Chapter 4 - Censorship and Free Speech

Today's section is on Censorship and Free Speech... and truthfully, it's mostly a re-hash of my earlier definition of censorship; after this has been posted for a bit I intend to remove that article and replace it with a pointer to this chapter.

However, this chapter has the advantage of putting the whole thing on much firmer theoretical ground, and it will be used as a foundation for quite a few other chapters.

I can say that in my opinion the next couple of weeks are pretty cool, though; in a way next week is when the fun really begins.


False Positives, Few Matches Plague 'No-Fly' List
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Jun 09, 2003
lindner writes "According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the United States No-Fly List uses a soundex algorithm to match names. Designed 'to quickly summon passenger names or to catch deal-hunting passengers making duplicate bookings.' The system has only managed to rack up a slew of false-positives, including everyone matching soundex ("J. Adams") at one point in time. The problem has gotten so bad that there is now a "Fly List" for chronically misidentified passengers." [Privacy Digest]

This should be a firing offense for the programmers. With millions of inputs even the (inevitable) slightest inaccuracy instantly means hundreds of false positives; using such an ancient, English-centric algorithm for a mission-critical instantly renders the system utterly useless, made more useless by the fact the system (software + people) is too arrogant to admit it is wrong.


Slammer worm
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Jun 09, 2003
Maresh had spent two years in front of the console, but, he says, "I had never seen anything like that." Fifty-five million meaningless database server requests were traversing the globe - and one of Akamai's Hong Kong locations was caught in the crossfire. Maresh was the first person on earth to spot the Internet worm that came to be known as Slammer. [Tomalak's Realm]

Pretty interesting piece. I remember when the "Warhol worm" idea was being mocked; Slammer technically wasn't such a worm but it got pretty close to implementing it and it didn't even take the pre-scan steps outlined in the Warhol worm paper.

This actually provides an interesting study for the Warhol worm concept. Slammer was 376 bytes. That's not much. About all the author could jam into the 376 bytes was the code to replicate itself, and it was buggy at that. Any more serious worm which actually was going to do something other then suck bandwidth would of necessity be larger, which would necessarily slow the growth of the worm exponentially as it increased in size.

The good news is that getting such results probably still requires programming in assembly language, which isn't exactly rare but isn't common either. The bad news is that the constraining factor on the worm's growth is transmission time, not raw size, so as the Internet gets faster it gets progressively more vulnerable to this sort of thing.

In a couple more years, one could imagine a 10KB payload, which is easily enough to do just about any one or two malicious things you could think of, and a general virus kit that has a Warhol-style virus framework already loaded into it.

End of the Internet? Nah, the admins will also adapt and prevent it from rocking our world too often. Still, really useful security may become necessary, as turning a security flaw into a Warhol worm approaches zero effort; preventing those flaws entirely is going to get more important.


Chapter 3 - A Communication Model

Chapter 3 of The Ethics of Modern Communication has been posted. As mentioned in yesterday's post, this is the most foundational chapter of the work, the Big Idea that I think everyone is missing. In theory you could derive the rest of the essay from this chapter, though in practice I think it would be difficult, or I wouldn't have written it ;-)

The PDF is now 302KB, 30 pages.


Next chapter probably tommorow

I had thought that the next chapter of the essay would be available today, but I started working on it and ended up nearly completely rewriting the majority of it. Funny how the prospect of actually publishing something like this can cause your standards to suddenly rise.

This was probably the oldest chapter in the work, and it's also the most foundational, so a re-write is probably a good idea. The only bad news is now I have to propogate some of the changes through the rest of the chapters. Bleh. Writing bigs things with lots of dependencies stinks sometimes; programs are much easier to deal with, at least the way I write them.

I want to sit on this overnight and try to do one last pass tommorow to remove things such as egregious redundencies like "the real world communication that happens in the real world." (Literal quote.) Otherwise I'd publish today.


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