Essays Tagged "Japan Times"

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Cold War Encryption is Unrealistic in Today's Trenches

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Japan Times
  • December 23, 2009

Sometimes mediocre encryption is better than strong encryption, and sometimes no encryption is better still.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Iraqi, and possibly also Afghan, militants are using commercial software to eavesdrop on U.S. Predators, other unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, and even piloted planes. The systems weren’t “hacked” — the insurgents can’t control them — but because the downlink is unencrypted, they can watch the same video stream as the coalition troops on the ground.

The naive reaction is to ridicule the military. Encryption is …

Nature's Fears Extend to Online Behavior

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Japan Times
  • November 3, 2009

It’s hard work being prey. Watch the birds at a feeder. They’re constantly on alert, and will fly away from food — from easy nutrition — at the slightest movement or sound. Given that I’ve never, ever seen a bird plucked from a feeder by a predator, it seems like a whole lot of wasted effort against a small threat.

Assessing and reacting to risk is one of the most important things a living creature has to deal with. The amygdala, an ancient part of the brain that first evolved in primitive fishes, has that job. It’s what’s responsible for the fight-or-flight reflex. Adrenaline in the bloodstream, increased heart rate, increased muscle tension, sweaty palms; that’s the amygdala in action. You notice it when you fear a dark alley, have vague fears of terrorism, or worry about predators stalking your children on the Internet. And it works fast, faster than consciousnesses: show someone a snake and their amygdala will react before their conscious brain registers that they’re looking at a snake…

Offhand but On Record

More and more people are using computers to chat with each other, but there's no such thing as a passing conversation on the Web

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Japan Times
  • August 19, 2009

Facebook recently made changes to its service agreement in order to make members’ data more accessible to other computer users. Amuse, Inc. announced last week that hackers stole credit-card information from about 150,000 clients. Hackers broke into the social network Twitter’s system and stole documents.

Your online data is not private. It may seem private, but it’s not. Take e-mail, for example. You might be the only person who knows your e-mail password, but you’re not the only person who can read your e-mail. Your e-mail provider can read it too — along with anyone he gives access to. That can include any backbone provider who happened to route that mail from the sender to you. In addition, if you read your e-mail from work, various people at your company have access to it, too. And, if they have taps at the correct points, so can the police, the U.S. National Security Agency, and any other well-funded national intelligence organization — along with any hackers or criminals sufficiently skilled to break into one of these sites…

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.