Talking the cybers on ABC TV’s Lateline

Screenshot of Stilgherrian on Lateline: click for video and transcriptIt was my very great pleasure to talk about hacking and the impending security disaster that is the Internet of Things (IoT) on ABC TV’s Lateline last night — and don’t I look concerned.

Also joining the program was security researcher Runa Sandvik, who got plenty of media recently for hacking a smart sniper rifle.

I won’t go into too many details here, because you can see the video and transcript at the Lateline website. For the next month or so, you can also watch it in HD on iView.

However, this exchange surprised me:

STILGHERRIAN: … Scarier though is what’s happening with smart TVs. There are millions of those around the world. They’re networked, so you can watch clips from YouTube or whatever on them or Netflix or any of the streaming services, and yet I’ve seen a young hacker from South Korea not only hack a smart TV, hack it in 10 different ways and set it up so that the camera and microphone in the TV are streaming live video and sound out to the internet while the television looks like it’s turned off. These are televisions that are being installed over the last few years and more in the future in hotel bedrooms, classrooms, corporate boardrooms. So they’re kind of like an always-on surveillance device.

JOHN BARRON: I guess, Runa, the question then occurs: well, who would want to do this? Who would want to hack into somebody’s TV set in suburban Australia or the United States? The answer would probably be: well, nobody. But why would somebody want to do this?

RUNA SANDVIK: There’s a mix. There’s definitely people that are doing this for sort of evil purposes, if you will, or to make money, and there are people that do it just because they can, because it’s there, it’s a possibility, it’s not as secure as it should be and they do it just to show that they can.

Personally, I’d have thought that the security risks of peering into people’s homes would have been obvious, but the questions moved on before I could point out the attraction to both pilferers and perverts.

Anyway, you can also read my thoughts on this in my December 2014 column, All aboard the internet of things infosec hype train, and its January 2014 predecessor, Our hackers, who art in open source, deliver us from refrigerators.

Talking internet trolls on ABC TV Lateline

Screenshot of Stilgherrian on Lateline: click for video and transcriptLast week Collective Shout activist and campaigns manager Caitlin Roper told her story of the horrific misogynist abuse she’d received online, and what can most politely be called a disappointing response from the police.

I reluctantly went to the police station, already knowing that threats against women online are not regarded as a priority. “Why don’t you just close down your account?” asked the officer taking my statement.

I explained how I used Twitter in the course of my work for a non-profit organisation. She pressed further — “but why do you need to use it?” — as if it was somehow unreasonable for me to believe I had as much right as anyone to access social media without threats

Another colleague went to the police after one man described how he intended to mutilate her body and dissolve it in acid. The police officer suggested that the internet was “not a very nice place”, and maybe she should stay off it.

Last night, ABC TV’s Lateline did a follow-up story, the reported being John Stewart, and I provided a few comments.

It’s interesting that the one piece they used was about the internet putting everyone right next to everyone else:

It’s simply that within the past people were in communities, that were mostly made up of people like them or people they grew up with. If there was a violent part of town or a red-light district or whatever it might be, and you didn’t want to go there or you didn’t want to know about it, well you just didn’t go there. The problem is now on the internet all of that is right next to you as well and people are shocked by this. They’re suddenly discovering that there are people not like them. They have different attitudes to women, different attitudes to acceptable language, to religion, to class, to sporting teams, to clothing as we’ve seen in the media lately. Everything.

I also said that thanks to the internet, we are now building a global society, and yet policing is organised on a regional or even local basis.

While these women, and so many others, have experienced appalling abuse, in most cases there’s no credible threat. Even if the police cranked up the mechanisms of transnational police cooperation, there’d be little chance of a prosecution leading to a conviction. Their lack of follow-up reflects that unfortunate reality, as well as many police officers’ unfamiliarity with online life.

I daresay I’ll have further thoughts in this, because this story certainly isn’t going away.

Yes, I know they spelt my name wrong. Yes, I know they said “social media commentator”.

Malcolm Turnbull and the NBN: This one’s for you, Sir!

Malcolm Turnbull on ABC TV's Lateline: click for video and transcriptThis post is written for an audience of one. The Honorable Malcolm Turnbull MP, Member for Wentworth and Shadow Minister for Communications and Broadband. But all you proles are welcome to read it too.

Since I last spoke with Turnbull eighteen months ago for the Patch Monday podcast, his comments on Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) have frustrated me to hell. I’m guessing he’s not thrilled with what I’ve written since then either — because most of it has been critical of his comments, or even straight-up mockery.

My frustration is fuelled by cognitive dissonance. I admire Turnbull’s sharp use of political rhetoric. Indeed, I’ve praised him for it many times. But recently so much of Turnbull’s use of this rhetoric has been to play the pathetic old party-political tribal games that dominate the political narrative and, quite frankly, turn people off.

Sure, propaganda must trigger biases and responses that the audience already holds. That’s Joseph Goebbel’s Principles of Propaganda 101. So, yes, here we go again. Cuba communism socialism Labor North Korea Kremlin secrecy Stalin pogrom Labor socialism bad bad bad. Yawn. Y-fucking-awn.

In my most recent piece, Some of that ol’ NBN religion, I wrote:

In a rational world, something as important as a political party’s policies for the nation’s broadband infrastructure would refer to objective facts and measures.

There’d be no talk of “super-fast broadband”, as if that were actually a unit of measurement. There’d be no lumping together of different technologies with widely different performance characteristics under this or any other generic label. We might not necessarily go into the fine details of bonded copper pairs or GPONs versus other kinds of optical fibre distribution, but we’d at least have the decency to talk about actual upload and download speeds, about theoretical maximum speeds versus those that are likely to be obtained in real life, and maybe even about capabilities.

We might even discuss the relationship between upload speeds and download speeds, and the ability for individuals and businesses to be creators and participants in the digital economy and culture, rather than merely consumers.

It said much the same sort of thing back in June 2011 when I wrote The only NBN monopoly seems to be on ignorance. Again, my frustration stemmed from the simple fact that both major political parties, not just Turnbull’s Coalition, seem intent on keeping us ignorant instead of properly explaining their different approaches to what is, as we’re continually told, Australia’s biggest infrastructure project ever.

Now as it happens, Turnbull is delivering a keynote address at Kickstart Forum, the annual get-together of many of Australia’s IT journalists and the vendors who pay to be there, on Tuesday morning. This looks like the perfect opportunity to present some facts to an audience that’s equipped to understand and interpret them for the voters.

I think I’ve only spoken with Turnbull twice. Once was the podcast, and that was over the phone. The other was in the flesh, maybe a year or two beforehand, at some event at the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo, Sydney. But it was nothing more than a polite greeting as we were introduced.

Mr Turnbull, I very much look forward to meeting you again on Tuesday.

[Photo: Malcolm Turnbull as seen on ABC TV’s Lateline, 14 February 2013.]

Weekly Wrap 5

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets. I didn’t intend for this to be my only post this week, but that’s how it turns out sometimes.

Articles

Podcasts

Media Appearances

[Photo: Waiting for Conroy“, taken at Senator Stephen Conroy’s ministerial media conference at the offices of NBN Co Ltd, North Sydney, 8 July 2010.]

The 9pm Edict #6

The 9pm Edict

School anti-bullying programs make life difficult for the US Army. Senator Conroy illustrates the Rudd government’s non-commitment to transparent by not releasing the NBN report. And some weird-arsed stoush erupts between Australia and Encyclopaedia Dramatica.

So, it’s Friday night and The 9pm Edict is late. Do you care? Really? Here it is anyway.

You can listen to this episode below. But if you want them all, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

Play

For more information on what I discussed tonight, check out the Encyclopedia Dramatica article on “Aboriginal” and the story of the Australian Human Rights Commission action and ED‘s owner’s response; the Zen Pundit post on the US Army and Free Range Kids; and Senator Stephen Conroy on Lateline.

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

[Credits: The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]

Links for 19 March 2009 through 28 March 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 19 March 2009 through 29 March 2009, posted not-quite-automatically in a great lump for your weekend reading pleasure:

I really must think of a better way of doing this…