Sunday, June 22, 2008

Making online stuff less secure

There's an interesting trend going on in the online world these days: people are making sites less secure. It's not so much the casual sites, where a simple email and password are enough for access; it's more the financial sites and wanna-be "secure" sites that are making themselves less secure and more annoying to access.

I don't get it... why would you want to make yourself less secure, especially as a financial institution? What benefit does it have for your customers to make their identity and financial information more easily stolen? Are you even aware that your online services are being transformed this way?

Perhaps an example will help. Today, I converted by 401k access account to their new access mechanism. Previously, I used my SSN and a user-chosen password; easy to remember, unique, reasonably secure. Now, they have a custom username, two backup reset questions, and a security image. Not only did I have to write down all that information on the online site where I keep all the access information I can't easily remember (which is not all that secure), but I had to create two backdoors with easier to guess information than a password. Overall, a substantial downgrade to the security of the account, and more annoying as an added bonus.

Why are online sites doing this? What's the thinking (if any)? Is the current generation of online project managers just more retarded, or is there some other scheme behind the scenes to ensure that everyone's access information is more easily stolen? Seriously, I don't get it...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Guantanamo ruling, thoughts

First and foremost, I think the ruling is a mistake; there's nothing in the Constitution which would extend the protections afforded to US citizens to foreigners, especially those actively opposed to the US. The court is creating new Constitutional protections, and that's not their job. Moreover, the new protections are going to be nothing but trouble for the military in the future, and one of the worst things we can do as a country is make it more difficult for our military to keep us safe.

That said, I think Bush shares at least half of the blame for this idiotic ruling and precedent. As a blame Gore for politicizing Global Warming, turning it into a partisan battle, and thus allowing people to compartmentalize any actual evidence as political propaganda, so I blame Bush for creating a situation which forced the Supreme Court to make this ruling.

It is against international law, and the spirit of America, to hold anyone indefinitely without a trial, the ability to rebut accusations, and ultimately seek justice for persecution. In holding the prisoners in Guantanamo indefinitely, the government was creating a situation which was morally reprehensible both to the international community and the domestic populace. Yes, the situation was abnormal: the prisoners didn't have a sponsor nation they could be released to, nor a formal army to claim allegiance to and thus appeal to be treated as prisoners of war, nor even a formal war to be prisoners of (other than the nebulous "war on terror"). Nevertheless, the US government did not do enough to avoid to perception of holding people indefinitely, nor did they offer any end-time conditions.

As such, the Supreme Court of the US was the last resort against the morally reprehensible situation the Bush administration caused. They needed to do something, and they did; the consequences will be bad for the country, but it was an inevitable (and foreseeable) consequence of the handling of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Shame on the Bush administration for creating this situation and this precedent.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Funny Daily Show commentary

Caught a little bit of the Daily Show yesterday (good show, bit liberal but funny); they had a funny bit about the senate report on the pre-war Iraq intelligence, and how it was basically ignored by the mainstream media. I found it funny on a couple levels. The take that the Daily Show had, which was that it was a really important revealing report which was ignored, was amusing.

On the other hand, the subtext was more interesting, in my opinion. For the actual report, the democrats on the committee basically wrote the accusations, the the republicans disagreed with all of them. So basically, the report was nothing more than partisan business as usual coming out of Congress, wasting time whining about how they (the democrats) don't like Bush.

Which leads back to the mainstream media basically ignoring it. Maybe they thought it was above the comprehension level of their audience, but that's doubtful; the democrats seemed careful to boil down the partisan accusations into simplified sound bites for public consumption. On the other hand, maybe partisan bickering and accusations aren't really news any more; maybe people have accepted the obvious lies and distortions as business as usual in our government, and it's not even worth covering because it's not interesting or news to people.

Whatever the case, I thought it was pretty interesting.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Comments on global warming bill

So the 500 page massive global warming bill, which nobody thought would actually get passed, and even if by some large-scale lapse of judgment did get passed, Bush would veto, got killed today. Proponents argued that it was important to codify their religious beliefs into US law so as to force them upon the rest of American. Opponents pointed out that the bill would do nothing to help man-made global warming even if it was a real problem, and would just export money and jobs out of the US. Both sides claimed victory, of course, with proponents expecting to re-launch another version of the bill when they have more believers in Congress, and a more liberal president.

So far business as usual. However, one thing I found interesting was that one of the most accurate and insightful comments about the garbage legislation came not from a Republican, but from a moderate Democrat who voted against it. The Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, commented that the end-result of the bill would be to export pollution and US jobs. If he thought about it a bit more, he might have added "paid for by US businesses, kinda like forcing the rest of your industrial base to dig their own graves before jumping in."

Man, you know your liberal legislation is bad for the country when even the Democrats can't stomach the obvious long-term negatives. Republicans, of course, ridiculed the bill, but were in turn ridiculed by the liberal media to marginalize their concerns as partisan. Meanwhile, both parties successfully continued to ignore the 800lb gorillas of massive debt, almost extinct industrial infrastructure, job losses, and inflation, not to mention the leveraged derivatives still off the books of various financial institutions totaling well over the entire national debt, and the complete inability to reduce systemic risk and/or prevent systemic collapse. Nice job guys, good to see it's business as usual, no matter what happens to normal people.