It seems sharing play-lists is no longer an innocent behaviour, nor is playing YouTube with the sound on in the presence of automated speech recognition like Google’s, Amazon’s and Apple’s cloud connected microphones in your living room. “CommanderSongs can be spread through Internet (e.g., YouTube) and radio.

The easiest mitigation of course is not having such microphones in your home in the first place. Another is running your own ASR with your 95% standard commands localized in the device. Edge first like Candle proposes, not cloud first.

Bookmarked CommanderSong: A Systematic Approach for Practical Adversarial Voice Recognition (arXiv.org)

The popularity of ASR (automatic speech recognition) systems, like Google Voice, Cortana, brings in security concerns, as demonstrated by recent attacks.
The impacts of such threats, however, are less clear, since they are either
less stealthy (producing noise-like voice commands) or requiring the physical
presence of an attack device (using ultrasound). In this paper, we demonstrate
that not only are more practical and surreptitious attacks feasible but they
can even be automatically constructed. Specifically, we find that the voice
commands can be stealthily embedded into songs, which, when played, can
effectively control the target system through ASR without being noticed. For
this purpose, we developed novel techniques that address a key technical
challenge: integrating the commands into a song in a way that can be
effectively recognized by ASR through the air, in the presence of background
noise, while not being detected by a human listener. Our research shows that
this can be done automatically against real world ASR applications. We also
demonstrate that such CommanderSongs can be spread through Internet (e.g.,
YouTube) and radio, potentially affecting millions of ASR users. We further
present a new mitigation technique that controls this threat.

The Guardian writes about how left wing economics seems to be landing on their own economic narrative and proposition. Mostly until now leftwing economic policies aim(ed) at shaving off some of the rough edges of the rightwing ones. Making them rear-guard skirmishes almost by definition.

Last Monday in a conversation on government and markets, I remarked it baffles me that most discussions seem to pretend there’s only government task / public ownership on one end, and (unregulated) free market on the other end. As if there isn’t an entire spectrum in between of structures, legal entities and tools that deal with ownership, control, (immoral) externalising of costs, and influence in very different ways. Aral Balkan’s recent proposal is an example of such alternatives. That false dichotomy is a ruse it seems to put any suggestion of change into a default defensive position. Which is where left wing economic politics has been for decades.

Our economic structures, as any structure humans come up with, are tools, not a force of nature, and as such can be done away with when we find we want different tools. Now definitely seems to be such a time, in the light of global challenges and many people feeling disempowered in the face of those challenges. A search for novel agency is on.

The Guardian posits that this emerging leftwing economic approach is new. The article quotes Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill saying “If we want to live in democratic societies, then we need to … allow communities to shape their local economies …. It is no longer good enough to see the economy as some kind of separate technocratic domain in which the central values of a democratic society somehow do not apply.

This is hardly new as economics, maybe as leftwing position. Karl Polanyi (died 1964) posited much the same thing, that economic structures need to serve communities, and warned that for most of the 20th century “Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.” Leading an article in Renewable Matters from a year before this Guardian article to ask “What if Karl Polanyi was right?

Read The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism (the Guardian)

Christine Berry, a young British freelance academic, is one of the network’s central figures. “We’re stripping economics back to basics,” she says. “We want economics to ask: ‘Who owns these resources? Who has power in this company?’ Conventional economic discourse obfuscates these questions, to the benefit of those with power.”

The new leftwing economics wants to see the redistribution of economic power, so that it is held by everyone – just as political power is held by everyone in a healthy democracy. This redistribution of power could involve employees taking ownership of part of every company; or local politicians reshaping their city’s economy to favour local, ethical businesses over large corporations; or national politicians making co-operatives a capitalist norm.

Hossein Derakhshan makes an important effort to find more precise language to describe misinformation (or rather mis- dis- and mal- information). In this Medium article, he takes a closer look at the different combinations of actors and targets, along the lines of state, non-state entities and the public.

Table by Hossein Derakhshan, from article DisInfo Wars

One of his conclusions is

…that from all the categories, those three where non-state organisations are targeted with dis-/malinfomation (i.e. SN, NN, and PN) are the most effective in enabling the agents to reach their malicious goals. Best example is still how US and UK state organisations duped independent and professional media outlets such as the New York Times into selling the war with Iraq to the public.
….
The model, thus, encourages to concentrate funds and efforts on non-state organisations to help them resist information warfare.

He goes on to say that public protection against public agents is too costly, or too complicated:

the public is easy to target but very hard (and expensive) to protect – mainly because of their vast numbers, their affective tendencies, and the uncertainty about the kind and degree of the impact of bad information on their minds

I feel that this is where our individual civic duty to do crap detection, and call it out when possible, or at least not spread it, comes into play as inoculation.

SimCity200, adapted from image by m01229 CC-BY)

Came across an interesting article, and by extension the techzine it was published in: Logic.
The article was about the problematic biases and assumptions in the model of urban development used in the popular game SimCity (one of those time sinks where my 10.000 hours brought me nothing 😉 ). And how that unintentionally (the SimCity creator just wanted a fun game) may have influenced how people look at the evolution of cityscapes in real life, in ways the original 1960’s work the game is based on never has. The article is a fine example of cyber history / archeology.

The magazine it was published in, Logic (twitter), started in the spring of 2017 and is now reaching issue 7. Each issue has a specific theme, around which contributions are centered. Intelligence, Tech against Trump, Sex, Justice, Scale, Failure, Play, and soon China, have been the topics until now.

The zine is run by Moira Weigel, Christa Hartsock, Ben Tarnoff, and Jim Fingal.

I’ve ordered the back issues, and subscribed (though technically it is cheaper to keep ordering back-issues). They pay their contributors, which is good.


Cover for the upcoming edition on tech in China. Design (like all design for Logic) by Xiaowei R. Wang.

It obviously makes no sense to block the mail system if you disagree with some of the letters sent. The deceptive method of blocking used here, targeting the back-end servers so that mail traffic simply gets ignored, while Russian Protonmail users still seemingly can access the service, is another sign that they’d rather not let you know blocking goes on at all. This is an action against end-to-end encryption.

The obvious answer is to use more end-to-end encryption, and so increase the cost of surveillance and repression. Use my protonmail address as listed on the right, or use PGP using my public key on the right to contact me. Other means of reaching me with end-to-end encryption are the messaging apps Signal and Threema, as well as Keybase (listed on the right as well).

Bookmarked Russia blocks encrypted email provider ProtonMail (TechCrunch)

Russia has told internet providers to enforce a block against encrypted email provider ProtonMail, the company’s chief has confirmed. The block was ordered by the state Federal Security Service, formerly the KGB, according to a Russian-language blog, which obtained and published the order aft…