Shadow Brokers

 

nsa_meade

ABC News had an interesting story yesterday about a hacker group called “Shadow Brokers” releasing information related to the National Security Agency loss of some of it’s most closely guarded hacker tools.

OK maybe not that closely guarded. Per the article:

“A group calling itself “Shadow Brokers” says it has released another gem from its trove of high-level hacking tools stolen from the U.S.’s National Security Agency, potentially offering added insight into how America’s spies operate online.

The leak discloses NSA-style codenames — including “Jackladder” and “Dewdrop”— and carries internet protocol information about scores of organizations, many based in Japan, China and South Korea, according to several experts who have examined the data.”

It looks like yet another embarrassment for the NSA, which seems to have generated plenty over the past few years.  When hacker groups get to troll the NSA with their own hacking tools, it’s like getting a wedgie and being stuffed in a locker for that most secret of American spy agencies.  This caught my eye:

“The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to NSA material leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, later confirmed Shadow Brokers’ tools were really from the NSA by cross-referencing the leaked data with information held in a previously unpublished top secret manual.”

That seems to tell me that intimate knowledge of these hacker tools have been out there since Snowden defected.  Glenn Greenwald may not have published the details in The Guardian, but I’m sure whatever laptop he kept Snowden’s data on was a target of every intelligence agency in the world, so the entire worldwide intelligence community must have been aware of some of the specifics of these hacker tools for years.

And then, somehow, these tools got released.

At some point.

That gets kind of cloudy.  It was revealed publicly a few months ago that not only had the hacking tools been leaked, but that it may have been due to carelessness.

“Embarrassingly, an investigation into the matter has revealed that a NSA operative may have inadvertently left the hacking tools in question on a remote computer, effectively leaving it behind as a gift to whomever discovered it.”

At this point, maybe it’s time for the NSA to wear a dunce cap and sit in the corner?

But wait, there’s more:

“Interestingly enough, a U.S. operative is said to have left the hacking tools behind about three years ago.”

Now I wonder what else happened in the intelligence community three years ago?  That’s right, that’s when Snowden defected.  Now at seems a bit of a coincidence to me that at about the same time Edward Snowden began his ‘round the world defection tour that in a totally unrelated incident, some random NSA employee loses a laptop containing some of the most valuable hacking software in the world.

Now here is where I get confused.  Harold Martin III, an NSA contractor employed by Booz Allen Hamilton was arrested in August for pilfering an unbelievable amount of classified material that he had stolen from work and was keeping at home.  Per The New York Times:

 “Investigators pursuing what they believe to be the largest case of mishandling classified documents in United States history have found that the huge trove of stolen documents in the possession of a National Security Agency contractor included top-secret N.S.A. hacking tools that two months ago were offered for sale on the internet.

They have been hunting for electronic clues that could link those cybertools — computer code posted online for auction by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers — to the home computers of the contractor, Harold T. Martin III, who was arrested in late August on charges of theft of government property and mishandling of classified information.”

So this is why I’m confused.  The FBI is trying to make a case that Martin sold or tried to sell NSA hacking tools to the Shadow Brokers hacking group; the same hacking tools that were inadvertently lost three years ago?

“But so far, the investigators have been frustrated in their attempt to prove that Mr. Martin deliberately leaked or sold the hacking tools to the Shadow Brokers or, alternatively, that someone hacked into his computer or otherwise took them without his knowledge.”

The tools were lost three years ago.  The FBI thinks that Martin sold them to the hacker group, and per the ABC article, everyone agrees that the hacker group Shadow Brokers does have the hacking tools right?

Somebody can’t keep their story straight.  Did the Shadow Brokers get the tools from the loss from three years ago or from Martin more recently?  And is Martin that good that if he did sell the tools, he left no tracks, including payment?  Since he’s sitting in jail, facing a lifetime of more of the same, it would seem that he would have an incentive to cut a deal.

Let me posit an alternative explanation.  I won’t even call it a theory since I have no evidence or no knowledge one way or the other.  But try this on for size:

When the after action on Snowden’s stolen material was reviewed, it becomes clear that a technical manual that has specific information about the NSA hacking tools was part of Snowden’s stolen intelligence material.  Greenwald never published it, no doubt because it was technical and he had no idea what it was, but just having it in his possession made the material vulnerable since Greenwald became a target for every intelligence agency in the world once it went public that Snowden gave him all of his ill gotten gains.

So the information on the hacking tools is out there, even if the tools themselves are not.  But there is no doubt enough technical data that would make it possible for a sophisticated intelligence service to perhaps identify and defend from those particular tools. So maybe, just maybe, the NSA wants to muddy the waters a bit by “losing” their tools, only to be found by a hacking group which then brags about having them and uses them to intrude into systems worldwide.

So…what if the tools were never lost, or stolen by Martin?  What if it’s an elaborate setup to create a black hat hacking group, that can be the fall guy for failed or identified computer systems intrusions?  Since the technical manual stolen by Snowden is out there, that means the useful shelf life of these hacking tools are limited, so an entirely new set of software has to be created, but that takes time.  In the meantime, there is a fall guy for failed or identified computer intrusion operations, the Shadow Brokers.  Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Shadow Brokers are nothing but a creation of the Shadow Factory?

Do I think this is likely?  Sadly no.  It’s more hope than anything else. Or it’s a good episode of The Blacklist or Scorpion.  But I would rather believe that as opposed to the alternative public explanation that not only did the NSA lose information on almost every major intelligence program to Snowden, but that it lost the US technical edge in cyber warfare to an accident.

 

The Closing of the #Cuckservative Mind

Sometimes, when you hear a new word, it clicks with you because it provides a word that you feel has been missing from the lexicon and has been desperately needed.  Sometimes, you understand the word from the first time you see it, just based on its roots and construction.  And sometimes, a new word sounds so funny that you laugh on first hearing it.

And sometimes it’s all three, which is how I felt when I first saw the word, cuckservative in my twitter feed a few weeks ago.  The fairly obvious roots of it are the words cuckold and conservative.  Cuckold meaning a guy who’s wife cheats on him, and he may end up clueless, raising someone else’s kids or a fetish in which guys get off on watching their wives have sex with other guys, and conservative meaning, “hey you kids, get off my lawn!”

Although the word’s origin go back to over a year ago (on the internet that’s decades) to the 4chan bulletin board.  It seems to have bubbled up lately on twitter and has lead to some hilarious and biting internet memes. As far as a definition goes, there are dozens of them and since none of them are any more official than anyone else’s, I’ll add what I think it means: A conservative who seeks approval from the left and accepts their framing and worldview.

The use of this word has caused a full scale civil war on the internet right.  Well, maybe I shouldn’t say cause, since there has been a civil war on the right for years.  Sometimes it’s a cold war, and sometimes it’s a hot one, like the one the Tea Party has been engaging with the establishment Republicans.  Spoiler alert, but it looks like the establishment won, with the exception of a few dead-enders.  I predict a long period of reconstruction as Tea Partiers are processed through re-education camps.

Insults usually require an element of truth to be effective.  Being called a stinky head scores zero points unless you in fact, have a stinky head.  But that’s why this word has been so effective.  The targets get it, and fight back in ways they just wouldn’t normally do if the word wasn’t hitting the bull’s eye.

Radio talk show host and Fox commentator, Erick Erickson, was one of the early victims and played right into the hands of his enemies.

When you are on the right and are calling other people on the right racists, that plays right into the hands of…the left.  To be fair, a lot of the attacks are coming from racists and white nationalists, but that doesn’t mean that the word is their property.  To try to spin it that way fits in to exactly into my definition of cuckservative.

Daily Caller writer Matt Lewis was another conservative writer (or cuckservative writer if you prefer) who took the word to task for racism, sexism, anti Semitism, and homophobia; the Four Horseman of the Left.  Of course, he did it in the interweb pages of The Daily Beast, not exactly fertile ground for the right, but the perfect place to attack the right in full view of the left, in the hopes of winning their approval.

However the accusations of racism are not without merit, as a scroll through the internet memes for cuckservative make clear. However if you are a conservative target of the cuckservative meme, or a left wing observer; racism is the only point of this slur.  Ahh…to host my own show on MSNBC now!  Not quite an impossible dream considering how they’ve fired and cleared off the air waves of their considerable dead wood lately.  It would be so easy…”Hatepublicans in a Civil War!  The racist base of the party attacking the few moderates with a racist slur!  Is this the Southern Strategy all over again?  When will these hateful old white men die already?”

In real life though, this exposes a real rift on the right that breaks down along a few areas:

Immigration:  The Republican Party Inc. and all of its candidates for President, support some sort of amnesty for illegal aliens.  Oh it’s couched in tough talking avoidance code words like “secure the border” but ultimately the entire party establishment accepts the inevitability of some sort of amnesty for illegal’s already here.  However that is not where the typical Republican primary voter is at.  They don’t want any amnesty, and until it’s taken off the table, it’s a magnet for new illegals. So anxious is the Republican establishment for amnesty that upon Romney’s defeat virtually every Republican who could get near a TV camera blamed the loss solely on Romney’s self deportation remark.  It so defied common sense that the base of the party ended up shaking its head at the stupidity of its leadership.

This goes a long way to explain the “mystery” of Donald Trump, which isn’t really much of a mystery unless you happen to be a cuckservative.

Culture Wars: Conservatives have a pretty clear record of failure from abortion to gay marriage.  Of course, conservatives didn’t start the culture wars.  They’ve been on the defensive since the beginning, but if the culture changes you can’t fix it with politics, but Republican candidates are still running on abortion, over 40 years after Roe v Wade.  No, there will be no rollback on abortion, gay marriage, or anything else so stop acting like if you’re put in office, you’ll change it.

Concentration on Trivia:  The country has big problems, mostly caused by the left, and the Republican establishment acts like the solution is just another tax cut away.  The last time the Republicans had control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency, they got wars and the first new entitlement program (Medicare Part D) since the Great Society.  Nothing that Republicans actually wanted.  And those tax cuts?  Gone with the wind.  In other words, after Republican rule, the government was bigger, with more regulations, and government programs, than it was before.  The utter uselessness of expending time and effort passing budget resolutions that will promise to balance the budget in ten years when not a single step will ever be made to actually balance the budget no longer looks like a victory for conservatives and instead looks like a dodge.

Meanwhile, the Democrats had real goals.  When Obama came into office, with a Democratic Congress, he began a sweeping series of measures to grow government that lead to what has been a Democratic Party goal for decades, national healthcare.  With Obamacare, he took a major step towards that.  Yet if you asked Republicans what goal has the Republican Party had for decades that that they would like to accomplish, it’s likely that if you asked 10 different Republicans you would get 10 different answers, and all of them would be defensive measures; to roll back some aspect that Democrats have already put in place that they actually have no intention of ever repealing.

Oh and tax cuts.

So if I refer to conservatives who fit the definition of cuckservative and get called a racist for my troubles, who cares?  As someone who has been called a racist more or less continuously since the beginning of the Obama administration because of my principled opposition to stupid Democratic polices, the word has been stretched into meaningless, and constant repetition of it has drained it of meaning.  However if you are the type of conservative who would rather shut up or change your position in a debate because you’re afraid of being called a racist, you might be a cuckservative.

 

Blog of the Month: Slate Star Codex

Blogs don’t usually promote other blogs, but in the vast array of blogs, the blogosphere, or perhaps even larger than that, the multi-blogosphere, there are not a lot of blogs that are worth reading. Most of them parrots the day’s conventional wisdom, or the particular angle of the many competing ideologies; copied and repeated endlessly over and over.  If you read one anti PIV feminist blog, or “Obama is a Muslim” blog post, you might as well have read 10,000 of them.

So when you come across one that actually educates a bit, you take notice.  So from following link to link to link, I came across Slate Star Codex.  The writer, “Scott S Alexander” keeps his real identity secret (don’t we all?) but is a doctor who apparently has more time on his hands than a doctor should to generate such wordy, well researched posts. Politically, he seems vaguely centrist, which, when broken down to its components, means liberal.  However he’s liberal who actually seems to have educated himself on all things rightward.

As I’ve noted previously, that’s exceedingly rare.  So when I read his critique of Neo-Reactionary thought in his post, Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous Planet Sized Nutshell, I was blown away by the comprehensive depth and broad based understanding of the topic that was shown.  It was a better summary of Neo-Reaction than the Neo-Reactionaries have been able to produce.

So although impressed, I didn’t think much more about it, until I came across another link to the blog in which he broke down the major differences of left and right that probably comes as close to providing a unified field theory of the roots of the right and left as anything I’ve read.  In his post A Thrive/Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum, he overlaps right and left strategies on top of one of my favorite teaching tools, the Zombie Apocalypse.

Imagine the philosophical heights Socrates might have reached had he had the Zombie Apocalypse as a model for explaining various ideas?

Anyway, I recommend this blog.  I learn something every time I read it.  I wish that was the case with everything else I read.

 

The Shrinking Need for a Workforce: This Time it’s Different

There’s a YouTube video making the rounds of the internet that I highly recommend.  Go ahead and watch.

I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.

For those who will stubbornly refuse to watch the video, this is the synopsis.  Automation over time has made things easier for us since it’s reduced the demand of physical labor, which we’ve benefitted from.  But automation is not only continuing to reduce the number of boring, repetitious jobs, it’s now going after higher end jobs.  An Oxford Study predicted that 47% of US jobs could be lost to automation in 20 years.  Burger flippers and baristas for sure, but also lawyers and doctors are at risk. There is a lot fewer tax preparers now then there were in the days before tax preparation software.  So it’s not just low end drudge jobs that will be going away, it’s upper end jobs that require education that used to provide a lot of middle class and upper middle class incomes.

Previous automation, since the Industrial Age, has often provided a springboard to new industries and new jobs.  In 1870, between 70 and 80 percent of the US workforce was involved in agriculture.  In 2008, it was less than 2%.  But industrialization created vastly more jobs than were lost.  Automation in agriculture didn’t cause widespread unemployment, it freed up millions to work.  Within my lifetime, there has been an explosion of new jobs that just didn’t exist when I graduated high school.  Web Designer anyone?

There are, as a percentage more professional, high paying jobs than there used to be. That’s part (but only part) of the reason for expanding income inequality; more “good jobs” at the upper end. Professional jobs for people with technical BS degrees or graduate level.  But what about the percentage of new unskilled or semiskilled jobs?  Is the economy creating unskilled jobs paying much better than the minimum wage?

So never mind the video and its predictions. We can just look back over the past 50 years and see that the new jobs that are created are for a more highly educated and highly skilled subset. Automation improvements like cash registers becoming easier to operate as they become oversized calculators, are not creating new jobs, they are making already low skilled jobs even more low skilled.  At least until the jobs are automated away all together.

If these trends continue, with more newer jobs being for the more educated class and few new low skilled jobs created, what are we going to do with people who are just not smart enough to get a Phd in Neurolingustics (as an example)? We are improving automation along the lines of Moore’s Law, but there isn’t a Moore’s Law for human intelligence or ability. That is my concern. Not that we hit the Singularity and every human is unemployed and targeted for termination, but that the gradual change in the economy means few jobs for people on left side of the Bell Curve. We’ll have a growing cadre of people permanently unemployable no matter how great the stock market is doing or how much increase in GDP there is.

After watching this video, I had more questions than answers from it.  Frankly I don’t know what to do about the problem of people being rendered permanently unemployable.  Maybe someone should make an app for that…

 

No Moderates in Palestine

I don’t think I’ve written specifically on the Israeli-Palestinian permanent crisis before; mostly because I just don’t have the background on the various agreements, history, and grievances that make this continuing conflict such a stain on the planet.  But as the latest Gaza War winds down, I’ve learned a few lessons that make it a lot easier to know which side to be on.

I’ve been on a web forum for politics for several years now that has an international flavor; there are posters from all over the world who show up to lodge their opinions.  So the Gaza conflict naturally brought out people from all over the world to post their opinions, which, it’s no surprise, were almost uniformly anti-Israeli.  Actually, I’m being kind by referring to the comments as “anti-Israel.”  The real basis of it is good old fashioned anti Semitism.

That’s one of the sad things I’ve learned about the world.  When I first started posting on this particular political forum, I was shocked by the amount of casual anti Semitism that was on display.  That was something that was rarely seen on American political web boards.  Or at least not that I’ve seen. But it really brought into focus one of those issues that confound students of history; namely, how could a civilized nation like Germany fall to such depths that it operated extermination camps for the purpose of mass murder of the Jews?  After a few months on that board, the real question is why aren’t those camps up and running now, considering the depth of hatred that currently exist all over the world for Jews?  It seems that outside of the United States (and I recognize that a slice of internet commentary isn’t the “real world”) that despite the various ranges of language, culture, class, ethnicity, and politics, the world is united in it’s antipathy for the Jews.

So during the Gaza conflict, I was enjoying a discussion thread with a Jordanian who, based on previous postings, was not in any sense, a fanatic. So I thought it would be enjoyable and enlightening to discuss the pros and cons.  I admitted that I didn’t know every in and out of the conflict, but of the two combatants, one was clearly representing civilization, and one was representing barbarity, so in a world of limited information, I’m on the side of civilization.

It was enlightening anyway.

One of the problems in discussing this issue is that the pro-Palestinian side is never honest about their endgame.  I’ve heard from foreign policy experts, diplomats, and pundits that everyone knows what peace will look like:  A two state solution.  The problem is that only one side really believes in a two state solution.  That was the case for this Jordanian, who after saying he supported a two state solution, ended up opposing the best two state solution, the original UN Partition Plan for Palestine, and the second best one, which was the Camp David Summit that took place in 2000 under Bill Clinton where he got Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to hammer out an agreement that Arafat ultimately rejected.

My Jordanian friend explained that the Camp David agreement would only provide 92% of the West Bank, therefore was unacceptable.  I thought 92% was pretty good terms for the losing side.  And that’s what the Palestinians and their apologists don’t seem to get.  They not only lost the war at the partition and the declaration of Israel’s independence, they’ve lost every single war since then.  Of course, if they had won even one, Israel would no longer exist and it’s likely they’re would be a scarcity of Jews in the area.  For Israel, every war is an existential one.

But losing sides don’t dictate terms, they accept them.  Every other side that has been on the losing end of a war they started and lost territory; at least understands why they lost the territory.  Does Germany get to claim the Sudetenland or Danzig (now Polish Gdansk) back from the war they started and lost?  Nope.  Nor would the world tolerate ethnic Germans living in UN financed refugee camps in 2014 for a war they lost in 1945, whining to get those territories back. Germany makes a good example for another reason:  The Arabs sided with the Nazi’s during World War II.  There are no spoils of war for the losers.

The Palestinians have lost their war and don’t know it. Every other people who get defeated in war and lose territory…don’t get it back. The Mexicans are not getting the Southwest back. Nor were the Mexicans living on the US side of the border put in refugee camps for decades. They either became Americans or left for Mexico. Look how many times the borders of Europe have been changed due to war just in the past century. The losers don’t get do overs. Is the Ukraine getting The Crimea back? Nope. If the entire world was as crazy as the Palestinians, sitting in their refugee camps decade after decade, human life would be extinct. We would have nuked each other over and over until there wasn’t a human left. They should either accept the borders they have and declare themselves an independent state, or pack up and try to find a country to accept them. I don’t understand the entire world having to revolve around the genocidal ambitions of the Palestinians. There doesn’t seem a logical reason for it, unless  virulent anti-Semitism counts as a reason.

If Israel isn’t legitimate than none of the Arab states are since they were all drawn up the same way, on the drawing board of Europe.  And my Jordanian debater?  He eventually admitted that the real occupied territories are the ones Israel took with them on independence.  In other words, the entire state of Israel is an occupation.  So you can see, there is no room ever for compromise in the Arab mind.  The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live in refugee camps are not refugees from the West Bank, they are “refugees” from Israel, and their intention is to return home when there is no longer an Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scored a good talking point in Western media when he said, “We are using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”  That’s the civilized side and that’s the side I’m on.

Trolling Feminists

I was being entertained the other day by a buddy of mine who for no discernible reason started trolling one of his feminist Facebook friends.  Now that’s more of a game that I like to play, although usually not on Facebook and usually not with friends.  And it was especially surprising since this particular friend is a very non confrontational sort who more often plays the peacemaker rather than the instigator.   He’s more than once tried to mediate disagreements between friends with a joke or distracting comment. But social media makes jerks of us all, and I guess basic humanity prevented him from being assimilated longer than most.  But the lure of being a smart ass pulls us all in eventually.

The set up is this:  His feminist friend posted a slightly bawdy joke.  As jokes go, it’s it’s mildly amusing to a guy, but to women, for whom the threshold of humor is much lower, it’s Hee-lar-e-us.  If you want the full story, go here.  The gist of it as that an old codger begins signing his credit card with a penis illustration.   Hilarity ensues when the card reader at Wal-Mart doesn’t recognize the penis as his signature and management is called in.  Funny right?  Well not to a feminist; at least usually.  In fact if my friend had posted this joke, he likely would have been subject to quite a bit of written finger wagging from busy body feminists.  But he got the upper hand and by lefty standards, the moral high ground by posting a critique of said joke:

Smart Ass Friend:  “Not funny, what if the cashier had been a victim of sexual assault? Being subjected to the drawing could have been a triggering event for her PTSD. Not to mention the stomping on her civil rights if she was Lesbian or Transgendered, this kind of humor is perpetuated by the hegemonic phallocentric patriarchy that has committed all the evil in the world. I bet you Ted Nugent would have found this hilarious…I’m disappointed in you.”

Extra points for the use of your typical “Wymyn’s Studies” terminology, that’s used nowhere else and serves no useful descriptive purpose.  Therefore feminists love to use it.  So that was all it took to set his feminist friend (although probably by now his former friend) on a tear of foul language, and threats.  After that, all my friend had to do to egg on another tirade of butthurt was to toss in a few lines about a living wage, challenging hetronormative behaviors, gender binaries, and of course the “-isms.”  Leftists in general and feminists in particular love those; racism sexism capitalism, classism and so on.  The thing is, you don’t even have to use them in a coherent sentence, just list them.

The thread proceeds in a predictable manner, screaming incoherence from the feminist, and the arrival of a white knight to defend milady’s honor.  A white knight seems to be an accessory that every feminist needs since she’s incapable of using man tools like “logic” and “reason” herself.  She needs a big strong man to heft those.  Hey, you can’t fight the cisgendered, transphobic patriarchy without a fella can ya?  Am I right gals?

Of course, as dominate as it is in our culture, feminism is a stupid ideology.  It’s the idea that there are no differences between men and women other than genitalia, and now that trans-you-name-it is replacing homosexuality as the next civil rights frontier, genitalia are less and less important to one’s identity.  Even though the stupidity of feminism has become so obvious that now only 23% of women call themselves feminists, it’s still left a damaging mark on our culture.

Oddly enough, the same poll shows that 16% of men call themselves feminists too.

Lest anyone get the idea this is just some misogynic rant, I do support equal rights for women, and love and respect women.  My marriage isn’t about me bossing my wife around and tossing my shirts at her to make sure they get ironed.  It’s an equal partnership, meaning she bosses me around.

And my shirts never get ironed.

Links

I’ve added a new page to the site, called Links. It’s a collection of web links I’ve collected over the years that have interested me for one reason or another, and were about topics that I figured I would either want to go back and research at one point, or that I wanted to use as a reference in future blog posts.

I’ve kept it and expanded it over the years, listing the links by topics to make them easy to find again. If there are any suggestions to how to organize them better, I’m open to suggestions.