Articles, Page 23 of 215

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21 Feb 12

John Nash Letters Declassified

A short while ago, the National Geographic Channel aired a one hour special on the NSA, the first time cameras had been allowed into the facility since 9/11. At the end of the program, historians at the NSA’s Cryptologic Museum declassified 60 year old letters from John Nash to the agency. Average people will recognize that name as the subject of A Beautiful Mind. The letters themselves go into detail about cipher systems based on computational complexity as the key to future cryptography. His theories essentially predate most published concepts on such cryptographic systems by nearly two decades.

20 Feb 12

Violin Social Experiment

Most people seem to think of street performers as poor artists trying to eek out a living. In 2008, the Washington Post set out to prove just how little people really paid attention to public performances by enlisting the help of Joshua Bell, one of the world’s top violinists. Armed with a multi-million dollar Stradivarius from 1713, Bell performed in the L’Enfant Plaza subway station and played a variety of pieces for 43 minutes to include Johann Sebastian Bach’s Chaconne. As one of the world’s foremost musicians playing one of the most challenging pieces on a priceless instrument … he made $32.17 while passed by nearly everyone at rush hour. The experiment eventually won a Pulitzer Prize for its exposure of our collective, artistic ignorance.

16 Feb 12

Future of OSX

Apple’s next iteration of OS X is named Mountain Lion and developer releases show a convergence of the mobile iOS platform and the legacy desktop edition. As per usual, a number of APIs are added and applications updated though Mountain Lion introduces a new security tool called Gatekeeper allowing users to enforce execution rights based on an application’s origin. Additionally, Apple continued with its typical policy of abandoning older hardware where only the following platforms are expected to run Mountain Lion:

16 Feb 12

Key Generation Weakness

RSA’s public key algorithms (pdf) pretty much runs the Internet’s security and is found everywhere from SSL to SSH. The strength of the system relies upon the computational improbability of an attacker being able to factor down to two large primes. Consumer grade devices, unfortunately, lack the appropriate levels of entropy from which to seed random number generation resulting in number duplication. In a brute force study where researchers scraped literally every public IP on the Internet to grab all discoverable public keys whereupon they “manually verified that 59,000 duplicate keys were repeated due to entropy problems, representing 1% of all certificates, or 2.6% of self-signed certificates” and “also found that 585,000 certificates, or 4.6% of all devices used the default certificates pre-installed on embedded devices.” The full study itself (pdf) goes into mathematical detail on their process for analyzing weak key generation sequences and factoring predictable sequences to derive private keys.

14 Feb 12

Obtaining Freedom of Communication

Americans are always whining about net neutrality or other “infringments” they believe are levied against their Internet experience. It’s a good thing they’re not Iranian. According to Internet publishers and blogs, the Iranians have recently begun to block all forms of encrypted Internet traffic? presumably in an effort to permit network censors to monitor all indigenous traffic. When users attempt to access webpages over SSL, they’re redirected to a page loosely warning them that “according to computer crime regulations, access to this Web site is denied.” Such measures seem focused on allowing the government to monitor network traffic such that social uprisings can be pinpointed on various, insidious individuals and suppressed quickly.

10 Feb 12

War and Peace

Most Americans believe that the Pacific War started when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, and that it ended because the USA hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Atomic bombs. They believe that the bombings were a sad necessity to save American lives that would be lost in a bloody invasion of the Japanese home islands.

I beleive that a factual analysis can show that neither of these beliefs are accurate.

The Japanese air attacks on the British in Malaya began at 2 a m on 8 December 1941 which was 9 and a half hours before the bombs began falling on Pearl Harbour. Hong Kong was also hit before Hawaii. This makes the surprise of the American command in Hawaii much harder to excuse.

09 Feb 12

The Matrix Is Coming

In The Matrix, the machine apocalypse powered itself off electricity generated from humans. Mankind is bringing the end closer yet again with more science. Researchers have figured out how to harness 50 microamps of power from the body of a cockroach. Their gross little bodies break down sugars which release electrons in the process. If only there was a larger organic mass to power our future, robotic overlords ….

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

Lucky Country

After watching the 2012 State of the Union Address, I think that somehow we have done it again: in the crisis management tradition of Washington, Lincon, Roosevelt, and Kennedy.

In spite of having an absolutely atrocious election system that would seem to prevent any person of ability and integrity from making it to the top, we can see now with a little hindsight that once again the USA has faced a dire national crisis by placing exactly the right type of person in the President’s Office. How do we keep doing that?

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

Music Purchase Log: 2011 Q4

Music I purchased in the fourth quarter of 2011:

  • Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto – A lot of great tunes with a few blahs – like most of their albums.
  • Grouplove – Never Trust a Happy Song – Starts promisingly, but I find it hard to get through the whole album. Particularly when they get all … well, just listen the verses on “Naked Kids” and you’ll see what I mean.
  • Nothingface – An Audio Guide to Everyday Atrocity – A little like Helmet, but with the hardcore edge.
  • MuteMath – Odd Soul – Fantastic indie rock album. (Tip ’o the hat to Zach for turning me on to them.)
  • Opeth – Heritage – They abandon the hardcore screams on this one. The album is still really great … but I miss the occasional growl.
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