Don’t be too impressed with Snowden’s “ethical hacking training”

I saw this new headline regarding Edward Snowden, discussing his NSA hacking training. Don’t be impressed.

For several years, I lived in that same world Snowden lived in. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid mentioning this, but from 2005-2012, I was a consultant. I worked for several different companies, due to contracts changing hands and companies merging, but my client was the United States Air Force. And from 2011-2012, I even had direct dealings with the NSA. I attended NSA meetings in the Washington, D.C. area. I received NSA training–in person–in a security discipline called threat modeling. My job was to represent NSA to the Air Force three weeks out of the month, and represent the Air Force to the NSA on the fourth week.

Just don’t ask me anything about UFOs. Unlike some people, I didn’t snoop around on classified networks. Whenever possible, didn’t look at the data at all. If I had to look at data, I preferred to look at dummy data. If I actually did look at real, honest-to-goodness classified data, it was because I needed to know that information to do my job. I was a pretty good contractor, I think.

I also know about this training that Snowden put on his resume. Read more

News flash: e-books are overpriced

I saw a story yesterday about how e-readers are getting cheaper, but e-books are rising in cost.

In some cases, the e-books cost as much as, or more than a paper copy of the book. Which, as anyone with any knowledge of printing should be able to tell you, is ridiculous. Most of the cost of a paper copy of the book is printing and distribution. Or, at least that’s what they used to tell writers. When people paid $24.95 for a copy of my book, published in 2000, I saw about $1.75 of it. I’m probably not supposed to tell you that, but I just did. The printing and distribution costs of an e-book are negligible, so if the author, who does most of the work, is supposed to be able to get by on $1.75, shouldn’t the publisher and retailer find a way to do the same? So divide the revenue evenly between the author, publisher, and retailer, sell the e-book for $5.25 and, and everything’s fair. They could even put the book on sale for $2.97 sometimes, drop everyone’s share to 99 cents, and hope to make it up in increased sales.

But here are some things you can do while you wait for publishers to get a dose of reality.
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