Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cyber Attack Blows Up Generator

CNN is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security managed to blow up an electrical generator in a simulated cyber attack. It's a vivid demonstration of how the growing dependence on networked control systems links virtual world actions with real world effects.

This shouldn't really surprise anyone. Power grids are already too complex and interconnected to be controlled in any way other than by remote networked systems. Heck, pilots don't really fly jets much anymore - they just use the stick to tell the computer to take the plane in a particular direction. In fact, I doubt planes will even have pilots in 50 years, they'll be just like the automated trams that already haul people around on the ground at airports.

I can currently monitor my home through a web cam, and it won't be long before I have the ability to turn on the lights remotely and crank the air conditioning or heat from the office so things will be nice an comfy when I get home. Someday, I imagine someone could hack my house and do all sorts of annoying things. And if someone were to hack a plane, train, hydroelectric plant, or a nuclear power plant, things could get bad pretty quick.

The experts in the CNN story say that "a lot of the risk has already been taken off the table, " by finding ways to prevent the transformer hacks, but that it could take months to fix them all. That means our power grids are suffering from a classic zero day vulnerability. That is, the powers-that-be have publicly pointed out the flaw and announced fix, but anyone with the motivation has plenty of time to find unprotected systems to attack.

An expert interviewed on CNN claims that shutting down power to 1/3 of the country would have the economic and social devastation comparable to the nation being simultaneously hit by 40-50 major hurricanes.

Will there be an attack? Probably not. On the other hand, this is just one vulnerability. No doubt every networked machine or system, just like every networked computer, will eventually face similar threats.


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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Target Practice Widget Game

In Chapter 26 of the Dark Net blog, I wrote about Max and Joel practicing with various weapons as they prepared to make an attack on one particular corner of the online world.

They were armed with fork bombs, zip bombs, denial of service attacks, and something I call a Ctrl-Alt-Del grenade.

Max and Joel took turns wreaking havoc on a bunch of characters based on the Office Assistants from Microsoft Office. The victims included Microsoft Bob and Clippit, that annoying paper clip thing that always wants to know if it can help you write a letter, edit a resume, etc.

I decided make use of my recent obsession with Yahoo Widget programming to make a game out of Chapter 26. I call it Dark Net Target Practice. You can download it from the Yahoo Widget gallery.

If you've never used a widget, but want to try out mine or one of the many other cool widgets, you can learn everything you need to know on the widgets info page.

The goal of the Dark Net Target Practice widget is to shoot all the characters except the little penguin. You Linux folks ought to recognize the little fella.

Clippy in particular is worth double points for a kill. I hate that guy.

As your score goes up, the characters move faster.

Send me a screen shot of your score, if you manage to get really good at it.

Have fun.


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Monday, September 17, 2007

The Dark Net on

The Dark Net is now available on Amazon for only $14.95 $10.17 (a 32% discount over the retail price)!

Check out the Amazon page and please leave a review if you've read the book.

You can preview The Dark Net in it's entirety on Lulu, in case you'd like to review it but don't want to buy a copy at the moment.
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Friday, September 14, 2007

Dark Net Turns Deadly in Japan

The Japanese news site Daily Yomiuri is reporting that a woman was murdered in a robbery concocted with the aid of dark Web sites set up to help criminals find accomplices.

Kenji Kawagishi, and unemployed 40 year-old man in Aichi Prefecture, sent messages from his cell phone to the "Dark Employment Security Web," which hooked him up with two other men who were also hard-up for cash. Tsukasa Kanda, a 36 year-old sales agent for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, and Yoshitomo Hori, an unemployed man of 32, joined with Kawagishi in kidnapping Rie Isogai while she was on her way home from work. The men robbed her of 70,000 yen (about $600), murdered her and dumper her in the woods of Mizunami, Gifu Prefecture.

The Dark Employment Security Web has been closed, but the Japanese authorities say there's no way to know how many more are out there. Although the police shut them down as soon as they learn of the criminal equivalents of MySpace, new sites replace the deleted ones almost immediately.

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The Nerdiest Clock Ever

It's amazing what I have time for, now that I finished The Dark Net, at least until I start on my next book.

In the meantime, I've updated a clock for your desktop that tells time by displaying resistor color codes. Each color represents a number. In the image above, it reads 0740 06, or 6 seconds past 7:40 AM.

You can download the clock by clicking here.

Don't worry if you don't have the colors memorized -- if you right-click the clock and select 'about' you will see a chart to help you learn them.

To run the widget, you'll have to install the Yahoo Widgets engine, which is available for free on the Yahoo Widgets page. While you're there, check out all the other cool widgets people have made. Like the Resistor Clock, they're all made by amateurs and distributed for free. But lots of them are impressively sophisticated.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

NSF's DarkWeb: Life imitates Art

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding the University of Arizona in developing a project they call the Dark Web to track down terrorists on the net.

When I read the NSF press release that my friend Randy A. pointed out to me, I could have sworn some of it was describing chapters of The Dark Net.

Here's an excerpt from the release that reminds me of Chapter 6. The Maelstrom

"They can put booby-traps in their Web forums," Chen explains, "and the spider can bring back viruses to our machines." This online cat-and-mouse game means Dark Web must be constantly vigilant against these and other counter-measures deployed by the terrorists.

And this sounds like it has something to do with Chapter 11. AOD HQ

Dark Web's capabilities are also being used to study the online presence of extremist groups and other social movement organizations. Chen sees applications for this Web mining approach for other academic fields.

"What we are doing is using this to study societal change," Chen says. "Evidence of this change is appearing online, and computational science can help other disciplines better understand this change."

Freaky, isn't it.

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