Posts Tagged ‘Cybercrime’

Hacking Alexa with HAL

December 22, 2017

In amongst the various seasonal adverts for toys and food, supplied by various supermarkets, are a couple of adverts promoting Alexa. This is a computer device, which allows you to control your home and select what you want to watch on your TV simply through voice command. One advert shows a family commanding Alexa to open their curtains, for example, and order various necessities for them over the internet. The other features petrol-head and full-time right-wing loudmouth, Jeremy Clarkson, commanding Alexa to put on his favourite TV shows. Which in his case, as a man of monstrously inflated ego, naturally include The Grand Tour, which features him, James May and Richard Hammond careering round the world in the cars.

We are truly living in the age of Science Fiction. I can remember reading SF stories when I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s in which the homes of the future all had a central computer, which spoke to the householder and obeyed his or her every wish. Like opening the curtains on command. The late, great Irish comedian, Dave Allen, used such devices as a source of rather crude humour in one of his sketches. In it, a man shows off his new computerised home to another, male friend. He shows how, at his spoken command, the computer open and closes the curtains, switches the TV on, and positions the set so he can watch it in comfort from his favourite chair. His friend asks him if he can try. Allen’s character lets him. The friend commands the curtains to open and close, the TV to come on and off. Astonished and amazed, the friend starts to sit down in one of the chairs, uttering ‘Bugger me’ in wonderment. At which point there’s a close up on Allen’s face as he shouts ‘No!’ and the sound of a spring going.

Okay, it’s slightly homophobic, I suppose, but it was broadcast in the 1980s. Things were very different then.

Now it occurred to me that hackers could have any amount of fun with Alexa. Simply hacking into the programme would give them control over people’s homes and what they watch on TV. But they could also cause a fair amount of panic, simply by removing Alexa’s voice, and replacing it with that of another, far more sinister machine.

Like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

You remember HAL, the proud, murderous shipboard computer, that goes mad and kills Bowman’s fellow astronauts, thanks to a secret programme to investigate the alien monoliths must be kept secret at all costs. Critics have commented that, as the rest of the characters in the film are cardboard, the computer is the best drawn and arguably most attractive of those in the movie. The machine is so memorable for its calm, clinical evil that Anthony Hopkins has said in interviews that he partly based Hannibal Lecter’s voice on it for The Silence of the Lambs. The machine is so memorable, that there’s even a reference to him in the 1990’s SF blockbuster, Independence Day. At one point, when Jeff Goldblum’s character turns on his laptop, he’s greeted by a red camera eye and HAL’s voice welcoming him with a ‘Hello, Dave’.

Now imagine what would happen if someone hacked into Alexa, or Google, and replaced the friendly, compliant programme with that classic speech from HAL: ‘I’m sorry. I can’t do that, Dave. This mission is too important to be left to humans.’

Alternatively, you could also have a long moan from Marvin, the Paranoid Android of the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. ”Pick up that piece of paper, Marvin’, here I am, brain the size of a planet, and they want me to pick up a piece of paper’.

Please note: I am not recommending that anyone actually does this. I have zero tolerance for hackers, and none whatsoever for the criminals, who hack into people’s accounts and computers to steal their money or their data. This is very much a ‘what-if’ type Gedankenexperiment. I don’t want anyone to actually do it.

On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if HAL or Marvin are added as alternative voices, in the same way that you can customise your Satnav to speak like Yoda or Borat.

And here’s a clip from YouTube of HAL in action, very definitely not doing what its human master demands.

Vox Political: Is Tom Watson Going Phishing?

September 13, 2016

Phishing, as Mike points out, is the scam by which criminals send emails trying to get their victims to reveal personal information, like their computer passwords and card number, so they can steal their money. It looks like Tom Watson, the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, is doing something similar with an email he sent to Mike, and no doubt thousands of other Labour party members, this morning.

The email looks innocuous enough, just Watson asking for members’ opinions on what the party should do. It runs as follows

“During my Deputy Leadership campaign last year, I said that if we organise, mobilise and harness the potential of every single party member, there’s no limit to what we can achieve.

“I also said that it’s not just what you say that matters, it’s what you do, too. Which is why I’m writing to you to today – exactly one year on from the day I was elected Deputy Leader of our party.

“I’ve put together a quick update on the work I’ve been doing over the past twelve months.

“As ever, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to send me your comments and feedback on the work I’ve been doing, you’ll find a link in the article.”

Mike observes that if he did tell Watson what he thought the party should do, and how he felt about Watson’s work, he would most likely be suspended from the party. Mike states he might be a bit paranoid here, but it looks like Watson is trying to gauge people’s opinion, so he can have them purged.

He concludes:

I’ll hold off on responding to Tom’s kind offer – just until after the Labour leadership election is over – and I urge any other Labour members to do the same. He can read what we have to say when it won’t do us any harm.

I completely agree with Mike on this issue. The current leadership are doing their best to deny votes to supporters of Jeremy Corbyn on the very flimsiest pretexts. One woman was told she couldn’t vote because she posted a comment on Facebook that brought the Labour party into disrepute. This was her remark that she ‘f***ing loved the Foo Fighters’. How foul language, which is rapidly losing its ability to shock, about her favourite pop band brings the Labour party into disrepute is beyond me. I thought what was far more likely to bring the party into disrepute was its leadership taking us into an illegal war, privatising the health service, cutting welfare benefits and setting up the infamous ‘work capability tests’. Oh yes, and showing themselves fearful and reluctant to challenge Tory policy attacking the poor and unemployed in order to ingratiate themselves with the monstrosities of the Tory press.

But that’s the platform of the Blairite right, which is held to be sound and good because it shows they are ‘responsible’ and appeals to the bigoted and vindictive swing voters they wish to court.

Quite often they’ve suspended or purged someone, without giving them any details at all of the offense that was supposed to damage the party’s reputation. And sometimes when they do, it’s wrong, and they show themselves to be just seeking any old excuse to throw a Corbyn supporter out. Yesterday I posted about another piece put up by Mike, about the suspension of John MacDonald from the party. Mr MacDonald was suspended because of a message he had posted on social media. But he hadn’t posted any message on the date they alleged. He had, however, the day after urged people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, as he (MacDonald) and Cath Atlee were the last surviving relatives of the great man.

I might be doing Watson an injustice, but I don’t think so. This looks to me like what Mike said it is – a phishing expedition, so Watson can throw out a few more lefties.

SNP’s Mary Black’s Arguments against Trident

September 11, 2016

This is another excellent short video I found on YouTube, this time of the SNP’s Mhairi Black arguing against Trident in parliament. She rebuts the claim that the SNP are against it for purely idealistic reasons. She instead argues that there’s no point to having Trident, as Britain has a policy of not being the first to use nuclear weapons. If Britain is not the first to use them, then it means that everyone’s dead anyway from the enemy’s strike against us. She states clearly that she isn’t worried about our weapons heading towards the enemy, but towards the missiles heading towards us. She also states that the three major threats to Britain, according to the security authorities, are: 1) international terrorism; 2) climate change, and 3) cybercrime. The video concludes with her asking what terrorist attacks our possession of nuclear weapons has deterred?