June 2011

From a talk by Anna Ronkainen of the University of Helsinki, at GikII VI:

Zombie = Human – Consciousness

(The philosophical definition of a zombie.)

However, some regard consciousness as an illusion, so all humans are zombies!


I am (well, was by the time I finished editing this) currently at the Security and Human Behaviour conference at CMU in Pittsburgh. Here are my live notes from the presentations. (more…)

As Anderson discusses in his Security Engineering book, debates on fredom of information about security devices, starting with locks and keys, have been around for centuries. The latest salvo in this is the US (Massachusetts State Legislature and US Federal Congress) legislative proposal sometimes referred to as the “right to repair”. This proposal is about ensuring competition in the car servicing maintenance and repair market. In recent years, somewhat like the printer manufacturers and their attempts to prevent refilling of ink cartridges or the use of third party cartridges in their printers, car manufacturers have been addding in anti-features to the electronics running inside their cars. These electronics, which minutely control many aspects of the engine operation, will refuse to recognise parts from thirrd party manufacturers annd use proprietary data access protocols and encryption keys to prevent access to the diagnostic data that allows mechanics to know which parts need cleaning/repairing/replacing. Without access to these protocols independent garages can’t work on modern cars. As Roberrt Charette points out, the age old issue of access to information being a security risk is raising its head again as roups like the police and insurers are claiming that making it a right for people to access information about the things they own also gives thieeves access to information which helps them. As Anderson pointed out, there are enough smart thieves out there, and there are enough people with access to the information anyway that it’s not a security feature to not make it more generally available. As well as claiming that thieves and their associates could use this information to steal and re-process more cars, there are claims that this would allow more counterfeit parts on the market. All these claims are the standard mistakes about security by obscurity. Enough people already have access to this information that any criminal or counterfeit parts manufacturer can already get it. The restriction of access to this material is simply a matter of placing extra barriers in the way to a competitive marketplace. Indeed, the belief that such restrictions inhibit counterfeit parts increases risk by introducing a false sense of security. (True counterfeit parts are indeed a problem as they may not be subject to the correct safety testing and/or customers may be paying over the odds for what they beleive are quality parts which are shoddily manufactured.)

The Stross effect is when a science fiction or techno-thriller writer is writing a near-future piece and before the book is published (sometimes before it is finished and submitted to the publisher) real world events catch up with or even overtake the fiction. I recently posted about a paper I’d submitted to a journal. That submission is still under review. In the paper I talked about the recent case where a school pupil sitting the exntrance exams at various Japanese universities was using an iPhone on his lap to post queries about the questions to online Q&A sites. I also talked about the development of wireless Internet connectivity and very discrete cameras that will make it much easier for people to cheat in closed book exams. And before the paper has even been reviewed we have such a report.http://tinyurl.com/3fcmmu6.