Links October 2021

Bloomburg has an insightful article about Juniper, the NSA, and the compromise of Netscreen [1]. It was worse than we previously thought and the Chinese government was involved.

Haaretz has an amusing story about security issues at a credit card company based on a series of major WTFs [2]. They used WhatsApp for communicating with customers (despite the lack of support from Facebook for issues like account compromise), stored it on a phone (they should have used a desktop PC), didn’t lock the phone down (should have been in a locked case and bolted down like any other financial security device), and allowed it to get stolen. Fortunately the thief was only after a free phone not the financial data stored on it.

David Brin wrote an insightful blog post “Should facts and successes matter in economics? Or politics?” [3] which is part of his series about challenging conservatives to bet on their policies.

Vice has an interesting article about a normal-looking USB-C to Lightning cable that intercepts data transfer and sends it out via an embedded Wifi AP [4]. Getting that into such a small space is an impressive engineering feat. The vendor already has a YSB-A to lightning cable with such features for $120 [5]. That’s too expensive to just leave them lying around and hope that someone with interesting data finds them, but it’s also quite cheap for a targeted attack.

Interesting article about tracking people via Bluetooth MAC address or device name [6]. Most of the research is based on a man riding a bike around Norway and passively sniffing Bluetooth transmissions. You can buy commercial devices that can receive Bluetooth from 1Km away. A recent version of Bluetooth has random Mac addresses but that still allows tracking by device name which for many people is their own name.

Cory Doctorow has a good summary of the ways that Facebook is rotten [7]. It’s worse than you think.

In 2019 almost all Facebook’s top Christian pages were run by foreign troll farms [8]. This is partly due to Christians being gullible, but Facebook is also to blame for this.

Cornell has an interesting article about using CRISPR to identify the gender of chicken eggs before they hatch [9]. This means that instead of killing roosters hatched from eggs for egg production they can just put those eggs for eating and save some money. Another option would be to genetically engineer more sexual dimorphism into chickens as the real problem is that hens for laying eggs are too thin to be good for eating so if you could have a breed of chicken with thin hens and fat cocks then all eggs could be hatched and the chickens used. The article claims that this is an ethical benefit of not killing baby roosters, but really it’s about saving 50 cents per egg.

Umair Haque wrote an insightful article about why everything will get more expensive as the externalities dating back to the industrial revolution have to be paid for [9].

Alexei Navalny (the jailed Russian opposition politician who Putin tried to murder) wrote an insightful article about why corruption is at the root of most world problems and how to solve it [10].

Cory Doctorow wrote an insightful article about breaking in to the writing industry which can apply to starting in most careers [11]. The main point is that people who have established careers have knowledge about starting a career that’s at best outdated and at most totally irrelevant. Learning from people who are at most one step ahead of you is probably best.

Peter Wehner wrote an insightful article for The Atlantic about the way churches in the US are breaking apart due to political issues [12]. Similar things appear to be happening in Australia for the same reason, conservative fear based politics which directly opposes everything in the Bible about Jesus is taking over churches. On the positive side this should destroy churches and the way churches are currently going they should be destroyed.

The Guardian has an article about the incidence of reinfection with Covid19 [13]. The current expectation is that people who aren’t vaccinated will probably get it about every 16 months if it becomes endemic (as it has in the US and will do in Australia if conservatives have their way). If the mortality rate is 2% each time then an unvaccinated person could expect a 15% chance of dying over the course of 10 years if there is no cumulative damage. However if damage to the heart and lungs accumulates over multiple courses of the disease then the probability of death over 10 years could be a lot higher.

Psyche has an interesting article by Professor Jan-Willem van Prooijeni about the way that conspiracy theories bypass rationality [14]. The way that entertaining stories bypass rationality is particularly concerning given the way Facebook and other social media are driven by clickbait.

2 comments to Links October 2021

  • John Hughes

    “It was worse than we previously thought and the Chinese government was involved”

    Surely you meant to write:

    “It was worse than we previously thought and the US government was involved.

  • John Hughes

    “This means that instead of killing roosters hatched from eggs for egg production they can just put those eggs for eating and save some money”

    In general we don’t eat fertilised eggs.

    Also this, from the original article is a bit unclear “The global egg industry saves the costs and the ethical conundrum of killing half of its product”. They can’t mean the “global egg industry”, as “the global egg industry” makes unfertilised eggs. They must mean “the global chick industry”. And they’ll still be killing half of their product, just before they become cute and while they might be worth more money.

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