Traffic congestion in the skies. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/faa-jet-nearly-collided-drone FAA in AP News, 9 May 2014 San Francisco (AP): Federal officials say a U.S. jet airliner nearly collided in March with an airborne drone in the sky over Tallahassee, Florida. Jim Williams of the Federal Aviation Administration's unmanned aircraft systems office acknowledged the incident Thursday at a San Francisco drone conference, citing it as an example of the risks posed by integrating drones into U.S. airspace. [...] The pilot of the 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-200 airliner said the camouflage-colored drone was at an altitude of about 2,300 feet, five miles northeast of the airport. FAA rules state that the aircraft should be kept below 400 feet above ground level and should be flown a sufficient distance from full-scale aircraft. [...] Last week, the National Park Service issued a statement reminding visitors that federal regulations ban the use of drones within Yosemite National Park. Drone sightings there have become a nearly daily occurrence in the venerated national park, with the devices buzzing loudly near waterfalls, above meadows or over treetops as guests use them to capture otherwise impossible-to-get photographs of the breathtaking landscape.
A team of independent security researchers (Alex Halderman, Harri Hursti, Jason Kitcat, Maggie MacAlpine, and two U. Michigan graduate students) held a press conference in Estonia today exposing severe security vulnerabilities in their Internet voting system and in the processes by which it was administered. They called for Estonia to withdraw the system from use before the European upcoming parliamentary elections, and suggested tat it would not be possible to fix the system, or indeed any Internet voting system, for a decade or more. They point out that since the Estonian system was designed the threat environment faced by online systems has gotten much worse, with not only criminals but also nation states actively compromising online systems today. The slides presented at the press conference, the movie they showed, and an audio recording of the press conference itself are all online at https://estoniaevoting.org/press-release/ [Later today, they are expected to post a video of the press conference and also the formal written version of their report. But what is already available is very timely. For example, see the next item.]
(Fox News via NNSquad) http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/05/10/democrats-propose-internet-voting-in-2016-making-republican-also-consider-idea/ "Democrats are thinking about using Internet balloting in 2016 to expand their voter base and select a president—prompting Republicans to consider such a strategy to keep from losing ground. Iowa Democrats proposed the idea and several others during a recent Democratic National Committee meeting, saying Internet balloting could expand access to their unique caucus process to overseas military personnel, absentee voters and others." - - - Internet voting is of course a disastrous idea, for so many reasons (not to mention the underlying security problems of people's own computers that would be used to cast the votes). I won't even bother here to start referencing the many papers on this topic, including my own "Hacking the Vote" from years ago. Still, if the GOP wants to use this in their primaries, I think it might be amusing when the Iowa GOP nominee ends up being His Infernal Majesty Satan.
FYI—These break-ins are the electronic equivalent of FBI raids lobbing tear gas and kicking down doors with automatic weapons drawn. Inevitably, there are some percentage of breakins at the wrong address of innocent people. These types of proposals are also particularly worrisome, now that we know that the FBI, the NSA & the FISA panels interpret ordinary words with meanings completely different from the way you and I would interpret them. As a result, it is impossible to even properly interpret the language of the proposals, since encoded in the words of these proposals are secret court interpretations of some of the words used. "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." --Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking-Glass" http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-09/federal-agents-seek-to-loosen-rules-on-hacking-computers.html Chris Strohm, Federal Agents Seek to Loosen Rules on Hacking Computers, Bloomberg, 10 May 2014 The proposal arrives at a precipitous time for a government still managing backlash to electronic-spying practices by the National Security Agency that were exposed last year by former contractor Edward Snowden. A U.S. proposal to expand the U.S. Justice Department's ability to hack into computers during criminal investigations is furthering tension in the debate over how to balance privacy rights with the need to keep the country safe. A committee of judges that sets national policy governing criminal investigations will try to sort through it all. It's weighing a proposal made public yesterday that would give federal agents greater leeway to secretly access suspected criminals' computers in bunches, not simply one at a time. The underlying goal is to take rules written for searching property and modernize them for the Internet age. The proposal arrives at a precipitous time for a government still managing backlash to electronic spying by the National Security Agency that was exposed last year by contractor Edward Snowden. “What I think we're looking for as a society is a way to investigate crime while limiting the exposure of information that should be kept private,'' While the intent of the proposal is reasonable, the idea of law enforcement potentially placing malware on computers of innocent Americans that can access personal data is a cause for concern. (Stephen Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University.) “I don't think many Americans would be comfortable with the government sending code onto their computers without their knowledge or consent The power they're seeking is certainly a broad one.'' (Nathan Freed Wessler, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.) [Lots more salient stuff omitted: Traditional Rules ... Court Review ... Long Road ... 30-Day Secrecy ...] Only Option The department must describe the computer it wants to target with as much detail as possible. For example, an investigator may be covertly communicating with a suspected child molester and know an IP address, and then obtain a warrant to use malware to find the actual location. In the case of botnets, malware might be used to try to free the compromised computers from a criminal's control. [...] Please browse the URL for the omitted text. PGN]
(Official Neocities Blog via NNSquad): https://neocities.org/blog/the-fcc-is-now-rate-limited Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I've (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC's internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site, and I'm not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they've been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the "keep America's Internet slow and expensive forever" lobby. The Ferengi Plan The Ferengi plan is a special FCC-only plan that costs $1000 per year, and removes the 28.8kbps modem throttle to the FCC. We will happily take Credit Cards, Bitcoin, and Dogecoin from crooked FCC executives that probably have plenty of money from bribes on our Donations page (sorry, we don't accept Latinum yet). —Kyle Drake - - - An interesting application of the Ferengi "Rules of Acquisition" ...
(WSJ via NNSquad) http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702303627504579556200630931292-lMyQjAxMTA0MDEwMDExNDAyWj "In the new draft, Mr. Wheeler is sticking to the same basic approach but will include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don't unfairly put nonpaying companies' content at a disadvantage, according to an agency official. The official said the draft would also seek comment on whether such agreements, called "paid prioritization," should be banned outright, and look to prohibit the big broadband companies, such as Comcast Corp. CMCSA -0.20% and AT&T Inc., T +0.11% from doing deals with some content companies on terms that they aren't offering to others. Mr. Wheeler's language will also invite comments on whether broadband Internet service should be considered a public utility, which would subject it to greater regulation." - - - Some improvements in his plan on the surface, but not at all clear that they'd make much of a positive difference in practice.
Interesting article on a rather unknown group, the National Incident Response Team, or NIRT, "the first line of defense for the central banking system." Shane Harris, *Foreign Policy*, 28 April 28 2014 http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/04/28/exclusive_meet_the_secret_fed_cyber_security_unit_keeping_trillions_of_dollars_s The Fed's cyber security is so well regarded, in fact, that last year an advisory panel comprised of chief executives from some of the country's biggest commercial banks recommended putting the Fed in charge of cyber security for the entire financial services industry. And they have their own 0-day team: A former NIRT member said the group also has a team of researchers dedicated to finding zero day vulnerabilities, which are flaws in computer software that haven't yet been discovered by their manufacturer.
Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld, 08 May 2014 The government is trying out a new identity consolidation program that it might hand over to a private enterprise to manage. What could possibly go wrong? http://www.infoworld.com/t/cringely/uncle-sams-brilliant-new-idea-online-drivers-license-242122
The banks in New Zealand have brought in a new scheme called PayWave, where you can pay a bill under $80 merely by vaguely waving your credit card at the terminal. http://www.visa.co.nz/personal/features/visapaywave.shtml Problem 1: my wife and I have both had the experience that we were bringing our cards up to the terminal in order to pay for groceries when suddenly the terminal said payment accepted. Since all our accounts are on the same card as the credit account (not negotiable; that's just the way the card comes from the bank) this meant that the money was drawn from *wrong* account. http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/8808751/How-safe-are-paywave-cards has a story of someone who was apparently debited from a terminal other than the one she was paying from. I have heard conflicting accounts of what the range of a PayWave reader is. If there is a PayWave reader and a normal chip-and-pin reader, and they are close together, it can be very tricky to get your card into the chip-and-pin reader without triggering PayWave. Problem 2: the point of PayWave is to let you make a payment effortlessly. In particular, without entering a PIN. It turns out that you are allowed to make up to 6 PayWave payments a day. This means that if you lose your card, it takes absolutely no skill for the finder to steal nearly $480 from your account (in goods). Visa have a "zero liability policy", which means it would "just" cost me time, but Visa will lose $480 and I'm sure they'll get it back from customers somehow. Problem 3: we were surprised to be PayWaved because we hadn't opted in. But it's worse: there is no opt out. We rang our bank and asked for PayWave to be disabled for our cards, and were told that it could not be done. Of course, as IT people, we all know that it *could* be done, it's just that someone decided they didn't want to. ALL Visa cards issued in NZ are now PayWave cards, like it or not. Even so, I don't see why a smart card couldn't have a "don't PayWave me" bit on it. I don't want to join the tinfoil hat brigade, but I am seriously thinking of keeping my cards in a metal tin.
Jaikumar Vijayan, Computerworld, 6 May 2014 Exchanges between NSA director and Google execs suggest cooperation on data security http://www.infoworld.com/d/security/emails-shed-light-googles-work-nsa-242038 opening text: Two sets of e-mails obtained by Al Jazeera America under a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that Google's cooperation with the NSA (National Security Agency) may have been less coerced than the company has let on.
FYI—In the UK, as in the U.S., "oversight" = "overlook". Economists call this problem "regulatory capture". The conceit of overseers is most humorously described by O. Henry in his 1907 short story "The Ransom of Red Chief": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ransom_of_Red_Chief - - - http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/09/edward-snowden-mps-commons-report-spying MPs: Snowden files are 'embarrassing indictment' of British spying oversight All-party committee demands reforms to make security and intelligence services accountable in wake of disclosures Alan Travis, *The Guardian,* 9 May 2014 Edward Snowden's disclosures of the scale of mass surveillance are "an embarrassing indictment" of the weak nature of the oversight and legal accountability of Britain's security and intelligence agencies, MPs have concluded. A highly critical report by the Commons home affairs select committee published on Friday calls for a radical reform of the current system of oversight of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, arguing that the current system is so ineffective it is undermining the credibility of the intelligence agencies and parliament itself. The MPs say the current system was designed in a pre-Internet age when a person's word was accepted without question. "It is designed to scrutinise the work of George Smiley, not the 21st-century reality of the security and intelligence services," said committee chairman, Keith Vaz. "The agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an equally refined system of democratic scrutiny. It is an embarrassing indictment of our system that some in the media felt compelled to publish leaked information to ensure that matters were heard in parliament." ... - - - Home Affairs Committee - Seventeenth Report: Counter-terrorism http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmhaff/231/23111.htm "We do not believe the current system of oversight is effective and we have concerns that the weak nature of that system has an impact upon the credibility of the agencies accountability, and to the credibility of Parliament itself."
(BBC via NNSquad): http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27318400 A Saudi court has imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi for 10 years for "insulting Islam" and setting up a liberal web forum, local media report. He was also sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ordered to pay a fine of 1 million riyals ($266,133,000). - - - What's the technical term for this? Oh, yes: BARBARIANS. [And what is the sentence for a government committing Saudimy? PGN]
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/santacruz/ci_25725486/photo-leads-identity-theft-arrest-santa-cruz An alleged identity thief was involved in a car crash. She showed a stolen drivers license to the other driver, who took a photo of the license while the thief held it. The other driver was suspicious that the license photo didn't match, and gave the photo to police. Police were able to get partial fingerprints from the photo, which they matched to prints on file from a prior arrest. Police arrested the thief, but have not recovered the stolen drivers license. The photo is in the original newspaper article. One index fingertip is about 90% visible, another is about 50% visible from the side. So in addition to sunglasses and camouflage face paint, should we wear gloves in public to preserve anonymity?
Jenna Wortham, *The New York Times*, 8 May 2014 What happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. That truth was laid bare on Thursday, when Snapchat, the popular mobile messaging service, agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that messages sent through the company's app did not disappear as easily as promised. Snapchat has built its service on a pitch that has always seemed almost too good to be true: that people can send any photo or video to friends and have it vanish without a trace. That promise has appealed to millions of people, particularly younger Internet users seeking refuge from nosy parents, school administrators and potential employers. But the commission charged that there were several easy ways to save messages from the service, and in settling the accusations, the company agreed not to misrepresent the disappearing nature of its messages. The company's early popularity and hype led to a multibillion-dollar buyout offer last year from Facebook, which Snapchat's leaders spurned in the hope of something better. But the settlement announced on Thursday set a different tone, one that could extend to the many other start-ups that promise security, privacy and anonymity as an antidote to the public nature of Facebook and Twitter. ... http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/technology/snapchat-reaches-settlement-with-federal-trade-commission.html
Often I forget what I have copied with the mouse into my computers "clipboard", and end up feeding long essays, recipes, letters to Mom, etc., directly into the shell interpreter for execution line by line. Well, finally somebody found a way to limit the damage to just one line!: $ cat .bashrc safety_seconds=5 SECONDS=1 PROMPT_COMMAND="if ((SECONDS==0)); then echo TOO FAST, HOLMES. Waiting \ $safety_seconds seconds or hit ^C; sleep $safety_seconds; else SECONDS=0; fi"
Russell Brandom, *The Verge*, 9 May 2014 Federal court overturns Google v. Oracle decision, setting disastrous precedent http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/9/5699958/federal-court-overturns-google-v-oracle Today, a federal court ruled that Google must pay Oracle for its use of the Java API in Android, setting a broad precedent that already has many legal scholars crying foul. If the ruling stands, it will give software companies copyright over their APIs, the interfaces that programs use to communicate with each other. The new standard is good news for Oracle, which holds the rights to Java and its widely used API, but potentially disastrous for software developers that want to build on top of APIs. If the APIs are no longer free to use, new services may be forced to start from scratch, making it astronomically more difficult to coordinate between programs. http://cdn1.vox-cdn.com/assets/4431835/13-1021.Opinion.5-7-2014.1.pdf APIs are one of the most important tools in modern programming, allowing third-party services to pull information automatically from central services like Google, Facebook and Twitter. (Apps like Tweetdeck, for instance, get your tweets by calling on Twitter's API.) In this case, Google the Android OS on top of a modified version of Java, but kept Java's API to make it easier for programmers to write for Android. Since many coders were already familiar with the quirks of Java's API, the decision gave them a head start in writing programs for Android—but from the beginning, Oracle wanted Google to pay for the privilege. In May of 2012 http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/31/3055620/oracle-java-api-not-covered-copyright-law/in/2731667 a district court ruled that copyrighting the calls would simply tie up "a utilitarian and functional set of symbols," and gave Google free rein on the API. Oracle appealed the ruling, and two years later, a federal court has overturned. The next step is the Supreme Court, but it could be years before the issue is finally settled. Already, the ruling has drawn disapproval from IP advocates. <http://www.vox.com/2014/5/9/5699960/this-court-decision-is-a-disaster-for-the-software-industry>. Villanova law professor Michael Risch blames the court <http://madisonian.net/2014/05/09/oracle-v-google-reversed-framing-matters/> for granting too strong of a copyright, preferring a conception that allows for interoperability and reuse: "Google should surely be privileged to do what it did without having to resort to fair use." Going further, University of Maryland professor James Grimmelmann writes, "This is an opinion written by judges whose understanding of software comes from reading other judges' opinions about software." In even simpler terms, Sarah Jeong writes, "It's like getting mad at a screwdriver for looking like a screwdriver." https://twitter.com/grimmelm/status/464804631097659395 https://twitter.com/sarahjeong/status/464818311763877888
Steve Loughran raised two interesting points. "Garbage collection can introduce delays". We want two things from any memory management scheme, automatic or manual: (1) Resources are released as soon as they are no longer needed. (2) There are no long delays. Unfortunately, we cannot have both. Classical reference counting means that a memory object is released as soon as the run time system notices there are no more references to it, and finalizers can be used to release external resources promptly. The Limbo programming language does this. However, imagine constructing a 2GB acyclic graph of objects and then nilling the last pointer to it. You *must* get a long delay as each object in turn is purged. There are techniques for deferring this work so that pauses are much smaller, but then you do not get prompt release of external objects. Manual memory management can be understood as a sporadically buggy approximation of reference counting. The answer of course, is that there are several hard real time garbage collection algorithms out there which DON'T have long pauses, but for that to be possible, they cannot release objects or references to external objects promptly. So you have to make a very clear distinction between closing an external resource and forgetting it. The C# 'using (Type id create) stmt' statement and the Java 'try (Type id = create) stmt' statement are about closing a connection to an external resource, and make no claim about when the memory of the object will be reclaimed. The second point he raised is "how can a remote network client distinguish "hung process' from "process undergoing very large GC pauses"? The short answer to that is "it cannot". There are all sorts of things, from network congestion, to temporarily moving out of cell phone coverage, to driving through an underpass, to lines being accidentally disconnected, to process being shifted off one processor to another for load balancing, to slowness of a numerical algorithm to converge, which can cause delays without the server process being crashed or hung. I fail to see what the point would be of burdening garbage collectors with sending messages out to clients when GC pauses are just one of MANY kinds of unpredictable but noticeable delay and the other kinds don't come with notification schemes. In a distributed system, a client HAS to be prepared to time out a remote transaction, and HAS to be prepared to discover that it was a false alarm. (Nobody ever said distributed was easy.) I suggest that the answer to the problem of GC delays in processes with 100 GB address spaces is "don't design such systems in the first place; make big systems be collections of loosely coupled components that are independently GCed." (For example, while an Erlang 'node' may have a single address space, each Erlang 'process' (thread) is independently GCed.)
> Reference counting cannot correctly handle circular references. ... This is where get fuzzy on the "linear types" etc.: as far as I can see it all works only if you don't copy pointers/references. As long as every copy is a copy of the value and every reference exists in the same or nested scope, this works. Unfortunately deep copy of every value means a lot of memory copying. Which, according to the "LISP could do real-time garbage collection in the 70's" paper cited upthread was a zero-cost operation in the LISP machines of the 1970's but in my observable reality can actually be quite expensive. As far as I know the best we can do in 2010's is copy-on-write which makes it close to zero cost for as long as the value remains read-only. And if it is read-only you can declare it const and safely copy the reference and you're back to square 1 where copying references is not allowed. However, this seems to be getting way off topic for RISKS. Dimitri Maziuk Programmer/sysadmin BioMagResBank, UW-Madison—http://www.bmrb.wisc.edu
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