A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Living in the Freest Country on Earth

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A lot of people living here in the United States remain adamant that it is the freest country on Earth. Even those who don’t believe that it is the freest country on Earth are skittish about calling it a police state. However, I can’t think of any other term that describes the state of a nation where this kind of nonsense takes place:

Los Angeles will be the first US city to start equipping its subways with body scanners. But the Southern California metropolis isn’t using the bulky, slow-operating models that populate US airports: Instead, LA’s Metropolitan Transit Authority will deploy portable trunk-sized scanners that can survey people from 30 feet away at a rate of 2,000 individuals an hour.

This shouldn’t surprise anybody. When the Transportation Security Administration installed body scanners at airports, there was a short period where people expressed outrage at the idea. After that short period almost everybody rolled over and accepted it. Now that practice is coming to subways in Los Angeles and I predict a similar result. There will be a short period of outrage but everybody will roll over like the good little slaves they are in short order. Then this system will come to trains (including municipal light rail) and buses and eventually you won’t be able to go anywhere without being subjected to a full body scan.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Suing the Baker: Episode Two

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Remember when advocates for religious liberty were cheering the Supreme Court when it ruled in favor of Jack Phillips, the baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding due his religious beliefs? Remember when I pointed out that the ruling had nothing to do with religious liberty because the court ruling related to a technicality, the arguments being put forth by either the defendant or prosecutor? That minor detail that so many people skipped over ensured that this was inevitable:

The Christian baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple and was vindicated by the Supreme Court earlier this year is mounting another legal challenge this week after refusing to bake a gender-transitioning cake.

Shortly after the Supreme Court agreed to hear baker Jack Phillips‘ case, an attorney requested he create a cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside to represent a gender transition from male to female.

As a Christian, Mr. Phillips would not make the cake since it conflicted with his beliefs, which was his same reasoning for refusing to bake the same-sex couple’s wedding cake.

The state of Colorado has come after Mr. Phillips again, suggesting state law requires him to bake the gender change cake.

Since the Supreme Court didn’t make a ruling on the arguments presented, the issue was never legally resolved, which pretty much guaranteed that somebody else would take Phillips back to court for the same reason.

It’ll be interesting to see how this case turns out. Will it reach the Supreme Court again? If so, will the Supreme Court once again rule on a technicality to dodge the controversy that will be the result of any ruling based on the arguments presented? If it rules on a technicality again, will we see a third episode (hint: we will)?

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet… or in a Book

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The Internet is a platform for everybody, and I mean everybody. From scientists to conspiracy theorists. From medical professionals to witch doctors. From professional chefs to idiots who don’t know that the ingredients they’re recommending are toxic:

Holmgren’s idealized Little House lifestyle led to online fame and eventually helped her land a book deal. Which is fine. Holmgren’s Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen: The Ultimate Field Guide to Evoke Curiosity and Wonderment with More Than 80 Recipes and Foraging Tips hit shelves earlier this year. And amazingly, she had more to say than would fit in that subtitle—upon its release, Holmgren and her forest-find-decorated home were featured in publications like the Star Tribune.

Here’s the problem: Forager’s Kitchen also includes recipes that use raw morel mushrooms. There’s a smoothie in there made with raw elderberries.

Both of which are toxic if served uncooked.

The Internet gave Holmgren a platform and according to Shitty Pages she has risen through the ranks and is now an “Instagram influencer” (whatever the fuck that is). Thanks to fame that the Internet enabled her to accrue, she was able to publish a physical book. It just so happens that following the advice in her book could lead to some discomfort. So, yeah, thanks Internet!

I’m rather sad that this book is being recalled. I think a lot of people would benefit from direct experience in not believing every idiot thing that they read.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 16th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires

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Many socialists like the say that advocates of capitalism only advocate capitalism because they see themselves not as members of the lower and middle classes but as future millionaires.

Of course, most of the socialists who say that don’t see themselves as members of the lower and middle classes but as future members of the politburo.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Side Notes

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Another Day, Another Exploit Discovered in Intel Processors

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The last couple of years have not been kind to processor manufacturers. Ever since the Meltdown and Specter attacks were discovered, the speculative execution feature that is present on most modern processors has opened the door to a world of new exploits. However, Intel has been hit especially hard. The latest attack, given the fancy name Foreshadow, exploits the speculative execution feature on Intel processors to bypass security features meant to keep sensitive data out of the hands of unauthorized processes:

Foreshadow is a speculative execution attack on Intel processors which allows an attacker to steal sensitive information stored inside personal computers or third party clouds. Foreshadow has two versions, the original attack designed to extract data from SGX enclaves and a Next-Generation version which affects Virtual Machines (VMs), hypervisors (VMM), operating system (OS) kernel memory, and System Management Mode (SMM) memory.

It should be noted that, as the site says, this exploit is not known to work against ARM or AMD processors. However, it would be wise to keep an eye on this site. The researchers are still performing research on other processors and it may turn out that this attack works on processors not made by Intel as well.

As annoying as these hardware attacks are, I’m glad that the security industry is focusing more heavily on hardware. Software exploits can be devastating but if you can’t trust the hardware that the software is running on, no amount of effort to secure the software matters.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Technology

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Dream Job

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I never thought that I’d say this but I may be moving to Venezuela. It turns out that the socialist government there has brought back my dream profession:

Political and economic crises are exploding from Venezuela to Nicaragua to Haiti, sparking anarchy and criminality. As the rule of law breaks down, certain spots in the Caribbean, experts say, are becoming more dangerous than they’ve been in years.

Often, observers say, the acts of villainy appear to be happening with the complicity or direct involvement of corrupt officials — particularly in the waters off collapsing Venezuela.

“It’s criminal chaos, a free-for-all, along the Venezuelan coast,” said Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, a nonprofit organization that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

While I’m sure these pirates are being condemned by the Venezuelan government, the two groups are actually doing the exact same thing except the former doesn’t have as much pomp or as many rituals.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 15th, 2018 at 10:00 am

The Body Camera Didn’t Record the Summary Execution Because It Was Hacked

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The aftermath of DEF CON when the high profile exploits discussed at the event hit the headlines is always fun. Most of the headlines have focused on the complete lack of security that exists on electronic voting machines. I haven’t touch on that because it’s an exercise in beating a dead horse at this point. A story that I found far more interesting due to its likely consequences is the news about the exploits found in popular law enforcer body cameras:

At Def Con this weekend, Josh Mitchell, a cybersecurity consultant with Nuix, showed how various models of body cameras can be hacked, tracked and manipulated. Mitchell looked at devices produced by five companies — Vievu, Patrol Eyes, Fire Cam, Digital Ally and CeeSc — and found that they all had major security flaws, Wired reports. In four of the models, the flaws could allow an attacker to download footage, edit it and upload it again without evidence of any of those changes having occurred.

I assume that these exploits are a feature, not a bug.

Law enforcers already have a problem with “malfunctioning” body cameras. There are numerous instances where multiple law enforcers involved in a shooting with highly questionable circumstances all claimed that their body cameras malfunctioned simultaneously. What has been missing up until this point is a justification for those malfunctions. I won’t be surprised if we start seeing law enforcers claim that their body cameras were hacked in the aftermath of these kinds of shootings. Moreover, the ability of unauthorized individuals to download, edit, and upload footage is another great feature because footage that reflects poorly on law enforcers can be edited and if the edit is discovered, officials can claim that it must have been edited by evil hackers.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 14th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Minneapolis’ Very Own Tent Town

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Minneapolis has achieved another milestone in its march towards progress, it now has its very own Hooverville:

Yanez lives at the heart of a sprawling homeless settlement that has formed and grown quickly this summer in the shadows of the Little Earth housing project near the intersection of Hiawatha and Cedar avenues in south Minneapolis.

Their numbers have multiplied in recent weeks, reaching about 60 men, women and children this week, turning this narrow stretch of grass into one of the largest and most visible homeless camps ever seen in Minnesota.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Every large city has a homeless population living within it. People who share hardships often come together and form a community. However, by forming a community these individuals have also made their existence undeniable, which will likely cause them more hardship in the near future.

City officials do not like homeless individuals. When city officials learn about the existence of a group of homeless individuals, they tend to sic their dogs on them. The angle of this story is that this Hooverville is a public health crisis. That will likely be the justification city officials use when they send their law enforcers to confiscate these individuals’ tents and tell them that they have to go be homeless somewhere else (that is, after all, how city officials always “help” the homeless).

Written by Christopher Burg

August 14th, 2018 at 10:30 am

Being Treated Like a Criminal

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I didn’t make it to DEF CON this year but I’m beginning to think that it was for the best. If there’s one thing I hate it’s being falsely accused of a crime, which is what many hotel staffs are now in the practice of doing in Las Vegas:

Caesars began rolling out a new security policy in February that mandated room searches when staff had not had access to rooms for over 24 hours. Caesars has been mostly tolerant of the idiosyncratic behavior of the DEF CON community, but it’s not clear that the company prepared security staff for dealing with the sorts of things they would find in the rooms of DEF CON attendees. Soldering irons and other gear were seized, and some attendees reported being intimidated by security staff.

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And since the searches came without any warning other than a knock, they led, in some cases, to frightening encounters for attendees who were in those rooms. Katie Moussouris—a bug bounty and vulnerability disclosure program pioneer at Microsoft, an advocate for security researchers, and now the founder and CEO of Luta Security—was confronted by two male members of hotel security as she returned to her room. When she went into the room to call the desk to verify who they were, they banged on the door and screamed at her to immediately open it.

Caesars wasn’t the only hotel reported to be doing this by DEF CON attendees. Hotels owned by MGM Resorts International were also searching rooms without cause.

I don’t do business with people who assume ill of me so I sure as the hell am not going to do business with Caesars or any hotel owned by MGM Resorts International unless this practice is stopped. Unfortunately, I don’t foresee this practice ceasing. Instead I see this practice becoming the norm for hotels. If we look at the recent history of the United States, this kind of behavior will, at most, cause a very minor and very temporary dip in business. After their initial outrage though, if even that much of a reaction occurs, the American people will roll over and accept this incursion into their private life just as they have accepted every other incursion. If you accuse an American of being a criminal without cause, they tend to get upset… unless you tell them that the reason you’re accusing them is because somebody else committed a crime, then they’ll totally understand that it’s for the “greater good” and roll over like the good dogs that they are.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 14th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: R.S. Knights by Persuader

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Written by Christopher Burg

August 13th, 2018 at 10:00 am

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