Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?

Comment Re:Microsoft is 100% right on this one (Score 5, Interesting) 324

I know this isn't a popular opinion around here, but hear me out.

The NSA is the US's SIGINT operation. Their job is to be both the offense and the defense when it comes to dealing with electronic systems. So developing attacks against other systems is part of their purview, and we want them to continue doing so such that we can spy on, and if necessary attack other nations. The need for an offensive SIGINT group will always exist, even if it's not the NSA.

Back in the days of yore, it used to be that exporting valuable software was restricted. If the Soviets wanted software for controlling gas pipelines, for example, they either had to develop their own or steal it. And exporting useful encryption was right-out banned. The end result was that for SIGINT purposes, there was a very clear line between "us" and "them" in what each side's systems could do, how they worked, and what they ran.

The Internet has put an end to national borders for software. Now everyone runs the same Oracle database, the same Cisco/Juniper routers, the same Microsoft OS, etc. It's allowed commerce to explode on our end by exporting valuable software to new market. However the flip side of that is that the line between "us" and "them" has almost entirely been erased. Now the nations we spy on run much the same software we do; now the nations that we need to be able to attack don't run antiquated little systems that are easy for us to break into. How do you balance offense and defense in that situation, when any weapon you make can be used against you, and any defense to develop can be used by your enemies to shield themselves from you?

Had our relevant TLAs bothered to tell the relevant companies about the holes they found we would all be a hundredfold safer. But no, they kept them secret, figuring they could hack Some Bad Guy's computer and Stop Some Low Level Bad Thing.

If our relevant TLAs informed software vendors about every exploit they found, it would improve the quality of software to be sure. And that definitely has some benefits. But then we'd be committing to an entirely defensive operation, due to the fact that everyone else is running this better-hardened software.

Meanwhile when it comes to offense, we'd have no exploits let which to use to spy on or attack other nations with. But the same is not true for other nations. Their own SIGINT groups would be searching for exploits as well, and since they wouldn't be bound by what we're doing, they'd continue stockpiling them and using them against us as they deem necessary. Our software-hardening efforts would make this task a lot harder, but not even the NSA is going to find every bug in Windows. So at the end of the day, other nations would still be able to attack us, even if we did report all exploits we found.

The problem with a purely defensive operation then, especially in the software sense, is that your defense only has to fail once for you to lose. Once they're in your systems you have no ability to retaliate (since you have no exploits to use as weapons), so hostile forces have very little incentive not to attack you. And while you can clean up afterwards, the damage is done: the blueprints have been stolen, the cyclotron has been busted, and Amazon is shipping everyone 50 gallon drums of lube.

Ultimately Cyber security when both sides have the same systems is little more than a new variant on the Prisoner's Dilemma. We can stop ratting on the other prisoner, but they're not going to stop ratting on us. No matter what we do, it's in the best interests of foreign powers to be able to attack our systems. And that means we need to keep exploits of our own in order to be able to mount a credible (if not overwhelming) offense.

The one problem here - and not to discount it, because it is a real problem - is that the NSA obviously didn't secure these tools well enough. They're the freaking NSA, they are supposed to be the best SIGINT group in the world. And that means they either got outplayed (and they weren't prepared for that possibility), or there is a classical mole in the organization. Neither one of these is acceptable. They need to continue developing exploits, but for the love of Pete they need to treat them with the utmost security.

Comment Re:Physical distribution media? (Score 5, Informative) 260

That "quaint" method is still the only method to actually receive high-quality copies of movies and TV shows. Video streaming bitrates are a joke, comparatively speaking. Everyone tries to stuff into 10-20Mbps what takes 50+. The result is banding, blocky artifacts (especially in dark scenes), and blocking with rapid action. A properly mastered Blu-Ray or UHD disc on the other hand will have none of those problems, as the overall bitrate and the peak bitrate are high enough to properly capture a scene no matter how detailed it is.

The DRM is a pain in the rear, but for the quality I'm quite happy with my "quaint" optical media.

Comment Re:some perspective (Score 4, Insightful) 755

Put those together and this is a very limited way to "must do something" that so many people have been calling for. It also sent a message to North Korea and China. Hopefully nothing more comes of it.

Agreed. I want the US to have nothing else to do with Syria. But using chemical weapons is simply too awful and too horrific to ignore. We can't stop parties from making or using the things, but we can damned well make sure there are painful consequences to doing so.

Personally, I find it implausible that Assad ordered a chemical attack now.

If not Assad, then who? The Russians aren't this stupid.

Comment How Are These Devices Getting Public IPs? (Score 1) 163

So potentially a stupid question here, but given that we have a severe shortage of IP addresses due to exhaustion of the IPv4 space, how are all of these devices getting publicly addressable IP addresses to allow an incoming connection in the first place? If they're behind a NAT they should be naturally firewalled, otherwise who has the spare IPs to hand out to crappy little IoT devices?

Comment To Be Fair, Licking Consoles Isn't New (Score 4, Informative) 117

In all fairness to the, uh, interesting people doing this, they're not completely off their rockers. Licking consoles was a thing before social media even existed.

A then-unknown Jessica Chobot (who these days hosts shows for Nerdist) basically started the whole thing by licking a PSP as a gag photo in 2005. Since then, someone, somewhere (usually Chobot, it feels like) licks a launch console.

The only novel change here is people licking the cartridge instead of the console, and that's due to the aforementioned use of a bittering agent. Maybe Nintendo got it wrong here and needs to go into licking controls instead of motion controls...

Comment Re:Unpopular here, but I'm with Berners-Lee. DRM e (Score 1) 207

Exactly. If we want more Flashes and more Silverlights, by all means, fight against DRM in the browser. I, for one, do not. I will choose the lesser evil. We're going to need it until we "fix" copyright law, which could take literally forever.

One political revolution will end it pretty quickly. For some reason the US thinks they are immune to such a change, even when they see it happening all around them.

Comment Re:Uber Hit Squad (Score 2) 218

But people are also paying attention to Uber right now. If you're Google now is a good time to take a shot at Uber, when they're too distracted to fight back. And if you're a reporter your Uber story is going to get a lot more traction, so it's time to start digging.

You're not wrong; there's definitely a bit of blood in the water.

However Uber is unique in that they're managing to find new and exciting ways to fuck up, from the way they treat their drivers to how they interact with governments.

To use the GP's example, at least Oracle is consistently evil: you know what they're going to do from the start. But with Uber it's a new surprise each week!

Comment Rubber (Score 1) 65

Correct if I am wrong, but as I understand it the patent office just rubber stamps any patent application as long as all the eyes are crossed and tees are dotted. It's up to any other party to prove that the patent should not have been granted. Which is where all the expensive lawyers come in, which is why patents have no purpose except for huge companies to fuck with each other.

Comment Re:Overboard, Sad! (Score 5, Insightful) 358

If it truly was an accident and everyone was acting in good faith

It wasn't in good faith, hence the reason he was found guilty of reckless endangerment. Negligence is the charge for "good faith". Reckless means that the accused knew it was dangerous to others and did it anyhow, thereby disregarding the safety of others.

Slashdot Top Deals

The cost of feathers has risen, even down is up!