Let’s go downtown and talk to the modern kids

I feel music and our own focus, extant to interest in the sound of songs, is akin to how when we dream we tell other people about them. People have fallen asleep to the droning on of how I was turning into an aphid, simultaneously developing Alzheimer’s disease, forgetting that I was ever actually human. And that museum I walked into turned into a mausoleum where I was doomed to inhabit for eternity.

Hell is other people, says Jean Paul Sartre. Maybe this is how we can advertise how good something is and yet have it fall on deaf ears. I think about how nicely existentialism aligns the constellation-al shape of this idea. Pull a stencil over the night sky and as you peer through the lace the light of a hundred years ago blinks back.

Sometimes I think about the mud and who has walked here before. The footprint of our ancestors trekked over these tracks a million billion times, and then maybe I think we know what is around us because we are afforded the animation of our own bodies. But maybe we are all dinosaurs and we have no idea we are extinct yet. Our little T-rex arms extending to reach out. Our minds, thoughts, habits, these outgrowths are extensions of the infinite permutations of evolutionary experience that may or may not serve us, but have not yet fallen away. We are still reaching out.

Half-time Report

If I had an egg timer for every thoughtful thing I ever had to say about someone I hip checked during a soccer game, it might lose count, not because counting minutes is obsolete, but rather because you never really stop feeling guilty for getting caught. Not because I cared so much for their well-being, but because in hind sight, I stopped games, I committed fouls, I was caught kicking the astro turf which was supposed to be green grass that ended up actually being the goalie’s big toe.

That I still recall those well wishes today says something that I cannot yet speak to, but I feel is a close metric to the ways in which children learn not through purely altruistic purposes, but rather through shame, hurt, and embarrassment that something they did was wrong. If some behavior is found to be unacceptable by peers and authority figures, the upper lip in disgust curls up. That creeping feeling of of being found out and shamed or humiliated by one’s own worst practices in the name of bad manners or unsportsmanlike conduct is something normal people grow out of or learn never to repeat by one-time open retribution, including but not limited to the cheer leaders throwing out a little pom-pom heavy haiku about you at half time in order to reform your better nature.

You are either with us or against us, that’s who, but what’s who? The royal who in this scenario is the thoughtful premise of the social contract that includes us in our own collectively agreed upon levels of acceptable progress, and throws us out on our own commonly held standards of bad acts. If one were to draw a line in the sand, no one would want to be voted off that island, the one with real people on it. No man is ever an island. I cannot imagine being in a place whereby some kind of lord of the flies directive turns us into targets of retribution for all our unsound achievements, but our collective contract on which the bargain of civilized behavior stands is buoyed offshore in that island’s shallow water. It is in these depths that we are all born out of. The low culture of our collective bad decisions piles up, in our mind’s collective bank accounts, accruing interest for some obscure rainy day fund in which it is entirely acceptable to reminisce about past mistakes.

Whether you are with one other person or in the company of thousands, there is a kind of catharsis to it, the admission of old bad deeds. There is a quality that exudes a connecting warmth that I might compare to the Catholic guilt at confession. What you can share you can shed, in the shame that took years off your life, or in the freedom that now permits you to speak freely about it. If we do not have opportunities to confess, the guilt binds us to guilt and shame and as it builds it may, as it might, manifest itself, through the years, in the form of a speeding ticket, a court summons for not paying said speeding ticket, and to subsequent time spent in jail for failing to appear in court. (As a side note, this is not an autobiographical admission of guilt, it is just a random sampling of one possible outcome from bad decisions.) What you did today you might not do tomorrow, but nobody who said that magically reversed the course of history.

That being said, all we can do is reflect on our bad decisions, learn from them, and make different choices. The story of shared guilt spills out over our own internal narratives to modern day NBA in one of my favorite teams, the Boston Celtics. During a 2015 season game between the Cavaliers and the Celtics, Kelly Olynyk accidentally popped out Kevin Love’s shoulder. In response, Kelly tried calling Kevin “multiple times”, reaching out to apologize time and again, but to no avail (Newport, 2015).

Kevin Love was interviewed as saying he did not return any of Kelly’s calls, saying, “Oh yeah. I’m over it. I’m just trying to get healthy” (Newport, 2015).

A bit of back story on Kelly Olynyk. He is known in the league as the Canadian mamba. The alias is rooted in the mash up of the meaning behind what a poisonous snake can do to a person and the lasting impression a Canadian can make. See also: Black Mamba in the Quentin Tarantino film, Kill Bill I and Kill Bill II. Played by Daryl Hannah, she is distinguished by the patch she wears over one eye socket. Uma Thurman’s character pulled out an eye with her bare fingers in the first Kill Bill.

Black Mamba is also annotated by the snakes she leaves in the homes of her victims, who lie in wait to poison and subsequently snuff them out. Although Kelly Olynyk is none of those things, neither possessing only one eye nor sicking snakes on his competition, he is from Canada, and he is distinguished not only by his potential, but also his noted passiveness when running to the hoop. In a 2014 Bleacher Report article, Michael Pina wrote about Kelly Olynyk in the following way: “But once his assertiveness catches up with his still-growing talent, Olynyk will be one of the most difficult matchups in the league” (Pina, 2014). For a young man in the NBA, one who is a bit shy on offense, can be also talented, in spite of himself.

Although there may be snakes lying at our feet in any doomsday scenario, there is always a risk of regressing back to the days when you thought the rapture might take you up, away from your worries, so you would not have to face a fate worse than losing a game, or potentially being so embarrassed you would kindly let the floor swallow you whole. These daily conundrums might become less and less depending on the day we are having, working through our anxieties, our doubts, our own sense of self-defeat. The rows of thoughts we line up like chairs in a stadium that are all there to look at you to see you be the best you can be. When we fail, we are bent so low, trying to find the words that are missing to account for what went wrong. It is in the redemption of shared forgiveness that one can forge ahead alongside other people’s rows of chairs, filled with people who came to watch you win.

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Newport, Kyle. Cavaliers’ Kevin Love Won’t Accept Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk’s Apology

for Injury. Bleacher Report. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. 7 May, 2015. Web. 4 Mar. 2016. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2457245-cavaliers-kevin-love-wont-accept-celtics-kelly-olynyks-apologies-for-injury

Pina, Michael. How Kelly Olynyk Can Become the Star the Boston Celtics Believe He

Will Be. Bleacher Report. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. 28 Nov., 2014. Web. 13 Mar. 2016. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2281596-how-kelly-olynyk-can-become-the-star-the-boston-celtics-believe-he-will-be

 

me likey

I have never been part of a focus group, but I have an idea in my mind of how one would work. In one of my favorite TV shows, 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin’s character leads a focus group asking which new name would be best for The Girly Show wherein Jack Donaghy flashes a carton of hot pizza in front of a group of people, saying,

“If you say you like TGS better, I’ll give you some pizza. Everyone likes pizza.”

And herein lies the focus group: there is a point on the Venn Diagram in which what you want to hear and what they want to know correlates with free food.

Changing the headline

When I think about security, I wonder about how things are affected by it. Simply from the appearance of something feeling safe, one might do a number of things: take a walk at dusk; let a baby pet a pit bull; use a zip line over a thirty feet drop over rocks. At one time or another, someone decided these things were OK to do so they did them. Without the appearance of something being dangerous, someone still might reflect on those risks and brave the consequences. You don’t have to be brave to do them, but knowing what you do can result in injury is one component that someone may or may not consider before doing anything.

I know a girl who rode a zip line in Vermont who fell onto a pile of rocks. She suffered a concussion that changed her ability to process loud noises. For a year and a half after the fall, she could not read or use the computer for more than minutes at a time. She could not be in the same room as two other people who were speaking in regular volume. Indoor lights bothered her, so she wore sunglasses during the day. Before her accident, she was able to process sound, read books, and log onto Facebook without experiencing illness or needing to wear protective eyewear. She could run, jump, and yell and she was like a wild animal, but her injury changed her, if for a moment.

I feel like people know so much nowadays, about the dangers of things. The risks involved in anything are so great. We know how in an instant all we thought to be guaranteed might vanish or somehow slip away. This is not unlike how when we use the computer, we assume things will be secure. The simple click of a button affords us this. Now and again I realize how with simplicity I rely on convenience to be there, technology never to fail, and people to go on how they did the day before and the day before that.

Because as people we are reliant on our past experiences to help predict future outcomes, since yesterday was somehow fine, I am confident that tomorrow will be the same way. This is a human error, how we can be so over-confident on the future based on past results. This is how people can do seemingly silly things based on the appearance of security, the mark of one day being measured by the prior day’s success. What we can see with our failed logic is a pattern that reads similarly to a gambler in a casino, or a thrill seeker in life. The measure of security is not from the precautions we have taken to assure we are immune to threat, but the ignorance of real attacks that might happen in the absence of any precaution whatsoever.

The inability for people who use wireless technology to protect their connection is a gamble that everyone takes. In a study published in the Communications of the ACM, Chenowith, Minch, and Tabor used a college campus to study the behavior (Chenowith, Minch, & Tabor, 2006, p. 135).  The study examined “wireless user vulnerabilities” and “security practices” in an attempt at measuring the users whose connections are not protected (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135). The study also tallied the wireless devices “compromised by malicious applications”, such as viruses, worms, and surveillance software (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135).

Our goal was to directly investigate how well wireless users are securing their computers and the threat level associated with wireless networks. Using a university campus wireless network, we performed a vulnerability scan of systems shortly after users associated to campus access points. The scans were performed using Nmap (www.insecure.org), a popular open source scanning tool. The results of the Nmap scans were used to determine the proportion of wireless users not using a firewall, the prevalence of malicious applications, and the proportion of users with open ports. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135)

The reason the surveyors used the population they did was its direct representation of use of wireless networks by the general population. Other than user authentication, there are no security measures (such as WEP) in place on the wireless network, although users agree at login that their system patches are current, that they are using an anti- virus program, and that they understand they are subject to university computing policies (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135). If users desire additional security, they must provide it themselves (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135). This environment of minimal network-level security and heavy reliance on user initiative makes the campus wireless network reasonably representative of public hotspot-based wireless networks in general (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135).

Subjects for the study were authorized users of the campus wireless network. The total university population includes 18,599 students and approximately 2,100 faculty and staff. The university is a commuter campus with a non-traditional population of 15,779 undergraduate students (average age 26) and 1,663 graduate students (average age 36), with 54% female and 45% male (1% unspecified). Most students live off campus, and many have part-time jobs or full-time careers, often with one of several local high-tech firms. We view the non-traditional nature of the student subjects as a positive factor for the study as we believe it makes them more representative of the general public and workforce than traditional students would be. (Chenowith, et al, 2006, p. 135)

Since the study is a mirror of the real world, the results are used as a measurement of the steps people take or do not take to secure their wireless connections in the general population.

The results of the study are illuminating. The data of the Nmap scan shows that 304 computers (9.13% of the 3,331 computers) were not using a firewall (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136). Even with a firewall enabled, systems can have open ports (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136).

Since any open port is a potential security risk (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136), the study measured open ports, and found 287 computers (8.62% ) scanned had at least one detectable open port (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136). Of the 287 computers with detectable open ports, 189 (65.85%) had at least one open port with well-known vulnerabilities. Of the 287 computers with detectable open ports, 98 (34.15%) had no open ports with well-known vulnerabilities (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136). Simply put, when a user had open ports, more than 65% of the time at least one of these was a port that posed an important security risk (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136).

The most frequently open ports are also some of the most dangerous. The top three open ports were designed for file and print sharing across computer clusters and can potentially be exploited by attackers through null sessions. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136)

Individual systems can use “null sessions” (no username or password required) to establish connections between computers using these ports. It is well known within the security community that it is possible for an attacker to exploit null sessions and gain access to a system through one of these ports. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 135)

Malware can do a lot of things, including keystroke logging, username and password detection, and online monitoring of web activity. What this does is allow someone else besides yourself to silently view and capture your personal information, including credit card accounts, personal emails, google search history, and social security number.

A total of 17 computers (0.5% of the computers scanned) had at least one malware application installed. Although a small number relative to the total number of wireless users, the existence of malware is important because any one of these infected systems may be used to launch attacks against the larger client population. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136)

Many infected computers had multiple malware applications present. Of particular interest, and somewhat alarming, is the presence of network monitoring and packet sniffing applications. Of the 17 infected computers, 12 also had at least one network monitoring/packet sniffing application. The most common network monitoring tools found were Nessus, Bigbrother, and Netsaint. (Chenowith, et al., 2006, p. 136)

Are the vulnerabilities in a system consistent within every user? No. However, on shared networks, the connection is only as secure as its most vulnerable link. In the cases where 17 computers were already infected with malware, these hubs were bastions for potential attacks on every other computer in all 3,331 computers. If everyone is as ignorant as the least protected user, then everyone is under threat of attack.

Is the technology worth the risk? This question is asked in a more meaningful way, especially when users who also carry work laptops and mobile devices with them outside of work expose their company to security breaches. The threat is real, but the question remains. Is it worth it? Do you feel lucky? I am reminded of so many things when I think about this risk, among them an episode of the NBC TV show 30 Rock. In one episode, Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) and Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) are talking about how to change the public’s perception of Tracy.

Jack:

Everyone thought Prince Hal was a drunken wastrel. But when he became king he transformed himself into a wise and just ruler. He changed the headline. That’s what you have to do, Tracy. If you’re open to it, I’m very good at giving advice. For instance, with your obit[uary] problem. You’ve spent years creating a certain public image, but you can change that. You just have to do what Prince Hal did.

Tracy:

You know something, Jackie D? That thing I said earlier about Prince Hal got me thinking. I have to change my headline.

Jack:

Yes, that’s what I just said. Now if I can help you…

Tracy:

No, no, no Jackie D. I don’t need your help. I’m Tracy Jordan. When I go to sleep, nothing happens in the world. (Gentlemen’s Intermission)

Sometimes we all want to be Prince Hal. If we go to sleep, nothing happens in the world. We are not at risk. Nothing bad happens. This is the same approach that so many take when securing their computers at home. If the risk never comes to bear, it all might be best left to chance.

References

Chenowith, T., Minch, R., & Tabor, S. (2010). Wireless Insecurity: Examining User

Security Behavior on Public Networks. Communications of the ACM, 53(2), 134-138. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=043d2ad0-0c4c-47a3-b75a-0d0faef42c18%40sessionmgr4004&vid=1&hid=4210.

Gentleman’s Intermission. (2015). Retrieved from

http://www.30rockquotes.net/seasons/season_5/30rockquotes_gentlemans_intermission.cfm.