Oct 272014
 

Xipiter has a great write-up on how they hacked the MiCasaVerde Vera quickly and easily:

The device has embedded SSH private keys on THE IMMUTABLE sections of the firmware image so we know that all these devices have the same embedded ssh key. It uses that key to access the manufacturers backend and set up ssh port forwards… While this a simple little device, the ability to attack it on the local network and potentially reach it THROUGH the manufacturers own servers as a beachhead to other computers on your home network is a reminder of why devices like this need to be understood better

This is a good illustration how the funky remote access methods for Vera got them into trouble. They would be better served with the API keys & calls other IoT hubs have been focused on. If you are running a Vera, it may be worth investigating offline mode until there is some confirmation that the remote access is possible or not.

Sep 092014
 

BBC News has a very interesting story about the ongoing territory disputes China and its neighbors are involved in. Rupert Wingfield-Hayes travels to the disputed area on a Filipino fishing boat to get some of the first photos and videos of China’s ambitious plans:

Other countries that claim large chunks of the South China Sea – Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia – all control real islands.

But China came very late to this party and missed out on all the good real estate. Beijing only took control of Johnson South Reef in 1988 after a bloody battle with Vietnam that left 70 Vietnamese sailors dead. Hanoi has never forgiven Beijing. Since then China has shied away from direct military confrontation.

But now Beijing has decided it is time to move, to assert its claim and to back it up by creating new facts on the ground – a string of island bases and an unsinkable aircraft carrier, right in the middle of the South China Sea.

Interestingly they also link to published designs from China State Shipbuilding Corporation which show a man-made island on the Philippine-claimed Mabini (Johnson South) Reef in the South China Sea. This is more than just a simple patch of land:

The Ninth Design and Research Institute of the state-owned contractor bared three-dimensional design plans for reclamation project on disputed waters showing an artificial island consisting of military airport, a long airstrip and a boat harbor for law enforcement.

About 30 hectares or 74 acres of the reef are proposed to be reclaimed, purportedly for the China People’s Liberation Army to strengthen its posture in the contested maritime area, claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

May 302014
 

I recently had a chance to catch up on some of my backlog of podcasts, including some of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense and Hardcore History. The most recent episode of Common Sense is named “Show 275 – The Specter of Dissent” and is a bit of a combination of history and current events commentary. Dan can be sensationalist, slow to get started, and slow to finish on a topic, but I think for this item the format is warranted.

He spends time going over the history of radicalization and protest in the US and how it relates to our current situation as described in some of the revelations from Edward Snowden and Glen Greenwald. In fact, but much of the podcast seems to be prompted by one of Greenwald’s stories earlier this month – “Glenn Greenwald: from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just “bad guys“. Policies and procedures raised from the article are throw-back to red scares and Hoover era:

Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a “US person”, are details of their online sex activities and “online promiscuity” – the porn sites they visit and surreptitious sex chats with women who are not their wives. The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility.

… Another slide describes the tactics used to “discredit a target”. These include “set up a honeytrap”, “change their photos on social networking sites”, “write a blog purporting to be one of their victims” and “email/text their colleagues, neighbours, friends, etc”. In accompanying notes, GCHQ explains that the “honeytrap” – an old cold war tactic involving using attractive women to lure male targets into compromising, discrediting situations – has been updated for the digital age: now a target is lured to a compromising site or online encounter. The comment added: “a great option. Very successful when it works.” Similarly, traditional methods of group infiltration are now accomplished online.

As Dan points out, perhaps these tactics are approved by the majority of Americans when used against our enemies. However, what is also increasing becoming apparent is that the net of “enemies” includes extremely broad definitions:

The NSA explicitly states that none of the targeted individuals is a member of a terrorist organisation or involved in any terror plots. Instead, their crime is the views they express, which are deemed “radical”, a term that warrants pervasive surveillance and destructive campaigns to “exploit vulnerabilities”.
…These incidents were not aberrations of the era. During the Bush years, for example, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed, as the group put it in 2006, “new details of Pentagon surveillance of Americans opposed to the Iraq war, including Quakers and student groups”. The Pentagon was “keeping tabs on non-violent protesters by collecting information and storing it in a military anti-terrorism database”.

This is a very disturbing revelation. The evidence seems to suggest that the net of suspicion is cast on domestic dissent – anyone who challenges the administration and status quo. This is extremely bad for the health of our system. As Greenwald puts it:

“… the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you’ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing.”

I highly recommend both Greenwald’s article and Dan Carlin’s podcast episode for some thought provoking content.

Mar 182014
 

I can’t say this about many things, but I agree with Pat Buchanan’s analysis of Putin, Russia, and Ukraine in his posting: Is Putin the Irrational One?

If we Americans want out of Afghanistan, why would Putin want to go back into Uzbekistan? Why would he want to annex Western Ukraine where hatred of Russia dates back to the forced famine of the Stalin era?

Since the viewpoint repeated in western media these days regarding Russia is very one sided, it is worth taking a look at things from another perspective.

Mar 052014
 

I finally got around to listening to Dan Carlin’s podcast titled Common Sense #270 – Poking the Bear which was published last week. It gets off to a slow start, but I think he does a great job of portraying the larger scope and the lead up which brings us to the situation today around Russia, Ukraine, and the USA. I highly recommend taking a listen if you are interested in learning more about the current environment and motivations.

Feb 222014
 

DER SPIEGEL has a good overview of some of the results published recently regarding the DNA analysis of a body found in Montana on private land. Its location means it is one of the only sets of remains which have been permitted to be tested:

The characteristic fluting of the stone weapons serve as archaeological evidence that the boy, who died some 12,600 years ago, came from the Clovis culture. It was one of the earliest New World groups, disappearing mysteriously a few centuries after the child’s burial in present day Montana. …Now a team of scientists led by the Danish geneticist Eske Willerslev has analyzed the boy’s origins and discovered that he descends from a Siberian tribe with roots tracing back to Europe. Some of the boy’s ancestors are likely even to have lived in present-day Germany. Their findings go even further: More than 80 percent of all native peoples in the Americas — from the Alaska’s Aleuts to the Maya of Yucatan to the Aymaras along the Andes — are descended from Montana boy’s lineage.

The article also touches on some of the concerns in the native community around DNA testing – there is no appetite for being linked to Europe populations, and very real concerns that DNA testing could be used in tribal disputes over who shares in the economic bounty from casinos that operate on the sovereign reservations.

Nov 132013
 
Bourbon Family Tree from GQ

Bourbon Family Tree from GQ

Compared to something like the number of Scotch producers, there are relatively few producers of bourbon – most are related by production lines and distilleries. GQ published a nice info-graphic which has been excerpted from The Kings County Distillery’s Guide to Urban Moonshining. It doesn’t have some of the other brands, like Hudson, but it does a great job of showing how most of the different brands and makes of bourbon and rye are related.