The CSS Blog Network

Review – Cybersecurity and Cyberwar

National Security Agency headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland

National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photo: National Security Agency/Wikimedia Commons.

Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know
By: P. W. Singer and Allan Friedman
New York: Oxford University Press, 2014

The year 2013 saw a number of headline news stories featuring a variety of different actors and sectors, but all with their roots in the same place: the cyber world. Edward Snowden disclosed a series of classified NSA documents detailing the United States’ global surveillance apparatus, including Internet surveillance programs like PRISM. The US federal government launched the website healthcare.gov to facilitate enrollment in health care exchanges, and an acting assistant secretary of Homeland Security testified before congress in November that the site experienced a series of attempted hacks. Conspirators who hacked into the systems of Nasdaq, Visa, and J.C. Penney and other major companies were subsequently charged in relation to a $45 million bank heist that involved stolen account information. A group supporting Syria’s Assad regime hacked the Associated Press’ Twitter account, tweeting (falsely) that President Obama had been injured in White House explosions. And a report released by the US government reported that China’s People’s Liberation Army had carried out cyber attacks on US corporations. » More

Twitter: A Scientific Treasure Trove

Image: Jeffery Turner/flickr

The internet and the web have changed the way we do business, learn, communicate, live and even think – a development apparent to many people. What is not so well known is that the internet has also started to change the scientific landscape in various – arguably profound – respects.

Rather than outline all these changes, I’m going to elaborate on one specific issue — one which really stands out, since it provides us with the chance to undertake completely novel scientific activity: “big data”. The term “big data” refers to very large sets – containing gigabytes of data and beyond – which can be accumulated from all over the internet, be it via online news, forum discussions, Youtube comments, product reviews, blog posts or social media traffic.

A very interesting aspect of this kind of data is that it is social data, produced by humans using the web as their medium of communication. It is the intrinsic accessibility and openness of the web that is essential in this respect: These qualities not only allow others to read, comment, reply or share what you write, post or upload – they also allow researchers to take a deeper look at what is actually ‘going on’. Often referred to as “Computational Social Science”, it is a newly emerging field with the possibility of substantially increasing and altering our understanding of how societies work. » More

Bitcoin, Ripples, and Reality

Many people don't value a currency operating outside the traditional financial system. Photo: Zach Copley/flickr

Back in July 2011 we blogged about Bitcoin, the world’s first digitalized, crypto-currency. At the time, many thought Bitcoin a flash in the pan, attracting attention simply because it was still relatively new and exciting – but imagined interest would soon wear off. After three years however, Bitcoin doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Our last post touched upon Bitcoin’s use for undertaking illicit activities and the lack of institutional involvement. I’m going to revisit these themes and also discuss Ripple – the next currency you’ve never heard of.

Due to the increased anonymity associated with transactions undertaken using Bitcoin, there has been a fear that illegal acts are being made a lot easier, and a lot safer to conduct. A recent article for PCPro claimed that Bitcoin “is now the currency of choice for the discerning cybercriminal.” This image problem has not been helped by articles associating bitcoins with Silk Road, an online ‘underground’ marketplace (accessible only via Tor) where all kinds of illicit goods may be purchased – weaponry, forgeries and drugs – and where the digital currency is the only accepted method of payment. This undoubtedly sullies Bitcoin’s reputation, and to a disproportionate degree: The Internet itself has facilitated commerce, and necessarily the crime which accompanies any marketplace. But security agencies can be just as resourceful as criminals, developing network analysis techniques based on statistical methodologies to detect suspicious transaction flows. Rather than a destructive force, the appearance of Bitcoin and its use for ‘bad’ as well as ‘good’ is simply another reiteration of the cat-and-mouse game played out every day between criminals and the law. » More

The New Passive Activism?

Revolution at the click of a mouse? Photo: Brian Leadingham/flickr


  “Dear incredible Avaazers,
Just a few hours ago, our community reached 10 million people!”

Last week’s announcement by Avaaz, an online pressure group, speaks volumes for the continued enthusiasm for a form of political action that requires little more than a couple of mouse clicks. Once you’ve registered on a site like Avaaz, all you need to do to support a cause is enter your email address and click a button – or two, if you want to advertise your deed on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. » More

Would You Download a Weapon?

AR-15 lower receiver and ‘print file’. Images: Wikimedia Commons, Thingiverse

 

3-D printing, while unknown to most of the public, has been around for quite a while. Its industrial applications range from rapid prototyping and archaeological reconstructions to medical uses in implant technology and custom-fitted hearing aids. Now, the technology is becoming affordable for the average consumer: while an industrial-strength 3-D printer that can use materials like bronze-infused steel, or even titanium, still costs more than $10,000, desktop machines for printing hard plastics are being sold in kits available for little over $1000. » More

Page 1 of 5