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The Zip: Anonymous Vows to Avenge the Charlie Hebdo Killings, 3D Printed Skulls and More

Welcome to The Zip, a compressed rundown of the past week’s interesting technology headlines:

Thursday 1/8:

• FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in his annual address at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), decisively endorsed net neutrality and indicated that the FCC is planning to re-classify Internet service providers (ISPs) as “common carriers” under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.  [read more at]

• Rightscorp and BMG have been sending Canadian internet users copyright infringement notices threatening civil penalties up to $150,000 and suspension of internet service.  The catch?  Not only is there no Canadian law that allows for such penalties, but Rightscorp and BMG do not even have the personal information of the users it has been contacting.  [read more and see full notice at]

Friday 1/9:

• Hacktivist group Anonymous issued video and tweet condemning the Charlie Hebdo attacks that killed twelve people, eight of which were journalists, and declared war on all terrorists.  According to the video, “freedom of expression has suffered an inhuman assault.”  [more at The Telegraph

usb3.1• The new USB 3.1 and Type-C connector was announced at CES.  It will be capable of delivering 10Gbit/s (USB 3.0 gives us 5) of throughput and also supplying 100W of power to external devices.  The current standard only gives us 10W.

Saturday 1/10:

• SpaceX attempted to land its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone barge, but came in a little hot and crashed on the deck.  SpaceX says it is like “trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a windstorm.”  SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted, “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.”  For a guy that smart, he could stand to check his spelling.

Sunday 1/11:

• Sources leak to the press that Chevrolet intends to release an electric car with a 200-mile range and a price tag of about $30,000.  General Motors CEO Mary Barra officially unvelied the Bolt the next day at the North American International Auto Show.  [read more at Techinformer]

Monday 1/12:

• Hackers take over Crayola’s Facebook account and post some really amusing pics.  [more at Adweek]crayola-hack-01-2015234


Tuesday 1/13:

cyber• A hacker group affiliated with ISIS known as Cyber Caliphate took control of the U.S. Central Military Command’s Twitter (@CENTCOM) and YouTube accounts. They then tweeted the following Pastebin message that has since been removed, “Pentagon networks hacked. AMERICAN SOLDIERS WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS. #CyberCaliphate”

Wednesday 1/14:

sjull• Michael Balzer, an independent 3D graphics designer, created a 3D printed copy of his wife’s skull which enabled her doctors to treat a tumor that could have left her blind.  It looks really cool too.  [full article at]

• President Obama posted a YouTube video pledging to increase competition in the broadband internet market.  According to the video, communities “be able to make the investments they need to speed up broadband, bring in more competition [and] give consumers more choice.”  Echoing the reality of internet service here in Buffalo, a White House fact sheet notes that “three out of four Americans have no competition or no service at speeds increasingly required for many online services”.  [more on]

Post Election Bits & Bytes

Election ’08 is now in the history books – so I figured it’s time to take a look backward, and a look forward at some relevant headlines.

Hacking Democracy

First, we’ll take a look at one of the best kept secrets of the campaign season, from both sides, care of a Newsweek article published just today.  Over the summer, the FBI had its hands full with simultaneous cyber crime investigations: the hacking of the Obama campaign computer system(s), and the hacking of the McCain campaign computer system(s).  While the intrusions have been acknowledged,  little else has been released or confirmed yet.  At this point, it’s known for sure that the FBI was involved, that “a large number of files” were stolen from the Obama side, and that the attacks came from a “foreign entity” and definitely did not come from the opposing sides.  The McCain campaign systems were intruded on in a similar fashion as the Obama systems, but the extent of the compromise on their side was unmentioned.  The rest is speculation of course: security experts have suggested the attacks likely came from China or Russia, and anyone’s best guess is that the goal of such an intrusion was to gain an inside line on procedures and policies used by the campaigns for a leg up in future dealings with the to-be president. (H/T to Newsweek)

This of course wasn’t the only politically motivated cyber-crime this campaign season – I’m sure many recall the Sarah Palin e-mail intrusion back in September.  Though it’s significance is near nil at this point, we’ll remember it as the day our servers felt the shock wave of a web traffic explosion.  If anyone is still interested: David Kernell, a college student in Tennessee, and the son of Tennessee democratic representiative Mike Kernell, was indicted by grand jury in late October.  His trial begins on December 16th, and faces up to 5 years and fines.  Not so “anonymous” now, eh David?  A court has also ordered the e-mails in both of governor Palin’s Yahoo! accounts be preserved for further investigation.

Another dishonorable mention is the state of Ohio election information and registration website that also came under attack, and experienced some brief downtime in late October.  (H/T to Reuters)

Technology Promises

I also want to give a nod back to another item I’ve talked about here: Science Debate 2008.  We’ve got a list of policies and action-items promised to us from pre-president-elect Obama in the realm of technology.  I’ll be saving a copy and keeping score for the next four to eight years.

Along the same lines is Obama’s “Blueprint for Change” video on technology issues.  Maybe you missed it?  Don’t feel bad; for whatever reason, this wasn’t released until the night before the election, effectively burying it in the rest of the 11th hour buzz.

Hi-Tech Election Day Coverage

Election night itself was a grand display of technology as well.  CNN debuted it’s new “hologram” technology – much to the chagrin of pocket protector pencil neck purists who are still complaining two days later that the effect isn’t actually a hologram.  “True” hologram or not, I personally found it a bit silly.  We’ll see if CNN or others bother with this technique down the road.

Ratings speak volumes though, and CNN enjoyed second place of 14 major networks covering the event with 12.3 million viewers.  ABC was the victor, at just over 13 million viewers.  In all, it’s estimated about 71 million viewers tuned in on Tuesday to watch the results unfold.  As impressive at it sounds, it’s still over 25 million shy of this year’s past Super Bowl.  Apparently the world’s couch potatoes are still more interested in the Patriots than in patriotism. (Nielsen’s complete ratings here.)

Nielsen also kept an eye to the web to gauge coverage ratings in cyberspace.  There’s a comprehensive list here if interested; CNN, MSNBC and Yahoo! News being the top three destinations for surfers on Tuesday. The official campaign sites also received a boost on Tuesday, with Obama’s site receiving 1.2 million unique visitors, and McCain’s site receiving 479,000 unique visitors.

The Future

Lastly, let’s look ahead to some new developments that will affect us going forward.

While not related to presidential politics per se, this is still a governmental policy decision that flew under the radar with all the elections buzz, that could mean huge developments in the wireless arena.  On Tuesday, the FCC approved a measure to free up “white spaces” for unlicensed (read: free but regulated) use.  In short, this means unused areas of the wireless spectrum in the general area of digital TV transmissions can be used by consumer devices.  This coveted piece of intangible mathematical electromagnetic real estate means higher bandwidth (faster) transmission of information to and from consumer devices, at greater distances than the current public bands allow.  It’s been a long fought battle mostly centered around issues of interference with licensed bands (at least, that’s the PR friendly argument – it’s probably been a long fought battle because telecommunications companies have sunk billions into competing technologies that may have just been rendered obsolete.)  To appease the interference complaints (some of which are probably valid), devices will have to be extremely smart: they’ll be required to be GPS aware, and to communicate over the Internet with a central database to announce their position and ask permission for an interference free frequency.  There’s a loophole for less intelligent devices, though they’ll have to pass some pretty rigorous interference tests.  You can read more here.  Dell claims to have laptops with “white space radio” already in the works that you can learn about here.

The last “bit” we have to pass on is some news about some technology related appointments to the Obama transition team.  Named to the team include Google philanthropy officer Sonal Shah, and Julius Genchowski who is a former IAC executive and former chief council to former FCC chairman Reed Hundt.  Rumors abound about Google CEO Eric Schmidt may be in the running for U.S. Chief Technology Advisor as well.

Follow up & analysis of Palin e-mail controversy

By today we’re well aware that the e-mails posted were legitimate, as the McCain campaign has made a statement regarding the situation, and an investigation is under way.

The Register is reporting the investigation may be relatively easy to conclude.  The attacker attempted to cover their tracks using, a proxy service.  This way, when Yahoo searches their logs, the visits would have appeared from, rather than the address information of the person(s) who had broken in to the account.  It just so happens that logs connections for situations such as this, and thanks to screen shots showing a large portion of the URL in the address bar of the web browser, it’s going to be pretty easy to match that to the log files.

Anyway, now that the dust has settled some, I thought maybe I’d take a few moments to respond to the slew of comments and hatemail about the Pailin e-mails.  It doesn’t seem many understand the nature of the situation, and mainstream media is having a field day with spin and framing the story for whoever candidate they’re biased to.  So here’s my thoughts:

(This post continues; click to read more…)

Hackers break into Sarah Palin’s inbox!

UPDATE: For a follow-up on the situation, see here.

It appears the infamous group of cyber-mischief makers “anonymous” are up to their old tricks, and this time they had Governor Palin in their sights.

While this has not been completely confirmed, it seems that some time over night or early this morning, somebody was able to compromise “,” by apparently discovering the password to the account.  The password was posted to a public forum,, and a field day ensued.  Within a short time, another “anonymous” had changed the password on the account to effectively lock everybody else out, and later this morning the account had been locked completely by Yahoo.

Anonymous is the same group responsible for such stunts as the NFL dirty bomb threat in October 2006, and has more recently been behind organized global protests of Scientology.

Just last week, the Washington Post published an article about Sarah Palin’s use of this very same Yahoo e-mail account.  Palin’s use of a public e-mail service rather than the secure state e-mail system raised some eyebrows, as she was potentially communicating about sensitive matters, off the record, on a third party service.  Arguing that she should be using the secure and encrypted state e-mail system, an activist in her state had called for the release of her e-mails.

Well, it looks like lawyers won’t be necessary, as “anonymous” might have done the job for them.

The images below were posted to a Photobucket account owned by a user named “anoncrack.”  They include a message to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell, a message of encouragement from Amy McCorkell (a member of Palin’s Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse in Alaska), general screen shots of Palin’s inbox, a message from the “anonymous” who apparently tried to close off access to Palin’s inbox, and some family photos that were found in attachments.

UPDATE: 2:00PM EST, Wired News is now reporting this story, and has received confirmation from Amy McCorkell that she indeed sent the message that appears in one of the screen shots.