Taking Evidence Seriously: Russian Hacking

One of the reasons I decided to start writing again was to put my experience in the field to good use. Primarily to explain the sometimes confusing world of Computers, Technology and Networking by making real world analogies. I hadn’t intended this to be political in any way but with what’s going on out there today it means that that’s what I’ve primarily been writing about.

So let’s talk about the recent hacking news based in the real world evidence and not hyperbole.

Unless you were living under a rock for the last half of 2016 you are aware that there was a massive leak of Democratic National Committee e-mails from key players in the Democratic Party. It’s been determined by a large number of public and private sector officials that these hacks were from the Russian Government. There are certain people who think that this can’t be true and while much of what occurred is classified, there is still plenty of public evidence readily available.

So how do they know that it was the Russians? Much like investigating a crime of say murder — the perpetrators leave behind key evidence like DNA, finger prints, fibers from their clothes, pieces of skin, etc etc. In a hacking attempt whether successful or not they also leave behind a signature. The tools used to infiltrate any systems whether government or private were created somewhere. I speak of things like malware and pieces of code that are created for the very specific purpose of gathering and extracting information from a target. The perpetrators will continue to use these toolsets in multiple attacks over time iterating on them and improving them, but the basis is still there — a signature if you will.

Why we need to take Online Communities Seriously

Recently I got into an argument in some Facebook comments (yea I know) regarding Online Communities. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently with everything going on in this country.

It’s the Internet. You get a group of people together under a shroud of anonymity and guess what happens? Stupidity that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

I’ve been involved in a variety of online communities and I’ve even been at the helm of a few. I know that they can be fickle beasts with all sorts of crazy personalities, trolls, and debate. It can be very easy to shrug off comments or threats made by someone on the Internet “It’s the Internet. You get a group of people together under a shroud of anonymity and guess what happens? Stupidity that shouldn’t be taken seriously.” but having been the target of online harassment over the years I can tell you that it isn’t anything that should be shrugged off. I’ve even seen toxic people be celebrated and rewarded time and time again when they do nothing but blurt out vitriol and racism. I’ve seen those same people bring other people in to their cause and have those people do the harassment for them, its the modern day version of a henchman.

I say that it should be taken very seriously for a number of reasons.

Just this past weekend an armed man decided to waltz into a pizza shop to investigate a conspiracy theory that is a complete and utter lie.

Every single day teens are bullied online and many even commit suicide due to cyberbullying.

Understanding DirecTV Now and why it’s a problem for the Open Internet

If you aren’t an Engineer or don’t work in the tech industry the term “Net Neutrality” may not mean a whole lot to you. So I’ll start with a brief explanation of exactly what it is and why you should care about it.

Net neutrality for all intents and purposes is a means to ensure that the Internet is treated as a Utility. So what does that mean to you exactly?

Imagine if the electric company decided that they would reduce the voltage provided to your house. Instead of getting the promised 110v you were now getting 90v. Likely, this means that most of your appliances wouldn’t work and the things that did would would be unreliable at best. Net Neutrality makes sure that the same thing doesn’t happen with your Internet. Meaning that, say you were watching too much Netflix and the provider didn’t like that — They could simply “throttle” it and make it so your Netflix would be unreliable and constantly buffering. Funny enough, that actually happened.

The government has already made strides to insure that the Internet is treated as a utility, meaning that theoretically the above scenario isn’t possible anymore.

Or is it?

The announcement of DirecTV Now seems harmless enough but if you read between the lines you’ll find that they are actually exploiting a loophole in Net Neutrality. If you have an AT&T Wireless Data Plan you can use DirecTV Now and it won’t count against your data usage. Sounds great for you right?! In the Industry this is known as “Zero Rating” and is something that has been done a few times over the past several years (T-Mobile has done it). Unfortunately the FCC left the door open to this practice by electing to review these on a case-by-case basis.

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