The last photo album

I remember people in the movie theater laughing during a particular scene in “The Last Starfighter”. One of the “alien” pilots has a digital device that shows pictures of his family — like an album on a screen — and the human starfighter is incredulous.

Fast-forward to earth today and a myriad of devices are on the market that might fit the bill, but the latest Garmin product seems especially like something a starfighter might stow on his/her ship. It’s called the nuvi and, of course, it’s only available to Europeans right now.

No announcements yet from Garmin on a StarWars-like holo-imaging display included with a robot travel-companion…

Schneier on the ATM story

Bruce Schneier picked up the ATM story today on his blog, with an interesting perspective. He says “how lucky everyone was”…I posted something in his comments section about the liability issues raised in the article, which is where I felt I would have been headed anyway.

Bruce also has added an excellent link to Ross Anderson’s page regarding phantom withdrawls.

Time to give this trackback thingy a try…

ATM Fraud and Bank Security

The Register has a fascinating report on how British Banks failed to deal with the fact that phantom withdrawls from ATMs were a real problem, until a man of integrity discovered it and (arguably) saved the system:

“This is the story of how the UK banking system could have collapsed in the early 1990s, but for the forbearance of a junior barrister who also happened to be an expert in computer law – and who discovered that at that time the computing department of one of the banks issuing ATM cards had “gone rogue”, cracking PINs and taking money from customers’ accounts with abandon.”

I posted it on Bruce’s blog today as well:

http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/10/us_regulators_r.html#c21979

WinXP Security Guide Update

Microsoft released a new Windows XP Security Guide today. Here’s their breakdown of the contents:

“The guide provides specific recommendations about how to harden computers that run Windows XP with SP2 in three distinct environments:

  • Enterprise Client (EC). Client computers in this environment are located in an Active Directory® directory service domain and only need to communicate with systems that run Windows 2000 or later versions of the Windows operating system.
  • Stand-Alone (SA). Client computers in this environment are not members of an Active Directory domain and may need to communicate with systems that run Windows NT 4.0.
  • Specialized Security – Limited Functionality (SSLF). Concern for security in this environment is so great that a significant loss of functionality and manageability is acceptable. For example, military and intelligence agency computers operate in this type of environment.”

Fuel Prices and Military Diesel

It’s not exactly clear why diesel has jumped higher than other fuel prices, but one thing is for sure: Diesel’s original intention was to create an engine that did not require dependence on foreign petroleum sources, or the corporations that controlled them.

Many people point to several key economic reasons for the rise in prices this season:

1) Diesel prices are impacted by the demand for heating fuels (distillates) so it has a seasonal fluctuation.

2) About 95% of production in the Gulf region is still not back on the market. This is probably related to the fact that over half of the Gulf platforms and a good number of drilling rigs aren’t running yet, not to mention 10 or so refineries are closed in LA and TX. Altogether this is apparently an impact of about 10% of total US production.

3) Speculators aren’t stupid and they find ways to increase demand in order to contribute to the rise in prices and get better returns on their investment.

That’s all fine and dandy on some level, but it reminds me of the letter from Shuster to the Energy Secretary back in 2000 when prices were doing something similar:

http://www.house.gov/transportation/press/press2000/presss138.htm

“We have received numerous reports regarding the alarming spike in diesel fuel prices, the most dramatic of which has New England customers paying 40 cents more per gallon than they paid just one week ago. By any account, diesel fuel prices appear to be rising out of control.”

No Hurricane to blame back then. Quite the opposite, a Congressman wrote the US Attorney General because “we believe to be price gouging and manipulating of consumers”.

http://www.house.gov/larson/pr_000210.htm

Again, that corresponds to Diesel’s own description and prediction of petroleum-based engery corporation behavior back in the 1800s — the very reason his engines will run on oil or fats from just about any source including fish, meat, vegetables, etc..

Moreover, as we know today, the market was in fact being manipulated in 2000 and consumers were being, please pardon my french, screwed by Enron:

http://www.house.gov/inslee/issues/energy/enron_tapes.html

“U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee announced this evening that he will offer an amendment next week to energy legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that will help provide refunds to consumers and the Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) for high rates resulting from energy market manipulation”.

One last thing to consider is that the US military relies heavily on petroleum diesel production and has done a great deal to enhance/modify diesel engines for everything from ships to motorcycles (not to mention advances in trend analysis and condition based maintenance), but for some odd reason they haven’t done much to change the source of the fuel to something domestically and more sustainably produced (like B20 or even B5, which is working quite well in Europe).

SCADA security references

NIST published their Critical Infrastructure Protection guidelines and I also noted the National Information Assurance Program (NIAP) Process Control Security Requirements Forum (PCSRF). Wish I had these references about four years ago. This is an especially interesting paper, which I think was done for the PCSRF and ISO/IEC 15408:

http://www.isd.mel.nist.gov/documents/falco/ITSecurityProcess.pdf

The Gas Technology Institute/American Gas Association Encryption page also has some good pointers and here’s the Department of Energy (DoE) guide to CyberSecurity.

Drinking Alone Under The Moon

by Li Bai

Among the flowers from a pot of wine
I drink alone beneath the bright moonshine.
I raise my cup to invite the moon, who blends
Her light with my shadow and we’re three friends.
The moon does not know how to drink her share;
In vain my shadow follows me here and there.
Together with them for the time I stay
And make merry before spring’s spend away.
I sing the moon to linger with my song;
My shadow disperses as I dance along.
Sober, we three remain cheerful and gay;
Drunken, we part and each goes his way.
Our friendship will outshine all earthly love;
Next time we’ll meet beyond the stars above.

the poetry of information security