Category - Technology

We’ve finally hit the breaking point for the original Internet

Washington Post, By Brian Fung, July 2

It’s finally happened. The North American organization responsible for handing out new IP addresses says its banks have run dry.

That’s right: ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, has had to turn down a request for the unique numbers that we assign to each and every smartphone, tablet and PC so they can talk to the Internet. For the first time, ARIN didn’t have enough IP addresses left in its stock to satisfy an entire order — and now, it’s activated the end-times protocol that will see the few remaining addresses out into the night.


How big is IPv6?

Who wrote this amazing, mysterious book satirizing tech startup culture?

Fusion, By Alexis Madrigal, June 8

A mysterious little book called Iterating Grace is floating around San Francisco right now. At least a dozen people have received the book in the mail—or in my case, by secret hand-delivery to my house. (Which is a little creepy.)

The artifact itself consists of a 2,001-word story interspersed with hand-drawn recreations of tweets by venture capitalists and startup people like Chris Sacca, Paul Graham, Brad Feld, Sam Altman, and others.

The story’s lead character, Koons Crooks, goes on a spiritual quest by contemplating the social media feeds emanating from the startup world. It leads him to a Bolivian volcano and a chillingly hilarious final act with some cans of cat food, a DIY conference badge, and a pack of vicuñas (which are sort of like llamas).

“For him, the tossed-off musings and business maxims of these men (they were almost all men) shimmered with a certain numinous luster. He contemplated individual tweets for days, sometimes weeks, expounding on them at length in the margins of his books about the sea, meditating on them as though they were koans,” we read. “The answers he’d been searching for had been there, in the Bay Area’s innovation economy, all along—articulated, unwittingly, by an elite class of entrepreneurial high priests.”

Renewable energy from evaporating water (w/ Video)

Phys.Org, June 16

An immensely powerful yet invisible force pulls water from the earth to the top of the tallest redwood and delivers snow to the tops of the Himalayas. Yet despite the power of evaporating water, its potential to propel self-sufficient devices or produce electricity has remained largely untapped—until now.

In the June 16 online issue of Nature Communications, Columbia University scientists report the development of two novel devices that derive power directly from evaporation – a floating, piston-driven engine that generates electricity causing a light to flash, and a rotary engine that drives a miniature car.

When evaporation energy is scaled up, the researchers predict, it could one day produce electricity from giant floating power generators that sit on bays or reservoirs, or from huge rotating machines akin to wind turbines that sit above water, said Ozgur Sahin, Ph.D., an associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia University and the paper’s lead author.

“Evaporation is a fundamental force of nature,” Sahin said. “It’s everywhere, and it’s more powerful than other forces like wind and waves.”

FBI and Homeland Security Respond to Shocking Goatse Bomb in Atlanta

Gawker, By Sam Biddle, May 15

The affluent denizens of Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood received a fun treat this week when they looked up at the corner of Peachtree and East Paces Ferry: a famous internet man’s giant, ruddy, gaping spread asshole, displayed on an enormous digital billboard.

The billboard above is one of the thousands of YESCO digital billboards installed across the country. Naturally, it comes with an internet connection. The setup is exactly as insecure as you’d imagine: many of these electronic billboards are completely unprotected, dangling on the public internet without a password or any kind of firewall. This means it’s pretty simple to change the image displayed from a new AT&T offer to, say, Goatse.

The appearance of this unexpected mammoth human asshole alarmed Buckhead residents so much that at least one called 911, WSB-TV reports:

“There’s an electronic billboard that is flashing a naked man,” one woman said in the 911 call. “It’s not actually an emergency; it’s just totally disgusting.” Police say the billboard’s owner temporarily cut power to the billboard.

[…]

But what is there to really investigate? The billboard was easy to mess with; the owners basically left the door unlocked and wide open. Not only was this a case of incompetence, but gross negligence: security researcher Dan Tentler tweeted yesterday that he’d tried to warn this very same sign company that their software is easily penetrable by anyone with a computer and net connection and was told they were “not interested.”

Related, Gawker: Finding Goatse: The Mystery Man Behind the Most Disturbing Internet Meme in History, April 10, 2012

‘Cicadas': US military’s new swarm of mini-drones

AFP, By Don De Luce, May 16

Washington – US military scientists have invented a miniature drone that fits in the palm of a hand, ready to be dropped from the sky like a mobile phone with wings.

The “micro air vehicle” is named after the insect that inspired its invention, the Cicada, which spends years underground before appearing in great swarms, reproducing and then dropping to the ground dead.

“The idea was why can’t we make UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that have the same sort of profile,” Aaron Kahn of the Naval Research Laboratory told AFP.

“We will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up.”

So, the NSA Has an Actual Skynet Program

Wired, By Kim Zetter, May 8

We’ve suspected it all along—that Skynet, the massive program that brings about world destruction in the Terminator movies, was just a fictionalization of a real program in the hands of the US government. And now it’s confirmed—at least in name.

As The Intercept reports today, the NSA does have a program called Skynet. But unlike the autonomous, self-aware computerized defense system in Terminator that goes rogue and launches a nuclear attack that destroys most of humanity, this one is a surveillance program that uses phone metadata to track the location and call activities of suspected terrorists. A journalist for Al Jazeera reportedly became one of its targets after he was placed on a terrorist watch list.

Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, bureau chief for Al Jazeera’s Islamabad office, got tracked by Skynet after he was identified by US intelligence as a possible Al Qaeda member and assigned a watch list number. A Syrian national, Zaidan has scored a number of exclusive interviews with senior Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden himself.

Skynet uses phone location and call metadata from bulk phone call records to detect suspicious patterns in the physical movements of suspects and their communication habits, according to a 2012 government presentation The Intercept obtained from Edward Snowden.

[…]

We should note that the NSA has a second program that more closely resembles the Terminator‘s Skynet. This one is called MonsterMind, as revealed by Edward Snowden last year in an interview with WIRED and James Bamford. MonsterMind, like the film version of Skynet, is a defense surveillance system that would instantly and autonomously neutralize foreign cyberattacks against the US, and could be used to launch retaliatory strikes as well. Under this program algorithms would scour massive repositories of metadata and analyze it to differentiate normal network traffic from anomalous or malicious traffic. Armed with this knowledge, the NSA could instantly and autonomously identify, and block, a foreign threat.

Snowden also suggested, however, that MonsterMind could one day be designed to return fire—automatically, without human intervention—against an attacker. Because an attacker could tweak malicious code to avoid detection, a counterstrike would be more effective in neutralizing future attacks. Sounds a lot like Skynet. No word from the NSA on why they didn’t use that iconic film name for its real-world Skynet.

The Intercept: U.S. Government Designated Prominent Al Jazeera Journalist as “Member of Al Qaeda”
Wired: Meet MonsterMind, the NSA Bot That Could Wage Cyberwar Autonomously

N.S.A. Collection of Bulk Call Data Is Ruled Illegal

New York Times, By Charlie Savage & Jonathan Weisman, May 7

Washington – A federal appeals court in New York ruled on Thursday that the once-secret National Security Agency program that is systematically collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk is illegal. The decision comes as a fight in Congress is intensifying over whether to end and replace the program, or to extend it without changes.

In a 97-page ruling, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a provision of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, known as Section 215, cannot be legitimately interpreted to allow the bulk collection of domestic calling records.

The provision of the act used to justify the bulk data program is to expire June 1, and the ruling is certain to increase tension that has been building in Congress.

Surveillance planes spotted in the sky for days after West Baltimore rioting

Washington Post, By Craig Timberg, May 5

As Benjamin Shayne settled into his back yard to listen to the Orioles game on the radio Saturday night, he noticed a small plane looping low and tight over West Baltimore — almost exactly above where rioting had erupted several days earlier, in the aftermath of the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, in police custody.

The plane appeared to be a small Cessna, but little else was clear. The sun had already set, making traditional visual surveillance difficult. So, perplexed, Shayne tweeted: “Anyone know who has been flying the light plane in circles above the city for the last few nights?”

That was 9:14 p.m. Seven minutes later came a startling reply. One of Shayne’s nearly 600 followers tweeted back a screen shot of the Cessna 182T’s exact flight path and also the registered owner of the plane: NG Research, based in Bristow, Va.

“The Internet,” Shayne, 39, told his wife, “is an amazing thing.”

What Shayne’s online rumination helped unveil was a previously secret, multi-day campaign of overhead surveillance by city and federal authorities during a period of historic political protest and unrest.

China rates its own citizens – including online behaviour

The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code.

Volkskrant.nl, By Fokke Obbema, Marije Vlaskamp, Michael Persson, April 25

The regulations were announced last year, but have attracted almost no attention thus far in China and abroad. This week Rogier Creemers, a Belgian China-specialist at Oxford University, published a comprehensive translation of the regulations regarding the Social Credit System, which clarifies the scope of the system. In an interview with Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant he says: ‘With the help of the latest internet technologies the government wants to exercise individual surveillance’.

In his view this surveillance will have a wider scope than was the case under the former East German system: ‘The German aim was limited to avoiding a revolt against the regime. The Chinese aim is far more ambitious: it is clearly an attempt to create a new citizen.’

The intentions of the new system are not only economical, fighting fraudulent practices, but also moral. ‘This is a deliberate effort by the Chinese government to promote among its citizens “socialist core values” such as patriotism, respecting the elderly, working hard and avoiding extravagant consumption’, says Creemers. A bad ‘credit code’ can result in being not eligible for certain jobs, housing or credit to start a company. ‘On the labour market you might need a certain score to get a specific job.’

Via MathBabe: China announces it is scoring its citizens using big data

Is the online surveillance of black teenagers the new stop-and-frisk?

Critics say the NYPD’s trawling of social media for gang activity – affecting children as young as 10 – is disproportionate and may amount to racial profiling

The Guardian, By Rose Hackman, April 23

Taylonn Murphy is sitting in a Harlem beauty salon after hours. Leaning back in his chair and with a calm demeanor, he is talking about keeping young local people out of harm’s way.

Every now and then though, as he speaks, his voice breaks.

In September 2011, his daughter Tayshana, 18, a local basketball superstar and resident of West Harlem’s Grant Houses, was shot dead by two residents of Manhattanville Houses. The killing was described as the result of a rivalry between the two housing projects that dates back decades.

Almost three years after his daughter’s death, on 4 June 2014, helicopters hovered overhead as the first rays of sunlight hit the concrete. At least 400 New York police officers in military gear raided both housing projects, with indictments for the arrest of 103 people.

Starting in January 2010, the community’s children and young adults had been closely watched by police officers – both online and off. The investigation had involved listening in to 40,000 calls from correctional facilities, watching hours of surveillance video, and reviewing over 1m online social media pages.

For Murphy, the revelation of these details was choking: the NYPD had been attentively surveilling both communities for over one and a half years before his daughter was murdered, patiently waiting and observing as the rivalry between crew members escalated.

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