Hacking Realities

Hacking

Today I have been reading on various sites about the DNS attack on Twitter last night. A group calling themselves the “Iranian Cyber Army” managed to change the DNS entry for the Twitter front page in order to redirect the domain to another site. On this other site they put up a badly photoshoped picture of a green flag, with most of the text in english, claiming they have “power” over the internet.

DNS attacks are nothing new. Several years back the New York Times was subject to this same kind of hack. Its a simple redirect of the main domain address.  I honestly doubt the attack actually came from anyone in Iran, more than likely it came from some kids in the US, possibly of Iranian background. (Most Islamic organizations do not use English words for their titles – “Iranian Cyber Army” sounds like something a 15 year old American kid would cook up with his buddies.)

What bothered me about the NYT attack bothers me about the Twitter attack. Its the obviousness of the whole thing. Nothing was gained by the hackers. Within a few hours the site’s DNS was renewed and a little bit of press coverage came out. This kind of low class hacking is very teenaged oriented and not well thought out. When you do a DNS attack its as easy to fix as it was to hack. By putting up a pointless picture saying “WE HACKED THIS SITE” the hackers are just pointing out how cool they think they are to have hacked the site in the first place.

But the potential of a DNS attack is huge and the gains to be made are incredible if one has the wit to use the technology to its full advantage. What if instead of a shitty picture saying they hacked the site they had put up a page that looked exactly like the Twitter front page? They could have culled thousands of logins (names and passwords) in just a few hours. With a simply written bot they might have done this over a period of time, switching from the actual Twitter frontpage to their fake page at certain intervals in order to cull as many logins as possible. Once they gained the login access they could then start ‘tweeting’ as actual people, spreading a message subtly. (Not to mention that a huge percentage of people use their same login and password for all their online accts, bank, paypal, email, everything)

With the NYT hack the people responsible could have created a feed that took the actual code/content from the NYT server and reedited it to include certain pre written passages. Readers would have taken days to figure out that the stories had been altered. Millions of people could have been manipulated into believing whatever the hackers wanted them to believe. Instead readers saw a shitty picture, assumed the site was hacked, and went away.

The nature of the internet is that it has a huge potential as a tool for terrorism. It can be used to spread (dis)information, to alter information, to cultivate a following, to steal data and funding, anything is possible. What limits these hackers is their imagination. It must have taken a whole 5 minutes to create the image that the “Iranian Cyber Army” put up to replace the Twitter frontpage. If they had forethought and planning they could be cultivating data and doing a lot more damage.

What we witness when we see the kind of attack that affected Twitter last night is the amatuerish prank of children. But what happens when real terrorists figure out what can be done with the internet? We feel secure with our Facebook and Twitter accts, but what is security? The reality is that nothing is secure, real hackers are reading your emails, looking into your bank accts, browsing your purchases on Amazon. They know what kind of porn you watch, when you are on vacation, what you got your mistress for Christmas. But they don’t care about you, you are just a person, they are looking for something more. A bigger fish, so to speak.

The internet is increasingly becoming the battle ground for real war. Technology is replacing bullets and bombs with code and viruses. An email can kill as surely as a bullet, it just has to be fired off by the right marksmen. But when the terrorists attack us on the internet battlefield it will be average people who will be the victims, you and I will be caught in the crossfire.

The nightmare of Christmas

As I get older it becomes more apparent that I am not the only person who struggles with the christianization of western culture. Particularly around xmas every year I find the weight of the social implications of the holidays way too much to bear.

Though I was raised in a christian background I bear no serious scars of such an upbringing – thanks mostly to my families having distanced themselves from Catholicism before I was born. Yet christmas is still a drag on my mind.

Fueled in equal parts by the commercialization of the holiday, the over bearing idea that everyone needs to be jolly and if not you are a “scrooge”, and the nasty fucking cold weather I find the end of December to be the most antisocial part of the year for me. I want to hide and sleep it off like a bad hangover.

Comics genius R Crumb once said he moved to France in order to escape the tortures of pop music (the kind forced on everyone in shops and phone lines). But such musics made their way to France, just as they have everyplace else. In my opinion xmas jingles are the most pervasive form of this pop culture terrorism.

But when I think about christmas I often think of the other religions of the world who have to suffer through the same things I do. Of the Jews and the Muslims who have to deal with the christian Americanization of the world around them.

Religion, in general, is not the friend of society. It is the single largest cause of pain and suffering in world history. It is the cause of wars, censorship, murder, and pain. Mankind’s need for religion is a need for being told what to do, a need for answers without having to think, a desire for reassurance in the face of reality.

In the end its not man’s need for spirituality that is to blame, it is man’s greed. Money plays the biggest role in the obfuscation of religion away from the spiritual and toward the dogmatic. “Do what you are told and pay us to tell you what to do” is the principle behind all organized religions.

But I digress.

Here in the UK the xmas insanity is less impactive than in the states, but it is still unbearable. Christmas songs on the radio, ads and posters on the streets, the lights only amplifying the bitter remorse that is brought by the winter’s sharp teeth.

I would love to have a Dickens moment of malnourished hallucination that is mistaken for visionary experience, I would love to wake up Christmas morning and find myself a believer in holiday faith and cheer. But the reality is that on the day of Christmas I will awake the same person I was when I went to sleep the night before. The streets will be full of dried and used trees, hanging with tinsel like the panties of a discarded whore. The wrappers of so many presents blowing through the grey alleys covered in auto exhaust grime coloured snow. The fat and hungover populace will stir in their food induced comas, thinking of the New Years parties to come.

I will not be alone though, as I know that many people feel the way I do. I just wish there was something we could do about it, some way to avoid the nightmare of Christmas.

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Diego Rivera Died for our sins.

Seeing that the Date Farmers – artists Carlos Ramirez and Armando Lerma are in town for what looks to be an amazing show at Pictures on Walls I thought I would drop down this morning and offer them a proper welcome to London. This show Fiesta Resistance is going to rule . Opens tomorrow (Dec 4), go check it out.

I did this piece at 9am on a busy London High Street. The reality is that early in the morning no one can be bothered. Coffee is the only thing on most peoples minds. The masses flow by, heads down thinking of the horror they face at their job, daydreaming about going to a record store (wait, do those still exist?) and spending the day browsing and listening to some clerks better taste in music.

The grey days of the London labyrinth surround me. It rains and rains, the winter a wet but not always cold leaden weight that hangs in the sky. What is happening, where are we going?

I sat on the bus as I returned to the Wick, smelling the paint fumes coming from the stencils in my bag. Listening to the bleep and blurbs from other peoples headphones. At 9 am the traffic isn’t too bad, you drift on the deck of the bus, a ghost returning to more familiar haunts.

Why do people get up so damn early? These people should be coming home, not heading out. When do we start living our lives? When do the masses wake up from the drudgery of morning rain, smelly busses, coffee prayers and wet toes?

The moments that shock us from our lives are when we see the world around us has been changed by someone without power. That a person has altered our path, changed the shape of our reality, like a ghost. I watch as the graf evolves, station to station the buildings a screen for an arabesque pattern, an illuminated manuscript imposed on the architecture of the urban landscape. It tells the story of night (and sometimes day) ghosts and the dreams that people live while most of us are asleep.

Its painted in the flat (on the ground) in from of POW. 46 Commercial Street, E1 London

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