* Posts by The Mole

487 publicly visible posts • joined 18 Apr 2007


City council Oracle megaproject got a code red – and they went live anyway

The Mole

Re: A drop in the ocean

Without the ERP system it seems like they have no way to even know if the books are balanced let along work towards balancing them. Its not the only factor but is no doubt a big contributory factor and example of how the council was running everything. As they have said on other stories it isn't the whole but it is the part of the story the technical audience of El Reg are most interested in.

How to spot OpenAI's crawler bot and stop it slurping sites for training data

The Mole

Re: The risk with Robots.txt

Fundamentally it shouldn't matter if you tell all and sundry that directory Y exists. If you want to protect it you need to have appropriate security to protect it, just hoping nobody guesses / finds out the directory name isn't security.

Now you do need to ensure that merely knowing the directory name doesn't give information away (CompanyXTakeoverBid would be a bad name) but a directory name like secure doesn't tell people much.

Quirky QWERTY killed a password in Paris

The Mole

Re: On Screen Keyboard

On windows I don't believe this, but in the days of DOS it does sound much more realistic. They didn't want the keys to display whilst the user was typing so avoided the standard APIs and so used a low level API which returns the key codes. (That era would also explain why someone though a hard coded password was a good idea).

Now, either this was a dos program running in windows, or the part about remoting in was complete embelishment.

Fresh GDPR ruling says even 'minor anxiety' could mean payouts for EU folks

The Mole

So they don't want to set a minimum level of seriousness before a claim is made as that may fluctuate by judge.

However the amount of compensation you may get is completely up to and may fluctuate by judge.

The only winners are going to be lawyers (but that's generally a given)

Microsoft to move some Teams features to more costly 'Premium' edition

The Mole

Re: "will reveal the actual price only once the tool becomes generally available"

Its sensible practice. Now they've pre-announced the price they can see how bad the outcry is before deciding whether to stick with it or pick another value - whilst avoiding headlines about u-turns and the like.

University students recruit AI to write essays for them. Now what?

The Mole

Re: Critical thinking

Why so negative about language evolving? You say that Monetize is lazy, I'd argue its much more efficient (and according to here https://www.etymonline.com/word/monetize#:~:text=monetize%20(v.),%2B%20%2Dize. the word has been around since 1856).

Longer more complex sentences are harder for the brain to process, hence why the English language has such a large corpus of words. Normally their are also additional connotations laid onto the word which may not be reflected in its basic definition. E.g. listicle isn't just an article being a list, it implies it is probably a list of something trivial, full of adverts and likely just read for pleasure or amusement, rather than for more academic purposes.

North Korea using freelance techies to fund missiles and nukes

The Mole

I'm not sure what the point of them avoiding or firms insisting on video calls actually is? All they need to do is fake a Korean/appropriate Asian identity and fake the id documents to match, then just do the interview. Or alternatively as they said just get a go between to do the initial interviews/id checks and then do the work.

More effective is surely to trace the money. Presumably these people are being paid in currency into a bank account (if it is crypto then there's your first problem). Surely checks must be in place to make sure the account name matches the freelancers name. Banks are much better placed to verify id documents and make sure fake accounts aren't being created. Of course it still doesn't help again mules but finding, paying and trusting them surely reduces the effectiveness.

Royal Mail customer data leak shutters online Click and Drop

The Mole

Re: "The root cause is now under investigation."

Not wanting to defend the Royal Mail but what you have forgotten is that total volumes of mail has dropped significantly (https://www.statista.com/statistics/1006816/royal-mail-volume-of-parcels-and-letters-delivered-uk/).

The universal service obligation means many of RM's costs are fixed - the time to deliver 100 letters to a street or 200 letters to a street is pretty much identical so the cost would be fixed but the revenue half. Cost increases are an attempt to keep sufficient revenues coming in, not making excess profit.

Its a deadly spiral though, The fewer letters posted the more it costs per item, which in turn means fewer letters get posted. Not helped by competitors not having a universal service obligation so can cherry pick just the profitable areas without the loss making ones.

AI recruitment software is 'automated pseudoscience', Cambridge study finds

The Mole

Re: Dear Personnel Department

The odds are that picking x applications at random (that meet basic criteria) and just employ them may not have any statistical difference to doing an interview process (AI aided or not).

The Mole

Re: Human-like AI

The biggest problem is that you only get feedback for the candidates that you do select. Most candidates being interviewed will be at least 'ok' were you to employ them. You might think a recruitment process is good (and train your AI on that data) because all the people you recruit are good. In reality it may be that all the candidates you rejected would actually have been excellent but you will never know that.

Scanning phones to detect child abuse evidence is harmful, 'magical' thinking

The Mole

Re: Sponsorship...

Low to zero. He's not exactly been favourable to them in the past, and his research focus over the years make it clear about his views: https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~rja14/

Besides Google, Facebook and their ilk probably wouldn't be that bothered by doing mandatory client side scanning as that gives them the slippery slope to include additional data into targeted advertising

Hi, I'll be your ransomware negotiator today – but don't tell the crooks that

The Mole

Re: That $2000 job

My guess is somebody asking for a quote.

If assume it's only an hour's work, or perhaps even no fee to confirm if there is a free encryptor to decrypt the files.

That emoji may not mean what you think it means

The Mole

Re: Too bloody many

Not really, in the Roman arena it meant agreement/acceptance of the gladiator holding the sword over someone's neck to kill him. Except (apparently) sometimes the gladiator asked the opposite question of should he be spared and then thumbs up meant agreement to him being spared.

IETF publishes HTTP/3 RFC to take the web from TCP to UDP

The Mole

Re: QUIC can do what TCP cant

Not quite. The issue that QUIC tries to resolve is where client A and server B both support feature X of TCP, however because box x in the middle does some 'manipulations' they can't actually use it due to the box in the middle breaking the situation, even though the negotiation to activate the feature succeeded.

The Mole

See comment above. UDP doesn't do head of line dropping, it does packet dropping. The protocol designer on top of UDP is free to implement their own flow control and retry mechanisms just as TCP does over IP.

The benefit is sometimes head of line blocking is what you want, other times skipping lost packets is what you want, QUIC can allow both modes of operation by the client unlike TCP which mandates the behaviour whether you like it or not.

The Mole

But the implementation of TCP acknowledgement is implemented as a single stream with head of line blocking. One lost packet effectively pauses everything until the retransmission happens. (Well ok its a bit more complicated than that but the simplification is close enough to reality).

QUIC builds acknowledgement on top of UDP (in the same way TCP builds it on top of ip). This means it has greater flexibility to evolve more complex acknowledgement protocols - such as allowing traffic for other substreams to continue and only holding up the subs-stream with the lost packet, or deciding its a real time video stream and its better just to continue and let the error handling in the video decoder handle some missing data.

The designers of QUIC basically had 3 choices:

1. Build it on top of TCP just like HTTP and HTTP2. This meant all the problems and limitations of TCP, especially related to flow control.

2. Create a new protocol on top of IP alongside TCP/IP and UDP/IP (QIC/IP), Architecturally this would have been the cleanest approach, but would require all networking equipment and stacks to be updated to support it, we have seen how that has worked for IPv6

3. Layer it on top of UDP so that it can be used on the existing internet infrastructure, but create a new connection orientated protocol - QIC/UDP/IP

Option 3 was definitely the wisest decision, but it does cause confusion as people assume that means it 'is' UDP with its limitations, rather than the reality of its building something new on top of UDP for convenience.

Internet backbone provider Lumen quits Russia

The Mole

Missile vs hot air

Which raises an interesting question.

Are hot air balloons hot enough for a heat seeking missile to get a lock?

Google blocks FOSS Android tool – for asking for donations

The Mole

Re: App Store Pricing

Historically Apple phones have been premium purchases and brought as a fashion icon rather than purely on technical merits. People choose android are more likely to be price sensitive and either

a) don't have enough money to spend on an iPhone or apps, or

b) are more careful with their money so don't waste it on apps

Of course some apps are good value, and some android users will part with cash, but demographically iphone users are likely to spend more due to it being bigger spenders who buy into the platform.

Japan's Supreme Court rules cryptojacking scripts are not malware

The Mole

Re: Theft of electricity?

The difference is that with phone tappers there was physical electricity flowing from A to B. There was a positive charge they could charge you for so to speak.

In this case there is no direct flow of current. It may induce extra electricity to be used by your device, a tiny amount of packets may flow up the phone line (or fibre optic cable) but that's immaterial. You're into the realms of saying that if someone triggers your PIR security light then they owe you for the electricity.

Ultimately if you go to a website you run the risk of them having an animated gif, large jpeg, autoplaying video, ad tracking or other javascript code. Trying to distinguish legally from a poorly written site using excess CPU cycles, through ads and tracking scripts to other more dubious operations would be near impossible and ripe for political abuse

Epic battle latest: Judge reminds Apple it has 30 days to let apps link out to non-Apple payment systems

The Mole

There are many cases where you really really want a stay until the appeal is heard.

If a someone can get a win against their competitor in a lower court and convince the court of an injunction/massive fine (such as in a copyright or patent claim) then that may be enough to drive the competitor out of business.

The competitor may have no revenue coming in until the time the appeal(s) are all eventually heard, even if the appeal is ultimately successful (due to support from better lawyers/experts) it would be too late as the damage is done.

Locked up: UK's Labour Party data 'rendered inaccessible' on third-party systems after cyber attack

The Mole

I was expecting Total Inability to Support Unions' Party

UK MoD data strategy calls for social media surveillance on behalf of 'local authorities'

The Mole

Re: Is this even constitutional?

Last time I checked GCHQ and MI5 are part of the military command. And being signal intelligence and bring technical skills it would almost certainly be GCHQ the job landed with (assuming they aren't already doing it and this is just a way to make it legal/authorized/separately budgeted).

Do yes it won't be the army doing it but will be the military.

Oh the humanity: McDonald's out of milkshakes across Great Britain

The Mole

Re: Border Bureaucracy?

Are you sure it isn't just a bad translation and they should have been named Few Chefs?

'Worst' AWS service ever? Cloud giant introduces Redis-compatible MemoryDB – to mixed response

The Mole

Was hoping for much more analysis, the article got distracted and failed to explain the pros and cons of memory db beyond a random Twitter figure with no context of what the scenario was and how the cost compared with alternative solutions.

On face value the concept looks interesting and allows much simpler coding and fewer bugs than having to manage both a cache and db (do let dev costs and time). So can other commenters give a more detailed analysis.

Boston Dynamics spends months training its Atlas robots to perform one minute of parkour almost perfectly

The Mole

Re: Question

You make it sound like having the motor skills of a toddler isn't impressive - and I've not seen many toddlers who can back flip or jump that confidently and accurately.

Beyond humans there are very few animal species that could do all those actions on just two legs without a tail.

In fact whilst most adults and older children could do the steps, sloped wedges and transition from the blocks to the beam that would be done with more of a stepping jump with a leading leg. I doubt many could do the transition as three, two footed standing jumps without any swaying, repositioning or needing to regain balance on landing.

Activist raided by police after downloading London property firm's 'confidential' meeting minutes from Google Search

The Mole

Re: slack web security

The document containing a list of 100 tenants/ prospective tenants/ supportive parties would put it under GDPR

Don't rush to adopt QUIC – it's a slog to make it faster than TCP

The Mole

"the authors point out that their work shows it has "inherent advantages over TCP in terms of its latency, versatility, and application-layer simplicity".

That's pretty much the exact targets of QUICs performance advantages. In most network conditions with similarly configured congestion control algorithms TCP and QUIC will be capable of the same throughput - which is pretty obvious as it is the congestion control algorithms that manage the rate that packets flow so the only differences there are protocol overheads.

Latency is a really important factor in web browsing. The browser has to download a page, parse it, work out the links and then request those objects. Typically these objects are small and it is the round trip times and handshaking that starts to dominate. If particularly if you are connecting to other HTTPS servers the negotiation phase can be expensive. QUIC is designed to remove those round trips during the handshake and start delivering data quicker. Other features like parallel streams and push support also help with latency reduction. Pushing means the server can deliver the main webpage and then immediately start delivering the associated assets without waiting for the client to request them. Streams means the client can ask for a list of files and the server can send them interleaved. If file A takes 3 seconds of processing to be created it can just get on with sending file B and C. In HTTP you can either pipeline which just means you queue up the requests but they will still be delivered sequentially; or create multiple TCP connections which is expensive for both the server and client and due to TCP slow start it takes time before each connection can get maximum throughput.

Another beneficial feature of QUIC is the ability to cancel file transfers. In HTTP this isn't possible, if you want to abort you have to close the connection and then re-establish a new one. TCP slow start then kicks in where it takes time for the network stacks to calculate the optimal window size, initially the transmission sizes are limited.

To use it to its best this does in particular mean you need cleverer servers that implement and exploit all the relevant features. The conclusion "QUIC does not automatically lead to improvements in network or application performance for many use cases" is not really surprising.

The second issue with this research is that TCP has been the dominant protocol for decades so a lot of effort has gone into optimizing it. Even commodity network cards have all sorts of optimizations in them to get the best out of TCP and offload work from the CPU (calculating checksums, packet defragmentation, etc), linux has support serving http(s) directly from the kernel, and TLS offloading or even serving directly from the NIC is possible on more expensive chipsets. Historically UDP has been a second class citizen relegated to taking the slowpath rather than optimized TCP pipelines.

Effectively the comparison is between a highly optimized internal combustion engine with an electric milk float. In heavy traffic the milk float and petrol car are going to get the same performance (the congestion control techniques of the roads is the limiting factor). Over the last decade electric cars have got better rapidly, and whilst E1 cars still don't quite match F1 in time they surely will. The same can be said of QUIC, as QUIC implementations and hardware are optimized performance will increase significantly.

Finally QUIC has the advantage that much less of the code is in kernel space, this means servers can theoretically be optimized much easier for their use case - using different congestion control algorithms or other logic based upon if they are regularly serving lots of small files, or few large files. Custom TCP stacks with this flexibility is a much harder proposition.

US govt calmly but firmly tells Blue Origin it already has a ride to the Moon's surface with SpaceX, thanks

The Mole

Parsing issues

“Importantly, the GAO’s decision will allow NASA and SpaceX to establish a timeline for the first crewed landing on the Moon in more than 50 years.”

First time I read this it parsed as "establish a timeline in which it will take more than 50 years before the first crewed landing", glad rereading it is after 50 years we now have a new timeline.

Australian court rules an AI can be considered an inventor on patent filings

The Mole


Surely the issue is whether the item is actually inventive?

The definition is: "an invention is to be taken to involve an inventive step when compared with the prior art base unless the invention would have been obvious to a person skilled in the relevant art in the light of the common general knowledge as it existed"

By definition the AI is almost certainly going to have a pool of general knowledge within which it makes connections based upon patterns (perhaps with some random permutations thrown in). Any other person (or copy of the same AI) are likely to come up with the same answer given the same inputs. If the AI can patent then the AI must be included in the category of 'skilled in the relevant art' and as copies of the AI can be made then anything one invents would be obvious to other copies of it.

In essence the AI is just playing the classic game of lets patent "<X> on a mobile phone" where it is picking values of X at arbitrarily. The patent itself may actually be inventive and useful, but only because the human has gone from a long list of brainstormed ideas to realizing that it is a useful invention and deciding to submit the patent application.

Make-me-admin holes found in Windows, Linux kernel

The Mole

Re: Verbification*

I've no problem with leverage being a verb in the British dictionaries.

Oxford dictionaries define it as:



use borrowed capital for (an investment), expecting the profits made to be greater than the interest payable.

"without clear legal title to their assets, they own property that cannot be leveraged as collateral for loans"


use (something) to maximum advantage.

"the organization needs to leverage its key resources"

Using leverage as a verb in terms of finance is fine.

The second definition is management speak but even still doesn't really work with the original sentence:

"I [used] the password hash [to maximum advantage]"

So nice of China to put all of its network zero-day vulns in one giant database no one will think to break into

The Mole

Re: Database vulnerability

The requirement to submit the bugs within 2 days implies that it is either FAX or more likely electronic. Even if the machine receiving the submissions on is airgapped from the real database, the receiving machine will still contain the recent data that was submitted and have visibility of the requests coming in. Now you may be able to mitigate that by using public key encryption, but even just knowing the source of the message would help an attacker target investigations on that particular companies haystack.

The coming of Wi-Fi 6 does not mean it's time to ditch your cabled LAN. Here's why

The Mole

Re: This months of work from home showed too....

Powerline adapters still exist and I was a big fan of them. During lockdown I got a set to connect up the summerhouse/office which had power but no ethernet. In the end I had to send them back as defective as they just couldn't keep a reliable enough signal - not sure if I was pushing the range of them or just had too much noise on the power cables. The new cat5 cable that I now have has been much more reliable.

AWS Frankfurt experiences major breakdown that staff couldn’t fix for hours due to ‘environmental conditions’ on data centre floor

The Mole

Agree, but I imagine part of the reason it is still offline is it needs resealing and refilled with new gas.

European Parliament's data adequacy objection: Doubts cast on UK's commitment to privacy protection

The Mole

Re: EU Commision <> EU Parliament

Sorry to break it to you but the MEPs are selected by the parties (in most EU countries). The public vote for the party they want, and then the proportion of votes is used to determine how many candidates from the parties list gets elected.

So the MEPs are self selected by the parties, but democratically elected through proportional representation, and tough luck to you if you don't think one particular candidate deserves/really doesn't deserve the job.

Or put another way the MEPs are only indirectly elected by the public.

Terror of the adtech industry iOS 14.5 has landed, and Siri can answer your calls ... though she/he can't hang up

The Mole

Re: So if

Unfortunately you are wrong on both counts.

Firstly when you make a phone call two parties are involved, you may not have a problem with your phone listening into you the rest of the time, but the other person might. Even if it is only listening into the microphone when the phone is on loudspeaker it could in theory be listening in on the other end.

On the second point there are numerous news stories highlighting the fact that the running joke was in fact accurate. There have been adverts triggering voice assistance up to and including triggering purchases to be made. Some solutions have been done to try to minimize it (such as user recognition and black lists) but if you do a search even Google's own adverts have sill trigger some devices in recent years.

EncroChat hack case: RAM, bam... what? Data in transit is data at rest, rules UK Court of Appeal

The Mole

So in a separate story reporting on the press releases you would be permitted to link to the press releases as long as you make no mention of those proceedings? But reporting on the press release and mentioning the proceedings would be illegal.

LowKey cool: This web app will tweak your photos to flummox facial-recognition systems, apparently

The Mole

Re: OK, but

Until of course the facial recognition AI is trained with a training set containing this permutations and so learns how to recognise people in a way more similar to the human brain (although probably with a corresponding drop in accuracy).

Attack of the cryptidiots: One wants Bitcoin-flush hard drive he threw out in 2013 back, the other lost USB stick password

The Mole

Water egress, fungus and mold are likely to contaminate the platters though and make them unusable even if extracted by a data recovery specialist.

Apologies for the wait, we're overwhelmed. Yes, this is the hospital. You need to what?! Do a software licence audit?

The Mole


So IBM was listed as both least helpful and most helpful?

Is that a typo or just reflect the fact that different divisions in large organisations could as well be different companies?

Whistleblowers have come to us alleging spy agency wrongdoing, says UK auditor IPCO

The Mole

My impression is that spying is seen as a game and not something serious (except when politically useful, or when they win) after all we all know everyone is up to it and frequently know who the spies are but let them stay in play (better the spy you know).

The Mole

Re: "tended to use “templated or generic” reasons"

To be fair with timesheets and travel authorizations being mostly a 'write only' process is probably sufficient as it provides a paper trail and lets the submitted know there is a risk of being caught which is normally all that is sufficient to keep moral behaviour. It also means that if someone is caught there previous forms can be checked. After all what is the value to the business of someone fine combing every application - they are likely to be wasting far more time and expense (or worse still people avoiding doing something to invoke the process) than they protect.

Government and the publics legal rights however shouldn't be tracked on a basis of ROI as liberty is not something you can easily put a price on.

UK coronavirus tier postcode-searching tool yanked offline as desperate Britons hunt for latest lockdown details

The Mole

Re: Cloud all the way

Yes it was using s post request rather than a nice coachable get request so completely incompetent.

Why they didn't start with a list/map (if you aren't in these areas you are level 2...) Baffles me too.

Compsci guru wants 'right to be forgotten' for old email, urges Google and friends to expire, reveal crypto-keys

The Mole

Not effective

In the real world your average person on the street has has no knowledge of DKIM and so whether keys have our have not been published will make zero difference for blackmail effectiveness. They will see a story on some leaked emails and device whether they believe it is true or whether they think someone has spoofed it.

Even in a libel court without there being contrary evidence a judge is likely to conclude that on the balance of probabilities they haven't been spoofed even if technically they could have.

Software engineer leaked UK missile system secrets and refused to hand cops his passwords, Old Bailey told

The Mole

I don't know the details, but it is clear that this person has mental health issues and quite possibly including paranoia and distorting the fact. Whilst the police don't always act when they should (and other times over act when they shouldn't) I can well believe that they didn't act because the 'attacks' didn't merit it or lacked sufficient evidence.

Similarly I'd probably give his psychiatrist the benefit of the doubt and probably just questioned the choice of any weapon and this was interpreted differently.

Finally I would expect and be appalled if the police did not arrest someone carrying an offensive weapon (particularly if they have mental health issues - not that they necessarily knew this when arresting him). It is not clear that he was actually prosecuted for that once questioning was complete.

I do agree the NHS do not have enough funding and the right support is in place in general, although in this case it does appear he was already under psychiatric care, but treatment takes time and depends on how well the patient is engaging. Assuming the psychiatrist was competent then the line of questioning probably needs to be of how aggressive the psychiatrist should have been in sectioning him - which I personally think should be a last resort based on real evidence of danger and certainly wouldn't want to guess whether that threshold was met here.

IBM: Our AI correctly predicts onset of Alzheimer’s 71% of the time, better than standard clinical tests

The Mole

My (very limitted) understanding is that whilst there is no cure, there are treatments and therapies that can help slow down the progression of the disease.

If you catch the disease very early and can halt or dramatically slow down the progression then there is a chance the person can lead a nearly normal life. It may even be medicines can be developed to reserve small amounts of damage that aren't effective on later diagnosed patients with much more severe symptoms.

Part of the problem with slow progression diseases is that research into possible preventative medicines (like asprin for heart disease/stroke) takes a very very long time to detect meaningful results. A more sensitive means to track deterioration may help speed up those investigations even if it isn't 100% accurate.

Five bag $300,000 in bug bounties after finding 55 security holes in Apple's web apps, IT infrastructure

The Mole

Re: Great work..

No need to imagine, read the really detailed breakdown they have written on how they went about the process and gained access.

Starting problem is that Apple have the entire with 27k webservers hosted within it with many targetted at employees or partners. Its much harder to monitor and correlate attacks against that many servers, and I imagine the noise level is extremely high. It appears many servers probably weren't installed/managed by 'IT'.

Intel NDA blueprints – 20GB of source code, schematics, specs, docs – spill onto web from partners-only vault

The Mole

No personal or customer data? Really

So the spokesperson says that it contains no personal or customer data... yet:

1. we learn that intel developed cameras for SpaceX (surely that is customer data) and

2 it contains a git repo which will be full of commit messages containing names and email addresses and information on what those people work on (and that is defintely identifiable personal data)

Twitter says hack of key staff led to celebrity, politician, biz account hijack mega-spree

The Mole

Sounds like a well executed plan, and scary if the numbers are accurate as to how many people fell for it.

What got me is the request is so obviously a scam "send me money and I'll send you twice back", most people should have thought that was too good to be true. I would have thought they would have had a better conversion rate if they had said "Donate 1 bitcoin to this address and I'll match your donation to help COVID", that I think would have got past more peoples mental barriers.

MIT apologizes, permanently pulls offline huge dataset that taught AI systems to use racist, misogynistic slurs

The Mole


They've also seem to have missed the tiny little legal detail that they downloaded 80 million images without any check on copyright and have been redistributing that data-set.

To test its security mid-pandemic, GitLab tried phishing its own work-from-home staff. 1 in 5 fell for it

The Mole

To be fair to them this wasn't a normal phishing attack it was a highly targeted one.

The main way people spot an attack is if the domain name looks funny, but the name in this case was GitHub - ok with an unusual TLD but in a world where adverts tell you just to Google the site rather than give the domain name what do we expect?

It's also not helped that many company emails do look like phishing attacks, particularly with single sign on and the use of cloud based services which means the it department might well be managing this through a different domain.

The only other red flag is that a new laptop is too good to be true.