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.

 

Related Articles:
How CSIRO’s stars won the WiFi battle
Detection and analysis of the Chameleon WiFi access point virus
Adelaide CBD wi-fi network

The Girl with the Tasteful Tattoo

As a teacher it is always inspiring to be on the other side of a classroom and to get taught well. Recently I found myself a student again at a conference about how my organisation can apply social media. I have always believed that learning has a law of three. The three things required for learning to take place. It has to be the right time, the right place and the right person. If only one of those is absent learning doesn’t happen and it’s nobody’s fault. As soon as the missing piece or pieces drop into place it happens. An empowered team of digital natives directed by the girl with the tasteful tattoo aided by representatives from Australia’s new Twitter team and from LinkedIn Australia, we were guided back to the Future.

 
Now I have two traffic lights between me and my workplace. If any of them are red I’m likely to have an instance of male menopausal road rage. So Sydney is not a place I could live in again. Never the less it is truly a beautiful city. When I lived there a Sunday afternoon at an intimate little pub in the Rocks, with jazz notes drifting in on the wind and coffee brewing in the distance, was just the best day. It’s even better down there now, the Sydney foreshore by night in the middle of the Vivid festival took me back down the years to the Sydney citizen I once was. I walked all the way from the Opera House to Darling Harbour and on up to Central Station. The city has done a great job. It’s a beautiful walk especially at night. A walk with the new and the memory of places that have stayed the same.

 
It got a bit scary at Central Station, 11 o’clock at night. Walking head on into a drunken mob with breaths that were incendiary, I nearly freaked out until I noticed red and white scarves. I yelled out “Up the Mighty Swanees ……. Mate I’m from the bush, where the “f###” is the platform to Cronulla?” Well the lads bundled me up and deposited me down, on the right platform, slapped my back, shook my hand and were gone with comments about how good it was that we kicked Geelong’s arse.

 
No one told me there are three thousand stops between Central and Cronulla. What’s more the train seats just don’t smell the same.
In my youth I lived with two other uni students in a flat near the Cross. One of them, Rod was going out with a very straight girl. In the middle of the sexual revolution he is going out with a girl who will only let him kiss her once on the doorstep of her parents’ house on a Saturday night.
Dump her I used to say. Back then I could be insensitive sometimes.
They would go to a movie, rush to catch the second last train to Southerland, walk a million miles, sweaty hand in hand, catch a kiss on a cold front porch, run to catch the last train back, fall into an exhausted sleep of unfulfilled lust and go around and around the city circle all night. He would stagger back into the flat early next morning smelling like a train seat. Well Rod after all these years I finally realise the hell you went through. I did the second last train to Cronulla.

 
It’s extraordinary that for the first time in human history desktop PC sales have dropped the last 2 years running. Every presenter from the Social Media companies showed us stats’ ranging from 60 to 80 percent of all social media content is currently being consumed on mobile devices. I learned that one minute of video is equivalent to 1.8 million words. I was encouraged to make my content relevant (so much for this post), make it local, mobile optimised and use multimedia that’s multi directional and above all embrace conversation and don’t be afraid to let that conversation have a life of its own.

Related Information
Buzz Numbers
Quiip
Twitter Australia
Darren Keppie (LinkedIn Australia)

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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My Kingdom for Cordless

The hunchbacked villain, King Richard III, found in a church car park recently, screamed according to Shakespeare “A horse a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”  He didn’t get one and died skewered by a friend. I would give my kingdom, if I had one that is, for a world without computer cords. I must make a confession. When the IPad was first released I spouted forth that it was useless and destined to be a doorstop. Technologies diverge not converge I contended. Except for the IPhone where several technologies converged only because it fits in your pocket like a digital Swiss army knife. What would be the point of a Swiss army knife that can’t fit in your pocket. If anything can make an idiot of you, technology can. I can’t count the number of times I have been elbow deep in the motherboard trying to find the problem only to glance across at the wall to find some arsehole had turned the power off at the power point. I know it’s stupid but I invariably get tangled up, tripped up and confused in those computer repairs that require the plugging and unplugging of f*****g computer cords. It’s the one time I will scream abuse at an inanimate object that can’t hear me.

I have an IPad now and love it, mainly because it only really needs one cord. You can negate that cord with a docking station and if you hide the cord running from the power point to the docking station and ignore it for long enough, after a while your mind can convince you that it doesn’t exist. I love these acts of constructive self-delusion.  As for the pocket issue, I discovered I had an old World War II officer’s leather map case that my IPad fits perfectly. With my IPad in my “man bag” and “Dropbox” I can go on a digital walkabout along my suburban songlines from Wi-Fi waterhole to Wi-Fi waterhole. I could get a mobile plan but why bother, the best cappuccinos are those steeped in free Wi-Fi.

If we had taken notice of Nikola Tesla we would never have needed cords in the first place. This unsung hero was such an advanced mind that modern computer engineers thinking they have a brilliant idea to patent find that Tesla beat them to it in the late 1800’s. Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transmission as early as 1891.
You only have to look down any street in an Indian or Asian city to wish you had never heard of Occupational Health and Safety and to despair at the visual pollution caused by the tangled profusion of unplanned power lines. Even in so called planned cities like our own we seem to accept this visual pollution as a necessary evil. We just walk on by, dealing with it by not seeing it. That’s not to mention the 40 billion disposable batteries going into poisonous landfills around the planet every year.

In a 2009 TED talk by Eric Giler I was gratified to see that Tesla’s genius has not been forgotten or forsaken. A group of theoretical physicists at MIT were able to successfully light a 60 Watt light bulb over a distance of two metres. The experiment was initiated by a professor being continually awakened by the beeping of his wife’s cell phone warning the sleeping household that it was running out of battery power. His thought was with all the electricity running through the walls why couldn’t some of it just come out and recharge the phone and give him more sleep? From this thought Dr Salatich came up with the concept of “Resonate energy transfer.” By separating the coils in a transformer he was able to transfer electrical energy over distance in much the same way sound waves can shatter a wine glass. These resonating coils transfer electricity into a magnetic field and back to electricity again in the other distant coil. One hundred years after Tesla, Eric Giler demonstrated on stage a TV powering up over a distance of two metres using “WiTricity” technology. The devices can be small enough to have under your desk and on the back of your mobile devices.

I look forward to a semi-religious experience in the ceremonial burning of all my computer cords one day soon. I will abuse them one last time as they die.

Harald Haas points out that the world’s 1.4 million mobile phone towers transmit to 5 billion mobile devices and deliver more than 600 Terabytes of data every month and the demand is increasing exponentially. Current data transfer by electromagnetic waves in particular radio wave technologies by combination of cost and capacity limits will very likely not be able to keep pace with this growth. The 1.4 million cellular radio masts consume too much energy to be sustainable and most of the energy used is not used in transmission but in cooling these base stations for what turns out to be very low transmission efficiency anyway. Long before Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, students at an Australian University in Townsville proved it could never be truly secure and so security remains an ongoing problem.

We have 40 billion light bulbs. In the electromagnetic spectrum visible light is the safest and largest of them all. Harald Haas argues that it should be light that is used for wireless communication not radio waves. If we replaced all the incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs we could use the ability to modulate an LED lights intensity at very high speeds to transmit data as well. Haas, a professor of engineering at Edinburgh University, has developed a technology called D-Light. The light can be modulated at speeds not noticeable to the human eye. I’m not sure if he has tested it on a local epileptic yet. He has achieved transfer rates of 10 MBit/s per second and he thinks he will achieve up to 1 GB in the future.
Everywhere in a day there is light. Look around. Everywhere. Look at your smart phone. It has a flashlight, an LED flashlight. These are potential sources for high-speed data transmission.” He said.
It should be so cheap that it’s everywhere. Using the visible light spectrum, which comes for free, you can piggy-back existing wireless services on the back of lighting equipment.

Throw away computer cords and turn on the lights and leave them on.

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The Powers of Piss

“It goes like the powers of piss.” This is an Australian expression for something that goes really fast. It is most often said by someone with an unhealthy bond to a motor car. Usually a young male but not necessarily, petrol heads can be any age. They always refer to their cars in the feminine sense. She handles like a dream, the gear shift is smooth, right up to 6th and down again. It turns out that there very well could be power in piss.

Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, with a team from the University of Bristol have charged a Samsung phone by running urine through a series of microbial fuel cells. They have been able to send a piss powered text message, surfed the net and made a short phone call.
We are very excited as this is a world first, no-one has harnessed power from urine to do this so it’s an exciting discovery,” he said.
Using the ultimate waste product as a source of power to produce electricity is about as eco as it gets. One product that we can be sure of an unending supply is our own urine. By harnessing this power as urine passes through a cascade of microbial fuel cells, we have managed to charge a Samsung mobile phone.”

The very idea of drinking recycled waste and sewage water has already been a challenge for Australians. The uproar and rejection by the residents of Toowoomba to the idea of drinking recycled water some time ago still sticks in the people’s memory. I wonder what they will think of a urine powered online life. At least we don’t have to drink it. Then again I guess if it was good enough for Ghandi it should be good enough for us.

The Bristol Robotics Laboratory with Dr Ieropoulos developed microbial fuel cells that harness the metabolism of microorganisms and act as energy converters turning organic matter like urine into electricity. Dr Ieropoulos can foresee a day when the technology will be installed into domestic bathrooms to produce electricity to run your shower, lighting, your razor and your mobile phone. To me this raises some elephants in the room for this emerging technology.  What happens when you can’t piss enough? Will you be able to buy other peoples or import it from third world counties? Will this start an illegal trade in body fluids that will require a PNG solution?

Our aim is to have something that can be carried around easily.” Dr Ieropoulos
I certainly hope he makes sure it is tastefully designed. Will it have a top up on the run functionality or will it still be a very private practice? Will public toilets have to be redesigned for battery placement?
Because of where the bacteria are, you need to be able to provide as much nutrients as possible for the bacteria to react in order to produce the voltage that you require. So you need to find a way that you can constantly keep bringing new nutrients that the bacteria can consume.” – Dr Adam Best (A senior research scientist at CSIRO’s Material Science Engineering Unit)

The technology is being treated seriously; it is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Gates Foundation and the Technology Strategy Board. I hope however they take time for serious debate before rushing into this technology. I’m not usually a glass half empty kinda guy but the social implications range from urination addiction to the possibility of underage drinking. We all know what happens when the young ones accidentally trash their treasured phone. Telling someone to “Piss off” will be considered a far more serious insult than it is today. It will very likely rise in the ranks of insults.
Why didn’t you return my call?
I had too many calls to make mate, I was all pissed out!
I mean, the more I think about it the worse it gets.
There could well be a very big social price to pay for the powers of piss.

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Leave Your Charger at Home, Urine Will Power Your Phone