A Geek With Guns

Discount security adviser to the proles.

Archive for the ‘You Can’t Cure Stupid’ tag

Sending The Wrong Messages

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Any decent self-defense instructor will point out that the most important aspect in self-defense is situational awareness. If you are aware of your surrounds you have a far better chance of avoiding a fight entirely, which is the best form of self-defense.

The rise of mobile phones has seemingly hampered a great many people’s situational awareness. It’s not uncommon to see people walking around entirely unaware of their surroundings because their faces are looking down at their phones. This phenomenon has become so prevalent that one city is experimenting with crosswalk signals embedded in the ground:

Foreign visitors frequently wonder why crowds of Germans wait for traffic lights to turn green when there are no cars in sight.

That is why officials in the city of Augsburg became concerned when they noticed a new phenomenon: Pedestrians were so busy looking at their smartphones that they were ignoring traffic lights.

The city has attempted to solve that problem by installing new traffic lights embedded in the pavement — so that pedestrians constantly looking down at their phones won’t miss them.

Part of me thinks this sends the wrong message. When people are walking around they should be paying attention to their surroundings. Not only is it important from a self-defense aspect but it’s important for not running into other pedestrians.

I’m not stupid enough to assume you can convince people to stop looking at their phones when they’re walking around but there may be some middle ground that encourages people to not be looking down. A better solution may be be a focus on developing heads-up displays for people to wear so they can somewhat keep their eye on the sidewalk as they read through their messages.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 30th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Don’t Make Vague Threatening Statements When You Carry A Gun

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Sometimes I become complacent in my assumption that gun owners as a whole are a pretty cool group. This is probably because most of my friends who own guns are really awesome people. But then a social issue hits the headlines and I’m reminded that a lot of gun owners are just as big of assholes as a lot of anti-gunners. This post is about one of those gun owners.

Target reiterated its bathroom policy, which is a sensible policy that allows transgender individuals to use the facilities of their gender, and now a bunch of social conservatives are announcing their plan to boycott the store. I have no issues as far as that goes since everybody should be free to associate or disassociate with anybody they choose for whatever reason they choose. But a handful of these social conservatives seem to be having a competition over who can be the biggest asshole about it.

The current winner of this competition may be Anita Staver. Staver felt the need to make a special announcement to alert the world that she will be carrying her firearm into a very specific place:

After Target announced its transgender customers and employees can use store bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Orlando-based Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver said she would be taking her Glock .45 into Target’s restrooms, saying the gun “identifies as my bodyguard.”

Most of us who carry a firearm don’t feel the need to specifically announce every single place we’re going to carry it. In fact when one go out of their way to make a special announcement that they’re going to carry a gun into a place that is currently being featured in heated debates — especially when that announcement contains language that belittles one side of the debate — it might come off as a bit threatening. Just maybe.

If you want to carry a gun, just carry the damn thing. Don’t be an asshole about it. And especially don’t make statements about the fact you carry that could very easily be perceived as threatening to a group of people you openly hold distain for. In other words, don’t be this asshole.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 28th, 2016 at 10:30 am

Yet Another Reason Why Democracy Sucks

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Democracy has been deified in our society and any dissent is treated as high treason. But I’m here to tell you that democracy sucks.

Democracy is built on the idea that whatever a majority of a voting body decides is somehow just. But what happens when the majority of a voting body decides your so-called rights are mere privileges and furthermore have deemed you no longer need those privileges?

A survey commissioned by the BBC suggests that 63 per cent of UK university students believe the National Union of Students (NUS) is right to have a “no-platform” policy, whereby individuals or groups with opinions deemed to be offensive can be banned from speaking on student union premises.

More than half (54 per cent) of students surveyed also thought the policy should be actively enforced against people who could be found intimidating.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a democratic organization and a majority of the designated voting body decided to allow censorship on campus student unions. With that simple majority vote, which is also backed up by a majority of surveyed university students, anybody deemed to be supporting an offensive platform is barred from speaking at a location that their tax dollars may very well have funded.

Freedom of speech is a concept used to protect the minority from government censorship. But democracy is a concept that relies on the idea that the will of the majority is correct. The two concepts are opposed to one another because a democracy is oppositional to the minority.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 27th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Dropping 10 Megabyte Cyberwarheads

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I’ve been busy finishing up and editing my short story for the Agorist Writers Workshop so I don’t have much for you today… except stupidity.

The idiots that command the State have tried once again to use war as an analogy for hacking and it sounds just as stupid this time as it has every time before:

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter is among those who have publicly discussed the new mission, but only in broad terms, and this month the deputy secretary of defense, Robert O. Work, was more colorful in describing the effort.

“We are dropping cyberbombs,” Mr. Work said. “We have never done that before.”

Cyberbombs? Why not cyberclusterbombs? Isn’t the United States government dedicated to wiping out CyberISIS? How many megabytes are these cyberwarheads anyways? I hope we’re not using too little data to get the jobs done!

It’s hard to come up with new jokes at the State’s expense. The people working within it end up taking all of my good material by actually doing what I planned to joke about them doing.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 26th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Banning The Boogeyman

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Does the boogeyman exist? Most people would say he doesn’t. But some might point out that there’s no way to prove with absolute certainty that he doesn’t exist. Technically that would be a true statement. However, few people would change the way they live their lives based on the infinitesimal possibility that the boogeyman may exist.

The arguments in favor of these bathroom restriction bills sounds an awful lot like arguments in favor of creating laws to ban the boogeyman. Most of the arguments in favor of these bills are based on the hypothetical threat that a cisgender male will pretend to be a transwoman to gain entry into the women’s restroom for the purpose of committing sexual assault.

I call the threat hypothetical because there hasn’t been a notable number of such crimes being perpetrated. In fact I’ve only found one instance of such a crime and it occurred in Canada and only after this debate started making headlines (which is important to note because it’s quite possible the perpetrator wouldn’t have attempted to use such an excuse had the politicians not been waging this war). That’s two less incidents than the number of Republicans arrested for misconduct in bathrooms.

The arguments in favor of these bathroom bills are no more valid than arguments in favor of passing legislation to ban the boogeyman. Both are built on a foundation of unfounded fear mongering.

What gets me is the hypocrisy of some of the proponents of these bills. Some of the people supporting these bathroom bills on the grounds of a hypothetical threat were also the ones arguing against restricting people from carrying firearms on the grounds that the anti-gunners’ hypothetical threats were never been realized. If hypothetical threats aren’t a valid foundation to build laws off of for one thing then they shouldn’t be valid for anything.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 21st, 2016 at 10:30 am

Mind Blowing Research

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Sometimes I wonder about the average intelligence of our society:

One finding that really surprised us is that a good deal of the potential for miscommunication may come from different interpretations of the exact same emoji rendering.

They were “really surprised” that a system of communication based on subjectively interpreted symbols was confusing?

Cripes. That shouldn’t have been surprising to anybody. Especially not to aspiring Ph.D.s.

I’m fascinated by languages. When I was in high school I studied German, in college I studied Japanese. Last year I learned Esperanto and this year I’m studying Latin. What fascinates me about languages is that they all accomplish the same basic thing, communicating ideas between individuals, but with vastly different rulesets. German uses pronouns where Latin uses conjugations. Esperanto uses a Latin alphabet where Japanese uses a writing system adapted from the Chinese writing system. Since the rules are well defined (even though they don’t necessarily have to be strictly abided by) anybody who understand a set of rules can communicate with anybody else that understands those same rules.

There are no well defined rules surrounding the usage of emojis. Each symbol doesn’t have a specific well known meaning like the symbols used in English or Chinese do. So it should be obvious that using emojis to communicate is going to be more confusing than using languages with well defined rules. Apparently it’s not obvious and resources had to be invested into researching whether the use of emojis is confusing or not. To make matters worse the researchers were “really surprised” that their research showed that using emojis is confusing.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am

This Is Why I Try To Wait For Proof

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I’m fortunate in that I follow a lot of intelligent security professionals. When it was first announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had hired a partner to break into Farook’s iPhone 5C the speculation was that the partner was Cellebrite. Note the key word, speculation. Most of the people initially speculating on the topic were careful to couch their terms as hypothetical but that didn’t stop media outlets from reporting speculation as fact. The problem with reporting speculation as fact is that it’s often wrong:

The FBI cracked a San Bernardino terrorist’s phone with the help of professional hackers who discovered and brought to the bureau at least one previously unknown software flaw, according to people familiar with the matter.

[…]

The bureau in this case did not need the services of the Israeli firm Cellebrite, as some earlier reports had suggested, people familiar with the matter said.

When the media reports something as fact do yourself a favor and dig into the story. You may find out that the fact is actually speculation.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 14th, 2016 at 10:30 am

If You Can Rig The Lottery Only Do It Once

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Most fraudsters are caught because they’re a combination of shortsighted and greedy. Take this block for example:

A lottery vendor for years manipulated drawings to enrich himself and associates by installing software code that allowed him to predict winning numbers on specific days of the year, Iowa investigators alleged Wednesday.

Authorities called the newly obtained forensic evidence a breakthrough in the investigation of alleged jackpot-fixing scheme by Eddie Tipton, former security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. A jury convicted him last year of rigging a $16.5 million jackpot, and he’s awaiting trial on charges linking him to prizes in Colorado, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Kansas.

Assuming Mr. Tipton is actually guilty, he will join the ranks of fraudsters who were in a position and had the ability to execute a great self-enriching scam and were caught because they pulled it more than once.

The odds of winning the lottery are astronomical so winning more than once raises all sorts of red flags. If you’re in a position to manipulate the lottery, only do it once. You can usually get away with winning once. But when you start winning in your home state, the neighboring state, and three states away people begin to get suspicious. And if your friends seem to be winning as well there’s going to be an investigation.

People like to attribute these scams purely to greed. If greed was the only factor in these scams the culprits would walk away after they accomplished their initial mission. After all, if you get caught you don’t get to keep the money so a truly greedy person will take the cash and run. These scams are usually uncovered because the culprits are both greedy and shortsighted. They fail to properly assess the risks involved in their scams and therefore continue to perpetrate them again and again. Eventually their “luck” becomes suspicious and their scam is uncovered.

Written by Christopher Burg

April 12th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

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The second worst casualty of a major attack is the presumption of innocence. Too often people are demanding heads to role and assume anybody questioned, arrested, or charged because of an attack should be hanged. This leads to a lot of stupidity such as the xenophobia that began running rampant immediately after the attack in Brussels. Investigations take time and a lot of initial judgements based on preliminary evidence are proven wrong as this story illustrates so perfectly:

BRUSSELS — The Belgian authorities on Monday conceded another enormous blunder in their investigation into the attacks last week on Brussels. They freed a man they had charged with terrorism and murder, acknowledging that a witness had mistakenly identified as a bomber in a dark hat and white coat in an airport surveillance photo.

The man, who was arrested on Thursday and charged on Friday, was released after three days in custody, during which some officials publicly vilified him as a terrorist. On Monday, the police said that the real attacker, one of the men who blew up a departure hall at Brussels Airport, remained at large, and they issued a new plea to the public to help identify him.

The release of the man — who has been identified by the Belgian news media and Belgian officials as Fayçal Cheffou, who has called himself a freelance journalist — is a stunning setback for the Belgian authorities, who have struggled for more than a year to get a handle on the growing threat of Islamic State militants.

A lot of people were demanding gallows be built so Cheffou could be immediately executed. Had they gotten their way an innocent man would have been dead and nobody would have been any closer to determining who else was connected to the attack in Brussels. This is why the presumption of innocence is important, especially in high profile event such as this one.

I know everybody hates to hear it but the only appropriate way to respond to the aftermath of an attack is to have patience. Nothing is gained by rash responses. In fact rash responses often cause the same thing as the initial attacks: innocent people being injured or killed.

Checkpoints All The Way Down

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The investigation into the Brussels attack hasn’t concluded yet but politicians are already calling for actions to be taken to prevent such an attack from happening here:

Security experts, politicians and travelers alike say the Brussels bombings exposed a weak spot in airport security, between the terminal entrance and the screening checkpoint.

“If you think about the way things were done in Brussels — and have been done in other places — literally people only have to only walk in, and they can attack at will,” said Daniel Wagner, CEO of security consulting firm Country Risk Solutions.

These idiots will be putting security checkpoints before the security checkpoints if we let them:

Wagner suggests U.S. airports establish pre-terminal screening before travelers enter the facility.

“That is a common approach in many countries around the world — you cannot even get in the terminal until your bags and your person have been pre-screened,” he said. “That is, through an X-ray machine both for the bags and for the individual.”

It’ll be checkpoints all the way down. What none of these stooges have stopped to consider is that the checkpoints themselves are attractive targets. Checkpoints are chokepoints. They forces large numbers of people to gather in a single place so they can slowly (very slowly in the case of Minneapolis’ airport) be filtered through by security. If a suicide bomber wants to kill a lot of people they need only step in the checkpoint line.

Adding an additional chokepoint or moving the current one doesn’t fix the problem. Reducing the amount of damage a terrorist can cause in an airport requires dispersing people, which means making major changes to current airport security practices. The long security lines have to go. This can be done by simplifying the screening process, making it consistent (anybody who travels frequently knows that the orders barked by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) goons can change drastically from day to day), and increasing the number of checkpoints. None of those measures will be taken though because the idiots who make the policies know nothing about security.

Written by Christopher Burg

March 25th, 2016 at 10:30 am