Notes about security

January 2, 2012 permalink

Marconi, Hacked in 1903

Want to expose a rival’s poor security implementation? What better way than to demonstrate the weakness in public, in front of a gathered crowd? From a New Scientist story of very early 20th-Century hacktivism:

LATE one June afternoon in 1903 a hush fell across an expectant audience in the Royal Institution’s celebrated lecture theatre in London. Before the crowd, the physicist John Ambrose Fleming was adjusting arcane apparatus as he prepared to demonstrate an emerging technological wonder: a long-range wireless communication system developed by his boss, the Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. The aim was to showcase publicly for the first time that Morse code messages could be sent wirelessly over long distances. Around 300 miles away, Marconi was preparing to send a signal to London from a clifftop station in Poldhu, Cornwall, UK.

Yet before the demonstration could begin, the apparatus in the lecture theatre began to tap out a message. … Mentally decoding the missive, Blok [Fleming’s assistant] realised it was spelling one facetious word, over and over: “Rats”. A glance at the output of the nearby Morse printer confirmed this. The incoming Morse then got more personal, mocking Marconi: “There was a young fellow of Italy, who diddled the public quite prettily,” it trilled.

The radio-hacker was Nevil Maskelyne, a magician and rival inventor who was interested in developing wireless technology but who had been frustrated by the broad patents granted to Marconi. Bonus trivia: Nevil’s father was John Nevil Maskelyne, magician and inventor of the pay toilet, and his son was Jasper Maskelyne, a magician and inventor (see a family connection here?) who allegedly helped develop some of the famous optical diversions and camouflage trickery for the British military during WWII (his inflatable tanks remind me of the Potemkin Army thing I posted a couple of years back…)

April 17, 2010 permalink

Guns That Look Like Toys

Baltimore Police Department: Guns That Look Like Toys. Not a lot of info on this one, and the police report is from a couple of years ago, but have the criminals finally figured out that the law requiring toy guns to be clearly painted in comical neon colors can work both ways? How come these all seem to have been painted by the same gun shop in Wisconsin?

On the flip side this reminds me of the Entertech uzi motorized water gun I had as a kid (check out this commercial – almost unthinkable now, but I remember having a lot of fun with it at the time). These were pretty much the last realistically-painted gun toys sold in large stores in America after legislation passed in many states in 1988 following multiple incidents of children being mistakenly shot and killed by the police. That cultural shift led into the Super Soaker generation, which is actually a pretty fascinating story in and of itself.

(Via Schneier on Security, who reports that there a posters warning about painted guns in the NYC subways currently)

June 21, 2009 permalink

New TOR Clients from Iranian IP Space

From “Dramatic Increase in the Number of TOR Clients from Iran”, an O’Reilly Radar interview with the executive director of the TOR anonymizing onion router, software definitely made for times like these. Hopefully the new users know to keep their transmissions encrypted, especially given the likelihood that their government is keeping an eye on all outbound Internet traffic.