The Null Device

2010/11/18

According to a US government report, for 18 minutes in April, 15% of global internet traffic was rerouted through a state-owned ISP in China. The report strongly hints that this may have been no accident, but a deliberate attempt by the Chinese government to capture and analyse internet traffic between entities in the US or elsewhere.

Dmitri Alperovitch, a threat research analyst at internet security firm McAfee, said the capture "is one of the biggest – if not the biggest hijacks – we have ever seen". "No one except China Telecom operators" know what happened to the traffic during those 18 minutes, Alperovitch added. "The possibilities are numerous and troubling, but definitive answers are unknown."
The Chinese government has denied the allegations. Of course, it could be just a router malfunction or operator error. (Sometimes sinister-looking things turn out to be just randomness: princesses die in stupid car crashes, presidents' heads spontaneously explode in motorcades, that sort of thing. )

Meanwhile, further analysis of the Stuxnet malware (which, it was previously speculated, was designed to attack Iran's nuclear enrichment programme, possibly by the Israeli Mossad) have shown that its payload was designed to subtly degrade the quality of enriched uranium coming from centrifuges:

According to Symantec, Stuxnet targets specific frequency-converter drives — power supplies used to control the speed of a device, such as a motor. The malware intercepts commands sent to the drives from the Siemens SCADA software, and replaces them with malicious commands to control the speed of a device, varying it wildly, but intermittently.
The malware, however, doesn’t sabotage just any frequency converter. It inventories a plant’s network and only springs to life if the plant has at least 33 frequency converter drives made by Fararo Paya in Teheran, Iran, or by the Finland-based Vacon.
Even more specifically, Stuxnet targets only frequency drives from these two companies that are running at high speeds — between 807 Hz and 1210 Hz. Such high speeds are used only for select applications. Symantec is careful not to say definitively that Stuxnet was targeting a nuclear facility, but notes that “frequency converter drives that output over 600 Hz are regulated for export in the United States by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as they can be used for uranium enrichment.”

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Synergon ("Where dreams come to die") is a role-playing game based around the soul-crushing tedium of a large corporate workplace. Players create employee characters, who belong to one of several departments, such as Accounting, Legal, Marketing or IT, each with special attack/defense abilities. Non-player characters one interacts with are known as "frenemies", and may attack one in various ways. Throughout the game, employees exercise a variety of abilities, including Acting Productive, Accusation Of Incompetence, Call Meeting, Twitter Gossip and Crawl Under Desk. Notably absent is whatever business function the company ostensibly performs; that remains a McGuffin, irrelevant to the petty politicking and small-stakes trench warfare that actually takes place. Some excerpts from the materials:

Alignment: Some employees are nicer than others, but there’s really only one alignment here. It’s called the do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-it-to-5p.m. alignment. Call it “neutral,” for short. Of course, we all feel a little lawful or evil from time to time, but the urges come and go.
Day: Made up of 8 soul-sucking hours. A night of prime-time TV is able to put employees into torpor deep enough that it basically hits the “reset button” in the brain. Each employee chooses 1 status to eliminate at EOD regardless of how many hours or days of the effect are left. At EOD, employees regenerate 10% of maximum MP and 15% of maximum AP.
And here is some context:
Synergon is supposed to simulate BLARPing. LARPers (or Live Action Role Players) are a group of people who get together to act out roles, usually in a vaguely medieval or fantasy setting. You may know them as those-guys-that-hit-each-other-with-foam-swords. BLARPers, on the other hand, are Business Live Action Role Players, and they play make believe every day in the office.
The comparison between LARPers and business people quickly becomes apparent when considering how many people in the business world are just making things up as they go along. They often don’t have any expertise in the area they’re responsible for, but they feel that the right amount of zeal and showmanship can make up for any deficiency. You know the ones; they’re in every office, acting, not working. They don’t know what they’re talking about, they just know they’ve heard all the words before.

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Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan. The buses will cost a lot less than high-speed trains and will rocket arong highways at speeds up to 165mph.

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