Monday, February 13, 2006

Security Tech Talk

I went to a Microsoft Tech Talk tonight because it offered free food (O's actually served some good stuff: cheesesteak slices and cheesecake), which I gorged myself with because I was starving by then, and there was a raffle for fabulous prizes, none of which I won. I still think I came out on top though. The speaker was Jesper Johansson, who's a big security guru at Microsoft who formerly taught for a long time and has more recently just been touring the world for random conferences and workshops to elicit his wisdom. I haven't been so glued to a speech about technology in a good while, especially having been pretty tired at the time, and it was really cool understanding terminology that I've actually learned in the past year here at UT. A lot of his speech was based off of him showing us different forms of attack, and it has really cultivated an interest in me in software security. For example, one company spent over $18,000 on a database management software suite that he cracked in under 15 minutes. When they "fixed" the problem, he just had to type in a few extra characters at the login prompt to effectively comment out the password field and log himself in. It's amazing how easy it is to unknowingly write unsafe applications. Another big thing I didn't realize is that biometric scanning is pretty bad for authentication. If you have a fancy new Mercedes with biometric engine starting, a carjacker could cut off your thumb to turn on the car. Even just for normal computer stuff though, it doesn't take much to copy a fingerprint to use, and then you're basically screwed. The best part is that all the tools he used was freeware (all available here or built into Windows). If you're interested more about hacking, this site has some good stuff as well. I guess we're not as safe as we all naively think.

It wouldn't be a complete blog post if I didn't mention something about Apple. A Mac user put up an article about what Windows users switching to Mac should know ahead of time (most good, a few bad), and it's actually a pretty clever list. This is in light, of course, of the Intel-based Macs that are luring so many away from Wintel boxes, and will hopefully make for some interesting dinner conversation. Oh, and some dude's antitrust lawsuit against iTunes and the iPod's chokehold on digital music has been approved. I think it'll be hard for him to prove his point, unless he can really hammer their protectiveness of FairPlay. If you're more interested in Google, Time put up a long article (though you have to click through some dumb ads) about the Google founders, culture, and secrecy of their strategy, and it kind of helps remind us that they're not really as bad as all the press they've had recently. The engineers really do run the company, not the guys in suits, which is quite refreshing. Sidenote: that's one of the big things that made TI more attractive to me than Goldman Sachs. If you don't know where you stand on the war of the Internet browsers, InternetWeek has a good comparison with brief writeups on each of the big browsers, including side-by-side pictures. It may be unfair to talk about IE7 while it's so unstable though. If you ever need to convert your documents (or even a web page) to PDF, this site can help you out, and all for free. Any documents published online should really be offered in a PDF format. Lastly, there are some fun Valentine's Day gift ideas over here for the geek girl if you're dating one, though a couple of them are rather pricey. Of course the only date I have tomorrow is with my CS 337 partner to work on our RSA encryption project, which is cruelly due the same day as our test in that class (next week).

Click to enlargeWhile World Trade Center is filming, we don't have much to go on other than this teaser poster. There is a report from one extra of the set, but it's not all that exciting. There's also a poster for See No Evil, but I just can't get into this one. I felt more interested reading about Before the Fall in today's Daily Texan. IGN put up a video interview with Bryan Singer (from ComicCon), and, while it's not anything new, it's always nice to hear him talk about the movie. We all need our daily dose of his faith in Brandon Routh. It looks like Martin Scorsese will be working on a movie aptly titled The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt all about good old Teddy Roosevelt, and I'm really curious as to what he'll come up with. Lastly, it looks like Bollywood has recreated Fight Club in what may be their worst American film adaptation yet. It's important for my dignity that I never watch that movie's trailer again.

I'm going to go with Monday's a Bitch this week:


1. Who do you aspire to be like?

In some ways, like my father. In other ways, kind of like a young Bill Gates. My dad has all the moral strength, intelligence, and sense of filial duty I'll never need. However, Bill Gates basically jumped off a cliff onto a mound of gold with Microsoft, which took a lot of guts and genius.

2. Does it bother you when your significant other is friendly with members of the opposite sex?
My computer doesn't care much for other guys, it only has eyes for me.

3. Does the amount of media attention that someone like Paris Hilton obtains seem unjust?
Not really, because it really just makes her look even worse in most cases.

4. Has your own unhappiness ever caused you to unintentionally resent the happiness of another person?
Not outright, but secretly I'll admit to it. When good things happen to the wrong people, it just kind of makes you wonder.

5. Have you ever changed to fit in with a desirable group?
Not that I know of. I'm not all that great at being anyone but myself.

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