Sunday, August 30, 2009


(Say it three times fast with a mouthfulla ice cubes and win a set of plans for your very own fallout shelter!)

Tam links to a story about a bill that'd left the Feds officially pull the plug on this here Innernet. In one sense, it's silly to think this power doesn't already exist; The Phone Company has been deeply, madly in bed with the Feds for years, since before the tax on long distance to fund the Spanish-American War, even, and if Uncle Sugar were t'ring 'em up and say, "Internet. Off. Now," screens would go blank while the last syllable was still echoing.

It is nevertheless troubling when they wanna make it Official. Sort of sets it out of reach of serious censure in any public forum; like the hideously-misnamed USA PATRIOT Act, there might be plenty of whining 'round the edges but, "Hey, it's the Law," still commands inherent respect, same way my "The Revolution Will Not Be Telegraphed" T-shirt* gets narrow and suspicious looks at gun shows.

...And I can't help but remember that one of the things Claire Wolfe was blogging about (or was it in the old BBS?) before she decided to drop off the grid even more was how to get around a big ol' net.shutdown, by cranking the clock back to FidoNet or havin' a go at amateur packet radio (license required. Batteries not included).

The 'net is fine for fun but please remember, the blame thing is not all that reliable or trustworthy unless your name ends in .mil or .gov, and it never was; and I would not get too comfy with anything dial-up based, either.
* Maybe they misremember the Gil Scott Heron tune?


Tango Juliet said...

I'm quite certain the powers that be don't like the free and easy trade of subversive, i.e., independent, thought that occurs here on the 'net.

Orwell was indeed a prophet.

Stranger said...

Telegraphing a revolution is an amusing concept. Like "gross ignoramus" - 144 times more ignorant than an ordinary ignoramus.


Joseph said...

Also remember...everything you do and send and look at on the internet is stored somewhere...I don't care if the data is encrypted or whatever, I don't think there is an encryption system out there that Uncle Sugar doesn't already have the keys to.
I agree with Roberta...there are aspects of government that do not like the idea that people can talk to other people instantly and without oversight. Yes, the internet is watched but it's a hell of a lot of data to sift through.

jed said...

I haven't dropped by what The Claire Files board later became, in a while, but that's where a lot of discussion about alternative comm happened. In addition to FidoNet, there's UUCP, which some of us older geeks still remember. Hell, I can remember doing dial-up DECnet -- not that I think there's many folks around with old PDPs and DLV cards.

I will admit that I don't have wired voice service. But I do still have a 56k modem around here somewhere.

Joseph: There are encryption systems for which the government doesn't have the keys. One of the great things about encryption research is that it's done in a highly public fashion. I won't say that they don't have some ungodly large massively parallel cluster someplace that can do cracks, but in reality, there are cheaper and easier ways to go after your encryption keys, and mine, if they want them.

Roberta X said...

Encryption doesn't matter if the message cant get through!

All this talk of encryption and cybersecurity reminds me of the time one of my older friends, one of the sharpest hardware/software guys I ever knew, undertook a study of computer security for his then employer. After about six months of serious, deep, intense research, he came up with The Answer: if you want to keep a system secure, don't let anyone access it. Especially not remotely.

In practical terms, there are no secrets if more than one person can get at 'em.

Joseph said...


Hmmm, as you seem to be a bit more in the know than I, I shall bow to your superior knowledge! :)

I agree with Roberta...I have always thought that of the ways to keep data secure, among the easiest are: 1) Isolate the data systems and 2) Don't allow ANY sensitive data on laptops. There is no reason for this at all. Laptops are made for portability; is there any real reason to allow sensitive data off site at all?
I am sure not a computer or data security geek. This just seems to be common sense.

stranger said...

Yes, mum's the word. The more so in that Uncle Charley (FCC to the uninitiated) has gigantic recorders that tape everything from "DC to daylight."

If the coves want to know what message was sent at 14:36Z on 21/9/07 it's a simple matter to pull the tape and play back the 6 mHz segment of spectrum recorded at that time.

And it's true, "Nihil tam munitum quod non expugnari pecunia possit."

The only sure means of keeping a secret is the Greek. Dig a hole, whisper the secret to the hole, then fill it in.

Because secrets known to more than one are not secrets.


Tam said...

xkcd on encription.

WV: "scalit". What model builders do.

Turk Turon said...

I have always resisted getting into packet radio, but I do have a radio suitable for it and maybe I should get my feet wet, just in case.

People living under repressive regimes carry their personal stuff on encrypted USB thumb drives, which contain docs and apps for creating them, and which leave no trace on the host computer.

I read arguments about computer security on the net, steganography, spread-spectrum, pseudo-noise, key length, etc. all the time. But I like this old saw: "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead."

Larry said...

"Laptops are made for portability"

Unless you're computing on ENIAC, or something else bolted to the floor, I don't think you're gaining much security by refusing to use a laptop. It takes me about 30 seconds to strip a hard drive out of a desktop. Less to copy info to a USB drive. 99% of security is practices and trustworthiness, not technical measures. (FWIW, I do work in computer security.)

As for the Internet being shutdown, at least in wide swaths, it's trivially easy for government with the collusion of the phone companies. Witness China, north Korea, Iraq under Saddam, some of these countries don't even allow fax machines and monitor telephone switches for such activity.

I'm interested in doing packet radio, and have done a bit of it (Battle Force Email, or BFEM) while in the military. That's why I emailed you the other day, Roberta, about equipment. I see a bunch of Kenwood transceivers for sale on eBay. I'm more interested in solid state than old school stuff, at least to start with.

jed said...

1st, how could I have forgotten to mention IP over Avian Carriers, which has issues with latency and dropped packets, but has actually been done.

2nd, for local use, there's also wireless mesh networks, but they suffer at least one problem shared by packet radio, which is that a goon with RDF equipment can find you. (You radio geeks can correct me if I'm wrong, and I'll learn something.) Might be that with a sufficient number of transmitters operating, individual low-wattage units get lost in the sea of RF. I dunno.

Points about secrets are well taken, but a secret known only by oneself isn't terribly useful. And at my age, I have to record stuff, or I'll never be able to recover it.

Also, JMHO, but encrypting network traffic (I'm thinking mostly of e-mail here) only when it's critical data is as good as painting a sign on yourself. I'd love to use encryption for all my e-mail, but know very few people who would be both up for it and do it correctly.

Larry, IIRC, you (or the purple bellies) don't even need to pull the drive these days. I recall reading something not too long ago about a device that plugs into a USB port that'll image a drive. Might be I'm conflating a couple things, but such a thing isn't even remotely unfeasible. Irrespective of that, the old adage still holds -- if you have physical access, you can own the box.

And it's the above that argues for using strong cryptography for sensitive files. Then you just have to resist the rubber hose. And you have to use whole-disk encryption starting from a clean install to guard against keyloggers. Oh, except for the ones that work purely on hardware.

I'll also not that Kevin Mitnick and Bruce Schneier have repeatedly written that most exploits are run through internal channels, using deception, or are committed by disgruntled former employees.

"You can't stop the signal." -- Mr. Universe

Roberta X said...

Larry, I'll have a look but bear in mind I am *not* a good source of advice for modern ham gear and by "modern," I would include most anything after 1965.

The thing about ebay is that it is hit or miss; a lot of the radio gear sold will have some kind of problem and so the general rule is to stick to stuff you can get parts for; with the newer things, find out if the manufacturer still supports that model.

Larry said...

Jed, you're correct about USB imaging, given a small enough hard drive and big enough USB drive.

Otherwise, all good points.

jed said...

Well, I currently have a 500GB external drive connected via USB.