Archive for February, 2006

Sunset Clauses

Remember how Blair so graciously conceded a review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act? A sunset clause? Well, one year on, the terrorism having not been prevented, the mind-buggering absurdities (remember the man who’s only a danger to national security at night?) still glaring, the principle of punishment without trial or charge still in place, the House of Commons passed it without debate or even a vote.

DSR: Best Yet?

I am the third highest result on Yahoo! UK for “illegal penis enlargement operations in the Philippines”, which is about as sleazy as it’s possible to get. Penis enlargements…illegal penis enlargements..illegal penis enlargements in the Philippines.

What the searcher was probably after was this story from the Taipei Times of August 26, 2005…

Philippines:
Penis enlargements probed

Prison officials were conducting an investigation into reports of rampant illegal penis enlargement operations in the Philippines’ national penitentiary, a news report said yesterday. The Philippine Star newspaper said the probe was triggered by complaints of some inmates who suffered infections after they underwent the procedure. The operation, which involves injecting petroleum jelly into the penis, was allegedly being performed by a maximum-security inmate who has a medical background in epidemiology. The procedure reportedly costs between 100 to 300 pesos (US$1.78 to US$5.36). But one inmate who admitted undergoing the penile enlargement procedure refused to file a complaint against the suspect, claiming that the operation has enhanced his marital bliss.

Well. I’m not sure what to say, except that Kathryn Cramer’s blog has a category for Dumb Body Modification and this would appear to fit the bill.

In other search request news, everyone and their dog is googling for pictures of Sonia Falcone, Brazilian ex-model, rather unconvincing spokeswoman for the Latino poor, and (crucially) wife of French arms dealer and wannabe Republican, Pierre Falcone. Anyone know why?

A cracking post on why there are so many CCTVs, from the Cambridge University Computer Lab’s security research folk. Apparently it’s simply because the government put up a lot of money conditional on doing CCTV with it. The UK public sector historically loves use-it-or-lose-it accounting, despite the fact that it is completely fucking stupid. It’s been rolled back since 1997 for departments, who no longer need to spend every penny before the end of the financial year or face Treasury cuts, but weaker parties like local councils, housing associations and such still get the stick. Making the budget for one of your regular functions – like maintaining the council housing stock – subject to “doing something unpopular or stupid we like” is a fine way of enforcing will.

I ought to say something clever at this moment about human perception of risk and being asymmetrically weighted to losses. It’s certainly true that the entire PFI business was founded on the principle that “you can have this project, so long as you have it our way, no matter about the future cost” – and the unwillingness to let go of a supposed benefit.

Tangentially, has anyone else noticed the conjunction of very low yields on long government bonds, panic about the PFI repayment “comet’s tail”, and even more panic about pension funds having to buy long bonds at silly prices? Seems to me like an elegant solution is possible, but sometimes people are even risk-averse with regard to free money..

Iranian foreign minister says “The Islamic Republic of Iran demands the immediate withdrawal of British forces from Basra”. Jesus, it’s my Jeff Wode theory of terrorism in action again. “That wouldn’t wash with Jeff. He’d like a bit of pleading. Adds spice to it. In fact, he’d probably tell you what he was going to do, before he did it.

What he probably won’t do is what half 4th Generation Warfare guru, half mad professor Bill Lind suggested, which is send “four to six” Iranian army divisions over the border. Granted it would be a serious problem, but they would make fine targets for the big-war, assault from outer space machine. Those US soldiers I quoted Patrick Cockburn about, who turned up to a brawl in a petrol queue with a 155mm self-propelled gun because it was the only transport they had and they couldn’t very well leave it lying around, would finally get to do their thing out to 20-odd miles’ range..as would all the heavy armour, attack helis, giant jets, MLRS grid-square removers and such.

Unless they – we – actually decide to do something as insane as attack Iran, in which case all bets are off, they can get the same effects inside Iraq with much less risk by pushing the Shia button and flipping SCIRI on us (presumably with all the kit we’ve given them – where are those ex-Hungarian T-72s stored?), not to mention the Sadrists, naturally with all the secret support they can arrange.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Iranian army cross the border and move right into Shaibah Log Base as the last Bedford pulls out of the door. I think the minister’s remark should be treated with the utmost seriousness, although I suspect at the moment the last thing he wants would be that we actually leave and therefore remove our balls from under the hammer.

Comments Spam

There has been a certain amount of comments spam advertising a variety of sites that claim to sell hotel rooms. It comes in, of course, from a wide range of IPs around the world belonging to insecure PCs. As usual, the best way to deal with most Internet annoyances is the economic way: target the advertisers. The sites are all registered to the following address in Florida:

20 SW 27th Ave.
Suite 201
Pompano Beach
FL
33069
US

The telephone number is +1.9549848445. Naturally, I wouldn’t want anyone to ring up the employees of Moniker Privacy Services on that line. And I’d be fucking furious were anyone to waste their paper, toner etc by sending really long documents to their fax number, which is +1.9549699155.

So: firstratehotels.net, exotichotel.net, abhotels.net, selectionofhotels.net, theworld-hotels.net, safehotel.net, transporthotels.net, planehotels.net…you are all a bunch of spamming pig shaggers. And what’s more, you are all served by the nameservers ns1.travel-host.net and ns2.travel-host.net. NS1.TRAVEL-HOST.NET is on IP address 85.128.34.1, and NS2.TRAVEL-HOST.NET is at 62.111.136.117.

Both of those IPs belong to Crowley Data Poland z.o of ul. Stawki 2, Warsaw, 00193, and Grzegorz Swiderek and one Przemyslaw Mujta are responsible for them. Phones are +48 22 4273333 and +48 22 860 69 60, fax +48 22 860 67 96.

Any network ops people reading this: go on, null route them. You know you want to.

Comments Spam

There has been a certain amount of comments spam advertising a variety of sites that claim to sell hotel rooms. It comes in, of course, from a wide range of IPs around the world belonging to insecure PCs. As usual, the best way to deal with most Internet annoyances is the economic way: target the advertisers. The sites are all registered to the following address in Florida:

20 SW 27th Ave.
Suite 201
Pompano Beach
FL
33069
US

The telephone number is +1.9549848445. Naturally, I wouldn’t want anyone to ring up the employees of Moniker Privacy Services on that line. And I’d be fucking furious were anyone to waste their paper, toner etc by sending really long documents to their fax number, which is +1.9549699155.

So: firstratehotels.net, exotichotel.net, abhotels.net, selectionofhotels.net, theworld-hotels.net, safehotel.net, transporthotels.net, planehotels.net…you are all a bunch of spamming pig shaggers. And what’s more, you are all served by the nameservers ns1.travel-host.net and ns2.travel-host.net. NS1.TRAVEL-HOST.NET is on IP address 85.128.34.1, and NS2.TRAVEL-HOST.NET is at 62.111.136.117.

Both of those IPs belong to Crowley Data Poland z.o of ul. Stawki 2, Warsaw, 00193, and Grzegorz Swiderek and one Przemyslaw Mujta are responsible for them. Phones are +48 22 4273333 and +48 22 860 69 60, fax +48 22 860 67 96.

Any network ops people reading this: go on, null route them. You know you want to.

Airpower!

No surprises here

Southern Thai rebels download bomb development environment from iraq.com. Apparently the in-thing is putting your IED in a concrete shell shaped like a roadside milepost – not only for camouflage but for containment and flying lumps of concrete.

Does that count as glorification?

Arms and Influence

Kingdaddy’s Arms and Influence is one of the best blogs around. Check out this post on the US military’s problem with management consultant speak (itself essentially IT-speak with the clue taken out). It’s a relief someone else noticed it – for example, when I read Sean Naylor’s Not a Good Day to Die, I was astonished by the degree to which consultant gabble and poorly understood computerese had infected the official mind. Here was a general who put a subordinate with no land warfare experience, but plenty of hours on the C-130, in charge of a land battle because it was good for his “personal development”. Here were officers convinced they knew even more than the people nearer the battlefield because they had so much bandwidth for the UAV video feeds – the cardinal mistake, for one thing, of confusing the layer 2 (data link) position with the layer 4 (application) and above questions of where intelligence, power, and authority resided in the system.

Check out KD’s comprehensive lecture course (I kid you not) on unconventional warfare.

Most readers of this weblog will be aware that a political scandal recently occurred in Greece after it emerged that persons unknown had been illegally intercepting the mobile phone calls of a wide range of prominent Greeks, including senior ministers and ex-ministers of the Interior, Defence, Merchant Shipping (a Greek touch), and many civil servants and officers. What they had in common apart from power was that they all used Vodafone’s Greek business. There has been a great deal of blog traffic on this, so a list of links would be lengthy and probably wasted – I recommend Soj, who has a useful series of roundups if you need to self-brief.

Now, on towards the point.

The interception came to light when numerous Vodafone.gr customers complained of interruptions of service. In subsequent technical investigation, the engineers discovered that a small but elite group of subscribers were being monitored without authorisation. In essence, there had been a major security breach. They immediately took steps to end the monitoring and restore security.

This decision caused a furore on the grounds that this somehow prejudiced the task of determining who was behind the hack. Now, I do not think this is at all fair on Vodafone Greece. So, some technical points. Out of the flurry of public statements and press reports, of varying degrees of reliability, cluefulness and impartiality, it’s possible to pick out some facts. Everyone and their dog has mentioned “surveillance software from Ericsson”. Well, this is only one-third right. All telecoms standards actually provide for your calls to be monitored where it is legal to do so. GSM and UMTS are no different. In fact, both the GSM and UMTS specifications, as determined by 3GPP (in UMTS’s case) and ETSI and ratified by CEPT and the ITU, specifically define how what is termed Lawful Interception works. Briefly, there is a function in the SS7 switch at the heart of the network, the huge specialised computer that routes your calls, text messages, data streams and whatever, cues in other applications like cell location or voicemail, starts and stops the billing database, that allows calls on a given line to be monitored at another number.

Ericsson’s role in this is simply that it is the world’s biggest telecommunications infrastructure manufacturer.

Now, lawful intercept is meant to be just that – lawful. The plan is that the cops turn up at the Mobile Switching Centre with a warrant, the tap is activated, and then shut off when no longer required. In this case, though, someone hacked into the Voda Greece switch and flipped the lawful intercept function on, setting it to route the intercepted calls to a group of prepaid mobile phones (doubtless so the airtime required could be paid for in untraceable cash). This is technically nontrivial, to say the least. It’s also interesting that the hacker had a list of phone numbers for the elite of Greece, and a list of dormant prepaid phone numbers – but the difficulty of acquiring these pales in comparison to getting access to an SS7. (They were probably, for my two cents, extracted from a less-secure billing or customer-service database rather than the operations critical Home Location Register, although if you can hack the SS7…)

Telecommunications people tend to be different to computer people – the Bellhead/Nethead split. On our side of the wire, there are lots of suits, conservatism, centralisation and an overriding concern with reliability. Everything has to work 99.999% of the time. Everything has to be chargeable for, which means everything must be measured, identified and logged in such a way as to be accounted for. Getting into Vodafone’s Greek network was a serious challenge and a securifart of epic proportions. There was simply no way anyone in the industry would have let a p0wned switch stay that way. The entire culture, history, SOPs and economics go against it.

Further, given the amount of data the system (which thanks to the EU data retention shitbag you have to keep), I rather doubt there was that much loss. The Greeks seem convinced the Americans are behind it. Well, perhaps. Garbled early reports spoke of a base station near the US Embassy (also near every other national institution) being “used to intercept calls,” but this is nonsense because the system doesn’t work like that – lawful intercept is a core-network function not a radio access network function. What they seem to have meant was that the phone numbers used to receive the intercept data were to be found in that cell.

That could mean the US, or the British embassy (it’s not far), or for that matter the Greek government itself. Or it could mean that the phones were kept in a rented office there – or whatever. It’s curious that they were always within the same few cells – they could have been anywhere on-network, which you would think would be better for counter-surveillance. Upshot? I don’t know whodunnit, but it is rough to blame Vodafone for fixing the hole when they found it.

Now, those ID cards. Whilst I was away, the Commons duly rolled over and capitulated to the whole stack of Blairite crufto binge-legislation – smoking, IDs, “glorification”, the lot. I would like to remind you that a National ID System as proposed is going to be a similar scale and nature to a bank’s remote authorisation system, or indeed Vodafone UK’s core network. It will need to be very high-availability (i.e. not break down), very high reliability (i.e. not make mistakes) and very high security (i.e. keep out the haX0rs and keep in the data).

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. There will be some 44 million ID cards when the system is complete. If they are all looked-up against the register once a year, that makes 44 million queries. If it’s as reliable as VisaNet or GSM, that makes…440 wrong’uns, each one of which could mean denial of liberty or a four-figure fine. Clear the courts! The pathetically minimal real data that is available is worse, putting a failure rate for the best of the biometrics at 4% – or 1,760,000 fails a year in our example scenario.