Yesterday, you'll recall, I blogged about that very disturbing article from Mother Jones concerning the anti-black bias of computerized profiling during sentencing phases of trials. For me, the issue of all this computer-mania has always been twofold: (1) the inherent biases of such things, be they in standardized tests and their bias against the more gifted student and subtle mind, a topic my co-author Gary Lawrence and I covered in our book Rotten to the (Common) Core, to the biases against certain groups, or even the anti-human bias of markets now being driven primarily by computerized trading, out of touch with all human market realities, and (2) the basic insecurity of these systems as a whole, from standardized tests, to market trading algorithms, to computerized voting, to uses of profiling algorithms in the judicial process.
During that blog, I noted recent statements from the US Intelligence community that the assessment is that someone is "mapping the internet" for a possible system-wide takedown via cyber attacks. Even Hillary Clinton's campaign has gotten in on the act by suggesting that the current election process, and the hacking I put in the "tidbits" section yesterday, might be coming from Russia. I rarely agree with Mrs. Clinton about anything, but in this case she has a point: the computerized election system is vulnerable, and massively so, in a way that the old-fashioned ballot stuffing fraud procedures of yesteryear dwarf by comparison. But the fix does not lie in inviting the very same vested interests to have an oversight role. The fix lies in citizen oversight itself.
But since we're on the subject of hacking, I want to concentrate on another story that may have been missed in your daily perusals of news on the internet, a story that was shared by Mr. G.B.:
I have to marvel sometimes at the fact that the Russians (and their Evil Criminal Super-Mastermind Genius leader, Vladimir Putin and his equally cunning cohort of masterminds, Sergei Lavrov and Anton Vayno) seem to be behind everything from the Weimar inflation to the Spanish flu outbreak and the invention of the common cold in secret Russian laboratories. Now, in this case, the evil Russians and their Mastermind Leader Mr. Putin have attacked California's Department of Motor Vehicles:
Customer transactions at dozens of DMV field offices were impacted by the outage, including offices in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Compton, El Monte, Fullerton, and Thousand Oaks.
Any DMV offices affected “will continue providing drive tests, making return appointments, helping with paperwork, and answering customer’s questions”, a DMV spokesperson confirmed.
Online services on the DMV website did not appear to be affected, officials said.
DMV says "Crews have been working all night to rebuild the system and get offices back up and running."
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the outage was linked to a massive cyber attack last week on server farms of a key Internet firm that repeatedly disrupted access to major websites and online services including Twitter, Netflix and PayPal. (Emphasis in the original)
This story interests me because once again, California seems to be a target of opportunity for some very weird and downright mysterious attacks. Recall that only a few years ago there was an actual attack on an electrical substation at the southern tip of the Silicon Valley, as obvious professionals targeted the sub-station, and were in and out in a matter of minutes, taking down the station, before law enforcement could arrive on the scene. Subsequently, internet connection cables were also physically attacked and physically cut in the San Francisco Bay area. As I covered these stories then, I speculated that these attacks looked like "practice," and such physical and target specific attacks, on conjunction with a carefully coordinated internet cyber attack, could bring things to a grinding halt. (Still think electronic currencies and a cashless society is a good idea? Then save your bitcoins, because there are big bridges in Manhattan and the San Francisco Bay Area for sale, cheap.)
All of this brings me to the recent DOS attack on the east coast, and to this story shared by Mr. M.H.:
Mr. Brian Galloway, author of this article, notes that home "smart appliances", like your webcam, or perhaps even your smart meter or smart toaster, were used in the recent attack to bring about a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack:
Last week's attack on multiple websites including Twitter, Spotify, and Reddit was carried out using internet-connected home devices as means of overloading the sites, experts have found.
The "global event" involved "tens of millions" of internet addresses, analysts said, and used the 'internet of things" - home devices connected to the web - as a means of overwhelming sites with coordinated messages from thousands of machines.
Machines in people's homes were secretly used without the owners ever knowing.The result for sites targeted in such an attack is a distributed denial of service (DDoS) and a lack of capacity for the sites to facilitate genuine users. Twitter, Spotify and Reddit all use a company called Dyn, which was the primary target of the attack. It is used to direct users to sites.
By attacking Dyn instead of just one site, the huge number of sites that use it were affected in turn.
In other words, all these wonderful new "smart appliances" stand like a silent, mute army, waiting to be called up by "someone" when the time is right to be arrayed in battle order to overwhelm specific servers.