Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hacking the Human Genome for Fun and Apocalypse

Transhumanist acolyte Ray Kurzweil just gave all the FTW jihadists a blueprint for ending life as we know it on earth in today's newsletter. Of course, he can claim he was just reporting on a published report (see the Kurzweil newsletter here). Naturally, partial funding for this "Fast new, one-step genetic engineering technology" project came from…the China Scholarship Council. Yep, those whacky Chinese are hacking everything in site, including non-vonNeumann biological mechanisms. Key quotes in the article:
They describe development and successful laboratory tests of clonetegration in E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium bacteria, which are used in biotechnology. The method is quick, efficient and easy to do and can integrate multiple genes at the same time. They predict that clonetegration “will become a valuable technique facilitating genetic engineering with difficult-to-clone sequences and rapid construction of synthetic biological systems.”
The authors acknowledge funding from the China Scholarship Council, the National Science FoundationSynthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, the Human Frontier Science Program, the Australian Research Council and a William H. Elliott Biochemistry Fellowship.
Transhumanism uses the symbol "H+" to describe accelerating human evolution. There's a lot of "H-" (read that as "H-minus") possibility too, courtesy of the mental/physical midget in North Korea, or our fun-loving jihadist friends in the Middle East.

Thanks for sharing, Ray.

Weak arguments against allowing cyber retaliation

The "Beltway Bandits" do not want to lose their source of lucrative government contracts, which is why the "stalking horses"have been tasked with killing the notion (see today's Computerworld article here). Here's argument from the article:
"This is a remarkably bad idea." said James Lewis, senior fellow and director of the technology and public policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "It would harm the national interest."
Adherence to my Cyber Privateer Code of Conduct mitigates against damages to innocents caught in the middle. Which is my comment posted at the end of the article:

Consider the source of the recommendation against retaliation. And rather than looking at ways to protect/indemnify the innocent caught in the middle of retaliation, they look for reasons NOT to allow retaliation at all. A workable retaliation code of conduct is at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Iran's Letter to the New York Times

I'm sure glad I get to pick my clients, because I'd really hate to be the PR flack assigned to paint Iran in a good light. Take, for example, today's letter (read it here) from Alireza Miryousefi, the head of press office in Iran's mission to the United Nations. My advice to anyone having a meeting with Alireza is don't make any sudden moves, like to straighten your hair. It could cause the poor devil to flinch or even dive under a nearby desk. And to Alireza Miryousefi, you should remember what happened to Iraqi's foreign minister Tariq Aziz and ask for political asylum while you're here in the U.S.

What makes the Iranian letter to the NYT more laughable is a later story in today's Wall Street Journal (read it here) saying that "Iranian-backed hackers have escalated a campaign of cyberassaults against U.S. corporations by launching infiltation and surveillance missions against the computer networks running energy companies…"

Selah, Alireza!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New York Times Story: "U.S. Is Urged to Allow Counterattacks on Hackers"

Former ambassador to China Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. and Dennis C. Blair, Obama's first director of national intelligence, are both urging that the U.S. "…consider giving companies the right to retaliate against cyberattackers with counterstrikes of their own." The story was reported in today's New York Times (see the story here). The great quote of the article:
“China is two-thirds of the intellectual property theft problem, and we are at a point where it is robbing us of innovation to bolster their own industry, at a cost of millions of jobs,” Mr. Huntsman said, with a bluntness that would have been forbidden when he served in Beijing. “We need some realistic policy options that create a real cost for this activity because the Chinese leadership is sensitive to those costs.”    
With such a public policy, maybe my Cyber Privateer Code could be the basis for a real implementation of…The Morgan Doctrine.

Stay tuned.  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

China: "We don't hack, but the USA is guilty, too."

I love it when the diplomats issue press statements. The very best sophistry, rhetorical manipulation, and what logician/author Lewis Carroll called "invalid syllogisms" are employed. Today's New York Times story is an excellent example (read it here). Instead of the headline, "China Blasts Hacking Claim by Pentagon," they really should have used a version my headline from above: "China Claims They Don't Hack, But That the USA is Guilty, Too."

Quoting H.L. Mencken,
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
The New York Times story would be an excellent exercise for dissection and analysis by high school classes.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dutch Legislation a First Step Toward Cyber Privateering

Hey cybercriminals, do you hear footsteps behind you?
[What's that noise?]

Dutch legislation (see Computerworld story here) could open the floodgate of legalized "hot pursuit" in the cybercrime arena. Of two interesting paragraphs in the article, the first is reminiscent of my Cyber Privateer Code of Conduct (see here) and involves safeguards and oversight authority:
The bill foresees strict safeguards for the use of the new powers such as a the approval of a judge, the certification of software used and keeping logs of the investigation data.
The second interesting thought comes from opponents to the bill. They're actually right on the money. If the bill becomes law, their prediction is a vast understatement of the "viral" consequences:
Moreover, the pending Dutch legislation could set an example for other governments which could start an arms race between hacking governments, [said Simone Halink of Dutch digital rights organization Bits of Freedom]. 
Next step: Privatization of the process, which will start a high-tech gold rush the likes of which will relegate the dot-com boom to a mere blip in the history books.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Larry Ellison Vignette in DESTROYING ANGEL

Note:  I made Oracle's Larry Ellison the head of my Cyber Privateering Fantasy League team (see my nomination of Larry here). I couldn't resist giving Larry a cameo in Destroying Angel and include it here. Interestingly, the comparison between M16 ease of use compared to the F16 fighter is actually an analogy that Larry made in a conversation with me. Enjoy

[Following is an excerpt from Destroying Angel.]

Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle, the world’s largest producer of database management software, stood in front of the New York investment analysts’ symposium. Long past his horse race with Bill Gates for the title “world’s richest man,” the six-foot-two-inch Ellison looked every bit the part. Tailored to perfection, his clothes covered the lean, muscular body flawlessly.

Ellison made this semiannual pilgrimage to Gotham—during his hiatus from the Americas Cup yacht race or his attempts to buy an NBA basketball team—to prognosticate on the state of his industry and to reassure money fund managers that their substantial investments in Oracle stock would continue to ride high. One of the analysts had just asked about a Computerworld story criticizing database state of the art and the movement toward NoSQL “Big Data” solutions.

“Some tools are easy to learn but take longer to get the job done. Others take a long time to learn but obliterate the problem instantly. Kind of like an M16 assault rifle and an F16 fighter. You can learn to use an M16 assault rifle in an afternoon. It might take you the better part of a week to kill everyone on your block, but you could get the job done. On the other hand, you could take a year learning to fly an F16 fighter. But once you learned it, you could take out your block in one pass. We have both kinds of tools. We tell our customers to choose their weapons.”

The round of laughter confirmed that Larry had scored a bulls-eye with the analysts. The next question came from a broker who’d invested heavily in object-oriented technology that competed with Oracle’s relational database systems. Ellison’s handling of this question could determine whether the investors would stay with him another year or quietly abandon ship. He decided to out-object the object-oriented industry.

“Let’s talk evolution. The old hierarchical data structures are a subset of relational database methods. And relational is a subset of object technology. We’re always moving to higher ground, and we will give our customers a seamless, painless path toward object-oriented databases. For those of you who are confused about these different technologies, let me give you an analogy that will let you get your brains around the issues.”

The pens came out. Notwithstanding investors’ tendency to follow the herd, Larry Ellison’s reputation for concisely explaining emerging technology to the layman had made his followers a lot of money. He’d out-IBMed IBM with their own relational blueprint. He’d gotten presidents of several major competitors fired by using advertising to point out their tactical and strategic stupidity. And his no-nonsense one-liners had earned a Pulitzer Prize for the one journalist who decided to follow up on one of Larry’s “what if?” scenarios.

“I would liken the days of flat files and hierarchical databases to flying into Kennedy airport and catching a cab. You get into the taxi and tell the driver you want to get to the Hilton. You then tell him how to get there, for example via the Midtown Tunnel and across to 52nd street. That’s the old way of doing things. Now comes relational.

“A relational database knows all the navigation necessary to get to the data, simply from the data’s value. Take our cab again. I fly into Kennedy, find a cab, and simply tell the cab driver to get me to the midtown Hilton. Period. The driver, or the relational engine, knows the best way to get me there. I just sit back and read Steve Militich’s analysis of my company’s earnings.”

Steve Militich, the Paine-Webber software analyst, got a laugh by standing and taking a bow. Larry used the opportunity to sip from a glass of water at the speaker’s podium.

“Now let’s talk about object technology. Same airport. Same goal. Objects are self-directing. They carry their rules for usage with them. They can be independent, free-floating mechanisms. I fly to New York. During the flight, my secretary object gets me a reservation at the midtown Hilton.” Larry made quote marks with his hands before and after his mention of the secretary object. “Then she calls a limo service and has a driver object waiting as my flight unloads, holding a sign with my name on it. I step off the plane, see my name, and go with the limo driver. I don’t have to find a taxi stand or wait in a line. Maybe I turn down the driver object because I’ve made arrangements with my girlfriend object, no sexual reference intended, to pick me up, no pun intended.”

He waited for the laughter to die down. “As you can see, objects are self-directed and independent. I could even have chartered a helicopter object to get me to the Hilton, or spotted a free Hilton Courtesy Car object, or walked. You see, I am a CEO object and can choose as much or as little independence as suits my mood. Questions, anyone?”

Again Steve Militich, the foremost software analyst in the business—especially after his competition for the title decided to quit Wall Street and become the road manager for a rock group—raised his hand. An Oracle press intern brought the microphone back to him. “Larry, it seems to me objects have some security problems, especially with Oracle taking over the Web. What would happen if your limo driver turned out to be a kidnapper?”

“Good point, Steve. The government went gung ho down that path with Ada and implementation of the Strategic Defense Initiative. Maybe it’s lucky the current president finally nuked SDI after all.”
The SDI-nuking comment got the biggest laugh of all.”

Yeah, good thing SDI got turned off,” agreed Militich, who then whispered to himself, “But what if Larry Ellison single-handedly rules the Web?”