Ramblings & ephemera

Cell phone viruses

From Jim Giles’ “The inside story of the Conficker worm” (New Scientist: 12 June 2009): Earlier this year, smartphone users in China started to get messages promising a “sexy view” if they clicked on a link. The link led to a download. That download was a spam generator which, once installed, sent identical “sexy view” […]

How security experts defended against Conficker

From Jim Giles’ “The inside story of the Conficker worm” (New Scientist: 12 June 2009): 23 October 2008 … The dry, technical language of Microsoft’s October update did not indicate anything particularly untoward. A security flaw in a port that Windows-based PCs use to send and receive network signals, it said, might be used to […]

Stolen credit card data is cheaper than ever in the Underground

From Brian Krebs’ “Glut of Stolen Banking Data Trims Profits for Thieves” (The Washington Post: 15 April 2009): A massive glut in the number of credit and debit cards stolen in data breaches at financial institutions last year has flooded criminal underground markets that trade in this material, driving prices for the illicit goods to […]

Green Dam is easily exploitable

From Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman’s “Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System” (The University of Michigan: 11 June 2009): We have discovered remotely-exploitable vulnerabilities in Green Dam, the censorship software reportedly mandated by the Chinese government. Any web site a Green Dam user visits can take control of the PC. According […]

The limitations of Windows 7 on netbooks

From Farhad Manjoo’s “I, for One, Welcome Our New Android Overlords” (Slate: 5 June 2008): Microsoft promises that Windows 7 will be able to run on netbooks, but it has announced a risky strategy to squeeze profits from these machines. The company plans to cripple the cheapest versions of the new OS in order to […]

The Uncanny Valley, art forgery, & love

photo credit: hans s From Errol Morris’ “Bamboozling Ourselves (Part 2)” (The New York Times: 28 May 2009): [Errol Morris:] The Uncanny Valley is a concept developed by the Japanese robot scientist Masahiro Mori. It concerns the design of humanoid robots. Mori’s theory is relatively simple. We tend to reject robots that look too much […]

Taxi driver party lines

photo credit: 708718 From Annie Karni’s “Gabbing Taxi Drivers Talking on ‘Party Lines’” (The New York Sun: 11 January 2007): It’s not just wives at home or relatives overseas that keep taxi drivers tied up on their cellular phones during work shifts. Many cabbies say that when they are chatting on duty, it’s often with […]

Al Qaeda’s use of social networking sites

From Brian Prince’s “How Terrorism Touches the ‘Cloud’ at RSA” (eWeek: 23 April 2009): When it comes to the war on terrorism, not all battles, intelligence gathering and recruitment happen in the street. Some of it occurs in the more elusive world of the Internet, where supporters of terrorist networks build social networking sites to recruit […]

A story of failed biometrics at a gym

photo credit: kevindooley From Jake Vinson’s “Cracking your Fingers” (The Daily WTF: 28 April 2009): A few days later, Ross stood proudly in the reception area, hands on his hips. A high-tech fingerprint scanner sat at the reception area near the turnstile and register, as the same scanner would be used for each, though the […]

Interviewed for an article about mis-uses of Twitter

The Saint Louis Beacon published an article on 27 April 2009 titled “Tweets from the jury box aren’t amusing“, about legal “cases across the country where jurors have used cell phones, BlackBerrys and other devices to comment – sometimes minute by minute or second by second on Twitter, for instance – on what they are […]

Steve Jobs on mediocrity & market share

From Steven Levy’s “OK, Mac, Make a Wish: Apple’s ‘computer for the rest of us’ is, insanely, 20” (Newsweek: 2 February 2004): If that’s so, then why is the Mac market share, even after Apple’s recent revival, sputtering at a measly 5 percent? Jobs has a theory about that, too. Once a company devises a […]

Newspapers are doomed

From Jeff Sigmund’s “Newspaper Web Site Audience Increases More Than Ten Percent In First Quarter To 73.3 Million Visitors” (Newspaper Association of America: 23 April 2009): Newspaper Web sites attracted more than 73.3 million monthly unique visitors on average (43.6 percent of all Internet users) in the first quarter of 2009, a record number that […]

Criminal goods & service sold on the black market

From Ellen Messmer’s “Symantec takes cybercrime snapshot with ‘Underground Economy’ report” (Network World: 24 November 2008): The “Underground Economy” report [from Symantec] contains a snapshot of online criminal activity observed from July 2007 to June 2008 by a Symantec team monitoring activities in Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and Web-based forums where stolen goods are advertised. […]

Some facts about GPL 2 & GPL 3

From Liz Laffan’s “GPLv2 vs GPLv3: The two seminal open source licenses, their roots, consequences and repercussions” (VisionMobile: September 2007): From a licensing perspective, the vast majority (typically 60-70%) of all open source projects are licensed under the GNU Public License version 2 (GPLv2). … GPLv3 was published in July 2007, some 16 years following […]

Open source & patents

From Liz Laffan’s “GPLv2 vs GPLv3: The two seminal open source licenses, their roots, consequences and repercussions” (VisionMobile: September 2007): Cumulatively patents have been doubling practically every year since 1990. Patents are now probably the most contentious issue in software-related intellectual property rights. … However we should also be aware that software written from scratch […]

Things we do that are legal, yet wish to remain private

Kissing Interviewing for a new job without your boss’s knowledge Visiting a therapist Praying Inspired by Patrick Keefe’s “Camera Shy” (Legal Affairs: July/August 2003).

Google’s server farm revealed

From Nicholas Carr’s “Google lifts its skirts” (Rough Type: 2 April 2009): I was particularly surprised to learn that Google rented all its data-center space until 2005, when it built its first center. That implies that The Dalles, Oregon, plant (shown in the photo above) was the company’s first official data smelter. Each of Google’s […]

$9 million stolen from 130 ATM machines in 49 cities in 30 minutes

From Catey Hill’s “Massive ATM heist! $9M stolen in only 30 minutes” (New York Daily News: 12 February 2009) With information stolen from only 100 ATM cards, thieves made off with $9 million in cash, according to published reports. It only took 30 minutes. “We’ve seen similar attempts to defraud a bank through ATM machines […]

Now that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has switched to the Web …

From William Yardley and Richard Pérez-Peña’s “Seattle Paper Shifts Entirely to the Web” (The New York Times: 16 March 2009): The P-I, as it is called, will resemble a local Huffington Post more than a traditional newspaper, with a news staff of about 20 people rather than the 165 it had, and a site with […]

Social software: 5 properties & 3 dynamics

From danah boyd’s “Social Media is Here to Stay… Now What?” at the Microsoft Research Tech Fest, Redmond, Washington (danah: 26 February 2009): Certain properties are core to social media in a combination that alters how people engage with one another. I want to discuss five properties of social media and three dynamics. These are […]