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Submission + - Trolls Will Always Win (

maynard writes: Kathy Sierra spent a tech career developing videogames and teaching Java programming in Sun Microsystems masterclasses. Up until 2007, she'd been a well regarded tech specialist who happened to be female. Until the day she opined on her private blog that given the crap-flood of bad comments, maybe forum moderation wasn't a bad idea. This opinion made her a target. A sustained trolling and harassment campaign followed, comprised of death and rape threats, threats against her family, fabricated claims of prostitution, and a false claim that she had issued a DMCA takedown to stifle criticism. All of this culminated in the public release of her private address and Social Security Number, a technique known as Doxxing. And so she fled from the public, her career, and even her home.

It turned out that a man named Andrew Auernheimer was responsible for having harassed Sierra. Known as 'Weev', he admitted it in a 2008 New York Times story on Internet Trolls. There, he spoke to the lengths which he and his cohorts went to discredit and destroy the woman.

Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online commenters, Weev said he “dropped docs” on Sierra, posting a fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats.

Now, seven years later, Kathy Sierra's returned to explain why she'd left and what recent spates of online harassment against women portend for the future if decent people don't organize. Because the situation has grown much more serious since she went into hiding all those years ago. It's more than just the threat of Doxxing to incite physical violence by random crazies with a screw loose.

These days, malicious trolls have taken to SWATting, where harassers call police and make false accusations to induce a SWAT raid. One prominent example is that of game developer Chris Kootra, who experienced a SWAT raid on camera while playing an online video game recently. There is also the troubling trend of developing malicious software intended to harm victims directly. For example, posting images on epilepsy forums which flicker at rates known to induce epileptic seizure. Given that Sierra is epileptic herself, this kind of harmful trolling hits home personally. She writes:

[While not photo-sensitive], I have a deep understanding of the horror of seizures, and the dramatically increased chance of death and brain damage many of us with epilepsy live with, in my case, since the age of 4. FYI, deaths related to epilepsy in the US are roughly equal with deaths from breast cancer. There isn’t a shred of doubt in my mind that if the troll hackers could find a way to increase your risk of breast cancer? They’d do it. Because what’s better than lulz? Lulz with BOOBS. Yeah, they’d do it.

And yet Auernheimer, the man who put her through all this horror, has for entirely different reasons become a kind of 'Net cause célèbre for Internet freedom. After having committed a hack against AT&T where he'd obtained the email addresses of thousands of iPad users, he attracted the attention of federal authorities. In due course he was convicted and sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for identity fraud and conspiracy to access a computer without authorization. A conviction and sentence many thought egregious. Attracting support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and prominent Georgia University Law Professor Tor Ekeland, the two worked together to craft an appeal and overturn the conviction. In April 2014, they succeeded. Auernheimer is now free.

Ekeland wasn't the only one bothered by the government's case. Even Kathy Sierra disagreed. Yet she's appalled that somehow she'd been dragged into supporting the very man who'd abused her.

But you all know what happened next. Something something something horrifically unfair government case against him and just like that, he becomes tech’s “hacktivist hero.” He now had A Platform not just in the hacker/troll world but in the broader tech community I was part of. ... But hard as I tried to find a ray of hope that the case against him was, somehow, justified and that he deserved, somehow, to be in prison for this, oh god I could not find it. I could not escape my own realization that the cast against him was wrong. So wrong. And not just wrong, but wrong in a way that puts us all at risk.

The lawyer Ekeland, in recent commentary at Wired, continues to defend Auernheimer as having been wronged by an overzealous prosecution, the precedent of which could have significant ramifications for 'Net freedom. "...the crucial issue here is not weev or his ideas but the future of criminal computer law in the U.S. You may think weev is an asshole. But being an asshole is not a crime, and neither is obtaining unsecured information from publicly facing servers."

Which leaves Sierra lamenting that Auernheimer still hasn't been charged and convicted for what she considers the real crime of harassment he'd committed, harming her and countless others. Where's the justice? Inciting violence and dissemination of 'fighting words' are not free speech. Yet, as she admits, unless you're a celebrity you're "...more likely to win the lottery than get any law enforcement agency to take action." So there is none. "We are on our own," she laments. "And if we don’t take care of one another, nobody else will."

So she came back to push back, to push back against prominent journalists and members in Tech who'd conflate prosecutorial violations of due process with the right to disseminate harassment and cruelty.

I came back because I believe this sent a terrible, devastating message about what was acceptable. ... To push back on the twist and spin. I believed the fine-grained distinctions mattered. I pushed back because I believed I was pushing back on the implicit message that women would be punished for speaking out. I pushed back because almost nobody else was, and it seemed like so many people in tech were basically OK with that.

Auernheimer, for his part, remains unapologetic. Responding to Sierra on Livejournal, he writes:

Yesterday Kathy Sierra (a.k.a. seriouspony), a mentally ill woman, continued to accuse me on her blog of leading some sort of harassment campaign against her by dropping her dox (information related to identify and location) on the Internet. ... Kathy Sierra has for years acted like a toddler, throwing tantrums and making demands whenever things didn't go her way. She rejects any presentation of polite criticism or presentation of evidence as some sort of assault on her. She was the blueprint for women like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian, who also feign victimhood for financial and social gain. Kathy Sierra is the epitome of what is wrong with my community. She had something coming to her and by the standards set by her own peers in the social justice community, there was nothing wrong with what she got.

Some people never change.

Submission + - Cold fusion reactor verified by third-party researchers 2

Paul Fernhout writes: ExtremeTech reports that "Andrea Rossi's E-Cat — the device that purports to use cold fusion to generate massive amounts of cheap, green energy — has been verified by third-party researchers, according to a new 54-page report. The researchers observed a small E-Cat over 32 days, where it produced net energy of 1.5 megawatt-hours, or "far more than can be obtained from any known chemical sources in the small reactor volume." The researchers were also allowed to analyze the fuel before and after the 32-day run, noting that the isotopes in the spent fuel could only have been obtained by "nuclear reactions"..."

Submission + - MIT study finds fault with Mars One colony concept ( 2

MarkWhittington writes: The Mars One project created a great deal of fanfare when it was first announced in 2012. The project, based in Holland, aspires to build a colony on Mars with the first uncrewed flight taking place in 2018 and the first colonists setting forth around 2024. The idea is that the colonists would go to Mars to stay, slowly building up the colony in four-person increments every 26-month launch window. However, Space Policy Online on Tuesday reported that an independent study conducted by MIT has poured cold water on the Mars colony idea.

The MIT team consisting of engineering students had to make a number of assumptions based on public sources since the Mars One concept lacks a great many technical details. The study made the bottom line conclusion that the Mars One project is overly optimistic at best and unworkable at worst. The concept is “unsustainable” given the current state of technology and the aggressive schedule that the Mars One project has presented.

Comment American Exceptionalism (Score 5, Insightful) 335

How do US authorities feel about foreign nations hacking into US military and corporate computers? For example, this story: Chinese authorities hacked into Pentagon and other sensitive computers:

China’s military hacked into computer networks of civilian transportation companies hired by the Pentagon at least nine times, breaking into computers aboard a commercial ship, targeting logistics companies and uploading malicious software onto an airline’s computers, Senate investigators said Wednesday. ...

A yearlong investigation announced by the Senate Armed Services Committee identified at least 20 break-ins or other unspecified cyber events targeting companies, including nine successful break-ins of contractor networks. ...

Earlier this summer, in an apparently unrelated investigation, the US accused five members of the Chinese military of hacking computers for economic espionage purposes. It accused them of hacking into five US nuclear and technology companies’ computer systems and a major steel workers union’s system, conducting economic espionage and stealing confidential business information, sensitive trade secrets and internal communications for competitive advantage.

I'm guessing they don't like that. Which perhaps is what the United States means by "American Exceptionalism".

Submission + - Fuel efficiency numbers overstate MPG more for cars with small engines. (

whoever57 writes: All official numbers for fuel economy in the EU typically overstate the miles-per-gallon figure that drivers can expect to achieve in typical driving. A recent study confirmed this once again. However, what the study also found was that MPG figures are more urealistic for cars with smaller engines than for cars with larger engines. Actual MPG figures achieved based on typical drives for cars with small engines could be as much as 36% under the offical number, while those cars with 3 liter engines would typically achieve 15% less than the official figure.

Comment Re:More Education is the Key (Score 1) 283

Exactly. The value of a PhD is diluted by accessibility. The wrong social classes have entered the marble halls of that ivory tower. What's needed is to make the PhD even more accessible by opening the gates to the front courtyard of that educational tower. That way everyone can become a PhD. And to really set yourself apart, private institutions will form to teach "Super PhDs" where only the absolute best gain entrance. Of course, earning a Super PhD takes longer. A newly minted star professor might win tenure and emeritus at the same time. But by these measures, we'll strengthen education, the labor market, the economy and freedom itself.

Submission + - Aussie builds contactless Visa, Mastercard cloner app (

mask.of.sanity writes: Aussie hacker Peter Fillmore has created an Android app that can clone contactless credit cards and process transactions that result in errors, not fraud detections.

The Aussie boffin probed the protocols behind Visa and Mastercard payment cards and proved the viability of an attack by successfully using cloned versions of his credit cards to shop at supermarket chain Woolworths, and buy beer at a Sydney pub.

Fillmore (@typhoonfilsy) demonstrated how a modded Nexus 4 could steal data from Paywave and Paypass cards that could be introduced into cloned cards. He said the phone could be subsituted with a larger suitcase-sized and a remote server for added ownage.

Submission + - Jihadists Use Water as a Weapon in Iraq writes: Water has long played a role in armed struggle, from the Allied bombing of German dams during World War II to Saddam Hussein’s draining of Iraq’s southern marshes in the 1990s to punish residents for an anti-government rebellion. Now Erin Cunningham reports in the Washington Post that Islamic State militants are increasingly using water as a weapon, cutting off supplies to villages resisting their rule and pressing to expand their control over the country’s water infrastructure. The Islamic State “understands how powerful water is as a tool, and they are not afraid to use it,” said Michael Stephens. "A lot of effort has been expended to control resources in Iraq in a way not seen in other conflicts."

The White House was so alarmed in August when Islamic State fighters briefly seized the Mosul Dam — located on the Tigris River that runs through Baghdad — that it backed a major operation by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to wrest it back. “If that dam was breached, it could have proven catastrophic, with floods that would have threatened the lives of thousands of civilians and endangered our embassy compound in Baghdad,” said Obama. Last month, the Islamic State used its control of the Sudur mini-dam north of Baghdad to cut off water to Balad Ruz, a predominantly Shiite area of Diyala province. According to the town’s mayor, the militants lined the roads to the dam with improvised explosive devices, and the government was forced to hire trucks to bring potable water to the residents. “They can threaten many parts of the country if they control the water,” says Abdul Majid Satar. "They want to control it at any price"

Comment More Education is the Key (Score 2) 283

As we all know, there's no problem in the labor market that can't be solved with more education.

As President Obama says at the official White House web site, "Earning a post-secondary degree or credential is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few; rather, it is a prerequisite for the growing jobs of the new economy." Because, as he notes, "With the average earnings of college graduates at a level that is twice as high as that of workers with only a high school diploma, higher education is now the clearest pathway into the middle class."

To help sustain this middle class, the President has proposed policies that will:

- Help Middle Class Families Afford College
- by Keeping Costs Down
- Strengthen Community Colleges
- Improve Transparency and Accountability

Therefore, earning a PhDs must not be enough. What we need is a new credential. Something beyond PhD. A... "Super PhD" that will help high achievers stand out to those employers seeking only the best. Of course, that means longer class schedules, more lab training, in short... more education.

Don't worry, our financial institutions are here to help. Banks will be happy to lend you more with government backed student loans. It's the least they can do for a beleaguered middle class too uneducated to succeed in this high tech economy.

America is that Shiny City upon a Hill, a place where gleaming gold coins lay scattered about ripe for the picking. You only need more education to find them. A new life awaits you in that shining city on the hill. The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure! So come on America, become a go-getter and land that Super PhD! The Sciences are just filled with Gold Coins of Opportunity in this Shinny City on a Hill for those with the right education.

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