A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

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.

[…]

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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Nothing But the Best

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What’s the worst that could happen if the programmer for your pacemaker accepts software updates that aren’t digitally signed or delivered via a security connection? It could accept a malicious software update that when pushed to your pacemaker could literally kill you. With stakes so high you might expect the manufacturer of such a device to have a vested interest in fixing it. After all, people keeling over dead because you didn’t implement basic security features on your product isn’t going to make for good headlines. But it turns out that that isn’t the case:

At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, researchers Billy Rios and Jonathan Butts said they first alerted medical device maker Medtronic to the hacking vulnerabilities in January 2017. So far, they said, the proof-of-concept attacks they developed still work. The duo on Thursday demonstrated one hack that compromised a CareLink 2090 programmer, a device doctors use to control pacemakers after they’re implanted in patients.

Because updates for the programmer aren’t delivered over an encrypted HTTPS connection and firmware isn’t digitally signed, the researchers were able to force it to run malicious firmware that would be hard for most doctors to detect. From there, the researchers said, the compromised machine could cause implanted pacemakers to make life-threatening changes in therapies, such as increasing the number of shocks delivered to patients.

Killing people through computer hacks has been a mainstay of Hollywood for a long time. When Hollywood first used that plot point, it was unlikely. Today software is integrated into so many critical systems that that plot point is feasible. Security needs to be taken far more seriously, especially by manufacturers to develop such critical products.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 10th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Democracy Sure Is Fragile

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I’m sure Alex Jones is enjoying all of the free advertising that he has received from being banned from Facebook, Apple, and YouTube. Normally a marketing campaign with so much outreach would cost a small fortune. However, the real entertainment value in all of this is the pro-censorship crowd’s rhetoric. For example, take Senator Chris Murphy’s comment:

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., is calling on other tech companies to ban more sites like InfoWars, and says the survival of American democracy depends on it.

“Infowars is the tip of a giant iceberg of hate and lies that uses sites like Facebook and YouTube to tear our nation apart. These companies must do more than take down one website. The survival of our democracy depends on it,” Murphy tweeted Monday.

The survival of our democracy depends on censorship! If Jones is allowed to express himself, democracy will fall!

Democracy must be very fragile indeed if a single man’s speech can take it down. But the festering pustule that is mob rule has survived for hundreds of years even though many countries under the system have traditionally been in favor of free speech. That being the case, I’m inclined to believe that democracy is, unfortunately, more resilient than Murphy says.

The most amusing thing about democracy to me is the fact that its most vocal advocates generally hate it. While their mouths are talking about the greatness of democracy their hands are working to stop anybody who votes the wrong way. When somebody says they love democracy, what they generally mean is that they love the idea of a system where only those who agrees with them are allowed to vote.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Rules Are for Thee, Not for Me

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Remember those denial of service attacks that the Fascist Communications Club (FCC) reported were targeting it? It turns out that they never happened. That’s right, the FCC lied to congress. So wrathful retribution must be at hand, right? Congress will make an example of the FCC to ensure no other government agency lies to it in the future, right? Not so much. The reason the FCC had the guts to lie is the same reason every government agency has no fear of lying, the government isn’t in the habit of prosecuting its own:

Despite lies to Congress, US attorney declined to prosecute any FCC employees.

As the classic line usually said in regards to law enforcement goes, we investigated ourselves and found that we did nothing wrong.

The biggest weakness in the theory that checks and balances existing within the government is that the system as described is a huge conflict of interest. Congress relies on the FCC to enforce its laws governing communications. Going against the FCC may cause those laws, many of which are very lucrative for the federal government, to go unenforced. Disciplining the FCC might also upset other law enforcement agencies, which may cause them to stop enforcing or only poorly enforce Congress’ laws. Congress has no interest in possibly upsetting its major revenue generators.

There are no checks or balances in government. Government is a circlejerk.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The Psychological Impact of the Atomic Bomb

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August 6th was the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Many people posted about it. Many people pointed out that it was a heinous act because an estimated 39,000 to 80,000 people, most of whom were civilians, were killed.

Meanwhile the firebombing campaign against Tokyo, which resulted in the death of approximately 100,000 civilians, is seldom mentioned.

My point here isn’t to judge people for mentioning one without mentioning the other. It’s to illustrate that the psychological impact of the atomic bomb was so great that we still feel compelled to discuss the matter today even when we don’t have the same compulsion towards other acts that lead to even great losses of life.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 9th, 2018 at 10:00 am

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Nothing to See Here

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I was attending the Reddit Moderator Roadshow last night and didn’t have an opportunity to get any posts written.

If you have the opportunity to attend one of their other events, take it. It was a ton of fun.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 8th, 2018 at 10:00 am

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The Cost of Centralization

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Alex Jones is having a lot of fun as of late. On top of recent court battles he now gets to add the pain of having his content removed from several major aggregators:

Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify took their most aggressive steps yet to penalize conspiracy theorist and prominent right-wing talk show host Alex Jones for violating their hate speech policies.

Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and Google are all private businesses that have every right to refuse service to anybody. Moreover, I understand why any company would want to refuse service to Alex Jones. However, this is yet another lesson on the cost of centralization.

The aggregation of a majority of people’s information is now controlled by a handful of companies. This situation would be egregious if those companies used heavy handed tactics to coerce creators into relying on their services for distribution. But the power that companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google hold was given to them by creators who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of distribution themselves. Now that those companies have that power, they can make creators who don’t have their own distribution channel disappear.

Alex Jones is better off than many in this case because he, as far as I know, maintains his own infrastructure so his content is still available to his fan base. But other creators should be paying attention. If you don’t maintain your own infrastructure, everything you’ve created and your connection with your fans would vanish with the snap of a few companies’ fingers.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 7th, 2018 at 11:00 am

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Monday Metal: The Horned Ghost and the Sorcerer by Elvenking

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Power metal: the musical genre composed primarily of musicians singing about their Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 6th, 2018 at 10:00 am

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