Category Archives: Security

Tiger kidnapping

Tiger StalkingNo, it’s not what you think. Tigers are not in any danger. The British media is reporting all kinds of odd news tid-bits in the wake of the recent Kent banknote robbery, and someone must have thought a “law of the jungle” reference would be fitting. Bruce Schneier did a nice job highlighting a dramatic piece in the Times:

It did not take gelignite to blow open the vaults; it took fear, in the hostage technique known as “tiger kidnapping”, so called because of the predatory stalking that precedes it.

Now what do we call it when some kidnaps a tiger? Or maybe that doesn’t happen very often, so there’s little chance of confusion. Personally, I’m glad the topic of tigers came up since it has been a while since I had a chance to read about their predatory practices. The Chris Brunskill photography site has a nice three-part review of a tiger stalking as it unfolds in real life, but the best part is where he shows the target narrowly escaping:

Suffice to say, those 15-20 seconds are imprinted on my memory forever and it stands out as the single most exhilaring encounter I have ever had with wild tigers – No matter what you do, never give up.

Now how’s that for a reverse lesson in how to deal with terrorists and/or robbers?

The Tiger
by William Blake

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tiger! Tiger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Google’s latest double-standard

InformationWeek published an interesting review of Google’s desktop search tool:

By using Search Across Computers, employees are transmitting confidential company documents outside existing security systems. The means of transmission and storage (for the limited time documents are on its servers) aren’t understood, because Google hasn’t explained them. Additionally, the Google Desktop software provides no mechanism for indicating when data is uploaded to a server, when it’s accessed by your second computer and when it’s deleted from Google’s servers. We just don’t know.

If Google is going to play in the software market, it needs to take responsibility for communicating what its software does and does not do, in conjunction with the software release. It needs to be more respectful of the burden on security/IT professionals and enable features that help them protect their data. We all know that Google will do no evil, but they need to help make sure that they don’t enable it either.

Ouch. One would think they might be headed more in the direction of greater privacy, not less, given a brewing backlash from consumers and the gov’t. In fact, I’ve been working diligently with some folks to scan and uncover Google code on enterprise systems in order to cleanly remove it from afar. It surprises me how many admins are starting to categorize the Googley software in the same context as Kazaa, Gator, and other infamous and rather misleading “helper” applications. As the value of privacy goes up will the value of Google, which seems to rely on others’ openness, go down?

The Cult of the Dead Cow “Goolag” t-shirt campaign is quite harsh:
Goolag

Rumsfeld, 9/11 and Saddam Hussein

Thad Anderson, a law school grad student who runs outragedmoderates.org, has posted some interesting documents that show the Bush administration immediately started looking for ways to link Saddam Hussein to the attack on September 11th, 2001:

On July 23, 2005, I submitted an electronic Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Defense seeking DoD staffer Stephen Cambone’s notes from meetings with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. Cambone’s notes were cited heavily in the 9/11 Commission Report’s reconstruction of the day’s events. On February 10, 2006, I received a response from the DoD which includes partially-redacted copies of Cambone’s notes. The documents can be viewed as a photo set on Flickr.

The released notes document Donald Rumsfeld’s 2:40 PM instructions to General Myers to find the “[b]est info fast . . . judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time – not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]” (as discussed on p. 334-335 of the 9/11 Commission Report and in Bob Woodward’s Plan of Attack).

Sometimes, in an investigation, it is handy to start off with a hypothesis and look for supporting evidence. On the other hand, in most situations it is usually best to keep an open mind and let the facts speak for themselves, in order to avoid hasty or false conclusions or wrongful associations. It is always hard in a crisis to move quickly and yet practice caution. According to these notes Rumsfeld not only started with a hypothesis, but he seems to actually have ordered his staff to work under a foregone conclusion and find facts to support it/him.

Finally, these documents unveil a previously undisclosed part of the 2:40 PM discussion. Several lines below the “judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at same time” line, Cambone’s notes from the conversation read: “Hard to get a good case.”

The Guardian has picked up the story here, with the obvious conclusion:

…these notes confirm that Baghdad was in the Pentagon’s sights almost as soon as the hijackers struck.

Assessment of US Tap Water Quality

General Ripper in the movie “Dr. Strangelove” said he was afraid “precious bodily fluids” could be contaminated by the Communists, so he drank only distilled water or rainwater. He might have sounded a bit nutty at the time, but the latest data on US tap water might make the movie seem less comical. The Environmental Working Group released a report recently that had some disturbing findings:

In an analysis of more than 22 million tap water quality tests, most of which were required under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, EWG found that water suppliers across the U.S. detected 260 contaminants in water served to the public. One hundred forty-one (141) of these detected chemicals — more than half — are unregulated; public health officials have not set safety standards for these chemicals, even though millions drink them every day.
[…]
Our investigation reveals major gaps in our system of public health protections when it comes to tap water safety. Federal programs that allocate grants and low-cost loans to prevent water pollution and protect the rivers, streams, and groundwater that we drink are sorely underfunded.

When you consider how important clean water is to the national infrastructure, the data suggests serious shortcomings that threaten to undermine US security.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, as quoted by Salon, called clean drinking water “a key ingredient to keeping people healthy and our economy strong.”

Water Pollutants

And that certainly puts the Ann Arbor, Michigan water quality concerns in perspective, as well as the risks to critical infrastructure.