inside the man

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Pirate Act wants US taxpayers to pay for prosecution of civil suits to protect business

The ars technica perspective on this legislation is eminently clear: 'Why pursue costly civil litigation when you can have the government do it for you? That's the gist of part of the so-called Pirate Act, a new set of legislation aimed at criminalizing various online acts of piracy. While common parlance often talks of file sharing as "theft" or "stealing," in the overwhelming majority of instances, copyright infringement is a civil matter, not a criminal one.'

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Feed the worms who write worms to the worms - The economic logic of executing computer hackers

Steven E. Landsburg supplies us with another darkly humorous link today. Landsburg carries out an interesting theoretical exercise, comparing the value of executing murders to the value of executing malware authors in purely economic terms.

One aspect of this discussion that Landsburg does not touch upon is the theory, influenced by biological immunology, that computer vandalism such as writing an Internet worm contributes positively to the Internet's collective resistance to more targeted forms of computer crime, hacking into personal computers in order to perform fraudulent online banking transactions, for example. How could we measure the positive economic value of malware authoring in terms of it's net impact (if any) on reducing the net impact of computer crime? While this question will likely remain unanswered, I doubt we will identify a prosocial angle on murder.
Microsoft security spend greater than the Star Wars missile system

This report from Techworld I do not think is intended to be humorous, but it is if you add the following to the headline: "...and both investments have born so much fruit!"
Passwords for chocolate

I guess it is a day for blogging humorous news items. However, this one is black comedy to the ears of an information security professional.
Danish IT firm gives workers free Net porn

A humorous story from The Register.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

9th LG Cup 2nd round results

Korean superstars Lee Sedol (my favorite) and Lee Changho are through to round three of the 9th annual Go/Weiqi/Baduk LG Cup World Kiwang. Cho U is the last Japanese player in the tournament after the famous O Rissei and Yamashita Keigo fell to Koreans Lee Changho and Cho Hanseung respectively. Round three will not be played until October 2004.
Weighing Profits against Peril

SecurityFocus columnist Mark Rasch has a thought provoking column on Microsoft's long awaited XP service pack 2. Should Microsoft make SP2 available to unlicensed (read: stolen) installations of Windows XP, especially when SP2 has feature enhancements and important security fixes?

Mark, unfortunately, concludes with the statement that in the future Microsoft should consider releasing multiple versions of their service packs - one with just security enhancements and one, for licensed users only, with both security fixes and other improvements. This is all that Microsoft needs, another OS version to support.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Pigeons of death

The Register tells the poignant tale of the 1950 cancellation of a bold pigeon driven smart weapon program by the British Joint intelligence Committee. Included here is a link to the wartime contributions of pigeon fanciers.

Friday, May 21, 2004

What's Your Terrorism Quotient?

This Slashdot post covers a real example of computerized terrorist profiling. Why does this remind me of the Terry Gilliam classic Brazil? If you sense dark irony, I am communicating successfully. Glad my name is not Tuttle, or was it Buttle?

Welcome to the Ministry of Information Retrieval

Thursday, May 20, 2004

New advance in securing your valuables

Sometimes the low-tech ideas are the best ideas - but maybe not this one.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Inside the world of competitive scrabble

This sounds like a potentially interesting documentary to any competitive player of board games or to students of human foibles. The film is currently making rounds in the US festival circuit. Planned screenings are listed on the web site.
DDoS extortion

This variety of computer crime is likely more common than currently reported. Many organizations are hesitant to go public with their computer security issues. But here is the good news: if your information security infrastructure is well prepared for all of the usual virus and malware issues, you will be a less tempting target for cyber criminals who will seek out easier prey. Dave Dittrich has setup a great bibliography of all things DDoS.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Court clears Dutch music search engine of copyright violation

In a case involving the popular web portal, a Dutch court has ruled that "providing links to an MP3 file did not constitute disclosure or publication of contents according to Dutch copyright law." A lawyer for the portal stated that if the justice system wants to deal with illegal music downloads, they should go after those providing the files and not the search engine.

According to this article, this is the first case in the world involving a search engine that automatically crawls the Internet for files, some of which may infringe upon copyright.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

More signs of Sasser author's hero status

Following up on my mention of a story describing alleged Sasser author Sven Jaschan's hero status in some of the German press, it seems that Jaschan now has his own fan/legal defense fund raising web site. Apparently, Sasser was intended as "a harmless wake-up call to the world." The site goes on to ask of us, "Imagine what could happen if this had been done by criminals with no respect for the public"? On a related note, Jaschan has now being fingered as the creator of the NetSky worm - all 28 version. Sven is free on bail in German and faces up to 5 years in prison and a number of civil suits.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Hackers as national heros

Some German press outlets are holding up the arrest of the 18 year old alleged Sasser worm author as evidence that Germans may be returning to the role of leaders in technology. If your country has a nagging economic and identity crisis, perhaps the government should consider funding the education of young computer criminals?

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Be an informed caffeine user

If you are going to do it, do it right! Dr. James Wyatt says, "I hate to say it, but most of the population is using caffeine the wrong way by drinking a few mugs of coffee or tea in the morning... The physiological process they need to counteract is not a major player until the latter half of the day." Drink coffee all the time not just in the morning, silly.

If you want the full story of caffeine from the history of the cultivation and use of the drug, to its socio-historical importance (caffeine and the industrial revolution?), to the science behind my favorite alkaloid, you must read Weinberg and Bealer's The world of caffeine: The science and culture of the world's most popular drug. If reading is not your thing, just get the t-shirt.
The first published 9/11 humor?

Is this too soon? Is it bad taste? Is it disrespectful to the thousands of victims, or is it funny? Whatever your judgment, you must admit that humor is a strange beast.
War of the snuff videos

Finally a news outlet with the courage to call it what it is. I do not know why I have this image of Whitehouse insiders with pained expressions and desperation in their voices railing, "These Abu Ghraib pictures are killing us! We've got to get some images onto the tube that make them look bad!" And now, we have escalated to video. What next? Live network specials?

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Canadian music downloaders deterred by US lawsuits

When it comes to a topic as arcane as computer security or the law perhaps Canadians can be forgiven for listening to the loud voices of authority figures in the media, even if the authority figure's opinion is irrelevant. That's what I was thinking as I read this story on the latest Ipsos-Reid poll showing a marked decline in Canadian music downloading. It seems that the waves of lawsuits South of the border are impacting Canadians' comfort when it comes to downloading music files despite the recent Canadian decision, now under appeal, which found that not only downloading but also uploading music files does not infringe upon Canadian copyright law.

Despite this setback, the president of the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA) is quoted as saying, "There are still 120 million downloads a month from illegal sites and sources." Sorry pal, until you get a win in the courts or successfully lobby the feds to change the Copyright Act, there are no illegal sites.
Slashdot - Alan Turing, the Inventor of Software

What other news source could cover the story of Alan Turing's inclusion in BusinessWeek's great thinkers and innovators of the past 75 years better than the slashdot community? Ah, the endless Turing test jokes and straight to the sexuality issue.
Imposed gender

I had never heard the unique tale of Winnipeg born David Reimer. Apparently, he even has a published biography, As nautre made him: the boy who was raised a girl. David committed suicide last week after falling victim to a fraudulent investment scheme.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Sasser author tried to limit damage

The latest reports show that the accused German Sasser worm author tried to release a "damage limiting version" of the now infamous worm before he was arrested. Apparently, it did not work. German officials continue to deny that Sven Jaschan was motivated by trying to drum up work form his mom's PC support company and are painting him as a typical peer recognition motivated criminal hacker. It will be interesting to hear Sven's testimony when he goes to trial.
Malware for Mother's Day?

Hot off the feed from Reuters - there are suspicions that the young German man under arrest in connection with creating the Sasser worm may have been attempting to drum up business for his mother's PC support business. If there is any truth in this theory, a theory which is denied by German authorities, it certainly changes the forensic profile of the young male black hat hacker.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Man on Fire

I took in the latest Tony Scott offering last night and was treated 146 minutes of revenge served cold. Well, OK, maybe it was more like 60 minutes of syrupy alcoholism recovery and child-bodyguard bonding followed by 86 minutes of revenge served cold. The most memorable aspects of the film were the forced audience-character bonding through repeated use of extreme eye, nose, and mouth close ups, and the continuously unsteady camera work.

I now know a great deal about Denzel's pores. I now have a deep relationship with Dakota's dentation after repeated explorations of her engaging toothy smile. I now have more data on the mole on Radha's nose than the Opportunity rover gathered on the rock named Bounce. And I now have Marc Anthony's "Marc, I want you to show me regret mixed with greed mixed with guilt mixed with desperation... that's it!" look, complete with head tilted down, brow furrowed, lips pouty, burned into my mind.

As for the cinematography, Scott must have really liked Soderbergh's Traffic. Scott's cinematic portrait of Mexico has the same unsettling camera-never-at-rest, this place is dynamic, unsafe, and rife with crime message that Soderburgh so effectively communicated in his 2000 film. The only thing that Scott lacked from Soderburgh's method was the sepia tones. In fact, now that I think of it, these two films will probably do more harm to the Mexican tourist industry than the Zapatista uprising. The cheesy thank you message to Mexico City "a special place" that closes the film does nothing to dispell this impression.

In the end, through little employment of subtlety, Scott generally succeeds at the key challenge in making a good revenge flick, making the the audience sympathetic to all of the atrocities that the hero will inevitably commit. Only in retrospect do I feel pangs of guilt for cheering on Denzel's determined campaign of torture and murder that occupies the majority of this film.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Linux in public libraries

It is rare to read a real life success story about Linux on the desktop, but this story describes the Howard County Public Library's recent success using Linux on over 200 public access terminals. Slashdot and newsforge have also covered this story. Regardless of whether Windows or Linux has a lower TCO, sometimes cash strapped public institutions need to make choices which minimize or eliminate large one time capital investments.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Evil hacker does good
Kevin Mitnik, famed haXor and phone phreak, has become a hero in the press after aiding a small town police department to nab a bomb threat prankster.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Bargain hunting online

I am all for rooting out the best deals, but have never enjoyed doing so. I always wonder whether it is worth all of the time and effort to find what you want at a small percentage less than the first place you look. Probably, I am just lazy. In any case, should you wish to participate in this quest for lower prices online, the link above is a good slashdot list of websites for the frugal.

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About Me

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Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Returned to working as a Management Consultant, specializing in risk, security, and regulatory compliance, with Fujitsu Canada after running the IT shop in the largest library in the South Pacific.

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