Tag Archives: hacks

The Apocalypticon ~ Bombogenesis, Spectre, NSA sucks, CPUs, hacks, NSA, Black Mirror, and the Alternative Apocalypse

The ‘very real scientific term’ weather bomb describes a storm that suddenly intensifies following a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure. Bombing out, or “bombogenesis,” is when a cyclone’s central pressure drops 24 millibars or more in 24 hours, bringing furious winds that can quickly create blizzard conditions and coastal flooding.
In the north of the US, according to the Cape Cod-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, it’s gotten so cold that sharks in the area have been washing up on the shore and essentially freezing to death.
Myles Allen, a climate expert at the University of Oxford, believes scientists can now blame individual natural disasters on climate change. Scientific American reports of how extreme event attribution is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of climate science. Now extreme event attribution is not only possible, it’s one of the most rapidly expanding subfields of climate science.

What’s going on with our CPUs? In 2017, Google’s Project Zero team in collaboration with researchers at a number of different universities identified an absolutely massive problem with speculative execution, one of the techniques employed in modern microprocessors as a way of improving performance: when a processor uses speculative execution, instead of performing tasks strictly sequentially, it predicts which calculations it might need to do subsequently. It then solves them in advance and in parallel fashion. The result is that the CPU wastes some cycles performing unnecessary calculations, but performs chains of commands much faster than if it waited to process them one after the other. However, there’s a serious flaw in the way modern processors are hardcoded to use speculative execution. They don’t check permissions correctly and leak information about speculative commands that don’t end up being run.

The worst hacks of 2017 — Critical infrastructure attacks, insecure databases, hacks, breaches, and leaks of unprecedented scale impacted institutions around the world—along with the billions of people who trust them with their data.
This list includes incidents disclosed in 2017, but note that some took place earlier.

NSA has bad morale — The US National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service’s leadership and an unpopular reorganisation, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector. Since 2015, the NSA has lost several hundred hackers, engineers and data scientists, according to current and former US officials with knowledge of the matter. The potential impact on national security is significant, they said. Their work included monitoring a broad array of subjects including the Islamic State, and Russian and North Korean hackers. [OK, I didn’t say ‘Trump’.]

And if you really want to zonk yourself Apocalytpticonically … there’s a new season of Black Mirror.

And the good news? I’ve read too many visions of apocalypse where survivors all turn into inhumanoids who just want to kill each other, so I’m going to write an alternative.


The Apocalypticon ~ Trump, Russia, hacks, security, duped iPhone owners, bent cops film themselves, food and climate

As usual, the US president trumps most of the other bad news. Someone who tried to hack Trump’s tax returns – pretty amateurishly, as it turns out – might get 5 years in prison. Would-be whistleblowers were rallied by WikiLeaks, while one high-profile Democrat offered a $5 million reward for anyone who legally leaked Trump’s financials. You might wonder why this never went any further, until you realise that co-prize a-hole Julian Assange wanted to be Australian ambassador and asked for Trump Junior’s help. How unpartisan is that? It looks like Russian agents leaked Democrat information to Wikileaks to enhance Trump’s chances, after all.
Meanwhile, Trump’s regime wants to use bigoted AI to ‘extremely vet’ would-be immigrants. An alliance of more than 50 civil liberties groups and more than 50 individual AI experts sent dual letters to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today, calling for the end of a plan to screen immigrants with predictive “extreme vetting” software.
In a new low, Senator Jeff Sessions has had all his under-oath forgetfulness listed by Wired. How’s that for an aid memoir, Jeffy boy? It gets up to no. 47 … but for a glimmer of hopes US judge has ordered Facebook to redact the info of anti-Trump activists sought by the Feds. Without this, the details of some 6000 people who ‘liked’ these pages would have been available to the FBI.

Speaking of Russians and hackers, the personal computer of an NSA worker who took government hacking tools and classified documents home with him was infected with a backdoor trojan, unrelated to these tools, that could have been used by criminal hackers to steal the US government files, according to a new report being released Thursday by Kaspersky Lab in response to recent allegations against the company. The Moscow-based antivirus firm, which has been accused of using its security software to improperly grab NSA hacking tools and classified documents from the NSA worker’s home computer and provide them to the Russian government, says the worker had at least 120 other malicious files on his home computer in addition to the backdoor. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppyThe reason that citizens in the West are subject now to more surveillance than there was in the Soviet Union is that digital technology made it possible, says Richard Stallman. “And the first disaster of digital technology was proprietary software that people would install and run on their own computers, and they wouldn’t know what it was doing. They can’t tell what it’s doing.” Stallman has been fighting this battle since 1983.

Criminals duping iPhone buyers out of their phones — A security report has shed new light on the lucrative business of unlocking and reselling stolen iPhones, a multi-million dollar criminal enterprise spanning the globe. The tools used by shadowy hackers involved in this black market trade were detailed in TrendMicro’s latest research. Criminals have turned to sophisticated methods of infiltration, targeting desperate owners of missing devices with phishing emails gearing toward capturing iCloud credentials. They play on the eagerness of the owner to reclaim their lost phone.
The victims might receive a fraudulent link, for instance, alerting them their iPhone has been located. Since the message is carefully crafted to appear legitimate, using a spoofed email account or SMS message, many owners carelessly follow the instructions they’re given. In doing so, they compromise their own iCloud accounts, granting the phone thieves full access to their device.

LA cops film themselves fitting-up a suspect with cocaine — Newly-released body camera footage from a hit-and-run arrest in April appears to show two LAPD officers planting drugs in a suspect’s wallet, selectively filming only portions of the arrest to implicate the man for drug possession. Hah!

Some goodish news — what would happen if the entire US went vegan Researchers found a 23% increase in the amount of food available – mainly in grains – and a 28% decrease in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. However, they only found a 2.6% decrease in overall greenhouse gas emissions and found deficiencies in the American diet’s essential nutrients. Still, at least it’s being considered.
And climate-conscious cities have been sharing their experiences. At last week’s COP23 climate conference in Bonn, Germany, Essen’s representative was all ears as officials from other post-industrial cities shared their stories. Speakers included representatives from Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Beijing’s E-Town (short for Economic-Technological Development Area)—all cities that make up the new Urban Transitions Alliance.