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Espionage Campaign Targets Corporate Executives Traveling Abroad

Vokkyt Re:marketing (101 comments)

I want to second this as the reason that a lot of people are afraid of going the proper security route.

At the University I work at, we have been trying to push through full disk encryption for computers that go out into the wild for years now, and each time we're told it's impossible because "what if someone loses the password?"

Even with two key solutions that would ultimately at least allow access should we need it, we're told that the possibility of someone leaving on a trip and getting locked out of their computer is completely unacceptable.

about two weeks ago

WireLurker Mac OS X Malware Found, Shut Down

Vokkyt Technical Report from Unit42 on the Malware (59 comments)

There is a PDF report on the main website for Unit42 about the malware, but it has a fairly invasive registration process. Signed up with bs info and uploaded to public google drive for everyone.

Link to the researchers website for those cautious about the gdocs link

Straight Link to the report (requires registration)

Have not read the technical details yet, but it looks fairly comprehensive.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: Single Sign-On To Link Google Apps and Active Directory?

Vokkyt Re:What the hell (168 comments)

Well, GAFE accounts aren't normal google accounts. Function wise they're the same, but Google promotes that they are not put through the same advertising analytics that normal gmail accounts are.

From the GAFE website:

Google Apps is governed by a detailed Privacy Policy, which ensures we will not inappropriately share or use personal information placed in our systems. Google complies with applicable US privacy law, and the Google Apps Terms of Service can specifically detail our obligations and compliance with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations. Google is registered with the US-EU Safe Harbor agreement, which helps ensure that our data protection compliance meets European Union standards for educational institutions

FERPA is the big stickler here, as google really couldn't offer the service without being FERPA compliant, and they couldn't run Google Business as usual and still be FERPA compliant.

Now, as to whether you choose to believe their claims, that's another story, but you're approaching it with a lot of misinformation, it seems.

about two weeks ago

Facebook Sets Up Shop On Tor

Vokkyt Re:Why? (125 comments)

I think more people will just think "What's Tor?"

This is really a "news for nerds" sort of deal here. The general public, and even most power users aren't going to be all that interested in it due to the niche. As to why Facebook has elected to pursue an onion site, who knows. I doubt it's because they see a big future in Tor, or maybe they do. Given that Tor has a bit of a burden of knowledge to actually understand what it offers, most users won't know or care.

I'm willing to believe that it's possible an irresponsible journalist could really misrepresent the story to the public, but I guess I'd like to see it before it happened, and I feel that the Facebook PR engine would be quick to jump on any major misrepresentation due to recent allegations of Law Enforcement Officers using Facebook to aide in arrests for drug users. It's just not the kind of urban legend that they'd want out there to have to deal with.

about three weeks ago

Hackers Breach White House Network

Vokkyt Re:Russians as bogeymen? (98 comments)

The evidence from the actual report that it's of Russian origins is a little specious for my taste, though part of the reasoning isn't exactly unfounded.

Their evidence that it's of Russian origin is that a large number of the malware samples (APT28 as categorized by FireEye) included Russian Language settings along with English and "neutral" (which defaults to the environment defaults). That certainly is an eye-brow raiser in my mind, but I wouldn't say we got anyone with their hand in the cookie jar.

The other reasoning is just specious and/or speculation. The compile times for the malware seem to correspond to the Timezone for Moscow/St. Petersburg working days, which just seems like an odd assessment to make. Even if the government were to be paying hackers in Russia to make and operate malware, are these hackers actually punching in and out for 8 hour work days? Not to suggest that this isn't exactly what is happening, but it just seems like coincidence is an equally plausible scenario with this.

The other evidence is FireEye's own speculation on the targets could apply to other actors as well.

Their analysis of the malware otherwise is pretty good, but I think there just isn't enough to really peg it down. There are plausible explanations for the evidence that FireEye brings up which is no more of a stretch than it being of Russian origin.The language setting is good evidence, but there are some fairly valid reasons why that might be the case.

about three weeks ago

How To Beat Online Price Discrimination

Vokkyt Re:Book directly with the airlines (163 comments)

Yeah, this is one I've never really understood. I used to think that you had to use the intermediary sites since when I was younger, my parents either always used agents or third party sites once we got Internet access.

But when someone pointed me to, which just lists flights and prices instead of actually letting you buy, I never went back to the annoying third party sites. I've never really gotten a deal on the third party sites that was any cheaper than just looking up the cost on the informational site and buying the itinerary straight from the airline, nor have the hotel deals been any cheaper or different for me than just booking the hotel independently. I know that my folks like it because it's all of the prep-work done from one site, which is a fair point, but I personally just haven't seen the benefit.

about a month ago

Austin Airport Tracks Cell Phones To Measure Security Line Wait

Vokkyt What privacy concerns? (168 comments)

While this is useful information to have, the privacy implications are a bit unsettling.

As best I can tell from the description, this sounds similar to what Disney and other themeparks use to track their wait times for rides, except the amusement parks occasionally hand out little RFID "things" to guests at the ride entrance and ask the guest to give it to the operator.

As far as I'm aware, any time you're polling for WiFi networks you're broadcasting your MAC; this just seems like a fairly benign way to get information about a process without getting actual data on an individual.

Granted, you can somewhat reliably tie together a MAC addy's travel path if you have the ability to see all the places that MAC has been, but that was true even without this particular software.

So, yeah, what is the concern about this software in particular? It seems like the complaint is more with how the scanning for networks works.

about a month ago

Google Announces Inbox, a New Take On Email Organization

Vokkyt I'm not sure who this is helping (173 comments)

Email users tend to fall into two distinct categories of usage; heavy and "guess I have to use email", and you can trace the distinction almost straight along generation gaps. From my experience, most of the heavy users of email tend to customize systems to what works best for them -- in my work at University IT, the heaviest users usually have very nuanced inboxes with dozed of folders and filters they constructed to suit their needs, disabling any and all auto-sorting for fear of missing an email. Our biggest complaint from users tends to come from the fear that we did something on our Google Apps for Education filter settings which is preventing email from reaching them (even though we run a "virtually" vanilla set up with our Google Apps domain).

The rest of the users just thrive in the chaos of an inbox and either reluctantly use the auto-sorting provided by Gmail or quickly search how to disable it. (The fuss when "Important" messages came into existence was absolutely balloons; users rightfully complained that they had no idea why there was a yellow indicator next to every message in their inbox, since the google filter was marking every message as important). Most people don't really get that much email, at least not the same way that Google seems to think. The inbox search is so good that many users just seem to be content remembering a few key words and then searching for the email when they need it. I constantly see inboxes with thousands of unread messages since the users just ignore any email they don't want to read.

Watching the video and reading the associated blog post, at best it looks like a dedicated app that does what the tabs already do, as well as a few extensions which monitor the contents of email. Some of the features, like the live flight updates, would probably be pretty cool, but I'm curious how well it can interpret itineraries that fly under other airlines for part of the itinerary. (e.g., last international flight I took was on Finnair, and I traveled American Airlines for part of the flight as part of the Oneworld flight alliance; so the actual AA flight was numbered differently than the Finnair listing as I received it, AA#### as opposed to AY###)

I really doubt that this is going to do anything except eat up more space on the Android default home screen as one of the many apps that phones have to ship with, but hopefully a few of the informational features will leak over to Gmail proper.

about a month ago

Facebook To DEA: Stop Using Phony Profiles To Nab Criminals

Vokkyt Re:Lawless land (239 comments)

Except that's not what they're asserting. Law enforcement has been granted powers by the higher powers in the government to occasionally perform actions that would be considered illegal in order to resolve a larger crime. (e.g., impersonation, possession of drugs, possession of illegal firearms, purchasing illegal substances). The DEA's assertion is that this is merely an branch of those granted powers. You might not like that they have been granted the powers to do this, but that doesn't mean that they "...assert that we live in a lawless land where [the DEA] can do what they please." There are pretty strict rules about what it is they can and cannot do when they do these sorts of operations and judges can and often will throw out entire cases if the law enforcement officers mess up during the operation.

Facebook's contention isn't that the DEA can't do this; they openly acknowledge that there is a review of the process in place, and I have no doubt that if tomorrow the DEA released a statement saying "nah, we totally can", then Facebook wouldn't even pursue the angle. Facebook's argument is that such actions really mess with the business model Facebook has; if people have to live in fear that government agents are routinely posing as users to get information, then users are going to migrate away. Not all, but enough to probably hurt Facebook's reputation.

You can argue about what law enforcement should and should not do in the course of an investigation, but there is a long history of precedent which says "hey, this is a-okay", at least the impersonation part. Whether or not the Plaintiff actually "gave consent" as the DEA assumes is a whole different matter, and I suspect their case and all cases from it might get thrown out based on that alone.

about a month ago

JP Morgan Chase Breach: Shades of a Cyber Cold War?

Vokkyt FUD. They don't even know. (96 comments)

From the article:

"But much remains unanswered about the intrusion, including just who the hackers are, which other financial institutions were hit and why the hackers went down a path inside JPMorganâ(TM)s computer system that contained troves of customer information, but not financial data."

They have no motive, no indication of who, or why they did what they did. I agree with posters saying that it's officials throwing out a red herring to get everyone worked up over Russia instead of poor security.

about a month and a half ago

New OS X Backdoor Malware Roping Macs Into Botnet

Vokkyt Re: I have seen some malware trying to infect my M (172 comments)

Eh, most probably couldn't. If it's not a trusted developer, by default they cannot install it (a la apt-get or other package managers). They would have to have the known how and awareness to go in and change it to accept all installers, which I don't think many will.

about 1 month ago

Scientists Seen As Competent But Not Trusted By Americans

Vokkyt Re:Fox News? (460 comments)

The press is much to blame, never checking qualifications or accomplishments when reporting the work of so called 'scientists". Due to that, so much bullshit is promulgated that never comes to fruition, people naturally become skeptical. Promises of fuel cell being ready for mass adoption, promises of medical cures on the way, etc.

It's even worse that that though -- it's not just that the media doesn't fact check, it's that most media members lack the ability to fact check, as do their audience. It's the game telephone on a national scale, and it's hurting everyone when a rather important but nascent study on polymers gets conflated to "scientists create new ultra-capacity battery purple monkey dishwasher".

The report itself doesn't really focus so much on this disconnect though as much as it the social dynamics of credibility; according to the article, we're trained to focus more on "friend or foe" than "true or not true", and the first challenge in communicating serious scientific advances to people is getting past the friend or foe response. The article refers to Climate Change as an example of this, and it seems true that most people cannot enter into discussions of climate change without there being a political agenda attached.

What this really comes down to is poor logical training -- it's not that people are outright illogical or that science and pure logic are the most ideal way to be (as they aren't), it's that we're just wired to have an emotional investment, and too often, the public gets hurt by this wiring. Rather than take a second to try and see if the content is or is not valid, or to separate the person speaking from the evidence presented, which admittedly can be difficult if you are very invested in a particular belief (political, religious, mystical, personal, and so on). I've always used the example of liking Burzum versus liking/approving of Varg Vikernes and his personal beliefs; you don't need to subscribe to the latter to accept the former.

However, the article just suggests that we can't really get past that friend/foe check.

I think this is really where celebrity scientists (Tyson, Nye, Sagan, Asimov, etc) can really help out everyone. I'm re-reading two of Asimov's books "A short history of [chemistry|biology]" and I think that there needs to be more of this. Asimov was an incredible writer and had a knack for telling a good story, and even better just explaining science simply. Sagan has some fairly poetic ways of describing the universe which spoke to people in an easy way, Bill Nye brought a good sense of entertainment to science and made it fun for kids. The more writing and early exposure people can get to this sort of material, the better people can begin to separate the human behind the science from the evidence presented.

(Of course, this is not to say that scientists are without their own prejudices or agendas; reading the history of chemistry has shown how sometimes a leading scientists' personal agenda stymied progress just because they were perceived as an authority. Everyone, regardless of training, is subject to this bias)

about 2 months ago

Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

Vokkyt Re:So then they get another warrant ... (504 comments)

Slightly different scenario. Yahoo had the data and refused to turn it over. Apple is in effect ensuring it can never have the data that the NSA is seeking without new code. Warrants, in this instance, can't really be used to compel you to make something you wouldn't otherwise make. That's not the type of a warrant they can actually seek; there is no "do what we tell you warrant".

Apple's entire gambit is to avoid the messiness of the law aspect by just preventing their own access to the data so they have no means to actually comply with such a request. They can't get in trouble for refusal for such requests anymore than they could get in trouble for being asked have Tim Cook shit out a unicorn.

about 2 months ago

AT&T Says 10Mbps Is Too Fast For "Broadband," 4Mbps Is Enough

Vokkyt Re:10 MPS would still leave us behind South Korea (533 comments)

That's kind of irrelevant when US cities can't match Latvian speeds. The major ISPs can claim they can, but what is advertised is quite frankly no where close to day to day usage.

about 2 months ago

Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

Vokkyt Re:Why? (753 comments)

Technically, they also can just walk around and shoot organ donors to steal organs, but it doesn't really mean they are. There are a lot of nasty things the government could be doing that it isn't.

It's not unreasonable to have a very healthy distrust of government, but in this case GP is right; the current government has historically just been meticulous about their monetary demands. It is more unreasonable to assume that they'd just send out a demand for money with no explanation or reasoning than it is to assume that the GGP is just making up a story to sound cool.

about 4 months ago

5 Years Later, 'Do Not Track' System Ineffective

Vokkyt Re:"A Contract" (254 comments)

If they don't want to offer up the content to those with adblockers or other DNT indicators, then they should just bite the bullet and do so.

It's not that people want their lunch for free, it's that they were provided a lunch without ever discussing the price and then hit with a price some folk didn't want to pay. It doesn't help that the price can often be a lot more than just the annoyance of an advertisement. Drive-by attacked from ads that don't get vetted are still a common reality -- scam websites are still allowed to wantonly display their advertisement and piggy-back off of the legitimacy of websites. You can say caveat emptor for anyone who may follow the ads, but that's really unacceptable; it's getting the user into really awkward, and in some cases dangerous, places when they probably didn't even care enough to really check the content in the first place.

The idea that all content is worth the advertisement cost is flawed -- if paywalled content would stop users from visiting, then it's likely that the content wasn't really worth that much to them. Apathy and laziness are the only thing that takes most people to these sites.

about 6 months ago

Are DVDs Inconvenient On Purpose?

Vokkyt Re:Netflix isn't the cheapest (490 comments)

Interlibrary Loan can get you pretty much everything with similar transit times to Netflix DVD shipping.

about 8 months ago

Bill "The Science Guy" Nye Says Creationism Is Not Appropriate For Children

Vokkyt Re:Bill Nye..... I'm not your serf (1774 comments)

Based on the transcript, I don't think that's what Bill Nye is saying here. From the video transcript:

Evolution is the fundamental idea in all of life science, in all of biology. It's like, it's very much analogous to trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates. You're just not going to get the right answer. Your whole world is just going to be a mystery instead of an exciting place.

He's not really talking about spiritualism, religion, or any other belief systems; he's talking about a small subset of people bent on eschewing very carefully collected, studied, and reviewed data because they perceive it as an attack on their personal belief system. The Science guy is concerned that bad and irrational decisions are being made under the guise of "its my religion". His purpose is not to decry religion, but to defend science, evolution specifically as it is the target of attacks. I think the thought process is less "don't let religion get into science" and more "think rationally about scientific matters." His plea for "...scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future." and "...people that can—we need engineers that can build stuff, solve problems" is less about evolution versus religion and more about ensuring that future generations are trained to think logically; to think things through instead of standing on ceremony, that is, actually try to find the best solution, not just one that someone wants.

Does this mean he's against creationism in the classroom? Probably, because it's inconsistent with pretty much every other scientific model out there. But I don't think he's intending to harp on the idea of there being a creator; just people who want to push their agenda at the expense of education

more than 2 years ago


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