Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Throw-away Society?

Scrapbook #4: Throw-away society?

PDF of the same: 

Summary of article:

Sweden is again leading the way with progressive policy by offering tax breaks to its citizens on the repair of their used or broken items, thus incentivizing their reducing waste by precluding the repair's prohibitively costing the near full price it often otherwise would to fix.  

Reason article was selected:

Do we as a society behave unethically by replacing and throwing away our items, and, specifically, our technology, too often and soon?  Should our government enact progressive taxation so as to, as Sweden’s finance and consumption minister Per Bolund describes it in the article, 'nudge' consumers to make right decisions for the sake of the health of our planet?

Personal/social values at stake:

While it's unethical to be wasteful, and I am a big proponent of repairing many items, certainly those that were ideally of high quality to begin with, the nature of technology is specifically not newfangled, but, rather, constantly innovative and progressive.  Therefore, technology's rapid development makes it an exception to this rule.  Users greatly benefit from the frequent replacement of their devices after they become outdated within just a couple of years.  Moore's law, which refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965, is that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits doubles every year, as they have since their invention.

Yet, then again, while Moore's law predicts that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future, some say it will end in 2020 or so.  And, even now, in contradistinction to just a few years ago, I can note that many I know are fatigued with the thought of upgrading their iPhones, as the latest generation (seven) fails to pique interest.  More and more are opting to replace a broken screen, for example, rather than the entire device.  Similarly, for another example, the MacBooks have been getting limited updates over the course of several years and are still so avant-garde.  Therefore, as technological advancements decrease, it becomes more sensible to repair even these, and a tax break for doing so would be welcome.

Creditability of the source:

Fast Company describes itself as a leading progressive, business media company, which was launched in November 1995 by Alan Webber and Bill Taylor, two formerHarvard Business Review editors.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ethics and Security of Self-driving Technology

Scrapbook #3: Team of hackers take remote control of Tesla Model S from 12 miles away

PDF of the same: 

Summary of article:

A team of Chinese security researchers from the company Keen Security were able to remotely access controls inside a Tesla Model S. They deployed a malicious wifi hotspot and gained entry through the web browser within the car. 

Reason article was selected:

I chose this article because it raises the ethical question of producing self driving software that may endanger the lives not just the operators of the vehicle, but also the populous at large.

Personal/social values at stake:

Innovative Technology can be thrilling, but when it’s dangerous we as a society must weigh the risks of bad actors who may use this technology for harm.

Self driving does have advantages as it can be safer than a human driver, but it is not without risks of its own.

Creditability of the source:

The Guardian is a reputable news source

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

On the Facebook Content Control System's Imposition of American Values

Scrapbook #2:  On the Facebook (FB) Content Control System's Imposition of American Values, regarding the Telegraph UK article, "Facebook is Imposing Prissy American Censorship on the Whole Rest of the World," by Jane Fae

Link to the article, which appeared in the Telegraph UK: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/09/12/facebook-is-imposing-prissy-american-censorship-on-the-whole-res/

PDF of the same: https://drive.google.com/a/csumb.edu/file/d/0B3hQr_XgIHuEMjBEbEg0bDF2eE9uUS0tZ1lPX0E5SlRmN2c0/view?usp=sharing

Summary of the article:

Telegraph writer Jane Fae recounts the censorship that resulted, over the last week, in the summary removal of multiple FB posts in Norway of Nick Ut's iconic Pulitzer-prize winning, Vietnam war era photograph, "The Terror of War," which shows children, including a naked nine-year-old Kim Phuc, fleeing a napalm attack.  

The historical image continues to be deeply disturbing to this day and is poignantly recognized for its importance in revealing the harrowing reality of the war.  

Norwegian author Tom Egeland's FB account was suspended after he posted the photo with regards to a status concerning photos that "changed the history of warfare." Facebook has implemented algorithms for reviewing user-reported images in order to address accusations of bias, and child nudity is prohibited, in any case.  Protests over the suspension that were made on Egeland's behalf followed from prestigious places, firstly the editor-in-chief of Norway's largest newspaper, Aftenposten, and the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg.  Their posts were summarily censored, as well, causing outrage and resulting in accusations of abuse of power on the part of FB.

Fae describes the content control as haphazard and summary in nature. She further decries the imposition of American values on the rest of the world and particularly her native Britain via the editorial control FB wields, which she describes as "middlebrow frat boy liberalism."  Similarly, she writes, "So yes, laugh, but understand that Facebook's immense cultural influence is pervasive and pernicious: an anaemic American liberalism dressed up as high-mindedness which few people in government, until recently, have been prepared to stand up to."

Reason article was selected:

The impact of a globalized social network on a country's society and culture raises ethical questions.

Personal/social values at stake:

While it's acceptable to me that there should be some automation in censorship, based on guidelines, there should have been some humanized, thoughtful intervention made before the newspaper editor and prime minister had to get involved, and then, certainly, once they did, rather than a continuance in their posts' summary removals.

FB had good intentions when it attempted to prohibit publication of paedophilic images.  In this case, it should have thoughtfully considered that such does not apply, and that this image is one that must not be censored due to its historical importance.  However, I can see why there could be some doubt on the part of a censor who does not appreciate the context, and think it is understandably controversial.  The image is terrible.

I think it's unreasonable to request that FB go uncensored.  The company has no choice to then make the best guidelines it can or grant each country its own panel who can best determine what is right within their own locales.  Since FB is American and a company, however, they'll have to protect their legal interests and our nation's mores will undoubtedly shine through in rudimentary guidelines.  We are not as comfortable with nudity as the Europeans, who neither would accept this of children, which is not at issue.  For example, many Americans approve of and others object to the display of breastfeeding, while violence is depicted here with less qualms than in other parts of the world.  These are fair observations that the writer makes.

Currently, many Europeans charge that they are being beset by an onslaught of forces that are threatening their historical and cultural makeup, and to these claims I am very sympathetic.  I don't want to dismiss the writer's concerns as being a result of this general sentiment of late, and I am usually the first to criticize America when that criticism is due because I think we have a tendency to rest on our laurels and deny it when we are in the wrong, yet I can't agree with the reasonableness of these charges.  Our values are defensible and acceptable, in any case they are what they are, and the characterizations made are too harsh.  But, I can respect the need for localized censorship on a country by country basis, as well as a more personal censorship process that is less authoritarian, offensive or Kafkaesque.

Yet, I think FB's handling of the situation acknowledged that these issues are difficult, and that they are doing their best to protect, in this case, a value that we are proud to stand up for anywhere in the world, which is the vileness and wrongness of paedophilic images.  Furthermore, they should differentiate between countries who share our values to some extent and those that we consider repressive and unethical.

Credibility of sources:

The article is an op-ed from a reputable news source.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Sunday’s Malicious DDoS Attacks against Linode

Scrapbook #1:  Sunday’s malicious DDoS attacks against Linode and the article, “The Twelve Days of Crisis – A Retrospective on Linode’s Holiday DDoS Attacks” by Alex Forster


Linode’s Live Status Updates from Sunday, 09/04/2016

Linonde’s Retrospective by Alex Forster on another DDoS attack, published earlier this year, 01/29/2016

The above in PDF format:



Summary of the article and status updates:

On Sunday morning, September 4, 2016, Linode, a company that provides virtual private servers (KVMs) or cloud-hosting, began reporting, via their website's status updates page, that their Atlanta regional data center was being hit with dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

This is not the first time the company has been a target of such a malicious attack meant to damage its business, as I researched to find the article linked above, published in January of this year, in which the company provides a retrospective on an extensive and lengthy attack that took place during the last Christmas/Winter/New Year holiday season. In publishing the article, the company has sought to provide to its clients and interested readers a transparent report of the attack as well as a retrospective account of what was learned.

The specific attacks (numbered in the hundreds) on the Atlanta data center were volumetric in nature, according to Forster  “A volumetric attack is the most common type of DDoS attack in which a cannon of garbage traffic is directed toward an IP address, wiping the intended victim off the Internet. It’s the virtual equivalent to intentionally causing a traffic-jam using a fleet of rental cars, and the pervasiveness of these types of attacks has caused hundreds of billions of dollars in economic loss globally.” Forster writes, further, that it’s typical for Linode to get dozens of such attacks each day, for which there response tool is remote-triggered blackholing. “When an IP address is ‘blackholed,’ the Internet collectively agrees to drop all traffic destined to that IP address, preventing both good and bad traffic from reaching it,” the author writes. Blackholing fails or is ineffective, he goes on to explain, when the targeted IP is a critical piece of their or their colocation providers’ network infrastructure (e.g., API endpoints or DNS servers) that affects many others’ connections. Additionally, the article explains, Linode’s customers have secondary IP addresses on their routers, which are susceptible to attack and, in this case, were subject to dozens of simultaneous attacks. Mitigation was manual, so exceptionally challenging, slow and error-prone; also, only so much blackholing can be done at any one time because it may also be subject to error. Finally, the colocation providers’ crossconnects also became the subject of attacks. He writes, “a crossconnect can generally be thought of as the physical link between any two routers on the Internet. Each side of this physical link needs an IP address so that the two routers can communicate with each other, and it was those IP addresses that were targeted.” The attacks were unpredictable and many in number, if not entirely novel in nature.

In the statement, Forster of Linode additionally shared that they felt apologetic, humbled by the experience and that lessons were learned, specifically: 1) don’t depend on middlemen, i.e., the colocation partners for IP transit; 2) absorb larger attacks, i.e., increase IP transit capacity ; and 3) do a better job of letting customers know what’s happening, which they successfully did on Sunday.

Reason article was selected:

That malicious DDoSing or non-white-hat hacking is unethical is largely uncontested.  (Next week, I will choose to write on an issue that is more controversial, perhaps.)  Still, I selected the article because it’s a timely, fascinating topic regarding the ethics of the internet and computing, when hackers can cause so much harm from the dark depths of the digital realm.

Linode has handled the situation very well, providing informative status updates to its customers in real time, so that customers’ loyalty is likely unshaken.  Indeed, in the comments section of the article, many customers wrote that they were grateful for Linode’s articulated response and its employees’ hard work to correct the issues over their holiday season vacations.  They expressed they were understanding of the difficulty of fighting a fire and simultaneously reporting on it while doing so.

Personal/social values at stake:

The hackers' actions are not only unethical, but illegal, harming an honest company’s services for which customers have paid and have businesses that rely.  As far as who were/are the perpetrators -- one may simply give blame to anonymous, irrational actors, hackers bent on mindless disruption, or, alternatively, perhaps, unscrupulous competitors who wish to damage their opponent’s business.

Credibility of sources:

Both documents are primary sources, provided by Linode company employees, all representatives of the victim of the DDoS hacking itself.