Bruce Schneier has written about The Further Democratization of QUANTUM, the NSA's program for packet injection:
...when I was working with the Guardian on the Snowden documents, the one top-secret program the NSA desperately did not want us to expose was QUANTUM. This is the NSA's program for what is called packet injection -- basically, a technology that allows the agency to hack into computers. Turns out, though, that the NSA was not alone in its use of this technology. The Chinese government uses packet injection to attack computers. The cyberweapons manufacturer Hacking Team sells packet injection technology to any government willing to pay for it. Criminals use it. And there are hacker tools that give the capability to individuals as well. All of these existed before I wrote about QUANTUM. By using its knowledge to attack others rather than to build up the Internet's defenses, the NSA has worked to ensure that anyone can use packet injection to hack into computers.
And now it's become a homework assignment:
Michalis Polychronakis at Stony Book has assigned building QUANTUM as a homework assignment. It's basically sniff, regexp match, swap sip/sport/dip/dport/syn/ack, set ack and push flags, and add the payload to create the malicious reply. Shouldn't take more than a few hours.
The assignment is due May 1st.
Students from the University of Leicester ( http://www.le.ac.uk ) have calculated how much paper would be required to physically print the Internet as we know it — and have found that, despite the Internet's enormous size, less than 1 per cent of the Amazon rainforest's trees would be required to accomplish it.
In order to work out how much paper would be required to print the Internet, students Evangeline Walker and George Harwood from the University of Leicester's Centre for Interdisciplinary Science investigated how many trees would be needed, using the Amazon rainforest as an example given its unprecedented scale on Earth.
The Amazon rainforest, situated in South America, is the largest rainforest on Earth, spanning 5.5 million square kilometres and housing approximately 400 billion trees.
The students used the English version of the popular website Wikipedia as an example of a website containing a large amount of data. They took ten random articles from Wikipedia, which provided an average of 15 pages required to print each article. They then multiplied this by the number of pages on Wikipedia alone — estimated to be roughly 4,723,991 at the time of writing — which resulted in 70,859,865 paper pages.
Applying this to the Internet at large, the students suggest that approximately 4.54 billion pages of paper would be required to print the Internet as we know it.
A study by European IT security experts suggests that the EU should also fund or participate in the development of open source software to ensure end-to-end encryption solutions. Using open source is not a universal remedy, they state, but it is an “important ingredient in an EU strategy for more security and technological independence.” The experts say support for open source will increase the EU’s technological independence.
A second study for this committee meeting argues that the use of open source computer operating systems and applications reduces the risk of privacy intrusion by mass surveillance.
An international team of scientists led by Dr. Love Dalén at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm has published [abstract] the complete genome sequences of two woolly mammoths. Their analysis found evidence of inbreeding among the final population of mammoths on Wrangel Island, as well as a genetic bottleneck around 300,000 years ago, before the arrival of modern humans in the region. Woolly mammoths went extinct around 4,000 years ago, and although Dr. Dalén's team is not attempting to revive the mammoth, they aren't dismissing the possibility:
Dr Love Dalén, at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, told BBC News that the first ever publication of the full DNA sequence of the mammoth could help those trying to bring the creature back to life.
"It would be a lot of fun (in principle) to see a living mammoth, to see how it behaves and how it moves," he said.
But he would rather his research was not used to this end.
"It seems to me that trying this out might lead to suffering for female elephants and that would not be ethically justifiable."
Dr Dalén and the international group of researchers he is collaborating with are not attempting to resurrect the mammoth. But the Long Now Foundation, an organisation based in San Francisco, claims that it is. Now, with the publication of the complete mammoth genome, it could be a step closer to achieving its aim. On its website, the foundation says its ultimate goal is "to produce new mammoths that are capable of repopulating the vast tracts of tundra and boreal forest in Eurasia and North America."
New security features such as Gatekeeper and XProtect are simple to bypass and gaining persistence on a Mac isn't much of a challenge:
Gatekeeper is one of the key technologies that Apple uses to prevent malware from running on OS X machines. It gives users the ability to restrict which applications can run on their machines by choosiing to only allow apps from the Mac App Store. With that setting in play, only signed, legitimate apps should be able to run on the machine. But Patrick Wardle, director of research at Synack, said that getting around that restriction is trivial.
"Gatekeeper doesn't verify an extra content in the apps. So if I can find an Apple-approved app and get it to load external content, when the user runs it, it will bypass Gatekeeper," Wardle said in a talk at the RSA Conference [in San Francisco] Thursday. "It only verifies the app bundle."
Backing up Gatekeeper is XProtect, Apple's anti-malware system for OS X. Malware isn't a massive problem for OSX, but there definitely are some well-known families out there, with more being created all the time, Wardle said. Getting past XProtect turns out to be just as simple as bypassing Gatekeeper. Wardle found that by simply recompiling a known piece of OS X malware, which changes the hash, he could get the malware past XProtect and execute it on the machine. Even simpler, he could just change the name of the malware, which also lets it sneak in under the fence.
More coverage, including pretty graphics, on ZDNet.
The Star Wars franchise always has been long on imagination. Fantastic creatures, giant spaceships, man-made death moons—the galaxy far, far away has them all. It also contains a rich array of planets, each with a unique environment. But one thing about those celestial bodies always stood out: the singular adjective—desert, ice, etc.—describing each of them.
Whereas Earth hosts a wide diversity of biomes, the planets of Star Wars boast far fewer climates and topographies. The ice planet Hoth never thaws. The desert planet Tatooine seems to never see rain or cold. Meanwhile, the forest moon Endor orbits the temperate zone of a gas giant and a diminutive Jedi master trains in a world covered by an unchanging bog.
While a world of sorcerers, faster-than-light travel, and fussy robots may not meet the standards of the hardest of hard sci-fi (why was the T-65 X-wing starfighter a long-range vehicle but the TIE Fighter wasn’t?), seeing the mono-ecosystem worlds of Star Wars raises the question: Is a world with a single, homogenous weather pattern the exception or the rule? Earth has many environments, but does the rest of the universe look more like our home or Luke Skywalker’s?
The New York Times reports that Amazon unveiled the financial performance of its powerful growth engine for the first time on Thursday, and the numbers looked good, energized primarily by renting processing power to start-ups and, increasingly, established businesses. Amazon said in its first-quarter earnings report that its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. What is more unusual at a company that often reports losses, the cloud business is generating substantial profits. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million.
Amazon helped popularize the field starting in 2006 and largely had cloud computing to itself for years, an enormous advantage in an industry where rivals usually watch one another closely. At the moment, there is no contest: Amazon is dominant and might even be extending its lead. Microsoft ranks a distant No. 2 in cloud computing but hopes to pick up the slack with infrastructure-related services it sells through Azure, the name of its cloud service.
“Microsoft is a credible player,” says Lydia Leong. But, she added, “Amazon is the most common platform for start-ups.” Amazon executives have said they expect AWS to eventually rival the company’s other businesses in size. The cloud business has been growing at about 40 percent a year, more than twice the rate of the overall company and many Wall Street analysts have been hoping for a spinoff.
As for Google, the cloud was barely mentioned in Google's earnings call. Nor did the search giant offer any cloud numbers, making it impossible to gauge how well it is doing. But the enthusiasm of Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, was manifest when he spoke at an event for cloud software developers this week. “The entire world will be defined by smartphones, Android or Apple, a very fast network, and cloud computing,” said Schmidt. “The space is very large, very vast, and no one is covering all of it.”
Ubuntu 15.04 has now been released; full details are at: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/VividVervet/ReleaseNotes
Notable new features:
- Unity 7.3
- LibreOffice 4.4
- Firefox 37
- Chromium 41
Low-level and server changes include:
- Linux kernel 3.19
- The move from upstart to systemd
- A new version of OpenStack
- Ubuntu Core (Snappy) - a variant to be used as a core OS for other software projects
OMGubuntu coverage is here: http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2015/04/ubuntu-15-04-download-new-features
Slashdot commentary/griping at: http://news.slashdot.org/story/15/04/24/1245209/ubuntu-1504-released-first-version-to-feature-systemd
Unless you've been hiding in a cave in Afghanistan you know about the Apple Watch. Well, it went on sale today. It may be a useful piece of technology or it may be a waste of money, but it's here and it's real.
For those Soylentils who like to buy tech gadgets and then tear them down, El Reg has already done it for you. Enjoy.
From the Wichita Eagle:
A Wichita State University mathematician sued the top Kansas election official Wednesday, seeking paper tapes from electronic voting machines in an effort to explain statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts across the country.
Valve has announced that they will be allowing content creators to charge for workshop mods:
The Steam Workshop has always been a great place for sharing mods, maps, and all kinds of items that you’ve created. Now it's also a great place for selling those creations. With a new, streamlined process for listing and selling your creations, the Steam Workshop now supports buying mods directly from the Workshop, to be immediately usable in game. Discover the best new mods for your game and enable the creators to continue making new items and experiences.
For just a moment, think back to when the first computers containing Intel's 80486 processor were being released. Things were quite different back then.
On April 24, 1990, shuttle mission STS-31 saw Discovery launch the Hubble Space Telescope successfully into its planned orbit.
From Celebrating 25 years of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope:
On the 24 April 2015 the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope will celebrate 25 years since its launch.
During the 1970s, NASA and ESA began planning for a space telescope that could transcend the blurring effects of the atmosphere and take clearer images of the Universe than ever before. In 1990 the idea finally became a reality and, despite a flaw in the main mirror which was quite swiftly corrected, Hubble has since far exceeded expectations.
It has delved deeper into the early years of the Universe than was ever thought possible, played a critical part in the discovery that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating and probed the atmospheres of planets around distant stars.
Hubble had 5 servicing missions. The main mirror was ground incorrectly, and a significant part of that first servicing mission was to install corrective optics. The effect was dramatic. Who can forget those amazing photos like The Pillars of Creation and Hubble Deep Field? Just think of all the fantastic pictures from Hubble that graced the Astronomy Picture of the Day!
What are your most memorable recollections of the Hubble Space Telescope's accomplishments? Did you see the launch of the telescope or one of the servicing missions? Did you play a role in any of its projects?
ScienceMag has an article discussing the reevaluation of the entire field of Homeopathy. For starters, the FDA has decided to take a new look at how homeopathic treatment are manufactured.
In a 2-day hearing, the agency invited public input on how it should regulate homeopathy—a traditional healing practice that has been called into question by numerous scientific studies.
The problem is that there isn't any evidence beyond the placebo effect for much of homeopathy:
“By its own definition, homeopathy cannot work,” Michael De Dora, director of public policy at the nonprofit Center for Inquiry’s Washington, D.C., branch, told the panel in his Monday presentation. Several large metastudies, including a recent analysis by the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia, have concluded that homeopathic remedies are no more effective than placebos for treating any condition. “We need not spend much time on this,” De Dora said, “as the federal government is well aware of the scientific evidence against homeopathy.”
Yet, largely due to the political maneuvering on the part to U.S. senator and homeopathic physician Royal Copeland, who co-authored the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA has regulated homeopathic "medicine" since 1938, largely taking a hands off approach.
But homeopath is now starting to cost big money. Homeopathic treatments generally qualify insurance coverage, including Medicare. Because Obamacare now funds medical premiums for the poor, this is costing the government (and government mandated insurance plans) huge sums of money, and inflating premiums for the rest of us.
What If One Country Achieves the Singularity First ?
WRITTEN BY ZOLTAN ISTVAN
The concept of a technological singularity ( http://www.singularitysymposium.com/definition-of-singularity.html ) is tough to wrap your mind around. Even experts have differing definitions. Vernor Vinge, responsible for spreading the idea in the 1990s, believes it's a moment when growing superintelligence renders our human models of understanding obsolete. Google's Ray Kurzweil says it's "a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed." Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired, says, "Singularity is the point at which all the change in the last million years will be superseded by the change in the next five minutes." Even Christian theologians have chimed in, sometimes referring to it as "the rapture of the nerds."
My own definition of the singularity is: the point where a fully functioning human mind radically and exponentially increases its intelligence and possibilities via physically merging with technology.
All these definitions share one basic premise—that technology will speed up the acceleration of intelligence to a point when biological human understanding simply isn’t enough to comprehend what’s happening anymore.
If an AI exclusively belonged to one nation (which is likely to happen), and the technology of merging human brains and machines grows sufficiently (which is also likely to happen), then you could possibly end up with one nation controlling the pathways into the singularity.
It's election season in the UK, and the Green Party's policy document has been coming under scrutiny recently. In it is a desire to reduce copyright term to 14 years (not life + 14 years, but 14 years from publication).
Unsurprisingly, this has received a bit of a backlash from various parties.
There's no chance the Green Party will form the next government, so this is all academic, but is this a sensible idea? Are people overreacting?