Essays Tagged "Wired"
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Brace Yourself for a Tidal Wave of ChatGPT Email Scams
Thanks to large language models, a single scammer can run hundreds or thousands of cons in parallel, night and day, in every language under the sun.
Here’s an experiment being run by undergraduate computer science students everywhere: Ask ChatGPT to generate phishing emails, and test whether these are better at persuading victims to respond or click on the link than the usual spam. It’s an interesting experiment, and the results are likely to vary wildly based on the details of the experiment.
But while it’s an easy experiment to run, it misses the real risk of large language models (LLMs) writing scam emails. Today’s human-run scams aren’t limited by the number of people who respond to the initial email contact. They’re limited by the labor-intensive process of persuading those people to send the scammer money. LLMs are about to change that. A decade ago, one type of spam email had become a punchline on every late-night show: “I am the son of the late king of Nigeria in need of your assistance ” Nearly everyone had gotten one or a thousand of those emails, to the point that it seemed everyone must have known they were scams…
Hackers Used to Be Humans. Soon, AIs Will Hack Humanity
Like crafty genies, AIs will grant our wishes, and then hack them, exploiting our social, political, and economic systems like never before.
If you don’t have enough to worry about already, consider a world where AIs are hackers.
Hacking is as old as humanity. We are creative problem solvers. We exploit loopholes, manipulate systems, and strive for more influence, power, and wealth. To date, hacking has exclusively been a human activity. Not for long.
As I lay out in a report I just published, artificial intelligence will eventually find vulnerabilities in all sorts of social, economic, and political systems, and then exploit them at unprecedented speed, scale, and scope. After hacking humanity, AI systems will then hack other AI systems, and humans will be little more than collateral damage…
Bitcoin’s Greatest Feature Is Also Its Existential Threat
The cryptocurrency depends on the integrity of the blockchain. But China’s censors, the FBI, or powerful corporations could fragment it into oblivion.
Security researchers have recently discovered a botnet with a novel defense against takedowns. Normally, authorities can disable a botnet by taking over its command-and-control server. With nowhere to go for instructions, the botnet is rendered useless. But over the years, botnet designers have come up with ways to make this counterattack harder. Now the content-delivery network Akamai has reported on a new method: a botnet that uses the Bitcoin blockchain ledger. Since the blockchain is globally accessible and hard to take down, the botnet’s operators appear to be safe…
There's No Good Reason to Trust Blockchain Technology
In his 2008 white paper that first proposed bitcoin, the anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto concluded with: “We have proposed a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust.” He was referring to blockchain, the system behind bitcoin cryptocurrency. The circumvention of trust is a great promise, but it’s just not true. Yes, bitcoin eliminates certain trusted intermediaries that are inherent in other payment systems like credit cards. But you still have to trust bitcoin—and everything about it.
Much has been written about blockchains and how they displace, reshape, or eliminate trust. But when you analyze both blockchain and trust, you quickly realize that there is much more hype than value. Blockchain solutions are often much worse than what they replace…
Surveillance Kills Freedom By Killing Experimentation
Excerpted from the upcoming issue of McSweeney’s, “The End of Trust,” a collection featuring more than 30 writers investigating surveillance, technology, and privacy.
In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows society to progress…
China and Russia Almost Definitely Have the Snowden Docs
Last weekend, the Sunday Times published a front-page story (full text here), citing anonymous British sources claiming that both China and Russia have copies of the Snowden documents. It’s a terrible article, filled with factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims about both Snowden’s actions and the damage caused by his disclosure, and others have thoroughly refuted the story. I want to focus on the actual question: Do countries like China and Russia have copies of the Snowden documents?
I believe the answer is certainly yes, but that it’s almost certainly not Snowden’s fault…
The Internet of Things Is Wildly Insecure—And Often Unpatchable
We’re at a crisis point now with regard to the security of embedded systems, where computing is embedded into the hardware itself—as with the Internet of Things. These embedded computers are riddled with vulnerabilities, and there’s no good way to patch them.
It’s not unlike what happened in the mid-1990s, when the insecurity of personal computers was reaching crisis levels. Software and operating systems were riddled with security vulnerabilities, and there was no good way to patch them. Companies were trying to keep vulnerabilities secret, and not releasing security updates quickly. And when updates were released, it was hard—if not impossible—to get users to install them. This has changed over the past twenty years, due to a combination of full disclosure—publishing vulnerabilities to force companies to issue patches quicker—and automatic updates: automating the process of installing updates on users’ computers. The results aren’t perfect, but they’re much better than ever before…
How to Design—And Defend Against—The Perfect Security Backdoor
We already know the NSA wants to eavesdrop on the internet. It has secret agreements with telcos to get direct access to bulk internet traffic. It has massive systems like TUMULT, TURMOIL, and TURBULENCE to sift through it all. And it can identify ciphertext—encrypted information—and figure out which programs could have created it.
But what the NSA wants is to be able to read that encrypted information in as close to real-time as possible. It wants backdoors, just like the cybercriminals and less benevolent governments do.
And we have to figure out how to make it harder for them, or anyone else, to insert those backdoors…
Want to Evade NSA Spying? Don’t Connect to the Internet
Since I started working with Snowden’s documents, I have been using a number of tools to try to stay secure from the NSA. The advice I shared included using Tor, preferring certain cryptography over others, and using public-domain encryption wherever possible.
I also recommended using an air gap, which physically isolates a computer or local network of computers from the internet. (The name comes from the literal gap of air between the computer and the internet; the word predates wireless networks.)
But this is more complicated than it sounds, and requires explanation…
If the New iPhone Has Fingerprint Authentication, Can It Be Hacked?
When Apple bought AuthenTec for its biometrics technology—reported as one of its most expensive purchases—there was a lot of speculation about how the company would incorporate biometrics in its product line. Many speculate that the new Apple iPhone to be announced tomorrow will come with a fingerprint authentication system, and there are several ways it could work, such as swiping your finger over a slit-sized reader to have the phone recognize you.
Apple would be smart to add biometric technology to the iPhone. Fingerprint authentication is a good balance between convenience and security for a mobile device…
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.