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Think your phone is snooping on you? Hold my beer, says basic physics
Monday, 18 October 2021 20:15

HTTP/2 200 date: Tue, 19 Oct 2021 01:00:04 GMT content-type: text/html; charset=UTF-8 link: ; rel=preload; as=script;,/bea9b94002d2e721422add584a7f2257d5de42ae/javascript/_.js>; rel=preload; as=script;,/default/71fc4d06d407018d265f5c297dc02a9d116a937c/scaffolding.css>; rel=preload; as=style;,/default/71fc4d06d407018d265f5c297dc02a9d116a937c/design.css>; rel=preload; as=style;,/5e49edbd1875f214e0decae1e24b200066780fa8/style/fonts/arimo/arimo-700.latin.woff2>; rel=preload; as=font; crossorigin;,/5e49edbd1875f214e0decae1e24b200066780fa8/style/fonts/arimo/arimo-400.latin.woff2>; rel=preload; as=font; crossorigin; cache-control: max-age=0 expires: Tue, 19 Oct 2021 01:00:04 GMT vary: Accept-Encoding x-reg-bofh: pfy03us x-clacks-overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett, Lester Haines x-content-type-options: nosniff cf-cache-status: DYNAMIC expect-ct: max-age=604800, report-uri="https://report-uri.cloudflare.com/cdn-cgi/beacon/expect-ct" server: cloudflare cf-ray: 6a0611402c7cdf28-MEL alt-svc: h3=":443"; ma=86400, h3-29=":443"; ma=86400, h3-28=":443"; ma=86400, h3-27=":443"; ma=86400 Electronic signals scream out to be heard because of physics • The Register

Information wants to be free, and it's making its escape


Opinion Forget the Singularity. That modern myth where AI learns to improve itself in an exponential feedback loop towards evil godhood ain't gonna happen. Spacetime itself sets hard limits on how fast information can be gathered and processed, no matter how clever you are.

What we should expect in its place is the robot panopticon, a relatively dumb system with near-divine powers of perception. That's something the same laws of physics that prevent the Godbot practically guarantee. The latest foreshadowing of mankind's fate? The Ethernet cable.

By itself, last week's story of a researcher picking up and decoding the wireless emissions of an Ethernet cable is mildly interesting. It was the most labby of lab-based demos, with every possible tweak applied to maximise the chances of it working. It's not even as if it's a new discovery. The effect and its security implications have been known since the Second World War, when Bell Labs demonstrated to the US Army that a wired teleprinter encoder called SIGTOT was vulnerable. It could be monitored at a distance and the unencrypted messages extracted by the radio pulses it gave off in operation.

The same is true of everything that uses electricity to carry data, leading to spooky/anti-spooky efforts like TEMPEST to either utilise or minimise the problem. What it can never do is solve it. Physics, man. It's how the electromagnetic or EM quantum field works, one of the five basic forces of the cosmos (the other four being gravity, strong atomic, weak atomic, and stupidity, since you ask). Good luck turning that off with a driver patch.

The EM field works its magic through one weird trick. If you change the speed of an electron, which all electronics does all the time, it gives off electromagnetic waves. Can't help it. You can scramble the signal, you can minimise it, you can try to shield it, but it's there and it can be picked up if you try hard enough. Any piece of wire can be an antenna. It's the world's simplest machine and it will radiate if tickled.

Ethernet has a lot of electrons rushing about through long wires, and thus has a lot of design features to minimise its radiation. Cables use twisted pairs of conductors, which to some extent cancel out the wireless leaks. You can buy special shielded cabling, which is even better – but it's expensive and needs to be properly installed and maintained. You don't do that. And the faster Ethernet has become, the more efficiently even short cables couple their noise into the ether. Doubt it? Get an analogue radio, tune to a dead spot on the dial, and put it near a busy piece of gigabit string.

So, if every Ethernet system is hissing secrets into the void, who's listening? Excluding your actual spies, it would seem nobody. Quite the opposite. Every bit of wireless kit on the planet tries hard not to listen, because most of the time your packets are just interference. These days, this filtering process is often a software function, and increasingly it knows a lot about the interference it's trying to reject – and listens to it quite closely to cancel it out, just like the microphones in noise-cancelling headphones.

Guess what? Our new friendly AI/ML is poking its snout in. Yes, it will end up using the data it's trying to cancel out to build up patterns. And yes, that's the same as listening really hard to it. Will this data, collected invisibly by automatic agents and potentially containing useful behavioural signals, be safe from exploitation? You can answer that yourself.

This is just one example. You only have to go back a few weeks to find another, with the announcement of a system where fibre-optic cables were used to pick up sound ostensibly to sense when they're about to be dug up by mistake. This time, the underlying physics is that when you send light through a medium, it is affected by the physical attributes of that medium, which change when it's compressed by, say, sound. Not can be. Not maybe. It is. Do the right pattern analysis on this, and you can tell a lot about where and what the sound is. Instead of leaking information, the fibre becomes an immensely long microphone. It always was, but now we have the appropriate magic to use it as such.

Do walls have ears? If you bounce Wi-Fi signals off them and look for tiny changes caused by sound waves, yes they do. If they've got Cat 6 running through them, they've got mouths too.

That is how it's going, chums. Everything is connected, everything affects everything else. We live in a universe which loves to preserve, propagate, and transform information, and we're getting very good at using that in new, exciting, and disturbing ways, always with pattern recognition and increasingly amplified by AI/ML. Which isn't very good at thinking but is exceptionally good at sifting information from noise.

We'll still have to do the thinking if we want our new eavesdropping planet to be a nice place to live. ®


Other stories you might like

Canon USA has been accused of forcing customers to buy ink cartridges when they only want to scan and fax documents using the manufacturer's so-called All-In-One multi-function printers.

David Leacraft bought a Canon PIXMA MG2522 All-in-One Printer from Walmart in March, and was appalled when his device was incapable of scanning or a faxing documents if it ran low, or out, of ink. Unlike printing, scanning and faxing documents do not ordinarily require ink.

He wouldn’t have spent the 100 bucks on Canon’s printer if he had known this, his legal team noted. Feeling cheated, Leacraft fired a lawsuit at Canon USA, seeking class-action status on behalf of other disgruntled customers.

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Those files, obtained by Reuters, go against previous statements and testimonials Amazon executives and founder Bezos gave a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. In a hearing in July 2020, the billionaire space tourist said Amazon’s own policy “prohibits the use of anonymized data, if related to a single seller, when making decisions to launch private brand products.”

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NASA's Lucy is on its way to the Trojan asteroids, but engineers have already spotted a problem with one of the probe's 7.3-metre solar arrays.

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Infosec expert Kevin Beaumont, who worked at Microsoft as a senior threat intelligence analyst between June 2020 and April 2021, made the comments in response to a report by "cybersec professional" TheAnalyst.

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The intergovernmental radio (and world's biggest) telescope will survey the sky over ten thousand times faster than has ever been done before, in the hopes of understanding the universe's biggest secrets.

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HTTP/2 200 date: Tue, 19 Oct 2021 01:00:04 GMT content-type: text/html; charset=UTF-8 link: ; rel=preload; as=script;,/bea9b94002d2e721422add584a7f2257d5de42ae/javascript/_.js>; rel=preload; as=script;,/default/71fc4d06d407018d265f5c297dc02a9d116a937c/scaffolding.css>; rel=preload; as=style;,/default/71fc4d06d407018d265f5c297dc02a9d116a937c/design.css>; rel=preload; as=style;,/5e49edbd1875f214e0decae1e24b200066780fa8/style/fonts/arimo/arimo-700.latin.woff2>; rel=preload; as=font; crossorigin;,/5e49edbd1875f214e0decae1e24b200066780fa8/style/fonts/arimo/arimo-400.latin.woff2>; rel=preload; as=font; crossorigin; cache-control: max-age=0 expires: Tue, 19 Oct 2021 01:00:04 GMT vary: Accept-Encoding x-reg-bofh: pfy03us x-clacks-overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett, Lester Haines x-content-type-options: nosniff cf-cache-status: DYNAMIC expect-ct: max-age=604800, report-uri="https://report-uri.cloudflare.com/cdn-cgi/beacon/expect-ct" server: cloudflare cf-ray: 6a0611402c7cdf28-MEL alt-svc: h3=":443"; ma=86400, h3-29=":443"; ma=86400, h3-28=":443"; ma=86400, h3-27=":443"; ma=86400 Electronic signals scream out to be heard because of physics • The Register

Information wants to be free, and it's making its escape


Opinion Forget the Singularity. That modern myth where AI learns to improve itself in an exponential feedback loop towards evil godhood ain't gonna happen. Spacetime itself sets hard limits on how fast information can be gathered and processed, no matter how clever you are.

What we should expect in its place is the robot panopticon, a relatively dumb system with near-divine powers of perception. That's something the same laws of physics that prevent the Godbot practically guarantee. The latest foreshadowing of mankind's fate? The Ethernet cable.

By itself, last week's story of a researcher picking up and decoding the wireless emissions of an Ethernet cable is mildly interesting. It was the most labby of lab-based demos, with every possible tweak applied to maximise the chances of it working. It's not even as if it's a new discovery. The effect and its security implications have been known since the Second World War, when Bell Labs demonstrated to the US Army that a wired teleprinter encoder called SIGTOT was vulnerable. It could be monitored at a distance and the unencrypted messages extracted by the radio pulses it gave off in operation.

The same is true of everything that uses electricity to carry data, leading to spooky/anti-spooky efforts like TEMPEST to either utilise or minimise the problem. What it can never do is solve it. Physics, man. It's how the electromagnetic or EM quantum field works, one of the five basic forces of the cosmos (the other four being gravity, strong atomic, weak atomic, and stupidity, since you ask). Good luck turning that off with a driver patch.

The EM field works its magic through one weird trick. If you change the speed of an electron, which all electronics does all the time, it gives off electromagnetic waves. Can't help it. You can scramble the signal, you can minimise it, you can try to shield it, but it's there and it can be picked up if you try hard enough. Any piece of wire can be an antenna. It's the world's simplest machine and it will radiate if tickled.

Ethernet has a lot of electrons rushing about through long wires, and thus has a lot of design features to minimise its radiation. Cables use twisted pairs of conductors, which to some extent cancel out the wireless leaks. You can buy special shielded cabling, which is even better – but it's expensive and needs to be properly installed and maintained. You don't do that. And the faster Ethernet has become, the more efficiently even short cables couple their noise into the ether. Doubt it? Get an analogue radio, tune to a dead spot on the dial, and put it near a busy piece of gigabit string.

So, if every Ethernet system is hissing secrets into the void, who's listening? Excluding your actual spies, it would seem nobody. Quite the opposite. Every bit of wireless kit on the planet tries hard not to listen, because most of the time your packets are just interference. These days, this filtering process is often a software function, and increasingly it knows a lot about the interference it's trying to reject – and listens to it quite closely to cancel it out, just like the microphones in noise-cancelling headphones.

Guess what? Our new friendly AI/ML is poking its snout in. Yes, it will end up using the data it's trying to cancel out to build up patterns. And yes, that's the same as listening really hard to it. Will this data, collected invisibly by automatic agents and potentially containing useful behavioural signals, be safe from exploitation? You can answer that yourself.

This is just one example. You only have to go back a few weeks to find another, with the announcement of a system where fibre-optic cables were used to pick up sound ostensibly to sense when they're about to be dug up by mistake. This time, the underlying physics is that when you send light through a medium, it is affected by the physical attributes of that medium, which change when it's compressed by, say, sound. Not can be. Not maybe. It is. Do the right pattern analysis on this, and you can tell a lot about where and what the sound is. Instead of leaking information, the fibre becomes an immensely long microphone. It always was, but now we have the appropriate magic to use it as such.

Do walls have ears? If you bounce Wi-Fi signals off them and look for tiny changes caused by sound waves, yes they do. If they've got Cat 6 running through them, they've got mouths too.

That is how it's going, chums. Everything is connected, everything affects everything else. We live in a universe which loves to preserve, propagate, and transform information, and we're getting very good at using that in new, exciting, and disturbing ways, always with pattern recognition and increasingly amplified by AI/ML. Which isn't very good at thinking but is exceptionally good at sifting information from noise.

We'll still have to do the thinking if we want our new eavesdropping planet to be a nice place to live. ®


Other stories you might like

Canon USA has been accused of forcing customers to buy ink cartridges when they only want to scan and fax documents using the manufacturer's so-called All-In-One multi-function printers.

David Leacraft bought a Canon PIXMA MG2522 All-in-One Printer from Walmart in March, and was appalled when his device was incapable of scanning or a faxing documents if it ran low, or out, of ink. Unlike printing, scanning and faxing documents do not ordinarily require ink.

He wouldn’t have spent the 100 bucks on Canon’s printer if he had known this, his legal team noted. Feeling cheated, Leacraft fired a lawsuit at Canon USA, seeking class-action status on behalf of other disgruntled customers.

Continue readingApple arms high-end MacBook Pro notebooks with M1 Pro, M1 Max processors x86 is an eighty-sixed ex

Apple on Monday announced 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models armed with its Arm-compatible Apple Silicon chips, extending its platform architecture transition, and Intel exodus, for its high-end notebooks.

Cupertino's web-streamed presentation, which also featured new music products and services, was highly anticipated by Apple customers because, as expected, it addressed long-standing complaints about recent MacBook Pro models, namely its failure-prone keyboard, its unasked-for TouchBar, and its finicky USB-C power connector.

Though Apple's disastrous Butterfly-design keyboard has already been dealt with, the first aspect of the new MacBook Pro models that product manager Shruti Haldea discussed was the keyboard.

Continue readingUS lawmakers give Amazon until November to prove it didn't lie to Congress This better be a Prime delivery

US House representatives say they are ready to call upon the Department of Justice to investigate whether Amazon executives, including ex-CEO Jeff Bezos, lied to Congress about whether the internet giant unfairly uses customer data to create and market its own products.

Employees in India were accused of keeping tabs on which products sold by third-party vendors proved to be popular among buyers, and then developing competing Amazon-branded versions. Amazon then rigged its product search results to unfairly promote its own products and crush competition on its Indian website, judging from internal documents.

Those files, obtained by Reuters, go against previous statements and testimonials Amazon executives and founder Bezos gave a House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust. In a hearing in July 2020, the billionaire space tourist said Amazon’s own policy “prohibits the use of anonymized data, if related to a single seller, when making decisions to launch private brand products.”

Continue reading

NASA's Lucy is on its way to the Trojan asteroids, but engineers have already spotted a problem with one of the probe's 7.3-metre solar arrays.

The spacecraft was sent on its way from Cape Canaveral's Space Force Station's SLC-41 pad on Saturday atop an Atlas V rocket. The mission is set to last 12 years, over which the probe, dubbed "Lucy" (named for the fossilised skeleton of an early hominin ancestor), will fly past one main-belt asteroid and seven Trojan asteroids.

Lucy is now barrelling along at approximately 108,000kph and is due to swing past Earth in a year's time for a gravity assist. It sent its first signal to Earth just over an hour after launch and 30 minutes after unfurling its solar arrays.

Continue readingLearn how to modernize your applications in just a day? No. Five hours should do it. Check in to AWS Application Modernization Day

Sponsored Taking full advantage of the cloud is not just a question of mastering modern technologies like containers and serverless.

You also need to understand the optimal processes and workflows which enable organizations to take use these technologies at scale to develop and deploy faster, whether the target is back-end services, the web or mobile.

So, where to start? By checking out AWS Application Modernization Day on October 20 from 8am PST/11amEST to 12.30pm PST/3.30pm PST. This compact but info-packed event will bring you up to speed with the technologies that underpin any application transformation effort. But it also covers the principles and methodologies you need to understand to ensure this is done safely, reliably, and compliantly, even at scale.

Continue readingMicrosoft called out as big malware hoster – thanks to OneDrive and Office 365 abuse Infosec pro: 'OneDrive abuse has been going on for years'

Microsoft has been branded as "the world's best malware hoster for about a decade," thanks to abuse of the Office 365 and Live platform, as well as its slow response to reports by security researchers.

Infosec expert Kevin Beaumont, who worked at Microsoft as a senior threat intelligence analyst between June 2020 and April 2021, made the comments in response to a report by "cybersec professional" TheAnalyst.

TheAnalyst noted that a BazarLoader malware campaign was hosting its malware on Microsoft's OneDrive service. "Does Microsoft have any responsibility in this when they KNOWINGLY are hosting hundreds of files leading to this, now for over three days?" they asked.

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The governments of South Africa and Australia have signed agreements formalizing the construction and operation of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO) telescopes by the Observatory's governing body.

The intergovernmental radio (and world's biggest) telescope will survey the sky over ten thousand times faster than has ever been done before, in the hopes of understanding the universe's biggest secrets.

It will use around 3,000 15-metre dishes, plus hundreds of thousands of low-frequency aperture array telescopes, for a total of over 130,000 antennas. With what is expected to be 130 petabytes of data produced a year, it will also require a powerful HPC engine.

Continue readingAmid drama at .NET Foundation, Microsoft's De Icaza reveals it was meant to be like GNOME Foundation Which it isn't, as illustrated by exec director of the F# Foundation

The troubled .NET Foundation was intended to "borrow as much as possible from the GNOME Foundation," according to Miguel de Icaza, co-founder of GNOME and now at Microsoft, who was involved in its original design.

De Icaza's remarks were triggered by a post from Reed Copsey, president of earth science research company C Tech and executive director of the F# Foundation.

F# is a .NET language, but has its own foundation. The F# Software Foundation (FSSF) began in 2014 (the same year the .NET Foundation was founded) after F# inventor Don Syme "met in a café in Cambridge" with researcher Tomas Petricek and software architect Phil Trelford, and was originally an informal organisation, according to Syme's paper on F# history. It was modelled "along the lines of the Python Software Foundation."

Continue readingArm puts virtual hardware in the cloud so you won't have to wait for the actual chips Developers, start your engines

Arm is putting virtual models of its chip designs in the cloud so developers can write and test applications before the physical hardware gets into their hands.

The Arm Virtual Hardware offering is part of new product portfolio called "ARM Total Solutions for IoT." Cringe-worthy marketing jargon aside, Arm wants to give developers a head-start in coding for Internet of Things applications, like cars, robots and refrigerators.

Here's how it works.

Continue readingFacebook posts job ad for 10,000 'high-skilled' roles to 'build the metaverse' – and they'll all be based in the EU Announcement uses the phrase 'world-leading' without referring to UK once

Brit political has-been and Facebook global affairs veep Nick Clegg fired off a missive over the weekend announcing that the antisocial network would be hiring 10,000 people from across the European Union to help "BUILD THE METAVERSE" (VERSE-VERSE-VERSE-VERSE).

What's the metaverse? Well, no one's quite sure – it doesn't exist yet – but Cleggers and pal Javier Olivan, Facebook's central products VP, define it as "a new phase of interconnected virtual experience using technologies like virtual and augmented reality."

"And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start," they added.

Continue readingEasyJet flight loadsheet snafu caused by software 'code errors' says UK safety agency System 'operating outside of the original design specification' said AAIB

An EasyJet flight to Edinburgh Airport took off with wrongly loaded passengers and baggage because of IT network congestion causing computer systems to interact "in a manner which had neither been designed nor predicted."

Last-minute aircraft changes followed by a critical but slow-running IT system meant the Airbus A321neo took off with a loadsheet intended for a different type of airliner. The loadsheet says where the aircraft's centre of gravity is – a vital safety calculation.

At the heart of the January 2021 cockup were "code errors" in EasyJet's departure control software suite, the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said in a recent report.

Continue reading

Source: https://bit.ly/3p9O2Ho