The Slippery Slope of Encryption and Terrorism

encryption photoThis is really bugging me: Two nights in a row, on major news outlets reporting on the horrific attack on Paris, I have heard the reporters say things like, “the terrorists used encryption technology to ‘go dark’.”

I heard that on CBS evening news tonight (slightly paraphrased).

Last night on CNN, Poppy Sanchez (or whatever her name is) said that encryption was used to hide all of their communications, and that it was very concerning.

They are alluding to encryption as a bad thing because the terrorists used it to coordinate their attacks. They may have used automobiles too, but they didn’t seem concerned about that.

Why this attention to encryption irks me is because there has been a concerted effort by governments of the world (ours in the forefront) to get major tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, more) to build so-called “backdoors” into encryption technology.

That means that if you send an encrypted message to someone, otherwise unreadable by anyone except the person you sent it to, it can still be read through this “backdoor” by the governments who are in cahoots with the tech companies, allegedly to be able to monitor communications amongst the bad guys.

You’d think that’s a good idea, right? Well, it’s been proven over and over again that backdoors get found and exploited by people who are not supposed to find them.

That is what hackers do, for better or for worse, and it’s usually for the better. You heard me correctly. Hackers find exploits and tell people about them so that they get fixed, and make everyone safer.

That is what my day job involves, actually. Sure, there are evil hackers who like to exploit these things for nefarious purposes, but that’s why we continue to find vulnerabilities and fix them.

The news outlets are pushing this idea that encryption is some dark arts majik that terrorists are using, while no one else would ever dare need such a thing. I worry that this will give the general public the wrong idea: that encryption = terrorism, so we need to do something about it.

What better time to push this idea than after a terrible tragedy?

I will link to my favorite article about encryption. It’s short, and it makes sense, and you should read it. For now, a quote:

Today, we are seeing government pushback against encryption. Many countries, from States like China and Russia to more democratic governments like the United States and the United Kingdom, are either talking about or implementing policies that limit strong encryption. This is dangerous, because it’s technically impossible, and the attempt will cause incredible damage to the security of the Internet.

–Bruce Schneier, in Why We Encrypt


Edit (9:4pm): I missed the story circulating about this exact topic, confirming everything above.

Photos by Encryptomatic,

Gluten Deprivation Project: Day 17

gluten photoI know at least one of you is eagerly waiting, with baited breath, on the edge of your seat, for the latest goings on of my endeavor into the land of the glutenless. I haven’t posted any updates on this since what…day two? Wow. Sorry about that. I am on day 17 now!

The struggle has been real, yo. On day 3, I came down with a nasty cold that laid me out for a few days. Still, I gluten-freed my way through it. However, that was right when Rachael came down with the same thing. Not a good introduction to a potential lifestyle change, but we survived, looking forward to the positive changes to come.

The Positives

I will recap the positives first. We found that Asheville has a lot to offer the gluten-freers of the world. Not only do the grocery stores help out with options and signage (Earth Fare in particular, for most options in one place, Ingles for signage), there are restaurants that have large amounts of GF options on the menu. One in particular, King Daddy’s Chicken and Waffles, even has a separate GF frier. We’ve been back twice to get the hankering for fried food satisfied.

After too many trips to the grocery store, we finally found some things that were not too bad, including the Udi’s pizzas, Glutenfreeda burritos, and Glutina crackers.

Rachael also came up with some good recipes that we tried. I got into weekend omelette making as well. Hash browns and bacon pulled me through.

As for beers, I found that Omission was the best option for something close to a decent IPA. My GF work buddy informed me PBR is close enough to GF to count too (way under 20 parts per million). Still, being in Beer City, USA, I have missed my favorite craft brews for sure. (Foreshadowing: Dale and Shiva, I’m coming home!)

Other positives include:

  • I am pooping regularly, like a champ (probably because I’ve been eating a lot of pumpkin and sesame seeds as snacks).
  • Uh, that is all.

Which brings me to…

The Negatives

I have found myself wanting to cave on this effort more than once. The main reasons I got into this were to see if all the benefits I’ve heard about going gluten free would work for me. I was hoping to lose a few pounds, see some improved skin/complexion, feel less fatigued, and most importantly, see a reduction in arthritic symptoms I tend to have in my hands and wrists.

Sadly, none of those things have shown any sign of coming to fruition.

So, I have decided that this blog update will also serve as my official notice that I am going back to gluten! I am definitely more aware of how much gluten I was used to in my life before this effort, but I see no reason to avoid it any longer — with the exception being overly-processed white-bready types of things. Those, I will stay away from as much as possible. It will be my homage to the Great Gluten Deprivation Project of 2015.

Let’s go have a beer and a burger!

Photo by Whatsername?

Looks Like It Was Fun

Some picks of my  boys’ spring break trip up north.

Serious Vulnerability in WordPress Jetpack Plugin

Get your updates going as soon as possible, as this looks pretty serious!

This is a bad bug, and Jetpack is one of the most widely used plugins in the WordPress world. We have been working closely with the WordPress security team, which has pushed updates to every version of the plugin since 1.9 through core’s auto-update system. We have also coordinated with a number of hosts and network providers to install network-wide blocks to mitigate the impact of this vulnerability, but the only sure fix is updating the plugin.

So not only is that an issue, but if you haven’t done your part in protecting yourself from this week’s HeartBleed bug, which has scared the bejeezus out of the entire Internet, get yourself fixed up ASAP!

If you are lucky enough to have been using LastPass to manage your passwords, log in there and do a Security Check to find out which websites you frequent may be vulnerable to that bug. LastPass will also help you quickly change passwords as needed.

Good luck, citizens!


Gigabit Internet Coming to Asheville Soon

This is what the Internet looks like as it travels through the tubes.

You read that right!  According to the WRAL “Techwire,” Raleigh and Asheville will soon be getting blazing fast gigabit Internet, well ahead of Google Fiber reaching our neck of the woods.

That’s about 1000 times faster than your average Charter or Comcast cable Internet service. You can download an entire HD movie in roughly 30 seconds. Believe it or not, this will bring us more in line with the rest of the planet, where speeds have far surpassed those in the US in recent years.

When Does it Happen?

“Asheville will receive service about the same time as Raleigh, according to RST Fiber co-founder and CEO Dan Limerick.”

According to the article, that will be within 60 days or so.

The part about a-la-carte TV service sounded appealing to me as well. Imagine only paying for the channels you want. I’ve been a proponent of this concept for years. It remains to be seen how this will actually work, but there is hope.

This is exciting news!