The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'disinformation'
A group of hackers in Germany have built a device disguised as a wall-mounted power supply which connects to wireless networks, intercepts packets and subtly changes the content of pages from news websites:
The Newstweek uses ARP spoofing to change the text displayed on several news sites. After doing some field research, placing and configuring the device, there’s a simple web frontend that configures the man-in-the-middle hack. Right now, the Newstweek only allows a few news sites to be targeted, but the team is working on allowing anyone to add their own targets.There is a technical walkthrough of its construction here. Unsurprisingly, it's basically a Linux-based wireless access point, hacked into a new case and running a customised version of the OpenWRT firmware.
Meanwhile, Charlie Stross extrapolates on more serious applications of such technologies:
This sort of gadget is, in bulk, extremely cheap — I bet you could order them for well under $100 in batches of a thousand and up. Say you're a repressive regime, but not so repressive that you can just haul random dissidents off to the torture chamber without paying lip service to due process. How hard would it be to plant these things in your targets' homes, so that you can gaslight them by interfering with the news they're reading? Call it a digital agent provocateur. Say you're the DHS and you want a steady stream of clueless Al Qaida wannabes to arrest and show on CNN to keep everyone afraid enough to go along with your PATRIOT Act extension? Plant these in the homes of young muslim males who hang out at the wrong mosques, crank up the volume of hateful news, and see who snaps ...
Some time ago, Wikileaks posted online video footage apparently showing US troops massacring children in Iraq. This caused a flurry of condemnation, and further tarnished the already shabby image of the Iraq war. This was followed by a large cache of documents pertaining to the conduct of the war. The US government fumed, but, it seemed, Wikileaks was unstoppable.
More recently, Wikileaks announced that it had possession of a cache of US diplomatic communications, which are by convention considered sacrosanct, and was going to release them. Cue more fuming, and a somewhat predictable denial-of-service attack (one of which seemed to be the work of a patriotic good-ol'-boy, and not the NSA), but then it came out. And we find out that... well, that diplomats say impolitic things in private about their hosts, Gaddafi's vain and flamboyant, Berlusconi's in the pockets of the Russians, and the Chinese government was behind hacking attacks on Google. Oh, and Iran has missiles that can hit Berlin, and poses an imminent threat to a lot of people; so much so that the Obama government actively had to resist the Saudis' demands that they bomb Iran.
Which all seems a bit too convenient. Nothing particularly embarrassing to the US (they do like to spy on other world figures, but that's neither a huge surprise nor a shocking atrocity), though a few things which make the Obama administration look weak, and strengthen the hands of hawks calling for the bombing of Iran. Meanwhile, the world's hegemonic superpower can only fume impotently and possibly put behind-the-scenes pressure on the Swedes to kick Wikileaks chief Julian Assange out. (Assange is reportedly currently in the United Kingdom, not a country known for its reluctance to extradite anyone to the United States.) You'd think that if the US government really wanted to get Assange, they would have had him bundled into a van and flown over to Diego Garcia for a spot of light waterboarding within a week maximum of him popping up on their radar, but it seems not. Which makes me wonder whether, at some time between the original video and now, they managed to reach him and turn him into a propaganda asset.
"Now, Mr. Assange: this flash drive contains some files. You release these to the world through your channels, and make a good show of it, and nothing will happen to your family. Pleasure doing business with you."
Recently, the media (and not only the tabloids, but the Guardian, the BBC and Reuters, to name a few) was full of headlines suggesting that consuming even small amounts of alcohol would significantly increase one's risk of cancer. Now, Charlie Stross tears that report apart, revealing that the paper in question actually said the opposite, even if its abstract, for some unfathomable reason, didn't:
... there was no dose response between the number of drinks the women consumed and their risk for all cancers. Women drinking no alcohol at all had higher incidences for all cancers than 95% of the drinking women.
The actual incidents of all cancers was 5.7% among the nondrinkers. The cancer incidents were lower among the women drinking up to 15 drinks a week: 5.2% among those consuming ≤2 drinks/week; 5.2% of those drinking 3-6 drinks/week; and 5.3% among those drinking 7-14 drinks a week. [Table 1.]Of course, this leads to the question arises of why the abstract of the report contradicted its actual content, instead presenting a message at odds with it. Charlie suggests that it's not a mistake, but rather the result of Bush-era ideology, in which science receiving federal funding had to echo the official ideological line:
"Alcohol is evil. We know this because it is True. And it's especially bad for women because, well, women shouldn't drink. If you run a study to confirm this belief and the facts don't back you up, the facts are wrong. So tell the public the Truth (alcohol is always evil) and bury the facts; the press won't be able to tell the difference because they're (a) lazy (or overworked, take your pick) and (b) statistically innumerate."
This is pernicious fallout from the way the 2000-2008 Bush administration did business. Their contempt for science was so manifest that distortion and suppression of results that undermined a desired political objective became a routine reflex. If the science doesn't back you up, lie about it or suppress it. That administration may have been shown the door (and replaced by one that so far seems to have a pragmatic respect for facts), but the disease has spread internationally, becoming endemic wherever ideologically motivated politicians who hold their electorate in contempt find themselves seeking a stick to beat the public with.
A new book from the Disinformation troublemakers: 50 things you're not supposed to know, with "irrefutable evidence" of factoids like "Nearly all American milk-cows are infected with Bovine Leukemia Virus", "Pope Pius II wrote a best selling erotic novel", and "One of the heroes of 'Black Hawk Down' was a convicted child molester". (via bOING bOING)
You've heard of the research unanimously pointing to ecstasy causing long-term brain damage? Well, apparently much of that is propaganda, with experiments being compromised to give politically useful results, and contradictory research being frozen out of journals.