hacking news

I have a dream of cracking the software in my car. I'd remove the nag screen on the nav, disable some "safety" features, and so on.  I don't think it will ever happen.  I am not a hacker as most people think of one.  Of course, most people misunderstand the term.

By most any definition, I do not qualify as a hacker.  But I do read about them.  There have been a couple of interesting things happening in the hacker scene lately that I thought I'd break down here for the lay person.  First, the attacks by anonymous on the security firm HBGary.  Second, Sony's crackdown on PS3 modders.  And not really hacking-related but as a bonus, a funny study on coding and profanity.

Let's do those in reverse order.  And with a few nice random nocturnal urban photos from flickr to break it up.

thanks, flickr users

A programmer decided to take a look at which languages inspire the most profanity.  Looks like C++, Javascript, and newcomer Ruby inspire the most imitations of George Carlin.  C, Java, and C# make up the middle group with PHP and Python being the most G-rated.

FYI, I use Java the most with a fair amount of Javascript (yes, they are quite different) and a touch of Python.  I can understand why C++ and Javascript inspire such strong feelings.  Those languages have a lot of frustrating foibles.  Ruby is a mystery as it's supposed to be really easy to use.  My best guess is that as a new language there are a lot of college students using it.  While drunk.

Next up, Sony.  Do you have a Playstation?  I have a PS3.  I use it for Blu-Ray, a few games, Netflix viewing, and playing some old PS2 games.  Wait a minute, that last one is not true.  Sony decided that was not allowed.  Luckily I did not own a PS2 so I don't have a stack of unplayable disks.

But what if I did?  Or what if I wanted to see how well that cell processor could run a webserver or could it power a nice PVR?  Hackers out there have figured how to do these kinds of things and more.  Sure, it invalidates the warranty, and you can no longer get on the PS Network.  But if you are in to these other things, who cares!  It's all fun and games.

Well, not to Sony.  To them, if you do those things you are a criminal.  One of the top modders on the PS scene was raided recently; his equipment was seized and online identities confiscated.  Crazy!  To me, this is personal property that he has purchased and can do with what we will.  Some years back I modded my PS1 so that I could play some foreign games - DDR titles that were not available in the US.  BTW, I have not modded my PS3; it's too expensive for me to take the risk.  But I'm frustrated that the only new-ish DDR titles are for the PS2, thus I can't play them!

I'm amazed and saddened that local authorities did Sony's bidding in this legal grey area.

And finally, the battle between anonymous and HBGary.  Anonymous is a hacker group that has become well-known lately for taking action in defense of wikileaks.  Independent of the wikileaks saga, an analyst at the security firm HBGary declared that he had figured out who anonymous was and was poised to reveal their real-world identities.

It's unclear whether he had genuinely uncovered anything, probably not.  But either way, taunting a group like anonymous is a dangerous game.  You had better be able to defend yourself.  HBGary (remember, a computer security company) was not ready.  Their digital assets were owned, and epically.  If this kind of story appeals to you, I recommend the coverage by Ars Technica.  First, the drama I summarized above, and second the failures of HBGary that were exploited.

I hope this geekout was enjoyable for you.  I wouldn't want to be responsible for any cursing!