Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the your-machine-has-been-compromised dept

This week, when the president was asked directly about his thoughts on encryption and law enforcement, he gave what was overall a very well-measured response about the need to acknowledge the tradeoff between safety and privacy, regardless of which side you ultimately conclude to embrace. It was a great answer in theory, but it was missing a critical point from the reality of the situation, and That One Guy wins most insightful comment of the week for pointing that out:

You made your bed, now sleep in it

This is something that even children can understand, the idea that if you cannot show responsibility with your toys, you’ll have them taken away, and yet it seems to completely escape the government and law enforcement. They’ve had their chance, to act in a reasonable fashion, to show that they can be trusted, and they have utterly failed.

If people and companies are moving towards phones that are encrypted by default and require the owner to personally unlock them, it’s because law enforcement has proven that they cannot be trusted to follow the laws that prohibit them from ‘browsing’ on a whim or hunch.

If society and the companies in it are pushing for more encryption, and more secure forms of communication, it’s because those like the NSA have shown absolutely no restraint in scooping up everything they can get their hands on, just in case it might prove useful at some point down the road.

The government, and the police, have shown that they cannot be trusted, and the public is reacting accordingly. It would be nice if those in the government and police forces were willing and able to admit this, but given that would require them to first admit that they’ve done something wrong, I’ll not hold my breath while waiting for it to happen.

Case in point: this week we also discovered that the NSA has the ability to hide spyware deep inside hard drives and swipe the encryption keys for SIM cards. One commenter asked why they weren’t in jail, and jupiterkansas went on to wonder (and win second most insightful comment of the week) what all this accomplished anyway:

Or a related question, since they pretty much have unrestricted access to everything, why is there still terrorism in the world?

Of course, not all hardware is compromised by the NSA — sometimes it’s compromised by the manufacturer itself, as is the case with Lenovo’s Superfish malware and associate HTTPS hack. Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius seemed to think that he could handwave this massive blunder because the threats were, in his mind, “theoretical”, and both our editor’s choice comments for insightful this week come in response to that notion. First up, an anonymous commenter pointed out what an inane statement that is:

ALL threats are theoretical; otherwise, they’re called attacks.

But before that, John Fenderson explained why this kind of reaction is worse than the initial mistake:

Including Superfish and the bogus certificate was a terrible thing to do in the first place, but what convinced me to never buy another Lenovo machine in the future was this exact response by them. It indicates either an insane level of incompetence or a deliberate effort to deceive everyone. Either way, that’s enough to put them on my “never do business with” list.

There’s a reason I chose that first Lenovo comment — it’s an interesting juxtaposition with our funniest comment of the week. The first one made the point in perhaps the most succinct and direct way possible — but there’s something to be said for Just Another Anonymous Troll‘s approach of making it in the most amusing and indirect way possible:

“Yes, there’s a big honking hole in my castle wall, but no enemy troops have stormed in through it so any concerns about it are all theoretical.”
-King Peter Hortensius the First (and last)

For second place on the funny side, we head to an already-pretty-funny trademark dispute between three companies with logos that are more or less just plain ‘W’s. Sorrykb might have inadvertently given the lawyers some ideas:

“Today’s episode of Sesame Street was brought to you by the letter [removed due to trademark claim]…”

For editor’s choice on the funny side, we turn our attentions to AT&T, which had a more creative approach to spying on people: offering lower broadband prices for users who opt in to be spied on. Rich Kulawiec had an idea:

A solution suggests itself

1. Sign up for AT&T’s surveillance package.
2. Set up VPN for all “real” traffic.
3. On a spare system that’s connected 24×7 and not connected through the VPN, run a Perl script that issues intermittent search queries comprised of terms found on 4chan forums, Twilight fanfic sites, YouPorn, and whatever site is the main one for Bronies. Oh, and Frank Zappa lyrics.
4. Smile while contemplating how confused the marketroids staring at the data analytics are going to be.

Finally, we’ve got one of the funniest things that happened this week. Plfer, the service that promises to find copyright-infringing text online and calculate damages for you, is a groaner for dozens of reasons, not the least of which is its apparent distaste for fair use. That especially, as pointed out by That One Guy, is compounded by the fact that its hypocritical practice of using (and attacking) Techdirt quotations on the site is a classic case of commercial fair use:

Well, this is awkward…

…it is difficult to argue any part of the internet is truly “non-commercial” and so the application of the “fair use” defence would seem to remain limited.

So fair use should be severely limited apparently. Boy, that sure does make this bit rather awkward…

For instance, Mike Masnick at TechDirt says:

“People copy stuff all the time, because it’s a natural and normal thing to do. People make copies because it’s convenient and it serves a purpose — and quite often they know that doing so causes no harm in those situations.”

He’s using someone else’s quote to promote his own service, which according his own argument, would almost certainly count as commercial use, and therefor fair use wouldn’t apply.

… I wonder just how much his service would qualify his use of someone else’s work, and the ‘harm’ it caused? Perhaps a couple hundred thousand or so, depending on how long his post has been up?

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Comments on “Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt”

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Anonymous Coward says:

MAYBE theres a vacancy for a company that really treats sim card security seriously,
dont use ftp, dropbox to transfer files ,or encyption sim card data,
have all data transfer be encrypted ,use an os like a secure version of

linux instead of just using windows 7 on all pcs.

maybe use ssd drives instead of hardrives to gaurd against hardrive malware planted by the nsa.

Monitor all employees email accounts to make sure they
are not hacked into .

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

maybe use ssd drives instead of hardrives

SSDs have intelligent controllers, just like hard drives, and also hidden sectors to deal with reliability problems, and so can be compromised just like hard drives, and just about all modern storage devices.
It would be possible to set up a probably safe means of reading and writing SD or micro SD cards, based on a network attached Arduino, with a simple user interface to control what files are actually read and written. Such devices have very limited program memory, which makes adding any malware almost impossible, and network attachment prevent the Arduino being reprogrammed without plugging in a USB cable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sorry, chum, Our (big) brothers in DC hacked most server farms (the resting place for your cloud drive) long ago. The only secure storage is a drive YOU own that the data is stored on, is disconnected from the computer, and stored in a bank vault. Expecting ANY commercial storage option to be secure is pure hubris… it ain’t.

David says:


Or a related question, since [the NSA] pretty much have unrestricted access to everything, why is there still terrorism in the world?

To ensure their funding. So we get a somewhat lacklustre mixture of home-grown nonsensical domestic terrorist plots along with a huge tolerance towards verified serious threats that are fed by a combination of CIA recruitment/training (all of the major external enemies of the U.S. in the last 50 years have at one time been trained by the CIA) as well as lots of “collateral damage” in countries where terrorist recruitment is likely to work.

After WWII, the U.S. welcomed Wernher von Braun into their ranks and hanged Hermann Göring. It would appear that the latter was more expendable since the U.S. has no shortage of people with his talents.

Anonymous Coward says:

St albans Removals

And thank you, sir, for reminding us that this blog doesn’t have a “remove link spam” button for us anonymous cowards.

But I’m glad to see your little company from Hertfordshire expanding their clientele world-wide. Everyone from Seattle to Moscow to Darwin will be happy to make use of your furniture-disassembly services!

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