Wednesday, December 25, 2013

RSA paid for crypto backdoor

RSA Security was famous for leaking a backdoor to its biggest crypto product to Chinese hackers, and now it has been exposed to have been paid to have an NSA backdoor:
RSA has issued a statement denying allegations stemming from Friday's bombshell report that the encryption software provider received $10 million from the National Security Agency (NSA) in exchange for making a weak algorithm the preferred one in its BSAFE toolkit. ...

Nothing in the release contradicts the findings of the Reuters article — that RSA accepted $10 million from the NSA in exchange for making the Dual EC_DRBG BSAFE's default pseudo random number generator (PRNG).
This hasn't hit the press yet, but there was a similar story with a Canadian crypto company. Here is the 2003 press release:
Certicom Corp. (TSX: CIC), a leading provider of wireless security solutions, today announced that the National Security Agency (NSA) in Maryland has purchased extensive licensing rights to Certicom’s MQV-based Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) intellectual property. ... This contract, valued at US$25 million, ...
Certicom promoted MQV as an IEEE standard, and the NSA also made it a standard.

One of the stated purposes of MQV was to resist the "unknown key share attack". However the NSA weakened MQV to make it susceptible to that attack, and the weakness was published in 2001. It was the NSA-weakened protocol that Certicom promoted as an IEEE standard.

I was on the IEEE committee, and voted against MQV because it had been broken. I was outvoted. I could never get a clear explanation as to why we were adopting a broken version of a protocol, except that NSA was supporting the broken version. My guess is that Certicom was influenced by that $25M.

I cannot say that any spying resulted from use of MQV. NSA ended up dropping MQV, and I doubt that many others use it. That is too bad, as an improved version, HMQV is quite efficient and secure.

Disclosure: I was involved in a couple of lawsuits against RSA in the 1990s. I alleged antitrust violations and an assortment of patent issues. I ended up getting a judgment with a license to the public key cryptography patents. The RSA claims against me were all dismissed. The patentability issues were never really resolved, as Forbes calls it the most difficult question in patent law and it is currently back before the US Supreme Court.

Update: Certicom also had a hand in the RSA backdoor. None of these weaknesses were particularly secret, as they were always documented on the relevant Wikipedia pages.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Brooks tries to speak for conservatives

Somehow NY Times columnist David Brooks gets away with being a spokesman for conservative Christians. On Meet The Press he said:
GREGORY: ... Duck Dynasty. Phil Robertson in GQ Magazine got this started. For those who-- who love the show saying, “Start with homos”-- What in your mind is sinful, was the question. He says, “start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men…” ...

MR. BROOKS: Yeah. They-- they’re trying to frame it as a defense of faith. And I know a lot of orthodox Christians who take a biblical and more hostile view of homosexuality than I do, and a lot of people do. But I’ve never heard those orthodox Christians express with the disrespect that he did. And frankly, in the un-Christian manner he did. So to say that this is a defense of faith, that what he said is-- is-- is strictly Christian faith? That’s not what it is. It was a disrespectful way to say a lot of ugly things.
Brooks is Jewish, and writes many columns praising Barack Obama. He does not speak for conservative Christians, and he does not define what is or is not Christian faith.

Robertson did not disrespect anyone, or act in an un-Christian manner. He just stated his personal preferences and quoted the Bible, while saying that he was not judging others. If anyone is committing hate speech, it is Brooks, NBC, and the NY Times. They dishonestly attack Christians.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Goofy analogies for spying

Here is how Pres. Obama tried to justify NSA spying:
“If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes–now, granted, in the White House I don’t do the dishes that much, but back in the day–and she’s a little skeptical. well,I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have to take my word for it.”
And here is his NSA director's explanation:
It’s like when you were younger—well, this is for boys—you know, when you’re younger you say, “I don’t want to take a bath.” You say, “No, I’ll never to take a bath.” Why would you want to take a bath, well, you have to take a bath, clean, da da, da. You say, “But isn’t there a better way?” So we had to take baths, right. Or showers.
Actually, my impression is that most people do not care much about the NSA spying. The spying from Facebook, Google, Apple, banks, phone companies, credit bureaus, etc. seems worse.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Nutty diet advice

Here is more bad diet advice from health officials. AP reports:
There's more disappointing news about multivitamins: Two major studies found popping the pills didn't protect aging men's brains or help heart attack survivors. ...

"Evidence is sufficient to advise against routine supplementation," said a sharply worded editorial that accompanied Monday's findings in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

After all, most people who buy multivitamins and other supplements are generally healthy, said journal deputy editor Dr. Cynthia Mulrow. Even junk foods often are fortified with vitamins, while the main nutrition problem in the U.S. is too much fat and calories, she added.
These studies are useless, unless you were popping those vitamins to prevent heart attacks or brain aging. People take vitamin to insure against a deficiency, and to feel healthier.

Calories are high nutrition, by definition. Fat people eat to much calories, but not necessarily too much fat. A lot of people get fat on low-fat, high-carbo diets.

Here is better advice from a 99yo scientist with a track record of being correct:
The problem, he says, is not LDL, the “bad cholesterol” widely considered to be the major cause of heart disease. What matters is whether the cholesterol and fat residing in those LDL particles have been oxidized. (Technically, LDL is not cholesterol, but particles containing cholesterol, along with fatty acids and protein.)

“Cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease, except if it’s oxidized,” Dr. Kummerow said. ...

This leads him to a controversial conclusion: that the saturated fat in butter, cheese and meats does not contribute to the clogging of arteries — and in fact is beneficial in moderate amounts in the context of a healthy diet (lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other fresh, unprocessed foods).

His own diet attests to that. Along with fruits, vegetables and whole grains, he eats red meat several times a week and drinks whole milk daily.

He cannot remember the last time he ate anything deep-fried. He has never used margarine, and instead scrambles eggs in butter every morning. He calls eggs one of nature’s most perfect foods, something he has been preaching since the 1970s, when the consumption of cholesterol-laden eggs was thought to be a one-way ticket to heart disease.
Research also favors eating high-fat nuts:
The reports about their many benefits have come thick and fast: studies finding that people who eat nuts (tree nuts like cashews, almonds and pistachios, along with their legume pal, the peanut) live longer and healthier lives, with less risk of chronic ailments like heart disease, respiratory problems and Type 2 diabetes.

But perhaps the most startling news is that nuts may help in maintaining a healthy weight. Research has found that people can snack on modest amounts of them without gaining pounds, and that nuts can even help in slimming down.
So maybe the ideal meal is steak and eggs, with cheese and nuts.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Obama pajama boy

What is the most offensive story of the day? My choice is the Obama pajama boy (see also comments here or here).

Here are some others.

The NY Times reports on one of its admired professors:
When Samuel See was found dead in a New Haven jail cell last month, nine hours after being put there after a domestic dispute with his husband, the question was how did he die, a disquieting mystery that remains unsolved.

Faculty members and students at Yale University, where he was an admired assistant professor of English, were shaken and openly mourned the abrupt, inexplicable conclusion to his life. Investigations are now examining the circumstances of his death, to see if he had been ill or injured and determine whether the authorities bore any blame. He was 34.

In the weeks that have passed, equally puzzling questions have arisen about just who Mr. See was and how many lives he led.

Was he a hip, beloved college professor enmeshed in discord with the man he had recently married? Was he someone battling crippling health and emotional problems? Or was he a gay hustler, brazenly posting explicit pictures of himself on male escort websites in pursuit of sexual encounters?

From the incomplete pieces that have thus far emerged, it seems he was all of those things.

Over at least the last year, according to people who knew him, the once outgoing Mr. See had become withdrawn. He told one professor that he was H.I.V. positive; a friend said Mr. See believed he had bipolar disorder; and several people said he seemed depressed. In the last year and a half, according to Frank Anastasio, a neighbor, ambulances took Mr. See from his apartment at least half a dozen times. Another neighbor said an ambulance came for him the day before his arrest. At the time, Mr. See was on an unpaid leave.
The star of the leading reality TV show has expressed a personal hetersexual preference:
A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ.

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty," A&E said in a statement. "His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

The news comes after Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality in an interview with the magazine. He'll likely appear in season four, which bows Jan. 15, since production is largely wrapped.

"It seems like, to me, a vagina -- as a man -- would be more desirable than a man's anus," Robertson says in the January issue of the men's magazine. "That's just me. I'm just thinking: There's more there! She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical."

During a discussion about repentance and God, Robertson is asked what he finds sinful.

"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there," he says. "Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

He goes on to paraphrase Corinthians: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."
Here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (New King James Version):
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals [catamites], nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.
It is not true that Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality. He merely stated his preference, and recited a list of biblical sins, in response to questions.

Pope Francis is LGBT person of the year, for his comments on gay priests. He also reiterated previous Catholic doctrines on the subject.

Update: Newt Gingrich said:
Ironically, if you read the whole interview, not just take one section, he [Robertson] talks very specifically about loving everybody. He talks very specifically about not being judgmental toward anybody, that’s God’s decision, not his. I mean, it is remarkable. There’s sections there where he sounds like Pope Francis.
Update: People assume that A+E had the right to suspend Robertson, but I question that. His contract probably requires him to do interviews to promote the show, and that is what he did. There is probably also a clause against disparaging others, but he did not do that, except maybe to say that he does not understand gays.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bonus for attractive people

A new study shows:
Looks have long-term consequences:

Women gain an eight percent wage bonus for above-average looks and pay a four percent wage penalty for below-average looks.

For men, the bonus is only four percent. But the penalty for below-average looks is even higher than for women – a full 13 percent.

From high school on, people rate better-looking people higher in intelligence, personality, and potential for success—and this often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The knee-jerk liberal reaction:
No one should be judged by their sex, their color, or whether they are attractive.
I wonder what is the justification for this statement is. Millions of people judge the attractiveness of others every day, if not billions. How else would society work? What is the harm?

Attractiveness is partially inborn and heritable, but so is intelligence, personality, health, religiosity, and many other factors.

The bias towards better-looking people may be entirely logical:
Empirical studies demonstrate that individuals perceive physically attractive others to be more intelligent than physically unattractive others. While most researchers dismiss this perception as a “bias” or “stereotype,” we contend that individuals have this perception because beautiful people indeed are more intelligent.
Meanwhile, scientists are correcting the bias against Neanderthals:
Archaeologists have long debated the question of whether Neandertals buried their dead. The practice is considered a key feature of modern human behavior. In recent years researchers have found compelling evidence that Neandertals had other modern practices, such as decorating their bodies and making sophisticated tools. Furthermore, they did these things before anatomically modern humans invaded their turf, which suggests that Neandertals developed these cultural traditions independently, rather than learning them from savvy newcomers.

Over the years researchers have argued that a number of Neandertal sites preserve evidence of burials.
And some scientists are trying to censor the word "God". A public radio station reports:
The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum on Monday removed a controversial quote from its Nature Lab exhibit.

The quote, which was put up at the request of an anonymous donor, read:

"The Nature Lab is a gift to Los Angeles to celebrate all of God's creatures and enable NHM to broaden our understanding of the natural world through the process of scientific discovery.' Anonymous Donor - 2013 "

The use of the phrase "God's creatures" angered some scientists, including University of Chicago Department of Ecology and Evolution professor Jerry Coyne.
Coyne is a hard-core atheist-determinist, but it is really hard to see how anyone could be angered by such an innocuous statement.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bullying is now name-calling

Wikipedia defines:
Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or aggressively to impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual.
I always thought of bullying as physical violence, or the use of threats for coercion. But more and more, the term seems to used to describe simple name-calling, such as one of the biggest sports stories of the year being this NFL football scandal:
Incognito was suspended earlier this month after Martin went public with allegations he has long been harassed and bullied by teammates, including receiving voice mail and text messages from Incognito where be berated him as a "half-nigger" and threatened to "kill him."
Our current school anti-bullying fad seems to be directed at name-calling. When I was in school, bullying referred to getting beaten up, and no one got so upset by a little silly name-calling. We must be raising an extremely emotionally fragile generation.

Now using the word "retard" can get a comic banned from Facebook.

The most outrageous recent example of bullying was how the Mandela memorial interpreter mocked all of the speakers on international TV:
The South African sign language interpreter accused of using fake signs at Nelson Mandela's memorial service this week said he suffered a schizophrenic episode at the event, but another interpreter says it was not the first time Thamsanqa Jantjie has done bogus interpretations.

Jantjie, who has been called an imposter by sign experts, told Johannesburg's Star newspaper Thursday that he hallucinated and heard voices during the memorial service.
Why do some people find name-calling so offensive? Apparently it is a cultural thing among non-Europeans:
Shame is the primary means of behavioral control in most societies. If you are seen breaking a social rule, you will feel shame, and this feeling will be reinforced by what people say and do (gossiping, malicious looks, spitting, ostracism, etc.). Shame is much less effective if you break a rule without being seen or if you merely think about breaking a rule.

Guilt is more important in European societies, particularly those of Northwest European origin. It operates even when you act alone or merely think about breaking a rule. Behavior can thus be regulated in all possible situations with a minimum of surveillance.
The rise of individualism in northwest Europe is closely related to the shift from shame to guilt.

As the USA is being flooded with non-European immigrants, we are accommodating a shame culture.

Update: More info on the fake interpreter:
JOHANNESBURG - eNCA can reveal the sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s memorial on Tuesday faced a murder charge in 2003.

Thamsanqa Jantjie, who is being treated for schizophrenia, has also faced rape (1994), theft (1995), house-breaking (1997), malicious damage to property (1998), murder, attempted murder and kidnapping (2003) charges.

It’s unknown if the case was ever concluded as the court file is mysteriously empty.

The man now known by many as the ‘fake interpreter’, stood just a foot away from world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, who is one of the most heavily protected men on the planet.

President Jacob Zuma and leaders from China, Cuba, Brazil and India were also on the stage.

eNCA's investigations have found that Thamsanqa Jantjie, who is being treated for schizophrenia, has also faced rape (1994), theft (1995), housebreaking (1997), malicious damage to property (1998), murder, attempted murder and kidnapping (2003) charges.

Many of the charges brought against him were dropped, allegedly because he was mentally unfit to stand trial.