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Stilgherrian in bunny hat from Download This Show

ABC logoCareful and sighted readers will have noticed that in the photo accompanying the audio for this week’s Download This Show I was wearing a bunny hat for Easter. That’s because this radio program now appears on video as well as part of the new RN TV.

Not all of it, but one segment at least, and you’ll see that video over the fold.

In light of the software bug Heartbleed, we examine password managers and ask are they the safest way to manage your security online?

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Stilgherrian, Marc Fennell and Claire Porter in the ABC studios: click for full image

ABC logoThis week saw my first appearance on ABC Radio National’s Download This Show. Presenter Marc Fennell made the grave mistake of putting me and Claire Porter, editor-a-large of Techly, in the same place at the same time. Chaos ensued.

“Killing Comic Sans, SELFIE Mirror, Password Managers” is the headline for this episode.

Comic Sans comeback: Created for Microsoft in the mid-90s, Comic Sans might just be the internet’s most-hated font. But this week we meet the guy who’s trying to save its reputation and reintroduce Comic Sans to a new generation, by making it look cool. In light of the software bug Heartbleed, we examine password managers and ask are they the safest way to manage your security online? And it’s a contender for the weirdest high-tech gadget yet: the mirror that automatically takes a selfie.

Here’s the full program.

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The audio is ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website.

[Photo: Stilgherrian, Marc Fennell and Claire Porter in the ABC studios, 17 April 2014.]

ABC logoA few weeks back, I had a conversation on Twitter with Natasha Mitchell, presenter of ABC Radio National’s Life Matters, about smartphones and just how much data they’re handing on to, well, all manner of organisations. This morning we came back to that conversation live on national radio.

Do you know what data you’re really sharing, and with whom, when you download and use smart phone apps? Companies are collecting as much as they can get away with, says Stilgherrian.

We spoke for 20 minutes and covered a lot of territory.

If you want to know more, then you can listen to my guest lecture at University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and then follow the links to more than 30 references.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it’s served here directly from the ABC website.

ABC logoAnother day, another Heartbleed-related radio spot. This one was on ABC Radio 774 Melbourne, 720 Perth, and local stations throughout Victoria and Western Australia.

This conversation with presenter Prue Bentley was a straightforward explainer. It contains the current state of play in terms of what we believe, so if you only want to listen to one then make it this one. Unless there’s a more recent one on the site somewhere.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoThere’s something rather cool about being introduced with the Mission: Impossible theme, and that’s precisely what happened when I did a spot for ABC 702 Sydney on Friday morning.

The Heartbleed security bug was one topic, obviously, but I also spoke with breakfast presenter Robbie Buck about another story in the news that morning, about radio presenter and activist Vanessa Powell, who’d complained that Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) had been, as she put it, spying on her social media activities.

Or, as I put it, that they’d been reading what she published on the internet — just as, presumably, she’d been reading what they published on the internet. That they’d gathered her comments with some semi-automated process — and, presumably, she hadn’t gathered theirs the same way — to me says “naivety” rather than “victim of sinister conspiracy”.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoBy Thursday, news of the Heartbleed security bug had permeated from the technical press and the odd radio talk show into mainstream current affairs.

And so it was that ABC Radio’s Will Ockenden spoke to me for a story on the lunchtime current affairs program, The World Today.

Online security experts are warning today that nearly every user of the web over the last two years is exposed to a security bug sweeping the internet. Known as Heartbleed, the bug is a serious vulnerability in a piece of encryption software which secures data on nearly two in three web servers. It’s now a race between the server administrators and hackers to either fix the software in time or come under attack.

Here’s the full story, served directly from the ABC website, where you can also read the transcript.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoAnother series of Game of Thrones is released, which means another series of radio spots talking about Australia’s reputation for (allegedly) massive levels of illegal downloads.

This spot is from Tuesday 8 April, a chat with ABC 720 Perth afternoon presenter Gillian O’Shaughnessy, triggered by the news that the first episode of Game of Thrones series four had seen record levels of illegal downloads, with Perth topping the list — although Angus Kidman at Lifehacker disagrees.

One highlight of this conversation is when I suggest that the entire Australian content distribution industry should just get out of the way, retire and go play on their yachts.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoEarlier this morning I spoke about Facebook’s disturbing new “Big Cat” technology on ABC 702 Sydney, and here’s the audio.

Big Cat is the codename for an algorithm that can apparently detect with a high reliability whether your partner is having an extramarital affair, by analysing such things as their pattern of friend formation and communication, comparing their smartphone location with what they’ve said in posts — such as whether they’re really shopping or at the gym or on a work trip — as well as language cues, such as a tendency to avoid answering direct questions.

In a way, it’s a natural extension of MIT research from 2009, which showed that a young man’s pattern of friend formation could reveal whether he was gay — often before he even knew himself. Or Target (US) being able to determine when a woman had become pregnant from her shopping list — at least with 87% accuracy.

It’s the kind of stuff I talk about in my guest lecture to UTS students — which, as it happens, I’ll be updating and presenting this coming Monday 7 April.

As I discuss with breakfast presenter Robbie Buck, however, this is a little more serious than sending someone some discount coupons on a likely hunch. Facebook had better get this right, given that confronting a partner about an alleged affair is a serious issue.

I’m hearing that the Australia test locations will be the Brisbane / Gold Coast nexus or, more likely, Adelaide, for reasons that I explain.

One thing we forgot to mention in the interview is the reason for Facebook’s codename: “Big Cat” is for catching cheaters. Oh dear.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoYesterday I ended up having a brief chat about identity, security and the concept of federated ID on ABC 105.7 Darwin. Here it is.

Breakfast presenter Richard Margetson had received a message from listener Heather from Tiwi, who’d lost her wallet. Amongst the hassle of having to replace all her cards, it was going to take up to six weeks for her new Medicare card to arrive — although she did get a new Medicare number to use straight away.

Margetson wondered whether technology might fix this. I set him straight.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

ABC logoMid-morning today I received a phone call from ABC journalist David Mark, who was after a backgrounder on the Tor network the lunchtime current affairs program The World Today. His call brought me the news of what appears to be a significant win in the battle against online child exploitation.

Fourteen arrests were made as part of Operation Round Table, which according to the (American) ABC, was an investigation led by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Postal Inspection Service and federal authorities in Louisiana.

The roughly 250 victims were spread across 39 states and five other countries — Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Most were boys between 13 and 15. Two victims were 3 or younger, authorities said.

The pornographic images were shared on an underground website on the Tor network, an online anonymity network that masks the location of servers and conceals an Internet user’s location. The subscription-based website operated from about June 2012 until June 2013, had more than 27,000 members and shared more than 2,000 webcam-captured videos, mostly of young boys, authorities said.

There’s further material in the (Australian) ABC story, Australian victims among 251 identified in ‘members only’ child porn website.

The World Today ran Mark’s four-minute story, including comments from US secretary of homeland security Jeh Johnson, and federal attorney-general for Louisiana Kenneth Polite, as well as my own small contribution.

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The audio is of course ©2014 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, served here directly from their website —– where you can also read a full transcript.

If you’d like some more information on how Tor works, and how users’ mistakes can lead to their anonymity being rather less effective than they’d hoped, my Crikey Clarifier: how the FBI hacked users of Tor, the ‘secret internet’ from August 2013 could be a useful starting-point.

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