Archive for the ‘dystopias’ Category

Copyright is dead

May 4, 2012

At least if you’re a big company and you want to violate it.

How OpenStreetMap Got Apple To Give It Due Credit | TPM Idea Lab

“The OSM Foundation has made informal contact with staff at Apple and, in addition, one of our volunteer mappers who is an iOS developer spoke to people at Apple. We believe it was the latter that precipitated adding the attribution – it’s great to have such an active and engaged community!

Completely ignored in all of this back-and-forth has been the fact that the CC attribution license is a license for things that are copyrighted, and that if you make copies without following it, you are infringing. Depending on the way Apple has parceled up the data when developing iphoto and the mood of a court, that would be statutory damages anywhere from the low millions to the high tens of billions.

Oh, and distribution of copyrighted material worth more than $2000? Check. For personal gain? Check. In interstate commerce? Check. Apple management and the engineers involved in the project have pretty clearly met the predicates for the criminal law involving piracy for profit.

But none of that matters these days unless you’re some dweeb downloading songs or your favorite movie.

A certain naive charm

May 5, 2011

File-Sharers Await Official Recognition of New Religion | TorrentFreak

The church has its own set of axioms, most of which revolve around free access to knowledge and the sharing of information. They include:

# Reproduction of information is ethically right.
# The flow of information is ethically right.
# Remix Spirit is a sacred kind of copying.
# Copying or remixing information conveyed by another person is an act of respect.

Unclear on the concept

December 6, 2010

Queens Woman Nearly Loses Home Over Bank Error – NYTimes.com

Because she had a dogged lawyer, who had the wit to get a New York Times columnist interested in her case, a terrible mistake was uncovered. As a result, an unjustified foreclosure may well be reversed.

In the column that contains these lines, Nocera documents repeated acceptance of payments under false information, repeated court filing of falsified documents, knowing dissemination of false information in financial transactions (oh, yeah, and the usual failure to perform proper service of documents in a lawsuit). This is a mistake?

Ever bleeping convicted bad-check signer and con artist in the country would be walking around with a clean record if they could just say “oops, my bad” the way Bank of America gets to do.

Corporate bustouts have been around a long time

November 3, 2010

Looting – Akerlof, Romer

tags: banking akerlof looting bankruptcy economic underworld

Sure, some of the details have changed, and managers with an ownership stake have gotten in on the deal as well, but they really do lay it all out. If you can get the government to guarantee your debts (or a government-sanctioned rating agency to give them a AAA rating) sometimes/often running a business into the ground is way more profitable than doing things honestly — even more profitable than just running crazy risks in hope of making them pay off. The math is simple and fairly irrefutable, and the cases are nicely done.

I also hadn’t known (shows how uninformed I am) how fraudulent S&Ls and junk bonds tied together. Without which there wouldn’t have been much of the merger madness that destroyed corporate governance.

Felix Salmon belabors the obvious

November 3, 2010

Summers’s incentives | Analysis & Opinion |

Being captured is not some kind of intellectually dishonest overt bribe, where you truly believe A but profess to believe B because doing so makes you rich. It’s much more subtle than that, based partly in the wealth and success and sterling reputations of those (like your mentor Bob Rubin, perhaps) who believe B. And it’s a survivorship-bias thing, too: if you don’t believe B, you’ll never rise to the kind of position where your opinions matter as much as Larry’s do and did.

I’d go a little further and say that capture works best on people with both a general desire to do good and the right modicum of self-reflection. If the intellectual results you achieve appeal just a little to your sense of transgression and go (maybe more than) a little against your professed beliefs in equity and the general welfare, you can be sure that they’re really intellectually rigorous. Not like those people who let their desires for how the world should be distort their analysis of how the world actually is. Yeah, right.

I think that one of Krugman’s great successes, in part because he embraces the notion of being a liberal (even though he only barely is by last-century standards), is in calling out the cult of virtuous suffering (especially suffering by other people). That cult is composed not only of the closet and not-so-closet sadists who like the idea that others must suffer to expiate economic sins, but also of those who have been abused into internalizing the notion that a world in which (other) people don’t suffer is somehow wrong — unnatural, immoral, weak and headed for disaster or whatever. That second group can only believe that its ideas are correct and rigorous (ahem) when they involve suffering. Any solution that involves good things happening to good people is per se suspect.

Corporate bustouts have been around a long time

October 21, 2010

Looting – Akerlof, Romer

tags: banking akerlof looting bankruptcy economic underworld

Sure, some of the details have changed, and managers with an ownership stake have gotten in on the deal as well, but they really do lay it all out. If you can get the government to guarantee your debts (or a government-sanctioned rating agency to give them a AAA rating) sometimes/often running a business into the ground is way more profitable than doing things honestly — even more profitable than just running crazy risks in hope of making them pay off. The math is simple and fairly irrefutable, and the cases are nicely done.

I also hadn’t known (shows how uninformed I am) how fraudulent S&Ls and junk bonds tied together. Without which there wouldn’t have been much of the merger madness that destroyed corporate governance.

Can’t trust anything any more

October 11, 2010

Grocery terminals slurped payment card data • The Register

The tampered terminals were in use from June 1 to August 31 in an undisclosed number of stores, the company disclosed in a press release (PDF) that appeared on a Friday, a favorite day of the week for releasing bad news. As many as 1,000 Aldi shoppers in Illinois and Indianapolis have already reported fraudulent charges, according to Computer World.

The breach is noteworthy for the breadth of the affected geography, which spanned from New York state to Georgia to as far west as Illinois. Presumably, those responsible would have had to travel to each store to physically plant the hardware used to siphon personal identification numbers, card numbers and names.

Unless, of course, they have an insider working in the distribution chain for POS terminals. In which case we might expect to hear of a lot of other retailers making similar discoveries. Whee. Maybe it’s time to go back to cash.

A seller’s market for nothing

October 8, 2010

The local daily fishwrap has decided to put its stories behind a paywall. I can now cough up $150+ a year for coverage of the city council’s decision on whether or not to buy a downtown parking lot to reroute a street that’s been taken over by the state, local car crashes, domestic violence arrests and burglaries, the neighboring town’s budget squabbles, plus a whole pile of cut-and-paste from AP and other national wires.

Or not.  That’s more than I would pay for a personal subscription to various learned journals, to the WSJ, even to the unlamented New York Times Select. So what the hell? On an average weekday, I click on maybe three or four stories. Are they worth 25 cents each to me, day in, day out?

From the newspaper’s point of view I can see it — pretty clearly no one except the crazy commenters is reading the web version, so it’s not supported by ad revenue. (I have no idea how few people are reading the print version, but it’s not a big town in the first place.) So they might as well price high and milk the diehards they have.

And for me: other than going down to city council meetings hanging around city hall, dropping by the police department every day, there is No. Effing. Other. Way. I can find out what’s going on in my town. So I pretty much get to pay a huge premium over the going rate for text I want to read, or choose to be uninformed. I’m not even sure if there is anywhere you can just walk in and but a copy.

 

 

Good news on GPS tracking

August 10, 2010

US appeals court bashes warrantless GPS tracking • The Register

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case arguing that absent a warrant, the planting of the device was an illegal search under the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment. The appeals court on Friday firmly rejected federal prosecutors’ arguments that the suspect had no reasonable expectation of privacy because the vehicle’s whereabouts could have been easily tracked using human surveillance.

“It is one thing for a passerby to observe or even to follow someone during a single journey as he goes to the market or returns home from work,” Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg wrote. “It is another thing entirely for that stranger to pick up the scent again the next day and the day after that, week in and week out, dogging his prey until he has identified all the places, people, amusements, and chores that make up that person‘s hitherto private routine.

Would be surprised if it’s overturned, but really the warrantless aspect has made it way too easy to just use it on everybody.

Wait till they get face recognition working on CCTV…

The good news is they’re not blowing anything up

July 23, 2010

Siemens warns users: Don’t change passwords after worm attack | Security Central – InfoWorld

According to Byres, however, changing the WinCC password would prevent critical components of the system from interacting with the WinCC system that manages them. “My guess is you would basically disable your whole system if you disable the whole password.”

New virus targets industrial secrets

To get around Windows systems that require digital signatures — a common practice in SCADA environments — the virus uses a digital signature assigned to semiconductor maker Realtek. The virus is triggered anytime a victim tries to view the contents of the USB stick. A technical description of the virus can be found here (pdf).

It’s unclear how the authors of the virus were able to sign their code with Realtek’s digital signature, but it may indicate that Realtek’s encryption key has been compromised. The Taiwanese semiconductor maker could not be reached for comment Friday.

In many ways, the virus mimics proof-of-concept attacks that security researchers like Wesley McGrew have been developing in laboratories for years. The systems it targets are attractive to attackers because they can provide a treasure-trove of information about the factory or utility where they’re used.

Back in the old days, when SCADA systems ran unconnected to absolutely anything else, a hardcoded password might not have been such a bad idea: it lets you connect to other bits of off-the-shelf software that insist on a password even when it’s not necessary. And it avoids lousy software developers writing yet another password storage and management package that just breaks when you need it most.

But that was 20 years ago.

The other kinda funny thing about this exploit is that keeping your SCADA system away from the internet isn’t good enough. It’s the USB sticks you have to watch out for.


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