Who hacked the NSA?

Last week, a group called the “Shadow Brokers” stole 234 megabytes of data from the National Security Agency. The leak included information about the cyberweapons the NSA uses to hack suspects and enemies, and a tracking code that reveals the fingerprints of the NSA’s malicious software.

But, before we can understand the significance of the leak, the mystery behind the identity of the Shadow Brokers, an eight-foot-tall alien, and the diplomatic chess game surrounding it all, we have to start with a report released in 2015.

Last year, the cybersecurity research organization Kaspersky Lab cataloged the most advanced and far-reaching hacking operation ever exposed. The perpetrators, known as the Equation Group, had established hundreds of backdoors in the governments of Russia, China, India, Iraq, and Iran, Britain, Mexico, and France. Forty-two countries in all had been penetrated. The Equation Group had had a penchant for physical attacks, too, intercepting shipments of hardware by IT companies like Fortinet, TopSec, Cisco, and Juniper, whose technologies form the backbone of much of the globe’s cybersecurity infrastructure.

By the time Kapersky pegged the Equation Group as a branch of the NSA’s preemptive hacking task force, TAO, the Equation Group had stealthily compiled an extensive network of backdoors into much of the world’s cyberinfrastructure over the course of 14 years. As an anonymous former TAO member put it for the Washington Post, their files are “the keys to the kingdom.”…

And it’s those files which are being leaked by the Shadow Brokers

Sensitive NSA information is usually stored on air-gapped networks — networks not connected to the Internet. Thanks to that and other security measures, they’re a pain to crack. Humans, however, are easy access points, and as Edward Snowden proved, someone with inside access and a flash drive can bypass such systems…

In retaliation to the proposal of sanctions, this leak embarrasses the NSA, exposes their backdoors into more Cisco and Fortinet infrastructure, and says, as Snowden puts it:

In other words, “back off, because we can show where your fingerprints have been.” And with many of the files dating back to 2013, the Shadow Brokers have been sitting on those fingerprints for some time.

We’re supposed to believe promises from the Liberal president and spineless Congress-critters approved by the NSA to publicly act like judges of the NSA. We’re supposed to believe the backdoors into allies and opponents alike – revealed by Edward Snowden – are all gone and sealed over with smiley faces. The same goes for domestic privacy blessed by our courageous FBI/DOJ squeakers.

Ed Snowden doesn’t believe that. Lots of geeks don’t believe that. I don’t believe that.

Marine heatwaves are causing unprecedented climate chaos

Oz mangrove die-off
Click to enlargeNorm Duke/James Cook University

Mangrove die-off from diminished rainfall, increasing temperatures – Australia

First seabirds started falling out of the sky, washing up on beaches from California to Canada…Then emaciated and dehydrated sea lion pups began showing up, stranded and on the brink of death…A surge in dead whales was reported in the same region, and that was followed by the largest toxic algal bloom in history seen along the Californian coast. Mixed among all that there were population booms of several marine species that normally aren’t seen surging in the same year.

Plague, famine, pestilence and death was sweeping the northern Pacific Ocean between 2014 and 2015.

This chaos was caused by a single massive heatwave, unlike anything ever seen before. But it was not the sort of heatwave we are used to thinking about, where the air gets thick with warmth. This occurred in the ocean, where the effects are normally hidden from view.

Nicknamed “the blob”, it was arguably the biggest marine heatwave ever seen. It may have been the worst but wide-scale disruption from marine heatwaves is increasingly being seen all around the globe, with regions such as Australia seemingly being hit with more than their fair share…

It was in the study of a marine heatwave in south-west Australia that the term was coined just five years ago. In a report that still used the term “marine heatwave” in scare quotes, scientists from the West Australian department of fisheries found the heatwave off the state’s coast was “a major temperature anomaly superimposed on the underlying long-term ocean-warming trend”.

That year, the researchers found, Western Australia had an unprecedented surge of hot water along its coast. Surface temperatures were up to 5C higher than the usual seasonal temperature. The pool of warm water stretched more than 1,500km from Ningaloo to the southern tip of the continent at Cape Leeuwin, and it extended more than 200km offshore. Unlike a terrestrial heatwave that will normally last a couple of weeks at most, this persisted for more than 10 weeks.

…Five years later the full impact of that marine heatwave have are beginning to be more fully understood.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – still hasn’t been through a complete gamut of peer review – but, keep your brain cells up-to-date on some of the latest findings on climate change. You need to know especially since many of our politicians fear that happening.

Scientific American slams Donald Trump in op-ed

It’s not just disillusioned Republican lawmakers who are coming out against Donald Trump…Scientific American, the popular science magazine, has published an op-ed denouncing the GOP presidential nominee’s stances on a variety of science-related issues.

When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up.

The magazine also takes to task a political system in which it says facts, scientific and otherwise, “have become an undervalued commodity” and in which hostility to science can be found on both sides of the political spectrum. Those are relatively old gripes, but they’ve taken on new resonance this election season.

Science has not played nearly as prominent a role as it should in informing debates over the labeling of genetically modified foods, end of life care and energy policy, among many issues.

The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain.

There’s more to come from Scientific American as the US presidential election unfolds, the publication says. “In October, as we did four years previously, we will assemble answers from the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees on the public policy questions that touch on science, technology and public health and then publish them online.”

I’ll second that emotion.