Archive for September, 2010
There are times when one needs to understand technical stuff, especially now more than ever as various aspects of our lives and interactions becomes increasingly digital and increasingly accessible by others.
Today you need to understand encryption and why it’s important.
Encryption is a way for person A to send a message to person B without person C understanding what he’s seeing or hearing.
At it’s most base level encryption is a secret handshake. It’s secret code you used to pass notes to friends. It’s the fabled Enigma machine from WWII and it’s the Apache Code Talkers. Think of Ralphie from A Christmas Story. The special message delivered by the Little Orphan Annie radio show was encrypted and could only be unlocked using the decoder ring.
When the internet and the world wide web was created, security was not a top concern. It’s inventors did not foresee just how their new creation would grow to become as relied upon as electricity to make daily life function.
Security had to be implemented on top of everything. Protocols were established to encrypt web traffic to keep it secure. Think of your banking activities, PayPal, Facebook, even logging onto websites and forums. Your passwords and sensitive information is subject to encryption. Otherwise anyone could easily see and steal you data.
Good encryption has become fundamental to the internet being a useful tool.
Yes, bad things happen. Information leaks, but that is rarely the fault of encryption. Users (YOU) pick poor passwords. Companies don’t secure databases or, in the case of DRM, the keys to the encryption gets leaked. Rarely is encryption ever broken (again think back to all the amazing stories of WWII, especially the Enigma machine sagas), and today’s top encryption protocols have yet to be broken. In theory, it should be impossible with today’s computing technology to crack things like AES-256 encryption, which has become the gold standard.
This is why information, when handled properly, stays safe.
This is why you can do your banking online with confidence.
This is why you can shop at Amazon and EBay and Newegg without worries.
Now, in the name of national security, some fucking morons (and there is NO other way to describe them), these fucking morons want to permanently break encryption in order to make their job easier. The FBI (among others) is having a full on tantrum. Their job is spying and gathering information and it’s just so darn hard when information is encrypted to figure out what’s being transmitted.
Those words often attributed to Ben Franklin have never, ever been more sage-like. “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither”. Only in this case it should read, “Those who let the FBI railroad a law that forces people to create a backdoor to encryption protocols should have a hot poker shoved up their ass.”
No matter this selfsame topic was thoroughly debated, researched, written about, tossed around in Congress, and put to bed as one of the worst ideas of the 20th century during the 1990′s. Putting a backdoor on encryption has risen from the dead and it stinks even worse.
Encryption works because there IS no backdoor. There are two keys, one to encode it and one to decode it, usually held by the sender and the recipient. Adding another point of entry invites one thing – a third party to access information that it normally has no business accessing. If you don’t think malicious hackers won’t have the backdoor cracked before anyone else then you need an education on how the computer world works.
No longer would your internet shopping be secure. Banking? You’re screwed. On the upside we’ll probably see a drop in malware and phishing scams because hackers won’t need to trick you into giving them your passwords. They can just pluck the traffic off the ‘net and open it up at their leisure.
Putting in a backdoor is like letting a king build a castle with only three walls because he wants to enter and exit more easily. The castle is suddenly worthless as a defensible structure. This is how ridiculously stupid the idea is.
Of course the canard of, “But we will use this information so militants don’t blow you up,” will be tossed out in giant, bold, scary letters. Bullshit. Lessening the security of the encryption used on your information will not help stop any crimes. Moreover, this incredibly short-sighted maneuver is a threat to e-commerce nationally and globally. So… yea, let’s fundamentally screw with how web businesses transacts business in, for most, what are some really, really bad economic times.
Really, who comes up with this inane shit and how can I kick them in the balls to hopefully knock some sense back into their head?
What you can do:
Be outraged. The message that needs to be sent to your Senators and Congressmen is, “Piss off, don’t you dare touch encryption protocols. Find something else to break.”
Take ten minutes out of your day to drop an email or make that phone call. Take some interest in this – otherwise it will ultimately screw over the things you enjoy in life.
A little quote from Ben Franklin:
“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.”
Randi speaks of learning here as well.
Here’s to, hopefully, another 35+ years of learning.
If this doesn’t bring back memories and stir some part of your soul, I don’t know if you can roll with me.
I don’t know what’s going on, but it looks awesome.
Few things signal universal stupidity like banning books. In this case, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor of management at Missouri State University is trying to ban the YA book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.
To understand Scroggins, let’s look at a recent article he wrote:
It is time parents and taxpayers in this school district are informed about this material. For example, my review of the eighth-grade sex education curriculum revealed that children at the middle school are being introduced to concepts such as homosexuality, oral sex, anal sex and specific instructions on how to use a condom and have sex.
At 12 years of age, you will learn about the topics above from two sources – from peers or from academics. The information from peers will be, for the most part, wrong – and this is what Scroggins would like to limit kid’s education to. He’s apparently delusional, thinking that banning this information coming from teachers would mean kids never hearing about it at all – that the kid’s minds will remain pure and virginal. Again, Scroggins is delusional.
Sex education curriculum in the fourth grade includes topics on reproduction. Is this what parents and taxpayers in this community want their children exposed to in school? Is this how taxpayers want their tax money used?
So, at 10 years of age, according to Scroggins, kids will be completely unaware that they have a penis or vagina, and not be curious about what those body parts are for or how they function. Ignorance is fucking bliss in this guy’s world. Why educate? Keep kids dumb – they obviously can’t handle a body part they’ve been living with for a decade.
Which brings us back to the point of banning Speak. It covers topics obviously uncomfortable for Scroggins. It batters against his quaint self-made reality that boys and girls have no interest or questions about penises or vaginas – that girls don’t face sexual harassment or assaults by the age of 13. In Scroggins’ mind the best course of action is to ban a book and any discussion that might arise.
Of course you can help push back against this bullshit. Off of Laurie Halse Anderson’ own blog page:
I have already received incredible support on Facebook and in my inbox. Paul Hankins, an English teacher from Indiana, has started a Twitterfeed - #SpeakLoudly – where people can tweet their opinions. And my hero, Judy Blume, wrote to say she is bringing this nonsense to the attention of the National Council Against Censorship.
Spread the word and fight the ignorance.