And Suddenly It’s A Thing

So, a mad genius script-hacked 420,000 computers to create a botnet that then pinged a ton of other machines, all in an effort to map the Internet. For reals.

So, my takeaway: that’s totally some cool pics. Especially the animated heatmap gif of Internet traffic.

Also, change your default password, you idiots. Seriously? “Admin” and nothing? Not even a password? When you’re running Linux? Are you just too stupid to survive on an open network or what?

(Also, now that this is a sorta theme, does that mean I have to dig up four more comp-sec stories to round out the week?)

Straight Outta Cyberpunk

Straight outta cyberpunk: Company A is a brokerage house. Company B, a media organization specializing in up-to-the-second financial and world news, access to which is key for A’s traders. So, B sells specialized terminals to provide all this information.

And reporters at B can track each and every login. They can tell what information was accessed, when the access happened, who accessed the information (by name),  and how long they read a particular story.

Company “A”, by the way, is Goldman Sachs (and many other financial organizations, including the Treasury) and “B” is Bloomberg. (Adding another layer of surreality, Bloomberg is owned by Mayor Bloomberg, mayor of New York City.) How serious is this? According to The Guardian:

More than 300,000 of the world’s most influential people in finance including top bankers, treasury officials and hedge fund managers have access to a Bloomberg terminal…Access to the types of information those users are looking up would give a reporter invaluable insight.

Reportedly, a Bloomberg reporter knew a Goldman Sachs employee had left the company, because he hadn’t logged in for a significant length of time. For companies (and government organizations) dependent on secrecy, this is a potential disaster.

Inadvertent disclosures of sensitive data are par for the course in a networked world. (As yesterday’s story showed.) Computer networks are designed to transfer information, sequestering that same information is difficult.

Still, it’s a whole different ballgame when the same company selling you information can spy on you. Secure password techniques do nothing to protect you against that level of penetration.

If there is a takeaway, it’s this: be careful who you trust.

Writing An RPG Rulebook

My theory on writing RPG rules. The following are the important considerations, in (rough) descending order of importance.

  1. The rule itself should be written clearly, in plain English, to minimize confusion.
  2. Rules which need examples, should have them. (And the examples should be correct.)
  3. A rulebook should be structured so as to teach the game: clearly labeled sections, in a coherent order, more important rules first. Within a section, simpler concepts first, more advanced second.
  4. The rulebook should be structured in such a way it can easily be used as a reference work. (A great index is a plus.)
  5. RPG’s not only have to instruct people how to play, they have to convey the feel of the game. It’s important to clearly communicate, but also communicate with style.
  6. Tone and style is not your enemy. But neither is taste and restraint. If the game is about cowboys, writing every sentence in a stylized 1880’s accent — “Howdy, pardner. Welcome to the Cattle and Killin’ RPG! Yeehaw!” — is obnoxious. A little color goes a long way. (Graphic design can help here, as well.)

Any thoughts?

Fun With Plastics

Another “the future is here, and by God is it weird” story.

On Tuesday, Defense Distributed released a blueprint for a 3-D printer, allowing you to produce a handgun. (Save for the firing pin, which is metal.) The US government, predictably, demanded they take the blueprints down.

Just as predictably, a torrent sprang up allowing people to continue downloading the file. (I hear, from a reliable source, that the download time can be measured in seconds, even when using a rural DSL connection in a very low population western US state.) As of right now, the government either hasn’t tried, or hasn’t been able, to quash the torrent.

3-D printers assemble plastic sculptures layer by layer, by melting a plastic powder and allowing it to solidify. You can make minis for a wargamerapidly prototype components, and (in this case) even make an entire plastic handgun.

3-D printing is here, for cutting edge household use. It is on the verge of becoming a consumer technology. For $500, you can buy a printer and make this gun. (Less the firing pin.)

The question being, what happens when this is an actual consumer technology, and many people own a printer? What other blueprints will be offered? (And, even further in the future, what if selective laser sintering becomes a consumer technology?)

We cannot today imagine all the strange uses – some noble and some despicable — this technology will be put to. One thing I know:

The future is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.

Two Forward, One Back

Podcast update: After some trial runs to gauge audio quality, I found that the mic/headset I ordered is just not going to cut it. I’m sending it back to Amazon, and I’ll need to order a new one next month.

Which means a 1 month delay in launching the podcast. On the upside, I didn’t lose any money on the return, so there’s that.

Hopefully, I’ll have better news next month. Cheers!

I Hope To God This Is Satire

Guy Hasson, writing about a “Guest Post Optimizer” company, called Digital Kingmakers. I’m 99% sure this is satire (though I fell for it on my first reading).

If not… damn are people stupid. And I don’t mean the “third grade” commenters. I mean the people creating this company, and any hapless clients they sign.

So, if you find out this is really real, don’t tell me. I don’t need another reason to hate this plane of existence.