Letterlocking: the long-lost art of using paper-folding to foil snoops

"Letterlocking" is a term coined by MIT Libraries conservator Jana Dambrogio after she discovered a trove of letters while spelunking in the conservation lab of the Vatican Secret Archives; the letters had been ingeniously folded and sealed so that they couldn't be opened and re-closed without revealing that they had been read. Some even contained "booby traps" to catch the unwary. Read the rest

Universal Studios is chipping their soda cups to limit refills

A room at a Universal Studios Florida hotel tonight will cost you $197-$536 (plus admission tickets to the park), but make sure that you do all your soda drinking in one compact session, because Universal has deployed the creepily named Validfill RFID system, which limits your self-service (that is, you do the labor) soda refills to two hours after purchase, and after the time window expires, "you are denied soda by a robot voice." Read the rest

Bounty hunters and stalkers are able to track you in realtime by lying to your phone company and pretending to be cops

Early in January, Motherboard's Joseph Cox broke a blockbuster story about how America's mobile carriers sold access to their customers' realtime location data to many shady marketing brokers, who then quietly slipped that data to bounty hunters and other unsavory characters -- a practice that they'd been caught in before and had falsely promised to end. Read the rest

Bunnie Huang's tour-de-force explanation of how hardware implants and supply chain hacks work

Last October, Bloomberg published a blockbuster story claiming that some of the largest tech companies in the world, as well as sensitive US government and military systems, had been attacked through minute hardware implants that had been inserted at a subcontractor facility during the manufacture of servers from the world's leading server company, Supermicro. Read the rest

Dark markets have evolved to use encrypted messengers and dead-drops

Cryptocurrencies and Tor hidden services ushered in a new golden age for markets in illegal goods, especially banned or circumscribed drugs: Bitcoin was widely (and incorrectly) viewed as intrinsically anonymous, while the marketplaces themselves were significantly safer and more reliable than traditional criminal markets, and as sellers realized real savings in losses due to law enforcement and related risks, the prices of their merchandise plummeted, while their profits soared. Read the rest

760 flights diverted from Gatwick airport after drone scare, affecting 110,000 passengers

On Wednesday night, in a "deliberate act of disruption" (but not "a terror attack") someone flew a drone of "industrial specification" into the airspace of London Gatwick airport, the city's second-busiest, causing all flights in and out of the airport to be suspended; the disruption has affected 760 flights carrying 110,000 passengers (so far) and the ripple effect is expected to last for "several days." Read the rest

Generative adversarial network produces a "universal fingerprint" that will unlock many smartphones

Researchers at NYU and U Michigan have published a paper explaining how they used a pair of machine-learning systems to develop a "universal fingerprint" that can fool the lowest-security fingerprint sensors 76% of the time (it is less effective against higher-security sensors). Read the rest

A detailed technical rebuttal of Bloomberg's "backdoored servers" article

Earlier this month, Bloomberg published a terrifying, detailed story claiming that Chinese spies had, for years, been sneaking hardware backdoors into servers used in data-centers run by companies like Apple and Amazon, as well as Congress, the Senate, the White House, Navy battleships and more. Read the rest

Undetectably bypass voting machines' anti-tamper mechanism with a bit of a soda-can

When security researchers report on the ghastly defects in voting machines, the officials who bought these machines say dismiss their concerns by saying that the tamper-evident seals they put around the machines prevent bad guys from gaining access to their internals. Read the rest

What it's like when Nazis infiltrate your conference

HOPE -- Hackers on Planet Earth -- is 2600 Magazine's venerable, much-loved hacker conference in NYC, a bastion of progressive politics whose 2018 installment was slated to be the most progressive yet, with discussions scheduled on countering alt-right trolling, consent, sexual harrassment, and the rights of sex-workers. Read the rest

Self-destructing thumb drives with smoke loads, glowing elements, tiny explosives

MG's Mr Self Destruct project takes the USB Killer to new levels, combining a $1.50 system-on-a-chip with a variety of payloads: smoke bombs, "sound grenades," and little explosives, cleverly choreographed with keystroke emulation, allowing the poisoned drive to first cause the connected computer to foreground a browser and load a web-page that plays an appropriate animation (a jack-in-the-box that plays "Pop Goes the Weasel" with the drive's explosive detonating for the climax). Read the rest