Remember how Facebook “failed to protect” the data of 30 million users back in 2017?

Turns out the whole thing is a bit more dramatic. Apparently Facebook essentially gave the private data of 50 million users to a “researcher” who told them he needed it for “research purposes”. So Facebook is like “Sure, go for it.” without properly checking anything. Turns out the “researcher” then gave the data to the data analylzing company Cambridge Analytica which used the private data of those 50 million profiles to analyze and predict voter behaviour for the election campaign of Trump.

Facebook claims that it is not their fault because they got scammed by the researcher. What a shitty excuse for failing to protect data entrusted to them. If your bank tells you “We’re sorry that your account is empty, but some guy came by and told us that you said he could have all your cash. So we gave it to him. How could we have known? We are not to blame! We got scammed!”

And people still ask me why I am not on Facebook…. you guys need to fucking wake up. Ever wondered why Facebook is free and you don’t have to pay anything? Want to guess how they pay for all their employees, data centers, and office buildings?

If you are not the customer, you are the product!

After actually getting asked about the whole UK/Russia situation a couple of times now, let me answer those questions here instead:

Do you think Russia is to blame?

There is no publically available information that actually enables anyone to make a well-informed decision on this matter. The UK accuses Russia but there is not a single shred of evidence that has been released, which actually proves this. As a scientist, for me it is all about evidence and fact-based decisions. We are not affraid to say “Well, we don’t know yet” if we can not explain some phenomenon in the lab and the same holds true here. Especially in international politics you have to get your facts straight so you don’t fuck up.

Was it the nerve agent the UK claims it to be? Who used it if it wasn’t Russia?

I have no idea whether it was what the UK claims to be, but would it matter? Not really. Just because someone kills someone else with a weapon that was manufactured in a country 20 years ago doesn’t mean that country is to blame. By that logic, if someone in Australia shoots someone else with an AR-15 manufactured in the USA, the Aussies have to invade the US. It makes absolutely no sense. Now, is a nerve agent more difficult to acquire than a rifle? Of course it is. Would Russia be capable? Of course, but so would a dozen other countries.

UK, Israel, United States, France, China, … possibly even my own country Germany. Take a look at all the countries that have biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) facilities. This is for highly infectious diseases like ebola, mind you, but the technology is there and pretty much similar. Chemical agents are smaller, so you need better filters and such but in the end it is probably not too far out to suggest that a nation, that can afford to run a BSL-4 lab, can probably also run a chemical weapons lab.

What do you think of the reactions of the parties involved?

I am appalled, especially by the UK and any other country, including my own, that blindly accuses another nation without evidence. There are actually proper procedures in place by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which states that an accused party has 10 days to provide a clarification that has to be formally requested first by the accusing party.

The UK has completely ignored the rules and procedures, issued a 24h ultimatum and now is peeved that Russia told them to go fuck themselves. Honestly, this was the expected reaction and while I am in no way a big fan of Putin and his regime, there is a nice phrase in Germany:

Wie man in den Wald hinein ruft, so schallt es heraus.

Literally this translates to The way you shout into the forest is the way the sound comes back out at you. Its meaning is probably similar to What goes around, comes around. So, if your first reaction is to piss on someone, he will probably piss back. If you are cooperative and ask nicely, chances are the other guy will be as well.

The UK opened up an immediate pissing contest and Russia responded in kind.

But what if it was Russia?

I don’t know. What if if was the UK? That is for politicians to decide and of course if any party is proven guilty, there have to be repercussions. But the emphasis is on proven. I am a big fan of the general principle Innocent until proven guilty and it seems most of the western countries and a lot of the media do not share this opinion at the moment when it comes to our eastern neighbour.

So until there is actual proof being released on who is to blame everyone should hold their horses and stop behaving like little children.

Even Apples Ads Have Bugs

Sat, Mar 17, 2018

If you watch apples newest ad video closely you can notice a glitch at 0:50 where the text in the message is reaching beyond the message bubble. (Screenshot below)

iphone bug

Of course this is not security related and more an issue for the obsessive compulsive but some guy has reported this months ago to apple. While we know that they take their time fixing bugs, even if you tell them about one, it might still make its way into a product advertisement. ^^

Also, the QA team seems to be doing a great job!

Just two weeks after Trumps idea of getting gun-trained teachers to carry firearms imploded on itself we have another glorious example of the added safety this idea has brought to american schools.

Apparently a gun-trained teacher had an accidental discharge and now there’s a male student with neck injuries, possibly due to a bullet fragment or at least debris that fell down from the ceiling.

When will the NRA finally do something about this? We need armed students to defend against gun-trained teachers!!1!

In an unexpected rush of common sense, the German Bundesgerichtshof (highest civil court in Germany) has dismissed (link in German) the case of an 80 year old woman who wanted to sue her bank for only using the word “Kunde” (customer) in their banking forms. She wanted the bank to print extra forms where “Kunde” would be replaced by “Kundin”, which is the female variant of the word, meaning - of course - “a female customer”.

Now, if you are not into the German language, you might have still noticed that we love our gender articles. Der (male), die (female), das (neutral), and there isn’t even a clear rule how to use them. It is der Baum aka the tree and it is male. Die Sonne is the sun and female. Der Mond is the moon and it is male again. So yeah, pretty confusing already and sometimes not just to non-Germans ;-)

Over the last 2000 years the male form has evolved into a neutral term that is used to describe people in general, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or whatever if adressing a whole group. For example Dear customers would become Liebe Kunden, and even though Kunden is the male plural of customer, if you use it in this way it just means all customers, in the english sense of the word. Genderless, so to speak. If you don’t do it that way in German, you can go for Liebe Kunden und Kundinnen which basically means Dear male and female customers. This is a lot longer and especially inside of contract speak or legalese it does not always help the already wicked sentence structure. People often have a hard time understanding that crap anyway.

In addition, nowadays the people that think that they are neither male nor female but non-binary, transgender, unicorn, or whatever else tickles their fancy, want in on the action. So if you want to please everyone (and when did that ever go wrong) you can write about half a page for adressing your audience. Of course this also helps a lot if in a contract, written in legalese, the customer is refered to three times per paragraph.

So, for almost two milennia, people have agreed that it is good to pick one of the genders, use it as a general term and stick with it. No disrespect included, just a general term to make our already complicated language a little bit easier. This logic is of course wasted on you if you are a German senior with too much time on your hands and no real problems to care about.

Amazingly, the highest court was hit with the logic bat and agreed that this is a waste of time. The banks can just keep writing Liebe Kunden, no new forms have to be printed, 99.9999% of the populace are happy and don’t give a fuck anyway, case closed. Of course that 80 year old woman already said that she wants to take the case to the european court so we will have to see how this bounces, but for now, a German court has actually made a sensible decision regarding one of those notorious gender questions. I had never thought that I would see this day…. Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

The UK diplomats at the Human Rights Council have released a statement regarding the importance of freedom of the media

A free and independent media fulfils a vital role in holding the powerful to account and giving a voice to the powerless.

showing their great sense of british humor. The UK has probably some of the worst libel laws when it comes to protecting freedom of the press. A country that basically coined the term libel tourism which describes the practise of foreign citizens coming to the UK to sue others because it is so damn easy and profitable.

The UK is ranked #40 in the world freedom of press index after such illustrious competitors as Slovakia (#17), Namibia (#24), and Uruguay (#25). Even France (#39), which rekindled its love for martial law and shady anti-terror laws, managed to beat them.

Julian Assange had a thing or two to say as well ^^ (Screenshot below in case Twitter goes on a censor spree again)

Assange replies to UK

Cortana, Open Sesame!

Wed, Mar 7, 2018

Two Israeli researchers have found a way to bypass the screen lock protection of Windows 10 machines and install malware. How? Well, just talk to Cortana and tell her to visit a website serving malicious code because she still listens even if the screen is locked… :)

Project Gutenberg, a small non-profit that is dedicated to digitizing and archiving cultural works and providing them as free ebooks, has blocked access from German ip addresses over a court ruling. Seems like the notorious law firm Waldorf Frommer, which is known in Germany for regularly sending out thousands of cease-and-desist letters as their business model, managed to get a ruling in their favour on behalf of their client the S. Fischer Verlag GmbH, in front of a German court.

Apparently Project Gutenberg hosted digitized copies of works of Heinrich Mann (died 1950), Thomas Mann (died 1955), and Alfred Döblin (died 1957). In Germany the copyright for these works is held by the above mentioned company and it only expires after the death of the author plus 70 years. Funny thing is, Project Gutenberg is not based in Germany, they are based in the US. Why aren’t they being sued in the US? Well, because according to US copyright rules the copyright has already expired, so it would be a lost case.

The guys from Project Gutenberg are trying to appeal the ruling but as they are a small group of volunteers, they lack the funds to go all out in defense. So if you are inclined to support a noble cause in it’s defense against the copyright leeches, consider making a donation to them. The page linked at the top has donation instructions if you scroll down all the way.