BZFF – Blog

Famed Hacker Kevin Mitnick Shows How to Go Invisible Online

We just saw this review in Wired, of Kevin Mitnick’s new book, The Art of Invisibility – The Worlds’ Most Famous Hacker Teaches You How to be Safe in the Age of Big Brother and Big Data. Here’s a link: https://www.wired.com/2017/02/famed-hacker-kevin-mitnick-shows-go-invisible-online/

Mitnick, was one of the first computer hackers to gain big-time notoriety (or infamy – depending on your leanings) and was used partially as a model for the Gnome character in Glass House 51.

He was brilliant and at an early age learned the inner workings of computers and the Internet, and by the age of 19 he had hacked into DEC’s network and copied their software, a crime he was charged with and convicted of in 1988. Following some other hacking episodes, Mitnick was arrested by the FBI on February 15, 1995 and charged with wire fraud, computer fraud and illegally intercepting a wire communication.  Eventually he spent 5 years in prison.

It was said that the government came down especially hard on Mitnick, in its efforts to set an example to hackers in the brave new world of computer crime. Compared to modern hackers, who are often thieves, Mitnick just enjoyed his ability to sneak into the networks of large institutions, and never stole anything valuable (like credit cards) for financial gain.

We will be definitely getting and reading this as trying to keep a semblance of personal privacy in modern times is becoming harder and harder.

You should know that some of your email providers scan the content of all your messages (Google, for example, takes the content of a user’s gmail combined with data from their Google profile as a whole, including search results, map requests and YouTube views, to display what it considers are relevant ads.)

This is all supposedly known to us in the fine-print user agreement we hurriedly click to Accept.  And then we’re monitored forever.  Which, though somewhat unsettling, might not all be all that bad in a totally free, benevolent society, but the equation could soon change if an autocrat or plutocrat could come to power in America – or anywhere – and begin to seize our personal information that has long ago lost its privacy.  Again, this is what Glass House 51 is all about.

Mitnick, in his new book, apparently is providing some ways out of this.  We would think that survivalists and preppers would be interested in his suggestions. But from the Wired review blurb, it appears this is not simple.  We will provide an update on the book in a future review.

Below is a pic of Mitnick (center) with friends.

 

Time Travel in literature by James Gleick

Here’s an interesting new book on Time Travel in literature by James Gleick, a published author of a number of best-selling science and technology books. His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.

His latest book traces the history of time travel through literature, a brilliant concept, through H. G. Well’s The Time Machine (of course), through Ray Bradbury, Woody Allen, and William Gibson. Although he does not mention Wherever You Go, There You Are, it looks to be fascinating. We hope to provide a review in the near future.

Here is the New Yorker review:

Time Travel, by James Gleick (Pantheon). H. G. Wells’s 1895 novella “The Time Machine” begat a new genre. Just four years later, Mark Twain beaned a protagonist over the head with a crowbar, sending him reeling into the Middle Ages, and since then storytellers from Ray Bradbury to Woody Allen have made liberal use of the device, introducing the public to wormholes, backward-running clocks, and so on. In this sweeping survey, Gleick tracks the idea’s passage through literature and film, making stops in ancient philosophy, theoretical physics, and neuroscience. Is fourth-dimensional tourism conceivable? Gleick suggests that our best hope lies in our own creative capacities. “Imaginations liberate us,” he writes. “Narrative itself is the time machine.”

God Is a Sadistic Internet Troll in the Delightful French Satire ‘The Brand New Testament’

Found this item in The Daily Beast: “God Is a Sadistic Internet Troll in the Delightful French Satire ‘The Brand New Testament’” It initially reminded us of the Gnome, the omniscient alpha-geek hacker in Glass House 51, but the movie goes crazily further, making the Internet Troll, essentially: God.  Yes, that’s right. Haven’t seen the film yet, but looks great from the trailer.  Will check it out and review in a future post.  Check it out:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/12/10/god-is-a-sadistic-internet-troll-in-the-delightful-french-satire-the-brand-new-testament.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOHzswBN0IQ

Taking Trolls to Court, interesting New Yorker Article this week

A great article about Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn attorney helping women who are victims of “revenge porn.” It describes what seems to be an increasingly disturbing scenario: boyfriend asks for explicit pics, girlfriend sends explicit pics, they break-up, boyfriend seeks revenge and posts pics on the Internet. Now this attorney is leading the fight to prosecute the revenge-seekers.

The article also mentions the 2014 incidents of the hacking of intimate images of Jennifer Lawrence and other prominent actresses; also the case of the Californian Luis Mijangos who tricked women into installing malware that searched their computers for sexually explicit photographs and switched on Webcams and computer microphones, so that he could secretly record them. Mijangos is serving a six year sentence for the hacking and wiretapping.

(Note that a set of speakers or earphones attached to a computer can be hacked into becoming microphones as described in a previous blog on this site.)

Here’s the New Yorker link: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/05/the-attorney-fighting-revenge-porn

Big Brother may be secretly listening to your conversations

An article yesterday in Weird News, “Always Listening: Hackers Can Now Turn Your Headphones into a Surveillance Microphone with Malware,” describes how a malware program developed by Israeli engineers can change internal microchip coding to turn a pair of headphones or earbuds sitting on your desktop into microphones that can hear conversations at some distance!

morphing-headphones-into-microphones-diagram

Apparently, this technology reversal of speakers being morphed into secret microphones is fairly well-known but the new scare is that it can be done remotely via software alone!

Another instance of Orwell’s 1984 paranoia becoming a reality – remember Winston’s all-knowing, all-seeing telescreen?

This is really creepy – like the now well-known hack of being able to remotely activate the webcam on your laptop without triggering the LED. This is what got a hacker 18 months in federal prison for spying on Miss Teen USA, Cassidy Wolf.

So keep the Post-It on your webcam when you’re not using it – you already do that, right?  And now be sure to unplug those speakers, headphones, and earbuds when you’re not using them.

Check out these links:
http://weekinweird.com/2016/11/23/hackers-can-now-turn-headphones-secret-microphone/
https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1611/1611.07350.pdf

1984 is us

First post. Had a long layover in the Milwaukee airport before migrating to the Pacific NW, and I got to poke around Renaissance Books, a huge bookstore of used books, actually in the MKE terminal. I wandered through stacks of literally, thousands of books, until I ran into Hunter Thompson’s Kingdom of Fear, a collection of the Life & Times of the mythical wonderful gonzo madman journalist, published in 2003, just before his suicide in 2005. Incidentally, in Kingdom of Fear, he may have written his obituary:

“My life has been the polar opposite of safe, but I am proud of it and so is my son, and that is good enough for me. I would do it all over again without changing the beat, although I have never recommended it to others. That would be cruel and irresponsible and wrong, I think, and I am none of those things.”

Ernest Hemingway, whom Thompson admired, also took his life with a gun. His was a double-barreled shotgun; Thompson’s was a .45 handgun.

But I want to present an interesting letter posted in Kingdom of Fear that closely captures the broad themes explored in Glass House 51, the tragic loss of individual rights of privacy, freedom, and civil liberties in America in the legislative insanity following the 9/11 attack on NYC.

The letter is from attorney Gerry Goldstein to Hunter Thompson in Woody Creek, Colorado, dated June 15, 2002. Here is an excerpt:

. . . Your reputation may be that of the poet laureate of our generation, but you teach us by more than just word. Your example of political and social activism speaks volumes about good citizenship. As you reminded me recently:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing.”

A lot of water has passed under the bridge in the intervening decade since we stood on the steps of the Pitkin County Courthouse, basking in the celebrative sunshine of that victorious moment, and most of it has seen the erosion of Constitutional guarantees set in place by our Founding Fathers as a bulwark to protect the governed from their government. For example, the United States Supreme Court has since ruled that the police can:

• Search your home based upon the consent of someone who has absolutely no authority to give same,

• Stop your car based upon an “anonymous tip” completely lacking any indicia of reliability,

• Subject a motorist to mandatory sobriety tests without any indication they have been drinking or that their driving is impaired,

• Hold innocent citizens for up to two days without giving reason or recourse.

The tragic events of September 11,2001, changed more than Manhattan’s skyline; it profoundly altered our political and legal landscape as well. Anyone who witnessed the desecration of those buildings and the heart-wrenching loss of life, who didn’t want to run out and rip someone a new asshole, doesn’t deserve the freedoms we still enjoy.

However, anybody who thinks for one moment that giving up our freedoms is any way to preserve or protect those freedoms, is even more foolhardy.

Yet barely one month later, on October 26, 2001, Congress overwhelmingly passed the USA Patriot Act. It rolled through the Senate on a vote of 99 to 1, and the lone holdout, Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, said he didn’t really know whether he was opposed to the bill or not, he just wanted to read it before voting.

There were only two copies of the 346-page document extant at the time, and the Senate had been run out of their building by the anthrax scare.

That single Congressional enactment authorizes the detention of non-citizens suspected of terrorist acts without filing of charges or resort to judicial authority, permits roving wiretaps, and extends to American citizens the secret proceedings, surveillance, and wiretaps of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which sits in a vault atop the Department of Justice Building, and allows only Deputy Attorneys General of the United States to appear.

Imagine an adversary process that allows only one side’s advocate to appear. No wonder that in its 24-year history not a single request for surveillance was turned down.

Not until last month, when the secret judge refused to apply these secret proceedings to citizens, cataloging 75 instances where the FBI had lied to them. The Just Us Department has appealed that secret decision to a secret appeals court, presumably at some other secret location.

[Discussing HST’s cause to condemn illegal search and seizures] . . . In 1990 you founded the Fourth Amendment Foundation, a collection of legal titans willing to take a stand against our government’s increasingly pervasive intrusions into its citizen’s privacy.

While our forefathers were concerned that King George’s Red Coats were breaking down their doors and rummaging through their underwear drawers, today we are faced with more sophisticated means of invading our privacy.

The new technology is not physical. You cannot see it. You cannot feel it. But in a way, it is more sinister and dangerous because of that.

Stealthlike, it ‘steals your thoughts. It steals your conversations. It invades the crossroads between the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and the First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

It cuts to the quick the citizenry’s’ right to protest and complain about their government. The Fourth Amendment protection of a citizen’s privacy against his or her government’s intrusion is the linchpin upon which all other civil liberties rest.

Freedom of speech and association, so essential to a free society, would mean little if the citizens’ activities and communications were not protected from government interference and interception.

George Orwell created his sterile environment and maintained control over the citizenry, not by imprisoning their bodies, but by exposing their thoughts and communications to government scrutiny.

With recent advances in electronic technology allowing Big Brother to spy upon the most intimate and confidential parts of our lives and communications, the citizen today is in need of greater, not lesser protection.

Yet in the face of the dreaded drug scare and threat of international terrorism, courts continue to erode the citizens’ zone of privacy by paternalistically balancing these perceived dangers against the public’s willingness to acquiesce.

While the majority does “rule” in our republican form of democracy, our Constitution was designed to protect certain rights and liberties from that majority, as well as for them.

Recognizing that “[a]mong deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart … [as] uncontrolled search and seizure,” your Fourth Amendment Foundation vigilantly stands guard against further encroachments upon the citizens’ diminishing expectation of privacy. . . .