Friday, January 13, 2017

Shhhhhh... Amazon is Listening

So how about that Amazon Echo? The little log-like device that sits on your table. You talk to it and it can order stuff, turn on lights, change the temperature and put one of your kids up for adoption (that's entirely fabricated). This is an absolute privacy nightmare, which means it's becoming a very popular item. Remember: anything that 'listens', like Echo, Siri, and Google Voice, sends everything you say to central servers. This apparently does nothing to deter people from using or purchasing these devices - my prediction is that it will get an awful lot worse (because people are stupid).

As one should expect, the police are already interested in data from one of these devices, which was in the the house where a crime was committed. According to security expert Bruce Schneier, Echo only listens for its name, so it's not likely anything was even recorded, but Amazon, to its credit, refuses to turn the information over. It's not paranoia if it's really happening. And this technology is going to be in other products soon, like your fridge. Hey, Fridge... order us some hookers.

This technology is right out of a pair of futuristic science fiction novels.... one where you walk into your house and control everything by talking to your Little Black Box. And another where the authorities can hear everything you do and the television watches you, like 1984 but worse. How about a happy medium? Or better yet, a safe one?

  • Yahoo hasn't had a major email breach announced in a week or two, so they're overdue. Right on schedule, this August 2013 breach, affecting 500 million accounts, is one of the biggest on record. These guys step right up to the plate, every time, and beat themselves (and their users) over the head with their own bat (forgive the sports metaphor). When did Yahoo turn up this breach? They didn't; it came from law enforcement last November.
  • In unrelated news, related to my previous recommendation: Shut. Down. Your. Yahoo. Email. Period.

Hey, straight white guys, here's the latest info: you're generally trash! At least you are according to Teen Vogue 'journalist' Lauren Duca. Dear Ms. Duca had someone banned from Twitter, then made the above wise statement. If your teen daughter reads Teen Vogue, this is what she's getting.

  • Here are ten ways to harden your Android phone's security. Simple and common sense.

My coworker is helping to Make America Great Again:
HIM: I have to update the database and move it to the portal.
ME: I thought you already moved it to the portal
HIM: Which database are you using?
ME: I'm using the portal
HIM: I do not see the database on the portal
ME: here's the URL....
HIM: that's the OLD database, not the new one I'm forwarding.
ME: We have a new one?

This goes on daily.

  • Word has reached this blog that Madonna has always felt systematically repressed by the omnipresent Patriarchy. I'd like to add that we have always felt systematically oppressed by her 'music'.

Long before I had started my IT Career, such as it is, I was into electronics. Right next to the shop was an elderly lady who the owner befriended. She was hearing beeps and they sent me over to check it out. I had a feeling I knew what it was and I was right - it was the smoke detector, beeping its little heart out at one minute intervals to let the owner knew the battery was running down. I was a hero for the day and she got a new battery.

I mention this stupid story as an intro to Current Day, when I started to hear beeping from across the room.  As there are no smoke detectors in that vicinity, it was a bit confusing. In fact, more than confusing. Actually, it drove two of us up a ($&#ing tree, to be polite. The tree was full of little sticky bits, like thorns on a rose, and we were full of blood. We were also screaming so much, the dog got frightened and ran. It chirped at roughly one minute intervals. I walked to the general area of the noise to locate it. At the general area, the chirping seemed to come from a different general area. I looked like a blind person trying to locate a noise, only blind people can locate noise - I couldn't. Next up came The Wife, who, similarly, could not locate the sound. Wife seemed to hear it coming from the other direction. This caused additional frustration because of the unspoken thought that either the other was deaf or stupid or disagreeing on general principles.

Wife went into Hunt Mode. When this failed, Wife went into Throwing Mode. As it turned out, Throwing Mode was quite successful, in that it stopped the chirping. We still had no idea what caused it, but the blessed relief of no bleeping more than made up for it.

This morning it started up again. No amount of hunting, screaming, or throwing would make the noise cease or reveal its location. Our only salvation was that the noise was weaker, so in theory, the battery was draining and the noise would cease some time after our brains exploded or we had killed each other and only the dog survived. We have taken a ten square foot section of the room down to bare floor with what is referred to in corporate circles as Negative Progress. I think it's one of a small quantity (100 or so) of handheld games my wife doesn't remember she owns.

I was reminded of my otherworldly skill in making things Happen when I turned this way and that, trying to localize the infernal noise. First a series of large trash trucks went down the street. Next a huge plane flew overhead. I am not making this up.

Stay tuned for important updates.

  • Love him or hate him, Trumpie is always interesting. Days before officially taking office, CNN and Buzzfeed ran a story, now referred to as Pissgate. The story, as it turns out, was a joke, made up last year by the folks over at 4Chan. In other words, Fake News.  Donald had a press conference and CNN stood up with a question. The president-elect pointed at Mr. CNN and said FAKE NEWS.  The internet was abuzz, some taking him to task over Pissgate (even after it was proven false); some lauding him for telling it like it is; some screaming Freedom of the Press!
  • Let's consider that everything we hear from Mainstream Media is determined by six corporate entities - radio, print, and television. Let us also consider that the press overwhelming supported Hillary Clinton for president (proven). Let's consider that Trump is largely bypassing MSM for electronic communications (Twitter, etc). I think the man has a point.
  • I didn't vote for him but his achievements thus far have been interesting. This does not mean things can't go downhill, but I'm hoping things turn out well for the country. We need to come together, lest the plan of Divide and Conquer be effective - and it has been incredibly effective to date.
  • BRIEF ADDITION: Rudy '911' Giuliani has been named Cyber-Czar. I had no idea Rudy had any security experience at all, but he has an information security consulting firm. The website is run by software that's years out of date and quite hackable. Let's be fair: Rudy didn't put the site up himself, but...

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is here. This is a Really Big Deal, as manufacturers flout their wares, showing off their New Stuff. Industry people, news, and Just Plain People get to see what's coming.  This brief overview, by Twitter use Internetofshit, has some spectacular examples. My favorites are the solar charging hat and the bone conduction speaker/personal neurofeedback device. This should explain all those people who hear voices.

  • Apparently there is a gender gap in information security. I will pause for a moment, while you figure out which gender is underrepresented... People are working to bridge this gap, including a non-profit called CREST. Because we really don't care about security - we just need more internal plumbing.
  • When we are done fixing this problem, perhaps we can convene a worldwide special interest group, that will work to tackle this issue as it pertains to guitar players. The working motto is "We need more vaginas, not more boobs."

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