Marconi and assistants erecting a radio antenna.
They call themselves hacktivists. Or they say they’re doing it just for the lulz: Some hackers take over sites, swipe users’ information, and then post their exploits online just to make the point that hey, you losers aren’t as safe as you thought you were. Better fix that gaping hole in your electronic chain link fence.
It may seem like the kind of public embarrassment only possible in the networked age (at least, Sony probably remembers the era of the Walkman a lot more fondly than this last mortifying year of being hacked again and again), but as Paul Marks writes in New Scientist, it ain’t necessarily so. Just ask Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the wireless telegraph.
I like the habit because it makes me
look like the Linux penguin.
From elite hackers, to white-hat hackers, to hacktivists, hackers don’t generally have sterling reputations as upstanding citizens—at least as far as the general public is concerned. That’s why it may come as a surprise that the Vatican has published an essay that redeems computer hackers and even compares hacker philosophy with Catholic theology.
In his article published in the Vatican-vetted Civilta Cattolica, technology expert, literary critic, and Jesuit priest Antonio Spadaro draws similarities between hackers and Catholics (via TechWorld):
That’s the label prosecutors are trying to lay on Leon Walker, charging the 33-year-old man with breaking a statute that’s more normally applied to people who want to steal your credit card numbers or your identity rather than prove your infidelity. From the Detroit Free Press:
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper defended her decision to charge Leon Walker. “The guy is a hacker,” Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Free Press last week. “It was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way.”
Mr. Walker is indeed a computer technician, but his defense rests on arguing that his wife had no expectation of privacy because he used the computer in question for work—it wasn’t hers alone. Furthermore, he says, she kept her passwords in a notebook next to the computer (Public service announcement: Don’t ever do this).
The next generation of video game control is upon us with the release of Microsoft’s Kinect–which allows users to control special XBOX 360 games with their entire body.
Hackers have been eagerly digging into the device, especially since Microsoft’s Shannon Loftis told Science Friday’s Ira Flatow that no hackers would get in trouble for finding alternate uses for the Kinect:
“I’m very excited to see that people are so inspired that it was less than a week after the Kinect came out before they had started creating and thinking about what they could do.”
Here’s a list of some of our favorite, jaw-dropping hacks: Invisibility without the cloak, 3D video, Minority Report-style computing, real-life Star Wars, and the best shadow puppets you’ve ever seen.
5. Makes the best shadow puppets EVER:
Built in a day by Theo Watson and Emily Gobeille, this little hack replaces your hand and arm with a movable bird puppet. You can control the bird, and even make it squawk.
Video: Vimeo/Theo Watson
4. Real-time light-saber action:
YouTube user yankayan hacked his Kinect to transform a normal wooden stick into a light-saber in real-time, with real light-saber whooshing sounds!
That grease trail you’ve smeared on your smart phone’s touchscreen could give away more than your lightsaber skills or virtual girlfriend’s whims: Would-be smudge attackers, a recent paper argues, could follow your finger oils as a clue to your passcode.
In the paper “Smudge Attacks on Smartphone Touchscreens,” which we first saw on Gizmodo, a team in the computer science department at the University of Pennsylvania tried to pick out grease patterns from Android phones by photographing the phones and enhancing the patterns with photo-editing software. From the paper’s introduction:
“We believe smudge attacks are a threat for three reasons. First, smudges are surprisingly persistent in time. Second, it is surprisingly difficult to incidentally obscure smudges through wiping or pocketing the device. Third and finally, collecting and analyzing oil residue smudges can be done with readily-available equipment such as a camera and a computer.”
Stefan Magdalinski debated what to get for his sweetheart for her June birthday. Eventually, he decided on a candy Apple: He ordered his wife a chocolate-covered iPad.
As told on Magdalinski’s blog and reported by Mashable, what makes this feat more impressive is that he orchestrated the gift’s shipment from the U.K. to South Africa, calling two friends at a British chocolatier with an unusual question:
“Could you freeze an iPad in chocolate carbonite, and have it survive?”
–State inspectors randomly inspect gambling machines to ensure their software and computer chips haven’t been tinkered with. Voting machines don’t need to be checked, and no one knows what’s in them anyways.
–Slot machine manufacturers are subjected to background checks, while no one knows whether voting machine programmers have been convicted of, say, fraud (video).
–Gambling equipment is tested and certified by third parties, while voting machines are certified by companies of the manufacturer’s choosing (and payroll).