December 2014 Archives
Many private security firms seem to think that the Sony hack was was perpetrated by a disgruntled insider, but the FBI is standing by it's initial assessment that North Korea is behind the attack.
US cybersecurity experts say they have solid evidence that a former employee helped hack Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer system -- and that it was not masterminded by North Korean cyberterrorists.
One leading cybersecurity firm, Norse Corp., said Monday it has narrowed its list of suspects to a group of six people -- including at least one Sony veteran with the necessary technical background to carry out the attack, according to reports. ...
Kurt Stammberger, senior vice president at Norse, said he used Sony's leaked human-resources documents and cross-referenced the data with communications on hacker chat rooms and its own network of Web sensors to determine it was not North Korea behind the hack.
The United States may have a lot invested in the FBI's assessment being correct: we may have already struck back at North Korea.
North Korea's connection to the Internet was essentially inactive Monday just days after the U.S. said it would consider a "proportional response" to a hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment related to the comedy flick "The Interview." The U.S. would not confirm if it was behind nearly hourly outages that occurred Sunday and Monday in North Korea. U.S. Cyber Command, which handles the U.S. military's unified defensive and offensive capabilities online, could not immediately be reached for comment.
UPDATE 3:25 p.m. EST: The U.S. State Department did not confirm nor deny any involvement in the outage, and spokeswoman Marie Harf had this to say:
"As the president said, we are considering a range of options in response. We aren't going to discuss publicly operational details about the possible response options or comment on those kind of reports in any way except to say that as we implement our responses, some will be seen, some may not be seen. So I can't confirm those reports, but in general, that's what the president has spoken to."
North Korea isn't likely to get much sympathy, but the U.S. will look pretty foolish if it becomes obvious that we were baited into a "counter"-attack on false pretenses.
Bruce Schneier has more thoughts on the perpetrators and doesn't think the job was done by insiders.
The attack by the Taliban on a school in Pakistan is abhorrent and inhuman; their refusal to stand by their actions is cowardly and deceitful.
niformed militants attacked a school, killing at least 126 people and taking hostages on Tuesday, an official said - an atrocity condemned by the U.S. as "senseless and inhumane."
"The gunmen entered class by class and shot some kids one by one," a student who was in the school at the time told local media.
Provincial official Bahramand Khan said at least 126 people were killed and 122 injured. More than 100 of the dead were school children, he added. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, which appeared to be targeting the the children of senior military officials. ...
Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani told Reuters his group was responsible for the attack. "Our suicide bombers have entered the school, they have instructions not to harm the children, but to target the army personnel," he said.
Emphasis mine. If you think you're justified in massacring children to strike at your enemies at least have the balls to say it.
William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone echo an observation about robots replacing ever-more-capable workers and how the shift to automation will affect society. They even follow my example and use IQ as a proxy for generic capability -- though they ignore the gender implications.
Suppose, today, that the robots and smart machines of the Second Economy are only capable of doing the work of a person of average intelligence - that is, an IQ of 100. Imagine that the technology in those machines continues to improve at the current rate. Suppose further that this rate of technological progress raises the IQ of these machines by 1.5 points per year. By 2025 these machines will have an IQ greater than 90% of the U.S. population. That 15 point increase in IQ over ten years would put another 50 million jobs within reach of smart machines.
Impossible? In fact, the vanguard of those 115-point IQ machines is already here. In certain applications, the minds of highly educated MD's are no longer needed. In 2013, the FDA approved Johnson & Johnson's Sedasys machine, which delivers propofol to sedate patients without the need for an anesthesiologist. An emerging field in radiology is computer-aided diagnosis (CADx). And a recent study published by the Royal Society showed that computers performed more consistently in identifying radiolucency (the appearance of dark images) than radiologists almost by a factor of ten.
Politicians, economists, and scientists might debate these particular estimates, but to do so is to miss the larger point. Machine intelligence is already having a major effect on the value of work - and for major segments of the population, human value is now being set by the cost of equivalent machine intelligence.
The shift to automation will be a growing challenge for capitalism as the dependent class grows.
I just filled up my car for under $20, so despite dire warnings about the death of green energy I'm going to say that cheap oil is awesome.
The collapsing oil price that is reshaping the global economy could derail the green energy revolution by making renewable power sources prohibitively bad value, experts have warned.
Oil tumbled below $60 a barrel for the first time in more than five years yesterday - a fall of 44 per cent since June. It is forecast to fall further.
A new "era of cheap oil" would be good news for consumers and motorists - but analysts say the consequences for politics, industry and the climate could be even more radical.
It's important to note that the "green revolution" has always been completely dependent on public subsidies. Cheaper oil would make those subsidies much more expensive to allow green energy to compete with brown energy. Maybe we should use some of the money we're saving to develop climate-mitigation technologies?
Bank of America says that OPEC is dead and oil is going to $50 a barrel -- great news all around. Who's hurt? Petro-funded enemies like Russia, Iran, and Venezuala. Who wins? Europe, America, and everyone who has to buy oil from the cartel.
The Opec oil cartel no longer exists in any meaningful sense and crude prices will slump to $50 a barrel over the coming months as market forces shake out the weakest producers, Bank of America has warned.
Revolutionary changes sweeping the world's energy industry will drive down the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG), creating a "multi-year" glut and a much cheaper source of gas for Europe.
Francisco Blanch, the bank's commodity chief, said Opec is "effectively dissolved" after it failed to stabilize prices at its last meeting. "The consequences are profound and long-lasting," he said.
The free market will now set the global cost of oil, leading to a new era of wild price swings and disorderly trading that benefits only the Mid-East petro-states with deepest pockets such as Saudi Arabia. If so, the weaker peripheral members such as Venezuela and Nigeria are being thrown to the wolves.
I'm loving the $2 gas.
Some people are incensed that the bipartisan omnibus spending bill doesn't defund Obamacare, but I think that's a mistaken instinct. "Defunding" is a gimmick move that is played from a weak hand -- because "defunding" is all you've got. With Republicans in control of Congress, they have a lot more options available than turning Obamacare into another funding fight.
There are several items in the bill that are big wins for America:
INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: One of the GOP's favorite targets will see its budget slashed by $345.6 million. The nation's tax agency also would be banned from targeting organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on their ideological beliefs.
The bill once again prohibits new standards that would ban the use of cheaper, less energy efficient incandescent bulbs.
NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:
The nation's premier medical research agency would receive $30.3 billion, a $150 million overall increase.
The bill stops assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member of the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement with Israel. It also prohibits funds for Hamas.
For the first time, the benefits of current retirees could be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation's most distressed pension plans. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets.
The pension change is a big, inevitable change that's been a long time in coming. Pensions can't defy mathematics forever.
Bill Blunden writes a long rant warning against trust in encryption and the companies who peddle it, pointing out that no matter how good your encryption algorithms are they can be subverted by the people who use or implement them.
Greenwald believes that leaked documents will induce Silicon Valley to clean up its act. But given the systemic forces at work, Silicon Valley will likely continue to consort with spies. In light of wage cartels, slave labor and wanton tax avoidance, it should be clear that high-tech companies have absolutely no shame at all. Like a textbook psychopath, most corporate entities really care about one thing only: profit. Caught in bed with the intelligence services, they'll simply keep on selling more lies.
Why should they clean up their act when it's cheaper and more profitable to sell snake oil to rubes? In the C-suites of Silicon Valley managing bad publicity is largely a matter of cleverly devised public relations. Having beguiled their users with a newly minted "encryption everywhere" sales pitch they will return to their old ways. High-tech executives, you see, want to have their cake and eat it too. People raking in billions are used to getting what they want: patronize the unwashed masses with talk of improved security and simultaneously maintain their links to their brethren in the intelligence services.
Read it all. Basically, be more paranoid.
Victor Davis Hanson says that conditions are ripe for a large European war:
The world is changing and becoming even more dangerous -- in a way we've seen before.
In the decade before World War I, the near-100-year European peace that had followed the fall of Napoleon was taken for granted. Yet it abruptly imploded in 1914. Prior little wars in the Balkans had seemed to predict a much larger one on the horizon -- and were ignored.
The exhausted Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were spent forces unable to control nationalist movements in their provinces. The British Empire was fading. Imperial Germany was rising. Czarist Russia was beset with revolutionary rebellion. As power shifted, decline for some nations seemed like opportunity for others.
The same was true in 1939. The tragedy of the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was not that it had been too harsh. In fact, it was far milder than the terms Germany had imposed on a defeated Russia in 1918 or the requirements it had planned for France in 1914.
Instead, Versailles combined the worst of both worlds: harsh language without any means of enforcement.
The subsequent appeasement of Britain and France, the isolationism of the United States, and the collaboration of the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany green-lighted Hitler's aggression -- and another world war.
I hope he's wrong! I also hope that someone in our government is working to prevent and prepare.
From a comment by Cicero Skip over at Ace:
During the 3-1/2 years of World War 2 that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and ended with the Surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, "We the People of the U.S.A." produced the following: 22 aircraft carriers, 8 battleships, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 34 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighter aircraft, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns, and 2,500,000 military trucks.
We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb, and ultimately conquered Japan and Germany.
It's worth noting, that during the almost exact amount of time, the Obama Administration couldn't even build a web site that worked.
Instead of comparing these accomplishments to the Obamacare website, compare them to the past 13 years of "combat operations" we've suffered through in the Middle East.