Thursday, July 20, 2017

Washington Free Beacon: U.S. Navy Tests World’s First Laser Weapons System

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U.S. Navy Tests World’s First Laser Weapons System
By: Jack Heretik,

The U.S. Navy recently tested the world's first-ever active laser weapons system, which is now deployed and ready for war.

The Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, is now deployed aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, where CNN was able to witness the system destroy a drone in flight and moving targets on the Persian Gulf.
Its cost per use is also quite impressive for such a revolutionary new weapon: approximately $1 per shot. The $40 million system requires electrical power and a three-man team.

The LaWS is also extremely accurate. The system can target a single component of an enemy target, such as a boat's engine, and make it catch fire so that the entire vessel does not have to be destroyed and the Navy can avoid collateral damage.

Wow. This is a game-changer weapon.

Sci-fi stories have been describing beam weapons for over 50 years and now we have a real one deployed and in use by the US Navy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Windows 10 disables ATA Secure Erase

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h/t MacInTouch

For those who aren't seriously into computer technology, there are technological issues with erasing an SSD.

With a hard drive, you can use all kinds of standard disk-erase utilities to write zeros to every block. If you're paranoid about leaving magnetic after-images, there are various algorithms for writing various patterns designed to obscure any magnetic residue of old files. They take a long time, but are generally considered secure enough for all but the most sensitive data (which should only be "erased" via physical destruction of the drive.)

With an SSD, however, erasure by overwriting new data is not effective. Tehnologies like wear leveling, garbage collection and TRIM make it difficult or impossible to know if data has truly been erased. Writing zeros to a logical block of data does not necessarily overwrite the flash memory containing the old data - it is more likely that the flash memory will be marked as "garbage" for collection (which will truly erase it) at some non-deterministic time in the future. That time might be quickly, or it might not be for days or even months, depending on the SSD controller's algorithm and the drive's usage pattern.

Mind you, this "garbage" data is not accessible using any software-accessible interface (SATA, SCSI, USB, etc.) The only way to read garbage data is to install special firmware into the SSD controller or to physically remove the chips. But both options are possible for someone willing to pay a data recovery company or some other similarly capable forensics lab.

Which is where the ATA secure erase command comes into play. The ATA specification (at the heart of all ATA and SATA devices) includes a command for explicitly and securely erasing a device. When supported on an SSD, it performs a flash-level erase on every single block, ensuring that no data will be available to recover.

And now, with this background material in mind, the linked MacInTouch posting now make sense. It would appear that the act of installing Windows 8 or 10 on an SSD involves writing some data to the drive that disables the secure erase command. Why they do this may be an interesting topic for discussion, but doesn't really matter if you've got a retired drive that you want to erase.

To get around this problem, you need to get a copy of the SSD manufacturer's drive utility. You can use this utility to reset the SSD's firmware, which will re-enable the secure erase command. Unfortunately, in order for this to work, you need the drive's PSID code - this is a secure ID designed to prevent malware from bypassing security features. Fortunately, most SSDs print the PSID on the drive's label. Unfortunately, if your label is removed or damaged, you may not be able to read it and there is usually no other way to get this number.

I suppose the important lesson here is that when you install a new SSD into a computer, photograph the cover to make a record of the PSID number. If you are concerned that a hacker might get this image, print a few copies and store them in a secure location (like a file cabinet) and then erase the image file.

If all this seems like too much, there's another alternative - use whole-drive disk encryption before you copy any data to the SSD. Later on, when it's time to retire the SSD, blow away the decryption key. A simple drive-erase (without decrypting it) will do it just fine. Or if you want to make it even simpler, change the drive's password to a long string of gibberish characters (30-50 characters should do nicely) and promptly forget what they are. Anybody who gets the drive in the future will not be able to access the data without this string, and it is highly unlikely that they will ever be able to provide it. Of course, you can also delete all the files and empty-trash before changing the string, to provide an additional level of protection.

Finally, you might want to encrypt the drive anyway. This way you will be protected in case the drive controller fails, since you won't be able to perform any kind of secure erase operation at that point, but your encrypted data will not be recoverable through forensic analysis without the decryption key.

Monday, July 17, 2017

MIT: Tinfoil hats make it easier for the government to scan your brain

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Study on the effect of tinfoil hats on blocking mind control satellites

In February 2005, some CSAIL graduate students "Published" a paper on the effect of tinfoil hats on blocking mind control satellites. They measured the attenuation of radio signals as a function of frequency and determined that certain frequencies which are reserved for government use are actually amplified by the tinfoil hats. Clearly the government must have started the tinfoil hat craze so it could more effectively spy on its citizens.

A full account of this experiment can be found here

Yes, this is a joke.

The interesting (and not necessarily funny) part is that one of the bands that are amplified (2.6GHz) is used by cell phones. If you are worried about cell phone radiation causing brain tumors, then you should probably avoid wearing any aluminum foil headgear.

Friday, July 14, 2017

War on "Medicad"?

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h/t Washington Free Beacon.

Apparently one of the "cost-effective ways for us to continue access to health care" is to slash by 50% spending on use of the letter "i" in promotional materials.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Washington Free Beacon: New York Times Falls for Parody North Korea Twitter Account

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New York Times Falls for Parody North Korea Twitter Account
BY: Alex Griswold.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that a statement from a parody North Korea Twitter account was an actual statement from the North Korean government.

The Times story on a joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea noted that "the North Korean government belittled the joint exercise as ‘demonstrating near total ignorance of ballistic science.'"

But that statement came from the parody @DPRK_News account, in what was evidently a satirical tweet.

I know this isn't the first time, and it won't be the last, but it seems significant to me. If the Times can't be bothered to fact-check something as trivial as this (to make sure a tweet claiming to be from the North Korean government actually is from them) then how can they be trusted with any other "facts" they report?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

$70 hackintosh outperforms new laptop

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Snazzy Labs builds a $70 hackintosh—or, as he calls it, crapintosh—computer for those who want a super tight budget PC build. Can a $70 hackintosh be any good? Can a cheap hackintosh outbench a MacBook Pro? Do Apple's iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro blow this 5-year-old computer into outer space or does the hackintosh give it a run for its money?

Fascinating. Scrounge used parts (government surplus, Craigslist, etc.) to assemble a PC for $70, hack macOS 10.12 "Sierra" onto it and find that it outperforms Apple's low-end laptops and is surprisingly good at just about everything other than high-end gaming.

Now, clearly, the pricing is not realistic. Used and surplus equipment is cheap because the seller's goal is to get rid of it, not to make a profit. And it is sold as-is with no warranty, support or anything else. A company like Apple selling new equipment with the same specs would have to charge a lot more, but it is still a fascinating experiment nonetheless.

Actually, it sounds like a fun hobby project for me if I can clear out some space in my office :-)

Friday, June 30, 2017

JapanSauce: Japan’s Cute Barricades

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Japan’s Cute Barricades
May 24, 2016

Japan is known for having many cute and cool things, but I was still surprised to learn that Japanese construction sites are now being guarded by Hello Kitty.

Click through to the main article to see lots of other cute Japanese safety barriers.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Circa: Did the FBI retaliate against Michael Flynn by launching Russia probe?

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Did the FBI retaliate against Michael Flynn by launching Russia probe?
by John Solomon and Sara Carter

The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.

Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.

The FBI sought to block Flynn’s support for the agent, asking a federal administrative law judge in May 2014 to keep Flynn and others from becoming a witness in her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) case, memos obtained by Circa show. Two years later, the FBI opened its inquiry of Flynn.

The EEOC case, which is still pending, was serious enough to require McCabe to submit to a sworn statement to investigators, the documents show.

The deputy director’s testimony provided some of the strongest evidence in the case of possible retaliation, because he admitted the FBI opened an internal investigation into Gritz’s personal conduct after learning the agent “had filed or intended to file” a sex discrimination complaint against her supervisors.

McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.

Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.

So now the truth starts to come out. The FBI director (formerly deputy director) was accused of sexual discrimination. Flynn wrote a memo supporting the accusation. The FBI retaliated by initiating investigations against both and by filing bogus criminal charges against Flynn.

And that's about it. Everything else we've been told for the past six months is just political grandstanding. Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Washington Free Beacon: Joy Behar Doesn’t Want Trump to Be Impeached Until Her Book Comes Out

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Joy Behar Doesn’t Want Trump to Be Impeached Until Her Book Comes Out
BY: Jack Heretik

Behar, who criticizes Trump and Republicans daily, has been vocally opposed to Trump and has wanted him to be impeached since he entered office.

"I don't want him to get impeached until after my book comes out," Behar said...

Always good to know that the TV personalities that shape American political thought have their priorities straight. Right, wrong, good, evil are all less important than cashing in on a book deal.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Washington Free Beacon: Canadian Sniper Takes Out ISIS Terrorist From Over 2 Miles Away

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Canadian Sniper Takes Out ISIS Terrorist From Over 2 Miles Away
BY: Stephen Gutowski

Sets new world record for longest confirmed kill

A Canadian sniper in Iraq took out an ISIS terrorist from more than 2 miles away, Canadian Armed Forces confirmed on Thursday.

"The Canadian Special Operations Command can confirm that a member of Joint Task Force 2 successfully hit a target at 3,540 metres," the forces told the Globe and Mail.
War stories are notoriously unreliable, but the Globe and Mail said its sources confirmed there is video evidence of the shot confirming it was made at 3,540 meters or about 2.1 miles.

All I can say is "Wow!".