May 28

Horror Stories from the Digital Trenches, Part I – CCS

Sorry about the huge gap in content. I had an accident and am currently in rehabilitation, so I have been focused on physical and occupational therapy. So, to diverge slightly from my normal political and religious topics, I am starting a series of the bizarre, interesting, and sometimes horrible stories from my time as a professional computer technician.

We begin our story way back in 1996. I was a young man of 18 at the time, dating a woman named Melissa, living with my parents, trying to find my way in the world. I really wanted to work on computers, but had no professional experience in the field, so finding a job had proved to be most difficult.

Late one night, I saw a show on the public access station with a guy assembling a computer, and, at the end of it, was a phone number and the man said they were looking for people without experience who would be interested in working in the computer field. I jumped at the chance. Continue reading

February 9

Down the Orange Rabbit Hole

Ubuntu Logo
Ubuntu Logo, owned by http://www.ubuntu.com

I have had an on again, off again affair with Linux, and Ubuntu to be specific. Sure, I’ve tried other flavors, such as Mint, Suse, Mandriva, Fedora, and Debian, with a few smaller distros thrown in for fun. I’ve done some neat things, like set up an enterprise level Asterisk system, pissed off a former employer by hobbling together a workstation for a client out of spare parts and Linux because all they needed was a web terminal (So sorry you could not sell them on a full, new computer), pushed versions onto all sorts of devices, and even used actual Unix on a laptop.

But, the time has come to once again try to install Ubuntu on my desktop machine.

One of my favorite games, Kerbal Space Program, will be finally releasing a full version. Alas, they are cutting off the 64 bit version on the Windows branch, because the 64 bit version of Unity is horribly unstable on Windows. I have a lot of plugins, and it crashes a lot in Windows due to the effective 3.5 GB memory limit for 32 bit programs.

So, it is time to try and get everything working on Linux, yet again.

Last time, it tried to eat my RAID array, being a hardware based RAID 5. Linux didn’t like the partition, and tried to “fix” it. Bad idea.

Not to mention my main drive is a bit, well, “special”. This could go well, or go spectacularly wrong. We shall see which it is, very soon. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Three hours later, and my system is now a dual boot.

The only major issue thus far is that Windows and Ubuntu handle BIOS time differently. Going to have to work that out. Ubuntu adjusts the time at the software level and sets the BIOS to GMT. Windows sets the BIOS to Eastern. Here’s the fix!

Minor issue is that Linux does not recognize the RAID. No biggie. Don’t need much on the RAID when I am in Linux anyway, so I can put that project off until a later date.

Graphic and sound drivers work. Installed Steam and KSP without issue. It looks like I am going to have to recode for my messy mouse buttons myself. Well, no one said using Linux would be easy…

January 12

The first shots in Cyberwar I

Yeah. This is just about as likely.
Yeah. This is just about as likely.

Last month, allegedly, North Korea hacked Sony.

Right.

I’m sorry. I just don’t buy it. I mean, I know Sony has a pretty lackadaisical view of security (like just about every major company in the US that is not a bank, a university, or an actual computer security firm), but, come on. North Korea? I’d wager they have more goats per capita than hackers, and tech that is probably ten years (or more) out of date. They get most of their stuff from China and Russia, the former which has an active interest in keeping them a bit backwards and the other who is still trying to recover from eighty years of bad management at the hands of Faux Communist dictators. They lack the means, the opportunity, and probably the motivation.

That aside, there is a MUCH more dangerous group that has been able to fly under the radar that has the  financial backing, the motivation of religious zealotry, and the opportunity afforded by stupid proxy wars waged by the ORB Party (Oil Robber Barron, also known as the GOP).

Consider this: None of the attackers on September 11th were from Afghanistan or Iraq. Yet, we have spent between $4 and $6 TRILLION on wars, nearly a half million people have died, and the only people benefiting have been Halliburton and oil companies. We all know this; it’s not like it is a huge secret. Yet we keep ignoring it, because the information is just too painful and crazy for us to deal with.

Meanwhile, the power vacuum caused by us lopping off the heads of these two states has allowed some rather nasty groups to crop up. ISIS/ISIL, for example.

I won’t go into the background and history of these, as much better educated and informed people can provide a much better view of the situation, and that is not the point of this post, anyway.

The issue is that these groups have a lot of financial backing, whether in the form of oil money, opium/other drug money, or other sources. The lawlessness of the area allows for equipment to be brought in. Oddly enough, some of the efforts of the West to bring Internet connectivity have also helped provide an avenue for their new method of attack.

Cyberwar. Before I continue, I am going to digress for a moment to discuss the term.

I hate the prefix ‘cyber’. It is overused, badly used, misused, and often flogged into meaninglessness. Cyber comes from the term cybernetic, which denotes the marriage of man and machine. It specifically denotes “the science of communication and control theory that is concerned especially with the comparative study of automatic control systems (as the nervous system and brain and mechanical-electrical communication systems).”

Okay. Digression over.

Now. The event that has prompted this post is this:

CENTCOM Twitter Account Hacked By Individuals Claiming To Be Part Of ISIS

Couple of things to remember with this:

First, Twitter is civilian technology on a civilian network. This is not the government being hacked. This is a civilian network being hacked.

Second, the source of the hack is not confirmed as of the writing of this post.

Finally, the account was compromised for less than an hour before it was taken down, presumably by Twitter.

However, this could very well be the first shot in a larger “cyber”war. *goes to wash hands after typing “cyber”*

If it is, then I have a feeling that ISIS/ISIL (if they really are behind this) will be a catalyst, but not a major combatant of the war, and will be poorly remembered. Ever hear of the Black Hand? No? Not surprising. They only fired the first shots in what would become the first global conflict in history, spawning two major wars that killed 80-90 million people and whose effects are felt even today.

The thing is that an actual Digital War (sweet relief!) will be a horror to those who do not know what is going on, which will be just about everyone born before 1975 (With some exceptions, don’t get me wrong). We rely so heavily on accurate and reliable computer data systems that, when these systems become fallible due to malicious attacks, we will become disoriented. The only thing that has saved us thus far is a quirk of human psychology, which is the same quirk that keeps society from tearing itself apart from selfishness. Humans really are not that bad when it comes right down to it. The problem now is that a small group can effectively hurt a much, much larger group. Imagine twenty talented, organized “black hats” taking out something that could hurt hundreds of thousands of people or millions overnight (And you thought five hundred in Washington hurting 310,000,000 over the course of their terms was bad!).

Now, transpose that on to an entity that wants to harm the western world in some way. I don’t do details, because I am not here to scare you, nor to give blueprints to the “bad guys,” but it is conceivable that a small group, with enough funding and skill, could cause major damage. With enough attacks, it could be used in warfare. The US government, as well, I am sure, as many other governments, are working on this if they do not already have electronic warfare groups in place.

The big question remains. Is the US ready to defend itself, both governmental and private sector? Sony wasn’t. But, then again, Sony’s sin was false pride.