Programming, Security, Privacy, Technical

ShillBot: A Study in Identifying Reddit Trolls Through Machine Learning

For those who would rather just read the code:



We’ve all been there. You’re browsing Reddit and see a post that you’re passionate about. You click the comment box and reach for the keyboard — but hesitate. Reddit’s reputation precedes it. You type anyways and punch out your thoughts. Submit.


A comment already? You click the icon and read the most disproportionately-voracious response to a comment about cats you have ever seen. What a jerk! But you’re not going to play that game, and view the author’s previous posts and comments. Through your review a trend of tactless comments and inflationary responses bubbles to the surface. They’re a troll. You promptly ignore the comment.



The process of inspecting a user’s previous posts and determining how to respond based on that information is a repeatable process — and if it is repeatable, it is surely automatable. This was my thought as I wrapped up my own analysis — and spawned a project to figure out the ‘how’. ShillBot is the fruit of my efforts.

I approached the problem by breaking it down into two problems: The first problem was the extraction of a target user’s comment history from Reddit, the second problem was training the appropriate algorithm with a corpus of data that is representative of the group I wanted to identify.

Extracting the post history from Reddit was more complicated than initially expected. When a user views another user’s page one of three separate page versions may be returned: The ‘new’ style, ‘old-new’ style, and the ‘old’ style of Reddit. I had to create a separate parser for each version. Once this was done, I was able to extract the post information and construct a corpus for that specific target user.

Training an algorithm on a representative set of Reddit trolls required manual identification. This exercise was both entertaining and depressing as the posts included some of the most vile aspects of Reddit. I was able to find more than enough of a representation simply by finding ‘hot-topic’ and controversial posts and then sorting by controversial (or simply finding the most down-voted post). Then I would inspect that user’s history and determine if they were truly a troll. I also created a list of ‘normal’ Reddit users. This would be used to counteract the troll set. In essence, I would need to give the algorithm an accurate representation of both troll and ‘not troll’ to accurately classify each set.

If all the algorithm knows how to classify is a hammer everything starts to look like a hammer.

The algorithm was trained by combining the post text, post title, post author, and subreddit for all posts in a target user’s history. This provided more context than simply recording the post’s text. For example, including the subreddit and post author (OP) allows the algorithm to identify common trends such as cross posting from one subreddit to another and trolls commenting on other troll’s posts to boost controversy, etc.

For this application I used a basic stochastic gradient descent (SGD) classifier as it has traditionally had some success in the text classification space. In the future I may play around with other classifiers to see what results they produce.



Promising. I was able to successfully differentiate Reddit trolls from ‘not trolls’ to a reasonable extent. The main limitation is my manual verification process for data points — I still have to check the post history of each suspected troll manually before I can add them to my dataset.

Bias. My search method may be prone to bias as ‘searching for controversial topics’ is dependent on the topic du jour. For example, political topics are highly represented in Reddit posts as of late which leads to an over-representation in the classifier’s training set. Even when I am conscious of such an effect and over-representation the dataset will inevitably reflect it.

Scalable. Partially. Obviously limited to a reasonable number of requests to Reddit. With that said the system itself is capable of handling a relatively large number of requests through a standard consumer/producer multi-threaded model. Workers complete the scraping and parsing actions then send the data to the server for analysis.



Always with the Neural Networks! I just like throwing an ANN at the problem to see what it finds — they are great for teasing out relationships that you may not have found otherwise.

Better extraction of data. My data points right now include a combination of text post, text author, post title, and subreddit. I suspect that I can tease out more relationships between these aspects if I represent them in a better format. Will consider mapping relationships between subreddits and posters, etc.

Trying to address the bias problem — although I am not entirely sure how.



All in all, this was a fun project with some interesting challenges. This project confirms, if there was any doubt, that it is possible to take a corpus of text posts from a selected group and apply a few basic algorithms to answer the question ‘does this text belong in that group’ — to a certain extent.

General, Security, Privacy, Technical

A Hacker’s View of Passwords

Passwords You Say?

Passwords. The bastion of authentication. Defenders of data. Bane of those shadowy figures wearing hoods and ski masks in darkened basements whilst attacking your servers. Passwords protect your secrets, but how effective are they really?

Plenty of articles have been written on the short-comings of passwords — mainly around complexity, reuse, expiry, and how these additional “controls” may not truly solve the problems inherent to passwords. I will touch on these, but in the spirit of education I felt a duty to provide context and to answer the inevitable question one hears when they enact some new policy or control in the security world: “Why?”

I will start by saying that, in my humble opinion, passwords are here to stay — in one form or another. “What about biometrics?” you may ask — to which I will reply with another question: “What happens when your fingerprint is stolen?”. You can easily change a password. You can’t (easily) change your fingerprints. What about the tokens used in two-factor authentication? Couldn’t we simply just use those instead? Yes we could, but they can be lost or stolen, and can be expensive relative to a password. Economically speaking, we would have to see executives, as a whole, start taking security a lot more seriously if that is to happen.

So, for now, let us say that passwords will be with us for the foreseeable future. Maybe I’m wrong and some new technology will supplant passwords as the de facto standard — but for now they are here and we have to deal with them.

Now, Let us take a look at the current “state of the art” of passwords.


Passwords Currently

Password policy varies from organization to organization, but in general they seem to follow the lines of NIST SP-800 53’s example. Don’t know what NIST SP-800-53 is? Not to worry, it’s the US Federal Government’s catalogue of controls for “information systems” (aka: software systems, etc.).

In other words, it’s a list of things you need to do security-wise if you want to play ball with the US Feds. It’s good practice to do much of this if you are in the private industry as it’s a crazy world out there with crazy-hooded-masked-basement-dwellers around every corner.

So what does NIST SP… bla bla bla … say? It’s quite simple actually. It wants your passwords to:

  • Have a mix of upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and/or special characters (symbols and such) (Usually 3 of the 4)
  • Have a minimum password length (Usually 8+)
  • Not be the same as your last password (Some say “can’t be one of your last 10 passwords” or so)
  • Expire after some period of time (Usually 60 or 90 days)

Sound familiar?

NOTE: There are a few other requirements, but they don’t directly relate to password complexity so I’m leaving them out. If you really want to check it out, here’s the NIST SP 800-53 standard (pdf). It’s on page 253.

So what passwords fit this criteria?

  • Password123
  • Test1234
  • 12345678ABC!

Why is this important? Because adding complexity makes it hard to guess — in a way. What it actually does is make it hard to do what is called “brute-force”. That simply means to check every possible combination of values.

Time for some math. I promise it won’t be too much.
Let’s look at our criteria again:

  • Upper, lower, number, symbol
    • There are 26 upper-case letters (English alphabet)
    • There are 26 lower-case letters (English)
    • 10 numbers (0, 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
    • 16 symbols (~!@#$%^&*()_+,.?) (Yes I know there can be more but I had to choose)
    • TOTAL = 26 + 26 + 10 + 16 = 78 possible “characters” for each position in the password
  • Minimum password length
    • Assume this is 8 (can be longer, set by policy)
  • Not the same as your last password(s)
    • Doesn’t affect complexity
  • Expires after 60 or 90 days
    • Will affect how long we have to crack the code!

With all this, we can calculate how many possibilities there are in this 8-character password:

78 x 78 x 78 x 78 x 78 x 78 x 78 x 78 = 78^8 = 1,370,114,370,683,136 possible passwords

That’s a lot! Even with some decent-powered computers this would take a long time to go through. But a hacker is smarter than that. They know that it’s not worth trying every combination — especially on a live system where an increase in traffic might get noticed.

So they think about how people choose their passwords instead.


A Hacker’s Approach to Passwords

Hackers aren’t going to brute-force the passwords. There are just too many possibilities. They are going to use their brains. They’re going to think about how you choose your passwords. They see the standards too! They know you have to change them. They know the complexity requirements. But they also know that it is hard to remember lots of passwords. They take advantage of this by:

  • Looking at “Common Password Lists” that are occasionally published
  • Looking at common themes:
    • 60-90 day password changes are around the time of Fall, Winter, Summer, and Spring
    • Fun Fact: ‘Fall’, ‘Winter’, ‘Spring’, and ‘Summer’ come up in passwords
  • Use of a year range — usually at the end of a word. For example: Winter2018
    • Or, if they know it, your birth year or date in different formats
  • Common substitutions of numbers for letters. For example: W1nter2018
  • General words with numbers at the end. For example: Test1234
  • Noticing that most passwords start with a capital letter and end with one or more numbers
  • Noticing that people use the same or similar passwords for other accounts
    • If another account get hacked, they will look for published password dumps and try those

These are a lot of rules, but let’s take a look at just the “common password list” one.

If the list has 100,000 of the most used passwords, the hacker is expecting to have decent luck and will only have to try 100,000 times per user. That’s far better than the 1,370,114,370,683,136 possible passwords per user we calculated earlier.

Sadly, in many cases this is as far as the hacker has to go to get into a system. Common passwords are published as “common” for a reason. They are out there in numbers.

Let’s take a look at another few rules.

“Starts with a capital, ends with a number” (Ex: Testing1)

The hacker can brute-force using this rule to reduce the possibilities, but brute-forcing will always be their slowest option. They are more likely to use a pre-existing dictionary of words and apply this rule to those words. For example, let’s say that the hacker obtained a dictionary of the top 100,000 words in the English language that are 7 characters or more in length. Then they apply their rule to it:

“abashed” becomes Abashed1, Abashed2, Abashed3, Abashed4, Abashed5, Abashed6, Abashed7, Abashed8, Abashed9, Abashed0 and so on.

We add 10 words for every one word in the dictionary since we are adding a number to the end. If there are 100,000 words in the dictionary, this rule will have 1,000,000 possibilities.

This is a very effective method to guess passwords when a hacker has no other information to go by.

Seasons or Trends

Similar to the “dictionary” method above, except our list of words consist of only Winter, Fall, Summer, and Spring (Or some other noticed trend). The hacker may try a variety of date ranges on the end to try and find old passwords too. For example:

Winter2015, Winter2016, Winter2017, Winter2018, Winter2019

This is quick and dirty, but sometimes works. This is an attack that may even be done manually (no scripts or automation). If a hacker sees a username and password portal, they may try these out (along with username:password combinations such as admin:admin, admin:<blank>, root:admin, etc.)

Fun fact: After the Equifax breach it was found that one of their servers had the admin:admin username and password combo. It works because it is still used. Hackers know.

NOTE: Hackers will also think about who they think you are. If your email is, they might just passively try semperfi as the password (US Marine’s motto). Or batman. For some reason the password batman is always in password dumps. Odd. Or awesome. Not awesome. Choose better passwords.

Ultimately, the hacker is going to try and think of ways that people try and remember passwords — because those methods also make it easier to guess. So if the only good password is one that is hard to guess and it seems that our techniques to remember them are making things worse, what do we do?

I’m glad you asked.


How Can We Make Better Passwords

Password Managers

The examples above are guessable because they aren’t random. If you had a truly random password there would be no patterns and it would be hard to guess. The problem with this is that it would also be hard to remember. Enter the password manager.

The password manager … wait for it … manages passwords! Now you only have to remember one strong password and it will deal with the rest — better yet, add two-factor authentication for that added kick. +1 to awesome!

In addition to storing and managing your passwords securely, some password managers also give you the ability to auto-generate strong random passwords for you, enter them when needed, and update them when your password expires. Very nice indeed!

Don’t Use Predictable Patterns

If you can’t (or don’t want to) go down the password manager route, you can always just up your password-making game, but know this:

  • Common substitutions are almost as easy to guess as if they were just the normal character/letter
  • Don’t follow a predictable pattern such as a single word that starts with a capital letter, then followed by some numbers. You’re better than that.
  • Never use the seasons as part of your password — They are one of the first few passwords guessed
  • Know what the top passwords used are (they get published from password breaches) and make sure your passwords don’t follow any of those patterns
  • If your password expires, don’t make the new password the same as your old password just with a capital or number or other slight change
  • Where possible, use two-factor authentication (AKA: 2FA)

NOTE: Adding 2-factor authentication is good, but the solutions aren’t all equal: Getting a text is the weakest 2-factor authentication you can have. It is better than nothing, but not by much. You can buy a physical token but this has an added cost. It’s ultimately about economics… and how tinfoil-hatty you are.


There has been some discussion that points towards passphrases as a way forward. A passphrase is an entire phrase (as in multiple words) as opposed to a simple password (which is a single word). A passphrase will be longer and include multiple words that make simple dictionary methods fail. They will also be easier to remember.



It is my hope that in this journey through the darkened minds of hooded deviants you are able to think a little like them when you choose your next password. Don the tinfoil hat with pride. And know that your data is just a little bit safer because of it.


Programming, Security, Privacy, Technical

A Study in IDN Homograph Attack Detection

A Brief Introduction…

How well do you scrutinize the URLs that you click in a browser? Are you the wild type who click links before you read them? Or perhaps you are the cautious type — One of the careful number who hover over the link (without clicking), check the address that appears in the browser bar, and that it has a valid certificate (which might not mean so much as people think).

Let’s say that you are trying to get to ‘’. You see a link and hover over it. The URL that appears in the browser bar says ‘’. You click the link, but it takes you to a phishing site.

What happened? You checked the link. It said it was ‘’!

You may have fallen victim to an IDN homograph attack. A homograph is a word that looks the same but has two meanings. In the example above, the user clicked a link that looked like ‘’ but had a different meaning. How can that happen? The ‘how’ comes from the ‘IDN’ portion of the name: ‘internationalized domain name’. The URL in the address bar is actually pointing to a domain name. A domain name is the human-readable name of a website. The real address of a website (server) is an IP address, but people aren’t that great at remembering those so domain names make them memorable. For example, you can remember ‘’ (the domain name) or you can remember ‘’ (the ip address). The problem with domain names is that there are many languages. How do you support Mandarin characters in a domain name? Or Russian? You have to internationalize your ‘charset’ (The allowed characters, or individual letters). By internationalizing your charset, you now accept a far greater amount of characters than just simple English (latin-based) characters. This now lets people have domain names in their own language. But there is a down-side. In the charset, the same character may appear multiple times under different languages. For example, Cyrillic and Greek charsets (or alphabets) share similar characters (letters) to Latin. These characters will have separate identifiers, but will look very close, if not identical, to each other.

In the facebook example, the lower-case letter ‘o’ is identified by a character code ‘006F’ for the Latin alphabet (“Small letter o”), but could also be ’03BF’ in the Greek alphabet (small letter Omicron). If I were to register a domain name of but with the Greek version of those letters, it may pass an internationalized domain name registration. I could then use this URL to trick people into clicking the link because it will visually look like the real thing. An even simpler example is the substitution of a capital ‘O’ with the number zero (0) in the domain name.

I wanted to see if I could detect these types of attacks and flag them using basic statistics.

The Idea…

My idea was quite simple. Each character in a charset can be broken down into their unique identifier (number) and alphabets (or charsets) are grouped together and thus their identifiers will be close together. The plan was to run basic statistical analysis (mean, median, max, min, and standard deviation) on the individual characters of a URL (or domain name). If there are characters that are outside the usual range, then throw a ‘red flag’. I also had to account for the fact that punctuation may throw off any analysis so there will have to be at least a few methods to identify anomalies — hence the calculation of mean, median, max, min, and standard deviations. I also avoided using neural networks for this particular problem although, as you will see in my summary/future works section, I can see merit in taking it that way.

I wanted a basic proof-of-concept system that would take a corpus of known valid URLs and derive a statistical model from them. Then I would use this model to compare new URLs and determine if they are within the same alphabet or if there was a possibility that they were homograph attacks.

The Project…

You can see/fork/download the project code here:

The project is quite simple and has two files in the main ‘base’ package. The ‘meat’ of the system is in the file. The ‘’ file was used to manage and compare results.

The flow is as such:

  1. Train the system using either a given string or a file with many strings
  2. Pass the system either a given string of a file with many strings to test
  3. Generate results and output them

The comparison function simply takes the statistics for the given test string and compares it (based on a defined number of standard deviations — default 2) to the model statistics — these are based on mean, median, and the standard deviations themselves (I actually created a metric that is the standard deviation of standard deviations). It also compares the max and min ranges of the character identifiers — this is a crude way to check the number ranges.

Here is the comparison function code:

def compare(self, str_stats, stdev_threshold=2):
        :param str_stats: ResultSet object
        :param stdev_threshold: (int) number of standard deviations allowed

        print('Analysing: Threshold: 2 standard deviations...')

        str_max = str_stats.result_max
        str_min = str_stats.result_min
        str_mean = str_stats.mean_means
        str_median = str_stats.mean_medians
        str_stdev = str_stats.mean_stdevs

        if not (self.result_min <= str_min <= str_max <= self.result_max):
            return False, str_stats.all_stats, 'max/min range'

        r_mean_low = self.mean_means - stdev_threshold*self.stdev_means
        r_mean_high = self.mean_means + stdev_threshold*self.stdev_means
        if not (r_mean_low <= str_mean <= r_mean_high):
            return False, str_stats.all_stats, 'mean'

        r_median_low = self.mean_medians - stdev_threshold*self.stdev_medians
        r_median_high = self.mean_medians + stdev_threshold*self.stdev_medians
        if not (r_median_low <= str_median <= r_median_high):
            return False, str_stats.all_stats, 'median'

        r_std_low = self.mean_stdevs - stdev_threshold*self.stdev_stdevs
        r_std_high = self.mean_stdevs + stdev_threshold*self.stdev_stdevs
        if not (r_std_low <= str_stdev <= r_std_high):
            return False, str_stats.all_stats, 'stdev'

return True, str_stats.all_stats, None

NOTE: The above code compares the given string to the model ResultSet data in ‘self’.

Preliminary Results, Conclusion, and Future Work

The system was able to digest a Latin alphabet-based corpus (included in the source) and correctly identify URLs that had characters from other alphabets in them. The interesting thing about this method is that once the model is generated based on the corpus, it can be recorded and reused — no need to regenerate the model (which took the most time). The system was fast and quite accurate at first glance, although more analysis would be needed to make any real claims on its accuracy.

My file load function breaks on some charsets as they are not included in the default encoding for the python file-loading function (that or I missed something). I am working to fix this without clobbering the original encoding of the URL (which would defeat the purpose of this experiment).

This is already starting to look like a neural network would work nicely for this particular problem. I would like to feed the model stats into an ANN with perhaps some other inputs and see how it does. The basic stats I used were able to get decent results, but there are obvious edge cases that standard statistics wouldn’t identify (such as the old ‘substitute the 0 (zero) in for capital O’ trick). A neural network may help catch those.

I would say that it is quite possible to identify IDN homograph attacks using basic statistics and there are a few paths forward to improve accuracy with the results already demonstrated. With that said, nothing will compare to the standard ‘look before you click’ mentality. Users who identify the ‘0 instead of O’ substitution will not leave as much to chance. Systems like these aren’t catch-alls.

Programming, Security, Privacy, Technical

Growing Threats, Growing Attack Surface

It has been an interesting year of breaches, vulnerabilities, and scares. With the more recent ROCA vulnerability in Infineon’s TPM, a widely used module in the Smart Card industry, to the less-exploitable-but-still-serious KRACK vulnerability that makes hacking the WPA2 Wi-Fi security protocol possible, to the supply chain attack of CCleaner, a popular utility program for cleaning up a user’s computer.

What is clearly emerging from such events is that there is still much work to be done in the security space. The Ixia Security Report for 2017 describes an increase in the amount of malware and an increase in the size of company’s attack surface. Attack surface is the exposed, or public-facing, “surface area” of a company. Some have attributed the increase of attack surface to an increased usage and misconfiguration of cloud infrastructure. They argue that misconfiguration of servers looks to be replacing some of the more traditional OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities — such as SQL injection.


But the vulnerabilities listed above (ROCA, KRACK, and the CCleaner supply chain attack) aren’t necessarily cloud-related.

ROCA relates to an incorrectly-implemented software library — specifically the key pair generation. It allows an attacker to factor the private (secret) key just from using the public key. Modern encryption relies on a public key (that is sent to whoever wants it) and a secret (private) key that only the owner has and is used to decrypt messages. Only the private key can decrypt messages to the owner. This vulnerability allows anyone with the public key and some decent computational power (say an AWS cluster used to number-crunch) to get the original private key and decrypt the messages sent to the original owner. The computational power required is in the realm of “expensive but possible”. A targeted attack is a very real possibility, but widespread breaching would be infeasible.

KRACK involves a replay attack. “By repeatedly resetting the nonce transmitted in the third step of the WPA2 handshake, an attacker can gradually match encrypted packets seen before and learn the full keychain used to encrypt the traffic”. This vulnerability requires a physical component as the attacker will have to be on the Wi-Fi network. The cause is inherent to the standard — which means all correctly-implemented versions of the standard are vulnerable (i.e. Libraries that implemented it to spec). Many security practitioners have taken this particular moment in time to explain that the usage of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) would mitigate such attacks, and that Wi-Fi should be an un-trusted source to begin with.

The CCleaner supply chain attack included an injection of malware in a library that is used in the implementation of CCleaner. When the CCleaner program is packaged and deployed it will include this third-party library in its package. This type of attack takes advantage of consumer’s trust in CCleaner, and it is becoming a more popular attack for hackers. For the record, CCleaner has been sanitized and is no longer a threat from this malware. I imagine Avast, the company that offers CCleaner, also took a look at their supply chain trust and revamped some policies around it.


Each of these attacks are in addition to the general increase of attack surface and the misconfiguration of servers (that are becoming more common). There is an increase of supply chain attacks because they clearly work. There are plenty of incorrect implementations of standards or protocols that hackers can take advantage of. There are, far less often, errors in the actual standard or protocol themselves.

It may seem like the odds are piled against an organization’s security team. They are. That is why security is not only the responsibility of the security team, but the entire organization from the executive branch to the developers (who choose to implement specific libraries in their software) to the tech support teams that are often on the “front-line” with customers.

Education is always a good first step.

General, Programming

Software Development, Morality, ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, and Victor Frankenstein

For those who haven’t watched ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, I highly recommend a showing. It follows Walter Mitty, a daydreaming “negative asset manager” at LIFE magazine during its conversion to a fully-online offering. It truly is a visually stunning work.

The opening premise, LIFE magazine moving online and the inevitable downsizing and layoffs, struck a chord that has been, and is still, resonating: Is there a place for morality in software developer’s drive toward automation and efficiency?

One would be quite right in saying that the issue of ‘worker layoffs due to automation’ is not a new problem. History is full of examples. What piques my interest, however, is the generality of software automation. The immense reach of software naturally leads to an immense number of avenues for automation.

For example: I found myself talking with a colleague about the problems that they were having with some of their staff. When we finally distilled the problem down to its essence, we discovered that a great portion of his department was dedicated to the handling and sorting of files (originally electronic, then printed, then sorted and filed). I found myself flippantly stating that I could replace most of his department with a script.

My watching of ‘Walter Mitty’ sparked a wave of introspection, and a single question welled within me: If I could write a script that replaces an entire department, should I?

The script would increase the company’s efficiency through a significant reduction in cost. But why is efficiency so important that one would look for avenues to terminate the employment of others? Who benefits from it? Recently, it seems, the cost savings would not make its to the remaining employees but would manifest as bonuses for an executive, or manager, or perhaps dividends for shareholders.

Is inefficiency really that bad? In this case a department is being employed to do work. They are doing the work satisfactorily. Their wages pay for local food, rent, and expenses. This provides a boon to the local economy. If the populace is scraping by financially they surly will not be purchasing cars, houses, or other ‘big ticket items’. Would this not stagnate the greater economy?

Would a 100%-efficient company have anyone working there?

My authorship of this script directly instigates the termination of those employees. The causative relationship is undeniable.

Such scenarios are drenched with hubris as such mechanisms are en-route to also replace developers. In this we are the architects of our own obsolescence and ultimate demise: Dr. Frankenstein would surely have words with us. It is pure arrogance to assume such devices would not also be applied towards our craft.

Some may argue that apparatuses are in place to mitigate such effects, or that the evolution of the market warrants the employee’s termination: ‘They have become obsolete and must retool to stay competitive’, or ‘that is what welfare is for’, or ‘universal basic income is the future for this very reason’. Such comments do not address my question, ‘If one could write a script to replace a large group of people’s jobs, should they?’, rather they address the symptom, or after-effects, of such a decision — The employees are terminated, now what?

Perhaps this is the issue?

At the risk of sounding defensive I must note that I am not one to resist change. Resistance to change in our particular field is a doomed prospect to say the least. But one must address the social and economic implications of their decisions. One must have a conscience.

I do not have an answer. The creation of software is a technical achievement, a work of art, a labor of love, and wildly creative. It behooves those who embark on such journeys to consider their implications. Perhaps it is our hubristic tendencies as developers, or our arrogance, that drives us to construct our own monsters. Dr. Frankenstein would surely have words with us.


General, Security, Privacy

History and its Uncanny Ability to Repeat Itself

The EFF has published a well-cited and informed article on why they view the current trend of dragnet surveillance to be thoroughly against the constitution of the U.S.

Even if you are not an American, this article touches on the ideals of many. It describes the context around why the Fourth Amendment was included and goes into specific detail as to who and why they thought it so important:

“Using ‘writs of assistance,’ the King authorized his agents to carry out wide ranging searches to anyone, anywhere, and anytime regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. These ‘hated writs’ spurred colonists toward revolution and directly motivated James Madison’s crafting of the Fourth Amendment.”

I highly recommend reading the entire article: The NSA’s “General Warrants”: How the Founding Fathers Fought an 18th Century Version of the President’s Illegal Domestic Spying