John Hayward

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The grand-daddy of killer A.I.

Screen Rant marks the release of the Johnny Depp film "Transcendence" (which, alas, has "stinker" written all over it) with a fine list of killer artificial intelligence from previous movies.  This is a subject dear to my heart, because I'm a lifelong science fiction fan, and also because I've said a number of unkind things to my computer over the years in moments of frustration, and they're really gonna come back to haunt me if A.I. takes over the world. Apr 18, 2014 11:18 AM PT

Another Heartbleed attack

Forbes mentions the Canadian incident in which the Heartbleed online security flaw was employed to loot taxpayer data from the Canadian Revenue Agency, which I wrote about earlier this week, but then adds another confirmed attack on UK parenting website Mumsnet... and this one's even more alarming, because it involved the worst-case Heartbleed scenario, in which a hacker stole the passwords needed to gain administrative access to the entire site: Apr 18, 2014 11:00 AM PT

Astronomers find the first solid candidate for 'another Earth'

The search for extraterrestrial life begins with the assumption that it would require a homeworld broadly similar to Earth in a few key characteristics.  One of these is temperature, so astronomers estimate a "habitable zone" radiating out from each star, based on how hot the star is.  If a planet orbits too close, it would fry; too far, and it would freeze.  Also, orbiting at the wrong distance could subject the surface to either an excess or shortage of radiation from its sun. Apr 17, 2014 1:31 PM PT

Locking Down the Internet

Klint Finley at Wired has a provocative idea: "It's time to encrypt the entire Internet."  This would begin with more widespread use of the Secure Socket Layer protocol - which, at the moment, is not entirely secure, due to the Heartbleed security flaw.  Updates to resolve that vulnerability are being circulated now, and there are some other problems with SSL waiting to be resolved, but Finley's critique holds that not enough Web sites use any form of encryption at the moment.  The bulk of them are wide open, meaning connections can be spoofed or spied upon.  The widespread use of insecure wi-fi connections makes the situation even worse. Apr 17, 2014 12:54 PM PT

Obamacare Ends Dozens of Poor Alabama Widows' Healthcare Plans

According to this story from WHNT News in Alabama, several dozen widows of county employees - many of them elderly and with little income - lost their health insurance due to ObamaCare.  It's going to cost a cool $25 million to restore it, due to "Affordable" Care Act mandates.   Apr 17, 2014 6:33 AM PT

Government spends our money to propagandize us

The Washington Free Beacon chronicles one of the many ways in which Big Government forces us to spend our money on propaganda designed to further the interests of the State: a taxpayer-funded play dubbed "Global Warming: The Musical," for which the National Science Foundation wasted almost $700,000 of our money. Apr 15, 2014 11:02 AM PT

Changes to Census Hide Obamacare Data

You can put the U.S. Census Bureau on the shelf right next to the Justice Department (which, on top of everything else, is now accused of blocking corporate mergers for political reasons), the IRS, the Department of Health and Human Services, and all the other government agencies corrupted over the past five years.   Apr 15, 2014 10:40 AM PT

Police experiment with real-time universal surveillance

The Surveillance State goes big in an article from Gizmodo, which describes early testing of a "God's-eye" system that collates information from multiple sources on the ground, giving the authorities what inventor Ross McNutt describes as "a live version of Google Earth, only with TiVo capabilities." Apr 14, 2014 12:44 PM PT

Report: NSA Sitting on Stockpile of Software Security Flaws

The part of the evolving Heartbleed story that initially left me guardedly skeptical was the assertion, made by Bloomberg News, that the National Security Agency knew about this enormous Internet security flaw back in early 2012, but kept it secret because they wanted the option of exploiting it for their own purposes.  Given that millions of sensitive passwords, and servers full of Americans' confidential data, might be at risk, this could become a huge scandal if true.  The NSA has denied the story ever since Bloomberg ran it at the end of last week. Apr 14, 2014 11:09 AM PT

Confirmed: the NSA doesn't have to tell us when it finds security flaws like Heartbleed

The most controversial aspect of the rapidly developing story of Heartbleed - possibly the greatest security vulnerability in the history of the Internet - is the assertion made in a Bloomberg News report that the National Security Agency learned about the problem soon after it was introduced... but kept the knowledge to itself, leaving the American people exposed to a glitch that could compromise passwords and personal information on hundreds of thousands of websites, because the NSA wanted to exploit Heartbleed for its own cyber-warfare purposes. Apr 13, 2014 11:36 AM PT

Federal government withdraws from Nevada ranch standoff

I caught wind of the Bundy ranch standoff in Nevada last week, and watched as the standoff between the Bureau of Land Management's shock troops and an obstinate Mormon cowboy family escalated to ominous proportions.  At one point, a no-fly zone was declared over the disputed area.  The government had already set up "First Amendment zones," little corrals of orange rubber fencing where you had to stand if you wanted to exercise your First Amendment rights without getting a bit of rough treatment.  I was going to ask if someone standing in a First Amendment zone, on a ladder tall enough to elevate him into the no-fly zone, was still allowed to take pictures of what the feds were up to.  Where does the First Amendment Zone end, and the No-Fly Zone begin? Apr 12, 2014 6:01 PM PT

Heartbleed: Biggest Security Flaw in Internet History?

The online community is still reeling from the discovery of what might just be the biggest security flaw in the history of the Internet.  It's been around for years, thousands of websites may have been compromised, it's very difficult to tell if an attacker has exploited the bug... and, according to one news outlet, the National Security Agency learned of its existence at least two years ago, but they didn't tell anyone, leaving American citizens vulnerable to identity and data theft while the NSA exploited flaw for its own purposes. Apr 11, 2014 11:30 PM PT

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