Who Hacks the Hacks?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

If you pay attention to news about the internet, and about security, you may be aware of two groups:



Both have recently had members arrested by law enforcement after attacks on high profile targets.

In the case of Lulzsec, The Sun have pitched in. A chap by the name of Ryan Clearly got himself arrested, having been identified variously as a "criminal mastermind" - largely by the red top press. The Sun proceed to do a hatchet job on the lad, who currently has quite a lot to be miserable about.

The Sun says that Lulzsec have been involved in hitting targets that were supposed to have been secure and security conscious. Like Sony, who lost several million sets of customer details. They have also struck at law enforcement. The point is, you are supposed to trust these companies and organisations. Lulzsec have been attempting to demonstrate that this trust may be misplaced.

Ryan has been given a thorough slating by The Sun. They have sought to depict him as some kind of consistently dazed idiot, and therefore as harmless. They are suggesting that we have nothing to fear from hackers like Ryan, because a hapless teenager cannot possibly be a threat and should not be taken seriously.

It's not a bad point. Ryan's current claim to fame is that he's all over the Sun news paper for inhaling lighter fuel, which is one of the dumber ways to make yourself feel good that I've ever heard of. He's clearly an idiot. The Guardian, however, shows what Lulzsec have been up to.

It's a scarier read, which one would expect from a newspaper for grownups.

So why minimize Ryan? A boy who was only caught because he made the mistake of counting coup on the wrong people, since it appears he may have been turned in by members of the hacker community (who allegedly posted his contact details online). The Police claim that the arrest is significant, and you can bet they will be using whatever means they can to extract names and locations of other lulzsec members in the hope that the hacking group will collapse. Since it took law enforcement a day or so to get the SOCA website back up, you can see why they might be giving this matter a lot of attention.

However...admitting that Ryan might actually be dangerous (see how the article says he would sit in his room, a room that contains two (!!) computers, when other normal people were smoking spliffs, as if the use of a computer is what makes him a freak) would mean admitting that other members of lulzsec have power, and may also be kids. If kids are able to take the best efforts of adult professionals and kick them over or break them down, we have to admit that these people have power on a similar level to an agency or government.

There are things to keep in mind. Firstly, Ryan got caught because he was an ass.
The same is true of the recent Anon. arrests - Spanish authorities picked up some kids who had downloaded, installed and deployed Anon's favourite DoS weapon, the Low Orbit Ion Cannon. And they had done so without the proper understanding of how to effectively cover their tracks. These were not hackers, these were Scriptkiddies who saw some instructions on 4Chan and decided, in the way that kids do, to do something stupid because it was cool or funny at the time.

The people who organize and who do the real hacking will take a much more concerted effort to catch, if they are caught at all.

Be that as it may, you might remember that The Sun is a News International newspaper. It's owned by Murdoch, who also owns The News of the World. The News of the World was recently in the press because of a phone hacking scandal.

Now, at the time I seem to remember NoTW hacks claiming that the information they had illegally accessed was in the public interest.

Does this mean that hacking is OK when you're a News International "journalist", but not if you're a teenager?

Speaking entirely personally, while it's difficult to condone the actions of Lulzsec it is important that we recongnise the service they perform. Our institutions do not take IT security seriously. DoS attacks are survivable and certainly should be one of the easier forms of attack to deal with. A high profile organisation, particularly one that is involved in government work or Regnum Defende, needs to be better at this. Particularly given what China is alleged to have been up to.


Shakespeare in Klingon

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Look at this: Soliloquy in Klingon. What's wrong with that? In it's own terms, nothing. It's a good performance and actually it's interesting to see that a decent actor and Shakespeare's lines can still have meaning in an artificial language.

Mind you, Ken Campbell knew that when he translated The Scottish Play into pidgin. There's a review here. Nope, it's not the language or the performance that make the To Be Or Not To Be speech out of place in Klingon. It's the choice of play.

Hamlet is far too...wet...to be a Klingon. Had Hamlet been a Klingon, the play would be one act long, that act consisting of the message from the ghost of Hamlet's father and then a brutal fight scene ending with Claudius bifurcated and a dying Hamlet giving Fortinbras a solid kicking too.

The whole 'Hamlet in Klingon' thing comes from the Star Trek movie The Undiscovered Country, in which a Klingon character insists that one can best understand Shakespeare only in the original Klingon.

Fair enough. Bill's got the same haircut and exposed forehead as a Klingon, and Bill has a talent for writing stirring pre-battle speeches.

However, to see how a Klingon really should handle Shakespeare we might as well turn to a master of the art. Here's Sir Ian doing the opening bit to Richard III.

It is possibly the most badass introduction to a character that Shakespeare ever gives. Within the space of one speech you know everything about Richard that you will ever need to know, and you come to respect his intelligence and his cunning all at the same time. You know that Richard is a soldier first and foremost, too, which should make him appealing to Klingons.


Doctor Who?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Over at Den of Geek, which is one of those pro-bloggy sites which I can't seem to stop reading and would probably quite enjoy working for, I found a thought provoking article about Doctor Who.

It's here, and it's a critique of New Doctor Who. I enjoyed reading it, I also enjoyed disagreeing with it on a couple of points. Rather than attempt a fannish evisceration of the article - where would the point be? The writer isn't wrong - I thought I'd put together a counter argument.

The darkest days of Doctor Who came in the 1980s. As a fan, it was one of the staples of my life. I would ritually settle down in front of a title sequence that I was getting less and less happy with (the one I grew up with is probably still my favourite), listen to the theme music that had drifted away from the spine chilling electronica that to this day I can't get out of my head, and try to pretend that it hadn't all gone a bit wrong.

In the 1980s, Doctor Who was being torn in about three different directions at once. Some of the writers and script editors wanted the show to be a bit more grown up. Some of the fans did too, because by this point it had been on for something like twenty years. The kids who had been introduced to the Doctor in a Totters Lane junkyard now had families of their own, who were seriously unimpressed with the low budget, effects-poor fare that compared rather unfavorably to TV shows from across the Atlantic, and those parents now wanted a show which reflected their changing priorities.

The BBC didn't want the show at all.

The Producer wanted to try for some popularity. John Nathan Turner is often lambasted for his time on Doctor Who, and very unfairly so, given that without him the show wouldn't have lasted as long as it did. His decisions on guest stars, and on some of the directions the show would take, have made him a byword for all that fans thought was wrong with Doctor Who at the time.

What really happened was this: Doctor Who was in no position to move with the times. The BBC didn't want to spend time and money looking at the programme and the format. They had no interest in giving it the budget it needed to look as though it was punching at the same weight as the competition.

All of these things aside, us fans got something close to what we wanted with Sylvester McCoy's last two seasons. We got what appeared to be final stories for the Daleks and the Cybermen. We got a Doctor who started out a clown and became something very much more complex. And then the whole thing got handed off to Virgin Publishing, where a series of 7th Doctor novels would show what Doctor Who was capable of.

I read them. I think I read all but a couple. Some of them were brilliant. Others, not. They all had one thing in common: they were not suitable for children.

The show as it stands now is back with its roots. It is a TV show you can sit a 12 year old down with (or a bright younger child) and be reasonably assured that they will be entertained and that their imagination will be fired. This is what Doctor Who did for me, it's what Doctor Who does best and it's what Doctor Who is busily engaged in.

Aspects have moved on. The kids that started watching in 2005 are now six years older. Some of them will be turning 12. Some will be turning 18. To keep those viewers interested, stuff changes a little. But not much, and certainly not enough to - for example - alienate the new generation of viewers.

Doctor Who can be dark, because fairy stories are dark, and scary because a lot of children's tales are scary. It can be quite callous and hard, if it wants to, because children aren't the lovely bundles of fluff that some parents have decided they should be. Are you kidding? Listen to children playing some time. Children are so empathy-challenged that you can sit them in front of the Disney Channel for 12 hours - an experience that would make even the most ardent BNP supporter want to investigate how good it can be to share things with people who aren't like us - and they will still be selfish, capricious little shits at the end of it.

The call, by some older fans, to make Doctor Who grow up and be something different is never going to be heeded. To survive, the show needs to recruit new viewers and - paradoxically for a show that completely changes every couple of years - it needs constants.

In his article, Mark Reed said that the show suffered from a poverty of vision and that it could be so much more than 50 minutes of fast-paced lightweight scifi. It could be something like The Wire.

It could. And that would mean it stopped being Doctor Who.

Things do change. Companions come and go, there's continuity (of a sort) over years...decades, even... and the style of the show changes. Watch something from the first year of Doctor Who, then have a look at the Patrick Troughton story The Invasion. Then watch something like The Silurians. Treat yourself to Talons of Weng Chiang, and then watch Frontios. It's a completely different style of show, and yet exactly the same. Like the Doctor himself.

The thing that keeps us coming back to the show is not a desire for it to be as dense or complex as The Wire. It's different for all of is fans, but it hinges on the show saying something important to us when we were younger and continuing to say it today.

The Moffat Era is still talking to me, and although I really would like a network and a writer to take a science fiction idea and do with it what was done to The Wire, or The West Wing, I don't believe Doctor Who is the show to do it with.

Perhaps the new incarnation of Torchwood might have what people are looking for. It's a TV show for adults.


Just so you know...

I don't know what this bit is for. Perhaps I should give it a purpose?

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