Ramblings & ephemera

The widespread corruption at the heart of Greek culture

From Michael Lewis’s “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds” (Vanity Fair: 1 October 2010): In just the past decade the wage bill of the Greek public sector has doubled, in real terms—and that number doesn’t take into account the bribes collected by public officials. The average government job pays almost three times the average private-sector job. […]

Arguments against gay marriage make no sense

From Theodore B. Olson’s “The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage” (Truthout: 12 January 2010): What, then, are the justifications for California’s decision in Proposition 8 to withdraw access to the institution of marriage for some of its citizens on the basis of their sexual orientation? The reasons I have heard are not very persuasive. The […]

William Burroughs on the necessary changes in biology

From Conrad Knickerbocker’s interview of William S. Burroughs in “The Art of Fiction No. 36” (The Paris Review: Fall 1965, No. 35): Science eventually will be forced to establish courts of biologic mediation, because life-forms are going to become more incompatible with the conditions of existence as man penetrates further into space. Mankind will have […]

David Foster Wallace on the impossibility of being informed & the seduction of dogma

From David Foster Wallace’s “Introduction” (The Best American Essays 2007): Here is an overt premise. There is just no way that 2004’s reelection could have taken place—not to mention extraordinary renditions, legalized torture, FISA-flouting, or the passage of the Military Commissions Act—if we had been paying attention and handling information in a competent grown-up way. […]

Malware forges online bank statements to hide fraud

From Kim Zetter’s “New Malware Re-Writes Online Bank Statements to Cover Fraud” (Wired: 30 September 2009): New malware being used by cybercrooks does more than let hackers loot a bank account; it hides evidence of a victim’s dwindling balance by rewriting online bank statements on the fly, according to a new report. The sophisticated hack […]

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 […]

The light bulb con job

From Bruce Schneier’s “The Psychology of Con Men” (Crypto-Gram: 15 November 2008): Great story: “My all-time favourite [short con] only makes the con artist a few dollars every time he does it, but I absolutely love it. These guys used to go door-to-door in the 1970s selling lightbulbs and they would offer to replace every […]

Famous “Laws” of Business & Technology

These come from a variety of sources; just Google the law to find out more about it. Parkinson’s Law “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Source: Cyril Northcote Parkinson in The Economist (1955) The Peter Principle “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.” […]

Extreme male brains

From Joe Clark’s “The extreme Google brain” (Fawny: 26 April 2009): … Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox, which explains, using scientific findings, why large majorities of girls and women behave almost identically at different stages of their lives – while large minorities of boys and men show vast variability compared to each other and to […]

German twins commit the perfect crime

From “Twins Suspected in Spectacular Jewelry Heist Set Free” (Spiegel Online International: 19 March 2009): Saved by their indistinguishable DNA, identical twins suspected in a massive jewelry heist have been set free. Neither could be exclusively linked to the DNA evidence. German police say at least one of the identical twin brothers Hassan and Abbas […]

The hard truths science reveals

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): Worse, the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law […]

4 sources of tension between science and religion

From Steven Weinberg’s “Without God” (The New York Review of Books: 25 September 2008): But if the direct conflict between scientific knowledge and specific religious beliefs has not been so important in itself, there are at least four sources of tension between science and religion that have been important. The first source of tension arises […]

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).

$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 […]

New Zealand’s new copyright law

From Mark Gibbs’ “New Zealand gets insane copyright law” (Network World: 20 February 2009): A law was recently passed in New Zealand that has created what many consider to be the world’s harshest copyright enforcement law. This insanity, found in Sections 92A and C of New Zealand’s Copyright Amendment Act 2008 establishes – and I […]

Why cons work on us

From Damien Carrick’s interview with Nicholas Johnson, “The psychology of conmen” (The Law Report: 30 September 2008): Nicholas Johnson: I think what I love most about con artists and the world of scammers is that they’re criminals who manage to get their victims to hand over their possessions freely. Most thieves and robbers and the […]

US government makes unsafe RFID-laden passports even less safe through business practices

From Bill Gertz’s “Outsourced passports netting govt. profits, risking national security” (The Washington Times: 26 March 2008): The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies — including one in Thailand that was victimized by Chinese espionage — raising concerns that cost savings are being put ahead of national security, […]

The end of Storm?

From “Storm Worm botnet cracked wide open” (Heise Security: 9 January 2009): A team of researchers from Bonn University and RWTH Aachen University have analysed the notorious Storm Worm botnet, and concluded it certainly isn’t as invulnerable as it once seemed. Quite the reverse, for in theory it can be rapidly eliminated using software developed […]

Three top botnets

From Kelly Jackson Higgins’ “The World’s Biggest Botnets” (Dark Reading: 9 November 2007): You know about the Storm Trojan, which is spread by the world’s largest botnet. But what you may not know is there’s now a new peer-to-peer based botnet emerging that could blow Storm away. “We’re investigating a new peer-to-peer botnet that may […]