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Poison Attacks Against Machine Learning

Kanel Known problem, known solutions (82 comments)

There's already a whole subfield of machine learning which concern itself with these problems. It's called "adversarial machine learning".
The approaches are very different from usual software security. Instead of busying oneself with patching holes in software or setting up firewalls, adversarial machine learning re-design the algorithms completely, using game theory and other techniques. The premise is "How can we make an algorithm that works in an environment full of enemies that try to mislead it?" It's a refreshing change from the usual software-security paradigm, which is all about fencing the code into some supposedly 'safe' environment.

more than 2 years ago

Godfather of Xen On Why Virtualization Means Everything

Kanel Still an open research question (150 comments)

you want to virtualize a computer, run the program and then check that:
* the computations have not been hampered with
* nobody has been snooping in your computations
This goal is currently out of reach. It is an open problem in computer science if it's even possible!

The exact term is "encrypted computation". Imagine if you could not only encrypt a file, but run it after it's been encrypted! You could send the file to some cloud and run it there, without revealing _what_ is being computed or what data you use. You get the result back and safely decrypt it on your own PC.
Now if someone in the cloud tried to attack your computer program, with a buffer overflow say, or the hardware it ran on was faulty, the encrypted result would be garbage and you wouldn't be able to decrypt it. That's actually great, because it gives you a way to check if the program ran correctly or not. Just like how checksums assure you that a file has been transmitted correctly. If we had this capability, we could run any program on fast, cheap, but error-prone hardware. We could run anything on graphic cards, which make a mistake now and then, overclock CPUs far more than today, or maybe even run faster and cheaper hardware that nobody has yet built, because it would be too error prone.

more than 3 years ago

OLPC Project To Air-Drop Laptops

Kanel Hit and run approach (130 comments)

Negroponte tried a "PC in the wall" experiment in a poor district some years ago. This is being used as an argument for the airdrop strategy, but the experiment was in fact not successfull. The kids in the neighbourhood did learn to use the PC, but to little or no use. They played games but did not learn marketable skills or otherwise improve their quality of life.

In aid and development, To airdrop aid is the very image of a failed strategy. You bring in a celebrity and a tv-team, you throw money at the village, build a well or a lavatory, then write a report and pull out. Your funders want to see results quickly, but development doesn't work that way.
For someone in aid and development it is then obvious that Negroponte does not focus on actually improving things for the kids. Like many caricatured IT developers, he is focused on the product, not the user. He wants to prove that the user interface is so intuitive that you don't have to teach the kids to use it. He wants to show that the laptop is very robust and water proof so he drops it from a helicopter. He is using one of the vilest tricks in the IT-salesman's repertoire: That if you just buy my hardware, everything will be up and running with no extra cost. No running costs on training people to use it, no need to organize the use or for teachers to follow this up. No need to have anything centralized and government-like working for these villages to reap the benefits of IT.

It is a vile mix of PR stunts, naive IT optimism sold to supposedly uninformed savages and an appeal to prevailing ideologies among the western funders. All combined just to sell hardware.

more than 3 years ago

A Quest For the Perfect SNES Emulator

Kanel Emulation of TV screen or PC CRT often forgotten (227 comments)

If you take an old game that ran on a TV screen and emulate it in fullscreen on a modern PC, you will see every pixel clearly.
You never saw those on the TV. The pixellated Super Mario character was designed with the signal to noise ratio of an old TV in mind. When a modern emulator does not blend these pixels together like old blurry TVs did, the graphics look more blocky than they ever did originally. I can still see this in emulated computer games as recent as monkey island 2, which I originally played with a CRT monitor.

AFAIK, the resolution and post-processing needed to emulate the old screens faithfully is actually a bit demanding.

more than 3 years ago

25% of Car Accidents Linked to Gadget Use

Kanel But has it increased by 25%? (317 comments)

Does this mean that the number of car accidents has increased by 25? If not, what improvements have cancelled out the increase in accidents caused by cellphones and other gadgets? Are there fewer accidents caused by people fiddling for CDs in the glove compartment or trying to find a good AM channel? Are there fewer accidents caused by frustrated people trying to find their way on a fold-out map?

more than 3 years ago

Anonymous Launches a WikiLeaks For Hackers

Kanel A good strategy for whistleblowers (96 comments)

A whistleblower who wants to make certain documents of his/her employer public faces a problem:
How do I stop the leak being traced back to me?
This is especially relevant when you'r employed with the government, which in theory is very capable of tracing the origin of leaks, but every whistleblower runs this risk.
But isn't it a great strategy to then tip off outsiders and make them retrieve and distribute the documents instead? letting the version number of old software at the office slip, or maybe a file path or two, could be enough. Maybe a USB stick could be "stolen" ? Even if your name gets implied, you can feign innocence in the court.

more than 3 years ago

Tasmanian Dept. of Education Wants Anti-Virus for Linux, OS X

Kanel Linux malware is abundant (396 comments)

Android smartphones run on linux.
Android smartphones are used by office workers and integrated with the company IT system.
Android smartphones are vulnerable to malicious apps

Therefore, antivirus or 'anti-malware' for linux is badly needed

more than 2 years ago

Patent 5,893,120 Reduced To Pure Math

Kanel A US thing (323 comments)

Patenting software is a US thing. I'm under the impression that under most European laws, you cannot patent a software algorithm nor the code implementing it. Sure, you can work around this limitation in some cases, but the patent lawyers in the european company I work in do not push us to patent algorithms, for this very reason.

more than 2 years ago

Tasmanian Dept. of Education Wants Anti-Virus for Linux, OS X

Kanel Not just viruses (396 comments)

Linux and Mac users risk being victims of phishing attacks and foolishly handing out passwords, just like the rest of us. It's been a long time since corporate antivirus was just about stopping malicious software being installed on a computer.

more than 2 years ago

How the Social Tech Bubble Is Different

Kanel The best minds of his generation? (388 comments)

The best minds of my generation are creating bio-tech startups in Bangalore
The best minds of my generation design oil rigs for the Santos basin offshore Brazil
The best minds of my generation can't afford education in Nairobi
The best minds of my generation divert rivers in China to power cities not yet built
The best minds of my generation uncover the workings of the brain in a town near the pole
The best minds of my generation overthrew a dictator in Kairo
The best minds of my generation enrolled in a militia in Afghanistan
The best minds of my generation does not read businessweek.com

more than 3 years ago

MicroHP — the New IT Giant?

Kanel Trends (112 comments)

Intel wants to buy McAfee, HP and Microsoft cooperates. Is this hardware + software cooperation a trend? Is this because growth seems to happen on all other arenas than the traditional PC?

In the mid 90's Microsoft and Intel relied on each other to drive one another's sales, a symbiosis they formalized for a while, but "parted as friends" in the late 90's if I recall correctly.

about 4 years ago

Norwegian Police, Seeking Info On 2 Bloggers, Take Data From 7,000 Accounts

Kanel The legal loophole that makes this happen (100 comments)

The norwegian police was asked by the italian police to retrieve this data. The norwegian police is eager to comply with requests from foreign police, as they themselves may need that kind of help abroad later. The loophole is that apparently no norwegian court is involved in the decision and norwegian laws are not consulted.

The bottom line is that you are not protected by your own country's laws when it comes to confiscating data. It's enough that someone in one of a hundred countries can get a police officer to send a request. Charges that would never hold in your own country is no barrier. Low corruption in your own country is no barrier. Bribe an italian police officer, hire an american lawyer and you can get at anything on servers in the western world.

about 4 years ago

Artificial Retinas Can Balance a Pencil On Its End

Kanel Easy task (165 comments)

Just to get one thing straight: A robot balancing a pencil is not a breakthrough. Similar tasks are standard textbook material, often implemented using fuzzy logic.

But the way they have done it may or may not be cool. Hard to tell.

about 4 years ago

Fermilab Confirms Evidence of 4th Flavor Neutrino

Kanel Origin of that statement (122 comments)

Symmetry in this case refers to this: If you take a particle or a diagram describing a particle interaction and "flip something", you get something new that is still valid. Take a proton and flip the charge and you get an anti-proton for instance. Because of this symmetry, matter and anti-matter behave in exactly the same way, or so we belive. your particle and your the flipped version decay in the same way for instance.

What physicicst discovered over the last century was that it's not enough to flip the charge to make this valid in all cases. You have to flip charge, direction of time and flip something called "parity". Flipping the direction of time means simply to draw a feynman diagram of a particle collision or interaction on an overhead foil so that time runs from left to right and then turn it backwards. That's the mirror-image of the interaction.
But as I said you have to flip both time, parity and charge to get a valid diagram, and that's the origin of the term "an antiparticle is a particle travelling backwards in time"

more than 4 years ago

Fedora 14 Released and Reviewed — Advanced, and Not For Wimps

Kanel If this had been windows... (200 comments)

I'm looking over the pros and cons listed in the article. And it strikes me that if this had been a beta of a windows version, it would have been called a scandal, a bugridden failure and a very good argument for switching over to Linux.

more than 4 years ago

The Case For Apple Buying Facebook

Kanel Adobe, more like it (255 comments)

It seems more probable that Apple will try to buy Adobe, for two reasons:
* Adobe has been central to Apple/Mac for years, with its Photoshop software. It helped create the identity of the mac and Steve Jobs want control of the whole value chain
* Steve Jobs has been talking down the Adobe stock for a long time, with his complaints about the Flash software.

more than 4 years ago

Did Sea Life Arise Twice?

Kanel Been there, done that, evolved (238 comments)

Multicellular life has evolved many times, even though most attempts did not result in large creatures. One need only consider that plants and animals existed as single-celled life long before multicellularity. Plants and animals must therefore have evolved multicellularity independently.

For a thorough overview, see:

more than 4 years ago



Charged with frauding a robot

Kanel Kanel writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Kanel (1105463) writes "Most of the transactions in stockmarkets today, are handled by automatic or semi-automatic algorithms, so-called "stock market robots". The norwegian daytraders Larsen and Veiby successfully carried out a form of social engineering against one of these stock market robots and could now face up to six years in jail.

The two daytraders, who worked independently, placed a number of sell and buy orders onto the Oslo Stock Exchange. For many of these orders, a deal was never completed. The police claim that Larsen and Veiby placed these orders to manipulate the stock exchange and fool a robot owned by US trading house Timber Hill. The police is quoted in the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv saying that the 2200 buy and sell orders carried out from november 2007 to march 2008 changed the robots' impression of the price of certain stocks, something that Larsen and Veiby took advantage of this.

It should be mentioned here that while the stock exchange announce an "official" price on stocks, many stock market robots analyze buy and sell orders in real-time, to predict the next official update from the stock exchange and gamble against this.
Larsen and Veiby claim that they did not manipulate the robot or the stock exchange in an unlawful manner. Nor were their buy and sell orders "fake". The daytraders took an economic risk as anyone could have taken them up on their buy and sell offers.

In this man versus machine lawsuit, commentators rally in support of the two daytraders, who got the paltry sum of 67 000 USD out of their social engineering scheme. The main argument in their defence is that the stock market robots are gaming each other in the same manner all the time. Is something legal when an algorithm performs it at lightning speed and illegal when a human plays by the same strategy? The robots of Goldman Sachs earned the company a hundred million dollars by a similar trading on small margins and got away with it, but when two humans bested a robot at its own game, they were sued.

Several commenters see the lawsuit as part of an ongoing fight to keep small players out of the stock market. Large actors on the stock market move their computers closer to the stock exchange, with direct connections to it, so that their algorithms get a millisecond headstart against other traders when a buy or sell order is announced. While this high-tech is the norm, it appears infeasible, according to commenters, to let everyone in on robot trading. There is no way for say a student or an independent trader to design and connect a robot trading algorithm to the stock exchange and play the same field as the big robots. In Germany alone, 200 000 people is reported to have left the trading arena because of the robots and the preferential treatment they get at the stock exchanges."

Link to Original Source

The "net generation" isn't. Old guys wrong again

Kanel Kanel writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Kanel (1105463) writes "Kids that grew up with the internet are not the "digital natives" consultants have made us believe. They'r ok with the net but they don't care much about web 2.0 and find plenty of other things more important than the internet.
Consultants and book-writers, mostly old guys, have called for the education system to be re-modelled to suit this new generation, but they never conducted surveys to see if this "generation @" were anything like what they had envisioned. Turns out children who have known the net their whole life are not particularly skilled at it, nor do they live their life on-line."

Link to Original Source

Newborns' blood used to build secret DNA database

Kanel Kanel writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Kanel (1105463) writes "Texas health officials secretly transferred hundreds of newborn babies' blood samples to the federal government to build a DNA database, a newspaper investigation has revealed.

According to The Texas Tribune, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) routinely collected blood samples from newborns to screen for a variety of health conditions, before throwing the samples out.

But beginning in 2002, the DSHS contracted Texas A&M University to store blood samples for potential use in medical research. These accumulated at rate of 800,000 per year. The DSHS did not obtain permission from parents, who sued the DSHS, which settled in November 2009.

Now the Tribune reveals that wasn't the end of the matter. As it turns out, between 2003 and 2007, the DSHS also gave 800 anonymised blood samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) to help create a national mitochondrial DNA database.

This came to light after repeated open records requests filed by the Tribune turned up documents detailing the mtDNA programme. Apparently, these samples were part of a larger programme to build a national, perhaps international, DNA database that could be used to track down missing persons and solve cold cases."

Link to Original Source

A history lesson from the vault of IT

Kanel Kanel writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Kanel (1105463) writes "The IT boom is not something those of us below 40 can claim to have full first-hand experience of. Where were you when this New Scientist article was written 20 years ago? Did you know that the recording industry, for fear of pirating music, in the 80's successfully fought to make DAT only a nieche product? Did you know that pressure from the industry kept the price of a CD-R high and delayed the launch of re-writable CDs into the consumer market?"
Link to Original Source



Are we pwned by bitcoin?

Kanel Kanel writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Bitcoins are a digital currency or "cryptocoin" which has seen its share of enthusiastic coverage in hacking and anti-censorship circles. These digital money are apparently un-hackable, untraceable and voted "most likely to be outlawed" [1]. Google added to the publicity when one of their engineers released an open-source client for the bitcoin economy [2] and EFF lauded it as "a step towards censorship-resistant digital currency"[3] and accept donations in bitcoins.

Un-hackable it may be, but is the bitcoin itself a hack, of the social engineering type? The rumour is spreading [4] that the bitcoin system is designed as a pyramid scheme and hidden in plain sight. Here are the hints:

* Bitcoins are randomly allocated to users computers, and were designed to flow fast at first and then slow to a trickle as time went on. An advantage for early adopters like the inventors.

* As the free money supply winds down and the userbase grows, economic theory hold that the value of a bitcoin will start increasing over time. Knowing this, it is irrational to actually spend your bitcoins. Instead you hoard them and use dollars for your actual purchases, while you wait to cash in. Already, the value of bitcoins has increased a hundredfold. It's a return on investment that puts Madoff's ponzi-scheme fund to shame.

So here is the situation for a late adopter:
As a late-comer to the bitcoin economy, you are helping drive up the value of it while only getting a meager amount of coins yourself, compared to the early adopters. It looks like a bad deal, but you are reluctant to pull out, because it looks like your coins are still going to increase phenomenally in value.

But what if you made it big and actually tried exchanging that hoard of bitcoins for real cash? You could be in for a surprise. Like for the Linden-dollar of Second Life, there is no central exchange to rely on. There are only small companies or individuals which may do some exchanging at some price. While you can always change your dollar into a Yen, the bitcoin is more like an old comic book which you may or may not find a buyer for on eBay. If you tried exchanging that glut of bitcoins, there may not be enough buyers. Supply and demand would have the bitcoin value fall like a rock and we don't want that, do we?

In a clever feat of coding it seems like the guys behind Bitcoin has pulled the ultimate social engineering hack. The code is open-source, the network is peer-to-peer. Google and the EFF helps spread the word and every sucker running a coin-mining farm [5] voluntarily enrichs the hackers while being too greedy or afraid to pull out.

[1] http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/05/16/1316211/BitCoin-the-Most-Dangerous-Project-Ever

[2] http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/03/23/0210207/Google-Engineer-Releases-Open-Source-Bitcoin-Client

[3] http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/01/bitcoin-step-toward-censorship-resistant

[4] http://www.quora.com/Is-the-cryptocurrency-Bitcoin-a-good-idea

[5] http://idle.slashdot.org/story/11/05/24/1257229/Increased-Power-Usage-Leads-to-Mistaken-Pot-Busts-for-Bitcoin-Miners

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