Archive

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

How the Internet Killed the Efficacy and Careers of Political Strategists

April 21, 2016 3 comments

One of the more significant, but largely overlooked, change in the american political arena within the last decade concerns the obvious impotency and rapidly declining role of political strategists in wining party nominations and elections. It was not that long ago when names like Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and Roger Ailes evoked feared in those who ran against the politicians who employed them.

While a significant part of their fearsome reputations was based on myth and hearsay, it is also clear that their “dirty tricks” were somewhat effective in winning close elections. We all remember how George W Bush “won” the 2000 presidential election. But that was over a decade ago and the presidential elections of 2004 were the last major elections in USA where such political consultants were able to influence the final electoral results to any measurable degree.

Since then political consultants have been, by and large, unable to influence major elections at the national and increasingly the state and local level. Some of you might remember the very public humiliations and irrelevancy suffered by once feared political operatives like Karl Rove and Roger Ailes during the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. You might also be aware of how Donald Trump destroyed the presidential aspirations of his far better funded and establishment rivals in the still ongoing race for the republican nomination.

So what is going on? Why are all the old and new “machiavellian geniuses” unable to influence american elections like their predecessors? Why do they seem to spend more time as TV pundits, Authors and make most of their income from job descriptions that fit the definition of a Sinecure? Why is somebody like Donald Trump winning the republican primary? Why is Bernie Sanders still competitive in the democratic primary?

Well.. there are many reasons for this change ranging from the still ongoing impoverishment of the average american to the (also still ongoing) post-2008 loss of public trust in all credentialed professionals and institutions. However the most important, and central, reason for the terminal impotency of political strategists is linked to the rise of decentralized, fast and structurally uncontrollable spread of information over the internet. And it does not work the way most of you think…

The conventional narrative about the effects of information spreading over the internet is based on a pleasant-sounding fallacy. Most people believe political change over the internet is almost exclusively due to people using it the educate themselves about the “facts”. While that is sorta true for objective “facts” like the stuff found in textbooks on physics and chemistry- it is not the case for information about subjective issues such as politics.

The biggest, and most important, effect of the internet on politics is that it makes pretty much everyone extremely cynical of the whole political process. The sheer amount of opinions supporting or denouncing any given position on any issue almost guarantees that most people will stick to what they believed in the first place. It is this widespread cynicism which more than anything defeats attempts to sway opinions through sophistic rhetoric, “dirty tricks”, advertisements and appeals to morality.

This is why all attempts by MSM to attack Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump have had virtually no negative effects on those who support their campaigns. Indeed, the scorn of the MSM and its paid pundits has increased, rather than decreased, public support for both outsider candidates. This is why Bernie and Trump rallies can easily get tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters while mainstream politicians like Hillary or Cruz struggle to get a tenth or twentieth of that number.

Another interesting effect of internet driven cynicism is that the physical appearance of politicians is far less important than it was even ten years ago. People have now come to associate a “professional” look and grooming with dishonesty. In other words, people are now far more likely to trust (or not distrust) somebody who looks like Bernie or Trump than somebody who looks like Hillary, Rubio, Cruz or Mitt Romney. I had predicted something along these lines in one of my older posts- How ‘Anodyne’ Communication Destroys Societal Trust.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Apr 8, 2016

April 8, 2016 4 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are all about how “law enforcement” agencies left to their own devices will always screw over their host societies.

Link 1: CIA’s Venture Capital Arm Is Funding Skin Care Products That Collect DNA

Skincential Sciences, a company with an innovative line of cosmetic products marketed as a way to erase blemishes and soften skin, has caught the attention of beauty bloggers on YouTube, Oprah’s lifestyle magazine, and celebrity skin care professionals. Documents obtained by The Intercept reveal that the firm has also attracted interest and funding from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. The previously undisclosed relationship with the CIA might come as some surprise to a visitor to the website of Clearista, the main product line of Skincential Sciences, which boasts of a “formula so you can feel confident and beautiful in your skin’s most natural state.”

The article, which is no longer available on the fund’s website but is preserved by a cache hosted by the Internet Archive, argues that advances in medical research into biomarkers can be leveraged by intelligence agencies for a variety of uses, from airport security to next-generation identification tools. A diagram in the article calls human skin the body’s largest organ and a “unique, underutilized source for sample collection.” The author, Dr. Kevin O’Connell, then a “senior solutions architect” with In-Q-Tel, notes, “The DNA contained in microorganisms in a person’s gut or on a person’s skin may contain sequences that indicate a particular geographical origin.”

Link 2: L.A. Activists Want to Bring Surveillance Conversation Down to Earth

Khan’s coalition works to track, publicize, and ultimately dismantle the highly intrusive ways the Los Angeles Police Department surveils the area’s citizens, using an infrastructure of advanced intelligence gathering linked to federal government counterterrorism initiatives. The LAPD uses big data for “predictive policing,” street cameras with highly accurate facial recognition capabilities, Stingrays, and DRT boxes — which imitate cellphone towers to track nearby phones or jam signals — automatic license plate readers, body cameras, and drones. “How many different ways are our bodies being constantly tracked, traced, and monitored, not just online?” Khan asked in a phone interview.

Many of the policies adopted in L.A., he says, were originally developed to fight terrorism overseas — including predictive policing methods first funded by the U.S. military to track insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now they’re “becoming a part of local policing,” Khan said. The coalition discovered that the National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, launched in 2008, gives LAPD license to “write up secret files on individuals based on speculation and hunches.” The group learned from an LAPD inspector general report in 2014 that over 30 percent of these reports are written about black people in L.A. — where less than 10 percent of the entire population is black.

Link 3: Spies in the Skies

Each weekday, dozens of U.S. government aircraft take to the skies and slowly circle over American cities. Piloted by agents of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the planes are fitted with high-resolution video cameras, often working with “augmented reality” software that can superimpose onto the video images everything from street and business names to the owners of individual homes. At least a few planes have carried devices that can track the cell phones of people below. Most of the aircraft are small, flying a mile or so above ground, and many use exhaust mufflers to mute their engines — making them hard to detect by the people they’re spying on. The government’s airborne surveillance has received little public scrutiny — until now. BuzzFeed News has assembled an unprecedented picture of the operation’s scale and sweep by analyzing aircraft location data collected by the flight-tracking website Flightradar24 from mid-August to the end of December last year, identifying about 200 federal aircraft. Day after day, dozens of these planes circled above cities across the nation.

But most of these government planes took the weekends off. The BuzzFeed News analysis found that surveillance flight time dropped more than 70% on Saturdays, Sundays, and federal holidays. “The fact that they are mostly not flying on weekends suggests these are relatively run-of-the-mill investigations,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Project on Speech, Privacy, and Technology, told BuzzFeed News. The government’s aerial surveillance programs deserve scrutiny by the Supreme Court, said Adam Bates, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C. “It’s very difficult to know, because these are very secretive programs, exactly what information they’re collecting and what they’re doing with it,” Bates told BuzzFeed News.

What do you think? Comments?

Some Thoughts on Bernie Sander’s Likely ‘Plan B’

February 29, 2016 5 comments

I was going to complete and post this article a few days, but decided to wait for reasons that will be more obvious when you read it further. Well.. as many of you have read or heard in the last two weeks, many presstitutes and media personalities in the main-stream media have been busy peddling their allegedly original opinions about how Bernie Sanders cannot win the democratic presidential nomination. You might have also seen articles about how he should (or soon will) “gracefully” step aside and participate in the DNC-led anointing of Shrillary. I, for one, think that the course of events might take a rather unexpected turn- and it is not what most of you are thinking.

To be clear, Bernie’s Plan A is to win the democratic presidential nomination. However, I strongly suspect he has a Plan B- specifically, one that involves damaging the electability of Shrillary in a general election to a point where she will lose to most potential republican candidates. The beauty of this Plan B is that it runs in parallel with Plan A and does not make Bernie look bad or vindictive.

To understand what Bernie is trying to pull off, you have to first look at this from his viewpoint. First a little history and context. As some of you know, Bernie Sanders is no newcomer to electoral politics and has been involved in it at various levels for over three decades. Secondly, he always ran as an independent- even though he could have made far more money and wielded much more power if he had joined the democratic party. So, it is clear that the guy has a pretty good understanding of the political system and what he wants as a person. In other words, he knows what he is doing..

Some people think that he entered the 2016 race with the naive expectation that he would not face a very determined PR campaign against him by Shrillary, her legions of flying monkeys (media personalities and presstitutes) and the DNC. Some also think that he underestimated the support of the establishment for Shrillary. But is that really so? Do you really think a guy who has been successfully elected (and re-elected) to the house and senate is that naive? Do you really think he underestimated the support of the political and corporate establishment for Shrillary?

So why would a worldly 74-year Jewish senator from Vermont decide to seriously run for the democratic nomination against Shrillary? And why in 2016? And what does he intend to achieve in case he cannot get the democratic nomination? Why is he not taking corporate donation? Is it just out of principles or is he trying to achieve something that is not that obvious? why does he keep talking about the ‘revolution’? What is the ‘revolution’ really about? And why is he acting as if the DNC does not exist or matter?

The short answer to these and other questions lies in a peculiar convergence of electoral rules, demographic realities and the general mood of people in the country.

The somewhat longer answer is as follows: As some of you might remember from 2000, the president of USA is elected by a majority of votes by the electoral college rather than a simple majority of voters. For a large part of american history, it was possible for candidates of either party to win a significant number of states- irrespective of which candidate had won them in the previous election. To put it another way, there were many more ‘swing states‘ in the past than there are now. Starting in the 1990s, polarization of the electorate in most states reached levels that rendered most of them noncompetitive for one party or the other. Consequently, presidential candidates of each party can be fairly certain about which states they will win or not before a single vote is cast.

You might also have noticed that the swing states for the last few elections have a peculiar geographical distribution and demographic profiles. For the 2016 election- we can consider Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Florida to be definite ‘swing states’. Did you notice that the major swing states (except Virginia) are somewhat poor and full of working class whites with an increasing number of Hispanics? And what does any of this have to do with Bernie’s Plan ‘B’?

As it turns out.. a lot.

Bernie has figured a way to use Shrillary’s greatest weakness, her visceral unlikeability, against her in a way that does not make him look bad. The easiest way to pull that off is to drag Shrillary and her supporters through a series of contested democratic primaries in all 50 states, but especially in those ‘swing states’ where she desperately needs a high turnout of white democratic voters. He also knows that Shrillary and her backers will do all the things that a conventionally successful political campaign will do to win the democratic nomination. He also knows that all of those things will dramatically increase her unfavorability ratings among the white working class voters she so desperately needs later in the year.

Bernie is trying to reduce the potential democratic voter turnout for her in ‘swing states’ during the 2016 presidential election.

But why take this somewhat circuitous route? And what is he really trying to achieve by making her lose the 2016 presidential election? Well.. for starters- attacking her directly at this stage might make her look more human and actually reduce her unfavorability ratings. Remember that most people felt sorry for Shrillary all through the 1990s- when she was a relative political unknown and under constant attack by republicans. The best way to defeat and degrade Hillary in a conventional political setting, as Obama demonstrated in 2008, is to get her (and her backers) to attack you.

But that still does not answer one question- why now (in 2016)?

Well.. for one major but non-obvious reason. Bernie knows that the corporate-owned DNC, not Hillary, is the biggest impediment for any real change. He also knows that the machinery of the DNC will not stop (or even slow down) as long as it is regularly fueled by its corporate backers. So how do you cut off or reduce the flow of corporate money to the DNC? The answer is.. make sure that democrats do not control the presidency, senate, house of representatives, most state legislatures, most governorships and the supreme court. Corporations do not pay political machines that lack political power. As it turns out the democrats have already achieved most of those goals- on their own.

Losing the presidency (and not regaining the senate) in 2016 will basically finish of the current incarnation of the democratic party. Of course, winning all of them might finish of the republicans via a different mechanism- but that is a discussion best left to a future post. In short, Bernie is trying to destroy the DNC by pushing it to make that one big final mistake.

What do you think? Comments?

Smartphones Exposed Police Killing Unarmed People, but not UFOs

February 28, 2016 7 comments

I have been trying to finish and post this somewhat odd blog post for the last few weeks, but was distracted by other posts and life in general. The idea for this article comes from some blog post (or discussion thread?) I came across a few months ago. The post (or discussion thread?) was about how smartphones with cameras have exposed many hitherto hidden events and facts- from “normal” women being narcissistic and slutty to police routinely killing unarmed black men. One of the commentators in that thread also talked about how trail cameras have been able to catch images of unknown or seldom seen species of animals.

All of this got me thinking- Why has the global proliferation of cheap and ubiquitous smartphones in the previous few years not provided us much more visual evidence (photos or videos) of UFOs?

Here is why I find this odd.. Reports and accounts of unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) are not exactly new. Accounts of unidentified flying objects under apparently intelligent control can be found in literature from classical antiquity. Similarly multiple written accounts from the 16th-17th century also talk about mass sightings of flying objects what we would today call UFOs. Even more oddly, more than a few of these accounts are from east-asian cultures. Perhaps most significantly, almost all these older sightings occurred in the era before humans started building lighter-than-air or heavier-than-air flying machines.

As many of you know- accounts of UFO sightings exploded in the 20th century. While a significant part of this increase in number of alleged sightings can be accounted by the human desire to “see” more than what they actually saw- it is also clear that more than a few sightings of UFOs (especially by experienced pilots and amateur astronomers) are based in reality. Perhaps most tellingly, sightings of UFOs by pilots and astronomers almost always describe objects that are so different from existing aircraft (and balloons) that we have to consider the possibility that they were seeing real physical objects matching the description.

The worldwide proliferation of film cameras in the mid-1900s resulted in a wave of photos of objects alleged to be UFOs. While many have since been exposed as hoaxes or misidentification, a few have always remained explainable. We saw another mini-wave of recorded visual evidence for alleged UFOs after the proliferation of camcorders in the 1980s and 1990s. But then something curious happened. The introduction and even wider and global proliferation of digital cameras (standalone or in smartphones) has not resulted in an even larger wave of photographic evidence for UFOs. The question is- why not?

FYI- here is where I stand on the whole UFO issue. In my opinion, there is no reason for sentient life-forms to be unique to our planet. Furthermore, it is very likely that sentient and technologically capable life-forms in other planetary systems would explore other stellar systems using autonomous (and artificially intelligent) space probes.

What do you think? Comments?

On Hillary Clinton’s Past Views and the Black Vote in 2016

February 11, 2016 2 comments

As almost every one of you knows by now, Bernie Sanders resounding victory in the New Hampshire democratic primary has left Hillary Clinton and her cronies shaken, if not overtly panicking.. at least yet. The fact that this overwhelming victory comes on the heels of a technical and shady tie in the Iowa democratic caucus has suddenly made Hillary look far more vulnerable than she would have preferred. Most of you might have also heard all those noises coming from Clinton supporters and protegees about how Hillary will still win the democratic because of her alleged popularity among “Black” and “Hispanic” democratic voters.

But what if the course of events don’t work out that way in 2016? What if her professional supporters and protegees are lying to others or being self-delusional? What if her public viewpoints from the 1990s come back to wreck her quest for the “Black” and “Hispanic” vote in 2016? In other words, could her campaign to win non-white voters in 2016 be sunk by widespread public dissemination of her public views about those groups in the 1990s?

Let us look at the facts..

It is a matter of public record that her husband, Bill Clinton, actively supported laws that caused disproportionate damage to the Black and Hispanic community when he was president. He also promoted laws that caused a lot of damage to the black community as a whole. While he has recently acknowledged many of the racially biased laws passed during his presidency were a “mistake“, it means little to the millions of non-whites who life has been irreversibly damaged by these inherently racist laws.

Now some of you might say that a wife cannot be held accountable for the actions of her husband. Well.. that would be a reasonable line of argument if Hillary was a politically uninvolved 1950s-era housewife- but as you all know, she was anything but apolitical. In fact, there are tons of video clips of her actively defending her husband’s policies- whether they were about increasing levels of racially targeted incarceration or supporting welfare “reform” policies that targeted non-whites. To put it another way, she was a willing and enthusiastic collaborator in the design and support of policies that destroyed the lives of millions of black citizens.

And that is a big problem for her, especially in an era where media is no longer centralized and under the control of a few people and corporations. A recent and widely shared article by Michelle Alexander openly points out that the Clintons have done nothing to deserve the votes of black people. Even a borderline Clinton shill like Ta-Nehisi Coates has now found it hard to openly support Hillary Clinton. It does not take a genius to figure out that we will be soon seeing tons of official and unofficial attacks ads and articles which use public positions taken by the Clinton’s in the 1990s against them in 2016.

The continuation of Black and Hispanic support for Hillary is therefore heavily dependent on suppression of their public positions from the 1990s. While doing so was trivial in an era with three TV networks, a few cable channels and a handful of national newspapers- doing that today is impossible. In fact any attempt to suppress such facts today would achieve the reverse- a phenomenon known as the Streisand effect.

It is also worth mentioning that Blacks and Hispanics in 2016, unlike many of their counterparts from the 1990s, are no longer naive enough to strive for respectability and acceptability by an aging and declining white population. Furthermore, the growth and ubiquity of the internet (and smartphones) have exposed the gross and systemic racial inequalities in the treatment of Blacks and Hispanics in the USA. It is no exaggeration to say that Blacks and Hispanics born after 1970 have a very different view of the 1980s and 1990s than their parents.

To summarize, any serious public exposure of Hillary and Bill Clinton’s views and actions during the 1990s would make Hillary repulsive to non-white voters- especially those born after 1970.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Jan 26, 2016

January 26, 2016 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the ongoing giant and potentially catastrophic clusterfuck called the “Internet of Things”.

Link 1: “Internet of Things” security is hilariously broken and getting worse

Shodan, a search engine for the Internet of Things (IoT), recently launched a new section that lets users easily browse vulnerable webcams. The feed includes images of marijuana plantations, back rooms of banks, children, kitchens, living rooms, garages, front gardens, back gardens, ski slopes, swimming pools, colleges and schools, laboratories, and cash register cameras in retail stores, according to Dan Tentler, a security researcher who has spent several years investigating webcam security. “It’s all over the place,” he told Ars Technica UK. “Practically everything you can think of.”

When Mudge announced his plan to form CITL back in June, security researcher Rob Graham went so far as to call the plan a “dumb idea”: It’s not the same quality problem. UL is about accidental failures in electronics. CyberUL would be about intentional attacks against software. These are unrelated issues. Stopping accidental failures is a solved problem in many fields. Stopping attacks is something nobody has solved in any field. In other words, the UL model of accidents is totally unrelated to the cyber problem of attacks. Graham affirmed his critique in a Twitter direct message to Ars. “UL doesn’t test systems for somebody deliberately trying to attack them,” he wrote. He also argued that CITL “adds a lot of bureaucracy for little value.” Mitigating risk is not the same as eliminating it. But until someone figures out to deal with deliberate attacks, the problem of insecure IoT devices looks set to get worse before it gets better.

Link 2: Nest Thermostat Glitch Leaves Users in the Cold

The Nest Learning Thermostat is dead to me, literally. Last week, my once-beloved “smart” thermostat suffered from a mysterious software bug that drained its battery and sent our home into a chill in the middle of the night. Although I had set the thermostat to 70 degrees overnight, my wife and I were woken by a crying baby at 4 a.m. The thermometer in his room read 64 degrees, and the Nest was off. This didn’t happen to just me. The problems with the much-hyped thermostat, which allows users to monitor and adjust their thermostats on their smartphones (Google purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion in 2014), affected an untold number of customers when the device went haywire across America. Users vented on the company’s online forums and on social media. The glitch also coincided with plunging temperatures throughout much of the country.

But this isn’t just about the Nest. This points to a larger problem with so-called smart devices that we are inviting into our lives: Small glitches can cause huge problems. We’ve seen this before, with wireless fobs for keyless cars. They are supposed to make life easier by letting us do away with car keys, but they also make it easier for thieves to break in (by using a simple radio amplifier). It also happened recently with Fitbit, the maker of wearable activity trackers. The company was hit with a class-action lawsuit in San Francisco asserting that the wristbands failed to “consistently and accurately record wearers’ heart rates,” which is vital for those with certain medical conditions.

I’ve heard dozens of other stories from people with connected homes who were locked out by malfunctioning door touch pads, or about newfangled security alarms going off in the middle of the night because a bug (one with wings, not a digital one) flew by. Making matters worse is the lack of recourse. Buried deep in Nest’s 8,000-word service agreement is a section called “Disputes and Arbitration,” which prohibits customers from suing the company or joining a class-action suit. Instead, disputes are settled through arbitration. As a 2015 investigative series in The New York Times illustrated, the use of arbitration clauses is becoming widespread. Nest’s terms of service “are inherently unfair to consumers,” said Sonia K. Gill, a lawyer for civil justice and consumer protection at Public Citizen, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The terms, she said, limit damages and specify that customers need to travel to San Francisco for arbitration. “Who can afford that?” she said.

Link 3: Police body cams found pre-installed with notorious Conficker worm

One of the world’s most prolific computer worms has been found infecting several police body cameras that were sent to security researchers, the researchers reported. According to a blog post published last week by security firm iPower, multiple police cams manufactured by Martel Electronics came pre-installed with Win32/Conficker.B!inf. When one such camera was attached to a computer in the iPower lab, it immediately triggered the PC’s antivirus program. When company researchers allowed the worm to infect the computer, the computer then attempted to spread the infection to other machines on the network. “iPower initiated a call and multiple emails to the camera manufacturer, Martel, on November 11th 2015,” the researchers wrote in the blog post. “Martel staff has yet to provide iPower with an official acknowledgement of the security vulnerability. iPower President, Jarrett Pavao, decided to take the story public due to the huge security implications of these cameras being shipped to government agencies and police departments all over the country.”

To this day, researchers aren’t sure what the purpose of the malware was. Remarkably, Conficker’s unknown operators were never observed using the worm to steal bank account credentials, passwords, or any other type of personal data from the PCs they infected. In 2009, Microsoft offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for the menace. A report that police cameras are shipping with Conficker.B preinstalled is testament to the worm’s relentlessness. It’s also troubling because the cameras can be crucial in criminal trials. If an attorney can prove that a camera is infected with malware, it’s plausible that the vulnerability could be grounds for the video it generated to be thrown out of court, or at least to create reasonable doubt in the minds of jurors. Infected cameras can also infect and badly bog down the networks of police forces, some of which still use outdated computers and ineffective security measures.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Jan 14, 2016

January 14, 2016 6 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are about the continued deceptive (and ultimately self-defeating behavior) of large software and hardware companies.

Link 1: You say advertising, I say block that malware

The real reason online advertising is doomed and adblockers thrive? Its malware epidemic is unacknowledged, and out of control. The Forbes 30 Under 30 list came out this week and it featured a prominent security researcher. Other researchers were pleased to see one of their own getting positive attention, and visited the site in droves to view the list. On arrival, like a growing number of websites, Forbes asked readers to turn off ad blockers in order to view the article. After doing so, visitors were immediately served with pop-under malware, primed to infect their computers, and likely silently steal passwords, personal data and banking information. Or, as is popular worldwide with these malware “exploit kits,” lock up their hard drives in exchange for Bitcoin ransom. One researcher commented on Twitter that the situation was “ironic” — and while it’s certainly another variant of hackenfreude, ironic isn’t exactly the word I’d use to describe what happened.

Link 2: Get Windows 10′ Turns Itself On and Nags Win 7 and 8.1 Users Twice a Day

As you may recall, Microsoft has delivered KB3035583 as a ‘recommended update’ to users of Windows 7 and 8.1. What this update does is install GWX (“Get Windows 10”), a program which diagnoses the system to see if it is eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10, and if so, asks the user if they would like to upgrade (though recently, the option to decline has been removed). Some users have gotten around this by editing Windows Registry values for “AllowOSUpgrade”, “DisableOSUpgrade”, “DisableGWX”, and “ReservationsAllowed” in order to disable the prompt altogether. This advice was endorsed by Microsoft on their support forums. According to a report by Woody Leonhard at InfoWorld, the newest version of the KB3035583 update includes a background process which scans the system’s Windows Registry twice a day to see if the values for the four aforementioned registry inputs were manually edited to disable the upgrade prompt. If they were, the process will alter the values, silently re-download the Windows 10 installation files (about 6 GB in total), and prompt the user to upgrade.

Link 3: Juniper drops NSA-developed code following new backdoor revelations

Juniper Networks, which last month made the startling announcement its NetScreen line of firewalls contained unauthorized code that can surreptitiously decrypt traffic sent through virtual private networks, said it will remove a National Security Agency-developed function widely suspected of also containing a backdoor for eavesdropping. The networking company said in a blog post published Friday that it will ship product releases in the next six months that remove the Dual_EC_DRBG random number generator from NetScreen firewalls. Security researchers have known since 2007 that it contains a weakness that gives knowledgeable adversaries the ability to decrypt encrypted communications that rely on the function. Documents provided by former NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden showed the weakness could be exploited by the US spy agency, The New York Times reported in 2013

Link 4: Et tu, Fortinet? Hard-coded password raises new backdoor eavesdropping fears

Less than a month after Juniper Network officials disclosed an unauthorized backdoor in the company’s NetScreen line of firewalls, researchers have uncovered highly suspicious code in older software from Juniper competitor Fortinet. The suspicious code contains a challenge-and-response authentication routine for logging into servers with the secure shell (SSH) protocol. Researchers were able to unearth a hard-coded password of “FGTAbc11*xy+Qqz27” (not including the quotation marks) after reviewing this exploit code posted online on Saturday. On Tuesday, a researcher posted this screenshot purporting to show someone using the exploit to gain remote access to a server running Fortinet’s FortiOS software. Ralf-Philipp Weinmann, a security researcher who helped uncover the innerworkings of the Juniper backdoor, took to Twitter on Tuesday and repeatedly referred to the custom SSH authentication as a “backdoor.” In one specific post, he confirmed he was able to make it work as reported on older versions of Fortinet’s FortiOS.

What do you think? Comments?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121 other followers