Homeland Stupidity http://www.homelandstupidity.us Government is stupid. Discover a better way to organize society. Tue, 15 Apr 2014 02:34:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 The cover-up of Homeland Security’s virus infection http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/07/the-cover-up-of-homeland-securitys-virus-infection/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2006/11/07/the-cover-up-of-homeland-securitys-virus-infection/#comments Tue, 07 Nov 2006 21:24:33 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/the-cover-up-of-homeland-securitys-virus-infection/ ]]> Last August a Windows virus infected over 1,300 computers which Customs and Border Protection uses to screen foreign travelers visiting the U.S. The bureau almost immediately tried to cover up the incident.

In “The Virus That Ate DHS,’ Wired reporter and former hacker Kevin Poulsen illustrates that the Department of Homeland Security’s grasp on computer security is tenuous at best.

The Zotob virus hit the US-VISIT computer network August 18, 2005, resulting in hours-long, snarled lines at airports and other ports of entry as Customs officials had to manually clear visitors. Though Microsoft had made a patch available before the worm hit, CBP officials had made the decision to patch most of its computers, but not the US-VISIT computers.

Poulsen has doggedly pursued the case from day one, filing Freedom of Information Act requests to get records related to the incident, and dealing with government bureaucrats stonewalling, covering up and even “losing’ his request.

His November 2 report chronicles the saga of trying to get information out of the government. When a court finally ordered DHS to comply, he found that the information that had been redacted for “security’ reasons because they “could compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive US-VISIT data’ were nothing of the sort.

And, as it turns out, the virus got onto the network in the first place through the Immigration and Customs Enforcement network, to which US-VISIT is connected. ICE, as it turns out, is responsible for security for the whole department. But DHS is transitioning to a new network architecture called OneNetwork, which CBP will run instead.

And while the documents released last week show that CBP learned its lesson unusually quickly, I suspect that this isn’t the last we’ll hear of viruses getting inside the Department of Homeland Security.

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Trusted computing? Not with Microsoft http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/08/31/trusted-computing-not-with-microsoft/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/08/31/trusted-computing-not-with-microsoft/#comments Thu, 01 Sep 2005 00:43:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/08/31/trusted-computing-not-with-microsoft/ ]]> A while back I wrote about trusted computing and how Microsoft’s implementation, the Next Generation Secure Computing Base, was set to impose onerous restrictions on computer owners, such as preventing them from playing legally purchased media with a player not approved by Microsoft. The post got some scathing criticism from some trusted computing practitioners who missed the point. Trusted computing is not the problem; Microsoft is.

Recently the Trusted Computing Group released a best practices document, Design, Implementation and Usage Principles for TPM-Based Platforms. The document, which Bruce Schneier reviewed in detail, says, among other things, that implementations should give the owner ultimate control of their computers and not put up interoperability roadblocks.

Even if not perfect, it’s a good start. I would trust a trusted computing implementation that followed these guidelines. So what’s the problem? “Microsoft is doing its best to stall the document, and to ensure that it doesn’t apply to Vista (formerly known as Longhorn), Microsoft’s next-generation operating system,’ said Schneier.

If the document applied to Windows Vista, Microsoft would not be able to implement several planned DRM features at the request of Hollywood, such as the Protected Media Path.

Microsoft appears to be abusing its monopoly position (again) to gain even greater control over users’ PCs. This time, they’ve got the Hollywood studios backing them.

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Customs Service computers shut down http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/08/19/customs-service-computers-shut-down/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/08/19/customs-service-computers-shut-down/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2005 14:06:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/08/19/customs-service-computers-shut-down/ ]]> Updated A U.S. Customs computer system used for processing passengers arriving on international flights shut down for several hours Thursday, resulting in lengthy delays for arriving travelers.

At one point Miami International Airport had over 2,000 passengers waiting to clear immigration. The airport, along with airports in the New York area, were clearing passengers by hand. Los Angeles International Airport was able to use a backup computer system to clear passengers.

“Unfortunately with technology you have periods where things happen,’ said Zachary Mann, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in southern Florida. The outage was caused by the failure of a central database in Virginia that lasted from about 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., according to Mann. He did not give any further details.

It wasn’t known at this time whether the computer system was hit by the Windows 2000 virus which has been making the rounds the last few days, but these incidents once again illustrate the importance of not using Windows for mission-critical tasks, as well as keeping systems up to date with security patches, when available.

To ensure that your Windows computer has received the latest security patches, turn on Automatic Updates, or visit Windows Update. And for everyone’s sake, including your own, start looking into alternatives such as Linux.

Update August 20: It appears that this disruption in service was caused by the Zotob virus, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Homeland Security can’t even keep its own computer running http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/07/15/homeland-security-cant-even-keep-its-own-computer-running/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/07/15/homeland-security-cant-even-keep-its-own-computer-running/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2005 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/07/15/homeland-security-cant-even-keep-its-own-computer-running/ ]]> It seems the Department of Homeland Stupidity can’t even keep its own web site up. Visitors to the site tonight receive a page which looks much like this. Other pages report either “No content found’ or “Error 500.’ And you want to trust these people with your computer security? They’re running Java Server Pages. Come on! It’s 2005. You can do better than that.

I’ve got your java.lang.NullPointerException right here, Mr. Chertoff.

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Partitioning to dual boot Linux and Windows walkthrough http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/06/18/partitioning-to-dual-boot-linux-and-windows-walkthrough/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/06/18/partitioning-to-dual-boot-linux-and-windows-walkthrough/#comments Sat, 18 Jun 2005 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/06/18/partitioning-to-dual-boot-linux-and-windows-walkthrough/ ]]> You can’t have been on the Internet more than a week without hearing about this Linux thing. But in case you haven’t, Linux is an operating system. That’s the software that is your computer, so to speak. Most of you have some version of Windows. Many of you have Mac OS X. And millions of people use Linux.

In fact, you’re probably reading this because you have one burning question: How can I install Linux without getting rid of Windows? You’ve probably already heard the answer is “dual booting.’ The concept is simple: Whenever you reboot your computer, the computer asks you to choose which operating system you want to use for that session, Windows or Linux. This walkthrough will answer the question of how to set up your computer so that it can dual boot.

Before we get started, it is a very good idea to back up all of your files. If something goes horribly wrong and you lose all your data, don’t blame me, just go restore your backups. Don’t say I didn’t warn you either.

It is also a very good idea to obtain and install the latest BIOS for your computer. Updated BIOS software can prevent certain types of problems with partitioning, and later, with Linux installation. And while all of the problems can be worked around with varying amounts of effort, updating the BIOS is easy and pretty painless. Contact your computer manufacturer or go to its Web site to find the latest BIOS for your computer.

First, you will need to obtain a disk partitioning utility. This walkthrough will cover the use of Norton PartitionMagic 8.0. While other utilities exist that can do the job, PartitionMagic is going to be the easiest way to do it, and it’s well worth the small bit of cash.

The reason we need a disk partitioning utility in the first place is that your entire hard drive has been reserved for the exclusive use of Windows, and we need to create new partitions which Linux will be able to use. Disk partitions are sections of the disk which are exclusively for the use of one operating system or another. While Linux can read your files from your Windows partition, it cannot be installed to the Windows partition; it needs its own partitions. We will use PartitionMagic to create the partitions from the unused free space on your hard drive.

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The first thing you have to do, of course, is to install PartitionMagic. I only have one comment regarding this process, which is otherwise like installing any other Windows program: Be sure to create the rescue diskettes if you have a floppy drive available to you. If something goes horribly wrong, which is very unlikely, they will help you get out of the jam.


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Once you’ve installed PartitionMagic, it will be located under All Programs. Go start it up!


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PartitionMagic has started up and shows a visual display of your hard drive’s partitions. For this demonstration I have used a fresh installation of Windows XP on a 10GB hard drive. Your drive is likely to be larger than this, so keep in mind as you go along how much space you have available to you.

PartitionMagic will only be able to use free space to create new partitions. Look in the Unused MB column to see how much space is available for this task. If your drive is very close to full, you may wish to remove some old junk you don’t use anymore first, before continuing.

Also, don’t worry if you see a very small Unallocated section. This is normal and harmless with Windows installations, and this space (along with some other space) will be allocated to Linux once we are finished.


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The first thing we must do is to make room on the disk for the new partitions we will create. So I will shrink that large Windows partition. Under “Pick a task’ on the left, click on “Resize a partition’ and the Resize partitions wizard appears. As we go along, you are likely to notice that almost none of the choices we use are the “Recommended’ ones. This is because the Recommended ones apply to Windows, and we are preparing the hard drive for Linux. So if you see something that says Recommended, double check it because it is probably the wrong choice.


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Here we need to select which partition we’re going to resize. There’s only one, and that’s the one that we need to work with! I will highlight it in the list, and then click Next.


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Now it’s time to choose how small the partition is going to get. You can’t go below the Minimum size shown unless you delete more files from your drive. And the Maximum size indicates the largest amount of space the partition can take up. Once you choose a number here, the remainder of the disk will be free for us to create our Linux partitions. For this example, I have a 10GB disk. I will give 5GB to Windows, and 5GB to Linux. Multiply the number of GB by 1024 to get the MB that PartitionMagic expects. Get out the calculator if you need it. For example, if you have a 40GB disk, and want Windows to have 25GB and Linux to have 15GB, you would multiply 25 by 1024 and then enter the result, 25600, into the box.


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Now PartitionMagic shows a visual display of how the space will be partitioned. If this doesn’t look like what you intended, click Back. Otherwise, click Finish. For me, this looks just fine, even though the numbers aren’t exactly the same, so I click Finish.


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PartitionMagic has updated the display to show the progress we have made so far. However, no changes have been actually made yet until you click the Apply button in the lower left. Don’t do it now, though! If things really look all wrong, you can click the Undo button. I had to undo once when preparing this walkthrough, and I’m supposedly the expert around here, so don’t be afraid to go back a couple of steps. It’ll spare you a lot of headaches later.

Next we are going to need to create partitions for Linux to use. Under “Pick a task,’ click on “Create a new partition.’


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The Create New Partition wizard starts. Click Next.

The first partition we are going to create is a small one, around 100 MB. For specific technical reasons it must be located at the beginning of the disk. Maybe I’ll go into them later, but for now the important thing is that we need a small partition at the beginning of the disk.


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PartitionMagic wants to know if we want to create the new partition before the existing partition (which will cause the existing partition to be moved) or after the existing partition. Because the partition we need here should be at the beginning of the disk, click Before C: in the list, and then click Next.


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The partition we are creating only needs to contain the most critical Linux boot files, such as the kernel and the boot loader. A good size is 100 MB. You can make it smaller, but you may receive warnings or errors during the Linux installation if you do. Enter 100 in the Size field.

This partition must be a primary partition, rather than a logical partition. Change the Create as field to Primary.

Finally, change the File system type field to Linux Ext3. PartitionMagic will then nicely format the partition for you. We don’t necessarily need it formatted right now, but we do need it to be something other than a Windows partition.


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You will always see this message. On some older versions of Windows, they would fail to boot if not located near enough to the beginning of the disk as well. If you’re using Windows XP on a modern computer, this is very unlikely to affect you, but if you’re using an older computer (such as Pentium III or older) it could be an issue. Before going forward, see if your computer manufacturer has a BIOS update which may prevent the problem.


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PartitionMagic then confirms the operation. Notice the size has changed to 102 MB. It’s not important the numbers be exact, and you can’t make them exact anyway, due to the structure of the hard drive itself. It’s only important that things are approximately as you intended. Yours may say 97, or 103, or something close to 100. This looks just about like what I asked for, so click Finish.


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PartitionMagic has updated its display to show both pending actions. Now we’re almost done, just one more partition to fill up all that unused space there. Click on “Create a new partition’ one more time.


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Here we go again! This time we’re going to create a single large partition for Linux to fill up all that remaining space there. We will actually be removing this partition later, when we go to install Linux, but for now it will act as a placeholder. Click Next.


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This time we will create the partition “After C:’ and use up all the remaining unallocated space on the disk. Click on After C: and then click Next.


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PartitionMagic can take space from existing partitions to create the new partition. We don’t want to do this because we’ve already resized the existing partition and created the new partition the way we want it. Remove the checkmarks from all of these boxes here, and then click Next. In this way, PartitionMagic will only use the unallocated space, which is what we want.


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Now we get to set up the partition. Leave the Size as is, and all of the space will be used. But be sure to change Create as to Primary, and change File system type to Linux Ext3, as shown. Once you’re ready, click Next.


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This is what our hard drive is going to look like! Again, if things look completely wrong here, go back and fix them. Otherwise, click Finish. We’re almost done!


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This is what our drive will look like once we’re done here. Double check everything to make sure it seems to be in order. These partitions look exactly like what I was going for, so now it’s time to make things happen! Now, click Apply in the lower left.


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PartitionMagic wants to confirm that you are really ready to apply the changes and didn’t just hit the Apply button by mistake. We’re ready, so click Yes.


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Windows will need to be restarted for the changes to be applied. Once everything is done, you should create new Windows XP emergency disks. What? You never did that? Shame on you! Anyway, click OK, and once we’re done, you can go back and make new Windows XP emergency disks.


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Windows is shutting down… It seems to do this a lot. And never when it’s convenient for me.


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Now Windows is starting up again, but it’s going to do something a little different this time…


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PartitionMagic has started and is ready to make the requested changes to your hard drive. This is your last chance to quit. If you don’t quit now, you will need to leave the computer running during the entire operation, or you risk data loss. That means don’t turn it off, don’t kick over the power cord, get the cats out of the room… maybe you should leave as well. It’s going to take a while.


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The first step is to move and resize your existing Windows partition. This part takes the longest. On my freshly installed system it took 20 minutes. I have seen more extensively used systems on which it took hours. PartitionMagic will rearrange data only to the extent necessary to make the changes to the hard disk partitions. Once it’s done, it would be a good idea to defragment your Windows C: drive.

At this point I recommend you go make lunch. Then go eat it. Feed the cat. Walk the dog. Take a cold shower. It’s hot out there! Maybe by the time you get back, we’ll be ready.


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PartitionMagic then creates the two Linux partitions. This only takes a few seconds.


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PartitionMagic has made the changes and is now rebooting your computer.


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Once Windows restarts, it will detect the new hard drive partitions and put up this mind-boggling dialog. You may as well go ahead and restart your computer (again). But don’t worry, the days of your computer restarting itself whenever it wants are numbered.


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As you can see, the Windows partition has been changed to the 5GB I requested. The Linux partitions, however, are nowhere to be found. This is because Windows can’t read Linux partitions. Don’t worry, they are there, and you’ll see them soon enough.

Now your computer is ready to have Linux installed side-by-side with Windows. I will do the complete walkthrough for this process with Linux (Fedora Core 4) in future articles. Unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t jump too far ahead as there are a couple of gotchas in the Linux installation.

If you do want to get a headstart, you can read through the excellent (but very detailed) Fedora Core 4 Installation Guide. Not everything in it will apply to you. Don’t worry if you get confused; I’ll be back soon to clear everything up.

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Security options limited for pirate copies of Windows http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/02/19/security-options-limited-for-pirate-copies-of-windows/ http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/02/19/security-options-limited-for-pirate-copies-of-windows/#comments Sat, 19 Feb 2005 19:02:00 +0000 http://www.homelandstupidity.us/2005/02/19/security-options-limited-for-pirate-copies-of-windows/ ]]> It seems about 65% of my readers still use Windows for whatever reason (work, or games). Microsoft has decided that if your copy of Windows is pirated, you will not have access to Windows Update or any downloads from the microsoft.com Web site, and the only way you will get security updates for the computer is via Automatic Updates.

Microsoft has been testing its new authentication system, called Windows Genuine Advantage, for a few months now, on various Windows-related downloads. Later this year, they will make it mandatory. Windows Genuine Advantage checks the Windows product key to ensure that your copy of Windows is not pirated. If the key is found on a Microsoft-maintained blacklist, you will be denied access to updates and Windows downloads.

This means you won’t be able to click through and receive critical security updates for your computer, nor tools such as Microsoft Anti-Spyware or the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer, nor will you be able to use Windows Update. The only way such a system would be able to receive security updates is via Automatic Updates, and as I mentioned before, neither Windows Update nor Automatic Updates will install all relevant security updates.

Based solely on analysis of server logs, and discounting the occasional spambot network that tries to post comment spam here, I’d say about 10% of my readers have some sort of spyware or malicious software on their computers. How many of these copies are pirated, I cannot say. But those that are will be more likely to remain compromised, thus making no improvement in overall Internet security.

Bruce Schneier, “security guru’ and author of Applied Cryptography, said, “Unpatched Windows systems on the Internet are a security risk to everyone. I understand Microsoft wanting to fight piracy, but reducing the security of its paying customers is not a good way to go about it.’ I couldn’t agree more. Microsoft seems to be fighting security, rather than piracy. It would be easy enough for them to alter Windows Update and the Microsoft web site to serve only security updates to pirate copies, if they chose to do so. They have chosen instead to restrict access, which will make security worse.

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