Melted my Mind during a Mind Meld!

For all dedicated and part time “Trekkies” both young and old it was a sad day this year to learn of the passing of Dr Spock, Leonard Simon Nimoy. Probably the most type cast actor in the history of television.
“Spocky” was capable of conducting a Vulcan mind meld. The Vulcan mind meld was a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.
Even the fictional character Dr McCoy quoted back in the day “Vulcan mind melds; utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn’t share his brain with someone else; would you? I certainly wouldn’t.”
The first real step was taken in 2013 when researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco, completed the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
Andrea Stocco – University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

This is not a standalone step but rather a progression in the decade’s long research into brain computer interface.
Implications from technological change on the battlefield have always driven innovation and invention.

During the American Civil War, field commanders did not realise the impact the new rifled musket and mini ball would have on tactics.

They persisted in using outdated tactics and the result was over 600,000 deaths and more than 80,000 amputations during its four deadly years.

The longer range had soldiers running into the face of at least three volleys rather than one and rarely coming to grips with the enemy.

The spinning bullet striking any arm or leg would split the bone and invariably require amputation.

Any visit to antique, second hand and curio shops throughout America reveals a multitude of artefacts and inventions used by civil war amputees in the years after the war.
It is not surprising then given the number of amputee veterans resulting from IED’s (improvised explosive devices) during the last decade of America’s military efforts that major funding has come from the U.S. Army Research Office and the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

The primary interest is brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain, are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical prosthesis helping paralysed patients regain some power of movement.
But brain to brain experimentation has some bioethicists raising concerns about the more controversial uses.

They have a particular concern with experimentation into brain-networking. This method involves the linking brains together to create a collective network of thought.
For example in recent experiments, Miguel Nicolelis and his colleagues at Duke University wired the brains of four rats and had the same signal delivered into their brains and when a computer monitor showed their thoughts were synchronised they were offered a reward.

They were able to manipulate the brain patterns of the rats so they shared a collective thought pattern.

The resulting manipulation enabled the minds of the rats to act as an information-processing chain.

In other words they were able to train one rat to produce a brain activity and pass this onto the second rat that in turn passed it onto the third.
Don’t buy any shares in a rat trap company I’m thinking.
They have also demonstrated this with monkeys which don’t bode well for my mates at the pub.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface (BMI), a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical applications,” Miguel A. Nicolelis – Director of the Centre for Neuro-engineering at Duke University

Will some futuristic marriage celebrant have a marriage mind meld ritual chip planted in the couples brains as part of the wedding service conducted on a holographic beach complete with virtual guests?

Forever after when your darling asks you “what are you thinking?” You will be truly screwed.
No more nothing, saying nothing will no longer do.

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Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans

With a Digital Sneeze I got a Wireless Virus!

In 2009 and in 2012 the Australian Science organisation CSIRO won landmark court case’s on the invention of Wi Fi technology. From its introduction Wi Fi security has been an issue ignored in the wake of the convenience of its features and potential. In early 2000 I recall reading that Queensland University students proved that Wi Fi could never be made totally secure. A gene out of its bottle is rarely put back in and in the case of technology it’s the risk reward ratio that kept the Wi Fi gene out of the bottle as it made device based mobile computing possible and now indispensable.

In Wi Fi’s earliest days I would observe many a poor uni student hunkered down in a shopping mall with a laptop, piggy backing the shopping malls Wi Fi to do their research for free. Now that’s just taken for granted and we expect open access Wi Fi wherever we go as a no charge customer service.
Some time ago a student showed me a device he bought at an electronics store.
“It scans for Wi Fi networks.” He said.
“Why do you need it?”
“I might want to see if I can get online from the wood shed down the bottom of my back yard.”
“Right …….. So how many unsecured Wi Fi networks did you find down your street then?”
“Five”
Wi Fi security is now under a new threat. A digital influenza is now possible. ‘Chameleon’ a codenamed virus designed by researchers at the University of Liverpool have developed an airborne Wi Fi virus.
Piggy backing Wi Fi waves this coded common cold spreads faster than Bali Belly from network to network. The denser the networks the faster it spreads.
It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack Wi Fi networks,” computer security expert Professor Alan Marshall said. “But we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly.
So those places offering open access networks, the shopping malls, the coffee shops, free hotspots and my TAFE campus could be dangerous places easily infiltrated.
Straining the distinction between research and Ukrainian hackers the team designed and simulated attacks that spread quickly between home and business avoiding detection and also finding and remembering unprotected networks. In a laboratory setting which must make it alright, they simulated successful attacks on Belfast and London. The team reported that “Chameleon” behaved just like a real airborne virus.

 

When “Chameleon” attacked an AP (Access Point) it didn’t affect how it worked, but was able to collect and report the credentials of all other Wi Fi users who connected to it. The virus then sought out other Wi Fi APs that it could connect to and infect.”
Alan Marshall, Professor of Network Security

 

Shopping malls could become areas of high digital pestilence, with the majority of AP’s in close proximity mostly within a 10-50 metre radius; a Wi Fi virus like “Chameleon” will propagate like the plague.
It slips past virus protection because virus protection software only looks at viruses on our devices not within the Wi Fi network itself. You might beat it with your home and business secured AP only to find yourself “nailed” at your favorite coffee shop or conference.

 

Wi Fi connections are increasingly a target for computer hackers because of well-documented security vulnerabilities, which make it difficult to detect and defend against a virus. It was assumed, however, that it wasn’t possible to develop a virus that could attack Wi Fi networks but we demonstrated that this is possible and that it can spread quickly. We are now able to use the data generated from this study to develop a new technique to identify when an attack is likely.” Professor Marshall

 

Well thanks for that but, what about copy cats. I think the first computer virus was let loose by some early computer genius having a random academic moment wondering if he could give networked computers a form of digital cancer, contemplated some likely code and hit the enter key forgetting he was on a huge university network and thus gave birth to the first computer virus. He owned up and apologized but that gene was out of its bottle.

 
I really do wonder sometimes why we keep a laboratory sample of a virus or bacteria causing a horrific disease that took hundreds of years to eradicate just in case we might need it in the future. It’s a trust us scenario because we are scientists and you are just people who don’t know any better and you should leave it to us.
Are they going to do a perpetual computerized quarantine of “Chameleon” while they protect us from others that might invent a “Chameleon” knock off but who are not them? I would either look to putting virus protection on my smart phone or try going to a coffee shop to just have a cup of coffee with a friend and talk, a device free time. It’s fast becoming one of those life crisis issues requiring professional help and mental health coverage on your medical insurance plan.

 

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Detection and analysis of the Chameleon WiFi access point virus
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Spy RATter’s

A Google search of the word RATters reveals either people with a passion for little dogs chasing rats and mice or perverted men using remote access software (RAT) to take control of young girls webcams, take compromising pictures of them to display and swap on slaver forums. The pervert spying came to light in early 2013 in a comprehensive article in Ars Technica. The article claimed that one of the ‘slave forums’ had 23 million total posts.

 
The technology is not new so it begs the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg. Were government surveillance agencies already using it and young perverts adapting it later, or were young perverts leading the way for government agencies to emulate? A recent article in the Washington Post has claimed that the FBI has been spying on its “persons of interest” via their webcams for several years already, without triggering the webcam indicator light.

 

At least one judge in a rare case of protecting individual privacy rejected an FBI request for remotely activating video feeds in a bank fraud case in Houston, Texas, in December last year. The judge ruled that the risk of accidentally obtaining information of innocent people was too great.

 
FBI surveillance teams use the same technique as ratters, by infecting the computer with a malicious software (malware – through phishing). By sending an email with a link, which could be to a website, an image or a video, the user is tricked into downloading a small piece of software onto their machine. Once installed, the malware allows the FBI to take control of the computer and the webcam at any time, working similarly to the system large corporations use to update software and fix IT problems.

 
“We have transitioned into a world where law enforcement is hacking into people’s computers, and we have never had public debate. Judges are having to make up these powers as they go along.”
Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union.

It is not only governments that are employing RAT techniques but activist and political groups are using it as a protest and spying tool against their rivals. Hackers have been discovered using a tampered-with version of a legitimate remote access tool (RAT) to target activists, industrial, research and diplomatic targets. Hungary-based security firm CrySys Lab discovered an attack on diplomatic targets in Hungary which installs legitimate software first, but then remotely alters the program to enable it spy on victims. This had been going on since 2008.
“The attackers control the victim’s computers remotely by using [a] legal remote administration tool. This application is signed with legitimate digital certificates and is used by more than 100 million users around the world. To avoid alerting the user that somebody is spying on him, the attackers dynamically patch [the program] in memory to remove all signs of its presence.” – Kaspersky Lab

 
High profile targets ranging from a high-profile victim in Hungary, multiple victims in Iran, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan and attacks on Belarusian pro-democracy activists last year. The malware searches for multiple document formats, disk images and file names that suggest they contain passwords or encryption keys.
The leaked Snowdon files suggest that spy teams around the world have been using these techniques since 2004. Their usage of remote administration tools (RATs) comes to light as the world’s most powerful technology firms call on Barack Obama to curb government spying on internet users.

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That was the year that was!

That was the year that was. Let’s start with the tech deals done dirt cheap that didn’t make it in 2013:

  • Simcity 10 years in the relaunch of a much loved game totally botched the games launch.
  • Reddit lost it in its attempt at social media justice by muddying the waters in the search for the Boston marathon bombers.
  • Twitter’s new music discovery service started with a whimper and died with a burp.
  • Dell can’t say die and refuses to accept the general PC’s day is dead and gone.
  • BlackBerry is undergoing a death by a thousand cuts. Apart from President Obama who do you know that has one? No one.
  • Adobe upset everyone with its move to subscription software to absolutely outrage 38 million of their customers with a massive security breach of their credit card details.
  • Facebook Home for smart phones didn’t grab users with its first attempt although the company insists it will persist.
  • Microsoft Surface Tablet didn’t make a ripple on the surface of worldwide tablet sales.

Australians internet habits for the year was to check the weather, download videos big time, check our social media, and play smart phone games. However the difference in 2013 was the increasing use of mobile smart devices. Half of Australia is now on the internet and one third of them now access the internet on mobile or wireless links.

Google trending analysis of our search curiosity put celebrities dead before their time high on the list. Points of trivia concerning trivial reality TV shows confirmed the public’s increasing demand for reality avoidance.

We did however use the Rural Fire Service during our increasingly deadly bush fire season. Nearly all of us worried about someone near to us in the path of a fast moving fire somewhere. Our wonderful BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) received 471 million visits reflecting our fascination for cyclones heatwaves and bushfires.
We all expressed a morbid interest in the 24 hour, slogan driven, negative message electioneering of our modern more than likely reviled politicians. The Electoral Commission’s more than 12 million page views on election night reflected a 45% rise from the previous election.

Much else didn’t change. We are too lazy to bookmark so we banked, emailed, social media’d, checked weather, searched for jobs and real estate, booked accommodation and travel, shopped on Ebay and the such all from shortcutting out of Google.

The Twitter spikes caused by Australia’s 2 million Twitter users was a depressing reflection on our general level of education. It is not surprising that the majority of spikes were around mindless conversation pieces like the moment Dami Im was crowned winner of The X Factor. Whoever the hell he or she is. It’s not surprising after a survey of Australians general science knowledge found that 40% of us had no idea it takes the earth one year to revolve around the sun and that since the re-release of Jurassic Park on Blu-ray that humans lived in the time of dinosaurs. Small wonder that Twitter peaks concentrated around conversation pieces from television shows.

Some serious topics did trend, leadership spills and drugs in sport being the main ones. However the word television needs to be qualified. 2013 saw a large increase in the number of people using internet, subscription TV, video on demand and catch-up TV particularly children’s shows. Does anyone still have a video “Blockbuster” store in their town? If you do you won’t for long.

Season three “Game of Thrones” confirmed Australians as the most prolific illegal downloaders in the world. Downloading from smartphones and tablets rose 97 per cent to about 6545 terabytes a month.
Looking forward to 2014 I’m wondering if I will be able to 3D print a lifelong replacement for a chronic ingrown toenail or invest in an e-ink tattoo parlour providing removable, moving multi-coloured tattoos.

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Digital Ticket of Leave

Apparently everyone in Australia with an internet connection should be arrested. Like our first fleet ancestors we are all criminals. In truth the wonderful book “Fatal Shore” by Robert Hughes informs us that only the first 50 years of our convict colony was really tough. After that life in England if you were not one of the uber rich one percenter’ s born into riches and royalty, life in that rain drenched, sun starved island was truly miserable. People started to commit crimes in order to get sent here.

You had to make sure it was a petty crime. That got you a seven year stretch with a ticket of leave at the end. The ticket of leave meant you were free to live anywhere in Australia but couldn’t ever return to England. No great loss there.

It was a bit more of a problem if you got a 14 year stretch. Then you could become a victim of undercover, creeping incremental white slavery. You did your first 7 years on the government road gangs then you were indentured to a squatter for the next 7 years as an unpaid labourer. If you were a good worker your dishonest boss could cook up another crime against you before the 7 years was up and you got another 7 on top from an accommodating magistrate, another conspiring blueblood to help keep you in perpetual servitude.

If you were not a good worker the squatter could kill two birds with one stone. Incite the war of conquest against Australia’s first people who the Royal Society of London adamantly insisted didn’t exist anyway. You did this by sending your indentured convict with 100 sheep into an area you knew was going to get him a spear in the guts. Fitting end to your bad worker, plenty more where he came from and in the meantime good cause for riding on in there with guns, dogs and some squatter mates to take care of those murderous black barstard’s who didn’t officially exist anyway. Thus one of the ways the war was waged.

When you finished your 7 years and were nicely set up growing wheat and sheep on some river flats up the Parramatta river valley you wrote home to cousins in England and told them to throw a brick through a window, steal a loaf of bread, get a 7 stretch and do your time as we have land waiting for you. I guess that’s why the conservative sections of our body politic still have an irrational fear of boat people. Never the less why should we all be arrested in our own illegally gotten country once again?

Our copyright laws apparently. Sharing a video clip on YouTube is technically a 5 year stretch with a $93,000 fine. Our laws in this area probably date back to near the convict era, certainly reflect blue blood thinking in their battle to keep us in our place. You are always reminded of a Monty Python skit that has become reality when there are too many laws to remember but ignorance of any one of them is no excuse for breaking it.  A good way of making sure we are always criminals just waiting to be caught.

Section 132A part 2 of the Australian Copyright Act states: “distributing an infringing article that prejudicially affects the copyright owner” is against the law. There you go. Everything you do online is technically illegal in Australia. Everything you do on Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube is completely illegal. Your one edition claim to fame, your photo in a newspaper is not yours so if you post it on Instagram you have just committed a crime.

Thankfully on our behalf the Australian Digital Alliance is campaigning to highlight the flaws in our ancient anachronistic copyright laws that belong in our historical dustbin. It’s a simple solution. Something like a fair use clause would allow people to share, copy or recreate works so long as they don’t do copyright owners harm or take revenue away from them. With our on line lives this is like outlawing culture. Recently “Juice Media” did a rap parody on their YouTube channel of Julian Assange, using John Farnham’s “You’re the Voice”.  It was issued with a takedown order. John would not have had a problem but even though it is his song he doesn’t own it some bully boy recording label, dead but yet to lay down does. They issued the takedown.

Even the establishment is starting to say that the “antiquated” attitude to copyright “breeds contempt for the law.” Well that horse bolted years ago. Australians are born with an inbuilt contempt for the law. It’s part of our convict heritage. We had an old saying out in the country. The law only exists where there is a blue uniform to enforce it.

The Australian Digital Alliance will present its arguments to the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into Copyright and the Digital Economy in late November.
“In six month’s time, in February we will take that body of work to the Attorney General’s office and teach the old people who live in Canberra who make the laws how young people are making things,” – Dan Ilic

Well Dan if they give you 100 sheep and point you up some alley in Redfern don’t go mate.

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Only one on-line slip up

Back in the last share boom before the GFC (Great Financial Crisis) everyone thought they were a red hot trader. Mums were spending their day in a trading pod checking the websites spruiking todays penny dreadfuls. I recall one scam. Young Australian guy spam mailed all these hot trade tip web sites with a fake report on a penny dreadful, taking a big position before hand of course. The sheep got on board in the first hour of the day and he sold into it making about $21,000 for the mornings work. Only problem was he did it from home and got done. Caught and charged. I remember thinking at the time why didn’t he get one of those dodgy promotional CD’s with 10 hours free internet time from one the undercutting ISP companies who never answered the phone, had non-existent support and an address that turned out to be a car park. Take the CD into an internet cafe and our “perp” would have been away clean.

Those days are gone. The arrest on the 1st October of “Silk Roads” Ross William Ulbricht illustrates the point. The online drug and dodgy deeds site had apparently turned over more than $1 billion from hundreds of thousands of customers. From fake ID’s to top grade heroin the site had cleverly covered itself using complex server configurations, anonymity software and Bitcoin money, Silk Road had become a major player in the “Dark Net.” Until Ross made one stupid, rookie blunder that bought it all undone.

Strutting his stuff on a forum Ross used a user profile called “altoid” and said he was looking for an expert in Bitcoin and stupidly gave the address to send applications to as rossulbricht @gmail.com. In itself innocent enough but the FBI tracing the user name “altoid” found two earlier posts  about Tor being a kind of “anonymous amazon.com” Both posts referenced  “silkroad420.wordpress.com.” Duh!!
Did this make Ulbricht a person of interest to the FBI? It sure did. Further footprints followed.  A Google+ profile of rossubicht@gmail.com included video links that enabled the FBI to cross link Ross with his Silk Road handle “Dread Pirate Roberts.” Both Ross and the Dread Pirate seemed to both be believers in the Austrian Economic Theory on which Silk Roads market model was based.
The final bread crumb was a post by Ross on a forum on “How can I connect to a Tor hidden service using curl in php?” Later forensic analysis on a Silk Road hard drive found exactly the same code.

Even if the “Dread Pirate Roberts” initial slip up didn’t require the powerful surveillance capability of the NSA it is suspected that while chasing child pornographers the FBI agents exploited a vulnerability in the Firefox browser to unmask Tor users and may have used this to expose the Silk Roads kingpin.

Many people concerned over Snowden’s NSA revelations have started to use software like Tor recommended by the Cryptoparty to stay anonymous. If it’s just to keep pesky profile marketing away and otherwise having nothing to hide, all well and good. However with something to hide it becomes a bigger challenge everyday as any investigator need only to wait and stay vigilant and they will get lucky with that one slip up.

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A Slave Ratting on a RATer.

“Cutefuzzypuppy” he called himself. This was the not so cute online handle of 19 year old Jared James Abrahams who captured Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf’s laptop webcam using RAT technology and revelled in getting unbeknown naked pictures of her.

I mean even in the privacy of your own room how much time do you spend naked? It’s probably inversely proportional to your age. The older you are the less time you spend naked. From a baby when you are always naked to a 90 year old that’s never naked even in the shower. Jared had over 150 “slaves” at the height of his career as a RAT. That’s controlling the webcams of the 150 girls Jared monitored, many he snapped “nuddy” images of to boast about, post and share with his forum friends. Now this is a serious investment of time. To catch these girls in the buff would require near constant monitoring. It probably took all of Jared’s time to watch and wait. It makes him not so much a cute puppy but a very sick puppy. The American term “Jerk off” probably literally applied to Jared.

Jared is no good with people, no surprise there, so he distributed software like DarkComet to victims because that was the only way he could connect with them, secretly as a virus. He admitted “He sucked at social engineering.”  This of course means he had no face to face social skills. His first major success was to use a girl he went to school with. Cassidy Wolf the new Miss Teen USA innocently communicated with an old school acquaintance to have him infect her laptop with a RAT tool.
In May 2012 he announced on hackforums.net:
Recently I infected a person at my school with Darkcomet. It was total luck that I got her infected because I suck at social engineering. Anyway, this girl happens to be a model and a really good looking one at that: D. I was hoping I could use her and her Facebook account to further spread my darkcomet rat. I want to mass message all her friends on Facebook but I have no idea what to message them to get them to download the rat. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated :).” 
Reported by Nate Anderson (ars Technica Sep 28th)

Cassidy became suspicious when someone attempted to change her passwords to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Yahoo. The first semi-nude of her turned up on Twitter. Only 30 minutes later she received an email from our Jared demanding  that she either send him “good quality” nude pictures, a video of herself, or that she “go on Skype with him and do what I tell you to do for 5 minutes.” Any refusal to his demands would result in the release of compromising images of her, some of which he sent her to show he meant business.
The idiot tried to blackmail her. What is it with men and our obsession with the pursuit of status and influence? Of any kind. Even if it’s only to be the biggest fish in the tiniest ocean we will go for it. From the dickhead Dad with his Hitler control trip over the under 10 basketball team from a town you can spend a year in, in a single day to Jared wanting to be the “Man” on a forum full of sickos by showing them a video of his “slave” obeying his every command. What’s more she is Miss Teen USA so beat that!

To her credit Cassidy called the cops.
The FBI looked at her laptop and found evidence of both DarkComet and another RAT known as Blackshades, which confirmed how Jared had taken his photos.
Jared thinking he was smart used a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to conceal his identity but his own RAT buddies betrayed his location because of his bragging. These RATs had connected back to Jared by accessing no-ip.org. This is a service which allows users to dynamically map their IP address to a domain name. This allows the “slaves” to phone home while Jared remains safe using a dynamic IP address from a home Internet account or so he thought. The resulting No-ip.org records however allowed the FBI to establish the existance of a no-ip.org account in the name of Jared’s father and the username on the account was “cutefuzzypuppy.” A Google search and there is our Jared alias “cutefuzzypuppy” writing about RATs online.
Facebook gave the FBI, Jared’s personals including his college.  He was staked out and secretly observed in the computer room accessing the “no logging” VPN from the college network. The FBI had a case, Jared James caught red handed, done and dusted.

Yet to realise and making matters much worse for himself Jared continued to threaten Cassidy Wolf. Unless she complied with his demands, he threatened to post her picture to hacked accounts of her friends on Facebook, and said that nothing she could do would stop him.
“Block all the people, delete your account, whatever, just know that I finally decided I have enough Facebook’s and will upload your picture on all of them,” Jared wrote.
Jared turns out to be a multinational RAT, making similar threats to girls from Canada, Ireland and the list went on. He forced some to strip for him on Skype while he recorded it.
An Irish girl had pleaded “Please remember I’m only 17. Have a heart,”
Jared replied: “I’ll tell you this right now! I do NOT have a heart!!!”

Later after his arrest, Jared was to tell FBI officers that he was “not normally aggressive.”

Of those who did not comply with his demands some had their photos released. While the FBI was interviewing one of the victims she discovered nude photos of her had been posted on Instagram.

Closing the case was the discovery on June 4th in a raid on Jared’s family home of numerous videos of his victims along with RAT software tools. He admitted to everything. This master RAT knew every major webcam type and driver and had got “no lights” RATting down to a fine art. That is monitoring a captured webcam ensuring the light on the camera is remotely turned off during operation.

Jared can perhaps consider himself lucky he will not be convicted and sentenced to a custodial term in an Australian prison. In the informal prisoner ranking system a RAT would probably rank just above a “rock spider.” This is an Australian prison term for a paedophile. They are considered the very bottom of the bottom feeders. Australian inmates in our prisons go out of their way to ensure a “rock spider” does really hard time. Jared would be the object of some very tough love.

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