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Category: General

O, Death

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

-Aaron Freeman.

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Nature Vs Nurture: Are Criminals Born or Made?

The question ‘are criminals born or made’ is a tricky one. As with anything when it comes to understanding something as complex as human beings, it doesn’t have a simple answer. But it’s a fascinating idea to look at, to understand what impact both nature and nurture have on us as humans and our personalities. When you think about notorious criminals and evil people in society, Hitler, Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy to name a few, it’s easy to think that they were surely born ‘different’ to me and you and had something in them, to begin with to make them commit the atrocities they did. But how true is this?

‘Crime’ Is a Social Construct

When we’re trying to work out if crime is driven by nature or nurture, we firstly need to understand what crime is. It’s defined as an ‘action or omission which can be punished by law,’ but this itself is tricky. It means that the notion of ‘crime’ is a completely social construct- it’s us as humans who lay down the law of what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to our behaviors. Think about it, there is no ‘crime’ in the animal kingdom. With this being said, it could be argued that crime or criminals do not exist, it’s simply other humans who label them as such.

Biology of Risk and Violence

One of the reasons people may be naturally more prone to committing crime, particularly those involving a lot of risks or with violence is due to their genetic makeup. Both of these things can be noted in many people with high levels of testosterone. This is likely to be due to the way testosterone can affect dopamine levels, those with high levels of the hormone feel good when engaging in this kind of activity due to the way the brain’s reward system works. This could be why there are so many higher cases of male crime than female for violence or risk, any criminal or DUI lawyer would be able to confirm that most (but not all) cases they deal with are by men. So while crime may be a social construct, there is definitely a genetic/ biological element involved when it comes to defining some criminals.

Cognitive and Social Influences

Early influences can dramatically shape an individual’s personality, their outlook and can be a predictor for later behavior. Things like child abuse for example can cause depression, hopelessness and a negative self-view later in life. Social influences like bullying or very stressful situations like homelessness, death of parents, terror or other factors can do the same. Combined with other factors, these things could increase the chances of committing crime in some individuals.

The real answer to whether criminals are born or made? It’s a bit of both. Most of the time, people can have a predisposition towards criminal behavior due to their genetic makeup. But it’s opportunity in the environment that causes them to act on this. With this in mind, the best way to prevent people from committing crime in the first place is by providing better opportunities, things for young people to do and education which can stop them from swaying in this direction.

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The NSA Hacks System Administrators

This article reveals that the people holding the keys are often the juiciest targets, regardless of their innocence, as they are a means to and end. However, perhaps the most interesting part of the article, Inside the NSA’s Secret Efforts to Hunt and Hack System Administrators, is this:

Once the agency believes it has identified a sys admin’s personal accounts, according to the posts, it can target them with its so-called QUANTUM hacking techniques. The Snowden files reveal that the QUANTUM methods have been used to secretly inject surveillance malware into a Facebook page by sending malicious NSA data packets that appear to originate from a genuine Facebook server. This method tricks a target’s computer into accepting the malicious packets, allowing the NSA to infect the targeted computer with a malware “implant” and gain unfettered access to the data stored on its hard drive.

Looks like I chose a good week to cancel my Facebook account 😉

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Cracking Password-Protected MS Office Files

Disclaimer: Don’t do this unless it’s for legitimate reasons, such as the one outlined below.

At work, I recently came across the need to crack a handful of MS Office files that someone had password protected. Of course, that person was no longer around, so the person who took over needed to figure out how to access these documents, and they asked the Security team for help.

My first instinct turned out to be the correct one: use John the Ripper on Kali 2.

The main issue I faced was extracting the password hash from the Office docs in question so that John The Ripper could have something to run against. Turns out there is a handy python script you can use that does exactly this: office2john.py (https://github.com/kholia/RC4-40-brute-office)

Instructions

Download office2john.py, then make it executable.

Now you can use this tool to extract the hash from the Office document, and save it to a text file:

Now check out the contents of the hash file if you want:

All you need at this point is a good password list to run through John the Ripper, and a few options to run it with. The sqlmap.txt file that comes with Kali2 is a good candidate:

Here’s the full command:

Options:
–session=docx – This is the name of this session. Could be anything, really.
–rules – Enables word mangling on the defined wordlist
–wordlist – Path to the word list you are running this against

Now, sit back and wait for John to do its thing.

PDFs

Just use pdfcrack in Kali.

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