Patrick Ball sez, "Lots of people in the world depend on electronic security. That means it has to be seriously strong, and I have been worrying that lots of folks -- esp media folks -- are eager for easy-to-use shortcuts, even if those shortcuts aren't actually secure. CryptoCat is one such shortcut, as was Hushmail, and I believe neither are adequate for the hard case of protecting human rights information. There are solid security solutions, though we have a long way to go to improve user interfaces and overall user experience."
Any host-based system that delivers the encryption engine to you each time you log in, and in which your keys reside on the server, you are never secure against the host (there’s new research on this called “host-proof hosting,” but it’s a long way from being ready to use in real applications). That means that if the host attacks you, or they fail to protect themselves, your encrypted data will be available to them. Remember that the host might attack you because someone evil has taken control of the host. If you are the hypothetical dissident in the Middle East, your government might contract a hacker to break into the CryptoCat server, Hushmail, or other host-based server, and thereby get access to all your data. Or they could bribe an employee at a host-based service. Again: in host-based security, all your security rests on your personal trust for the people at the host, and their ability to protect the server. There’s no real security in a technical sense.
This means that Hushmail is no more secure than any other email service, like Gmail. In fact, Gmail might be more secure than Hushmail, if we think that Gmail has better personnel screening and more skillful engineers protecting their servers against malicious attacks than Hushmail does (many experts do believe this). By the same logic, CryptoCat is no more secure than Yahoo chat.
At Benentech, we’ve been working with human rights data for over twenty years, and providing secure software for ten. Martus has been downloaded by users in more than 100 countries. We’ve learned that, unfortunately, security is hard, and people who tell you that it’s easy or that there are shortcuts are probably fooling you — and maybe themselves. Our best efforts have all come from building security into the applications we already want to use, like Martus, which has security built into a database. For both email and chat, there are real security solutions (GPG and Pidgin/OTR). They’re a little harder to use, but their security is real.
When It Comes to Human Rights, There Are No Online Security Shortcuts (Thanks, Patrick!)
Joey sez, "Super Street Fire is a creation of a group at Toronto's Site3 coLaboratory hackerspace that lets two people fight 'Street Fighter II' style, with real punches and real fire. Players stand in a special ring with computer-controlled flamethrowers that simulate thrown fireballs; their punches are detected with motion-sensing gloves. They're going to Burning Man at the end of the month, and they're demonstrating their rig in Toronto this Saturday."
The flame effect heads are propane-fed devices that emit a column of fire, or fireball, high into the air. They also dynamically change the colour of the flame so it’s obvious who dealt the blow and who stood there and took it. Flame effects are expressed as two rails, each comprised of eight computer controlled flame effect heads—one rail for the right hand gestures and one for the left. As well as the two rails between the players, there is an outer ring of sixteen flame effects that are triggered by special player move combinations and also controlled by the Master of Games for crowd engagement. The game system is computer hardware and software with an Arduino microcontroller that interfaces with the flame effect head solenoids to regulate both the intensity and duration of the flame.
Site3 is one of Toronto's more amazing hackspaces, quite an achievement in a city that's blessed with an abundance of such facilities.
Down in Smoke: through comics, Susie Cagle chronicles the DEA raids on medical marijuana facilities in California
At Cartoon Movement, "graphic journalist" Susie Cagle (Twitter) surveys the impact of recent DEA raids of medical marijuana centers, and legal attacks against Harborside and the like, in 'Down In Smoke'. The work includes sound clips, which is brilliant.
Oakland, California. Ground zero for a medical marijuana fight between states and the federal government that has only been heating up. Incorporating real audio from activists, Cagle portrays what "feels like class war" as local growers, patients and city officials fight against losing their jobs, medicine, and tax revenue.
The whole thing is here, and it's fantastic. Susie has done some of the best reporting I've seen of the Occupy movement and related protests in America—she's been jailed and injured for it. The fact that her reporting is focused through the medium of comics is just so innovative and cool. She takes true risks for her reporting, and what comes out of it is insightful, informative, and funny. I just love her work.
David Rakoff, best known as a storyteller, author, and a regular contributor to the radio programs "This American Life" and "Fresh Air," has died of cancer. The news first appeared on the website Third Beat. Rakoff wrote beautifully about the experience of going through treatment here, in the New York Times.
There's a rare timepiece sale at Watchismo, where you can save a whopping 30% off the exclusive Meccaniche Veloci Watch Collection, named for "Mechanical Speed" in Italian. This watch has four distinct faces for tracking time in four different time zones, each with its own Swiss mechanical automatic movement. Apply the code MV30 at checkout to activate your savings; this offer expires very soon and stock is extremely limited! Meccaniche Veloci Quattro Valvole Watches.
Virgin Airlines Australia moved firefighter from seat next to boys because men can't be seated next to unaccompanied children
An Australian firefighter named Johnny McGirr was told to move seats on his Virgin Airlines because he'd been seated next to two unaccompanied boys. The airline's policy is reportedly that men may not be seated next to children traveling without adults, though women may be. McGirr believed the policy presumes that all men are presumed paedophiles, and wrote about it in a blog post called My Virgin experience as a Paedophile!, in which he publishes the Virgin policy provided to him by a company rep: "Unaccompanied children will have spare seats allocated next to them when they are flying. In the case of a full plane then a female will be sat next to the children."
Here's his account of how it happened:
The fasten seat belt sign was illuminated and we were clear for takeoff. Then the stewardess approached me again.
‘Sir we are going have to ask you to move’
‘Why’, I said.
‘Well, because you are male, you can’t be seated next to two unaccompanied minors’.
Shocked, I replied, ‘ Isn’t this sexist and discriminatory?’
She replied, ‘I am sorry, but that is our policy’.
I just hate this stuff. I've gotten the weird looks when I take my daughter to the playground, and I've found myself having minor anxiety when her friends fall down and need help or a hug. In situations where children and adults mix, men are often presumptive suspects (this goes double for any place where the Murdoch press has spent 20 years publishing innumerate stranger-danger scare stories that ignore the reality that most child abusers attack their own children or the children in their care). Here's Lenore "Free Range Kids" Skenazy's take on it:
Charlie Stross and I are doing a text and voice chat with Internet Evolution today at 11AM Eastern, in celebration of our forthcoming novel Rapture of the Nerds. Hope to see you there!
Look out! The team of Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow has produced upcoming science fiction novel Rapture of the Nerds, due out in September 2012, dealing with a disturbing future in which "metaconsciousness" roams the solar system. Both authors join us to discuss their work and the future of the Internet.
Cory Doctorow is a coeditor of Boing Boing and a columnist for multiple publications including the Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. He was named one of the Web’s 25 influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. His award-winning novel, Little Brother, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Charles Stross, author of several major novels of SF and fantasy, including Singularity Sky, Accelerando, Halting State, and Rule 34, is widely hailed as one of the most original voices in modern SF. His short fiction has won multiple Hugo and Locus awards. He lives in Edinburgh.
We've also got a meatspace mini-tour lined up in September, with stops in Brookline, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Lexington, KY and Rochester, NY.
The UK prison systems will soon supply in-house call centres on contract through industry partners. One such partner, UrbanData Ltd, sent out sales solicitations to potential call-centre customers last month touting the advantages of prison labour: low overheads and "British Regional accents" (UrbanData subsequently went into administration). The Ministry of Justice characterises this as a rehabilitation scheme, and says that prisoners will earn a minimum of £3 per day. A Welsh call centre called Becoming Green recently made headlines for firing non-prison labourers even as it brought in extra day-release prisoners to work at the £3/day rate. Here's more of UrbanData's solicitation, as published in The Guardian by
In a ONE3ONE prospectus, David Cameron urged businesses to take advantage of the opportunity working prisoners offered. "Prisoners working productively towards their own rehabilitation will contribute to the UK economy and make reparation to society," he wrote.
"Many businesses, large and small, already make use of prison workshops to produce high quality goods and services and do so profitably. They are not only investing in prisons but in the future of their companies and the country as a whole. I urge others to follow their lead and seize the opportunity that working prisons offer."