Articles, Page 7 of 207

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29 Aug 13

United States to Engage Syria?

It wasn’t the more than hundred thousand people that the Syrian regime killed that led the world to care. Rather, it was the chemical weapons the government used against its people that spurred the United States to threaten an attack. They’ve had the weapons for decades but the allegations of using them internally are relatively new with “wash-out bombings” taking place to burn away the evidence. The UN Security Council appears to have balked at getting involved leaving the United States to consider, once again, going at it alone. Presently, the Obama administration has only made mention of utilizing standoff capabilities against the regime without a ground element as a means of enforcing a global ban on chemical weapons.

28 Aug 13

UN Security Council Reform

How many times does this have to happen?

Once again we have a dictatorship going mad and killing its own people in great numbers.

After the horrors of WWII, all the countries of the world got together and decided that wars should be prevented because they could collectively stop them.

The mechanism chosen was a resolution for the deployment of the combined forces of member nations, and no other military actions anywhere would be acceptable under the UN treaty (International Law).

In order to free itself from the complexity of making such decisions in an all member nation plenipotentiary General Assembly meeting, the member nations (in the usual UN manner) created a sub committee, the Security Council.

28 Aug 13

Is the DIY coming to you

After seeing articles about the “coming movement” and the way that chip companies are working to get into the market one must wonder if this is the wave of the future, and what that will mean. Ultimately it is simply a follow-on of the digital revolution, this part is simply giving a real world output to all that digital information that we have been gathering. Now, the intellectual property is really the only thing, it can be made anywhere. But alas that intellectual property is becoming free as well, companies cannot compete with the tens of thousands that are putting out designs. This is the real “revolution,” and it is still the digital revolution, and like previous “revolutions,” it will change how society deals with itself. Futurists are declaring that we will all have home printers. While a possibility, I would guess that more probable would be stores that specialize in making things. But we are only on the cusp right now.
I expect to see that like the digital revolution, this “maker revolution” is like the blogs of yesteryear, this will be pervasive for a bit, and then the amalgamation will begin (and already has begun) where truly good ideas will be (in an app sort of way) cleared for you to use…at a small cost. And the world will finally start moving back to where customer service and electronics will go together. Where your “service store” stands behind the quality of their goods (and allowed designs), lest their approval rating go down.

20 Aug 13

SAC Capital Investment Woes

SAC Capital is currently in a world of hurt. The major investment firm is being indicted for insider trading with the government originally seeking ALL of its billions as punishment despite having already settled some of the issues to the tune of a $600 million fine. At first, most of us will think, “Let ’em burn.” However, the amount of money borrowed, invested and leveraged by hedge funds as large as SAC have deeper implications (hedge funds control an estimated $2.25 trillion). Part of the reason the government was gunning for all of the firm’s assets is that profits obtained from “dirty money” are themselves dirty and therefore seizable. And that extends beyond SAC into the markets that have also invested in and profited from SAC (which is most of Wall Street). The rest of Wall Street’s traders are concerned, however, because as SAC’s traders are indicted, they may also subject to scrutiny for basically bandwagoning when the illegal behavior should have been obvious. The investigation isn’t scaring away all the investors, there are many that plan to continue riding the gravy train of SAC’s run of success.

18 Aug 13

Violence in Syria and Egypt Continue

Sooooo, the violence in Syria continues. The world has watched since March 2011 as rebels fought with the government. More than 100,000 people have died in that span according to the United Nations. Egypt saw the beginning of Arab Spring and had mass, violent protests, though things became relatively sedate, until recently. Everything has exploded in the country once again with what appears to be a coup over the elected government.

16 Aug 13


Elon Musk, the wealthy innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX and Telsa motors, recently blogged about his next idea Hyperloop (detailed pdf). This one, however, he proposed as a thinking man’s journey as opposed to putting up the funding and infrastructure himself. Musk asks that for California’s massive investment in transportation, it should provide a massive improvement in critical areas:

  • Safer
  • Faster
  • Lower cost
  • More convenient
  • Immune to weather
  • Sustainably self-powering
  • Resistant to Earthquakes
  • Not disruptive to those along the route
14 Aug 13

Blackhat Femtocell Hacking

One of the interesting presentations at the 2013 Blackhat conference in Las Vegas demonstrated the fun hackers can have with a femtocell. For those not familiar with them, femtocells are essentially miniature base stations that allow a mobile phone to affiliate (via 3G, LTE, etc) whereupon the connection is patched to the carrier via the Internet. This sort of technology is useful in low signal areas such as your house in order to have a full signal experience.

Tom Ritter of iSEC presented, I Can Hear You Now: Traffic Interception and Remote Mobile Phone Cloning with a Compromised CDMA Femtocell which demonstrated all the options available with a Verizon femtocell. The hackers first gained shell and root access to the device whereupon they were able to perform traffic captures of all the data passing through. It took awhile for them to identify the codec used for voice, but once determined, they were able to capture a call’s voice packets for decoding and replaying voice conversations. Text messages were easy to intercept and display live to the audience as was capturing the data sessions. (NOTE: The same talk was also given at DEFCON where the audience was much more apt to text “Penis” and other phallic ASCII art to be displayed on the projectors.) For their demonstration, they intercepted an SSL connection from the affiliated phone to a bank and logged the username/password combinations. All of this was “simple stuff” when you have root access to the packet streams. So the team went further and used their captured information to essentially allow them to clone a mobile phone such that they could receive calls, listen in on existing calls and for all intents and purposes … be that phone and use it’s account for free. According to Ritter, “this is not about how the NSA would attack ordinary people. This is about how ordinary people would attack ordinary people.”

14 Aug 13

Food Source During Zombie Apocalypse

Food will be tight during the zombie apocalypse. A question arose at work today – would it be safe to eat Zombie meat if its cooked or irradiated?

13 Aug 13

US Embassy Closures

So who believes there was an AQAP threat to the US embassies in Northern Africa and the Middle East?

Supposedly, the SIGINT system made famous by Edward Snowden is credited with capturing chatter between AQAP leadership. Particularly of interest, according to anonymous government sources, was a notification between Ayman al-Zawahiri and his subordinate leadership that everything was ready for an imminent attack. This prompted the US government to shut down nineteen embassies and issue a general travel advisory through the month of August. Meanwhile, despite the imminence of the attacks, nothing has happened except for some drone strikes against AQAP militants in Yemen.

01 Aug 13

BlackHat 2013 Keynote

GEN Alexander took the stage for BlackHat 2013’s keynote speech and gave the audience an hour long outline of the programs in question, the authorities involved and the success stories behind them. It’s interesting how accounts vary … the summary write-up on SlashDot for instance made it sound like the conference was largely against him (the forum’s comments are about the most off-the-mark guesswork of conspiracy I’ve read in awhile). While sentiment is hard to read, the NSA director received thunderous applause in support of his words more often than jeers (yes, BTW, I was there in the audience).

31 Jul 13

Free Speech

Recent cases of abuse and death threats on social media are challenging the right to free speech.

My opinion is that it is very important to protect our right to offend others. No one should have the right to not be offended. Think about that. It usually only comes up when someone is offended regarding their religion, race or sex, so the typical cases can be really repugnant and the offenders may be absolute assholes. Nevertheless, it is still extremely important that we should have that right.

That said, we face the problem of religious fanatics who believe that they have the right to run amok, killing and destroying property when their saints or prophet are offended. They should therefore be offended frequently and grievously until they are disabused of this crazy notion. Obviously it could be suicidal to offend them in this way and anonymity is desirable.

30 Jul 13

Manning Acquitted of Aiding the Enemy

Bradley Manning, the lowly Army PFC responsible for America’s largest leak of classified documents has been acquitted of the most serious charge against him – aiding and abetting the enemy. He was still found guilty of countless other charges regarding the leaks which will likely leave him imprisoned for the remainder of his life. Elizabeth Goitein, of the Liberty and National Security Program commented, “The judge rejected the government’s argument that Manning, by virtue of his training as an intelligence officer, must have known that the information he disclosed was likely to reach al Qaeda. But she also ruled that Manning had reason to believe his disclosures could harm the U.S., even if that was not his goal.”

10 Jul 13

DISA Rolls Out Corporate Denial of Service

Everyone used to bitch and moan about AKO (Army Knowledge On-line) as a horrible email solution for the Army – with its outdated interface and horrendously small storage capacity. But there were always workarounds for exemptions on storage, the BETA program for a modern OWA UI and bypassing the whole thing with IMAP. Oh, if we could only have that old system back.

Then DISA found it in the best interest of the Army to roll-out Enterprise Email. It’s kind of like a self-imposed denial of service. Login is only possible with a CAC because DISA seems to believe its impossible for an adversary to cache your credentials and replay them. Whether you have a CAC or not, the system continually blasts you with pop-up windows to re-enter your PIN … sometimes as often as every ten minutes. Even if you enter the PIN, it will still time you out in the middle of your work causing it to be lost. Somehow, they’ve taken a working Microsoft product (OWA) and mutilated it so the page doesn’t render properly in anything but Internet Explorer. If it happens to die, the page will NEVER come back unless you close your whole browser down and re-open it – the rest of your tabs and work be damned. I used to be accessible to my subordinates and unit nearly at all times with my IMAP access from home and work machines. But then I had to have CAC readers installed at work just to access the page and as I mentioned before, it continually times me out or fails the PIN re-entry because my screen locked. Needless to say, the inconvenience of it all means I only check once a day every couple of days now.

10 Jul 13

Congress Continues To Be Effective

It’s a good thing there’s nothing important for Congress to be doing, right? Democrat representatives from Maryland and Texas have proposed H.R. 2617 which is meant to establish a national park … on … the … moon. The best part describes how, well, let me just quote it directly:

The Secretary may accept donations from, and enter into cooperative agreements with, foreign governments and international bodies, organizations, or individuals to further the purpose of an interagency agreement entered into under paragraph (1) or to provide visitor services and administrative facilities within reasonable proximity to the Historical Park.

30 Jun 13

Technical Interviews ARE Necessary

A recent article in TechCrunch discussed the technical interview’s death … as a good thing. “The whole purpose of an interview was to serve as a proxy for actual performance, because we didn’t have the tools and infrastructure to easily observe and measure the latter,” which the author asserts as moot in the modern age such that employers should just hire its applicants and fire them if they fail. He talks about the existing methods by which companies have tried to weed out the can’ts from the cans – brain teasers, puzzles, FizzBuzz code snippets and hitting whiteboards to write code on the fly – as poor indicators of talent.

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