Archive for the ‘Patents, IP, Privacy and More’ Category

Strange as it may seem, it does exist: an open-source motorcycle. At least, that’s what a company called Fictiv is telling us. Their name may not bode well in this context, but the company seems legit, going by their website. The blog post detailing their effort, “Open Source. Open road. Build your own fully customisable, street-legal motorcycle in a weekend“, is unfortunately rather skimpy on details.

The open-source bike on the open road

The bike does look good. I’m certainly not the only one who would like to know how it handles, what it costs, whether it can be done in a weekend, etc. If you have a more detailed report, let it know in the comments!


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Aral Balkan wrote about “Schnail Mail: free real mail for life!” more than a year ago. Now he calls the “business practices ” behind Schnail Mail “http://aralbalkan.com/notes/spyware-2.0“. Whether you agree 100% with him is not essential; you can’t deny that his reasoning is out of place in a time when everyone is taking about the NSA and Snowden and …

While you’re at it, check out the ind.ie website, where the products of the Indienet, which is part of Aral Bakan’s vision, come to life. I’m reading the Pulse documentation; I can totally see myself using this tool for peer-to-peer copying of files.

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Repost from Inessential.com:

” Were the National Security Agency an agency charged with the security of our nation, it would have reported the Heartbleed bug immediately instead of exploiting it.”

You may replace ‘NSA’ with another security service name if that suits you…

On a very, very,very related note,  Dave Winer writes:

“This is one of the reasons why the Internet of Things hype is so scary. Right now, in 2014, our entire financial system is accessible through a compromised system. That’s bad enough. But what happens when our bodies are wired to the net. And our cars, homes, everything. It’s great to think about when everything is working and everyone plays nice. But if you know anything about software and networks you know that’s a naive dream.”

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If you still think that the patent system (be it in the US or in Europe) is benefitting society (or at least the economy), think again after reading this hard proof:

Turns out there is a very real, and very negative, correlation between patent troll lawsuits and the venture capital funding that startups rely on. A just-released study [PDF] by Catherine Tucker, a professor of marketing at MIT’s Sloan School of Business, finds that over the last five years, VC investment “would have likely been $21.772 billion higher… but for litigation brought by frequent litigators.”


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Mat Honan is, as you all know (of course), the author whose online presence as well as a large part of his private digital assets were destroyed by hackers, just because they wanted his Twitter account and wreak havoc (he wrote about this in the article “How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking“).

Click the image to see the complete "joke"...

Click the image to see the complete “joke”…

Six months later, Mat returned to the subject and asked us to “Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore“. His conclusion then was very explicit: passwords are not a good way to protect your data.

We could ban dumb passwords and discourage reuse. We could train people to outsmart phishing attempts. (Just look closely at the URL of any site that asks for a password.) We could use antivirus software to root out malware.

But we’d be left with the weakest link of all: human memory. Passwords need to be hard in order not to be routinely cracked or guessed. So if your password is any good at all, there’s a very good chance you’ll forget it—especially if you follow the prevailing wisdom and don’t write it down. Because of that, every password-based system needs a mechanism to reset your account…

And that means:

The age of the password has come to an end; we just haven’t realized it yet. And no one has figured out what will take its place. What we can say for sure is this: Access to our data can no longer hinge on secrets—a string of characters, 10 strings of characters, the answers to 50 questions—that only we’re supposed to know.

I’m not so sure about his conclusion. After all, the real problem isn’t the form of the password or key. The core of the problem is man and her/his “gullibility”; “social engineering” is what the hackers are using as their main weapon. So the question is: how can we avoid that reliance on human memory, as long as we have no replacement for passwords?

Should the operating systems of our devices take a (much) larger share of the memory burden? Do we need small or big applications, in combination with some kind of hardware, to help us? Or perhaps we could use a standalone “passphrase device” with a standardized interface to any relevant device, like the remote “key” that operates almost any modern car? Or are biometric solutions the way of the future?

I’m guessing here, but I have a hunch that passwords aren’t exactly going away soon.

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I’m not a mathematician, let alone a cryptographer, but I do care about cryptography as a tool. Cryptography – good cryptography – is a tool to help me keep my passwords private, a tool to protect my communications with my bank and other service providers on the Internet, a tool to secure my credit card, etc.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

So from time to time I read a bit about the current state of the field, in an attempt to understand it better and to avoid making all too obvious mistakes. Here are a few of my latest reads (you’ll like them, even if you don’t know much about advanced math):

And while you’re at it, re-read Bruce Schneier’s advice on ‘Choosing Secure Passwords‘…

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ReadWriteWeb says:

If you’re a WhatsApp user who wants to break up with Facebook, or someone looking for a great new messaging application, we’ve put together a list of mobile messaging apps you should try…

Photo by Ian Broyles (Flickr)

Photo by Ian Broyles (Flickr)

They mention the following apps/systems: Telegram, Wickr, Line, Kik and Tango. “All these applications provide messaging services that rival WhatsApp, without the commitment to Facebook services, meaning you’re not turning over your mobile phone book and payment information to the social network in exchange for an efficient messaging service…” – and on top of that, the first two offer serious encryption of your messages. Wickr especially prides itself on its capacity to allow its users to “communicate safely, securely, anonymously — and easily“.

I’m sure there are more options to be found – try ’em out and tell the world what you think about them!

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