Metadata for beginners

metadataForBeginnersMany people I’ve spoken to seem to think that they don’t have anything to hide, and as long as the government isn’t listening in on the actual phone conversations, then they’re fine with it. As you might guess, I’m not. This slide from 30th Chaos Communication Congress (30C3) hits the head on the nail.

Director of national Intelligence James Clapper lies to US Congress – without consequences?


So, James Clapper, US Director of national Intelligence, lies to Congress. First he calls the lie the “least untruthful” answer he could publicly provide, and then cites a momentary memory failure. Seven congressmen take issue with James Clapper’s testimony, but Obama administration unlikely to turn against director.

See: Republicans demand consequences for ‘willful lie’ by intelligence chief | World news |

Let me recap: James Clapper, a retired lieutenant general in the United States Air Force (you’d think he knows right from wrong, truth from lie), lies under oath to US Congress and it is not likely to have any consequences for him.

Initially I’m astounded, but after a while, I’m sadly less surprised.

What kind of a message does that send?

If guys like him lie willfully under oath, how does that say about their credibility when not under oath?


Big Brother sees all but can’t keep a secret?

1984Two news items from this week have me quite uneasy.

The NSA is basically listening in on every US citizen. For the sake of argument, let me assume that they get everything. So far I don’t think we’re quite there yet here in Denmark.

Data held by the Danish police has been hacked. We’re not sure exactly what the hackers have had access to, but we do know they’ve had at least read+write access to all driver’s license data and read access to the Schengen Information System, a large European database on police and judicial co-operation. They’ve been lurking around in there undetected for 6 months. Do you believe that is all they’ve had access to? In 2011 Pentagon Admitted 24,000 Files Were Hacked too.

So Big Brother is watching us. This is not hearsay, but documented fact at least in the US. Also, now, we know Big Brother cannot keep its own secrets.

Yikes. Either of these two news stories are bad enough individually. But this is a nasty combination.

Getting older?

The other day, I was cooking, and it was time to set the table.

Suddenly I found myself standing in the storage/utility room. And I had no idea why I was there. “Peter, you need to set the table! Get back on track!” – I told myself.

So I went back into the kitchen. Looked at the table: What was missing? Ah, drinks. OK, glasses, plastic cup for my daughter, pitcher of water – check. “Hey, I’d like a Coke”, so I opened the fridge. No Cokes. Should probably put some in the fridge for next time I want a Coke. I went to the utility room, and suddenly it hit me: That is what I was doing in the storage room! Getting Cokes for the fridge!

Man, I think I’m… What was it? … Yes, I’m getting older!

Watches – Oh – Watches

I love watches.

Being a techie, I really can’t accept a watch that isn’t accurate. The accuracy of a quartz-crystal based watch is the minimum. I wish I could get a Rolex, Omega or other really nice looking watch, but I just can’t accept the accuracy I’ll get from a watch like that. So all the beautiful Swiss watches are out for me. But there are alternatives:

Continue reading Watches – Oh – Watches

Great Courses at Coursera

I’m currently taking a Cryptology course at Stanford University via Coursera. It came recommended by Bruce Schneier on Security: Free Cryptography Class, and I find it a great way to expand my knowledge. I really appreciate the level. Just enough for it to be challenging and stimulating, but also not too hard or too much work, so I can still fit it in with family and work.

And in addition, the courses are free!

Thanks, Coursera and participating universities for making this possible.

Check it out! There are courses in:

  • Computer Science
  • Mathematics and Statistics
  • Society, Networks, and InformationEconomics, Finance, and Business
  • Humanities and Social SciencesHealthcare, Medicine, and Biology

All provided by professors from top-notch univerities in the US.

I’ve only tried the Cryptology course, but it rocks!


Towards a 1984-like society: Lets go some other way!

So now here in Copenhagen, apparently traffic experts are suggesting that instead of a congestion charge similar to London’s, in the future we should have a GPS receiver in our cars that transmits our position continuously to the tax authorities. And I’m sure that somebody (who won’t be re-elected and who therefore can’t be held accountable) will declare that this is for the sole purpose of Congestion Charging. And it wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes the law.

Yeah, right. Now I ask you, dear reader: How long do you think it’ll be before this is also used to find the mythical pedophile nazi-terrorists  too? I guess that’s ok too, right? But how long before they dig in and allow this to be used by the police to find:

  • Illegal parking
  • Speeding
  • People collecting social benefits they shouldn’t be collecting (Danish: “Sociale Bedragere”)
  • People they want to check up on and keep track of, just for good measure.
  • Continuously monitor who associates with conspicuous people, a.k.a before-mentioned pedophile nazi-terrorists.
  • Keeping lists of who participated in which public demonstrations, just for good measure.

And how long before the tabloid press start revealing that reality-star du-jour has spent the night at another reality-star du-jour?

This is a slippery slope. Here in Denmark, we have a “child pornography filter”. Originally that was for child pornography only. But it evolved into blocking The Pirate Bay (because it was proven that pirates are terrorists?), other file-sharing sites and drug spam sites. Its well on its way to being turned into a general purpose SOPA-like censorship filter.

And make no mistake. This is ideal for putting in a database: Who-was-where-when.

Imagine that Hitler gained power today, and measures like these were in place: “Ah, the opponents (I’m sure he’d call them terrorists) met at Freedom Lane nr 17 on Oct 17 at 19.00. Arrest anyone who parked within 15min/200m from this time/place”.

I am scared, actually. Primarily that most people don’t give a damn. Because they think they haven’t got anything to hide.