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Hackers or Criminals

In response to the most excellent writer Nick Bilton of NY Times and his splendid though cautious article here

Please consider these points

  •  jail breaking phones was once illegal , then became legal, and now is questionable again. Rooting your Android tablet is now frowned upon. The question is how do you teach the next generation of hackers to explore hardware and software and yet respect laws in their own self interest. Exploring means pushing the boundaries of what can be done and what can not be done. Inter racial marriage was illegal too, once.
  • what damage have hackers caused to society in past 5 years  (lost revenues in Digital content) versus what benefits have they brought about ( Arab Spring catalyst)
  • Consider the past history of hackers who turned entrepreneurs because they didn’t go to jail and were mentored into diverting their energy to startups that created jobs.

No hackers, bam, no Apple, no Microsoft, no Google, and yes no Facebook because the founders would be too busy in a court of law.Probably not much NASA, DARPA or NSA given that almost everyone tests the limits of exploration in young age.

  • Consider the historic legality of protests as done by Gandhi, Martin Luther King , and the legal treatment of hacker activists recently. Civic rights in 60s and cyber rights in the 2010s. Do they have something in common?
  • Is law enforcement adequately trained to understand hacking , and what steps are being done for enhancing cyber law training and jurisprudence. I don’t think the cyber law enforcement is adequately manned with resources. When law enforcement is denied resources, it takes short cuts and questionable tactics including intimidation and making examples of people.

My father , a decorated police officer , always said that , if you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.As a technical writer , I sometimes know how to solve technical problems but these laws create fear in the minds of future problem solvers.

  • Who is a hacker. Who is a criminal .Is a hacker ~= a criminal or Is a hacker == a criminal ?

Lets get some common sense back in the game before we turn more kids int rebels without a cause, or without a case.

(continued from the series)

 

How to be a Happy Hacker

I write on and off on hackers (see http://bit.ly/VWxSvP) and even some poetry on them (http://bit.ly/11RznQl) . During meetups, conferences, online discussions I run into them, I have interviewed them , and I have trained some of them (in analytics). Based on this decade long experience of observing hackers, and two decade long experience of hanging out with them- some thoughts on making you a better hacker, and a happier hacker even if you are a hacker activist or a hacker in enterprise software.

1) Everybody can be a hacker, but you need to know the basic attitude first.  Not every Python or Java coder is a hacker. Coding is not hacking. More details here- http://decisionstats.com/2012/02/12/how-to-learn-to-be-a-hacker-easily/

2) Use tools like Coursera, Udacity, Codeacdemy to learn new languages. Even if you dont have the natural gift for memorizing syntax, some of it helps. (I forget syntax quite often. I google)

3) Learn tools like Metasploit if you want to learn the lucrative and romantic art of exploits hacking (http://www.offensive-security.com/metasploit-unleashed/Main_Page). The demand for information security is going to be huge. hackers with jobs are happy hackers.

4) Develop a serious downtime hobby.

Lets face it- your body was not designed to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours. But being a hacker will mean that commitment and maybe more.

(more…)

Python with Friends

Wanted to learn Python? Stuck on a desk with no redemption. You have two very lucid options. One is use Google. I mean not the search engine, but their class on learning Python.

The videos are available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleDevelopers (starting at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKTZoB2Vjuk&feature=plcp)


http://code.google.com/edu/languages/google-python-class/

The other is new module of Python at code academy. It is truly awesome even if you dont know any programming!

So learn some awesome python today and be an excellent hacker tommorow!

http://www.codecademy.com/tracks/python

Hacker Alert- Darpa project 10$ K for summer

If you bleed red,white and blue and know some geo-spatial analysis ,social network analysis and some supervised and unsupervised learning (and unlearning)- here is a chance for you to put your skills for an awesome project

 

from wired-

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/07/hackathon-guinea-pig/

 

For this challenge, Darpa will lodge a selected six to eight teams at George Mason University and provide them with an initial $10,000 for equipment and access to unclassified data sets including “ground-level video of human activity in both urban and rural environments; high-resolution wide-area LiDAR of urban and mountainous terrain, wide-area airborne full motion video; and unstructured amateur photos and videos, such as would be taken from an adversary’s cell phone.” However, participants are encouraged to use any open sourced, legal data sets they want. (In the hackathon spirit, we would encourage the consumption of massive quantities of pizza and Red Bull, too.)

 

DARPA Innovation House Project

Home | Data Access | Awards | Team Composition | Logisitics | Deliverables | Proposals | Evaluation Criteria | FAQ

PROPOSAL SUBMISSION

Proposals must be one to three pages. Team resumes of any length must be attached and do not count against the page limit. Proposals must have 1-inch margins, use a font size of at least 11, and be delivered in Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF format.

Proposals must be emailed to InnovationHouse@c4i.gmu.edu by 4:00PM ET on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.

Proposals must have a Title and contain at least the following sections with the following contents.

  1. Team Members

Each team member must be listed with name, email and phone.
The Lead Developer should be indicated.
The statement “All team members are proposed as Key Personnel.” must be included.

  1. Capability Description

The description should clearly explain what capability the software is designed to provide the user, how it is proposed to work, and what data it will process.

In addition, a clear argument should be made as to why it is a novel approach that is not incremental to existing methods in the field.

  1. Proposed Phase 1 Demonstration

This section should clearly explain what will be demonstrated at the end of Session I. The description should be expressive, and as concrete as possible about the nature of the designs and software the team intends to produce in Session I.

  1. Proposed Phase 2 Demonstration

This section should clearly explain how the final software capability will be demonstrated as quantitatively as possible (for example, positing the amount of data that will be processed during the demonstration), how much time that will take, and the nature of the results the processing aims to achieve.

In addition, the following sections are optional.

  1. Technical Approach

The technical approach section amplifies the Capability Description, explaining proposed algorithms, coding practices, architectural designs and/or other technical details.

  1. Team Qualifications

Team qualifications should be included if the team?s experience base does not make it obvious that it has the potential to do this level of software development. In that case, this section should make a credible argument as to why the team should be considered to have a reasonable chance of completing its goals, especially under the tight timelines described.

Other sections may be included at the proposers? discretion, provided the proposal does not exceed three pages.

[Top]

 

http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2012/07/10.aspx

 

 

 

Anonymous grows up and matures…Anonanalytics.com

I liked the design, user interfaces and the conceptual ideas behind the latest Anonymous hactivist websites (much better than the shabby graphic design of Wikileaks, or Friends of Wikileaks, though I guess they have been busy what with Julian’s escapades and Syrian emails)

 

I disagree  (and let us agree to disagree some of the time)

with the complete lack of respect for Graphical User Interfaces for tools. If dDOS really took off due to LOIC, why not build a GUI for SQL Injection (or atleats the top 25 vulnerability testing as by this list http://www.sans.org/top25-software-errors/

Shouldnt Tor be embedded within the next generation of Loic.

Automated testing tools are used by companies like Adobe (and others)… so why not create simple GUI for the existing tools.., I may be completely offtrack here.. but I think hacker education has been a critical misstep[ that has undermined Western Democracies preparedness for Cyber tactics by hostile regimes)…. how to create the next generation of hackers by easy tutorials (see codeacademy and build appropriate modules)

-A slick website to be funded by Bitcoins (Money can buy everything including Mastercard and Visa, but Bitcoins are an innovative step towards an internet economy  currency)

-A collobrative wiki

http://wiki.echelon2.org/wiki/Main_Page

Seriously dude, why not make this a part of Wikipedia- (i know Jimmy Wales got shifty eyes, but can you trust some1 )

-Analytics for Anonymous (sighs! I should have thought about this earlier)

http://anonanalytics.com/ (can be used to play and bill both sides of corporate espionage and be cyber private investigators)

What We Do

We provide the public with investigative reports exposing corrupt companies. Our team includes analysts, forensic accountants, statisticians, computer experts, and lawyers from various jurisdictions and backgrounds. All information presented in our reports is acquired through legal channels, fact-checked, and vetted thoroughly before release. This is both for the protection of our associates as well as groups/individuals who rely on our work.

_and lastly creative content for Pinterest.com and Public Relations ( what next-? Tom Cruise to play  Julian Assange in the new Movie ?)

http://www.par-anoia.net/ />Potentially Alarming Research: Anonymous Intelligence AgencyInformation is and will be free. Expect it. ~ Anonymous

Links of interest

  • Latest Scientology Mails (Austria)
  • Full FBI call transcript
  • Arrest Tracker
  • HBGary Email Viewer
  • The Pirate Bay Proxy
  • We Are Anonymous – Book
  • To be announced…

 

BigML meets R #rstats

I am just checking the nice new R package created by BigML.com co-founder Justin Donaldson. The name of the new package is bigml, which can confuse a bit since there do exist many big suffix named packages in R (including biglm)

The bigml package is available at CRAN http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/bigml/index.html

I just tweaked the code given at http://blog.bigml.com/2012/05/10/r-you-ready-for-bigml/ to include the ssl authentication code at http://www.brocktibert.com/blog/2012/01/19/358/

so it goes

> library(bigml)
Loading required package: RJSONIO
Loading required package: RCurl
Loading required package: bitops
Loading required package: plyr
> setCredentials(“bigml_username”,”API_key”)

# download the file needed for authentication
download.file(url="http://curl.haxx.se/ca/cacert.pem", destfile="cacert.pem")

# set the curl options
curl <- getCurlHandle()
options(RCurlOptions = list(capath = system.file("CurlSSL", "cacert.pem",
package = "RCurl"),
ssl.verifypeer = FALSE))
curlSetOpt(.opts = list(proxy = 'proxyserver:port'), curl = curl)

> iris.model = quickModel(iris, objective_field = ‘Species’)

Of course there are lots of goodies added here , so read the post yourself at http://blog.bigml.com/2012/05/10/r-you-ready-for-bigml/

Incidentally , the author of this R package (bigml) Justin Donalsdon who goes by name sudojudo at http://twitter.com/#!/sudojudo has also recently authored two other R packages including tsne at  http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/tsne/index.html (tsne: T-distributed Stochastic Neighbor Embedding for R (t-SNE) -A “pure R” implementation of the t-SNE algorithm) and a GUI toolbar http://cran.r-project.org/web/packages/sculpt3d/index.html (sculpt3d is a GTK+ toolbar that allows for more interactive control of a dataset inside the RGL plot window. Controls for simple brushing, highlighting, labeling, and mouseMode changes are provided by point-and-click rather than through the R terminal interface)

This along with the fact the their recently released python bindings for bigml.com was one of the top news at Hacker News- shows bigML.com is going for some traction in bringing cloud computing, better software interfaces and data mining together!

Book Review- Machine Learning for Hackers

This is review of the fashionably named book Machine Learning for Hackers by Drew Conway and John Myles White (O’Reilly ). The book is about hacking code in R.

 

The preface introduces the reader to the authors conception of what machine learning and hacking is all about. If the name of the book was machine learning for business analytsts or data miners, I am sure the content would have been unchanged though the popularity (and ambiguity) of the word hacker can often substitute for its usefulness. Indeed the many wise and learned Professors of statistics departments through out the civilized world would be mildly surprised and bemused by their day to day activities as hacking or teaching hackers. The book follows a case study and example based approach and uses the GGPLOT2 package within R programming almost to the point of ignoring any other native graphics system based in R. It can be quite useful for the aspiring reader who wishes to understand and join the booming market for skilled talent in statistical computing.

Chapter 1 has a very useful set of functions for data cleansing and formatting. It walks you through the basics of formatting based on dates and conditions, missing value and outlier treatment and using ggplot package in R for graphical analysis. The case study used is an Infochimps dataset with 60,000 recordings of UFO sightings. The case study is lucid, and done at a extremely helpful pace illustrating the powerful and flexible nature of R functions that can be used for data cleansing.The chapter mentions text editors and IDEs but fails to list them in a tabular format, while listing several other tables like Packages used in the book. It also jumps straight from installation instructions to functions in R without getting into the various kinds of data types within R or specifying where these can be referenced from. It thus assumes a higher level of basic programming understanding for the reader than the average R book.

Chapter 2 discusses data exploration, and has a very clear set of diagrams that explain the various data summary operations that are performed routinely. This is an innovative approach and will help students or newcomers to the field of data analysis. It introduces the reader to type determination functions, as well different kinds of encoding. The introduction to creating functions is quite elegant and simple , and numerical summary methods are explained adequately. While the chapter explains data exploration with the help of various histogram options in ggplot2 , it fails to create a more generic framework for data exploration or rules to assist the reader in visual data exploration in non standard data situations. While the examples are very helpful for a reader , there needs to be slightly more depth to step out of the example and into a framework for visual data exploration (or references for the same). A couple of case studies however elaborately explained cannot do justice to the vast field of data exploration and especially visual data exploration.

Chapter 3 discussed binary classification for the specific purpose for spam filtering using a dataset from SpamAssassin. It introduces the reader to the naïve Bayes classifier and the principles of text mining suing the tm package in R. Some of the example codes could have been better commented for easier readability in the book. Overall it is quite a easy tutorial for creating a naïve Bayes classifier even for beginners.

Chapter 4 discusses the issues in importance ranking and creating recommendation systems specifically in the case of ordering email messages into important and not important. It introduces the useful grepl, gsub, strsplit, strptime ,difftime and strtrim functions for parsing data. The chapter further introduces the reader to the concept of log (and affine) transformations in a lucid and clear way that can help even beginners learn this powerful transformation concept. Again the coding within this chapter is sparsely commented which can cause difficulties to people not used to learn reams of code. ( it may have been part of the code attached with the book, but I am reading an electronic book and I did not find an easy way to go back and forth between the code and the book). The readability of the chapters would be further enhanced by the use of flow charts explaining the path and process followed than overtly verbose textual descriptions running into multiple pages. The chapters are quite clearly written, but a helpful visual summary can help in both revising the concepts and elucidate the approach taken further.A suggestion for the authors could be to compile the list of useful functions they introduce in this book as a sort of reference card (or Ref Card) for R Hackers or atleast have a chapter wise summary of functions, datasets and packages used.

Chapter 5 discusses linear regression , and it is a surprising and not very good explanation of regression theory in the introduction to regression. However the chapter makes up in practical example what it oversimplifies in theory. The chapter on regression is not the finest chapter written in this otherwise excellent book. Part of this is because of relative lack of organization- correlation is explained after linear regression is explained. Once again the lack of a function summary and a process flow diagram hinders readability and a separate section on regression metrics that help make a regression result good or not so good could be a welcome addition. Functions introduced include lm.

Chapter 6 showcases Generalized Additive Model (GAM) and Polynomial Regression, including an introduction to singularity and of over-fitting. Functions included in this chapter are transform, and poly while the package glmnet is also used here. The chapter also introduces the reader formally to the concept of cross validation (though examples of cross validation had been introduced in earlier chapters) and regularization. Logistic regression is also introduced at the end in this chapter.

Chapter 7 is about optimization. It describes error metric in a very easy to understand way. It creates a grid by using nested loops for various values of intercept and slope of a regression equation and computing the sum of square of errors. It then describes the optim function in detail including how it works and it’s various parameters. It introduces the curve function. The chapter then describes ridge regression including definition and hyperparameter lamda. The use of optim function to optimize the error in regression is useful learning for the aspiring hacker. Lastly it describes a case study of breaking codes using the simplistic Caesar cipher, a lexical database and the Metropolis method. Functions introduced in this chapter include .Machine$double.eps .

Chapter 8 deals with Principal Component Analysis and unsupervised learning. It uses the ymd function from lubridate package to convert string to date objects, and the cast function from reshape package to further manipulate the structure of data. Using the princomp functions enables PCA in R.The case study creates a stock market index and compares the results with the Dow Jones index.

Chapter 9 deals with Multidimensional Scaling as well as clustering US senators on the basis of similarity in voting records on legislation .It showcases matrix multiplication using %*% and also the dist function to compute distance matrix.

Chapter 10 has the subject of K Nearest Neighbors for recommendation systems. Packages used include class ,reshape and and functions used include cor, function and log. It also demonstrates creating a custom kNN function for calculating Euclidean distance between center of centroids and data. The case study used is the R package recommendation contest on Kaggle. Overall a simplistic introduction to creating a recommendation system using K nearest neighbors, without getting into any of the prepackaged packages within R that deal with association analysis , clustering or recommendation systems.

Chapter 11 introduces the reader to social network analysis (and elements of graph theory) using the example of Erdos Number as an interesting example of social networks of mathematicians. The example of Social Graph API by Google for hacking are quite new and intriguing (though a bit obsolete by changes, and should be rectified in either the errata or next edition) . However there exists packages within R that should be atleast referenced or used within this chapter (like TwitteR package that use the Twitter API and ROauth package for other social networks). Packages used within this chapter include Rcurl, RJSONIO, and igraph packages of R and functions used include rbind and ifelse. It also introduces the reader to the advanced software Gephi. The last example is to build a recommendation engine for whom to follow in Twitter using R.

Chapter 12 is about model comparison and introduces the concept of Support Vector Machines. It uses the package e1071 and shows the svm function. It also introduces the concept of tuning hyper parameters within default algorithms . A small problem in understanding the concepts is the misalignment of diagram pages with the relevant code. It lastly concludes with using mean square error as a method for comparing models built with different algorithms.

 

Overall the book is a welcome addition in the library of books based on R programming language, and the refreshing nature of the flow of material and the practicality of it’s case studies make this a recommended addition to both academic and corporate business analysts trying to derive insights by hacking lots of heterogeneous data.

Have a look for yourself at-
http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920018483.do
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