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United Kingdom

London Terrorist Used WhatsApp, UK Calls For Backdoors (yahoo.com) 229

Wednesday 52-year-old Khalid Masood "drove a rented SUV into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before smashing it into Parliament's gates and rushing onto the grounds, where he fatally stabbed a policeman and was shot by other officers," writes the Associated Press. An anonymous reader quotes their new report: Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood sent a WhatsApp message that cannot be accessed because it was encrypted by the popular messaging service, a top British security official said Sunday. British press reports suggest Masood used the messaging service owned by Facebook just minutes before the Wednesday rampage that left three pedestrians and one police officer dead and dozens more wounded.... Home Secretary Amber Rudd used appearances on BBC and Sky News to urge WhatsApp and other encrypted services to make their platforms accessible to intelligence services and police trying to carrying out lawful eavesdropping. "We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp -- and there are plenty of others like that -- don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other," she said...

Rudd also urged technology companies to do a better job at preventing the publication of material that promotes extremism. She plans to meet with firms Thursday about setting up an industry board that would take steps to make the web less useful to extremists.

Comment Re: MapReduce is great (Score 1) 131

Quite possibly these people are vastly overestimating their own skills because they "work at Google". Fortunately, I did not run into socially inept interviewers, but as to the questions asked, they did not have more than surface knowledge. That is not how you interview somebody with advanced skills and experience, because people on that level rarely run into things they have not seen before in some form and that they need to solve on an elementary level. I think this happened to me once in the last 5 years, and there likely is a next case upcoming in the next few months. Both are in research projects.

The really funny thing is that I do know Google would have needed people like me desperately, because on architecture-level (where you need the real experience and insights), they still suck badly and may even be getting worse.

Comment Re:MapReduce is great (Score 1) 131

No offense, but "I'd rather just use a library" seriously brings into question what you bring to the table.

Except that's the right answer. It's arrogant pricks who think that they're hot shit who reinvent the wheel, do it badly and then charge headlong into their next coding disaster, energy drink in hand and earbuds in ears. Meanwhile, a more responsible engineer has to come along afterwards and clean up the hot mess so that the users can actually have a working system that isn't chock full of silly bugs.

Oh yes. Of course the answer is not to use "any library", but to carefully select a good algorithm and then use a library for that. I cannot count the times some "Rockstar"-wannabe has reinvented the wheel and did it really, really badly because they were not even aware of the basics.

They want to test if you have the intellect, knowledge and creativity to sketch a solution yourself.

The best way to determine that is to ask an abstract hypothetical question, where there is no existing implementation and no risk of getting it wrong. Bringing in real world concerns that you want the candidate to ignore because "it's an interview question" is stupid because it clouds the issue and prevents the type of answer that you're looking for. Maybe the candidate is an honest guy and prefers to give you the "don't write your own encryption algorithms" answer because in reality that is the right answer. Then you pass up an otherwise excellent candidate because your interview question was poor. Is that really what you want?

While I know that this is not what Google wanted, it is what they did. And on the hash-question, I do know that I do not have what it takes to come up with a good solution (you need to be a cryptographer for that these days and I am only a competent user of crypto) and so I have stopped bothering to even look at it. This is something that everybody competent selects from a catalog. Of course the real problem is that the Google folks vastly overestimate their own skills, or they would have been able to evaluate what the actual quality level for the selection I proposed is and then could have asked why exactly I proposed this one. That question never came, which is an utter fail.

Comment Re:MapReduce is great (Score 2) 131

No offense, but you miss the point entirely. What I answered is very far from "use a library". First, it is an algorithm, not a library. That difference is very important. Second, it is a carefully selected algorithm that performs much better than what you commonly find in "libraries" in almost all situations. And third, the hash-functions by Bob Jenkins (and the newer ones bu DJB, for example) are inspired by crypto, but much faster in exchange for reduced security assurances. In fact so fast that they can compete directly with the far worse things commonly in use. "Do not roll your own crypto" _does_ apply_ though.

So while I think you meant to be patronizing, you just come across as incompetent. A bit like the folks at Google, come to think of it...

Government

Terrifying Anti-Riot Vehicle Created To Quash Any Urban Disturbance (boingboing.net) 174

"Are you an urban police force thinking about how to control your fellow humans?" jokes Cory Doctorow. "Look no farther! Your pals at Bozena have an all-new RIOT system, a crowd-control killdozer for all your protest-suppressing needs!" He's one of several web commentators marveling at the marketing copy for a Slovakian company's new anti-riot machinery, also spotted by Slashdot reader drunkdrone. Some quotes from the BOZENA RIOT SYSTEM site about the device's features:
  • Easy attachable bulldozer blade.
  • The [6,600 pound] shield comes equipped with launching ports designed for use of guns or other rubber projectiles launchers.
  • The trailer is capable of displacing the water/foam or its mixtures (available additives: pepper or painting substances) under the high pressure into the distance of several dozen meters.
  • Communication with rioters through the loudspeakers.
  • Designed to control riots in streets and urbanized areas...intended predominantly for the special military and police units responsible for the CROWD CONTROL during the violent political/social demonstrations, against football hooligans, etc.

Comment Re:MapReduce is great (Score 5, Interesting) 131

Indeed. I went though their "interview-process" a while back at the request of a friend that was there and desperately wanted me for his team. Interestingly, I failed to get hired, and I think it is because I knew a lot more about the questions they asked than the people that created (and asked) these questions. For example, on (non-cryptographic) hash-functions my answer was to not do them yourself, because they would always be pretty bad, and to instead use the ones by Bob Jenkins, or if things are slow because there is a disk-access in there to use a crypto hash. While that is what you do in reality if you have more than small tables, that was apparently very much not what they wanted to hear. They apparently wanted me to start to mess around with the usual things you find in algorithm books. Turns out, I did way back, but when I put 100 Million IP addresses into such a table, it performed abysmally bad. My take-away is that Google prefers to hire highly intelligent, but semi-smart people with semi-knowledge about things and little experience and that experienced and smart people fail their interviews unless they prepare for giving dumber answers than they can give. I will never do that.

On the plus side, my current job is way more interesting than anything Google would have offered me.

Comment It has not (Score 3, Insightful) 131

What has happened instead is that quite a few "tech experts" did not understand what it actually was and had completely unrealistic expectations. Map-reduce is nice when you a) have computing power coming out of your ears and b) have very specific computing tasks. That means that in almost all cases, this technology is a bad choice and that was rather obvious to any actual expert right from the start.

Software

FedEx Will Pay You $5 To Install Flash (theregister.co.uk) 89

FedEx's Office Print department is offering customers $5 to enable Adobe Flash in their browsers. Why would they do such a thing you may ask? It's because they want customers to design posters, signs, manuals, banners and promotional agents using their "web-based config-o-tronic widgets," which requires Adobe Flash. The Register reports: But the web-based config-o-tronic widgets that let you whip and order those masterpieces requires Adobe Flash, the enemy of anyone interested in security and browser stability. And by anyone we mean Google, which with Chrome 56 will only load Flash if users say they want to use it, and Microsoft which will stop supporting Flash in its Edge browser when the Windows 10 Creators Update debuts. Mozilla's Firefox will still run Flash, but not for long. The impact of all that Flash hate is clearly that people are showing up at FedEx Office Print without the putrid plug-in. But seeing as they can't use the service without it, FedEx has to make the offer depicted above or visible online here. That page offers a link to download Flash, which is both a good and a bad idea. The good is that the link goes to the latest version of Flash, which includes years' worth of bug fixes. The bad is that Flash has needed bug fixes for years and a steady drip of newly-detected problems means there's no guarantee the software's woes have ended. Scoring yourself a $5 discount could therefore cost you plenty in future.

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