Nicholas Weaver's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week

from the crazy-paranoid dept

OK, so who is this crazy paranoid ivory tower dweller who said “Yo” when asked if he’d do the “Favorite Posts of the Week,” and who is prefacing this with the standard academic disclaimer of “all opinions are my own, not those of my employers or funders”?

I’m a researcher at both the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley and UC San Diego. My work has included high speed worms, detecting ISP manipulations of network traffic and the business model of Viagra spammers. I’ve also ranted on how the NSA weaponized the Internet backbone, and if you want to test your network connection, I’m also one of the developers of Netalyr, which now is available as an Android app. Please help us understand how the Internet really works: download and run Netalyzr today!

I’ll start not with the NSA but with the latest in the Prenda saga. Ah, Prenda. You’ve been partially responsible for my spending too much of my beer money on PACER. My liver thanks you, but my wallet loathes you. Thus it’s with utmost delight that I read how the Prenda principles of Paul, Paul, and John have drawn the wrath of the Nazgul, err, no wait, a group that should scare them more: Comcast’s and AT&Ts lawyers. Comcast’s legal counsel let loose with a full broadside, detailing all the ways that the firm of Prenda vexatiously litigated the case, while AT&T basically went with “yeah, what he said” (probably saving Prenda a good $5K in the process). I suspect that the final bill (or at least the supersedeas bond) will be epic.

More important, albeit less popcorn worthy, was Google’s total victory over the Author’s Guild. I’m hardly Google’s biggest fan (I prefer companies who treat me as a customer, not a SKU), but Google Books represents an unquestioned good for scholars, users, and even authors. Unstated but equally important, the lack of a license implies that others can do the same, preventing Google from gaining a monopoly through an exclusive agreement.

But I can’t stay away from the spook show. Two particular stories came to mind. The first is GCHQ’s tepid response to their hacking. Some backstory is necessary. What the GCHQ did was:

  • Identify a set of technicians at Belgacom
  • Identify their Slashdot and/or LinkedIn Accounts
  • Instruct their wiretaps to look for users logged into those accounts
  • Instruct their weaponized-wiretaps to attack these victims
  • Use the control of the victim’s computer to execute wiretaps within Belgacom, a telecommunications firm belonging to a NATO ally

So of course they don’t want to comment about it. Although we shouldn’t focus on Slashdot or LinkedIn, any site where the unencrypted page can identify the logged in user could have been used. It’s just they were targeting the network geeks. I’m utterly certain that GCHQ will casually accept the same explanation if (or if I was running the DGSE, when) France decides to follow the GCHQ playbook in targeting British Telecom. What’s French for “Sauce for the goose?”

The second concerns my own Senator and her campaign contributions, but not for the expected reason. I’m actually shocked at the small difference and small values. I don’t find it corrupt, but rather even more disturbing, the paltry sums makes me think that Feinstein actually believes what she’s saying. So why doesn’t she release all her phone records? After all, it’s “just metadata”.

Switching gears from the invasive but competent to the invasive and incompetent, this literary quote encapsulates what the TSA’s real criteria involved in their behavioral profiling:

“Uncooperative. Too cooperative. Talks to much. Talks to little. Gets his story perfectly straight. Fucks his story up. Blinks too much, avoids eye contact. Doesn’t blink, stares.” -David Simon. _Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets_.

When one actually articulates the sort of criteria needed to do a ‘behavioral profile’ in just the “what is your name, where are you flying to, what is your favorite color” question asked by the typical TSA agent, it quickly becomes obvious that it can’t work. About the best it could elicit is a “uh, can’t you read?”, further clogging the system by equating hostility towards the Theatrical Security Administration’s pointless procedures as yet another “behavioral indicator.” It’s not like it’s possible to hijack a plane these days: even with weapons the question is not whether a hijacking team succeeds or fails but rather whether the hijackers survives the ass-kicking that will be delivered by the passengers. It shocks me that both the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber survived.

To conclude on a lighter note, let’s shift to the sock puppet/catfishing (sockfishing? fishpuppets? sockcatting?) accusations against Ashley Madison. What I find surprising is that they allegedly did it manually. This should be a high technology operation: a stock photo account and a bit of automatic text generation and voila, “profiles,” that for some reason never respond yet make the site seem populated with MILFs on the prowl.

Hey Ashley Madison: you run a sleazy site, you have an affiliate program which encourages a particular spammer to clog my inbox, and I really, really don’t like you as a result, but here’s my offer anyway: hire me. My obscenely high consulting rate for setting up an automatic profile generator would, in the end, still be a lot cheaper than defending against a garbage nuisance suit from an ex-employee.

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Comments on “Nicholas Weaver's Favorite Techdirt Posts Of The Week”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Feinstein's America

Feinstein actually believes what she’s saying.

The committee report on the FISA Improvements Act of 2013 (S. 1631) contains additional views from Senator Feinstein. There, as she has elsewhere in recent weeks, Senator Feinstein, lays out her vision of America.

Her vision for America.

Senator Feinstein envisions a nation where the government has a right to obtain the record any time people talk to each other.

Stop, and really think about that for a moment. In Senator Feinstein’s America, in the country she wants us to live in, the federal government gets to know anytime two citizens talk to each other.

That’s her vision for America.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Feinstein's America

In the invitable civil war?

Curious that you used the word ?invitable? (with no ?e?) rather than the word ?inevitable? (with an ?e?). An invitation is something quite different when compared to something which is unavoidably and inexorably preordained.

Take, for example, the Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Was Soviet intervention unavoidably and inexorably preordained after the Dubček reforms in the Prague Spring? Or, is it true that the Soviets were invited in?

Letter of invitation

Although on the night of the invasion, the Czechoslovak Presidium declared that Warsaw Pact troops had crossed the border without knowledge of the ČSSR Government, the Soviet Press printed an unsigned request, allegedly by Czechoslovak party and state leaders, for “immediate assistance, including assistance with armed forces”. At the 14th KSČ Party Congress (conducted secretly, immediately following the intervention), it was emphasized that no member of the leadership had invited the intervention. At the time, a number of commentators believed the letter was fake or non-existent.

In the early 1990s, however, the Russian government gave the new Czechoslovak President, V?clav Havel, a copy of a letter of invitation addressed to Soviet authorities and signed by KSČ members Biľak, ?vestka, Kolder, Indra, and Kapek. It claimed that “right-wing” media were “fomenting a wave of nationalism and chauvinism, and are provoking an anti-communist and anti-Soviet psychosis”. It formally asked the Soviets to “lend support and assistance with all means at your disposal” to save the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic “from the imminent danger of counterrevolution”.?.?.?.

Inevitable or invited? Inexorably preordained, or enticingly provoked?

out_of_the_blue says:

Week of yapping ankle-biters demanding my attention!

The demand for my attention this week has been overwhelming! The number of questions wishing me to enlighten the darkness has been more than I can handle, but you’re in my thoughts, right beside a giggle. Thanks to each and every one of you fanboy-trolls who took the time (but not thought) — often in advance of my post on a topic — to embiggen my influence!

– My favorite, the mistakenly imitative “lots of lines” AC, which either doesn’t know or approve of the HTML “hr” tag, besides is classic Techdirt fanboy-troll which can’t grasp that ad hom, vulgarity, and its own egregious visual distractions don’t actually promote the site

– “Gwiz” apparently doesn’t yet know the meaning of “unearned” nor ever heard “TAX THE HELL OUT OF THE RICH”, but demanded several times that I ‘splain those to him. He claims wants to discuss, but won’t state any of his own views until I’ve AGAIN (only been posting here 3 years or so!) elaborated mine to his satisfaction.

– “Rikuo” has got to be the record holder with tactic of ad hom my every post. He too demands answers from me, and is particularly hot this week on asserting that I run away from discussion while never stating any views of his own.

– “John Fenderson” doesn’t know how common law relates to the fraud of pretending to be someone else (identity theft so far as possible) in order to discredit / harass / cause to quit the forum.

– Then there’s always Prime Questioner “nasch” (Never A Statement Comment Here), to whom I owe thanks for years ago tipping me to the fact that the main purpose of questions here is to wear one out and cause to leave, not to further discussion, thereby saving me much time. He always arrives late to topics and makes several posts having numerous qustions. He can be identified by merely counting the number of question marks in a post.

– some AC doesn’t know the meaning of “fanboy” because seemed to imply that I’m a fanboy of Techdirt. And no one corrected him! Such errors are common here, taken up and multiplied by fanboy-trolls who think it’s a good dig at me. — Yes, kids, I just HATE to be called a fanboy, any more of that and I’ll leave…

The above are all not only fanboy-trolls whose main goal is to run off anyone disagreeing with Mike, but firm believers in the “out-troll” method; “Rikuo” foremost among them. Their major goal of stifling dissent makes them heedless of the inherent drawbacks to the site they claim to like of pouncing on posts with ad hom and vulgarity. No one reasonable will jump into this cesspit, kids.

Just state what you want on-topic. You’ve not even answered me by posting ad hom, vulgarity, or demands that I explain and discuss to your satisfaction. Such non-answers only point up to readers that you don’t have anything of substance to say.

And if you insist on regarding me as a troll, then you should have sense to quit the “out-troll” tactic! JUST IGNORE ME, THEN, LET ME BE SEEN AS THE ONLY TROLL! — But every one who’s ever advised here “don’t feed the troll”, including me giving that advice, has been totally disappointed by these silly kids continuing to try and “out-troll”! You just have to laugh!

Oh-oh. Hope the “lots of lines” AC doesn’t see these horizontal rules! Will go spaz again.

Anyhoo, far as “news”, Mike reporting that Google engineers were caught lying about total encryption in place now is far and away the most important in my opinion.

Some Google engineers stated a direct “fuck you” to the NSA, as they were making sure that those links were encrypted (they claimed the job was done, though Google officially has said it’s an ongoing process, suggesting they may still be finishing up).

Mike just writes oblivious to implications. If any of Techdirt’s usual targets rolled back such a key splashy statement, Mike would pitch a hissy fit.

Also not surprising, Mike totally didn’t mention this Youtube hit expressing a sentiment not to his liking:

‘F-CK YOU GOOGLE+’ ukelele missy scoops BIG WAD of $$ – for Google

Also important — therefore neglected by Mike and minions — is the Council on Foreign Relations stating EXACTLY what I have, basically that teh internets is totally based on spying:

Privacy Pretense – How Silicon Valley Helped the NSA

When all you have is an economics degree, everything looks like a corporation.

10:37:59[l-370-5] [ This is necessary to suppress the kids here from fraud in using my screen name. ]

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Week of yapping ankle-biters demanding my attention!

He claims wants to discuss…

I did wish to discuss the details of your half-baked notions. Like I said, in the three years you have posted here, I don’t recall you ever discussing the actual real-world details of these empty rallying cries you toss around. But you can’t or won’t, so empty your rallying cries remain. No skin off my back.

..but won’t state any of his own views…

You really want my view? Be careful what you ask for…

I think that you, Blue, are a narcissistic, hypocritical grifter. You even stated as much this week when you said:

So what exactly is the draw to Techdirt? I like it because a small forum where I stand out, which leverages my rants without the bother of my own web-site… Source

You basically admit that you leech off the hard-earned readership of Techdirt. You also acknowledge that hosting a website is work, but you’d rather grift off the graciousness of others for your purposes. You are one of those grifters you are always yapping about.

Basically, your constant hypocrisy offends and annoys me, as it should any intelligent person.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Week of yapping ankle-biters demanding my attention!

IMHO, trolls form an essential part of the discourse.

Many people agree with something silently. They don’t express their agreement, they let the narrative be written by PR men and astroturf.

The trolls raise the ire of these people enough that they want to speak out.

People wouldn’t be screaming ‘Snowden is a hero’ if it wasn’t for the spook astroturf claiming ‘Snowden is a traitor’.

Out of the blue appears to me to be MS astroturf. He twists everything that would be negative to MS into a Google attack.

I’m guessing he attacks spook stories because of MS heavy involvement in the surveillance, it’s project ‘Chess’, it’s zero day exploits handed to the NSA, bypassing its own encryption for them, and probably a hundred other data transfers from Microsoft to NSA we haven’t yet found out about.

If you want to attack ootb, or any other troll. Simply identify what he’s trying to steer the conversation away from and talk about it. Ad nauseum.

So for example, we know that Skype put out a privacy report saying ZERO content intercepts. While the Chess leak shows they actually started handed the NSA content intercepts.

“Skype produced no content in response to these requests, but did provide non-content data, such as a SkypeID, name, email account, billing information and call detail records if a user subscribed to the Skype In/Online service, which connects to a telephone number.”

But post Snowden, we know they tap content too.

So discuss that at length with ootb, and enjoy the squirming as he does the ‘Google are worse’ or similar deflection.

The trick to watch for: you discuss X,Y,Z. The troll picks some aspect of Z to deflect to draw discussion away from X & Y. Your reply should restate X & Y as unchallenged truth.

It’s a classic troll trick, and repeating X&Y is the exact opposite of what they wanted (to draw the discussion away from X&Y). So be sure to take time and notice what the troll didn’t respond to and you’ll see what the troll’s agenda is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Week of jacking off my enormous hypocritical ego!

You basically admit that you leech off the hard-earned readership of Techdirt. You also acknowledge that hosting a website is work, but you’d rather grift off the graciousness of others for your purposes. You are one of those grifters you are always yapping about.

In short, OOTB is a PIRATE!

dcfusor (profile) says:


Is married to a very successful stock trader (one of my hobbies, which is how I know). A little pillow talk (insider information) here and there, and she no longer needs money from we proles.

Further, the NSA has the dirt on her, so she has to say what they want. We’ve completely lost any control over any elected part of our government – game over *already*, suckers. We already lost.

Fact check me. Stock trading is like jumping into a pool of sharks, no one wins as much as the Feinsteins other than other heavily (fed owning – you know the fed is about as actually federal as fedex, right?) institutions. That is, without cheating.

Anonymous Coward says:

NSA's malware?

I think this malware is from the NSA. It’s been found on a few large ISP’s networks (unnamed by Symantec and others) and appears to be the same as Symantec’s discovery.

It uses Blowfish encrypted protocol to send extra commands in the SSH stream which lets the remote attacker control the server.

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