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Thursday, October 30 2014 @ 10:16 AM CDT

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The Devil’s in the Cloud: Our Headlong Rush into Ultimate Cybersecurity Vulnerability

Cybersecurity

This is the first part of a four-day series I will post this week highlighting an astonishingly neglected area of cyber-vulnerability. I will be presenting it tomorrow (remotely) at the Jules Verne Corner segment of the ITU's meetings this week in Kyoto, Japan

Cover caricature of Jules Verne, L'Algerie, 15 June 1884, courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsThere appears to be consensus in many quarters today that migrating to the Cloud is highly desirable – indeed, that we have already embarked upon an irresistible and indeed inexorable migration.  Multinational IT vendors view this transition as the next great market opportunity; governments see in it an opportunity to finally rationalize their Byzantine legacy systems without incurring massive up front capital costs; and enterprise users find the value proposition increasingly compelling as their systems become more complex, expensive and difficult to maintain. 

Meanwhile, the data, records, pictures and social relations of individuals (often without their pausing to think about it) move with the tap of a key from hard drives and back up device from the supervision of their owners to who knows where, owned by who knows who, and vulnerable to who knows what?

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OASIS Breaks the Traditional Standards Accreditation Barrier

Intellectual property Rights

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

On Tuesday, OASIS made an extremely rare announcement for an information technology consortium: that it has successfully completed the process of becoming accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).   As a result, it is now able to submit its standards to ANSI for recognition as American National Standards (ANS). And also to directly submit its standards for adoption by ISO and IEC. This is a milestone that’s worthy of note, despite the fact that over 200 standards setting organizations (SSOs) have achieved a similar status in the past.

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Alright, Now - this is Starting to get Really Weird

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

From time to time over the past year I’ve noted that events in the real world involving North Korea have been closely tracking the plot of my book, The Alexandria Project.  Among other events, North Korea has successfully launched a three stage rocket and threatened to use it to strike the U.S.; analysts have begun to speculate that the surprisingly low-yield nuclear weapons the North has tested may not be poor performing designs, but instead small devices purpose-built for missile launch against America. Just yesterday, the U.S. sent a pair of nuclear weapons-capable stealth bombers over South Korea, the same delivery means contemplated in my book.
 
Okay. Most of that could be attributed simply to the fact that I did my research well, and that others might make the same speculations based on past events that I did in developing my plot.  But this morning’s news included a story that makes me seriously wonder whether my book has crossed the divide from predicting events to acting as a “how to” manual for real-world, state-supported cyber attackers.

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Life Imitates Art (Again)

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

North Korea threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on its “aggressors,” including the U.S., ahead of a United Nations vote on tougher sanctions against the totalitarian state for last month’s atomic test. - Bloomberg News, March 7, 2013

Excerpt from The Alexandria Project Chapter 30: The Death Defying, Incredibly Exciting, Final Chapter!

“Do not underestimate the military, my friend. You must leave this in my charge and trust that it will be as I have promised. As soon as the missiles are ready, they will be fired. Approximately twenty minutes later, Washington and another city that will surprise you will be destroyed. There will be utter chaos in the enemy’s ranks, and in that chaos, I will give the order for our troops to attack across the border. Seoul will be ours before nightfall.”

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The Alexandria Project, Chap. 5: So how do ya like them iBalls?

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

Our story so far:  Our hero, Frank Adversego now understands where the name "Alexandria Project" comes from, but hasn't been able to figure out much else yet about the mysterious cracker whose exploit threatens the Library of Congress.  Read the first chapters here.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic - Thanks to Chris BuechelerFrank fidgeted next to the cheese and crackers, looking helplessly for his daughter in the crowd. He hated social events with a passion, and especially having to speak to people he didn’t know. He was sure that every sentence he uttered came across as a brainless non-sequitur.

But fair was fair. Marla was finishing up an internship with a local high tech company, and at the last minute, her date had come down with the flu. She had kept him company at the Library of Congress holiday party the weekend before, and this time it was his turn.

“Please, Dad,” she’d said over the phone, “There’s this guy at work that’s been hitting on me all week. It’ll do you good to get out of your crummy apartment, and how can you turn down a request to protect your little girl?”

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One Step Closer to the Open eBook Tipping Point: O’Reilly Joins the EPUB 3.0 Ecosystem

Adventures in Self-Publishing

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

Anyone who reads eBooks is aware that a number of content vendors are using proprietary platforms in an effort to lock you into their content libraries: most obviously, Amazon, with its Kindle line, Barnes & Noble with its Nook devices, and Apple with its iPads and iPhones. But there are many non-content vendors that would love to sell you an eReader as well, such as Kobo, and Pocketbook, not to mention the smartphone vendors that would be happy to have you use their devices as eReaders, too.

But can you? Well, as you’re probably also aware, that depends. For example, in addition to selling content that will play only on their devices, Amazon and Apple also produce versions of their content that can be viewed on the readers of their competitors as well.

All of this not only makes it confusing and limiting for eBook buyers, but also for content publishers large (like Random House) and small (like technical title boutique publisher O’Reilly), that have seen their traditional distribution models not only upended by the eBook revolution, but complicated by the proprietary antics of the Amazons of the world.

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Alexandria Project Chap. 4: Beware of Greeks bearing Trapdoors

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

Our story so far:  Security expert Frank Adversego comes under suspicion when the Library of Congress is hacked by a mysterious cracker with motives unknown and a taste for the bizarre; to protect himself, Frank had better get to the bottom of things (the first chapter is here). Better yet, why not buy the extensively rewritten final version in eBook (for just $2.99) and print versions at all the usual outlets (find the links here).

Graham Manning - GNU Free Documentation License.  Thanks, GrahamBack in his cube again, Frank powered up his computer and reflected on what he’d just learned, which was both not much and a lot.   Not much, in that he still had no idea who was behind the attack, or what he was trying to accomplish.  But a lot because the only people targeted besides himself were George and Rick, and because only the files in one directory had been affected.  That meant that what had hit the Library of Congress was no virus unleashed against Web sites generally, bent on spreading random mayhem.  Instead, it was obviously an attack targeted just at the LOC.  And once it had made its way through the LOC firewall, the attack had  been manually controlled rather than automated. 

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LibreOffice 4.0 Release to Widen Divide with OpenOffice

OpenDocument and OOXML

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

It was in September of 2010 that a group of key members of the OpenOffice.org developer team announced that they were no longer willing to wait out the uncertain future of OpenOffice, especially in the face of the lack of interest shown by Oracle, the new owner of the project following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems nine months before.

Their announced intent was to form an independent foundation to host a fork of the OpenOffice code base, thereby achieving a goal they had sought throughout ten years of control by Sun – to work in an environment free from the control of a single vendor.

It's now two and a half years later, and with the release of LibreOffice 4.0, that Foundation is not only flourishing, but forging a path independent of its predecessor.

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eBooks Sales Surpass Print Sales for Adult Fiction

Adventures in Self-Publishing

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

From time to time I Google my way around a few search terms looking for useful information on one or another self-publishing topic. One of those topics, of course, is promotion.

Some time back, I ran across Smith Publicity, a book promotional firm that has been around for awhile. Smith puts out a monthly newsletter they call “Power Book Publicity Tips” which I’ve now been receiving for about six months. It’s short, relevant, and I usually find what I read there to be useful.

Here’s an excerpt from the February update, which contains a data nugget that I expected would arrive some day, but not as soon as it has (after all, it was only a few years ago that we’d never heard of something called a ‘Kindle,’ the device that launched the armada):

[Continues at Tales of Adversego]

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The Alexandria Project, Chap. 3: I just HATE it when that Happens

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

Our story so far:  Security expert Frank Adversego has been passed over to lead a major project at the Library of Congress, but discovers that the Library has been hacked by a mysterious cracker with motives unknown; now, Frank learns that he may be coming under suspicion (the first chapter is here). Better yet, why not buy the extensively rewritten final version in eBook (for just $2.99) and print versions at all the usual outlets (find the links here).

 

Larsino - Wikimedia Commons - Public DomainMonday morning Frank arrived at work early.  He scooped up the office copies of the daily newspapers from the pavement outside the staff door of the Library of Congress and noticed that the Washington Times was missing.  No need to wonder who arrived first today – that would be Rick - the only employee that wouldn’t bother to bring in a paper for anyone other than himself.

Sure enough, as Frank strode up the half-lit corridor in Cube City, there was Rick standing next to his cubicle, coffee cup in hand.  His face lit up as soon as he saw Frank.  “Morning, Frank,” he called out.  “Recovered from your big Saturday night yet?”  He raised his coffee cup in a mock toast and leaned casually against his cube so Frank could barely squeeze past. 

But to Rick’s surprise, Frank gave him a hearty welcome as he wedged past.  “Great to see you, Rick, 'ole fella!  Only 70 more security-filled days till February 28, huh?”  Frank smiled as he sauntered down the aisle to the sound of coffee spraying from Rick’s mouth.  Frank wondered just how long it would be before Rick showed up, shamefaced, to ask for help.  A week at most, he thought.