATO wasn’t in Libya just for the oil. I believe I was told by the OmniNerd population (or maybe just one individual – you know who you are) that we were there to protect human rights and suppress violent outlashes from the governments. In the past two weeks alone, the violence and bloodshed that have increased in Egypt, Syria and Yemen seem to prove to me that you are absolutely wrong.

14 Dec 11

Carrier IQ Saga Continues

About a month ago, hacker Trevor Eckhart began exploring Android smartphone security and came across a piece of embedded software from CarrierIQ. He more or less reverse engineered components of it in conjunction with documents obtained from their website about its features and determined that for all intents and purposes, it was a rootkit.1 This created a huge buzz about the prevalence of the software as it is installed on virtually every smartphone from Android to iPhone with varying degrees of logging performed. Now, the point of the software was to permit telecommunications carriers to monitor performance of handsets on their networks to provide better service. The question really begged … how does logging my keystrokes, recording my text messages, provide remote access, etc help the network? At first, the company tried to censor the researcher for revealing the extent to which their software monitored phone owners. After the EFF stepped in to protect him, CarrierIQ instead came forward with a 19 page pdf response on their software even specifically addressing a recent FOIA request to the FBI for it’s use of CarrierIQ data. The FBI, rather than deny they utilized CarrierIQ’s information simply refuses to release records about it. Despite CarrierIQ’s continued denial the software does things like log keystrokes, Trevor Eckhart demonstrates that it does exactly that in his Carrier IQ Part #2 analysis (which is also presented on the YouTube video above for those not interested in reading).

13 Dec 11

Utility of Standardized Testing

Are standardized tests really providing value in quantifying a student’s academic ability or future potential? A Florida board of education member was curious about that very question so he arranged to take the FCAT himself to identify with the students on both its validity and problems.

I won’t beat around the bush. The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a ‘D,’ and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.

12 Dec 11

RQ-170 Downed in Iran

One of American’s not hostile drones has been captured by the Iranians after it crashed 140 miles into their country (off the Afghanistan border). It’s a model known as the RQ-170 and is now being associated to über-secret CIA efforts to monitor Iranian nuclear development. Since the crash, Iran has released a video showing Iranian officials examining the captured drone on display. As one might assume, the US government has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the video given the seemingly intact nature of the drone despite crashing from over 50,000 feet. Higher resolution pictures from TheAviationist show little to no damage at all on the displayed drone with only minor abrasions to the lower wing and what appears to be putty work. Stories have varied as to the reasoning for the drone’s loss ranging from Iran claiming to have shot it down to have hacked it’s C2 causing the crash. Regardless of the reason, adversaries are chomping at the bit to reverse engineer the technologies on board.

09 Dec 11

Facebook Worm and User Relationships

In the 1960s, Stanley Milgram proposed the “small world” concept that everyone on the planet could be linked within six acquaintance hops. This is the basis for the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game showing his relationship to just about any actor/actress one can think of.1 The “small world” theory was attacked pretty hard in 2002 (pdf) when researchers looked at Milgram’s analysis and found it was based on relatively flaky empirical evidence. Needless to say, Facebook’s 800 million active users provide relatively solid empirical evidence for Internet connected users that global relationships can be achieved in not 6 hops, but a mere 4.7.

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