Category: WTF

12 million routers may not have been patched for Misfortune Cookie

Researchers at the security software company Check Point say they’ve discovered a serious vulnerability lurking inside the routers and modems used to deliver Internet connectivity to 12 million homes and small businesses around the world, and it’s going to be a complicated matter to fix it.

Dubbed the Misfortune Cookie, the weakness is present in cable and DSL modems from well-known manufacturers like D-Link, Huawei and ZTE, and could allow a malicious hacker to hijack them and attack connected computers, phones and tablets. An attacker exploiting Misfortune Cookie could also monitor a vulnerable Internet connection, stealing passwords, business data or other information. Check Point didn’t disclose how an attack might be carried out. Spokespeople for D-Link, Huawei and ZTE had no immediate comment on the vulnerability.

In an interview with Re/code, Shahar Tal, a researcher at Israel-based Check Point, said the company traced the vulnerability to a programming error made in 2002. That error originated with Allegro Software, the Massachusetts-based developer of RomPager, which unwittingly introduced it into the widely used embedded Web server…

The list of devices affected by Misfortune Cookie includes some 200 products from more than 20 companies. All told there are more than 12 million devices with the vulnerability in use today, including some that were manufactured as recently as this year. And yet to date, no real-world attacks using Misfortune Cookie have been detected.

Reached for comment, Allegro Software downplayed the severity of the vulnerability and its responsibility for it. “It’s a 12-year-old bug that was fixed nine years ago,” said CEO Bob Van Andel. He conceded, however, that many of Allegro’s customers haven’t bothered to install the code that protects RomPager against Misfortune Cookie — nor can the company force them to do so.

So, if you suspect your router or modem has the Misfortune Cookie – Tal suggests calling the manufacturer or the company that provided the equipment. See if they’re one of the bright ones that actually keeps up with patches. Of course, if that was true you would have already received notice of the update.

Right?

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Who is most likely to take truly idiotic risks and lose their lives?

Every year, a dozen or so people receive a Darwin Award. In the words of the award committee, “Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”

Their stories — though tragic — are often criminal, and will stretch your understanding of just how idiotic humans can be.

Take, for instance, the South Carolina man who spray-painted his face gold to disguise himself while robbing a Sprint store, then asphyxiated from the fumes. Or the pair of Belgian bank robbers who attempted to use dynamite to break open an ATM, but ended up demolishing the entire building, burying themselves in debris, and dying.

Recently, a group of British researchers decided to analyze the data provided by the Darwin Awards as a way of finding out whether men are more likely to engage in foolishly risky behavior than women — as has previously been indicated by studies of hospital records and financial risk-taking.

Their finding, published…in the British Medical Journal, isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s still pretty jarring: 88.7 percent of the Darwin Awards winners were male…

The researchers note that there could theoretically be some selection bias at play, and that the disparity might also just reflect known differences in rates of crime and alcohol consumption between men and women.

Still, the lesson here is clear: men are much, much more likely to take truly idiotic risks that cost their lives.

I’m not surprised. Are you?

Patent Office rolls over for the Morality Police — No balls at all!

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The Norwegian manufacturers of Comfyballs underwear said the U.S. patent office told them the brand name is too “vulgar” to trademark.

Company founder Anders Selvig said officials filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this year with an aim toward bringing the products to the North American market, but the office’s reply said the name was too “vulgar” to trademark.

“The mark does not create a double entendre or other idiomatic expression… When used in this way, the word ‘balls’ has an offensive meaning,” the office said in its reply to Comfyballs.

The ruling came after lobbying against the brand by One Million Moms, a wing of the American Family Association aimed at fighting “indecency…”

Selvig called on the patent office to review its guidelines.

“The trademarks ‘Nice Balls’ and ‘I love my balls’ have recently both been approved by the USPTO,” Selvig told The Telegraph. “Luckily, Europeans have a softer view on what is deemed to be vulgar and the European Union allowed Comfyballs to trademark without hassle earlier this year.”

Comfyballs is named for its “PackageFront technology,” which the company says creates “ultimate comfort by reducing heat transfer and restricting movement.”

If you thought the Christian Taliban was going to mellow out anytime soon – have another think. With a Republican-controlled Congress we will be seeing support for the Morality Police in every possible form for the next couple of years.

Don’t be surprised if they bring back the stocks and the mandatory wearing of Scarlet Letters.

Man stopped for walking while Black – and he had his hands in his pockets

The temperature was 33° Thanksgiving afternoon in Pontiac, Michigan. A Black man was seen walking down the sidewalk in a residential neighborhood with [gasp] his hands in his pockets. It was snowing lightly.

So, a cop stopped him to question him. I’m certain every idjit in the country who thinks we live in a post-racial society doesn’t think this is profiling. It is exactly profiling.

Fortunately for Brian McKean, the cop who stopped him – because that was what he was told to do no doubt – appeared to understand how stupid and racist the whole thing looked.

Brian McKeen was pissed off and told the cop so. The cop handled it OK. Brian hauled out his cellphone and recorded the cop asking him stupid questions. The cop got out his own iPhone and recorded Brian – while he asked his stupid questions.

Creepy journal accepts bogus study requesting removal from mailing list

An open-access “predatory” academic journal has accepted a bogus research paper submitted by an Australian computer scientist titled Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List.

The paper, originally written by American researchers David Mazières and Eddie Kohle in 2005, consisted of the title’s seven words repeated over and over again. It also featured helpful diagrams.

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Dr Peter Vamplew, a lecturer and researcher in computer science at Federation University in Victoria, submitted the paper to the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology earlier this year after receiving dozens of unsolicited emails from the publication and other journals of dubious repute.

“There’s been this move to open-access publishing which has often meant essentially a user-pays system,” Vamplew said. “So you pay to have the paper published and it’s available to the public for free.”

An academic librarian at the University of Colorado, Jeffrey Beall, told Nature magazine last year that up to 10% of open-access journals were exploiting the model by charging a fee to proofread, peer-review and edit a research paper without actually carrying out the work.

“They’re predatory journals, preying on young, inexperienced researchers who unwittingly don’t realise they’re of questionable quality,” Vamplew said.

Weeks later he received good news: “It was accepted for publication. I pretty much fell off my chair.”

BTW, they still haven’t taken him off their mailing list – even with the event going viral in Australia and elsewhere.

Want to help poor kids succeed: make them actually go to school

Here’s a deceptively simple way to close part of the achievement gap between poor and wealthy students: make sure that poor students are in school as much as their richer peers.

A recent study found that absentee rates could explain up to 25 percent of difference in math scores between low-income students and less disadvantaged ones. Getting kids to come to school seems like an obvious way to help them score better on tests and eventually graduate. But it’s often overlooked in favor of more complicated, more controversial, and more interesting interventions. Here’s why attendance is incredibly important, and why it’s a tough problem to solve.

Going to school is required by law, and studies tend to assume that schools are following through. Schools aren’t required to report how many students are chronically absent, so very little national data exists on how often students miss school. Even the definition “chronically absent” varies, although the generally accepted definition is around 20 days of school per year…

Missing school means they fall even farther behind. Children who are chronically absent in preschool and kindergarten are more likely to be held back in the third grade. As early as sixth grade, whether a child is going to school is a good indicator for whether she’ll ever graduate high school.

The opportunism of New Mexico politicians is almost beyond comprehension. When it became obvious kids were falling behind – checking grades, accomplishments by 3rd grade, 6th grade – the solution that guaranteed the most votes for state legislators is called the social pass. If the school determines a child’s grades are so poor they shouldn’t be passed along to the next grade – that kid’s parents can demand a social pass and the child moves along to the next grade with their classmates – so their feelings aren’t hurt.

K-12 attendance can even predict college graduation rates: Johns Hopkins cites a study in Rhode Island found students who were chronically absent in high school, but still managed to graduate and enroll in college, were more likely to drop out during their freshman year than students with regular attendance records.

RTFA. Lots more of the same examined from different perspectives. My BITD look doesn’t surprise me because I saw examples of this laissez-faire crap starting up in the 1950’s into the 1960’s. Students graduating high school who were functional illiterates. They didn’t have to study literature, build reading skills, learning skills, if they didn’t feel like it. That was sufficient reason.

Just walk that along each decade through attendance, any other standards you care to examine.

Billionaires Party(s) retain control of Congress

A new poll indicates that billionaires are likely to retain control of the United States government.

The poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota’s Opinion Research Institute, shows that the proxy candidates of billionaires are likely to win ninety-eight per cent of…Tuesday’s races, with the remaining two per cent leaning billionaire.

Although the poll indicates that some races are still “too close to call,” the fact that billionaires funded candidates on both sides puts the races safely in their column.

Davis Logsdon, who supervised the poll for the University of Minnesota, said that…Tuesday should be “a big night for oligarchs” and that both houses of Congress can be expected to grovel at the feet of their money-gushing paymasters for at least the next two years.

Calling the billionaires’ upcoming electoral romp “historic,” Logsdon said, “We have not seen the super-rich maintain such a vise-like grip on the government since the days immediately preceding the French Revolution.”

I think most folks who wander by this blog would be hard-pressed to consider this piece to be satire. I think it’s as accurate as anything available through the whole bloody election cycle.

Let’s save it for 2016.

The psychology of irrational fear

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Last week Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, laid out the threat of Ebola in America thusly, to CNN: “If someone has Ebola at a cocktail party, they’re contagious and you can catch it from them.”

That statement is, of course, not true, unless the person is symptomatic, in which case he or she would not be up for hummus and chardonnay. But it’s not as untrue as what Georgia Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, also a medical doctor, wrote to the CDC:

“Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus, and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.”

If Gingrey were to consult a map, he might be relieved to find that West Africa is several thousand miles away from the U.S.-Mexico border. And that, Ebola being what it is, someone in the throes of the hemorrhagic fever would be unlikely to muster the strength to fly to Mexico and then sprint through the South Texas desert…

It’s a big time of the year for fear. Not only is it Halloween, a holiday more recently known for sexy hamburgers but originally famous for its spookiness, but also because the U.S. has had four (now one) cases of Ebola diagnosed on its soil. Maybe it’s the combination of the two that helps explain the abundance of ridiculous statements like the above in recent weeks…

Of course, Ebola is partly a stand-in for our ongoing collective anxieties, ever simmering and child-leash-purchase inducing. In calmer times, we might instead be wringing our hands over gluten, swine flu, or that illegal immigrants are coming here to “steal our jobs.”

A recent survey from Chapman University found that Americans are most afraid of walking alone at night, identity theft, safety on the Internet, becoming the victim of a mass shooting, and having to speak in public.

The study also found that Democrats were most likely to be worried about personal safety, pollution, and man-made disasters. Republicans, meanwhile, had the highest levels of fear about the government, immigrants, and “today’s youth.” It also found that having a low level of education or watching talk- or true-crime TV was associated with harboring the most types of fear. Despite the fact that crime rates have decreased over the past 20 years, most Americans, the survey found, think all types of crime have become more prevalent…

RTFA. A compendium of silliness we get to view every day of our lives in what is reputed to be the leading modern nation on this planet. I’m more certain of the silliness than the leadership part.

Thanks, Mike