At Least Five LiDAR Challenges for Vehicles

Sensors Online has a nice summary of the current product management view for LiDAR manufacturers. They spell out these five concerns:

  1. Size
  2. Cost
  3. Reliability
  4. Range
  5. Eye Safety

Conspicuously missing from the list (pun not intended) is integrity of the data.

Reliability in the above list refers only to environmental risks (“replace the moving parts with a solid-state alternative with each component able to meet Grade 1 temperature and qualification”) instead of the sort of overconfidence in imagery I’ve spoken about in the past (August 2014 “Babar-ians at the Gate: Data Protection at Massive Scale,” Blackhat USA)

To be fair, the article is kind of a hidden marketing pitch, written by a company promoting its new line of products:

…patented flip-chip, back-emitting VCSEL arrays that combine high pulsed power arrays, integrated micro-optics, and electronic beam steering on a chip.

So it makes sense they aren’t going to talk about the more fundamental flaws in LiDAR that their company/product isn’t solving.

EV Charging Station Vulnerability

Anyone else read this article about the bug in a Schneider product?

At its worst, an attacker can force a plugged-in vehicle to stop charging

At its best, an attacker can give away power for free.

That’s basically it. Hardcoded password meant the power could be disabled, although really that means it could be enabled again too. It makes me imagine a world where the story ranking has a CVSS score attached to it, so things like this can theoretically never rise above stories with a severity worth thinking about.

An attacker could disable or enable a charging point, where charging status is something easily monitored and on a near-continuous basis. Did your car just stop charging? It’s something you and the provider ought to know in the regular course of using a power plug.

This ranks about as low as you can go in terms of security story value…yet a journalist dedicated a whole page to discuss how a public power-plug can be turned on and off without strong authentication.

Dust-sized battery-free AI sensor with RF-free wireless

The title of this post is the announcement I just received in a CES invite to assess product security. Well, technically it was a “VIP lounge” invite more than a “please break our product” invite, but I treat them the same if you know what I mean.

Perhaps most infamously when I went to CES many years ago and met with 3Com to review their brand new wifi access points (first to market), I immediately pointed out that hard-wired WEP keys was a VBI (very bad idea). 3Com product managers were unapologetic, citing usability as their ace card. “Nobody will use wifi if we make key management hard” they said like a blackjack player scooping all the chips into their lap. We both were right, but they no longer exist (acquired 2010 by HP and never heard from again).

I suppose today what stands out to me most about this new announcement is the “dust-sized” marketing.

Some may remember I have presented in by “big data security” talks specifically on the paranoia that should accompany any developments in dust level of tracking devices, as well as the ironic fact that if you walk in an obfuscating level of dust (more probably sand) it leaves obvious tracks.

Cretaceous period (127m year old) dust printsCretaceous period (127m year old) dust print

I’m looking forward to breaking this new product to point out the VBIs, and maybe even coming up with something like “sweep deprivation” models.

IBM Watson Sued by LA County for Secretly Tracking Users

Let’s get one thing out of the way. IBM’s Watson was instrumental to the Nazi Holocaust as he and his direct assistants worked with Adolf Hitler to help ensure genocide ran on IBM equipment.

When IBM’s director of worldwide media relations, John Bukovinsky, was asked about the disclosures in 2001 and 2002 of the company’s involvement in facilitating the extermination of millions of Jews, Gypsies and others, he replied, “That was six years ago [sic].” When a reporter pointed out that the Holocaust itself was some 60 years ago, Bukovinsky quipped, “So what. What is the point?”

The idea that IBM would want to market their big data system after the man notorious for meeting with Nazi leaders to deliver counting machines for genocide…it’s a pretty big sign that the evils of Watson are something to keep an eye out for even in the present day.

As Edwin Black wrote in “IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation“:

Thomas Watson was more than just a businessman selling boxes to the Third Reich. For his Promethean gift of punch card technology that enabled the Reich to achieve undreamed of efficiencies both in its rearmament program and its war against the Jews, for his refusal to join the chorus of strident anti-Nazi boycotters and isolators and instead open a commercial corridor the Reich could still navigate, for his willingness to bring the world’s commercial summit to Berlin, for his value as a Roosevelt crony, for his glitter and legend, Hitler would bestow upon Thomas Watson a medal — the highest it could confer on any non-German.

Fast-forward to today and IBM’s Watson has been charged with user location tracking using an innocent-sounding weather app.

In a complaint filed Thursday in California state court, the city alleges IBM used detailed location data from users for targeted advertising and to identify consumer trends that might be useful to hedge funds, while at the same time telling consumers their location would only be used to localize weather forecasts. The suit doesn’t allege personally identifiable information was sold.

“Unbeknownst to many users, the Weather Channel App has tracked users’ detailed geolocation data for years,” the complaint alleges, calling the Weather Channel’s actions “unfair and fraudulent.” The complaint also says the Weather Channel profited from the data, “using it and monetizing it for purposes entirely unrelated to weather or the Weather Channel App.”

Again, it’s hard to fathom that IBM would want to name a big data machine Watson. It’s even harder to fathom that someone in IBM thought lying about user location tracking to monetize ill-gotten data was a good move…but then I just go back to them naming their machine Watson.

Arizona Rush to Adopt Driverless Cars Devolves Into Pedestrian War

Look, I’m not saying I have predicted this exact combat scenario for several years as described in my presentations (and sadly it also was my Kiwicon talk proposal for this year), I’m just openly wondering at this point why Arizona’s rabidly pro-gun legislators didn’t argue driverless cars are protected by Waymo’s 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, like consumer-grade armored tanks that also carry people or goods inside. AZ Central reports:

People have thrown rocks at Waymos. The tire on one was slashed while it was stopped in traffic. The vehicles have been yelled at, chased and one Jeep was responsible for forcing the vans off roads six times.

Many of the people harassing the van drivers appear to hold a grudge against the company, a division of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc., which has tested self-driving technology in the Chandler area since 2016.

The one or two people operating the tens of thousands of weapons (driverless cars) on public roads are counting on their surveillance capabilities as much as their armored weapons to keep the upper hand in this fight. AZ Central continues:

The self-driving vans use radar, lidar and cameras to navigate, so they capture footage of all interactions that usually is clear enough to identify people and read license plates.

According to police reports, Waymo test drivers rarely pursue charges and arrests are rare. Haselton was charged with aggravated assault and disorderly conduct, and police confiscated his .22-caliber Harrington and Richardson Sportsman revolver.

“Haselton said that his wife usually keeps the gun locked up in fear that he might shoot somebody,” Jacobs wrote in the report. “Haselton stated that he despises and hates those cars (Waymo) and said how Uber had killed someone.”

Let’s be clear here. The grudge being referenced is related to people in a neighborhood being upset about the rollout of armored weaponry.

Tense scene unfolds in Arizona 2018 as locals resist the Waymo rolling displays of unregulated power

Think of the irony that Arizona residents have a grudge against driverless cars because they are in effect weapons being wielded unsafely in a public space, killing people (this is the infamous state that won’t even hear an argument about regulating guns).

Waymo is like someone taking their gun off the gun range and not being able to keep their pistol holstered, let alone rounds unchambered, wandering around waving it in everyone’s face. You think the neighborhood is just going to look the other way while that barrel points at their family and friends?

Compare that grudge with some poignant analysis just a year ago that was titled “Arizona is a heaven for test new cars – USA TODAY” (which at some point changed its title to “Why automakers flock to Arizona to test driverless cars”. TL;DR:

  • relatively light regulatory environment of the past two and a half years
  • weather allows for year-round testing of vehicles, and low rainfall means minimal disruptions…low winds and a temperature range that is conducive to completing regulatory tests almost every day of the year
  • desert offers car manufacturers a remote and private testing location that’s away from the prying eyes

Allow me to translate this analysis into technology ethics: lawless and opaque makes for easy hurdles, and low standards means quick money for investors. The desert has no actual environmental risk. Testing in a vacuum chamber means your product is ready for use in a vacuum, not public streets. And testing with zero outside observability/validation of claims means you aren’t anywhere close to ready for deployment.

Desert vehicle development is about as sane as developing moon vehicles and saying it’s the wrong type of planet when they can’t move with earth’s gravity.

To put it another way, the Governor of Arizona scoffed at other states where leaders held human life up as a value worth protecting and preserving. The money hungry Arizona official literally said he is happy to promote profit over safety.

In August 2015, Ducey signed an executive order allowing the testing of autonomous cars on public roads, hoping the cars will fuel “economic growth, bring new jobs, provide research opportunities for the state’s academic institutions and their students and faculty, and allow the state to host the emergence of new technologies.”

It looks like Ducey didn’t think very hard about how selling out human life for a boom in weapons sales might backfire. Nothing in that list of benefits says there is an ounce of care for public safety or health, amiright?

Mo’ money, mo’ problems.

August 2015: regulations are dropped, standards are non-existent. Anyone wanting to develop weapons for public roads is invited to Arizona

December 2017: newspapers describe Arizona as “Heaven” for developing weapons to wave around in public without need of any safety training or controls

Wait for it…

March 2018: “The governor of Arizona has suspended Uber’s ability to test self-driving cars on public roads in the state following a fatal crash last week that killed a 49-year-old pedestrian”

Uber using an automatic weapon to kill one person and getting regulated in Arizona compares oddly to the 68% of all homicides in the state committed with a gun and the nearly 1,000 people killed a year in Arizona by guns that get zero regulation discussion (see above).

Oh, but who could have predicted that removing regulations and allowing weapon development to launch straight to the streets would invite bad corporate behavior? Not only me, giving public presentations about this problem, also internal engineers who documented how “there were a lot of warning signs” yet Arizona’s “Heaven” meant they were neither attended to internally to pass regulations nor exposed to regulators:

“A car was damaged nearly every other day in February,” Miller said. “We shouldn’t be hitting things every 15,000 miles.”

Miller pointed to an incident in November 2017, when an Uber car had a “dangerous behavior” that nearly caused a crash. The driver notified his superiors about the problem, Miller wrote, but the report was ignored. A few days later Miller noticed the report and urged the team to investigate it.

But Miller says his request was ignored—and when he pressed the issue with “several people” responsible for overseeing the program, they “told me incidents like that happen all of the time.” Ultimately, Miller said it was two weeks before “anyone qualified to analyze the logs reviewed them.”

So there you have it. 2015 effort to reduce safety control levels so weapons can flood the market. 2017 weapons entering market are causing harm and at frequent intervals, indicating escalation to wider and more severe conflict.

Doesn’t it seem obvious that this ended with a meek 2018 effort to put the weapon genie back in the bottle…yet any historian can tell you once battle lines have been drawn and people are angry about their clan being attacked, they are going to harbor some hostility.

So with all that in mind the big question now becomes as the weapons manufacturers switch to their all-encompassing surveillance systems to undermine the nascent groups of resistance, whether they also will claim their manufacture and sale of automatic high-power weapons is protected behavior anyway under the 2nd Amendment.

We have seen some of that messaging already, as Uber and Tesla used to be fond of saying their particular brand of automatic weapons will reduce deaths on the streets, much in the same way that totalitarian governments would argue how top-down centrally controlled armored divisions are the way to keep the public safe from itself.

And in that sense, are Arizonan’s really crazy if they read the Uber story of deaths for profit and then think of themselves as preventing harm to their fellow citizens by stepping out into the street early to disable the Waymo weapon systems rolling into and over neighborhoods?

RIP Simcha Rotem

Simcha Rotem has passed at 94. He was only 15 when Germany invaded Poland. He and his mother were wounded by German bombing raids that killed his brothers and grandparents. By the time he was 19, he served under Marek Edelman to resist Nazi incursions, leading to the outbreak of combat.

The insurgents preferred to die fighting instead of in a gas chamber at the Treblinka death camp where the Nazis had already sent more than 300,000 Warsaw Jews.

Speaking at a 2013 ceremony in Poland to mark the 70th anniversary of the uprising, Rotem recalled that by April 1943 most of the ghetto’s Jews had died and the 50,000 who remained expected the same fate.

Rotem said he and his comrades launched the uprising to “choose the kind of death” they wanted.

[…]

As the Germans pounded the Ghetto and the uprising faltered, Rotem was instrumental in helping fighters flee to safety through the Warsaw’s sewer system to forests outside the city.

He continued to fight alongside Polish partisans and in 1944 participated in the Warsaw Uprising. After the war he joined avengers group Nakam, which was dedicated to exacting vengeance on Nazi war criminals.

RIP

Why the US South Needs You to Send More $50 Grant Bills

The Washington Post has a well researched and written story about why the US Republican party is defined by their racism. Oh, maybe I should say spoiler alert:

…slavery’s enduring legacy is evident not only in statistics on black poverty and education. The institution continues to influence how white Southerners think and feel about race — and how they vote. Slavery still divides the American people

That’s right, the GOP uses racism to win, according to scientists who look at the data and patterns of voting. What they key in on is evidence that white children in racist families of the US south aren’t being educated away from their racism, and cling instead, which means racist sentiment will last many generations.

It is no coincidence that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, with his ties to the Klan in Georgia, was named Attorney General of the US in 2016 by the son of a Klansman.

In case it isn’t clear what that name represents…three generations of traitor-ship founded on racism:

The question is who today would vote white supremacists into office to represent all people, given hateful statements and overt support from Klansmen. And the answer is clearly Republicans, using a signaling method called “personal responsibility” that denies slavery was a hardship, let alone requires restoration.

GOP doctrine on the importance of personal responsibility, together with elevated rates of black poverty and unemployment, help some Republicans rationalize their belief that people of color are inferior — beliefs they probably developed in childhood.

Today this is much easier to discuss than just eight years ago. Back then people were still trying to say Republicans had things to say that weren’t necessarily racist in foundation. Take for example this story from 2010:

Shame on the 14 Republican congressmen who last week proposed substituting Ronald Reagan for Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill. Their action suggests they need a history lesson about the Northern general who won the Civil War and went on to lead the country.

That’s a great piece by a historian that doesn’t mention Republicans being racist.

To put this into context, a black president is elected in 2008. White Republicans then set about trying to remove President Grant from the $50 (despite being famous for being the greatest General in American history, one of the top three presidents in American history, and globally respected as a champion for human rights) and replace him with President Reagan, a man notorious for ties to white supremacists, campaigning on white supremacy, denigrating civil rights leaders like MLK (until he was forced to concede), and that’s not to mention supporting genocidal dictators. Here’s your Republican icon history right here:

Reagan chose [theme of violent white resistance to integration] to kick off his Deep South presidential campaign in 1980

Let’s look a little closer at the people trying to push Grant off the $50.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C…introduced the legislation last month. He says it’s not about Grant but about honoring Reagan in the same fashion as Democratic presidents…

You have to marvel at the fact that McHenry doesn’t know that Grant was a Republican. Then you have to marvel at the fact McHenry is saying that pushing Grant off the bill isn’t about Grant. Do you think he meant that? Check out his own words, when he tried to explain:

…it has very little to do with Grant and so my response is very simple. I believe that Ronald Reagan, as most historians do, was the better president…

That means it absolutely is about Grant. McHenry is touting a white-supremacist line that Grant wasn’t a better president than Reagan. Grant won the civil war, introduced civil rights, created the DoJ, created the national parks, wrote an amazing autobiography in a race to finish before death from cancer…I mean his long list of accomplishments and massive popularity at his death should speak for themselves.

Reagan (perhaps most infamous for being absent minded, a figure-head and aloof while in office) has nothing on Grant, which we’re only talking about here because McHenry tried to argue Grant wasn’t better than Reagan, while saying it’s not about Grant. Reagan literally was almost removed by his own aides for being inept at his job, as they had to give him competency tests:

Most high-level White House aides believed that President Reagan was so depressed, inept and inattentive early last year in the wake of disclosures in November 1986 about the Iran-contra scandal that the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office was raised in a memo to Howard H. Baker Jr., who was just taking office as Reagan’s chief of staff.

Former Baker aide James Cannon, confirming facts reported in a newly published book, said in an interview yesterday that he wrote a March 1, 1987, memorandum based on the aides’ concern and raising the possibility of applying the amendment.

Baker took the recommendation seriously and, with Cannon and two of his own aides, spent part of a day observing Reagan’s behavior before concluding that the president was sufficiently competent to perform his duties, according to the book.

Reagan is not a man who has any business threatening the amazing legacy of Grant, the warrior and patriot who reluctantly became president to continue to help save the nation and fight for freedom for all by destroying the KKK.

I combine the Washington Post story above with this one about their attempts to erase Grant from their own party to replace him with a barely competent Reagan who feted dictators and funded genocides… and it seems what the maps of the poor south really need is an infusion of Grant bills.

Send Grant back into the areas that are to this day being oppressed by the present-day Republicans who are perpetuating America’s racist legacy among their children and who refuse to end their family battle against civil rights.

Also let’s get Jackson off the $20 already…sheesh, talk about an awful legacy that should be deprecated ASAP.

“United States history is not Andrew Jackson vs. Harriet Tubman,” the Tennessee Republican said.

This week’s announcement that Jackson, a white slave owner from Tennessee, will be booted to the back of the $20 bill to make room for Tubman, a black anti-slavery activist, has left many in Jackson’s home state feeling that the change [will] diminish Jackson’s legacy [and] celebrate Tubman’s accomplishments.

That’s right. A Republican actually said US history is not about a white supremacist president who actively perpetuated slavery to expressly deny rights to black Americans, versus a black American who wanted rights.

That is so patently wrong. US history literally is about Jackson perpetuating slavery 30 years longer than the rest of the world. It is about all the moves he made from a white supremacist power position to block Tubman, and anyone else like her in the underdog reformer and freedom advocate seat, from being successful.

Time to send some Grant, send some Tubman, and tell the children in the US south all the real history of America that will help people be realists about how and why the Republican party is so racist.

Personality May Determine Employee Engagement

Interesting insights from the HBR, like emphasizing positive personalities in the workforce can harm leadership feedback loops:

If leaders turn employee optimism and resilience into a key hiring criterion, then it becomes much harder to spot and fix leadership or cultural issues using employee feedback signals.

And then they double-down on this assessment of overly positive personality and engagement, suggesting unhappy people may be the ones you should prize the most in your hiring practices:

…the most creative people in your organization are probably more cynical, skeptical, and harder to please than the rest. Many innovators also have problems with authority and a predisposition to challenge the status quo. This makes them more likely to complain about bad management and inefficiency issues, and makes them potentially more likely to disengage. Marginalizing or screening out these people might seem like a quick win for engagement, but in most organizations these people are a significant source of creative energy and entrepreneurship, which is more difficult to get from people who are naturally happy with how things are. To some extent, all innovation is the result of people who are unhappy with the status quo — who seek ways to change it.

Innovation is the result of people who are unhappy, and seek ways to change?

That makes perfect sense, although I feel happiness in making a change is underrepresented in this context. Startups are notoriously more creative, yet also happy, places because they’ve shifted past the unhappy part about the status quo. So it seems more like a cycle is happening, engaged and happy after being unhappy and disengaging, instead of a linear line to be measured.

Question: “Why is Russia so good at getting women into technology?” Answer: Communist Propaganda

It is great to see someone is trying to drill into Russia’s technical hiring practices as some sort of example for study or exception, rather than the other way around (why does America suck at allowing women equal treatment).

She believes there are several reasons for that: girls are expected to take up computer science from an early age and perform well, and there’s no stigma associated with studying technology.

But there’s something more: “Culturally, women in Eastern Europe are characterized as having a forthright nature and this means they’re more inclined to speak up for themselves, and be hardy to rejection, which is typically needed in a male-dominated environment,” Frankland says.

“Characterized” is the operative word here. Let’s take a step back into the history of the region and from where the caricatures emanate.

Many hoped the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago would usher in a new era of gender and class equality. Following the revolution, Soviet Russia declared “International Women’s Day” an official holiday, and “Marxist feminists” romanticize communism to this day. Women of the Gulag, both a remarkable book and a documentary film, highlights the disparity between the Soviet Union’s alleged gender equality and the reality of life for women under communism.

It is now popular to claim — in the New York Times no less — that Soviet women “enjoyed many rights and privileges unknown in liberal democracies at the time,” so it is worth noting some of the ways that communism tyrannized women in particular. Those who claim the Soviet Union liberated women would do well to learn the stories of the women of the Gulag.

Now, to be fair, the above opinion piece is from the Cato institute, an unabashedly extreme right-wing propaganda outlet. Cato is hoping to bash Communism for attempting gender equality and failing miserably. So let’s take a moment to acknowledge that under Communism women were characterized as equals, alleged to be equal.

That’s notable because under the Cato manifesto women aren’t even alleged to be equals and aren’t allowed to try, which objectively seems worse than trying and failing. Exceptions are made for women who use “masculinity” (I believe that’s how Marx referred to it) to adapt themselves to the capitalist machines.

After the fall of Communism we actually have seen a reversion of women’s rights and abject oppression. While we see characterization of women as equally skilled for technical roles has lasted, keep in mind Russia has been busy decriminalizing physical abuse of women.

Why Russia is about to decriminalise wife-beating. It fits with traditional values, lawmakers say

Communism had a method of setting a characterization apart from these nonsensical “traditional values”, if you will. There was a time of messaging women as equals. Propaganda or not, such messaging under Communism had a lasting impact.

Anyway, without reading two much into either the Communist or the Libertarian messaging about the role of women in society, I always try to remind people that 60% of code-breakers in Bletchley Park during WWII were women, and we see a similar percentage today in countries like Israel where merit is measured instead of masculinity for technology jobs.

Improved Ghillie Suits (IGS)

Personally I wish someone had pushed for the phrase “future update ghillie suits” (FUGS) when they were thinking about “future warfare”. Instead the US Army is talking about Improved Ghillie Suits (IGS) to address the shortcomings of past designs.

Notable issues:

  • If you dress like a tree, you may be as flammable as one (several snipers have burned to death)
  • If you dress like a woolly mammoth, you may be as heavy and hot as one (ok, that’s really two issues)
  • If your suit is singular instead of modular, the above two properties are greater

Innovation is happening in the field, by snipers working to stay alive, blend better and also function more efficiently/safely, so the textile department of the Army decided to incorporate some of these ideas.

Maj. WaiWah Ellison, assistant product manager, Durable Goods, Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment with Program Executive Office Soldier, explained the need for the update: “The current kit is thick and heavy and comes with a lot of pieces that aren’t used.

“Soldiers are creating ghillie suits with their own materials to match their personal preference. We want to make the IGS simpler and modular so the snipers will use what is issued to them instead of relying on outside resources,” Ellison said.

While this all makes sense from a product manager view in terms of updating the suits, relying on outside resources does kinda sound more like what camouflage is all about. And you have to marvel at the fact that nobody thought forward enough to realize that a Scottish concept of a heavy and fluffy suit originating in a rainy cold climate would be hot and flammable elsewhere.

Yes, I said Scottish. Just in case you’re wondering what a Ghillie is…Scotland Magazine breaks the meaning down over the centuries:

Since the Victorians discovered their passion for stalking, the life of the ghillie has had less to do with carrying Highland chiefs across raging torrents and more to do with the management of the landscape and looking after stalkers on the hill.

Fast forward to today:

“Do I look flammable to you?” Urban warfare researchers find the Ghillie suit heavy, hot, prone to combustion and….hard to blend in

It’s nice if you don’t have to take time to gather local capabilities to blend in, but that does presume accurate and fast feedback loops reaching the top of a very large organization.

A recent IDF investigation into a failed operation gives insight into how local knowledge — required for blending into the most dangerous environments — can be very dangerous to underestimate or get wrong.

…based on interviews with Hamas officials, a picture is emerging of a carefully planned Israeli intelligence operation in which agents posing as Palestinian aid workers may have gone undetected for up to two weeks before it went awry.

the poetry of information security