Monday, November 24, 2008

What does the latest attack on WiFi mean to you? 

The headlines were scary, talking about WiFi security being broken. How bad is it?

Not very. The new attack, clever though it is, doesn't allow someone to get onto your network or to read any of your data. It's important, because it means the security mechanisms weren't doing what they were supposed to, but it's not an operational concern yet.

If you like to stay ahead of the game, you can always poke through your wireless settings and make sure you're not using "TKIP", but you'll be OK if you don't.

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Reading PDFs can be dangerous 

Adobe has patched multiple problems in their software and browser plugin for reading .PDF documents. You want to be running version 9, which fixes all the problems I've heard of.

ComputerWorld article
A smaller, faster PDF reader with fewer and faster-patched security holes

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Voting machines roundup 

Here are some more university studies of voting machine security. The key quote, more important than the fact that they demonstrated a virus copying itself from one voting machine to another and therefore making it possible to compromise several machines by infecting just one, is
While most critical systems are continuously scrutinized and evaluated for safety and correctness, electronic voting systems are not subject to the same level of scrutiny. A number of recent studies have shown that most (if not all) of the electronic voting systems being used today are fatally flawed, and that their quality does not match the importance of the task that they are supposed to carry out.
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The 2008 election went mostly OK, with only scattered reports of problems. Dr. Barbara Simons of the Federal Election Advisory Council still advocates manual audits, pointing to apparent problems that have come up even with optical-scan systems. Her interview is long but well worth the read. Activists worry that there were again discrepancies between exit poll results and the ballot counts, but I don't see how they can rule out bias in the exit polls (one Democratic analyst pointed out that young people are more likely to talk to exit pollers than older people are, and this time there was a big difference between the youth vote and the elderly vote).

Touch screen machines lost ground in this election, especially in the swing states of Ohio and Florida. They were still being used in West Virginia: people in multiple counties there reported their votes being flipped from the candidate they picked to the other one, but that's more likely to be the result of an out-of-alignment touch screen than anything else.

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