The Internet of Things, Hacked

Count me as one who thinks this will soon be a big deal, if not by being hacked by being tracked.  We have already all voluntarily signed on the “track me anywhere” line, just promise me a 5% discount…

A hacked Chrysler Jeep Cherokee speeding along the highway, its engine shut down as an 18-wheeler truck rushed towards it, is a high-profile example of what can go wrong with the coming Internet of Things — objects equipped with software and connected to digital networks. The selling point for these well-connected objects is added convenience and better safety. In reality, it is a fast-motion train wreck in privacy and security.

The early Internet was intended to connect people who already trusted one another, like academic researchers or military networks. It never had the robust security that today’s global network needs. As the Internet went from a few thousand users to more than three billion, attempts to strengthen security were stymied because of cost, shortsightedness and competing interests. Connecting everyday objects to this shaky, insecure base will create the Internet of Hacked Things. This is irresponsible and potentially catastrophic. [NY Times]

Hacked autos and refrigerators may be a bit down the road, but hackers helping insider trading is already here.

From their suburban homes in the United States, dozens of rogue stock traders would send overseas hackers a shopping list of corporate news releases they wanted to get a sneak peek at before they were made public. The hackers, working from Ukraine, would then deliver how-to videos by email with instructions for gaining access to the pilfered earnings releases.

In all, 32 traders and hackers reaped more than $100 million in illegal proceeds in a sophisticated and brazen scheme that is the biggest to marry the wizardry of computer hacking to old-fashioned insider trading, according to court filings made public on Tuesday. One of the men, Vitaly Korchevsky, a hedge fund manager and former Morgan Stanley employee living in a Philadelphia suburb, made $17 million in illegal profits, the indictment said. [NY Times]

AND, if you have been thinking that passwords would and should soon be replaced by finger print recognition — more secure, etc.  Hold on!

While fingerprint scanners have become a popular way to avoid using a password or PIN, especially on mobile devices … research highlights some of the potential pitfalls of the tech: As a biometric marker, fingerprints are impossible to change.

They’re also public. You leave fingerprints on, well, almost everything you touch. And researchers have even been able to spoof fingerprints based onpublic photos — all of which makes fingerprints  a pretty hard sell as the future of authentication to some experts. If someone else can make a copy of your prints, they stop being an effective security mechanism. [WaPo]

Led-ites in Copenhagen

On a day of otherwise ghastly leading news — The Senate summary of their CIA Torture Report –– take a moment to applaud one city’s efforts to reach a carbon zero stage by the year 2025: Copenhagen.

COPENHAGEN — On a busy road in the center of town here, a string of green lights embedded in the bike path — the “Green Wave” — flashes on, helping cyclists avoid red traffic lights.

On a main artery into the city, truck drivers can see on smartphones when the next light will change. And in a nearby suburb, new LED streetlights brighten only as vehicles approach, dimming once they pass.

Aimed at saving money, cutting the use of fossil fuels and easing mobility, the installations are part of a growing wireless network of streetlamps and sensors that officials hope will help this city of roughly 1.2 million meet its ambitious goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

Eventually, the network will serve other functions, like alerting the sanitation department to empty the trash cans and informing bikers of the quietest or fastest route to their destinations.  NY Times

The city is also testing systems to prioritize buses or bikes over cars at intersections during certain hours, and has already installed one that flashes a warning to truck drivers in a right-turn lane when cyclists are present. ….

Good stuff and other cities are seeing the light, Los Angeles, for example

…has almost completed the switch to outdoor LED lighting and is using sensors embedded in the pavement to detect traffic congestion and synchronize signals.

CO2 Instrumentation into Space

Nasa has launched a mission dedicated to measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) from space.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) will help pinpoint the key locations on the Earth’s surface where the gas is being emitted and absorbed.

Its key objective is to trace the global geographic distribution of CO2 in the atmosphere – measuring its presence down through the column of air to the planet’s surface.

This should give scientists a better understanding of how the greenhouse gas cycles through the Earth system, influencing the climate.

Uncertain ‘sinks’

Humans are currently adding nearly 40 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year, principally from the burning of fossil fuels.

Only about half of this sum stays in the atmosphere, where it drives warming.

About half of the other half is absorbed into the ocean, with the remainder pulled down into land “sinks”.

Exactly where, though, is highly uncertain.


I’d bet a few dollars that the vast kudzu jungles across the American south will be one of the great sinks…

Massive Hack Attack on European Networks

“A massive attack that exploited a key vulnerability in the infrastructure of the internet is the “start of ugly things to come”, it has been warned.
Online security specialists Cloudflare said it recorded the “biggest” attack of its kind on Monday.

Hackers used weaknesses in the Network Time Protocol (NTP), a system used to synchronise computer clocks, to flood servers with huge amounts of data.”

Glacier Leaping

The Mendenhall glacier, 14 miles from downtown Juneau, Alaska is doing more than looking blue and pretty while slowly slipping into the sea.  It seems to be lifting its skirts and preparing for a run, in fact. There is even a name for this, which happens nearby many glaciers as water accumulation, in the warming climate, builds up faster then the old channels can release it: jokulhlaup, is an Icelandic word usually translated as “glacier leap.”

As water builds up in [a] basin and seeks an outlet, it can actually lift portions of the glacier ever so slightly, and in that lift, the water finds a release. Under the vast pressure of the ice bearing down upon it, the water explodes out into the depths of Mendenhall Lake and from there into the river.

NY Times

Home on the Mendhenhall River is surrounded by water on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

Home on the Mendhenhall River is surrounded by water on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

This would be totally cool to see, if not for one thing:  400,000 tourists a year come to Juneau to have a look at the glacier.  It is sort of a ‘drive by’ glacier as one local calls it; no interminable mushing though sub zero temperatures or dropping out of the sky in flimsy 4 seater airplanes.  Nope: walk, snap a photo, leave.  Except for this jumping business.  It’s not just a little spray, or slight gob.  It’s ‘ an estimated 10 billion gallons‘ pouring out in three days.  Calculated into CFS (cubic feet per second), the typical way river flow is measured, this is about 5,000 cfs — the Colorado, down river from the Glenn Canyon dam.  Not terrifying, unless impeded by boulders, or buildings in downtown Juneau.

And it is happening enough, and strongly enough, (here and here) that the city fathers can smell terror coming on.

This summer, glacier-monitoring intensified. A pressure transducer to gauge water buildup, partly paid for by the city, was installed in a deep crack on the edge of the basin, with a satellite link sending back real-time data about the glacier’s hidden waterworks. A time-lapse camera was also positioned at the main pooling site for the first time to track bulges in the ice that could suggest dammed-up water.

No word yet from Alaska’s former governor whether she thinks this is due to a) the Russians, B) Climate Change or C) Liberal News Media.  She might do a write in option D) It’s Not Happening, because people wading through 3 feet of water is proof of nothing….


Mendenhall Glacier: Then (1894) and Now (2008)

Mendenhall Glacier: Then (1894) and Now (2008)


Seaweed to the Rescue!

Always on the look out for the next good thing that will rescue us from the last bad thing I ran across this article about the potential of seaweed to be a bio-fuel to replace, in some part, our thirst for fossil fuels.  Having a brother in on an exciting beta-test of a related effort sharpens my interest.

“Many millions of [dollars] are being invested in seaweed research from Vietnam to Israel to Chile because producing biofuels in the sea removes at a stroke many of the serious problems with conventional biofuels. Though important as greener alternatives to oil, many biofuels are produced from food crops, such as corn and sugar, which drives up global prices in a world where a billion people are already hungry. Biofuel production also consumes increasingly scarce freshwater and the worst examples — those from palm oil — can produce more carbon dioxide than diesel.

“Seaweed does not have any of those problems,” says Phil Kerrison, another marine scientist, back at the Sams labs. Seaweed farming has even been shown to clean up the pollution from fish farms and kelp grows far more quickly than land plants, turning sunlight into chemical energy five times more efficiently.”