Nightmare on Smart Street

Gone are the days of black hackers being limited to stealing your identity and bank details online; with today’s technology they can break into your house at night, steal the food from your fridge and murder your children!

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The internet of things (IOT) is a vision whereby static objects are connected to the internet. These objects are not normally considered computers, yet they have the capacity to stream, disseminate, upload and download data, thus they transgress the borders which are traditionally assigned to them. These objects are becoming tangibly social. This raises a variety of issues and questions relating to security and surveillance; additionally it challenges the current human understanding of identity.

The art of black hacking into phones and computers via the internet has had disastrous consequences for many civilians, yet some genius had the great idea to connect a whole bunch of unanimous (and animal) objects to the internet regardless

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of this, including houses, thus basically inviting thieves and murderers into the family home.  This means that your front door can be unlocked, your lights turned out and your food poisoned (for those more into passive-aggressive slaughtering) via hacking. Keen yet?

 

There are examples of people already toying with each other. One man from Ohio, very disgruntled after his wife left him for her lover, hacked into their thermostat to make it uncomfortably cold for them during winter, and even turned it on high when they were not at home to jack up their electricity bill. It just gets better and better.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate we’ve created some cool technology and the smart house is a mint idea, but it didn’t need to go past the blueprint. I can walk to the front door if I want to lock it. If I want a coffee, I am perfectly capable of walking to the kettle myself to brew it. And if I wanted to murder someone? I have the self-respect to do it the old-fashioned way; pick a lonely house in the woods and rent a chainsaw. Or maybe just bash the door down, Hagrid style. Or maybe even use poison darts. Sorry, I’m getting off topic; I just don’t understand the need to have every. single. thing. connected to the internet. Maybe we aren’t there yet, but we are getting uncomfortably close. The massive security flaws just aren’t worth it.

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-Claire

 

 

 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hackers

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Aside from the Snowdens and Assanges of the world, hacking can be used for darker purposes. Cyberwar is defined by various characteristics, including surveillance, subversion, impersonation and sock puppets (source).

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Let’s imagine the notion of cyberwar outside of the internet space. I’ll give you a good guy and a bad guy, Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. We’ll need a bunch of nodes as well, let’s call them wizards. They are fighting the worst Wizarding War of their time.

Lord Voldemort first used his prowess in legilimency in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to effectively hack into Harry’s mind. Legilimency is defined as illegitimately breaking into another person’s mind. Voldemort attempted, and succeeded on occasions, in reading and manipulating Harry’s mind. Occlumency is its counter curse; it is the defence of the mind against a legilimens or a virus. Snape teaches Harry the art of occlumency, and thus we have a battle occurring between the hacker (Voldemort) and the defender (Harry).

If we picture the human brain, a complex web of connections between specialised cells, as an operating system, a parallel between hacking and legilimency appears. We can let the internet equal the wizarding world, whereby each individual wizard is a node. Voldemort’s underlying motive, at least initially, is that of subversion, the practice of undermining an authority. The Dark Lord attempts to get into Harry’s head in order to put Albus Dumbledore, the leader of the Order of the Phoenix (a secret society against the plight against Voldemort) under surveillance, among other reasons.

A sock puppet is a fabricated internet persona, generally used by the government or military in order to sway the opinions or actions of the general public. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Voldemort creates a sock puppet, a faux version of Harry’s Godfather, Sirius Black, to lure Harry, and by effect the members of the Order of the Phoenix, into the Department of Mysteries. He uses legilimency to push a false impersonation of Sirius’s torture into Harry’s mind, not unlike a computer virus. This is yet another example of subversion; Voldemort undermines the Ministry of Magic by effectively marking the beginning of the second Wizarding War on its premises. This ultimately resulted in Black’s murder.

Through the application of cyberwar to the Harry Potter universe, it can be concluded that cyberwarfare is a strong threat to society and it is used by both the good side and the dark side. A small act of hacking, or breaking into one’s mind, has incredible consequences in the physical world, for example Sirius Black’s death and the beginning of a violent war that would last for years. As technology continues to advance and more and more people connect online, the potential of cyberwar to destroy will only increase (ibid).

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-Claire xD

 

Let’s speak about l33tsp341<

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  Leetspeak, or l33tsp431< in it’s pure form, refers to an alternative language generally associated with hackers and the internet. The trend began in the 1980’s as a cult-like language . It’s general purpose was to prevent hackers from being search engine indexed by simple key words. It works through substituting characters from the traditional spelling of a word with others, including numbers. This is done in a way which plays on the structure of the glyphs of those characters to create words which are visually similar. For example, the term ‘leet’ could be spelt either 1337 or l33t. Deliberate misspellings are also used in leetspeak, as is phonetic language, abbreviations and slang (see image below). Or, as urban dictionary suggests, you could just bang your head against the keyboard and hope for the best. There is no formal translation; rather there are multiple ‘spellings’ for different words. This helps to maximise the untraceable attribute of Leetspeak. Messages are designed to be decoded only by those they are targeted at.

The word ‘leet’ is derived from ‘elite’; which was adopted by computer hackers to represent their abundance of skill. The Cult of the Dead Cow, a hacktivist community, was credited with coining the term ‘leet’ and are one of several pioneers of hacker subculture. Hacker subculture is made up of multiple subgroups, including that of the hacktivist. A hacktivist is a hacker who utilises their skills in technology to push a social or political movement. The appeal of leetspeak is that in undertaking hacktivism, the codes are generally able to be decoded by humans, but not by computer systems. This makes it relatively easier for hackers to bypass security systems and content filters.

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For example, if one really and truly desired the above username on barbie.com, they could bypass the filter by adopting leetspeak. Try @n@153x, or 4n4ls3><. Go on, I dare you.

Mainstream examples of leetspeak include ‘kewl’, a leet version of ‘cool’, and ‘noob’, which is derived from the slang ‘newbie’ and is often used as a means of segregating new or unintelligent users from the ‘elite’ members of the group or forum. In the early days of the internet, leetspeak was pretty much essential to belonging and operating in the hacking community. Nowadays it is seen as more juvenile and is often used as a means to insult wannabe hackers. It is also used in online gaming communities such as minecraft , in which typing takes ‘too much time’.

 

-Claire

P.S. Check out this l33tspeak converter!

 

 

 

 

 

Potterwatch: How the Dank Lord Defeated the Dark Lord

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In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, a magic radio station called ‘Potterwatch’ played a pivotal role in the defeat of Lord Voldemort. Hosted by Lee Jordan (that Gryffindor bloke with dreads who commentated Hogwarts quidditch matches), the program allowed users all over the wizarding world to tune in and contribute, to recognise and discuss issues which arose in the face of Voldemort’s supremacy. Speakers included students, ministry workers (let’s liken those to government officials for all you muggles reading this), professors and members of the Order of the Phoenix (a secret underground society fighting against Voldemort’s reign). This station built a strong following and movement against issues such as:

  • the plight for muggle-born equality, which equates to racism in this metaphor I still haven’t broken away from; and
  • the murders and torture of those discriminated against;

and it ultimately aided in the demise of Lord Voldemort. It gave confidence to followers and increased their numbers and power. It disseminated information and allowed nodes to connect. Potterwatch reported information which was censored by the Ministry of Magic and allowed communication between wizards on the run (nodes).

If we step out of J.K. Rowling’s pages we can apply this sick metaphor to the real world. Real-world revolutions have been sparked by social media. These movements are sparked by people who want to be heard. The internet is dialogic by design, as is Potterwatch to an extent. A radio is mostly monologic in design, but Potterwatch is a station which still presents characteristics of social media revolutions today. The dialogic internet allows for communication to occur on a mass-scale between nodes, a ‘many to many’ model as opposed to a ‘one to many’ model. It allows for such feats as speedy mobilisation, mass-involvement and reach and scalable openness. Everyone has access and everyone can be accessed. Everyone can join a movement. Let’s look at the case of Khaled Saeed in Egypt. In 2010 he was beaten to death by government officials. Images of his dead, tortured corpse were leaked online, which incited the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Much of this incitement was born from a Facebook group, We are All Khaled Saeed.

Outside of the Hogwarts microcosm we can see that social media has become a weapon of unprecedented power in protesting. The key to this feat is connectivity; the ability for people (nodes) all over the planet to reach one another via social media. One resistance tweet is powerless; it is the force of many that sparks a revolution. It effectively transforms and coordinates restless people into active nodes with one collectively powerful voice; we are all peripheries, we are a human re-enactment of the network society paradigm.

-Claire

 

 

 

 

May the Curators be Ever in your Favour

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The packaging of information as a commodity is a declining paradigm as we move into a world where value is placed on the abundance of information rather than it’s quality. This means that collectively, we would rather receive a 140-word Twitter notification about a piece of breaking news from an unknown source than wait several hours for it to be declared newsworthy, written, edited, refined and published by an accredited journalist.

The constant sharing, writing and curating of online news means that the power of legacy news institutions is diminishing. The new power is with the people; online virtual democracy is having a huge impact on the physical world. Look at the meme presidential campaign of Donald Trump, for example. We are the news, we write the news, we control the news. Rather than a fancy-shmancy editor-in-chief deciding what will make the front page, what trends in online news is determined by the quantity of nodes (audiences) tuning in, aggregating or curating – and isn’t that how it should be?

A fifty-year old woman with a Masters in Journalism could publish news of a street protest, but a five-year-old could film and publish the same event using his Dad’s smartphone – there is little difference these days. The internet, in all of its distributed glory, allows mass-to-mass communication which is trumping the one-to-many legacy media paradigm. We now live in an ecology where participation is its own reward and the users of the internet become its filters. Thus, there is no need for traditional gatekeepers; prosumers have become gatewatchers.

 

 

 

 

An Apple a Day Keeps Freedom Away

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As the digital media revolution advances, a strange battle between control and freedom is surfacing.

Historically speaking, Apple has always tended to be at the forefront of technological innovation, yet Android (the mobile operating system owned by Google) is rarely far behind. Despite this, it is maintaining a significantly large market share (over 80% in 2015) in the smartphone market.

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This table measures the comparative market share of the major smartphone manufacturers from 2012-2015 (source)

The reason for this is simple: despite the widespread success of the iPhone, Google never set out to mimic it. Instead, they focused on differentiation (Hola marketing students).

“what we are announcing – the open handset alliance and Android – is more significant than a single phone” (Andy Rubin, 2007).

By focusing on the creation of a new operating system, rather than mimicking Apple’s rigid design, Google appealed to a different market landscape altogether. Remember the long tail distribution?

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Apple represents the limited variety segment (the head) with wild popularity, whereas Android (the long tail) appeals to all the tiny niche markets with little individual popularity, but which trumps market share when combined.

 

The long tail paradigm is the reason both of these operating systems continue to succeed. The interesting part is, in a world where gatekeepers and control are slowly disappearing from the media, why does Apple – a company built on control and closed standards – retain so much appeal to today’s consumer market?

It’s like you’re a mail order bride, who climbs out of a stuffy shipping container into a new life (is that how it works?), only to be forced to ‘forsake all others’ for a chubby, rich, white dude you’ve just met; you literally have no choice but to confine yourself within the Apple realm. It’s a glorified prison sentence.

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As soon as you purchase an iPhone you are instantaneously limited to Apple earphones, the Apple App Store, specific chargers, the iTunes store, and a whole bunch of other hardware and software. They’re comfortable to use, and their gatekeeper, stalkerish, Big Brother-esque status maintains a decent quality throughout Apple software.

Android is the polar opposite. It’s an open system; the control, creation and management of software is user-generated. Anyone can create an app. It’s the epitome of smartphone freedom. Of course, the downside to user-curation is the lack of predetermined quality.

In the end, that’s all it comes down to: quality vs. freedom. It’s the same battle the legacy media is slowly losing to the internet. Team quality has bred the (arguable) most valuable and profitable brand on the globe, while team freedom has harvested a massive market share. Can the two exist in harmony forever? The next decade or so will be interesting.

– Claire

The Zuckerberg is our Shepherd

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Have you ever tried to block Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook? If you’re from the student majority of my audience (because, let’s face it, outside of UOW no one really reads these blogs – hi Grandad -), you’re probably already drowning in mountains of essays, blog posts and memes, and don’t have time to waste on a pointless adventure, so I’ll save you the trouble. Spoiler alert: you actually cannot block him.

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I tried 😦

Why, you might ask, is it in the interest of Facebook’s creator to have access to the accounts of every single user on a worldwide scale? The answer lies in a concept known as iFeudalism. Picture a nifty little kingdom, with one divine ruler and a bunch of peasants dressed in rags. These peasants are granted

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the ‘power’ to be nominally free, but under a feudalistic paradigm, the feudal lord controls all aspects of the use of their land, including:

 

  • you cannot leave the land without permission;
  • you cannot sell the land without permission;
  • your feudal lord decides how you may use your land; and
  • you must pay rent to your feudal lord for the right to use that land.

‘What eighteenth century garbage is this?’

What on earth could a feudalist society have in common with Facebook?’

Probably more than you would like, is my answer to the latter.

Facebook is a prime example of iFeudalism. iFeudalism is the application of feudalism society to the internet. Facebook gives us (albeit limited) access to what the internet has to offer, yet the feudal lord (Sir Zuckerberg) has constructed a moat (and a whole heap of watch towers) around the palace he built us.

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Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook: original image source

Metadata is ‘data about data’ (ibid) and is said by many to know more about us than our closest friends. Facebook stores all of our metadata. The level of this data which Facebook has access to is downright scary. Facebook knows what you like, what you dislike, with whom and how often you communicate. It knows where you are, who you are with and what you are doing. For a list of the information Facebook stores about you, try this source. The case of Max Schrems is an example of this. He initiated a lawsuit against Facebook when he discovered they had 1222 pages of data about him, based solely on his online activities. Facebook is what’s known as a “stack”; it’s a stack of feudal kingdoms that kind of continues forever, with no escape.

Did you ever play the game ‘Stack Houses’ ? Picture that as a metaphor for Facebook, but ignore the joyful music and colourful graphics, because ‘the stack’ isn’t a good paradigm. It positions the prosumers of the web (us) as livestock. Think of Messenger, all the websites that offer the ‘convenience’ to sign up via your Facebook account – it provides Facebook with even more access to our metadata, often including the ability to access our browser history and engine searches. Even when Facebook is not open on our browser, it’s collecting information on us. There’s pretty much no escaping it. So embrace the sheep life, or switch to 4chan!

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We are all Zuckerberg’s sheep (source)

Baa.

-Claire