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Tag: hackers


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Stock Market

// Posted by on 06/04/2015 (11:02 AM)

I recently got involved with stocks and bonds so this week’s reading was interesting to me. I always envisioned people standing around frantically waiting for the prices of stock to change so they could buy or sell accordingly. I… Read more

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I recently got involved with stocks and bonds so this week’s reading was interesting to me. I always envisioned people standing around frantically waiting for the prices of stock to change so they could buy or sell accordingly. I suppose I got this vision from watching movies about the stock exchange floors on Wall Street. It never occurred to me that with advancements in technology that this could be done on a computer.

According to the article “Raging Bulls” leading up to 1970 stock exchange was done by telegraphic stock tickers and telephone calls. The article “High Frequency Trading” states that investors had to call brokerage firms in order to make trades and the firms would then have to call to the stock exchange floor to actually make the trade happen. This was a very time consuming task. With the advancements in technology this has now changed to being done on the computer by algorithms. The article “Raging Bulls” states that this is a good thing because “computers never get bored so they will haggle more than the person would.”

The articles seemed to try to persuade me the stock market going digital was a good thing. One example from “Raging Bulls” is that this was a good thing because computers can make the trades happen a lot faster than humans could. Another example from “High Frequency Trading” was that computers are more reliable than people. Another example that I have found in my dealings with the stock market is now that they are on the computer I can find out the price of stock much faster. Some people still go to the newspaper to look at prices but it is a lot easier for me to just do a quick Internet search.

Although those example seem to be positive I still worry about hackers. If hackers can hack into our computers and steal information then couldn’t they mess with the stock market? I found my answer in this week’s reading of “Raging Bulls.” I read that hackers can get into the stock exchange and input algorithms that could mess up the whole stock market. This seems to make me wonder if going digital was worth it?


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Hackers

// Posted by on 05/28/2015 (5:56 PM)

This weeks reading was very eye opening for me. I am not one to watch the news every day but in the past few semester I have taken courses that require me to become more knowledgeable in what is going… Read more

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This weeks reading was very eye opening for me. I am not one to watch the news every day but in the past few semester I have taken courses that require me to become more knowledgeable in what is going on in the world around me. I guess growing up in this digital age I assumed that the technology had always been around and was not new to people. One mind-blowing fact I learned this week was that there are people being paid to hack into others computers to see what they are doing. While reading this week I went back and forth as to whether I agreed with the idea of Stuxnet and how it was hacked. It also made me go back and forth on my thoughts about Snowden as there are people from both situations that were thought of as trying to sabotage our nation.

The difference between Snowden and Stuxnet to me is that Snowden was trying to help our country and Stuxnet was a virus aimed to attack another country. As an American I agree with both because they are both helping to protect our country. Nuclear warfare is not a new fear for the United States. We have feared this type of attack for a long time. This is the reason why Stuxnet was created. The government was trying to protect our country against this type of attack. The reason that I went back and forth as to whether I agreed with hackers is because of the fact that they are paid to do try to hurt others work. I realize though that the creators of Stuxnet were also hackers so I guess I am still undecided if the idea is positive for the greater good or negative.

I can only imagine the scramble that the creators of Stuxnet were in when they realized that hackers had started to decode their system. It amazes me that there are people who are paid to hack these systems. Moreover it is crazy to me how much money people are paid when they do find a zero day in a system. I think that this is a good skill to have but only if it is used for the right reason.

I liked the idea of the Idefense that we read about. This was where hackers could turn in the information they had discovered about zerodays to a safe place. I think that there should be more incentive to have people do this because I am sure many people are selling to the black market just because they get the most money. As the world is changing and technology is advancing I think that more people should get involved in the information technology system as it seems that it is a career that will always have an opening.


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Mass Survellience

// Posted by on 05/26/2015 (10:32 PM)

Former government employees, hackers and journalist are educating American citizens who have a false since of security regarding government activities and their personal data.  Similarly to how Brand and Brilliant provided The Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL, an… Read more

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Former government employees, hackers and journalist are educating American citizens who have a false since of security regarding government activities and their personal data.  Similarly to how Brand and Brilliant provided The Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL, an online meeting place for their followers (hackers, journalist and other professionals), people could log onto WikiLeaks.org and obtain classified government information unattainable elsewhere.  The activities being uncovered include illegal, immoral and murderous practices, and are costing tax payers billions of dollars.

As written in the article, The NSA is building the country’s biggest spy center, billions are dollars being spent on secret facilities such as Bluffdale (a facility that will be five times the size of the US Capitol) filled with servers, computer intelligence experts, and armed guards. The author indicates “Its purpose to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the WORLD’s communication obtained from satellites, underground and over the ground wiring”.  Not just pertinent information needed for national security but all information.

Oddly enough, these informants work unaccompanied or in small groups which brings to mind the biblical story of David and Goliath with Goliath representing the bureaucracy.  Captured from the article, Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations Edward Snowden believed that the public deserved to know about the “threat to democracy” occurring with hidden government actions which included a “federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers” that exist in a “world that I love” even though he has now become a fugitive from this world. I think he felt if he did not act quickly the abuse of power would have continued its downward spiral.

Snowden understood that he will be ridiculed by the media and punished including put to death by government in the event he is caught but this martyr seems to put the good of others first when he states that “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more”.  His fears were justified as he lives in isolation, fearful for his life and of his loved ones.  I have always been more of a follower than a leader and doubt I would have the same courage to antagonize a hunger lion as Snowden.  The hunger lion referenced would be the sometimes embarrassed, overly incompetent and overly zealous NSA who seemed to stand idly by during 9-11, World Trade Center and other terrorist attacks successfully executed.

United States government employees and agencies are participating in unwarranted, secretive, and illegal activity against its citizens and citizens of other countries via the internet and phone conversations which are being uncovered and share with a very naïve public under the guise of our own safety.  In the article, No Secrets Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency, Assange “shared confidential information and publish it on a Web site called WikiLeaks.org and in a manner that it could not be erased”.  These illegal activities are not limited to the USA but others have threatened legal actions include unscrupulous Kenyan politicians, the Swiss banks, Russian offshore stem-cell centers, former African kleptocrats, or the Pentagon.”

Do the ends justify the means?  I think it does when the purpose is as noble and self-less as has been documented in these articles.  Especially when the end result brings about the kind of enlightenment that both Snowden and Assange’s have shared.  In the article, How digital detectives deciphered stuxnet, the most menacing malware in history the reader is introduced to how the zero-day code can infect thousands of computers in high usage countries and extracting confidential information and return this information to multiple locations.  The data stored by the worm used to track down the source and can be fixed or sold.

I get the sense that few are truly against US surveillance when it is properly regulated and those who abuse the power are quickly punished.  I am grateful to reports like Glen Greenwald who work to uncover the truth exposing the antagonist and the protagonist, all while being unafraid of the blowback. I think this type of work encourages the leaders to take positive action regardless of the cost.

Interesting links

http://us.macmillan.com/static/holt/greenwald/NoPlaceToHide-Documents-Compressed.pdf

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/05/12/311619780/glenn-greenwald-nsa-believes-it-should-be-able-to-monitor-all-communication <http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2014/05/12/311619780/glenn-greenwald-nsa-believes-it-should-be-able-to-monitor-all-communication>

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/11/19/irrelevance-u-s-congress-stopping-nsas-mass-surveillance/ <https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/11/19/irrelevance-u-s-congress-stopping-nsas-mass-surveillance/>

 

 

 


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My opinion on Snowden

// Posted by on 05/26/2015 (8:26 PM)

Edward Snowden is referred to as a whistleblower. We all know why he is a whistleblower and have our own opinions as to whether what he did was right or wrong. In my personal opinion I believe what he did… Read more

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Edward Snowden is referred to as a whistleblower. We all know why he is a whistleblower and have our own opinions as to whether what he did was right or wrong. In my personal opinion I believe what he did was right. He did what he did in order to protect our country and not let the government take complete control over our lives. He has no benefit in his decision, he really lost everything he had in order to try to save our country.

What the NSA was doing is against the law. They are invading innocent people’s privacy without any type of legal ramifications. I feel that the NSA thought what they were doing was for the good of our country by trying to stay on top of terrorists but they took it too far. They were abusing their power as a government agency and by paying computer technicians hack into illegal territories. The NSA knew that they needed a warrant for wiretapping but they did not obtain a warrants before wiretapping. It seems that they just got carried away listening to everyone’s conversations and looking at everyone’s emails and text messages because they were not only looking into the United States citizens information, but at people from all over the world.

Working in the legal field makes this topic especially interesting to me, especially with the advancement in technology. Technology is ever changing and growing but unfortunately the law does not change as fast. The law takes time to catch up with technological advances but people should be able to use their own judgment as to whether or not something seems to be illegal. In this case wiretapping without a warrant was against the law.  Probable cause was needed in order for a search warrant to be issued for the government to wiretap and this was not happening. According to the article from Wired after Snowden released his information the government put a hold of warrantless wiretapping of cell phone and email records, it also states this is one thing that would never have happened if it were not for Snowden.

Many people may think that Snowden did this to destroy our country; some even consider him as a terrorist himself. People have considered him a terrorist because he told other countries what we were doing to them, which could have in turn, caused a way between the US and other countries or caused a lack of trust and relationship. I do not agree with these peoples opinion because I still think Snowden was acting in our best interest when he released this information. The other countries deserved to know that they were being watched because it was uncalled for by the US. If we trust these countries and have alliances with them than we should trust they would not turn on us. Like I said before Snowden was not gaining anything out of this other than hope that the government will change for the betterment of his family and friends he left behind in the US.

Another reason I believe that Snowden was not doing this for his own self is because he carefully chose when he released to the public. He took a lot of time and go through documents in order to see what needed to be released. He took into consideration information with people’s personal stuff and tried to protect individual’s identity. According to the Wired article Snowden also tried to leave a trail of what information he copied and what information he just touched in order to give the government a better understanding of what he had taken and what they needed to focus on.

Snowden held out for a couple of years before releasing the information hoping that change would come and there would be a stop to the corruption. All of the articles we have read talk about how he though the Obama administration would be different but it was not. His last straw was when he found out about a new storage center in Bluffdale, Utah. This was going to be a place that would store so much date and essential be like a cloud of all date taken for the NSA. This was going to take the invasion to a whole new level and Snowden was not happy about it. I believe that if Snowden had not have come clean that there would be a lot of damage that would have been done at this new storage facility. People are focusing on the negative effects that Snowden brought but imagine if he had not come clean and so much information was accumulated in Bluffdale that could be even more damaging when released by him or another whistleblower. There is a time and place for everything and I think that Snowden was ready to get the guilt off of his chest.

Throughout my readings on Snowden from this class and other classes it seems that the reporters and media outlets have really worked hard to get the answers we want to hear. I can’t imagine being one of the reporters that was given all of this information and trying to figure out what to do with it. It seems like for the most part it was handled in the best way possible considering nothing like this had happened before. I am sure that it was hard for the average person to believe some random person that the government was doing these bad things but thankfully it was given to someone who had the knowledge to decrypt the information and figure out that what Snowden was saying was true. Overall I stick to my opinion that what he did was right and we now know that we have no privacy.

 

PS- I had two pictures to add but I could not get them to upload, I kept getting an error message.


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Week 1

// Posted by on 05/14/2015 (11:08 AM)

Perceptions of the Internet-

My perception of the Internet has changed a lot since our first class meeting. I will be completely honest that before our discussion in class I just assumed that Google was the Internet. I was aware… Read more

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Perceptions of the Internet-

My perception of the Internet has changed a lot since our first class meeting. I will be completely honest that before our discussion in class I just assumed that Google was the Internet. I was aware that there were other websites you could go to search such as Yahoo and Bing but I rarely used them so I just thought they were not as powerful as Google. Whenever I open the Internet I go directly to Google. I do this on my personal Apple laptop and work Dell computer. Google is not necessarily set as my home page but I always type it in the search bar and then go find what I am looking for through Google. It makes since now that we have talked about how Google is a search engine and not the Internet as a whole. Another perception I have for the Internet is that it is a place I can go and ask any question and find many different answers. I am aware that not all the answers I find will be correct but I know that I can get a better understanding of something if I search for it on the Internet. From taking classes here at U of R I have always learned that the Internet is not a private place. There is no one monitoring what is put on the Internet and for the most part no rules as to what people can do. Most people would be considerate to others by not hacking into their computer and stealing their personal information but there are some people who have no respect for others and will take any information they can find and use it to their advantage. Another perception I have of the Internet is anything done on the Internet never goes away. My understanding is that once you have typed something on the Internet that it will always be linked back to you no matter what. I feel that there are still many things that I have to learn about the Internet and I look forward to learning more through this class.

Rules of engagement-

One suggestion I would have for rules of engagement for our weekly at home activity would be to have a minimum and maximum word count for all posts. This way we can make sure that our posts are not too lengthy to the point that people do not read them. I think that a fair requirement for minimum post would be 150 words and a maximum of 500 words. Another suggestion that I would have would be to make a deadline during the week for a post to be due and a few days later a due date for the response. It is understood that we are all professionals and have families but we need to make sure we post our work before Sunday night so that classmates are able to engage in a discussion and ask questions about posts. The most important rule that I would suggest is for everyone to make sure there post and responses are always respectful. Everyone comes from a different background with different cultures so not everyone may agree on a particular issue. We should respect other people’s opinion when responding to their posts.


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Protesters or Pirates (Tec Collaboration)

// Posted by on 02/14/2014 (4:58 PM)

          Does information really want to be free? Information may want to be free, however intellect does not. Intellect has forever been valued and should never be tampered with. People have the right to their own ideas, whether you publish… Read more

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          Does information really want to be free? Information may want to be free, however intellect does not. Intellect has forever been valued and should never be tampered with. People have the right to their own ideas, whether you publish it in a book or “tweet” it, every thought belongs to its owner. Anonymous should no longer be able to hack our systems and retrieve information that is not rightfully theirs. Although some of their motives may have universally positive impacts, their behavior outside of the law qualifies them as a near terrorist organization. According to the FBI, the definition of domestic terrorism is, “to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the content of a government by mass destruction.” We believe by this definition the actions of the member from Anonymous are considered domestic terrorist.

WikiLeaks, run by the non-profit group Sunshine Press, is a website that promotes itself as “the intelligence agency of the people”.  The site is committed to exposing suppressed government & corporation corruption by publicizing many of their closely guarded secrets.  Over the past few years, it has become an increasingly hated target of numerous government and economic elites worldwide, as it has been responsible for the exposure of numerous confidential, incriminating documents that publicized the activities of many different governments and corporations.  Within our group, we tried to reason whether WikiLeaks should be regarded as free speech or illegal speech.  The general consensus was that, although WikiLeaks prides itself on being the intelligence agency of the people, it is generally threatening to the confidentiality and safety of the various world governments as well as the people themselves.  The Site is based on obtaining a wide-array of secret documents and sharing them with the public, but how do we know what effects that will have?  They are sharing incriminating information under the guise of free speech and we have to wonder to what degree is that justifiable?  There is an increasingly blurred line between what information should be “free”, as hackers can access almost anything and, as we have learned, the government can too.  In a society where the Internet and information are becoming more easily accessible and widely shared, it is difficult to decipher the boundaries between private and public.

        As Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore discuss in their article, “The End of Hypocrisy” the WikiLeaks group needs to be stopped. Farrel and Finnemore call the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a “high-tech terrorist.” We totally agree with these two authors as high valued information, such as government operations should never be leaked to the public. There are certain facts and/or ideas that the American citizens and foreign countries should never find out. Hacking into the government database and retrieving knowledge and confidential documents should never happen. I do agree with Farrell and Finnemore that the American public should no longer be lied to about government information. We all deserve to know more, however not as much as the WikiLeaks uncover. There is certain restricted information that should forever be kept secret.

The argument of cyber libertarianism made David Golumbia, that information wants to be free, does not hold true in all cases. While many of us are willing and happy to publish our thoughts and ideas online for free in the form of blogs, tweets, and Wikipedia. This does not hold true in case of classified government documents. During the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden an employee of a company contracted by the National Security Agency. He leaked the details of two high-level intelligence programs the FBI and NSA use to collect information in order to protect American citizens from terrorists attacks. Upon the initial leak of information, the public was in shock of our government’s ability to collect information such as call logs and email chains. Upon further investigation, provide by the United States Congressional hearing of the FBI and it’s director Robert Mueller, it is the clear that this programs have provided the FBI with important information, crucial to protecting American citizens from terrorist attacks. Edwards Snowden’s actions do not classify him as a whistleblower but rather an American traitor.  The ability to share and spread information over the Internet does not mean that all information that is store in a digital format is meant to shared with the public. In Snowden’s interview with The Guardian, He explains how he exposed this information to make the public aware of the actions of it’s government, but no where in the article or interview does he go into the real specifics of the program. The truth behind the government’s abilities and actions are best explained in the Congressional hearing, available on C-span.

This is how information should be provided to the people, by our own government not by individual actors motivated by private agendas. While it is important to have oversight on our government and to hold them responsible for their actions, we do not believe that hacking and leaking is the most efficient and legitimate way to go about this. Hacking and leaking does not provide for any formal structure to prevent issues exposed by hackers from happening again. It simply gives instant gratification to those who feel that an injustice has occurred. This is not the way to build a safe and product society.

Transparency and accountability within government processes and corporations are expected now more than ever in the Internet era. The Internet has allowed people to access and share information more readily, which, in the case of Wikileaks, can have questionable ethical implications. The notion of “Information wants to be free” is the driving force behind Anonymous, hackers, and Wikileaks, but what does this really mean? Unfortunately, because of the dangerous consequences of Wikileaks in regards to government operations, the State has to respond in a more authoritarian way, which results in harsher penalties for hackers and cutting off access to revenue in the case of Wikileaks. The State is aware that their consequences are being scrutinized by the public, and in some ways, this is a good thing—the State can no longer can deceived the population. We have been grappling with the ethical motives behind Annoymous hacks and Wikileaks. What makes the debate harder is that some things that are leaked and brought to the public eye are done with good intentions—to bring hard issues to light, such as the dealings with the Ohio rape case. However, in most other cases, confidential information is someone’s property, and leaking that confidential information is piracy. Further, Wikileaks and Anonymous could be considered a “foreign terrorist organizations” because they are threatening organizations and intimidating their opposition. If you try to take down Anonymous response to their hackings, you get destroyed.

           In previous weeks, we’ve talked about the “third space” that the internet provides for a shared global culture. This idea of a shared space seemed to be a running theme in many of the arguments about WikiLeaks in the article “Leaky Geopolitics.” Many of the contributors discussed how a site like WikiLeaks provides a space for an overwhelming wealth of information and knowledge, but the article also expresses the concerns that a space like this presents: a challenge to the sovereignty of physical nations, the amorphous and expanding nature of WikiLeaks and the danger and the geopolitical influence such shared information has. But the authors also make a point to discuss how WikiLeaks points out flaws within our current geopolitical culture: the notion that a site of free flowing information like WikiLeaks must be controlled, the violent extent to which governments will go to do so and how this highlights issues such as hypercapitalism, privacy and political corruption. There doesn’t seem to be a distinct opinion on whether WikiLeaks is inherently “good” or “evil.” The debate mostly shows the uncertainty surrounding the site.

        The big issue presented by WikiLeaks is that it is completely unassociated with any state. In the first section by Simon Springer and Heather Chi, they describe how such a fluid flow of information will intrinsically pose a threat to and destabilize state power. Critical public scrutiny of state action opens up the idea of sovereignty and where power really lies. Springer and Chi emphasize the shift toward the values of transparency and accountability, yet the reaction of the state to leaked information is the authoritarian action of shutting down and blocking websites. Not only does WikiLeaks become a grey area of who controls what, but it also prompted governments to act in unexpectedly harsh ways. In democratic nations like the United States, the government’s need to strictly control WikiLeaks begins to question how democratic those actions are.

        What I found most interesting in this article, though, was Fiona McConnell’s concluding line about the overall perception of WikiLeaks: “WikiLeaks may have made certain procedures of foreign policy transparent, but having the information and acting upon it are two very different processes.” This brings up the question of whether WikiLeaks is really that much of a threat, or if nation states are overreacting in their handling of it. How do you control the flow of information in such a decentralized space such as the internet, and how do you determine if it’s even worth controlling at all?


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Hackers vs. Planners

// Posted by on 01/25/2014 (2:10 PM)

In Stuart Brand’s article, “Spacewar” he pulls apart and identifies the differences between these “hackers” and “planners.” At first I was a bit confused reading about these, so-called hackers, and how they would all get together in the forums to… Read more

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In Stuart Brand’s article, “Spacewar” he pulls apart and identifies the differences between these “hackers” and “planners.” At first I was a bit confused reading about these, so-called hackers, and how they would all get together in the forums to talk about hacking. Today, hackers have a negative connotation, as we associate them with trying to steal our personal information on the internet. However, in Brand’s article, hackers refers to these young and free-spirited  type of people who believe that all information should be free, i.e. The Hackers Ethics. These planners on the other hand, the professors and “old school” bunch, believe that you should never do anything for free. They are the thinkers, not the go getters. These planners want the hackers information and knowledge in order to sell it. The hackers were always a couple steps ahead of these planners, because they knew how to jump right into a computer, take it apart, and change its whole system for the better. The hackers did not care about the money part, they cared solely about the information.

After reading this article, I began thinking about which one I would be, a hacker or a planner. With some thinking, I decided I would definitely be a hacker. I am not one to sit around and map out my plan of action, but more of a “jump right in” kind of person. I love the aspect of the hacker that they do not plan, and they are willing to just start taking computers apart, adding different things and coming up with a faster and easier operating system. I commend them for believing in the idea that all information should be free. However, that is one part that I do not totally agree with. I know that if I came up with some sort of valuable code that Apple computer wanted, I would not want my hard work to be free. The world runs on the successes of people, these hackers have given people, globally, opportunities they never would of had otherwise. Information that can transform the world should never be free. What if these hackers and planners were terms used to describe us, which one would you be?

The internet is whole new world, transforming everything around us. Everyday people learn more and more about what the internet is capable of.  It is a place where, as Kevin Kelly writes, we are all equal. There is no hierarchy online, no class distribution, and no judgement. Freedom of speech at its highest form. Kelly talks about a new sort of socialism in his article. The idea that through the internet everyone is created equal, and there is no class structure. Would you agree with that? Would you say that every time you log on to a chat room, facebook, twitter, or any other website, everyone has the same sort of opportunities?


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Your Anon News

// Posted by on 04/22/2013 (2:08 PM)

The famous hacker/activist group Anonymous has just raised enough money to start their own news website, to be entitled Your Anon News (YAN) reports the website ARS Technica. The fundraiser was set up through the website Indiegogo, and raised close… Read more

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The famous hacker/activist group Anonymous has just raised enough money to start their own news website, to be entitled Your Anon News (YAN) reports the website ARS Technica. The fundraiser was set up through the website Indiegogo, and raised close to  55,000 dollars. The article states that Anonymous only set out to collect 2,00o dollars initially.

It is interesting that the group only set out to raise 2,000 dollars but in reality ended up raising a small fortune. To me this shows the support of the people for more influence by Anonymous in their lives. The group is criticized by many for their attacks on certain companies and websites. However for every person who views Anonymous as a terrorist group, there are two people who idolize the group. In recent years the group has made some waves with its hacks and ability to appeal to a good portion of the population.

By creating this news website I believe that Anonymous is looking to create a more dedicated group of followers and loyalists who look up to the group for inspiration. The article states that ”YAN’s mission is also to become more integrated with the news cycle: ‘to report, not just aggregate the news,’” and a video posted by Anonymous stated that “Our goal was to disseminate information we viewed as vital separating it from the political and celebrity gossip that inundates the mainstream.”

Although I do not necessarily agree with some of the groups actions, I am interested to see how they use this news website to convey information that they think is relevant and important. I actually have faith in this new website, I support their point that news nowadays is to mainstream and gossipy. I will be sure to check out the website when it is up and if nothing else at least it will provide me the opportunity to escape from mainstream culture and media for a few minutes.

Check out the video here.


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Hijacking Airplanes, from the Ground.

// Posted by on 04/18/2013 (7:37 AM)

A recent article published by CNN talks of the possibility of an IPhone app that is capable of hijacking an airplane. “A German security consultant, who’s also a commercial pilot, has demonstrated tools he says could be used to hijack… Read more

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A recent article published by CNN talks of the possibility of an IPhone app that is capable of hijacking an airplane. “A German security consultant, who’s also a commercial pilot, has demonstrated tools he says could be used to hijack an airplane remotely, using just an Android phone.” A speaker at the Hack in the Box summit spent 3 years creating an app that he says has the ability to take over control of an airplanes controls. This is a very frightening idea if one looks at it from a security standpoint.

The hacker Hugo Teso actually demonstrated through a flight simulator the power that this app can have over an airplane. “Teso showed off the ability to change the speed, altitude and direction of a virtual airplane by sending radio signals to its flight-management system. Current security systems don’t have strong enough authentication methods to make sure the commands are coming from a legitimate source, he said.” Never before has an app had this type of power, the power to remotely control a plane from your android phone seems crazy, but it is possible.

Thankfully Teso does not plan on using this app for evil and has “said at the summit that he’s reached out to the companies that make the systems he exploited and that they were receptive to addressing his concerns. He also said he’s contacted aviation safety officials in the United States and Europe.” This is welcome news to just about everyone in the world. The power to hijack an airplane is a scary thought and brings to question is technology getting to powerful?

While reading this article I couldn’t help but think thank god that this man made the app, not some deranged person out for vengeance. However, who is to say that next time it wont be someone with cruel intentions who makes an app capable of the same or equal terrorism and chaos. In my head I asked questions that I couldnt contemplate answers for, such as, When is technology going to become to powerful? Will it ever? And lastly if it does what will need to be done to stop it? Will it even be possible to stop such advanced technologies?

 


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Becoming Numb to Information?

// Posted by on 02/26/2013 (7:28 PM)

An interesting question was brought up during class that compared the reactions of the public to people such as Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in different time periods. Ellsberg was responsible for the leak of the PentagonRead more

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An interesting question was brought up during class that compared the reactions of the public to people such as Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange in different time periods. Ellsberg was responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers, while Assange is the creator and public face of the highly controversial Wikileaks web page. In 1971  Ellsberg handed over copies of controversial and top secret documents that Ellsburg said,  ”demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates”.  He gave them to the New York Times and they started publishing documents that proved that government officials were purposely concealing the truth about the Vietnam war and how bad the situation really was. This document was immensely important when it was published, as the Vietnam war was already a highly protested war these papers only added fuel to the fire. It is interesting to compare the impact of this leak to the impact of Wikileaks today. Wikileaks is a website that obtains official classified government documents from anonymous sources, with Julian Assange being the figure head of the website. Wikileaks claims to have millions of classified documents that it is waiting to release at a time of their choosing. Even though they claim to have mass amounts of classified material, interest in the site is dwindling.

Why is Wikileaks, with all its classified documents waiting to be published, not making a bigger impact in the world today? Compared to the pentagon papers Wikileaks is not as influential even though it contains multiple times the classified information that the pentagon papers had. I believe that this lack of interest in Wikileaks is due to a changing of culture. When the pentagon papers were published it was front page of all the newspapers of the time as this was the only way information was available to the public. I believe a lack of technology is actually the reason why the pentagon papers made such a massive impact. People did not have all the resources that are available today so when some new information was presented to the public they ate it up. This need for information from newspapers has changed as the digital world evolved. Now people are overrun with information, from email, internet, television, and social networks, people are constantly being fed information. I believe that because of this plethora of information available today the public is numb to internet leaks like the ones provided by Wikileaks.

It may seem counter intuitive to say that people receive less information today than they did in the time of the pentagon papers, and it may be. However I believe that people of this day and age pick and choose what information makes an impact on their lives. With pop culture expanding I believe that people are more interested in the latest trends and celebrity gossip then a government document that has little to no impact on their lives. Some argue that Wikileaks is not as influential as it could be due to the antics of Julian Assange, who is currently being accused of sexual assault. While this may have some impact on the website I believe the true reason behind a reduced interest is  a numbing of the public to information, due the the sheer amount of information that is available right at their fingertips.

 


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Is Cybercrime a Dominant Threat?

// Posted by on 02/25/2013 (2:20 AM)

 

 

In class on tuesday we had a very interesting conversation about the online group that goes by the name Anonymous. Located on the Anonymous twitter is their mission statement which says “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We… Read more

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In class on tuesday we had a very interesting conversation about the online group that goes by the name Anonymous. Located on the Anonymous twitter is their mission statement which says “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us. As official accounts do not exist, we’re an Anonymous account amongst many.” Anonymous is a hacktivist group of an unknown number of people who are very gifted with hacking computers and accounts. The group was creted over the internet thanks to the website 4chan, whos mission statement is “4chan is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images. There are boards dedicated to a variety of topics, from Japanese animation and culture to videogames, music, and photography. Users do not need to register an account before participating in the community. Feel free to click on a board that interests you and jump right in!”  This is the platform that the members of Anonymous first met and started the  group.

Anonymous is  a very interesting idea, members of the group pretty much pick and choose things they agree with and things they are against, and if they dont agree with someone or a company, they will hack it. The hacks can be mild such as taking over a site and changing things such as the pictures or information on the website, to a more intense hack such as shutting down a site for a few days. Anonymous is known most for  things such as Project Chanology, a youtube video that protested the church of scientology, their attack on the Department of Justice website, and their take down of the Master Card and Visa websites. Anonymous is a very serious group that as the potential to hack many important government documents and big businesses. This bring up the question, should we be scared, and if so what can we do?

This group has the potential to fight for things that ordinary people cant. It also has the power to abuse their hacking skills for legitimate online terrorism. The ordinary human has nowhere near the internet and computer prowess that the members of anonymous have, which makes us not only vulnerable but completely helpless if they decide to hack one of our computers.

Thinking about it we are all at risk from them and other hackers. How does the average person stop a cyberattack from such a powerful group? The sad but true reality is that we really are powerless. if Anonymous decides to hack your computer there is pretty much nothing you can do to stop it. Its a scary thought, to know that we are hopeless to the whims of an online group.

We talked in class about  increasing globalization due to amazing new technologies that are constantly being invented and upgraded. Culture around the world is revolutionizing to a digital world as technology continues to improve. I am interested to see how hackers, online criminals, and groups like Anonymous evolve as well. Will they become more efficient at identity left, hacking computers for information, and taking over websites as a personal vendetta. The group Anonymous is sure to be around for a while and with their future hacks unknown it will be interesting the path they decide to take.

 


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Is Identity Changing?

// Posted by on 02/18/2013 (12:26 AM)

Can ones identity truly be stolen? It seems comical to say that someone can steal your identity, no one can take your features, your personality, your network of friends and family away from you. Someone  can however steal information about you  that is online,… Read more

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Can ones identity truly be stolen? It seems comical to say that someone can steal your identity, no one can take your features, your personality, your network of friends and family away from you. Someone  can however steal information about you  that is online, such as pictures, government documents, credit card info, and more.  Mark Poster brings up an interesting point in his book “Information Please” when he states, “Since the crime of identity theft is quite real, we need to account for a change in the nature of its identity,  its exteriorization and materialization, its becoming vulnerable to theft, its emergence as insecure-within the ideology of individualism” The increasing rates of identity theft are proof that the nature of an online identity is changing.  Where no one can steal away your identity as represented in relationships, actions, and personality.  Your online identity that is made out of documents, credit card info, and pictures is subject to theft from online criminals and hackers.

Identity theft is a growing issue in the modern world. As the internet expands so does the opportunity for criminals to access others information and use it to their advantage. An article published by ABC speaks of rising identity theft rates and the difficulty of stopping them. “The problem is there’s way too much information about us floating around out there,” says Adam Levin, CEO of the security firm Identity Theft 9-1-1.” The amount of information about a person continuously  accumulates as they use the internet more and more. As the internet expands and advances as does the information that can be stolen. So when companies like twitter, Facebook, youtube, and Skype grow so does the information that users supply in the process.  The rising rates of cyber crime are due to businesses and government agencies not being able to monitor such mass amounts of data in time to stop cyber crimes from happening.

It is a very interesting idea that someones identity can actually be stolen. It opens up new meanings behind the world identity that can only exist in cyber space. This change in identity is more evidence of the internets increasingly dominant in the role of our daily lives. It is an interesting topic that leaves many questions dealing with an increasingly digital age that has deep roots in our non digital culture and identities. While answers to those questions may be hard to achieve, there are somethings that are true. One truth is that as the internet continues to expand so will the need for increased security in your digital life. Agencies such as the IRS will be hard pressed to stop the criminals in an infinitely big internet world, this leaves the big question whether they can evolve to deal with issues or let cybercrime rates expand with the internet?


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The US Message Board & Online Anonymity (Phase 1) With Link to Final Project Blog

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (5:09 PM)

Click here to visit my final research project blog…

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Throughout this semester the topic of online anonymity keeps resurfacing in different avenues of the digital landscape. In my project, I have immersed myself in the US Message Board website.… Read more

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Click here to visit my final research project blog…

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Throughout this semester the topic of online anonymity keeps resurfacing in different avenues of the digital landscape. In my project, I have immersed myself in the US Message Board website. The US Message Board is an online political forum that includes many different categories of politically related topics (such as: politics, religion, healthcare, conspiracy theories, race/racism) as well as more miscellaneous/general topics (such as: sports, food and wine, etc). While some users can choose taglines that reflect pieces of their assumed-to-be-real names, most choose fictional tag names, incorporating to some extent the idea of anonymity.

Many people critique the educational value, or lack thereof, of discussion forums like US Message Board. During my digital travels, I have been reading discussions while thinking about the following questions: What causes people to feel this way? Do users accredit their posts’ information or educational background? How do users interact and are discussions advanced? How does the idea of anonymity play into the discussions? Would they be different without it?

When I began my immersion in the US Message Board (USMB) site, I began by reading their “Rules & Regulations”. While the overall tone of the page at times appeared humorous and sarcastic, there were basic rules that they regularly enforce. Among them: linking information to sources (citing), no pornographic/obscene/indecent images, all users share the right to express their own beliefs/faiths/opinions, and every user must not reveal personal contact information about themselves or others (full name, address, phone number, and e-mail address). This page ends with, “Currently whipping the hamsters to keep things running.” In a way, USMB acts a little like 4chan – except it doesn’t tolerate porn. Every user utilizes an anonymous identity, and they can say whatever they want (though USMB doesn’t tolerate as much language as 4chan does). After reading these rules and concluding USMB members might be like 4chan users, I braved myself for some low-level educational value in the discussions. However, the topics on USMB actually hold relevance and importance; unlike say the “Sexy Beautiful Women” category on 4chan.

Since the USMB features so many different discussion topics, I decided to narrow down my investigation to the current debate over taxes. The discussion titled, “So people who earn a million a year pay a lower tax rate than the middle class” has been my latest investigation. While the first post presented how much a person earning a million dollars a year would pay in income tax versus a person earning fifty thousand dollars, shutting down the seemingly naïve claim of the discussion topic. Then you get someone commenting about how most Americans do not pay their fair share, then comes a user commenting “Obama bin lying…”. This combination of substantial, “fact” filled posts with random comments that don’t seem to add anything has appeared to be a common pattern in USMB discussions.

However, I have found (much to my surprise) many posts that seem to contain factual, relevant information that sparks questions and feedback that advance the conversation (not always the original discussion topic, but the current conversation of the board). Contrary to the USMB’s Rules and Regulations, many of these statistics, “facts”, or quotes ever appear to be cited to referred to another source. How can I accept these claims to be true? Many of the USMB users seem to either agree with other users’ uncited claims – perhaps by either knowing them to be true (if it could be considered general tax knowledge) or by blindly accepting and trusting their community’s members.

That being said, there are some comments by users who seem to have the untrusting reader in mind. One user provided links to various news articles, providing a point of information he summarized below each. While you didn’t have to agree with his conclusions, the sources he was basing them off were there for you to see. This brave user was consequently shut down immediately by the next user who picked specific points from the various articles to dismantle the other user’s claims. Poor guy.

While people like Stewart Brand envisioned online communities to be a place of trust, growth, and educational expansion, I cannot confirm this ideal for the USMB – at least not yet. While many opinions are made on the site, the replies seem to most often spark a back and forth bashing of different viewpoints, never opening up the table for compromise or an understanding of opposition.

In a series of negative reviews of USMB, retired users explain how much the site has changed since they initially began using it. The changes described remind me much of what many of the hackers we read about in Vanity Fair. Many of the USMB users became trolls and hackers who threatened other users via private messages with physical violence – including rape. Other threats were made verbally (well typed) with obscene language, which is tolerated on the site due to users’ protest for “freedom of speech”.

As of now, it seems my original doubts about anonymous online communities being a place for positive educational growth have been mostly confirmed. While I, like retired users, admit to many discussion posts containing educational, worthy information, sometimes it seems these posts are overshadowed by the hackers who use it for harm or uneducated users who post solely to undermine opinions not aligned with their own.

In the next phase of my project, I want to explore more discussions on taxes in other digital spaces. I will compare discussions utilizing anonymous identities versus real ones. How will the discussions be different? Will people be more concerned with citing their sources in an effort to legitimize their comments? Will people be able to criticize other posts as easily as they do in the USMB? My thoughts now are that when people post under the anonymous mask (and without source references), they feel much more confident and free to write whatever they wish, while users utilizing a true identity take more precaution in their online posts.


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Internet: The Next World War?

// Posted by on 04/09/2012 (11:35 PM)

My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a… Read more

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My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a simple question, the answer is rather loaded. Interestingly enough, the article brought most of what has been discussed on this blog full circle.

The question over who will control the internet has come to the forefront of any debate regarding the internet. At the end of 2012, there will be a negotiation between 193 nations to revise a UN treaty pertaining to the Internet.

“The War for the Internet was inevitable—a time bomb built into its creation.”

There is no doubt that the question of control would eventually arise. However, it seems that no one is ready to answer it on a global scale now that the question has come knocking. The article clearly explains that the “Internet was established on a bedrock of trust: trust that people were who they said they were, and trust that information would be handled according to existing social and legal norms. That foundation of trust crumbled as the Internet expanded.” The issue of trust arises because of four crises regarding the internet: sovereignty, piracy and intellectual property, privacy and security. From PIPA to SOPA to Anonymous to MegaShare and WikiLeaks, the initial trust which the internet was founded on has begun to crumble.

Thus, the world of the internet lies in the midst of two polarized notions: Order v. Disorder and Control v. Chaos. The article explains that “the forces of Order want to superimpose existing, pre-digital power structures and their associated notions of privacy, intellectual property, security, and sovereignty onto the Internet. The forces of Disorder want to abandon those rickety old structures and let the will of the crowd create a new global culture, maybe even new kinds of virtual “countries.” At their most extreme, the forces of Disorder want an Internet with no rules at all.” What would the Internet be like with no rules at all? Would it function? Would the users of the Internet truly be able to self-govern? Could the entire Internet run like Wikipedia, where every contributor checks and ultimately balances every other contributor? Or is such a notion idealistic?

When thinking about the Internet and thus, control over the internet, why the internet was created must also be address. The Internet was intended to deal with a military problem, it was not intended to does what it does today. Vint Cerf a “father of the Internet” and the “Internet Evangelist” (his actual title at Google) along with Robert Kahn created the TCP/IP protocol which allows computers and networks all over the world to talk to one another. However, the development was initially created to help the military, not for you or I. Since it was designed to be undetectable in terms of a center, the Internet has no center.

Internet has no center

The testament to the nonexistence of a center for the internet was the creation of ICANN in 1998. ICANN “signaled that the Internet would be something akin to global patrimony, not an online version of American soil.” When thinking about the Internet, many people, especially Americans, think of the Internet as an extension of American culture. While American culture is widely dispersed throughout the Internet, it is not the only cultural that is shared. There exists a multiculturalism through the Internet that does not make it merely an online version of America. This perhaps is the reason why the Internet economy was grabbed globally. The Internet economy was not just an economy for American, it was an economy for everyone. However, with a shared Internet economy, nations lost old ideals of governance.

While it seems that the battle for control is driven by corporate ambitions, the real war is driven by governments. Cerf explains that “If you think about protecting the population and observing our conventional freedoms, the two [the Internet and Government] are real­ly very much in tension.”

The DefCon Hackers Conference intended to bridge the gap between hackers and the government. Jeff Moss (or Dark Tangent), DefCon’s founder, uses DefCon to promote conversation between the Internet’s forces of Order and Disorder. Moss has become the go-between who translates his subculture’s concerns to the culture at large, and vice versa. Each year, increasing numbers of law-enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel attend Def Con. This is one unique way that the bridge between the world of the Net and the world of government have successfully and peacefully (without war) converged.

Among the things that are explained by Moss are the nature of hackers. Collective hackers, like Anonymous work as a hive. There allegiance is to the hive above all else. It is not to a government or corporation. Such a notion of a hive speaks directly to Jane McGonigal’s belief in the power of the hive. Perhaps the power of the hive is the true power of the internet. The truth that allegiances have shifted from nations to hives.

 “Everybody always calls it rebuilding the airplane in flight. We can’t stop and reboot the Internet.”

Since the internet can’t be stopped, its challenges must be addressed. Vanity Fair suggests that there will be three issues on the table at the negotiations in Dubai at the end of the year: taxation (a “per click” levy on international Internet traffic), data privacy and cyber-security (no more anonymity) and Internet management (global information-security “code of conduct”).  The article suggests that anonymity has contributed to, if not created, almost every problem at issue in the War for the Internet. Is anonymity really the issues? Would we need control if our real names were attached to over Internet habits? Vanity Fair suggests that currently “the task at hand is finding some way to square the circle: a way to have both anonymity and authentication—and therefore both generative chaos and the capacity for control—without absolute insistence on either.” Perhaps the greatest challenge with the internet is that there is no real absolutes. Black and white issues are much easier to address than those with shades of grey.

Many believe that the Domain Name Systems, the Internet’s only central feature, must be shielded from government control however, through organizations like ICANN governments will still be involved without controlling it. Arguably, the most important issue when debating the control over the internet is the need to preserve “network neutrality”. One thing that many agree on: The Internet is open to everyone, service providers cannot discriminate and all applications and content moves at the same speed– this should not change. If the Internet is one thing, it ought to be fair.


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The Positive Side of Hacking

// Posted by on 02/28/2012 (7:50 PM)

Given the tremendous amount of attention hacking has received in the last couple years, especially due to groups like Anonymous and the Stuxnet virus last year, hacking has come to inherit a pretty negative stigma. Just tonight, Interpol released a… Read more

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Given the tremendous amount of attention hacking has received in the last couple years, especially due to groups like Anonymous and the Stuxnet virus last year, hacking has come to inherit a pretty negative stigma. Just tonight, Interpol released a statement describing the arrest of some 25 individuals associated with the hacker group Anonymous, in a coordinated international operation across four countries in Latin America and Europe. The statement goes on to quote Bernd Rossbach, Acting Interpol Executive Director of Police Services: “This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted.” The article seems to me to imply that all hacking is necessarily criminal, which is somewhat misleading.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the good guys, who use their powers for good and not evil. People like Charlie Miller, winner of the 2011 Pwn2Own hacking competition held at the annual CanSecWest security conference (and I know, how dare I link to wikipedia… but it gets the job done with only 1 link).

At the competition, hackers are offered cash incentives to exploit various software and browsers on both computers and mobile phones. But why would companies willingly let people hack their products, let alone pay them to do so? Basically, because these companies are then provided with information about the vulnerability that was exploited, so that the company can then attempt to correct the problem and prevent as much harm as possible from malicious hackers.

In fact, since nobody has been able to successfully hack Chrome yet, Google is offering an additional $1 million in “hacker bounties,” on top of the money already offered at the 2012 CanSecWest conference next week. Google wrote on its blog, “We require each set of exploit bugs to be reliable, fully functional end to end, disjoint, of critical impact, present in the latest versions and genuinely ’0-day,’ i.e. not known to us or previously shared with third parties.”

**Update**: a group of french hackers while finally able to hack Chrome at this years Pwn2Own

The point I would like to make is that, while hacking for monetary gain or to take down competition is usually the wrong thing to do, these same skills can be used to help companies fix up and improve their products. Are there any other instances where hacking could be beneficial, as opposed to criminal? Or is hacking something that should be always be considered a malicious act, regardless of the hackers intent?


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If you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em.

// Posted by on 01/29/2012 (5:53 PM)

The discussions of “Spacewar” and Stewart Brand’s idea of hackers made me think more about what hacking has become today in both the forms of social stereotypes as well as financial gains. I began to research the broad topic of… Read more

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The discussions of “Spacewar” and Stewart Brand’s idea of hackers made me think more about what hacking has become today in both the forms of social stereotypes as well as financial gains. I began to research the broad topic of “hacking” and found the issue continually being linked to the keywords “national security” and “youth.” It’s interesting that hackers today are reported to be so young and often times socially maladjusted, let alone potential threats to certain global forms of security. I watched a TedTalk given by Misha Glenny on these hacking youths and he reached a somewhat controversial conclusion: hire them.

 

Misha Glenny: Hire the hackers!

 

I guess it’s a new and improved version of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”… If you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em. In the TedTalk Glenny discusses first the group Anonymous, which does not use their hacked information for financial gain. They are more of a social activist network of hackers who are acting with a purpose for change, not money. Glenny then talks about another group, Carderplanet, which began about 10 years ago. Carderplanet is a group of Ukranian hackers who developed a website which Glenny says “lead to the industrialization of cyber crime.” This website invited cyber criminals to buy and sell stolen credit card information as well as was a hub for learning about new hacking technologies and strategies. Glenny describes what Carderplanet became as a “supermarket for cyber criminals” in which people could, for a buy-in fee, gain access to stolen credit card information or sell stolen information they had. The network of hacking knowledge was used solely for financial gain, a major way in which Carderplanet is different from Anonymous. In the discussion of Carderplanet, Glenny talks about a contact he had with one of its members who was making $150,000 a week by using stolen credit card information in ATMs. “Tax free, of course,” as Glenny puts it.

Glenny goes on to discuss the facts surrounding what we know about how hackers come to be; people learn hacking skills in their early to mid teenage years, generally have advanced skills in math and the sciences, and do not demonstrate very good social skills in the real world. These are important facts to note because the young age as well as diminished social skills indicates that their moral compass has not had a chance to fully develop when they are learning these new skills. They feel somewhat of a disconnect with their surrounding social environment and may not even be fully aware that what they are doing is wrong. This is one main reason that Glenny feels it is wrong to incarcerate these young hackers–instead, he suggests that we “engage and find ways of offering guidance to [hackers] because they are a remarkable breed–if we rely solely on the criminal justice system and the threat of punitive sentences, we will be nurturing a monster we cannot tame.” Essentially, if you can’t beat ‘em, hire ‘em.

This idea, in theory, is not a new one. Although it is illegal to hack, I personally believe that it will always exist. Just as people will always break the speed limit, people will always hack. An important question can then be asked: could teaching basic forms of computer science to children in early years of school create hackers that may cause more harm than good, or will the children who will eventually become hackers find their way to it anyway? If it were a possibility that making computer science a part of early schooling would create more opportunities for children to become hackers, would it still be worthwhile? Do you agree that we should hire the hackers to work for us? Do you think this strategy would work?

 

Misha Glenny TedTalk: Hire the hackers!


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Anonymous

// Posted by on 01/28/2012 (6:23 PM)

Hacking, according to Steven Levy and his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, can be traced back to MIT in the 1940′s, a decade before computer programming was even offered at the school. Back then, hacking referred to… Read more

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Hacking, according to Steven Levy and his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, can be traced back to MIT in the 1940′s, a decade before computer programming was even offered at the school. Back then, hacking referred to a particular work ethic: a “hack” was “a project undertaken or a product built not solely to fulfill some constructive goal, but with some wild pleasure taken in mere involvement.” Eventually, with the rise of computers, the hacking style of work could be applied to computer programming as well. Within the research community, hackers focused on the computer systems themselves, and worked at trying to see what they could do with them. In the beginning, hackers focused on the computer hardware and soon computer games, and their stigma was that of “semi-indpendent, creative individuals.” From this cultural movement of hackers came the hacker ethic:

  1. “Access to computers- and anything which might teach you something about the way the world works- should be unlimited and total. Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative!..
  2. All Information should be free….
  3. Mistrust Authority- Promote Decentralization…
  4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking, not bogus criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position…
  5. You can create art and beauty on a computer…
  6. Computers can change your life for the better.”

In this early hacker community, hackers made the programs they were working on available to one another, with the expectation that the program would then be added on to, improved, and made available again, because “the Right Thing to do was make sure that any good program got the fullest exposure possible because information was free and the world would only be improved by its accelerated flow.” Decades later, this same ethic would reemerge with the group and movement known as Anonymous.

Anonymous is a group that is particularly hard to define. While most people agree that they are hackers, the term hacker has been somewhat misconstrued over the years. At its core, according to a three-part series on Anonymous on wired.com by Quinn Norton, Anonymous is a culture. Says Norton, “It takes cultures to have albums, idioms, and iconography, and I was swimming in these and more. Anonymous is a nascent and small culture, but one with its own aesthetics and values, art and literature, social norms and ways of production, and even its own dialectic language. It is no wonder we in the media and the wider culture are often confused. Any study of Anonymous must be anthropological, taking into account the way people exist in different societies. The media has just been looking for an organization with a leader who could explain why Anonymous seems to do weird things.”

In tracing the history of Anonymous, Norton acknowledges the rise of computer culture in general throughout the 1960′s and 1970′s countercultural movement featured in Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture. In fact, in my opinion, Anonymous is perhaps the best, if not the most current, example of the blend between counterculture and cyberculture. However, while Turner illustrates the movement from offline counterculture to online cyberculture, Anonymous represents the logical next step: the use of widespread cyberculture and its ubiquitous presence in society today to spread its counterculture message. Norton says this in so many words in part 1 of the series by pointing out that “you’re never quite sure if Anonymous is the hero or antihero. The trickster is attracted to change and the need for change, and that’s where Anonymous goes… The trickster as myth proved so compelling that the network made it real. Anonymous, the net’s trickster, emerged like a supernatural movie monster out of the misty realm of ideas and into the real world…For the first time, the internet had shown up on the real street, en masse.”

Anonymous has most definitely evolved over the past couple years, but their goal and message has remained largely unchanged. “In the beginning, there were lulz, pranks and a culture of trolling just to get a rise out of anyone. But despite many original Anons best efforts, Anonymous has grown up to become the net’s immune system, striking back whenever the hive mind perceived that the institutions that run the world crossed the line into hypocrisy… It’s the culmination of a trend. Anonymous has gone from rickrolling the internet and mass-producing lolcats to hacking governments and corporations as a way to take on the systems that run the world, through means legal and illegal.”

Anonymous is perhaps most known for their attacks against Sony and AiPlex, the India-based company contracted to send out take-down requests to piracy sites, notably The Pirate Bay. Eventually the story morphed into legend; word spread that AiPlex was hired to perform illegal actions by the MPAA and RIAA. While this may or may not have been the case, it wasn’t specifically the actions that angered Anonymous, but rather the motives behind those actions. “For years those who cared about the effects of copyright laws on online freedom seemed to suffer one institutional defeat after another, with bill after bill pushed by the entertainment industry carving away rights, lawsuits shuttering innovative music start-ups and secret treaties proposing increased monitoring and control of people’s computers and internet connections. Most of these bills failed, but for the digitally political, Big Content’s pushes felt like a continual assault. Anonymous had no unified opinion on copyright per se, but when measures to stop piracy threatened to hamper the internet, the hive mind came together.” The chief complaint of Anonymous was the restriction of people’s access to the internet, because ” To threaten to cut people off from the global consciousness as you have is criminal and abhorrent. To move to censor content on the internet based on your own prejudice is at best laughably impossible, at worst, morally reprehensible.” In their own words, Anonymous “does not forgive internet censorship” and “does not forget free speech.” This video, with the computer generated voice so deeply a part of Anonymous’s aesthetic, sums up their point pretty well, and in their own words, about the state of the internet in December of 2010:

The actions by Anonymous most closely tied to the history of the hacker, however, was their attacks against Sony. Thanks to Anonymous, the Sony Playstation Network was down from April 20th-May 14th, and Sony’s stock dropped from $31/share to just over $25/share. “The Sony PS3 console had been a favorite of hackers, who used a jailbreak created by George Hotz (geohot) in 2010 to install custom firmware and run Linux and OtherOS. Running Linux was originally a feature used by Sony to promote the PlayStation, but later removed the feature with a patch. In January 2011, Sony sued Hotz and others for allegedly violating federal law against circumventing encryption. Hotz settled in April under a gag rule, but it didn’t stop him from blasting Sony on his personal blog and asking people to join him in a boycott of Sony products.” In the end, it comes back to the hacker ethic, of which Sony broke multiple rules (although especially 1 and 2).

Although I’m sure I don’t fully understand Anonymous and the true reasons behind their actions, I can’t help but side with them on multiple issues. While some of their techniques may be illegal and morally questionable, the results are often for the general good of society (namely the events that took place in Tunisian and Egypt; read the three-part series for a refresher). Of course, how the facts are interpreted varies from individual to individual. I consider Anonymous the heroes because they stand up and fight for free speech and the freedom of information on the internet. Are their techniques sometimes illegal? Absolutely. But so is speeding (which I do almost every morning when I need to get to campus because I’m late for class) and downloading music online (which I do because I feel as though an artist will ultimately benefit more from me downloading a song of theirs that I love and promoting it to all of my friends and convincing them to go see that artist in concert with me than from the small percentage of proceeds an artist gets from the record label). In other words, I can relate to Anonymous because I agree with their ideologies. I feel as though this culture is one that promotes and encourages values that I do as well. But I could be biased. So let me know what you guys think. Is anonymous just a group of internet terrorists? Or is Anonymous the Rosa Parks of the internet civil rights movement? Or is it really not as black and white as that?

 

 

 

 

 


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