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Hacking the Nazis

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Some resisters fought the Nazis in the streets while others fought them from within by hacking some of the world’s first information technology systems. Ava Ex Machina has a fascinating post discussing some of these unheralded hackers. Here is one:

René Carmille — was a punch card computer expert and comptroller general of the French Army, who later would head up the Demographics Department of the French National Statistics Service. As quickly as IBM worked with the Nazis to enable them to use their punch card computer systems to update census data to find and round up Jewish citizens, Rene and his team of double-agents worked just as fast to manipulate their data to undermine their efforts.

The IEEE newspaper, The Institute, describes Carmille as being an early ethical hacker: “Over the course of two years, Carmille and his group purposely delayed the process by mishandling the punch cards. He also hacked his own machines, reprogramming them so that they’d never punch information from Column 11 [which indicated religion] onto any census card.” His work to identify and build in this exploit saved thousands of Jews from being rounded up and deported to death camps.

Rene was arrested in Lyon in 1944. He was interrogated for two days by Klaus Barbie, a cruel and brutal SS and Gestapo officer called “the Butcher of Lyon,” but he still did not break under torture. Rene was caught by the Nazis and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he died in 1945.

Hat tip: Tim Harford.

The post Hacking the Nazis appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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freeAgent
4 hours ago
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Liberals' Sudden Concern About Bill Clinton's Behavior Is Cynical: New at Reason

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The dynamics that led to Democrats protecting Bill Clinton from accusations of sexual assault and rape haven't changed.

David Harsanyi writes:

A number of notable liberals have recently decided to start taking allegations of sexual assault against former President Bill Clinton seriously. Let's just say that discarding the Clintons when they're no longer politically useful in order to retroactively grab the higher moral ground isn't exactly an act of heroism. But if we're going to relitigate history, let's get it right.

In The New York Times, for example, Michelle Goldberg spends around 75 percent of her column titled "I Believe Juanita" rationalizing why it was OK not to believe Juanita Broaddrick, who credibly accused Bill Clinton of rape decades ago. You won't be surprised to learn that Goldberg claims the politics and conspiracymongering of conservatives provoked skepticism among liberals—excuses that will be awfully familiar to anyone following the justification of Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore's supporters.

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freeAgent
5 hours ago
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Microsoft unveils special Skype version for freelancers

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Microsoft is creating a unique version of Skype for small business owners and freelancers. The software giant is planning to preview the new version of Skype shortly as a desktop client in the US. Microsoft’s “Skype Professional Account” combines Skype calls, calendar meetings, and payments. This is particularly useful for freelancers that might use Skype to provide tutorials, training, or consulting.

The new Skype version will let small business owners and freelancers book meetings and accept payments all within the same tool, instead of third-party alternatives. It’s not clear if Microsoft intends to run this as a free service once the preview is finished, but testers can sign-up to try it out over at Microsoft’s Skype homepage.

Continue reading…

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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This is a good move by MS.
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A disappointing debut for Google’s Pixel Buds

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 Pixel Buds are a valiant effort to stand out while embracing a trend adopted by just about every name in the field, resulting in a product that’s sometimes inspiring, sometimes baffling and mostly just okay. They’re the kind of product you really want to like — but they’re just not there yet. Read More


















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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Ethereum Wallet Company Knew About Critical Flaw That Let a User Lock Up Millions

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After someone going by “Devops199” managed to permanently lock up millions of dollars worth of other people’s Ethereum funds last week, the company that created the vulnerable code published a postmortem on the incident on Wednesday. It doesn’t look good.

According to Parity’s breakdown of the fiasco, the digital wallet company knew about the critical flaw since August and did not address it for months, until it was too late.

This much we already knew: Parity suffered a massive hack due to a critical vulnerability in mid-July, prompting it to push out new code on July 20th. Devops199 was poking around this code for multi-signature Ethereum wallets. They discovered a wallet that didn’t have an owner, and all Devops199 had to do to become its owner was call a function called “initWallet.” So, they did. Now, what Devops199 did next is a point of some consternation: After becoming the wallet’s owner, they called the “kill” function of the wallet, destroying it.

Read More: How Coders Hacked Back to ‘Rescue’ $208 Million in Ethereum

That wallet was actually a code library for Parity multi-signature wallets, making them instantly useless and permanently freezing the funds inside. Multi-signature wallets are designed to have more than one owner, and so they’re popular with companies. After Devops199 killed the code library, the estimated amount of lost ether (Ethereum’s digital currency) was just under $300 million USD. Today’s Parity postmortem pegs that number at closer to $150 million, which is still nothing to sniff at.

According to Parity’s postmortem, a user on GitHub—where Parity’s code is hosted for all to see—named “3esmit” alerted the company to the code flaw in August. “BTW, when you deploy WalletLibrary, the init function will be open in that contract,” 3esmit wrote at the time. “I recommend you calling initWallet on WalletLibrary right after its deploy, just to ensure no one will use it."

Screengrab: GitHub

Parity spokespeople were not immediately available to comment. According to the company’s post, there was “no formal audit” of the code, but it went through a process of internal and community review.

Parity wrote that 3esmit’s recommendation “at the time was considered a convenience enhancement,” and, “interpreting the recommendation as enhancement, the changed code was to be deployed in a regular update at a future point in time.”

That update didn’t come in time to stop Devops199 from stumbling across the flaw in November—months after the Parity team was alerted—and instantly blowing up millions of dollars worth of other people’s digital money.

Commenters on the Ethereum subreddit expressed bewilderment at how Parity could have allowed this to happen. “I know it is easy to be smart in hindsight, but these are huge design errors, I can't comprehend how could this pass reviews in the architecture phase,” wrote user “1up8912” in a comment. “Tl;dr, we fucked up, you’re fucked,” wrote another commenter.

Parity wrote that it could have avoided this month’s disaster by removing the kill function from the wallet, or simply doing what 3esmet recommended back in August, “either automatically through the code change and re-deployment or manually on the contract deployed in July,” the company wrote.

“We recognise that the issue has, among other things, caused distress and anxiety about the future of projects and funds in our community and we are working hard to explore all feasible solutions,” the Parity post states.

At the moment, there is still no fix to free the locked funds. Parity stated that the company is working on several code proposals that could, the company claims, unlock the funds or deal with the problem of locked funds generally in Ethereum. One of the proposed solutions must be implemented with a network split called a hard fork, which is sure to be an intensely controversial plan.

That’s because it happened before. After an Ethereum project called the DAO lost more than $50 million to a hacker in 2016, the funds were recovered via a hard fork network split, a move that spurred part of the Ethereum community to rebel and work on their own version of Ethereum, now called Ethereum Classic.

Whether any of the locked funds will be returned is anybody’s guess, but one thing is for sure: Parity’s standing in the Ethereum community is at stake.

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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Really???
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tante
2 days ago
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Parity knew of the Etherum bug that locked away millions, they just couldn't be bothered to fix it.
Oldenburg/Germany

Free Meek Mill

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The rapper Meek Mill has just been sentenced to two to four years in prison because a judge decided he had violated his parole and was "thumbing [his] nose at the court." The sentence, made possible by a 10-year-old probation status, illustrates the need not just for sentencing reform but for a reckoning with overcriminalization and the aggressive enforcement of petty laws.

Mill, born Robert Rihmeek Williams, was sentenced to 11 to 23 months in 2008 after being convicted on drug and gun possession charges and was released in early 2009 with a five-year probation order. That was extended another five years because Mill, horror of horrors, left the state of Pennsylvania to perform at shows.

Drug and gun charges are often seen in tandem, because drug prohibition means those involved in the trade don't have access to a legal dispute-resolution system, forcing them to rely on their ability to defend themselves. These gun enhancements lead to higher rates of incarceration, particularly within marginalized communities, and all the evidence suggests that a crackdown on guns would mirror the destructive and ineffective war on drugs. Nonetheless, gun control advocates keep pushing for that crackdown.

It is thanks to such laws that people like Mill, never accused of a violent crime, end up under state supervision for long periods of time. That in turn makes them more vulnerable to a bevy of other capricious laws.

In Mill's case, he was charged with a misdemeanor after getting into an altercation with a photographer in St. Louis who was trying to take a picture of him, and he was charged with reckless driving for illegally riding his dirt bike while shooting a music video in Manhattan. Both arrests happened this year.

The first charge was dropped. In the New York City case, Mill accepted a dismissal deal that saw him do 30 hours of community service and not be required to admit guilt. Despite that, he's going to jail.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio claims to be a supporter of criminal justice reform, yet he insists that petty laws be aggressively enforced. While this is especially likely to entangle the poor, who can't afford hefty fines for essentially harmless behavior, it can impact anyone, particularly in conjunction with prior offenses or other legal problems.

One of Mill's lawyers claims that the judge in the case, Genece Brinkley, has acted vindictively and inappropriately, giving Mill advice on who his manager should be and asking him to remake the Boyz II Men song "On Bended Knee" and shout her out in it. Brinkley has been involved with Meek's troubles since he first caught the convictions for drug and gun possession. Such longevity increases the opportunity for inappropriate behavior because of the sense of familiarity it breeds. It also leaves offenders largely at the whim of just one individual.

Mill's case has galvanized activists and protesters. Jay-Z, whose label Roc Nation signed Mill, blasted the court system at a show in Dallas, while demonstrators held a "Free Meek Mill" rally in Philadelphia, where they also called on Brinkley to recuse herself.

Preventing such miscarriages in the future will require us to question a vast pile of petty laws that fuel an industry—of judges, cops, probation officers, others—whose primary goal often seems to be its own perpetuation.

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freeAgent
2 days ago
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