Hackers often encounter public uncertainty at their craft’s virtue. With the forthcoming National Day of Civic Hacking, however, their celebration of creativity, collaboration and technical innovation sees its first “national holiday.”
Groups leading the June 1-2 event include Random Hacks of Kindness, Code for America and the investment firm Innovation Endeavors. They’re working with government agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, NASA and the U.S. Dept. of Labor to host activities which invite everyone to join the “civic hacker” community.
The weekend’s events will include block parties, meetups and hackathons, where participants will gather to prototype solutions to community-specific problems. “Challenges” will be identified, and made available to the public shortly before the event in each town, with invitations issued to so-called citizen hackers.
“We believe that government agencies must find groups of people, bring them together around an issue or problem that needs to be fixed, then step out of the way,” said Nicholas Skytland, program manager of NASA’s Open Innovation Program and one of the participants in the weekend’s events. “ ... let the collective energy of the people involved solve problems in creative and imaginative ways that we would never have done ourselves.”
It may be a little late for folks on the East Coast to round up the necessary parts before the blizzard really hits, but this would be a fun trapped-in-the-house project. It's not cheap, but it does give you the opportunity to see how subatomic particles interact with one another in the privacy of your own home. In a post at Scientific American George Musser explains how he put his experiment together. A follow-up promises to show you how to use it, and what he found when he did. — Maggie
Designer and theorist Edward Tufte was a friend and mentor of Aaron Swartz's. At Saturday's memorial to Aaron at the Cooper Union in NYC, Tufte remembered both Aaron and his own hacking career, inventing "blue boxes" and using them to make illegal calls on AT&T's network, and wondered about what would have become of him had he run into the same prosecutorial zeal as Aaron faced. Here's a quote from Dan Nguyen's transcript of the Livestream video feed:
…[Bowen] then became president of the Mellon Foundation and he had retired from the Mellon foundation. But he was asked by he foundation to handle the problem of JSTOR and Aaron.
So I wrote Bill Bowen an email about it. And I said first that Aaron is a treasure. And then I told a personal story about how I had done some illegal hacking as a student and had been caught at it and what happened.
In 1962, my housemate and I invented the first blue box. That’s a device that allows for free, undetectable, unbillable long-distance telephone calls.
And we got this up. And played around with it and at the end of our research came when we completed was what we thought was the longest long distance phone call ever made, which was from Palo Alto to New York time of day, via Hawaii.
Dawn is breaking over last day of the annual Chaos Communication
Congress in Hamburg, Germany. CCC is the meeting of the Chaos Computer
Club (also CCC), a group of German hackers hanging out together
since 1981. Congress (as it is also known) is one of the great
gatherings of tribes in the hacker world -- which, in the time it has
existed, has gone from being a tiny, sometimes gothy and mathematically
inclined subculture to being a big, elitist community whose work,
values, and aesthetics touch the lives of billions of people. CCC has
grown and flowered with the community.
Adrian Chen at Gawker has a must-read profile on Weev: so-called "iPad hacker," founder of the anti-blogging Internet-trolling organization "Gay Nigger Association of America," and born-again Mormon troll. Snip:
For Auernheimer, the AT&T breach was one of his finest works as a troll. He personally didn't hack anything—the program used to collect the email addresses was written by Spitler—except the media. He was the hype man for Goatse, and he claims blew the breach up far beyond its actual significance. "The bug that I'm indicted over isn't a big deal," he says. "What made it big is the way I presented it." He boils down his success at promoting the AT&T job to three bullet points: "Rhetoric, persuasion, and meme reference."
But was collecting the email addresses actually a crime? "If somebody mistakenly puts information out there on the web and somebody mistakenly gets that information, that's not illegal," says Jennifer Granick, a lawyer and the director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford. This is why Auernheimer decided to fight his charges instead of take a plea deal, as Spitler did last year.
"I contend there is no crime in telling the truth or using AT&T's, or anybody's, publicly accessible data, to cite it to talk about how they made people's data public," he told CNET.
AdTrap is a planned $150 firewall box for consumers. Plugged in between your internet connection and router, it strips the web of advertising without requiring a moment's configuration. Unlike browser-based plugins, it covers the whole pipe rather than a single app: every device in the house managed from a single setup screen.
It's open-source and hackable, too, but the moral hazard with these concepts is always the same: the more successful they are in becoming a de facto middle-man between readers and publishers, the greater will be their incentive to research their way to concluding that you like some advertising after all.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission employees did not encrypt some computers that contained "highly sensitive information from stock exchanges, leaving the data vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to people familiar with the matter." Reuters has the full story. The SEC spent $200K to confirm that "no hacking or spying on the SEC's computers took place," however, and there is no evidence that any data was actually breached. — Xeni
In a contest at the hacker conference Defcon, security specialist Shane MacDougall successfully penetrated Wal-Mart. "Social engineering is the biggest threat to the enterprise, without a doubt," MacDougall said after his call. "I see all these [chief security officers] that spend all this money on firewalls and stuff, and they spend zero dollars on awareness." (via @kevinmitnick)— Xeni
A couple weeks ago, a few hundred Dropbox users noticed they were receiving loads of spam about online casinos and gambling websites, at email addresses those users had set up only for Dropbox-related actions. The online file storage service now admits that hackers snagged usernames and passwords from third party sites, and used this data to break into those Dropbox users' accounts. Dara Kerr, reporting for CNET:
"Our investigation found that usernames and passwords recently stolen from other websites were used to sign in to a small number of Dropbox accounts. We've contacted these users and have helped them protect their accounts," the company wrote in a blog post today. "A stolen password was also used to access an employee Dropbox account containing a project document with user email addresses. We believe this improper access is what led to the spam."
Brian Krebs interviews Joe Stewart, a security researcher "who’s spent 18 months cataloging and tracking malicious software that was developed and deployed specifically for spying on governments, activists and industry executives." Speaking at Defcon in Las Vegas, Stewart says the "complexity and scope of these cyberspy networks now rivals many large conventional cybercrime operations. — Xeni
It’s significant because in recent years, Apple products have been stripped of their image of being hack-proof. The company’s rise has made it a bigger target, as hackers have been discovering bugs in the iPhone since it came out in 2007. Earlier this year, more than 600,000 Macs were infected, the first major malicious software attack targeting Apple computers.