Tetraktys is the Best Cryptographic Novel Ever

I’ve been remiss in not posting a review of Tetraktys, by Ari Juels. Short review: It’s better written and has better cryptographers than the ones in any Dan Brown novel, but that’s really damning it with faint praise, which it doesn’t deserve.

It’s a highly readable first novel by Ari Juels, who is Chief Scientist at RSA Labs. The story is about a cryptographer who discovers an ancient plot involving a secret conspiracy. The ending is a little Stephenson-esque, insofar as it’s abrupt, but I got the feeling that that was authorial intent, not accident.

I enjoyed it, but since I don’t review a lot of fiction, I’m a bit unsure what to say about it. Is it better than Cryptonomicon? It depends how you weigh value per word. I was jolted into writing a short review by the new FTC rules, because I both bought a copy and was given one. I read the one I bought when Ari launched the book at RSA last year, and after I’d read it (but months ago) his publisher sent me a copy. Oh, and Ari’s employer has bought me dinner, but not in the last year. Finally, the link to the book is a non-affiliate link as far as I know. But given the complex messiness of Amazon linkage mechanisms, I’m actually unsure.

Since I haven’t read the copy I was given, and I already had a copy, was I really given anything?

As regular readers know, I regularly disclose such things and have since I started this blog. But as this example shows, putting long and complex rules in place will never cover the messy and emergent chaos which is the world in all its glory.

Anyway, you should buy a copy and read Tetrktys.

Quick Thoughts on the New Blogging Regulations

I want to congratulate the folks at the FTC, who’ve decided we all need to follow some rules about what bloggers can say. See for example, “
Epicenter The Business of Tech
FTC Tells Amateur Bloggers to Disclose Freebies or Be Fined
” at Wired. These new rules are documented in an easy to read 81 page document, which the Internet Patrol helpfully explains in this short write-up.

I don’t know what folks like Jim Harper are getting worked up about with strange posts like “Congress Shall Make No Law . . . But Regulators Act Anyway.” I mean, it’s not like the FTC should be regulating the $24 Billion dollars that banks made in poorly disclosed overdraft fees last year, or scammers like Cash4Gold. This was obviously and importantly top of mind for them, and we all know that bloggers can’t be trusted with the 1st amendment.

The FTC sent me hookers and blow to post this.

Punditry: Better Security Through Diversity Of Thinking

I am honored that the kind folks at threapost have asked me to write for them occasionally. My first post is about better security through diversity of thinking which was inspired by pastry chef Shuna Fish Lydon.
From her post (which I quoted in mine as well)

It is my experience that unless you push yourself really hard to stay away from your sweet spot comfort zone of I-Know-All-I-Need-To-Know-And-I-Feel-Very-Comfy-In-This-Job/Kitchen-Thank-You-Very-Much, and move kitchens or chefs or hire people who are much closer to your level than you feel comfortable having them, you will become stagnant in your baking skill and knowledge.

True for security as well. See my post for more.

MA/NY: Using GPS To Track Cars Requires A Warrant

Jennifer Granick reports that in Massachusetts, Cops Can’t Convert Car Into Tracking Device Without Court’s OK.

Connolly decided that the installation of the GPS device was a seizure of the suspect’s vehicle. “When an electronic surveillance device is installed in a motor vehicle, be it a beeper, radio transmitter, or GPS device, the government’s control and use of the defendant’s vehicle to track its movements interferes with the defendant’s interest in the vehicle notwithstanding that he maintains possession of it.” Thus, the court held this interference with the owner’s possessory interest requires a warrant.

She also links to a similar case in NY with effectively the same results.
It’s great to see the courts addressing how relatively new technology can and has impacted our personal liberties and law enforcement. It is definitely going to be interesting to see how US v Jones (a federal appeals case addressing this same question) turns out.

Some thoughts on the Olympics, Chicago and Obama

So the 2016 Olympics will be in Rio de Janeiro. Some people think this was a loss for Obama, but Obama was in a no-win situation. His ability to devote time to trying to influence the Olympics is strongly curtailed by other, more appropriate priorities. If he hadn’t gone to Copenhagen, he would have been blamed for not caring. If he went, he’s blamed anyway. In reality, he does have some control over what happened. He could have fixed the “harrowing experience” we show the world under the ironic words “Welcome to the United States:”

In the official question-and-answer session following the Chicago presentation, Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, asked the toughest question. He wondered how smooth it would be for foreigners to enter the United States for the Games because doing so can sometimes, he said, be “a rather harrowing experience.” (New York Times, “Rio Wins“)

Ironically, the President has experienced harrowing nonsense at borders, see “US Senators Detained In Russia.” He should put someone on fixing the Customs and Immigration service before it costs us even more.

However, it’s really unclear if the “loss” is a loss. “No Games Chicago” was a citizens group advocating against destroying Chicago’s parks and budget for the Olympics, and according to CNN, 45% of the city’s residents didn’t want the games. And as the AP documents in “Olympics Aren’t Necessarily an Economic Bonanza,” the outlandish “economic benefit” numbers that Olympic advocates usually throw around are based on a “multiplier effect” of around 3. Me, I know what an Olympics event costs–Montreal taxpayers paid off the ’76 Olympics in 2006.

So congratulations, Rio. I hope you don’t bulldoze the less waelthy neighborhoods, and I hope you’re all paid off by 2030 or so.