27th November, 2010

Cyberwarfare, and how it was used against the Iranian nuclear programme

by Sunny at 4:26 am    

Wow. This article on FoxNews (yes, I know, but you have to read it) is something out of a thriller novel.

Basically, it details how intelligence agencies, perhaps more than one, designed a vastly advanced computer worm that was designed solely to disrupt Iran’s nuclear energy programme. Fox calls it ‘Nuclear Weapons’ but of course the Iranian govt can’t build those under the Non-Proliferation Treaty rules (officially).

The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.

Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.

When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.

The whole thing is an excellent read; and actually, I have no problems with this. Sure, it’s illegal, but I prefer knocking out nuclear ambitions with cyber-warfare than real guns. If it lowers the chances of war with Iran – excellent.

The long-term problem of course is that it sets off a cyber arms-race. Not with Iran (with how little the Middle East invests in education, it has no hope of catching up) but China. What happens when China learns and takes over your computer systems? Or what about India? (we can probably wait for a bit there too for the same reasons). We’re heading into uncertain territory, but at least it has its silver lining too.

20th January, 2010

A reply to Catherine Bennett

by Sunny at 2:40 pm    

On the Sunday just gone past, Catherine Bennett mentioned me in an article taking a shot at “the mob” – especially on Twitter and blogs.
Here’s my reply:

This weekend Catherine Bennett castigated me, along with others, for being part of a mob that had taken exception to the prospect of Rod Liddle being appointed editor of the Independent. She’s right – I refuse to buy the Indy ever again (or link to it) if Liddle is appointed editor. More than 4,000 people share my concern, and with good reason.

In all these cases the so-called “mob” has been accused of suppressing free speech. But what you can hear screaming isn’t the Twitter or Facebook mob, it’s newspaper columnists terrified at the idea that their critics could organise themselves and do damage to their reputations.

What the likes of Bennett, Cohen and others protesting about the “mob” don’t seem to understand is that these are real people, their own readers, trying to do something about the world around them. They join Facebook groups, retweet about court injunctions or state #welovetheNHS because, occasionally, they have the opportunity to be part of an spontaneous movement that can have a big impact. Not all lead somewhere, of course, but some do. And the more people realise the power of the collective the more they’ll join in.

Read the whole thing here

9th November, 2009

The kind of people who want to stop ‘Islamification’ of Britain

by Sunny at 10:06 am    

There’s a Facebook group a reader sent in titled: ‘BRITAIN WILL NEVER BE A MUSLIM COUNTRY‘. As one of the Sikh posters on the group sarcastically writes: Britain will never be a Sikh country either.

But what kind of people does such a group attract? What’s their mindset like?

Continue Reading...
6th March, 2009

Obama’s stereotyping Asian men

by Sunny at 7:26 pm    

According to Shamit at eGov monitor, Obama has appointed a new Chief Information Office for the United States. Yes, he’s brown.

President Obama said, “Vivek Kundra will bring a depth of experience in the technology arena and a commitment to lowering the cost of government operations to this position. I have directed him to work to ensure that we are using the spirit of American innovation and the power of technology to improve performance and lower the cost of government operations. As Chief Information Officer, he will play a key role in making sure our government is running in the most secure, open, and efficient way possible.”

The only other South Asian person to be offered a role was the Surgeon General position! Being medics and geeks, is that all we’re good at?? Well, at least the American tech industry are ecstatic. Heh.

27th December, 2008

Age ratings for websites

by Rumbold at 9:39 am    

Seems unworkable to me:

“Film-style age ratings could be applied to websites to protect children from harmful and offensive material, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has said.”

Filed under: Media,Technology
5th December, 2008

Mumbai attack news stories

by Sunny at 10:25 am    

A few days ago a large gathering of people in Canary Wharf held a candle-light vigil for the victims of the Mumbai attacks.
london vigil

Today, many of the papers are running with the story of Lashkar-e-Taiba opening its doors so it could try and pretend it had nothing to do with Mumbai.

School accused of Mumbai terror role opens its doors
• Campus said to be base for banned extremist group
• Media visitors shown classrooms and hospital

Behind the fence at ‘terror’ training camp
The Pakistani terrorist group blamed for the attack on Mumbai opened its gates to outsiders in order to protest its innocence.

Elsewhere
• More Mumbai links to Pakistan and signs of abuse
• Mumbai gunman tells of ‘martyrdom’ deal
• India has proof of ISI role in Mumbai attacks: Sources
• Mumbai masterminds to be on FBI list
• No intention to declare war on Pakistan
• Bangladesh LeT ex-chief helped Mumbai attackers

Filed under: South Asia,Technology
24th September, 2008

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

by Shariq at 1:42 pm    

The fact that new technology has made a difference in how we act and communicate as individuals isn’t disputed by anyone. However the precise ways in which tools such as digital phone-cameras, facebook, flickr and livejournal have impacted communities and society as a whole have been less easy to quantify.

This is what Clay Shirky sets out to do in ‘Here Comes Everybody’, and his analysis of the changes to group formation as a result of greater connectivity, makes an excellent read which anyone interested in technology and forming active groups should check out.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Technology
27th August, 2008

Big Brother technology

by Ala at 2:22 pm    

Last weekend the New Scientist reported on the harrowing developments in the world of surveillance technology. The week before, the Home Office announced plans to give law-enforcement agencies, local councils and other public bodies access to the details of people’s text messages, emails and internet activity. New technology has been developed by Seimens to ensure this kind of absolute surveillance can be integrated into one system.

This software is trained on a large number of sample documents to pick out items such as names, phone numbers and places from generic text. This means it can spot names or numbers that crop up alongside anyone already of interest to the authorities, and then catalogue any documents that contain such associates.

Once a person is being monitored, pattern-recognition software first identifies their typical behaviour, such as repeated calls to certain numbers over a period of a few months. The software can then identify any deviations from the norm and flag up unusual activities, such as transactions with a foreign bank, or contact with someone who is also under surveillance, so that analysts can take a closer look.

The system has been sold in 60 countries and 90 phone call “monitoring centres”, developed by the joint-venture company Nokia Siemens Networks, are already being used around the world, although we don’t know which countries are using it.

Whatever the level of accuracy, human rights advocates are concerned that the system could give surveillance-hungry repressive regimes a ready-made means of monitoring their citizens. Carole Samdup of the organisation Rights and Democracy in Montreal, Canada, says the system bears a strong resemblance to the Chinese government’s “Golden Shield” concept, a massive surveillance network encompassing internet and email monitoring as well as speech and facial-recognition technologies and closed-circuit TV cameras.

I’m more worried about its use by non-repressive regimes.

19th August, 2008

Internet gender selection ads attacked in India

by Rumbold at 8:29 pm    

Internet companies have come under pressure from India’s Supreme Court to justify carrying advertisements for gender selection products:

“India bans tests that allow people to know the gender of unborn children – a law designed to tackle widespread abortion of female foetuses. ‘These companies are making a lot of money by doing highly targeted and selective advertising of these products,’ said Sabu George, an activist leading the campaign…

‘The court has issued a notice to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo asking them to reply to our petition,’ said Sanjay Parikh, a lawyer who lodged the complaint. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says India loses 7,000 girls every day through abortion. Campaigners say the courts have intervened in the past to block newspaper advertisements of sex selection tests. Mr Parikh said the petition had been submitted along with letters from the government in which it agrees that the Internet advertisements are illegal.”

Gender selection is illegal in India under the 1994 ‘Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)’ Act. Whilst I agree with the aims of the activists, and it is likely that the activists will succeed, to what extent should ISPs be held responsible for all their content? In India they usually are considered to be responsible.

Update: Galloise Blonde points out a good article on India’s gender bias.

5th March, 2008

Indian IT industry in mild trouble

by Rumbold at 11:27 am    

A study has found that firms are increasingly outsourcing their IT services to Eastern Europe, China, and Morocco. India still has a fair share of the market, but with the rupee so strong some companies are looking elsewhere:

“According to the study, since the beginning of January 2007, UK’s 20 largest IT services suppliers have opened 21 new global delivery centres. However, of these only two are were located in India. Four such centres were set up in China, while Eastern Europe and Morocco had three each, the study added.

“India’s position as the premier low-cost IT sourcing centre is not under serious threat in the near term. But what we are seeing is vendors (are) looking to reduce theirreliability on India’s heated labour market…,” Nick Mayes, a senior consultant at PAC, said in a statement. The 20 largest IT services vendors in the UK are based on rankings in PACs annual SITSI report. These include EDS, IBM, Fujitsu, Capgemini, Capita, Accenture, CSC, HP, BT Global Services and LogicaCMG.”

Continue Reading...
11th December, 2007

How to spy on all your friends online

by Leon at 11:19 pm    

In a slight digression from the usual current affairs and political debate I thought I’d share this latest find with you. Seeing as us Picklers are on the cutting edge of digital social innovations (stop laughing at the back) I figure this would be of interest.

Allow me to introduce Spokeo, it’s simply a news feed (think Facebook’s mini feed of what app your mates have added or events they’re attending etc) of all the things you’re friends are doing publicly online…

Continue Reading...
6th November, 2007

A nuclear Britain

by Rumbold at 8:14 pm    

Gordon Brown seems to be heading for a big increase in nuclear power:

“The plans, part of Gordon Brown’s first programme as PM, are said to be aimed at cutting carbon emissions and getting the best energy mix for the UK.

It would be for the private sector to initiate, fund, construct and operate new nuclear plants and cover costs of decommissioning and waste management.”

What do people think about this? Is this our only option if we want to cut down on oil and gas, or is it too dangerous?

14th September, 2007

Still about choice?

by Rumbold at 8:42 am    

Recently there was quite a heated discussion on Amnesty’s spat with the Roman Catholic Church over the former’s support for abortion. Most people on the thread supported a woman’s right to choose, but what about if a woman is aborting her child because of the sex? Should there, or even can there, be legislation to prevent this?

Joanne Payton, at the International Campaign Against Honour Killings, reports that the Chief Minister of Punjab, Parkash Singh Badal, called for female foeticide to be equated with:

Murder in terms of punishment, as it was a heinous crime perpetrated by anti-social elements in the society and must be condemned by one and all.

Female foeticide seems to be especially prevalent in the Indian state of Punjab, with only 776 girls for every 1,000 boys.

Nearly all of us would agree that this is extremely distasteful, and not an ideal situation, but can anything be done about it other than trying to persuade Indians that aborting females because of their sex is wrong? Indian society as a whole needs to learn to value women more, and cut out the practice of dowry if they want to save their next generation of females. With superior ultrasound it will become easier to detect the sex of the baby, so the situation may get worse before it gets better. If women are already second-class citizens before they are even born, what hope do they have?

27th July, 2007

Will Facebook change politics?

by Sunny at 3:18 pm    

Anyone who thinks Facebook will soon revolutionise politics should be shot. Ok, maybe I exaggerate slightly, but military-style executions aren’t so bad, are they?

But seriously, since Social Networking and Web 2.0 become increasingly used buzzwords in the media landscape and journalists sign up in droves, I expect this question to crop up much more.

Continue Reading...

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