zenpundit.com » tech

Archive for the ‘tech’ Category

The Creepy-State attracts Creeps

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

Big Brother’s little brothers are listening in on your calls, tapping your data

When the government and ruling elites fashion a Creepy-State, it inevitably spawns a surveillance arms race. If your private data is valuable to the Feds, it is valuable to others….and if the Feds are violating the Constitution they aren’t too likely to energetically enforce the law against imitators.

Mysterious Fake Cellphone Towers Are Intercepting Calls All Over The US 

Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week, according to a report in Popular Science.

Rather than offering you cellphone service, the towers appear to be connecting to nearby phones, bypassing their encryption, and either tapping calls or reading texts. 

Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America, used ESD’s CryptoPhone 500 to detect 17 bogus cellphone towers. ESD is a leading American defense and law enforcement technology provider based in Las Vegas. 

With most phones, these fake communication towers are undetectable. But not for the CryptoPhone 500,  a customized Android device that is disguised as a Samsung Galaxy S III but has highly advanced encryption.

Goldsmith told Popular Science: ” Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”

The towers were found in July, but the report implied that there may have been more out there.

Although it is unclear who owns the towers, ESD found that several of them were located near U.S. military bases. 

“Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that’s listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the U.S. military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: we don’t really know whose they are,” Goldsmith said to Popular Science.

It’s probably not the NSA — that agency can tap all it wants without the need for bogus towers, VentureBeat reported:

Not the NSA, cloud security firm SilverSky CTO/SVP Andrew Jaquith told us. “The NSA doesn’t need a fake tower,” he said. “They can just go to the carrier” to tap your line.

Indeed. Subterfuge is required only by those who cannot slap you with a national security letter.

My first comment is that the journalists did not engage in any serious kind of investigation here.

Every one of these towers, unless it was thrown up in the dead of night (unlikely), went through the usual local zoning or planning approval process, which means that there is a paper trail involving land sales, applications, permits and hearings before a local municipal or county board. I know. I sat on one of these commissions for a number of years and jack does not get built in most of the United States until they approve and (usually hefty) fees are paid. These towers aren’t some fat trucker’s CB antennae or ham radio set-up next to a double-wide. A construction crew and heavy equipment were required

My second comment is that since these devices are engaged in ongoing, infinite count, felony eavesdropping, wiretapping, hacking etc. violations, the chances are excellent that corruption of local officials was in play to get these fake towers approved. At least in some of the cases and it is likely that the local officials had some idea of what the tower builders were up to ( or at least their professional engineering staff did). All these towers and no one said “no” or asked tough questions. Think of the odds. You can’t get rubber-stamp approval to build a dog house in most jurisdictions.

My third comment is to wonder who would show up if motivated citizens decided to disable the towers – either by vigilantee action or pressuring public officials to remove these illegal towers.

My fourth comment is that when our public officials are co-conspirators with criminals against the people and their Constitution, the Republic as we knew it is fading away.

If we continue down this road we will await only the coming of a Sulla.

Share

Does technology change people?

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- another fine example of what I call DoubleQuotes in the Wild ]
.

This one comes from my anthropologist friend Peter van der Werff via our mutual friend Howard Rheingold:

**

Looking at the two images, do you see the juxtaposition as “meaning” that tech does change people, or that it doesn’t? Is it really a question, as its caption suggests — or a statement? And if it’s a question, is it an “open” question, ie a matter of philosophical curiosity — or a question that questions an asssumption, ie a form of statement-in-disguise?

Questions can’t be “true” or “false” as such — but they can sure be suggestive, eh?

Share

Turing Test…..Passed

Monday, June 9th, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

I am not an Ai aficionado but this would seem to be a pretty significant milestone:

Turing Test: Computer Program Convinces Judges it’s Human

Judges in England were fooled into thinking the computer program they were conversing with was a human on Saturday — making the it the first to pass the 65-year-old Turing Test.

“Eugene Goostman” is not a 13-year-old boy, but 33 percent of the people who partook in five minute keyboard conversations with the computer program at the Royal Society in London thought it was, according to The University of Reading, which organized the test.

The Turing Test is based on “the father of modern computer science” Alan Turing’s question, “Can Machines Think?”

If a computer is mistaken for a human by more than 30 percent of judges, it passes the test, but no computer has accomplished the feat — until now.

“Eugene” was created in Saint Petersburg, Russia, by software development engineer Vladimir Veselov and software engineer Eugene Demchenko, according to the University of Reading. The computer program was tested along with four others during Saturday night’s event, but was the only one to thoroughly imitate a person.

“Our whole team is very excited with this result,” Veselov said. “Going forward we plan to make Eugene smarter and continue working on improving what we refer to as ‘conversation logic.’”

Computers that are as smart — or smarter — than humans raise concerns of dire economic consequences and diabolical robotic plots fit for science fiction movies.

But Kevin Warwick, a visiting professor at the University of Reading says a computer that can think and act like a person will be an asset to battling cyber-crime. “Online, real-time communication of this type can influence an individual human in such a way that they are fooled into believing something is true … when in fact it is not,” he said.

Warwick pointed out that this weekend’s test is also controversial because some claim it has been passed before, but the test did not pre-specify the topics of conversations and was independently verified. “We are therefore proud to declare that Alan Turing‘s test was passed for the first time on Saturday,” Warwick said. 

How fast will this evolve, I wonder?

Many readers are no doubt familiar with the “Turing Police” in Willam Gibson’s classic  Neuromancer.  While Ai will bring many tech advantages, at some point, at least for cybersecurity and CI purposes, there will need to be some kind of analog to reduce and punish the misuse or abuse of Ai with something short of a Butlerian Jihad.

  

UPDATE!:

Not so fast….

….Okay, almost everything about the story is bogus. Let’s dig in:

It’s not a “supercomputer,” it’s a chatbot. It’s a script made to mimic human conversation. There is no intelligence, artificial or not involved. It’s just a chatbot.
Plenty of other chatbots have similarly claimed to have “passed” the Turing test in the past (often with higher ratings). Here’s a story from three years ago about another bot, Cleverbot, “passing” the Turing Test by convincing 59% of judges it was human (much higher than the 33% Eugene Goostman) claims.

It “beat” the Turing test here by “gaming” the rules — by telling people the computer was a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine in order to mentally explain away odd responses.

The “rules” of the Turing test always seem to change. Hell, Turing’s original test was quite different anyway.

As Chris Dixon points out, you don’t get to run a single test with judges that you picked and declare you accomplished something. That’s just not how it’s done. If someone claimed to have created nuclear fusion or cured cancer, you’d wait for some peer review and repeat tests under other circumstances before buying it, right?

The whole concept of the Turing Test itself is kind of a joke. While it’s fun to think about, creating a chatbot that can fool humans is not really the same thing as creating artificial intelligence. Many in the AI world look on the Turing Test as a needless distraction.

Oh, and the biggest red flag of all. The event was organized by Kevin Warwick at Reading University. If you’ve spent any time at all in the tech world, you should automatically have red flags raised around that name. Warwick is somewhat infamous for his ridiculous claims to the press, which gullible reporters repeat without question. He’s been doing it for decades. All the way back in 2000, we were writing about all the ridiculous press he got for claiming to be the world’s first “cyborg” for implanting a chip in his arm. There was even a — since taken down — Kevin Warwick Watch website that mocked and categorized all of his media appearances in which gullible reporters simply repeated all of his nutty claims. Warwick had gone quiet for a while, but back in 2010, we wrote about how his lab was getting bogus press for claiming to have “the first human infected with a computer virus.” The Register has rightly referred to Warwick as both “Captain Cyborg” and a “media strumpet” and has long been chronicling his escapades in exaggerating bogus stories about the intersection of humans and computers for many, many years.

Share

Pope on Cyber Power: Personal Theories of Power Series at The Bridge

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

I read one of the first books out on cyberwarfare and conflict and afterwards decided that I still had no idea what the hell “cyberwar” was or how we could identify when it was happening. Fortunately, in tackling cyber power, Billy Pope’s erudite contribution ties cyber power to Hobbes, Thucydides, Westphalian states, Clausewitz and Basil Liddell-Hart. Those things I understand!

Cyber Power: A Personal Theory of Power 

….Why focus so much of an essay on cyber power theory to a lengthy discussion on traditional forms of power? Quite simply, cyber power is still just power at its core. Cyber power will not change the nature of war. Cyber power, at least in the foreseeable future, will not reorganize the international consortium of states, leaving the Westphalian system to flounder in a new electronic world order. Cyber power offers tremendous opportunities to enhance how people interact, cooperate, and even fight. It does not, however, make traditional forms of power obsolete.

Overzealous futurists exuberantly claim that cyber power is a game changer, saying things like, “Cyber war is real; it happens at the speed of light; it is global; it skips the battlefield; and, it has already begun.”[ix] The attuned strategist will peer through the chafe, realizing that cyber power offers new, innovative methods by which to project power. The same savvy practitioner will also appreciate that power and conflict are grounded in basic human requirements, psychology, and relationships. Neither Thucydides’ realist notions of fear, honor, and interests, nor Keohane’s collaborative concepts of cooperation and interconnectedness were developed with cyberspace in mind.[x] Cyberspace, and in turn any notion of cyber power, however, contains these concepts in troves.

What, then, is cyber power specifically? This author argues it takes two forms. First, cyber power extends and accentuates existing forms of military power. It helps shape the battlefield through intelligence collection and information operations. In some cases it facilitates military effects that were previously only achievable through kinetic means. Second, cyber power is a unique political instrument. Most military professionals are all too familiar with the elements of national power marched out during professional education courses: diplomatic, informational, military, and economic. Cyber power connects to each of these components but also offers new options. Stronger than diplomacy and sanctions, yet not to the level of Clausewitzean war, cyber power expands the spectrum of power projection available to policy-makers. 

This sounds very reasonable.

Groundbreaking technology – say, for example, firearms or steam power – offers entirely new capabilities and/or enhances old ones on the battlefield. Sometimes the effect is a military revolution, with the technology altering power relationships in civil society and offering the early adopters a tremendous comparative advantage over any rivals ( marksmen drilled with guns vs. a peasant mob with sticks with pointy metal ends). Other times it has a less political/strategic and a more narrowly technical/tactical effect (machineguns over rifles). Cyber power will be made to serve, as Pope argued, political ends.

Share

Smart Mobs & Cuba

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- cross-posted from Smart Mobs ]
.

**

According to an Associated Press piece early this morning titled US secretly created ‘Cuban Twitter’ to stir unrest, the US Government has quietly been prepping Cubans for “smart mobs” and possible political change:

Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music, and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.

“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. “This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission.”

It’s not as though Howard hadn’t already identified the possibility — on page 158 of Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, he told us about the January 20 2001 fall of the Joseph Estrada regime in the Phillipines as a result of texting and smart mobs:

Tens of thousands of Filipinos converged on Epifanio de los Santas Avenue, known as “Edsa,” within an hour of the first text message volleys:  ‘Go 2EDSA, Wear blck.’  Over four days, more than a million citizens showed up, mostly dressed in black.  Estrada fell.  The legend of “Generation Txt” was born.

Howard published those words in 2002: apparently USAID got the message.

Howard has moved on since then.  He’ll be teaching Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory from April 30 – June 5, 2014 online — and last I heard, there were still some seats available. Click the link to see the course outline — its now 2014, and Howard’s as far ahead of the curve as ever.

Share

Switch to our mobile site