This Morning’s Big Hacking Stories

The stories actually go beyond hacking, but that’s an adequate title for a placeholder post until Adam or Major Major Major Major can weigh in.

There are two stories, one about China and one about Russia’s GRU, their military intelligence agency.

Bloomberg has, for reasons I can’t imagine, gone with a white typeface on black background, which I find painful to read, so I’ll work from the Washington Post’s summary.

Bloomberg has just published an explosive article claiming that a secret unit in the Chinese military has compromised the motherboards (the systems of chips and electronics that allow computers to work) of servers used by Apple, a bank and various government contractors.

China’s exploit was discovered when Amazon did due diligence on a company that it was acquiring, which used servers with the compromised motherboards. Both Apple and Amazon have issued statements denying the Bloomberg claims, but Bloomberg seems confident that it’s correct, saying it has multiple sources inside Amazon and the intelligence community. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

We have long depended on China for essential electronic components. That’s seemed dangerous to me, but nobody listens to me on such things.

Also this morning, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the rightwing Hudson Institute and said that China was the biggest threat to the United States. It’s hard not to see these events as being coordinated. Pence claimed, as did President Donald Trump at the United Nations, that China was trying to hack the US elections. Which probably means that they will call any Democratic wins a Chinese plot. Also, too, when you are making googly eyes at Vladimir Putin, you have to have an enemy to gin up support at home.

Also this morning, the United States, UK, and the Netherlands announced indictments against Russian members of the GRU for hacking a great many agencies, including the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and anti-doping organizations. Russia, of course, denies everything. I am also seeing bits and pieces coming across my Twitter feed from open-source investigators pointing to obvious tells from Russian agents, like using consecutively numbered passports and US $100 bills.

It looks like the GRU has gotten sloppy in their spycraft, or that Russia would like the world to know it operates with impunity.

It is the US that is bringing the indictments. It looks like parts of our government have not signed on to the googly eyes strategy and are continuing to prosecute conspiracies against our country. That’s an interesting development. Its implications for Trump are not clear, although one might think that this investigation has shared information with Robert Mueller’s staff.

Both these stories are developing.






94 replies
  1. 1
    Leto says:

    It’s not just private sector companies:

    Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to U.S. authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. Elemental’s servers could be found in Department of Defense data centers, the CIA’s drone operations, and the onboard networks of Navy warships. And Elemental was just one of hundreds of Supermicro customers.

    The military can be… slow… in replacing systems.

  2. 2
    TenguPhule says:

    Well this is depressing but sadly not surprising.

  3. 3

    We have always been at war with East Asia.

  4. 4
    Doug R says:

    I heard the rumors a few years back and stayed away from ASUS and Lenovo for that reason but I’m not so sure my Gateway/Acer and HP machines aren’t compromised seeing as they’re made in China as well.

  5. 5
    trollhattan says:

    @Leto:
    DoD has a lab at a local former airbase where they reverse-engineer bespoke ICs from various old systems so they can then go about finding somebody to manufacture replacements. Evidently they dissolve them step-by-step in exotic and fabulously toxic chemicals and somehow by inspecting the various layers can re-create the designs.

    Would have been a swell idea to have ordered a few thousand extras, back in the day. Or maybe they did and they’re crated up in the “Indiana Jones” warehouse.

  6. 6
    Fair Economist says:

    Yet another reason to put off updating my computer.

  7. 7
    Calouste says:

    One of the sloppy things the Dutch found was that one of the GRU guys still had a receipt for the taxi ride from GRU HQ to Moscow airport.

  8. 8
    Chetan Murthy says:

    @trollhattan: I recall reading that NASA indeed -does- have a warehouse of old computers and such in mint condition, just for this eventuality (that they’l need to boot up a computer running Voyager’s software to engineer a fix).

  9. 9
    Citizen Alan says:

    Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design.

    This is a completely foreseeable result of buying all our electronics from other countries because it’s CHEAPER. Unfortunately, capitalism trumps patriotism in this benighted Mammon-worshiping nation.

  10. 10
    Doug R says:

    @Calouste:

    One of the sloppy things the Dutch found was that one of the GRU guys still had a receipt for the taxi ride from GRU HQ to Moscow airport.

    Probably takes a few years to get reimbursed if GRU hasn’t contracted the vendor….

  11. 11
    Bnad says:

    @Calouste: Do Russian taxi receipts have starting and ending coordinates printed on them?

  12. 12
    Doug says:

    “It looks like the GRU has gotten sloppy in their spycraft, or that Russia would like the world to know it operates with impunity.”

    I’m wagering on the latter, unfortunately.

  13. 13

    Hardware Infosec is not my specialty, by any stretch of the imagination. From what I’ve read (and I also haven’t read the whole Bloomberg article), the actual tech language used is not enough to independently support their conclusions. Apple and amazon are also pushing back hard.

    (I recommend following their account actually if you’re interested in this sort of thing.)

    I will say that something like this is predictable and, in some circles, has been simply assumed as a matter of principle for years. The US does it too—you can look up the kerfuffle over NSA involvement in random number chips, for example.

  14. 14
    Calouste says:

    @Bnad: It was electronic (the Dutch hacked the Russians’ phones) so maybe it was Uber or Lyft which do have that kind of stuff.

  15. 15

    But basically, tech reporting is 90% crap just like everything else, and this is still a developing story, and we need to wait until the smoke clears. Let’s not forget the lessons we learned about tech spycraft reporting during the Snowden fiasco.

  16. 16
    TenguPhule says:

    @Calouste:

    One of the sloppy things the Dutch found was that one of the GRU guys still had a receipt for the taxi ride from GRU HQ to Moscow airport.

    Those expense account reimbursements are a real killer.

  17. 17
    TenguPhule says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    Let’s not forget the lessons we learned about tech spycraft reporting during the Snowden fiasco.

    The greatest intelligence failures are humans?

  18. 18

    @TenguPhule: tech spycraft reporting is 90% garbage. And often motivated.

  19. 19

    This is also basically a major plot point in A Deepness in the Sky so that’s fun.

  20. 20

  21. 21
    chris says:

    It looks like the GRU has gotten sloppy in their spycraft

    Not sure about bellingcat but if this story is true the GRU has gotten more than sloppy.

    If these 305 individuals — whose full personal data is available in the automobile registration database consulted by Bellingcat — are indeed officers or otherwise affiliated with the GRU’s Military United 26165, their listing in a publicly accessible database may constitute one of the largest mass breaches of personal data of an intelligence service in recent history.

    ETA: I type too slowly! Well done, Cheryl!

  22. 22
    Mary G says:

    O/T because I know nothing about this and half the people I read think the Bloomberg piece is rubbish and the other half think Amazon and Apple are lying to protect profits.

    Heidi announces single largest fundraising haul in #ndsen history with more than $3.8 million raised and $3.2 million COH. pic.twitter.com/eh8b4ePloy— Lauren Passalacqua (@laurenvpass) October 4, 2018

    ETA: That’s Heidi Heitkamp, in case it’s not obvious and for my happy joy at having the edit function back.

  23. 23
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: That had to be intentional.

    Nobody is that fucking stupid in that kind of quantity outside of a Trump rally.

  24. 24
    🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷 says:

    @TenguPhule:

    Those expense account reimbursements are a real killer.

    From Moscow, the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — Russia’s fabulous government spy, Ivan Ruble.”

  25. 25

    @Mary G:

    half the people I read think the Bloomberg piece is rubbish and the other half think Amazon and Apple are lying to protect profits.

    Or both!

  26. 26
    Mary G says:

    Here is a hero:

    So, the Rev. William J. Barber II, who was awarded a MacArthur 'genius' grant today, was unavailable for comment because he was arrested in Chicago during a rally for a $15 minimum wage: https://t.co/6trlslrZ5E @RNS— Yonat Shimron (@YonatShimron) October 4, 2018

  27. 27

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:
    I’m surprised to actually get that reference.

  28. 28
    trollhattan says:

    @Calouste:
    He should have taken GRUber!

  29. 29
    retr2327 says:

    “a white typeface on black background, which I find painful to read” Amen to that! There’s a reason you can go through an entire bookstore (if you can find one) full of books without finding any printed in this awful color scheme . . .

  30. 30
    trollhattan says:

    @Mary G:
    Holy crap, that’s 50% awesome/50% fucked up.

    Fighting for the greater good should not be an arrestable offence.

  31. 31
    Brachiator says:

    Also this morning, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the rightwing Hudson Institute and said that China was the biggest threat to the United States. It’s hard not to see these events as being coordinated. Pence claimed, as did President Donald Trump at the United Nations, that China was trying to hack the US elections. Which probably means that they will call any Democratic wins a Chinese plot. Also, too, when you are making googly eyes at Vladimir Putin, you have to have an enemy to gin up support at home….

    It looks like the GRU has gotten sloppy in their spycraft, or that Russia would like the world to know it operates with impunity.

    It’s weird how the US and Russia are both either being blatantly obvious or incredibly sloppy.

    I’d ask, do they think we are all really this stupid to believe this crap, but I already know that the answer is “Yes.” At least some of, that is.

  32. 32
    trollhattan says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:
    So loving the idea the Dutch can outmaneuver the Sov…er, Russians.

    Netherlands: now more than mere skating dominance!

  33. 33
    randy khan says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    The Apple denial is remarkable in its specificity and adamance (adamanity?). A sample, which Apple says is the on-the-record statement it provided to Bloomberg on this *in 2017*:

    Despite numerous discussions across multiple teams and organizations, no one at Apple has ever heard of this investigation. Businessweek has refused to provide us with any information to track down the supposed proceedings or findings. Nor have they demonstrated any understanding of the standard procedures which were supposedly circumvented. 

    No one from Apple ever reached out to the FBI about anything like this, and we have never heard from the FBI about an investigation of this kind — much less tried to restrict it. 

    Read the whole thing.

  34. 34
    Redshift says:

    @🇺🇸🌎 Goku (aka Amerikan Baka)  🗳🌷:

    From Moscow, the transcribed adventures of the man with the action-packed expense account — Russia’s fabulous government spy, Ivan Ruble.”

    LOL

  35. 35
    Brachiator says:

    @Mary G:

    So, the Rev. William J. Barber II, who was awarded a MacArthur ‘genius’ grant today, was unavailable for comment because he was arrested in Chicago during a rally for a $15 minimum wage

    Jesus would approve.

    Great YouTube clip: Rev. William Barber Delivers Masterful History Lesson, Declares ‘It’s Movement Time Again’

  36. 36
    AThornton says:

    This has been floating around the tech press for awhile. Given the Intel x86 chips had a backdoor and a Minux operating system it’s not unreasonable to think the Chinese have done something similar.

  37. 37

    @retr2327:

    There’s a reason you can go through an entire bookstore (if you can find one) full of books without finding any printed in this awful color scheme . . .

    I think it has more to do with production costs- white paper and black ink are cheap- than readability. I still think black on white is more readable than the other way around, but apparently there are plenty of people who disagree with me.

  38. 38

    @Roger Moore: I’ve noticed that a programmer’s code color scheme tends to correlate with their age. Eventually you realize neon-on-black might look cool, but it hurts your eyes and you switch to Solarized.

  39. 39

    @AThornton: there’s no reason not to believe something like this is happening, but there are reasons not to believe that this specific thing is happening as reported by Bloomberg.

  40. 40
    Redshift says:

    It’s seemed to me that the entire Trump (and now Pence) “China is meddling in our elections” BS is an attempt to keep the harm inflicted on the base by their idiotic trade war from depressing turnout.

    “No, you aren’t actually being hurt by an entirely predictable response to our pointless tariffs. The reason China is doing this is not to protect their interests, it’s to deliberately target you so you’ll be mad at Republicans. So the only patriotic thing to do is to ignore the pain and vote GOP!”

    (It’s also to support Trump’s “maybe it wasn’t the Russians” line, of course, but I don’t think that’s the only thing.)

  41. 41
    NotMax says:

    How long (make that how short) until the Rs try to tie this somehow to HRC’s server?

  42. 42
    trollhattan says:

    @Roger Moore:
    Kindle on my tablet I prefer white on black–easier on the eyes with the backlit screen. With the “Paperwhite” type Kindle I usually prefer white on black or white on tan.

    For printed text, research shows black on (soft) yellow to generally be the easiest to read. I like dark gray on buff–used to spec that for printed projects.

  43. 43

    @AThornton:

    Given the Intel x86 chips had a backdoor and a Minux operating system it’s not unreasonable to think the Chinese have done something similar.

    Strictly speaking, the issue with Intel was with motherboards, not with the processors. Intel included what was effectively a tiny, separate OS on the motherboard to make it easy to manage corporate desktops and servers in big data centers. They didn’t make a big secret about the “Intel Management Engine” being included, though they didn’t provide as much detail as they should have about exactly how it worked. They did, however, provide a way of disabling the feature- most consumer-grade motherboards had it disabled by default- or updating the built-in OS to patch vulnerabilities.

  44. 44
    AThornton says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    The First Rule is not to get tech infro from Bloomberg. They, like Jon Snow, know nothing.

  45. 45
    Martin says:

    A few things to add:

    1) Apple’s pushback is very unusually strong. I don’t see how there can be so much disagreement on the fundamentals of the story, unless Apple was aware that China required some kind of hardware level backdoor in servers operated in China. In that case, Apple could deny that it was malicious, etc. They never ‘discovered’ anything because they expected them to be there all along. Perhaps these servers got mixed in with some that were to be deployed outside of China, which would be troubling to the company and worthy of reporting, but looks less like a malicious hack against US systems (though it could still be that).

    Any US company like this operating in China has to contend with China’s information control. Google left the country over that. The article notes that Amazon has somewhat done the same. Apple has stayed in the market – it’s a huge market for them – and they’ve noted that they have to operate differently in China than outside. We know that means certain concessions, such as allowing the Chinese government to do some level of source code review of iOS. It means certain concessions on network hardware. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that China wants a remote kill switch or some such on their servers that process social media.

    2) As noted in the article for Amazon, but this also applies to Apple in almost all other areas of their business, as well as a bunch of others – Samsung, Google – these companies have vastly more control over their supply chains than people might realize, in part because the cost of designing these parts and systems in-house is cheap relative to their size, and because their volume for these things is so large that they rival general market component suppliers. So the ability for someone to do this to Google’s servers or Apple iPhones, or Samsung phones is essentially zero. Amazon’s move to bespoke hardware is quite recent, and for Apple these involve the kinds of servers that Apple doesn’t design in-house.

    3) Along with Cheryl, I’m a little suspicious that this landed right when Pence was making the case that the Chinese and not the Russians were the threat to worry about. I don’t accuse Bloomberg here, but I wonder how balanced those US officials were in the information they gave out.

    4) Anyone who wants the US to make more of these things inside the country, realize that supply chains require extraordinarily good infrastructure and cooperation with government to work well. China delivers on that in various ways. The US does not. We have a zero-sum mentality, which is why states and municipalities fight over businesses, and why getting different layers of government to work together is brutally hard.

  46. 46
    Jay says:

    @trollhattan:

    Back in “the day”, newer better faster was the mantra.

    Nobody with any real say thought about the realities.

    Remember how we were all going to go paperless?

    Company I worked for got a contract from the US Navy, to “new build” 15 obsolete motion controllers we hadn’t built in 20 years. Thus began an epic scavenger hunt. I found the IC’s in Taiwan where they were going to be melted down for their metals.

  47. 47

    @Major Major Major Major:
    I thought people got hooked on light colors on a dark background from working on ancient CRT video terminals (VT100 or whatever) and got inured to it.

    ETA: Though I understand why people like light on dark “night” themes when using a phone or tablet in an actual dark environment. Too much bright light will spoil your eyes’ adjustment to the dark environment, so a theme that minimizes the bright parts of the screen makes sense.

  48. 48
    NotMax says:

    @Roger Moore

    Staring all day at a Wang does take its toll.

    :)

  49. 49
  50. 50
    trollhattan says:

    @trollhattan:
    Whoops, meant to say black on white or tan with a “Paperwhite” front-lit display.

  51. 51

    @Roger Moore: At night, sure, I do the same thing sometimes.

    I do understand that it can feel more ‘natural’ for folks who got started way back in the day, but in my personal experience (mostly folks under 45) you switch to Solarized around 30.

  52. 52
    PJ says:

    Re consecutive numbered items: A local mobster was paroled, and, as one of his parole requirements, had to get a straight job. So he told his parole officer he was working at a local pizza restaurant (which, incidentally, makes great pizza). His parole officer said, “Ok, I just need you to bring in some pay stubs so I know you’ve been working there consistently.” The mobster replies, “No problem”, and at the next visit brings in pay stubs for the time period he has supposed to have been employed there (several months by this point). There’s only one problem – though they are dated appropriately, they are consecutively numbered. I believe the mobster was then hauled off back to prison.

  53. 53
    AThornton says:

    @Doug R:

    Except for speciality runs motherboards are manufactured in the PRC. The US hasn’t had the capability for over a decade.

  54. 54
    Origuy says:

    The WaPo has more on the hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
    They did it just to get back at WADA for the suspension of many Russian athletes. They posted the test results of many western athletes.

  55. 55
    debbie says:

    @Roger Moore:

    You might also have to run it through the press twice to get the right kind of contrast between light text and dark paper.

    But, in other arenas of things we can be nervous about:

    The "Presidential alerts": they are capable of accessing the E911 chip in your phones – giving them full access to your location, microphone, camera and every function of your phone. This not a rant, this is from me, still one of the leading cybersecurity experts. Wake up people!— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) October 3, 2018

  56. 56
    debbie says:

    Whoa, look at me editing!

  57. 57

    @Martin:

    As noted in the article for Amazon, but this also applies to Apple in almost all other areas of their business, as well as a bunch of others – Samsung, Google – these companies have vastly more control over their supply chains than people might realize, in part because the cost of designing these parts and systems in-house is cheap relative to their size, and because their volume for these things is so large that they rival general market component suppliers.

    They also have a much better idea of the true cost of ownership for things like servers, and they’re willing to redesign everything from the ground up to minimize overall costs. Lots of hardware is designed to be cheap to build, even if it comes at a cost in operating costs from things like excessive power consumption. ISTR something about Google completely redesigning the way they power their servers- which also wound up requiring they redesign the motherboards- to minimize power losses from AC/DC and DC/DC power conversion*. Wasted power costs them twice, once when they have to pay for power they don’t use and once when they pay for air conditioning to remove the heat it generates, so every little thing to reduce power consumption pays off.

    *A computer with an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can require multiple stages of power conversion. The UPS first converts incoming AC to DC to charge its batteries. The DC is then converted back into AC and sent to the computer’s power supply. Computers usually use switching power supplies to convert that AC back to DC at several different voltages. IIRC, Google ran DC straight from the UPSs to the servers, where they used DC/DC converters to convert it to the correct voltages.

  58. 58

    @debbie:

    This not a rant, this is from me, still one of the leading cybersecurity experts. Wake up people!— John McAfee

    Sorry John, everything you say is a cranky rant until proven otherwise. (This one should be easy enough to get somebody else to say, if it’s true!)

  59. 59
    Keith P. says:

    Which probably means that they will call any Democratic wins a Chinese plot.

    That will just be the start.

  60. 60
    Martin says:

    @Mary G:

    O/T because I know nothing about this and half the people I read think the Bloomberg piece is rubbish and the other half think Amazon and Apple are lying to protect profits.

    This would be an astonishingly strange way for Apple to try and protect profits. What is the ongoing risk to the company? What wrongdoing is Apple being accused of? Amazon could have more exposure because they are selling customer access to that hardware as a core business (many of my servers run on their hardware and I assume them to be secure). Apple doesn’t.

    The other thing to note in this story, is that there’s really only a limited amount one can do with a single chip of that size embedded on a PCB. Yes, you can put a certain amount of compute and memory in there, but it’s reliant on the host system to communicate any information in and out, which limits its usefulness. The amount of storage you can put in a chip that size is quite limited, so it can’t really harvest mass amounts of information from a server. It could look for specific bits of information, but it couldn’t keep up with the volume the system processes internally. The most likely use for something like that I would think would be to act as a remote kill switch. Stick it on the networking bus and have it periodically check an anonymous IP for a signal to disable the networking on the machine. The server wouldn’t be able to call out any longer.

    The limitation for a microcontroller of that size is the pins. You need a certain number of connectors to do anything terribly interesting, and there just isn’t space on a controller of that size for how to attach it to the PCB. Something that small also can’t draw much power, so you can’t have anything other than very short range networking on board because there’s not enough power for a decent transmitter and no space for antenna, so its probably not designed to infiltrate an airgapped machine. But networking requires relatively few pins and provided the networking must pass through the controller, it could make a dandy kill switch.

  61. 61
    El Caganer says:

    If Russian intelligence is really that screwed up, what does it say about our own capabilities that they appear to be able to waltz through our election process with impunity? Nothing good.

  62. 62
  63. 63

    @Martin: The article says that what the chips do is act as a gateway to other devices with more processing power. Which doesn’t make it sound like their operation could be very stealthy–they’re allegedly embedded at an extremely low-level point, and communicating with something on the other side of the planet to determine how to tamper with the bit stream would be pretty obvious.

    ETA: a killswitch or stuxnet-like operation makes a hell of a lot more sense.

  64. 64
    debbie says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    So long as he keeps being wrong!

  65. 65
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Roger Moore: I think it depends largely on the room you’re in, and how it’s lit. The screen will tend to be most comfortable to read if its general brightness matches the rest of your visual field.

    Early monochrome CRT monitors from the 1960s and 1970s were only really good at displaying light-on-dark text. That kind of display is most comfortable to read if you’re in a dark environment, so programmers who used them tended to favor dark cave-like surroundings (they also tended toward nocturnality).

    But using the monitor in an unlit warren means that a light screen background is going to look like a blinding, headache-inducing nightmare. So all these old-school hackers now found dark-on-light text unreadable, and got locked into a cycle of using light-on-dark dark screens in dark rooms. I still know some programmers who favor black screen backgrounds, and they always lobby to get the lights above their cubicles permanently turned off, which keeps the black background as the only one that’s comfortable to use.

  66. 66
    buck2202 says:

    @debbie: No comment on how valid his concern is, but FYI, McAfee is a former/future libertarian presidential candidate, and his largest political concern is to promote cryptocurrency. Maybe he is “still one of the leading cybersecurity experts,” but I’m not sure he has the credibility that he did when he resigned from his namesake company in 1994…

  67. 67
    trollhattan says:

    @El Caganer:
    It may mean we never valued it before enough to protect it.

    I’ve heard a couple interviews with Carol Anderson, author of “One Person, No Vote” and she outlines voter suppression to a chilling degree. Our system is more vulnerable to outside influence as the result of the built-in unfairness.

  68. 68
    Jay says:

    @Origuy:

    They posted faked results.

  69. 69

    @Matt McIrvin: Of course, modern screens show ‘on’ blacks, especially obvious in LCD screens. When we switched from a plasma TV to an LCD TV last year, the difference in how we had to light the room to ideally watch a movie was surprising.

    @buck2202: McAfee also does weird shit like “flee the country due to suspicion of murder.”

  70. 70
    Martin says:

    @AThornton: That’s overstating it by a lot. Yes, there’s a lot in PRC, but also a lot in Taiwan and Japan still. The US mostly does smaller run PCB production, but we certainly still have the capability to lead in this area. The reason the volume isn’t here is why make it in the US only to ship it to China for assembly? If you’re assembling in China, then get your PCBs there too.

    And just because the PCB is made in China doesn’t mean it’s hands-off by the US. Apple does a ton of their work inside Foxconn and Pegatron plants, but it’s often done with Apple’s own equipment and overseen by their own staff, just with Chinese labor. There are both hands-off supply chains and hands-on ones.

  71. 71
    Matt McIrvin says:

    @Jay:

    Remember how we were all going to go paperless?

    To a large extent we did. Obviously paper isn’t gone, but most modern offices really use much less paper than they used to–all the administrative things you do on webpages in the company intranet, and most of the communications that now go via email or instant messaging, used to be paper forms and memos.

  72. 72
    Mnemosyne says:

    @El Caganer:

    It’s easy for anyone to waltz in when the Republicans deliberately leave the door open.

  73. 73
    DCrefugee says:

    @NotMax: The Wang reference takes me back a long, long way.

    (In unrelated news, this week I discovered my WordPerfect installation crashes when I try to print…)

  74. 74
    Ruckus says:

    @trollhattan:
    They are also extending the service life of many things, such as ships. And unless they do a complete refit they will be left with using at least some of the old technology. So the original concept item is way old technology and technology mfg wise.

  75. 75
    Martin says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Well, it’s the size of a cortex M0. That tells us a fair bit of what it’s capable of. It could keep up with a gigabit or maybe 10gig stream of data, but it doesn’t have the horsepower to decrypt anything of worth. Storage would <1MB.

    You can do some nifty things in a package that size, but it's embedded in a server. It's massively overclassed by what the server is designed to do, so it must be doing something extremely limited in scope if it’s collecting, so I don’t see how it’s collecting.

  76. 76
    NotMax says:

    @Matt McIrvin

    An episode of the Australian series Utopia (retitled in the U.S. as Dreamland, may still be available on Netflix) featured a government bureau’s ‘eco friendly month.’ All paper used was recycled (and light gray). All printers had the ink output set to minimal. So all documents for the month ended up printed in light gray on light gray paper (unreadable and useless).

  77. 77
    Martin says:

    @Matt McIrvin: We have one form on campus which is still a multipart carbon form. Almost none of our students have ever seen one before and they find it fascinating.

    When I had half as many students I had a bit over 30 3-drawer lateral filing cabinets to store all of our administrative paperwork. Now I have one, and it’s only partially full. I print maybe once a week.

    We’re not 100% paperless, but we’re damn close.

  78. 78
    buck2202 says:

    @Major Major Major Major: yikes, ok, yeah, he’s a nutter butter. Googling “E911 chip” opens a rabbit hole I’d recommend against exploring. “wake up people!”

  79. 79
    Litlebritdifrnt says:

    Speaking of the Chinese, from what I see about town these days almost every new student enrolling into Lancaster University is Chinese. It was freshers week this last week and you could see doting parents all over the place unloading vehicles into their spawns student housing. It is amazing to me considering that only 30 years ago (1988) the people I met in China never had the slightest inkling that they could even leave their province let alone their country. To go to another country to study UNHEARD OF, to attend one of the most prestigious Universities in the UK. Pipe dream. I am really excited to see this because it means that the children of all of those people I may have met in China can now have their children live their dreams. My only gripe? Chinese people are really, really rude, they have been so accustomed to shoving people out of the way in their overcrowded streets that they think it is acceptable in ours. It was true in 1988 in Hong Kong and it is true in the UK now.

  80. 80

    @Major Major Major Major:

    When we switched from a plasma TV to an LCD TV last year, the difference in how we had to light the room to ideally watch a movie was surprising.

    This is an area where OLED screens really shine- or fail to shine, as the case may be. I still find the image quality on mine to be stunning.

  81. 81
    Jay says:

    @Matt McIrvin:

    Tons of documents are still on paper and filed for 7 years. Nobody asked the Lawyers.

    The motion controllers we built, were part of the expansion of a US Navy site that dismantled and disposed of US Chemical Weapons.

    Seem’s that a 20 year track record of 0 accidents meant that when they expanded the facility, they wanted the exact same stuff,

  82. 82
    Tracy Ratcliff says:

    Late to the thread, but I’ll repeat that the tech press is deeply skeptical of the Bloomberg article. The comment thread on Are Technica had several folks who design motherboards, and they were mostly laughing at it.

  83. 83
    Mike in DC says:

    The industry and the internet need greater/better regulation. Two-factor authentication for logins should be standard, not optional. Corporations should be liable for data theft, if it was preventable. And there should be consequences for this kind of corporate espionage.

  84. 84
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Jay:

    Remember how we were all going to go paperless?

    I’ve spent most of my adult life in the property-casualty insurance industry. While not “paperless”, the volume of paper we handle, both input and output, has decreased over the past two decades by two orders of magnitude at least.

  85. 85

    @Martin:

    We have one form on campus which is still a multipart carbon form.

    Is it a true carbon or one of the newer carbonless ones? I have to use those as part of our disaster planning. We have a disaster response packet by each door to the building that includes several multi-part carbonless forms: one to assess the condition of the building, one to take roll, and one to sign people out if they want to go home instead of staying at work. They have to be paper because our computers could be out in an emergency.

  86. 86
    PJ says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Just wait till they run into the Amish on rumspringa – that’ll show them how things are done in Lancaster.

  87. 87
    TenguPhule says:

    @Mike in DC:

    Corporations should be liable for data theft, if it was preventable. And there should be consequences for this kind of corporate espionage.

    Unfortunately, that still remains only in the realms of science fiction and urban fantasy.

  88. 88
    Martin says:

    @Roger Moore: The carbonless ones. But the idea you can write on the top piece of paper and have the writing appear on the bottom ones is like fucking magic to them.

  89. 89
    TenguPhule says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt:

    My only gripe? Chinese people are really, really rude, they have been so accustomed to shoving people out of the way in their overcrowded streets that they think it is acceptable in ours.

    It is known that Chinese tourists are the second worst in the world after British youth.

  90. 90
    Cermet says:

    The Chinese haven’t ‘hack’ our elections; nor do they really posse any real threat to the US. However, that can’t be said of the fucking russians – they did and still are hacking our basic voting system and many critical infrastructure systems. Worse, the russians have many thousands of MIRV’ed missiles each with 24 warheads that could wipe out the US many, many times over. Also, the russians have a blue water fleet and many nuclear subs also with ICBM’s. The chinese do not have any significant number of missiles nor a blue water fleet much less a vast army ready to invade Europe (in fairness, we reciprocate this situation for them.) To say that the chinese are our greatest threat is like saying your neighbor is far more likely to harm you than a group of MS-13 gang members you happen to run into late at night in an unlit alley.

  91. 91
    Cermet says:

    reciprocate relative to the russians. Damn, no edit!

  92. 92
    Another Scott says:

    @DCrefugee: “Windows ain’t done until Lotus Word Perfect won’t run!!”

    ;-)

    If you can’t get it figured out, grab a copy of Virtual Box and stick XP or something on it. That should still work, I think (but I have to admit, printing on Winders often seems broken even on “supported” applications).

    Good luck!

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  93. 93
    Captain C says:

    @El Caganer: It says that Rethugs don’t give a fuck because the hacks help them.

  94. 94
    Mo MacArbie says:

    My ageing but ain’t-seen-nothin’-yet eyes are coming to like the light on black. OK, more khamber on off-black. I’m getting more eye floaters that get very distracting on a white background but vanish on the other.

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