Category Archives: History

Is “hacking from home” the new air force dropping bombs?

A group called the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy wrote in their 1992 song The Winter Of The Long Hot Summer a rather scathing rhyme about how an air force plays into industrial “proxy” war:

The pilots said their bombs lit Baghdad
Like a Christmas tree
It was the Christian thing to do you see
They didn’t mention any casualties
No distinction between the real
And the proxy
Only football analogies
We saw the bomb hole
We watched the Super Bowl

If bombing from the sky was the proxy violence of the industrial revolution, shouldn’t we look at hacking from home as the logical next evolution of conflict for the information age? Sure beats trying to engineer smart bombs to make the difficult leap into intelligence.

The Washington Post has profiled one such group calling itself partisans. It was formed in late 2020 and has grown to 30 civilians allegedly in Belarus.

…Cyber Partisans are more akin to a digital resistance movement than a “cyber proxy” like the Ukrainian government-backed “IT Army.” The group does not appear to be acting as an intermediary for another government’s interests, and has a history of independent operations against the government of Belarus. With an extensive online presence, the Cyber Partisans also differ from other nongovernmental hacking efforts supporting the Ukrainian resistance during the war, such as Anonymous or Squad303. Though many Cyber Partisan claims remain unverifiable, the available evidence suggests that this is a small group of closely linked individuals with a strong connection to Belarus. […] “Thousands of Russian troops didn’t receive food, didn’t receive fuel, and didn’t receive equipment on time,” noted Franak Viacorka, spokesman for Belarus’ opposition leader.

Denial of service, which led to denial of service, seems a lot like bombing infrastructure like fields to stop production and distribution even though it’s far less destructive.

Speaking of government-backed action, there’s an interesting note about Russian “militarism” in another article.

…the third month of war finds Russia, not the United States, struggling under an unprecedented hacking wave that entwines government activity, political voluntarism and criminal action. Digital assailants have plundered the country’s personal financial data, defaced websites and handed decades of government emails to anti-secrecy activists abroad. One recent survey showed more passwords and other sensitive data from Russia were dumped onto the open Web in March than information from any other country. The published documents include a cache from a regional office of media regulator Roskomnadzor that revealed the topics its analysts were most concerned about on social media — including antimilitarism…

To be fair the United States is not officially at war, so it makes for an illogical target unless being brazenly drawn in (e.g. Pearl Harbor, which technically would be a destructive kinetic attack not cyber). Russia, however, made itself into such an ugly militant aggressor it’s obvious why it became such a very large target of hacking.

The fact that Russia centers its social media strategy on stopping antimilitarism says a lot. Their incompetence at militarism is impossible to ignore, attracting all forms of resistance. They clearly are losing on every front but most notably hackers around the world easily slice and dice their way through a creaky old and corrupt dictatorship.

All that being said, the NSA says it doesn’t like competition.

“I will tell you that the idea of the civil vigilantes joining in a nation-state attack is unwise, right? I really think it is,” the NSA’s Rob Joyce said May 4 at a Vanderbilt University security summit. “As you pointed out, it’s illegal. But it’s also unhelpful, because one of the things we talked about is we’re trying to get Russia to take account for the ransomware attacks and hacks that come out of Russia and emanate.”

Here we go.

First, just being illegal isn’t the high bar some people want it to be. Laws change because sometimes they’re bad laws. In fact, the act of doing something and showing the logic of it can be the impetus to make it legal.

Second, whataboutism is a logical fallacy even in reverse. The world can still get Russia to account for hacks even if the rest of the world engaged in hacks. It’s also a nuanced question of power balance and authorization, such as saying the police can drive a speeding car to arrest someone for driving a speeding car.

Let me just go even further on this point and say Joyce is the NSA, and NOT the State Department, yet for some reason he tries to jump ship.

“This certainly isn’t going to make the State Department discussions with Russia of ‘you need to hold your people accountable’ any easier,” Joyce said Wednesday.

Thank you for your concern, yet it may be entirely misplaced. Joyce may as well be arguing “we shouldn’t advance nuclear weapons because it isn’t going to make discussions with Russia about nuclear weapons any easier.”

Nonsense.

And it only gets worse in that article when a certain CEO adds his voice to Joyce’s.

Kevin Mandia, CEO of American cybersecurity firm Mandiant, at the same summit said random individuals swaying relationships between countries and dictating foreign policy could be dangerous. “You can’t have the private sector influencing the doctrine between nations,” he said. “You don’t have us fighting on air, land and sea without being deputized or part of a force and with an agenda and a mission plan.”

That seems quite the opposite of a narrative he tried to spin back in October 2021.

The CEO of US cybersecurity firm Mandiant said today that he believes the next big advancement in cybersecurity will be the ability of governments and private companies to work together in a “coordinated national and global response” to incidents — not unlike how he said his firm worked with the government in response to the SolarWinds hack. […] Speaking at the Mandiant 2021 Cyber Defense Summit, the executive disclosed for the first time that he called the NSA right before Thanksgiving last year…

To put it together, Mandia is warning you can’t have the private sector influencing doctrine between nations, right after he boasted about jumping on the phone with the government to tell them he’s already engaged in a fight with another nation… as a civilian.

If Mandia is not an example of a random individual swaying relationships and influencing policy doctrine I don’t know what is. His company was founded on the idea that a government could use a proxy in the private sector to do security work of government, right?

I will never forget officials in the U.S. government telling me how legislation was written very specifically to release millions of dollars to Kevin Mandia, who hired former government staff if you see what I’m saying about why he/they don’t want “random” people competing with them in the market.

Mandia and the NSA sound like they’re heavily invested in what Eisenhower warned us to avoid — a Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex — if we’re interested in achieving cyber peace.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the debate of who should hack and from where is this anecdote:

The IT army is reminiscent of volunteers who physically traveled to Ukraine and took up arms, despite enormous risks and warnings from officials. But hacking from home — or at least not from the bombarded and besieged locales of Ukraine — offers a sense of safety the frontlines do not.

Sniper rifles offer sense of safety. Airplanes offers sense of safety. Artillery (e.g. the longbow) offers sense of safety. Drones offer a sense of safety… the list of low risk high impact conflict models goes on and on. The question shouldn’t be how unsafe is the hacker at home, but how different is it from any other celebrated advance in battlefield technology.

One gets the sense that the NSA and Mandia as a proxy see themselves as vaulted innovators that somehow are distinct and unique, without really understanding that they’re focused on the wrong metrics.

Invention is easily overrated, and implementation is often underrated.

Hacking from home seems as logical for an implementation as shooting arrows from the woods was in the 1400s (before defensive hardened steel was deployed), let alone planes dropping bombs.

In any case I’d like to see far more feel-good reporting about hackers at home. I mean it seems only fair considering how other civilian volunteers are being depicted.

For about a month now, U.S. Marine veteran Sean Schofield has been sending dispatches back to Cullman, Alabama, from a place few would volunteer to go.

Since late March, he’s been one of more than 6,000 foreign volunteers from the U.S., Australia, the UK and other western countries who’ve left their civilian lives behind and traveled to Ukraine, aiding military personnel and civilian supporters in mounting a sovereign defense against Russian invasion.

It’s like if you can run a fast 100 meter dash through a hail of bullets you’re some kind of hometown hero, but if you can type a few commands on a keyboard to stop those bullets you’re an anti-social vigilante.

Tesla Safety Negligence Finally Goes to Court: “Sore Thumb” of American Roads

Quality of Tesla vehicles has been notoriously bad for years, and has been trending worse, which should be little surprise given how poorly it treats human life (from its workers and its customers to anyone in or around their product).

Now top experts in automobile safety, who finally are getting some attention, aren’t mincing words about the sad danger a Tesla poses to everyone on the road.

“Tesla sticks out like a sore thumb,” said David Friedman, who was deputy and acting administrator of NHTSA from 2013 to 2015. “And it has for years.” [Heidi King, a deputy and acting administrator of NHTSA during the Trump administration added] “I really dislike a lot of what Tesla has done, and at the top of the list in bright, bold letters, is Elon Musk’s habit of making false public claims… visionary exaggerations about a consumer product can be very, very dangerous.”

Liar, liar Elon Musk’s customers are literally dying in fires.

One of the reasons Musk has become an obvious “sore thumb” of safety is explained by his bully mindset of doing harm: to do wrongs until someone can afford to stop him in court.

“In the US, things are legal by default,” Musk said.

A public automobile company showing intent to commit crimes unless someone can catch them is the worst possible CEO statement.

“Things” are not simply legal by default.

To put it another way, in the US cannibalism is legal by default. So is Elon Musk’s next business idea going to be grinding the rising number of his dead customers into hamburger? Something technically legal DOES NOT mean you won’t be convicted of a related crime.

“We essentially have the Wild West on our roads right now,” Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the NTSB, said in an interview. She describes Tesla’s deployment of features marketed as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving as artificial-intelligence experiments using untrained operators of 5,000-pound vehicles. “It is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The Wild West killed a LOT of innocent people, especially because of men like Stanford when you think about it. I mean Silas Soule was a very notable exception who became more like the American rule but only much later.

But I digress. Tesla is not a disaster just waiting, it already happened!

Let’s play spot the disaster. Here are the death rate stats for electric cars.

Source: tesladeaths.com

I warned very loudly about the disaster we are now in for at least six years prior. My 2016 keynote presentation about Tesla death at BSidesLV was literally called “Great Disasters of Machine Learning“.

Elon Musk long ago signaled disaster as his business model and I saw it right away after the first road death was reported April 2, 2013.

Tesla was leaving Laguna Beach and veered into oncoming traffic

Veering across lines into oncoming traffic is not “legal by default” yet it seems that Tesla must believe it to be a profitable business model for America, given their vehicles have become notorious for doing exactly that.

April 8, 2022 (nearly TEN YEARS later) we see repetitive failures in safety.

Little remains of a Tesla and its driver in 2022 after it veered yet again into oncoming traffic

Things may change, however, given that a court is finally going to help Tesla owners see just how many unsafe “things are legal by default”.

A US federal judge’s ruling paves the way for a trial in July, the first time Tesla will face a jury in litigation over a car crash. The electric car-maker faces a flurry of lawsuits over a spate of accidents… Barrett Riley, 18, was at the wheel of his father’s Model S when he lost control and veered into a concrete wall of a house in Fort Lauderdale. The car was engulfed in flames. Riley and his friend in the passenger seat were both killed. The father, James Riley, alleged in a lawsuit that Tesla was negligent for removing a speed-limiting device from the car after his wife had asked for it to be installed. The after-market device was designed to cap the car’s speed at 85mph. The family also argued that Barrett could have survived the impact of the crash but lost his life because of the intense fire, which the suit attributes to a defective design in the battery.

Defaults give an interesting framing for this court case.

Why was the default top speed so far above any legal limit? The family tried to set a safe mode by requesting Tesla enable their built-in speed limiter (“loaner” mode with an 85 mph max). Allegedly Tesla later removed the setting to override parents’ explicit request, which led directly to the predictable death of their child.

Tesla’s argument for why they intentionally disobeyed parents was… because they could. A toddler-level mentality of safety, if not a conspiratorial one. When parties A and B come to a service provider with conflicting requests, Tesla very clearly took sides: serving the (reckless abandon) one and not the (safer, wiser, legal) other.

Two footnotes also may be worth adding.

First, this Tesla also operated with two un-repaired recalls at the time of its crash; unrelated to the cause of death yet it still gives evidence of Tesla being not on top of safety.

Second, the car continuously re-ignited into fire. It was on fire when police arrived. It then caught on fire again when it was put on a tow truck. It then caught on fire again when it was put on a second tow truck. And it then caught on fire again when it was unloaded from the second tow truck. That’s significantly worserush to market” thinking than even the Pinto disaster.

The lawsuits brought by injured people and their survivors uncovered how the company rushed the Pinto through production and onto the market. […] Ford officials decided to manufacture the car even though Ford owned the patent on a much safer gas tank. Did anyone go to Mr. Iacocca and tell him the gas tank was unsafe? “Hell no,” replied an engineer who worked on the Pinto. “That person would have been fired. Safety wasn’t a popular subject around Ford in those days. With Lee it was taboo.” As Lee Iacocca was then fond of saying, “Safety doesn’t sell.”

Does anyone really want to buy a sore thumb?

“Slavery is not in the past”

The BBC has just published an excellent article called “Confronting my family’s slave-owning past”

As I grappled with the philosophical question of whether personally I owed anything, I sought the advice of Sir Hilary Beckles, the historian and vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies who is the chair of the Caricom Reparations Commission.

“Slavery is not in the past,” said Sir Hilary. “Our grandparents remember their great-grandparents who were slaves. Slavery is part of our domestic present. Slavery denies you access to your ancestry. It leaves you in this empty void.”

Indeed. Slavery is not only part of our domestic present, I regularly present it as fundamental to understanding the near future of AI and robotics.

Ukraine spends under $30K to destroy multiple $2M Russian tanks

A new SOFREP article, which reminds me of US anti-tank innovations in the 1980s Toyota War, offers us some plain numbers to explain why Russian tanks are being so easily defeated.

So, let’s do some basic math: If a Polaris Ranger costs $12,000 and the Stugna-P is at $20,000 (compared to the Javelin at $178,000 per set), you have a very mobile tank killer at just $32,000. The Ukrainian military will be saving a huge ton of money by destroying these Russian tanks, which have an estimated price of around $2,000,000 per unit…

A Polaris MRZR D2 is more like $50,000… but I digress.

Only $32K needed for the reusable Ukrainian platform that takes out multiple tanks. Such economics underscore unmistakable levels of incompetence in Russian operations, as seen in their heavy financial and troop losses.

A reputable source of these destroyed tanks is Oryx. So far, they have recorded that some 312 Russian tanks have been destroyed during the almost 3-month-old war, with another 17 damaged, 49 abandoned, and a whopping 222 captured. More so, the Russians aren’t looking too good as their tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod had halted production and servicing due to a low supply of parts and foreign components and they are forced to draw tanks from repair depots and put them back into operational condition.

Russia appear as inept with technology and planning as the Nazis were, and might have been better off invading on horses as the Nazis did. At least it would have cost less.

But seriously, check out how the 1980s Toyota War was described at that time. Inexpensive light vehicles fitted with heavy weaponry and ridden hard, like horses.

Small groups of Toyota desert vehicles, with 106-mm recoilless rifles mounted at the rear, wheel and charge like cavalry in the vastness of the Sahara. Outriders hang from the sides, firing their AK-47s with deadly grace. Very young and therefore very brave, the men of these small fighting units, or escadrons, whip their Toyotas’ flanks until the vehicles seem to snort and froth at the bit like fine-blood Arab stallions. The young soldiers move silently, without war cries except for the high-pitched scream of their engines. […] A French officer says that the Goran are still the finest light cavalrymen in the world. But now, he adds, “they are mounted on Toyotas instead of horses.”

Does that really sound much different than reporting from Ukraine in 2022?

Speaking of animal metaphors, I’m not sure who made this video, but it’s quite good:

Anyway, the point is that anybody and everybody including both Ukraine and Russia for decades have been talking about evolution in light, mobile attack platforms.

So guess who seems to have planned not at all for an obvious “operationally unsuitable” reality in their invasion of Ukraine?

In the January 1987 Battle of Fada, northern Chad, nearly 100 Soviet T-55 were quickly destroyed by Toyota pickups firing anti-tank guided missiles

Apparently the old school “insurgent” marketing brochures (or actual lessons since the 1980s) didn’t give a big enough clue to the Russians despite significant foreshadowing… and this is the second time I’ve written here about them ignoring history. It reminds me of American generals in the Vietnam War being accused of basic ignorance.

It was not so much that American commanders read the wrong book on the art and science of war as it was that, in too many cases, they had read no such book at all.

We’re just talking about recent history too, not Major Bagnold’s 1940s Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) vehicles: “one of the most cost-effective special forces in the history of warfare” that ran circles around Nazi armor.

Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) Photo © IWM (E 12380): “A posed close-up view of a Chevrolet truck and its three man crew in the Western Desert. The gunner beside the driver is manning a modified Browning Mk II aircraft machine gun, while the soldier in the back is ready with the Lewis gun.”

Rivian penalized for price hike as market awards Tesla “prize” for price hike

File this one under why markets clearly are not even close to rational.

Here’s one headline from March:

Tesla raises prices across entire range

The March 15th price hikes are purely speculative to “protect” the company from consumers demanding value from cars sometime in the future.

The price increases are designed to cover higher costs for the next six to 12 months, which protects Tesla on orders for cars that it may not deliver for a year.

That’s a form of speculative/misleading surge pricing linked to stress, which Uber and Lyft have been criticized for years and still haven’t figured out as immoral.

…in the wake of the shooting, fare prices quoted by rideshare companies had skyrocketed due to understandably increased demand. […] Surge pricing spiked after a bomb in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan injured dozens in 2016; in Sydney, Australia during a 16-hour hostage crisis in 2014; in London after a vehicle was deliberately driven into a crowd of pedestrians in 2017; and in 2020 after eight people were shot in downtown Seattle, leaving one dead.

The basic calculus here is when companies try to benefit themselves as others are experiencing higher risk, it’s a form of gouging (the kind condemned throughout the COVID19 pandemic, or that Texas wealth depends upon).

In theory someone can’t ethically spike prices for bread after an earthquake just because speculation that people in panic/desperation can be coerced to pay more.

It’s a different story when higher supply prices in the past force a change to production costs, given actual explainable inputs instead of gambling on opaquely speculative futures.

Now here’s another headline, this time in April

Tesla snatches coveted relic from GM and Ford

Coveted relic? Just call it a prize. The news here is that Ford saw its value drop precipitously when it announced a price increase in just one car model.

Ford’s stake in Rivian was valued at $5.1 billion on March 31, down from $10.6 billion at the end of 2021, the company said. The young electric vehicle manufacturer had a very difficult start to the year, marked by major difficulties in managing increases in production rates and a PR crisis after a controversial rise in the prices of its vehicles. Rivian shares thus lost 51.5% of their value between December 31 and March 31.

Tesla somehow boosted its value by doing the same thing that dramatically lowered Ford’s valuation. Right?

Moreover, Tesla announced their March price hike as some kind of toxic mockery tactic a week after they watched Rivian declare it cared about trust and would roll-back its price hike.

Rivian is rolling back price hikes on preordered vehicles following backlash from its customers. Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe apologized to customers in a letter published Thursday. “I have made a lot of mistakes since starting Rivian more than 12 years ago, but this one has been the most painful. I am truly sorry,” Scaringe wrote.

The CEO of Rivian talks about pain, about caring for people and losing trust. These are concepts obviously completely alien to the CEO of Tesla, which has produced a car killing more people at a faster rate than any competitor.

It reminds me of how Ford himself in the early days became successful being a horrible fascist-loving racist who lied and stole from others, inspiring men like Hitler and Goebbels to be even crueler. He was a horrible human in so many ways there’s never enough time to document it all.

Like who really talks about Ford taking millions of dollars from the U.S. government to deliver “tractors” during WWI and… just walking away with the money delivering zero product (Ford favored Germany and took orders without delivering product in order to help sabotage Americans supporting Britain).

The Ford Motor Co., according to the War Department, received from Wilson’s administration $249,000 for tools which were never delivered. I suppose Henry has them yet. He also has the money, unless he spent it on this election. The Ford Motor Co., for tractors: Number delivered, none. Amount paid, $1,299,000. Where are those tractors? They might be converted into golden chariots, for all I know. The Ford Motor Co., for spare parts: Number delivered, none. Amount paid, $5,517,000.

The American car-maker supporting the wrong side during war was no real secret. In 1922 the New York Times profiled Adolf Hitler who said a picture of Henry Ford was hanging on the wall of his Munich office.

The wall beside his desk in Hitler’s private office is decorated with a large picture of Henry Ford. In the ante-chamber there is a large table covered with books, nearly all of which are a translation of a book written and published by Henry Ford. If you ask one of Hitler’s underlings for the reason of Ford’s popularity in these circles he will smile knowingly but say nothing.

Translation of “a book”? Come on, just say the title.

Source: Wikipedia

Goebbels literally cites Ford’s writing and publications for his own anti-semitism.

Ford’s own attitudes towards Jews were the major reason for the publication of “The International Jew.” His anti-Semitic beliefs formed along several strands from his upbringing, attitudes, and personal beliefs.

No wonder in 1925 Hitler mentioned only one American in his autobiography (Mein Kampf): Henry Ford.

Perhaps the real rationalization then of what makes Tesla so loved by completely unregulated investors is being more Ford than even Henry Ford: a company consistently awful to the planet, accusations of racism piling up, its staff and customers trying to rapidly dump poor quality products and only increasing pain?

Honestly that really does sound like Ford, but begs the question of how soon before Tesla will have its necessary Pinto/Bronco market reaction moment. How many Tesla must catch on fire, how many people dead?

We’ve all known for years that ALL the Tesla models are unsafe at any speed.

The CEO of Tesla does in fact seem to exhibit Ford-like “permanent improvisation” (abuse of trust) that signals fascism, and he repeatedly makes only positive Hitler references.

What kind of prize are we really talking about here?