Saturday, October 05, 2013
I kind of doubt this one. Why would you rig a train to be remotely operated? If you did, wouldn't you add a few safeguards that required physical access?
The Great Chicago Ghost Train Mystery
During Monday rush hour this week, a Blue Line train that was scheduled for repairs did a very mysterious thing: it took off without a conductor on board. After quietly and slowly maneuvering its way around the curves of the Forest Park train yard after being parked there for a week, the rogue machine passed through the Forest Park station, headed eastbound on a westbound track and climbed a hill before ramming into another train at Harlem station and injuring 30 people. The media is calling it “the ghost train” and investigators are completely baffled.
The incident is unlike any “veteran city rail workers say they have seen” reports The Chicago Tribune, as multiple failsafes that should have stopped the train didn’t.
… To add more to the intrigue, the cameras facing the ghost train when it was parked in the yard the morning of were not working.
… The CTA implemented their SCADA system in 2009 after getting a grant from Homeland Security (pdf) to do so.
… Given the evidence, or lack thereof, a hack is clearly one of the easiest answers to the ghost train mystery. An even bigger, mind-boggling question: why did it take investigators three days to consider the ghost train as hacked?
Entities that do not have the resources of a state behind them will find the best tools they can. Because “Best Tools” attract terrorists they also attract terrorist hunters.
Barton Gellman, Craig Timberg and Steven Rich report:
On Nov. 1, 2007, the National Security Agency hosted a talk by Roger Dingledine, principal designer of one of the world’s leading Internet privacy tools. It was a wary encounter, akin to mutual intelligence gathering, between a spy agency and a man who built tools to ward off electronic surveillance.
According to a top secret NSA summary of the meeting, Dingledine told the assembled NSA staff that his service, called Tor, offered anonymity to people who needed it badly – to keep business secrets, to protect their identities from oppressive political regimes, or to conduct research without revealing themselves. To the NSA, Tor was offering protection to terrorists and other intelligence targets.
The Snowden documents, including a detailed PowerPoint presentation, suggest that the NSA cannot see directly inside Tor’s anonymous network, but it has repeatedly uncloaked users by circumventing Tor’s protections. The documents raise doubts about the reliability of Tor to protect human rights workers, dissidents and journalists who rely on anonymity to avoid threats to their safety and freedom in countries like Libya and Syria.
Read more on Washington Post.
(Related) Bruce is worth reading generally, but one paragraph in particular is for my Ethical Hackers.
How the NSA Thinks About Secrecy and Risk
… According to Snowden, the TAO—that’s Tailored Access Operations—operators running the FOXACID system have a detailed flowchart, with tons of rules about when to stop. If something doesn't work, stop. If they detect a PSP, a personal security product, stop. If anything goes weird, stop. This is how the NSA avoids detection, and also how it takes mid-level computer operators and turn them into what they call "cyberwarriors." It's not that they're skilled hackers, it's that the procedures do the work for them. [That's why it's more fun to be on the tiger team that writes the procedures. Bob]
Adi Robertson reports:
A week after Google failed to convince a judge that Gmail keyword scanning didn’t violate wiretap laws, Yahoo has also been slapped with a class-action privacy lawsuit. A pair of non-Yahoo users say that by scanning incoming emails to serve more targeted ads, Yahoo was effectively intercepting and reading their mail. As non-users, they argue that they didn’t agree to the searches, and they’re filing suit on behalf of all other Americans who sent mail to Yahoo.
Read more on The Verge.
I tend to agree with Mr. Buffett.
Some portray it as a Manichean struggle between good and evil. Warren Buffett says it’s “extreme idiocy.” I’d like to recommend another way of looking at the government shutdown and the looming battle over the debt ceiling in Washington. It’s a game, played by flawed-but-not-crazy human beings under confusing circumstances. In other words, it’s an interaction among “agents” who “base their decisions on limited information about actions of other agents in the recent past, and they do not always optimize.”
That quote is from economist H. Peyton Young’s “The Evolution of Conventions,” one of several works of game theory I plowed my way through this week in an attempt to find a way to think about the government shutdown and looming debt ceiling fight that didn’t make me want to bang my head against a wall. My reading made the dynamics at work in Congress and at the White House a bit clearer — and thus slightly less maddening, if not less ominous.
There is no fool like a fool with a little money and an Internet stock trading account.
A Stock Called 'TWTRQ' Was Up As Much As 1,500% Because People Thought It Was Twitter
I expect this to backfire as the funds they were trying to raise go for munchies...
For my students
A dynamic guide to alternate research sources for use during the 2013 Federal Government shutdown
“Mississippi State University Libraries has created a LibGuide to finding government information during the shutdown. You can see it here: http://guides.library.msstate.edu/altgovsources. This was a team effort by our Reference Department (which now includes our Depository services and Christine Lea Fletcher).”
For my Statistics students. Can we prove that “what you use” is related to “when you started using the Internet?” (It sure looks that way)
Age of Internet Empires: One Map With Each Country's Favorite Website
Two researchers, Mark Graham and Stefano De Stabbata, at the Oxford Internet Institute have depicted the world’s “Internet empires” in a map, below. The map shows each nation’s most popular website, with the size of nations altered to reflect the number of Internet users there.
The map makes for a brief, informative look at how geographic—and universal—certain web tastes and habits are.
Perspective. Cable TV is doomed?
ABC, CBS expand TV apps to more Android devices
… Friday, CBS said its app for on-demand viewing of full episodes is available for Android and Windows 8 users and would be coming to BlackBerry 10 before the end of the year.
The app will include more programming, with every episode of CBS' prime-time series eight days after broadcast, as well as classic shows like "MacGyver," "Star Trek," and "Perry Mason." Daytime and late-night programming is available within 24 hours after initial airing
… ABC said its Watch ABC live-streaming app is available on Android phones running Ice Cream Sandwich versions of the operating system or higher. Disney rolled out the Watch ABC app on iOS and Kindle Fire devices, as well as some Android tablets, including Samsung Galaxy devices.
Time saving tools.
– is a site that converts PDF files into Microsoft Excel files. All you need to do is upload the PDF file onto the website, and the converted Excel file will be emailed to you. The table data in the PDF will be accurately represented in both row and column structure in the Excel format.
Dang! Why didn't we think of that? Get them in the door. Let them meet the instructors. Learn that they can do college level work. Something we could do every couple of years (unfortunately)
Georgetown Offers Free Classes to Furloughed Workers
NBC Washington: “If you are a furloughed worker looking for something to do during the shutdown, Georgetown University has something that will keep you busy. The School of Continuing Studies is offering six free courses to those who are out of work. The classes deal with everything from management skills to social media. Each class lasts between one and four days and will be taught at the school’s downtown campus on Massachusetts Avenue. But there are only 100 spots per class. If you are interested in registering, click here.”
I find this amusing every week.
… The Los Angeles Unified School District continues to demonstrate how not to handle a technology implementation. News broke last week that students had “hacked” their school-issued iPads (that is, they’d deleted the profiles that school IT had created for them, thus giving them free range access to the forbidden fruits of Facebook and Pandora). The district, which has been criticized for the poor planning in its billion dollar gift to Apple and Pearson, admits that that 71 iPads went missing during a pilot last spring. It still hasn’t worked out who’ll be responsible for lost or damaged devices. So amidst all the hullaballo, the district now says it’s taking all the iPads that it’s issued back.
… According to data from Nielsen Book, the number of children who rarely read or do not read at all has increased over the last year. 28% of those under age 17 are occasional or non-readers, up from 20% in 2012.
… The Brazilian online education company Veduca has launched what it calls the “world’s first open online MBA.” The online video classes are free, but those wanting a certificate will have to pay a fee and take their exams in-person. [This is how I see it working. Bob]
… The University of Florida will begin offering a slate of new, fully online degree programs in January, on the heels of legislation passed earlier this year mandating it do so. Because nothing says high quality education like developing and implementing Bachelors in just a few short months. I predict the university outsources much of this to Pearson.