Start Up: hack that election!, Microsoft says patch, iPad Pro speed tested, Ivanka underfoot, and more


Charles Thacker, co-inventor of Ethernet, has died. Photo by Razor512 on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Still looking for the tapes. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How to hack an election without really trying • Matt Blaze

Blaze (for those who don’t know) is an expert cryptographer who demonstrated in the 1990s that the Clinton administration’s plan for “key escrow” was fatally flawed. When it comes to hacking, he’s reliable. He wrote this – and then the addendum – on the NSA report into election hacking:

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In the immediate term, we need to find out the extent to which county election systems have been compromised. Every voting machine as well as every computer on every county election office network in the US needs to be carefully forensically examined, and any evidence of compromise investigated. That might be an expensive and laborious process, but it is our only hope of unraveling the extent to which our elections were tampered with (if they were at all), to say nothing of cleaning up any malware left behind for the next election.

In the longer term, we need better, more secure, robust and auditable voting systems. Many states are still using insecure touch-screen “DRE” systems that have been shown to suffer from serious, exploitable vulnerabilities and that provide no ability for meaningful recounts. Our democracy deserves better than that, and we now have even more reason to demand it.

Update 13 June 2017: According to this Bloomberg News article, the attack (and the investigation) was indeed more widespread than this particular NSA document would suggest, and involved voter registration databases and possibly other election systems in at least 39 states. It remains unclear if the ultimate intended targets were the registration systems themselves (which would disrupt election operations) or other county backend voting infrastructure (including voting machines and tallying software) that might share the same networks (which could compromise the tally). The full extent is simply unknown at this point. This underscores the the need to throughly forensically examine every one of the thousands of state, local and county voting system and network in the US for evidence of malware and tampering. This would be a non-trivial undertaking, and does not appear to have been been done yet, at least at any scale. But until this occurs, there is simply no way to be sure of any damage, or if any systems might still be running left behind compromised software during the next election.

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In the UK we counted more than 30 million paper votes in a single night. It only takes organisation, and it’s pretty resistant to hacking.
link to this extract


What we know about the leaked secret NSA report on Russia • ABC News

Karma Allen:

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On March 22, The Intercept hosted a podcast online looking at, among other things, the public outcry over Russia’s alleged collusion with associates of President Donald Trump and the Kremlin’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.

Host Jeremy Scahill said “there is a tremendous amount of hysterics” and “a lot of premature conclusions being drawn around all of this Russia stuff,” but “there’s not a lot of hard evidence to back it up.”

Appearing as a guest on the podcast, Intercept reporter Glenn Greenwald agreed, saying that while “it’s very possible” Russia was behind election-related hacks last year, “we still haven’t seen any evidence for it.”

Little more than a week later, Winner allegedly used a Gmail account to contact The Intercept, and she “appeared to request transcripts of a podcast,” court documents said.

More than a month later, the NSA secretly issued the classified document now at the center of the leak case. And within days, Winner allegedly found it, printed it out and mailed it to The Intercept.

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So she was trying to provide The Intercept with evidence about the topic it doubted, The Intercept showed it to a government source for checking, and the government tracked Winner down. It’s like a Greek tragedy where the hero(ine) tries to get the chorus to do something.
link to this extract


Charles P. Thacker • Wikipedia

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Charles P. (Chuck) Thacker (February 26, 1943 – June 12, 2017) was a American pioneer computer designer. He worked on the Xerox Alto, which is the first computer that used a mouse-driven Graphical User Interface.

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Also co-inventor of Ethernet and worked on the laser printer.
link to this extract


Microsoft warns of ‘destructive cyberattacks,’ issues new Windows XP patches • ZDNet

Ed Bott:

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Citing an “elevated risk for destructive cyberattacks” by government organizations or copycats, Microsoft on Tuesday released an assortment of security updates designed to block attacks similar to those responsible for thedevastating WannaCry ransomware outbreak last month.

The alerts highlights the risk of “potential nation-state activity.” It does not name the nation-state it suspects of being on the verge of unleashing this attack.

Today’s critical security updates are in addition to the normal Patch Tuesday releases, Microsoft said. They’ll be delivered automatically through Windows Update to devices running supported versions, including Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, and post-2008 Windows Server releases.

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An update earlier in the year had the same intent (to defend against Wannacry/Eternal Blue) but perhaps pointing out now that it’s to defend against nation-state attacks will get people to actually implement it.
link to this extract


WWDC 2017 :  some thoughts • Learning By Shipping

Steve Sinofsky (yes, the guy who drove Windows and introduced the Surface as a skateboard):

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I’ve been saying this for years — that ARM-based, mobile OS, with new apps geared to a new interaction model will become dominant. I didn’t expect that to be just a pocket-sized device, but based on hours of usage that is clearly the case (and at least partially responsible for iPad sales curves).

What I believe Apple has cleverly done is introduce features such as “windowing”, drag and drop, and app switching that will cause the industry to take note of the improved productivity potential while at the same time not forcing a “desktop” model on “everyone”. By and large these features are likely to fall to power users, but that is often how markets tilt. The new Files app (which is very early) will prove to be a game changer and so clearly ups the “power” of the device as many core productivity scenarios are about juggling multiple files in some workflow.

For the vast majority of people that define productivity as “Office” scenarios of notetaking, slides, lists, basic models, communicating (iOS was already the preferred mail platform by volume), and so on, the iPad with its security, reliability, robustness, performance, and also connection to phone (continuity, Messages, etc.) make for an extremely productive experience. Developers take note, as iPad-specific apps will become increasingly important in productivity categories.

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link to this extract


Implicit Association Test • Harvard University

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It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology.

This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

In addition, this site contains various related information. The value of this information may be greatest if you try at least one test first…

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However, there’s a lot of disagreement about the suggestion that these are any use.
link to this extract


Ericsson Mobility Report 1H 2017 • Ericsson

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For the next six years, more than 1 million new mobile broadband subscribers will be added per day. This means there will be an additional 2.6 billion subscribers by the end of 2022.

The June 2017 edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report continues to forecast the growth of mobile technology, including IoT connections and LTE. We also explore how the unconnected can be cost-effectively connected by leveraging existing mobile infrastructure, and how attributes of 5G will make public transport via autonomous vehicles safer.

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Always worth a download and mull over; the numbers are getting mindblowing though.
link to this extract


Review: Microsoft’s Surface Laptop running Windows 10 S • ZDNet

Mary Jo Foley:

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In my 10 days of use of the Intel Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM running Windows 10 S (Creators Update release, a k a 1703), I didn’t approach the 14-hour battery life figure Microsoft touted for Surface Laptop. The Microsoft figure is for the non-real-world continuous video playback scenarios. In my intermittent, regular but non-continuous use — browsing the web, monitoring Twitter, writing posts and emails, watching YouTube videos, and playing music on Groove — I’d guess I’ve been more in the seven-plus-hour range, not including time when the machine was unused and in standby. (This is a rough calculation, obviously; I’ll update in the next couple weeks as I use the device more.)

Happily, I have not once come back to my idle machine to find that most of the battery drained while I wasn’t using the device. The default settings for 10 S on the Laptop call for the device to sleep, not hibernate, when not in use, which seems to be part of what “Modern Standby” does to help save battery.

On to the software. I have said recently that I believe I could live with a Chromebook these days, as I almost never need any Win32-only apps. The Surface Laptop proved my hypothesis was right.

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That last bit might be worrying for Microsoft. You’re wondering about her experience with the Alcantara keyboard fabric?

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…definitely going to be a love-hate thing. It feels more like a pool-table cover than a shag carpet, for those wondering about the fuzziness factor.

Microsoft included the covering as a way of differentiating its laptop and giving it a more premium feel. I admit I found myself constantly worrying about staining the cover with food/drink, sweat and tears (not unicorn ones). Officials say the fuzzy keyboard can be wiped clean easily with a damp cloth. But to me, the minuses on this outweigh the potential benefits. During the last few very warm days we’ve had here in New York, I’ve found the covering a bit too warm for my liking.

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Oh well.
link to this extract


iPad Pro 10.5-inch (2017) review: this is crazy fast •Laptop Mag

Mark Spoonauer:

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The A10X Fusion chip inside the iPad could very well be the most powerful mobile processor ever. The six-core CPU and 12-core GPU combine to offer amazing power given the iPad Pro’s slim profile. Part of the reason why the iPad Pro is so swift is because of the way Apple architected the chip; the CPU and GPU share the same on-board 4GB of RAM, so there’s no waiting for the graphics to go out and grab separate memory.

The result is a tablet that beats most Windows laptops on the Geekbench 4 benchmark, which measures overall performance. The iPad Pro scored a crazy-high 9,233 on the multi-core portion of the test. That’s more than double the Galaxy Tab S3 tablet with a Snapdragon 820 chip. More impressive, the iPad Pro’s mark is whopping 42% faster than the Dell XPS 13 notebook with a 7th-generation Core i5 processor (6,498) and 17% faster than a Core i7-powered HP Spectre (7,888).

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OK, so maybe this is enough iPad Pro reviews, but the point is this: Apple is now making tablets that are faster than fully-fledged laptops. That’s an amazing change from 2010. Spoonauer’s biggest complaint? Lack of a trackpad. Telling in itself.
link to this extract


Revealed: reality of life working in an Ivanka Trump clothing factory • The Guardian

Krithika Varagur, in Subang, West Java:

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The reality of working in a factory making clothes for Ivanka Trump’s label has been laid bare, with employees speaking of being paid so little they cannot live with their children, anti-union intimidation and women being offered a bonus if they don’t take time off while menstruating.

The Guardian has spoken to more than a dozen workers at the fashion label’s factory in Subang, Indonesia, where employees describe being paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia and there are claims of impossibly high production targets and sporadically compensated overtime.

The workers’ complaints come only a week after labour activists investigating possible abuses at a Chinese factory that makes Ivanka Trump shoes disappeared into police custody.

The activists’ group claimed they had uncovered a host of violations at the plant including salaries below China’s legal minimum wage, managers verbally abusing workers and “violations of women’s rights”.

In the Indonesian factory some of the complaints are similar, although the wages paid to employees in Subang are much lower.

Here we look at life inside the factory through interviews with workers, all who have asked for their details to be changed to avoid losing their jobs.

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China says it won’t release the people who were investigating the other factories. Ivanka had best get used to very close attention being paid to her supply chain.
link to this extract


Uber CEO to take leave of absence as Holder report is released • The Information

Amir Efrati:

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Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick told employees that he will take a leave of absence as the company unveiled the findings of an investigation into the ride-hailing service’s troubled workplace culture.

In his absence, a “leadership team” of his direct reports would run the company, Mr. Kalanick told employees in an email. The Uber chief didn’t disclose when he would return from the leave, saying that “it may be shorter or longer than we expect.” Mr. Kalanick said that he needed time to grieve the loss of his mother, who was killed a few weeks ago in a boating accident that seriously injured his father. “Tragically losing a loved one has been difficult for me and I need to properly say my goodbyes.”

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It’s easy to be cynical about Kalanick doing this as the report into sexism and discrimination is released, but the effect of the sudden death of a parent is hard to estimate. (Huge long read about the Holder report at Bloomberg.)

Now Uber begins its second act.
link to this extract


Galaxy Note 8 to reportedly miss out on in-screen fingerprint reader as well • SamMobile

“Asif S”:

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The Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+ are one of the best smartphones released this year. However, people who used one of these devices will quickly point out the awkward placement of the fingerprint reader. It was reported that Samsung poured a lot of money in developing an in-screen fingerprint reader for these devices, but failed to achieve favorable results in time for the mass production of the Galaxy S8 and S8+.

Consumers and experts were hoping that Samsung could introduce an in-screen fingerprint reader this year with the Galaxy Note 8, thereby bringing it closer to perfection. However, a new report from Naver leads us to believe that Samsung will miss out on integrating an in-screen fingerprint reader in its upcoming flagship phablet. The report states that even Apple had a lot of problems in using a similar technology for the iPhone 8, which is expected to go on sale later this year.

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But the reports also suggest that Apple has managed to figure this out. Samsung won’t be happy if it misses out, though one expects that by spring of next year they’ll have got yields up and the “fingerprint reader on the back” will have been discarded to the dustbin of history.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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