Agora – Hypatia of Alexandria

Agora DVD

Hypatia of Alexandria lived in th 4th century A.D., in hard times for a female philosopher and scientist. According to Wikipedia, she is “the first female mathematician whose life is reasonably well recorded.” The astronomer and university teacher Hypatia tried to conserve the (ancient-classical) knowledge that was endangered by religious turmoil in the wake of the fall of the Roman empire. 

Rachel Weisz plays a wonderful Hypatia in Amenábar’s movie “Agora“. In its end, she’s killed by religious fanatists (in this case Christian ones), who tear her skin off, mostly because she failed to comply with the religion’s rules and the position in society she was supposed to take.

#Meltdown-#Spectre: I Guess the NSA knew about it since 1995…

The Intel 80x86 Platform should never be used in environments that need security... Here is a study from 1995 which was paid for by the NSA (I guess that is what “under the auspices” means?) and that comes to very frightening findings. Well, at least if you’re in security and IT:

“An in-depth analysis of the 80×86 processor families identifes architectural properties that may have unexpected, and undesirable, results in secure com-

puter systems. In addition, reported implementation errors in some processor versions render them undesirable for secure systems because of potential security and reliability problems.”

“This analysis is being performed under the auspices of the National Security Agency’s Trusted Product Evaluation Program (TPEP).”

I think this study sheds a strange light on the following quote from the Washington post:

“Rob Joyce, White House cybersecurity coordinator, said, “NSA did not know about the flaw, has not exploited it and certainly the U.S. government would

never put a major company like Intel in a position of risk like this to try to hold open a vulnerability.”

Oh really? A #Meltdown?

meltdownMedia is going crazy about #Meltdown and #Spectre. Should you panic, too?

Here are some of my thoughts on that recent security desaster:

  1. Don’t worry. Your systems have been damaged for twenty years, probably. A hardware vendor (probably more, maybe all of them) sold buggy chips, and they have been broken since 1995 or so.
  2. It became known during the summer of 2017. At least, but surely not only since then a realistic chance of exploits was around, which became imminent some weeks ago and led Google/Intel to withdrawing from deadline and going public.
  3. Yes, your systems are most likely affected. If you were not asked recently (i.e. since last Wednesday) to upgrade your kernel, then you have a problem. You are not affected if you are running hardware older than 1995 or some ARM stuff. Your kernel should now be 4.14.11 or newer – or contain backported code if it is an older version.
  4. The patches deployed by all major OS vendors last week will make your systems significantly slower. However they will fix most of the problems, but not the ones that are so deep into hardware that no software can fix. Yes there are. But if you are only gaming, sending mails, writing office documents and browsing the web, you won’t even notice. However, if you are a database admin or running DNS servers or Enterprise Clouds – anything with many “context switches” between userland and kernel space, then you’re likely to suffer from performance loss.. 
  5. The whole story may even become an #intelgate, because rumors have it that Intel had prior knowledge and some strange things going on with testing. Rumors, nothing more, except for a CEO selling most of his Intel stock in November and a flaw that makes systems 30-50% faster, but for what a price?


Western Digital MyCloud – The Internet of insecure Things (IoiT), part 157

I like it when your gut feeling proves to be right. Hackernews just published this


I have one of these devices, and after a first glance I deactivated the software as fast as I could – obviously my intuition was right.



Really Safer? Or just a feeling?

security theater meets bike

What people feel and what is actually true – that’s often not quite the same. Expecially when it comes to security, merely feeling safe sometimes seems to be more important than reality. As the blog “Erich sieht” shows that is true cycling as well. The British National Health Service NHS puts it in a very short sentence:

“Official figures taken from the NTS suggest that the general risk of injury from cycling in the UK is just 1 injury per 19,230 hours of cycling.”

“Erich sieht” does the math for you: A typical bycicle courier would need to work for ten years, 40 hours per week to suffer his first injury – statistically.

Videomitschnitt »Twittwoch Spezial Datenschutz« in München (2013)

Having a fine debate – it’s just the best thing to do on a wednesday, right?!

In 2013 I was invited to “Twittwoch” (literally a combination of “twitter” and “Mittwoch”, meaning wednesday in German) talking about data security in Munich. On the panel such interesting fellas as Jerzy Montag, then member of German parliament, Daniel Duda, an expert on cyber security, Tanja Gabler from Internet World Business, Stefan Gröner and Dr. Guido Brinkel (1&1 Internet AG, Expert Government Relations).

Watch to the interesting discussion presented by our host the amazing blogger Thomas Pfeiffer.

(In German only.)



Frances Spence – another unhonored ENIAC developer

Frances Spence

One more from the core female developers of ENIAC. As other women, she mostly went unhonored – because female contributions didn’t match societies’ expectations:

Photos of these women working on the computer often went without credit in newspapers at the time, and when the ENIAC was completed and unveiled to the public on February 15, 1946, the US Army failed to mention the names of the female programmers who had programmed the machine to run such sophisticated calculations. This further contributed to the perceived disconnect between women and computing.

(Read more on Wikipedia)

The Twitter-Controversy: Titanic and Beatrix von Storch

Freedom of speechIt’s abut freedom of speech, so the stakes are rather high.

It may sound a little overwhelming, but the tide is high in the controversy about the newest data (security) and privacy laws in Germany and Twitter. Because of the new legislation, mainly done by Heiko Maas (social democrats), that was supposed to stop digital harrasment and racism, kicked fully in: but not in the way it seemed designed for. The satirical magazine “Titanic” got shut down on Twitter (by Twitter) for its parody on altright politician Beatrix von Storch.

Read more here:

ENIAC: Betty Jean Jennings Bartik

The ENIAC's main control panel with Bartnik on the left.

Bartik was one of the leading developers of the ENIAC trajectory computer, and she was quite proud of its first public presentation in 1946:

“The day ENIAC was introduced to the world was one of the most exciting days of my life. The demonstration was fabulous. ENIAC calculated the trajectory faster than it took the bullet to travel. We handed out copies of the calculations as they were run. ENIAC was 1,000 times faster than any machine that existed prior to that time. With its flashing lights, it also was an impressive machine illustrating graphically how fast it was actually computing.”

(more at Wikipedia)