September 2006

Listing the guilty

Here is the list of 65 US Senators that voted to grant the president the right to lock non-citiziens up indefinitely without the right to trial or to challenge the legality of their detention, that declared if they ever are given a trial then hearsay and evidence obtained through coercion may be used against them, and that gave amnesty to those who authorized or committed illegal torture and abuse.

I find it horrific that so many of those we’ve elected to protect our fragile democracy are so quick to grant powers that belong only to kings, dictators and despots.

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Not in my backyard


The front page of yesterday’s SJ Merc includes a great graphic showing how almost all of San Jose would be off limits to all registered sex offenders if California’s Proposition 83 is enacted by voters this November. The proposition would make it illegal for a registered sex offender to live within 2000 feet of a park or school (regardless of whether his or her crime involved children) and to wear a GPS ankle bracelet for life.

From my brief read of the law defining sexual registration (IANAL!) it looks like convicted criminals are forced to register if they’re found guilty of rape or by order of the court for any other crime if the court finds that “the person committed the offense as a result of sexual compulsion or for purposes of sexual gratification.” That’s not a sympathetic bunch of people, and though I’m disturbed by the idea of treating people as guilty of FutureCrime (punish people for what they might do in the future) I can understand the motivation. But as the Merc story points out banishing registered sex offenders from most parts of the city will just lead to more sex offenders becoming homeless, cut off from the support groups and social network that helps keep them from committing crimes again.

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BlackNet and fungible bits

From a NYT article on the efforts of credit card companies to cut out child-pornography sites from their networks:

Among purveyors of child pornography, Mr. Christenson said, there is a “growing trend toward steering visitors of these sites to various alternative payment methods.”

Mr. Christie said one of those methods involved granting access to Web sites in return for explicit photographs of children. “That phenomenon is something that we are very concerned about,” Mr. Christie said.

Tim May’s original BlackNet concept warned that modern crypto can make illegal trafficking in pure information nearly impossible to trace. The main obstacle to making BlackNet-like networks a reality at a consumer level has been handling payment: anonymous e-cash systems never really got traction, and non-anonynmous financial services leave a trail right to a criminal’s door.

What remains is a system of barter, or “CryptoCredits” as the BlackNet post describes them. Back when it was written digital information wasn’t all that fungible: there were a limited number of things that one could exchange in pure-digital form, and the BlackNet post mostly described a market for high-stakes digital goods like trade secrets and business intelligence. But bits have become much more fungible in the past thirteen years, and nowadays an illegal info-trader can find pure-digital goods at all levels of illegality. He might trade kiddie porn for digital movies, blackmail info for stolen credit card numbers, control over zombied PCs for World of Warcraft gold, or passwords to porn sites for validated spam addresses. He might even contract for specific services, ranging from mundane transcription of documents to decoding of CAPTCHAs to obtaining the phone records of an HP board member.

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CNet review of Levi’s RedWire DLX Jeans


C|Net Asia has a review of Levi’s RedWire DLX Jeans, which include a watch pocket for your iPod Nano and a mini joystick on the outside for controlling it. Looks like Levi’s also groks that the iPod is as much a fashion accessory as it is an MP3 player, and matches accordingly:

The material is rather like a pair of Levi’s 523s. Tough and with a yielding woven pattern. In affirmation of the MP3 player it carries, the DLX’s detailing are colored a classic iPod white; from rivets to the button-fly and right down to the use of white embroidered threads.

(Thanks to Aileen for the link!)

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Diebold’s AccuVote-TS Voting Machine

A few days ago Ed Felton announced he and his students had released a detailed security analysis of the Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine. The executive summary and/or demonstration video is well worth a look, and the full research paper is a must-read for anyone interested in computer security.

By later that day, the president of Diebold Election Systems had issued a rebuttal. I’m a security dabbler, not an expert, but to my semi-trained eye the rebuttal looks like a bunch of smoke. I’m looking forward to hearing the Princeton authors’ response [Update 9/22: posted here], but while I’m waiting for that here’s my own take on it:

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Breaking iTunes Music Store DRM

A couple weeks ago QTFairUse was ported to iTunes 6. Yes, it was just in time for Apple to release iTunes 7, but it looks like it’s also working at least for on music purchased with iTunes 7 as well.

Unfortunately, it’s Windows only (and still a little unstable I gather), but hopefully this means JHymn will soon be updated to work on the latest iTunes. Then maybe I’ll actually start purchasing from the iTunes Music Store again…

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Comments enabled again

My apologies for comments being broken for so long on this site. Spammers were pounding the comments script, and we had to remove it entirely just to keep the server from being brought to its knees. (I still get around 1000 attempts per day, even though the script has been gone a month or more.)

Comments are now working again, with a new JavaScript hack that disguises the script name itself. It’s an easy hack to get around, but I’m hoping not enough people are using this particular hack that spammers have found it worth it to automate a work-around.

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Subliminals in my spam

subliminal-spam-buy.jpg This may be old hat to some of you, but it was new to me — I just got an email spam that includes subliminals. The whole ad is an animated GIF designed such that the word BUY! flashes over the email for a split second every 30 seconds (including briefly as the email loads). I doubt this’ll actually make the spam any more effective (and in this case it’s a stock-push-scam, so the spammer-scammer won’t know either), but it’s interesting to see what they’re up to these days.

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