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Theme Song: Outside by Staind
I can see through you
See to the real you
Day 8 - Fifth Dream: The Mythos of a Tormentor
The leopard people dated the origins of their species
back to the period known as the Golden age,
wherein many mythical creatures,
most now being extinct, existed.
Some ancient texts call this the age of the ‘men of renown.’
It was the time that the sons of the gods
were believed to dwell in and rule the earth.
- From Book I of the Feline Chronicles, author unknown.
As the dreaming continued, so did my tears and sorrows for yesteryears. On one hand, I regretted the things that happened that broke the flow of RP I thought was good. Yet, putting out the other hand, I considered that, looking at what I saw at that time when it was my present, it could not be so easily faulted what happened to break up stories when others around me also did things to create the stumbling blocks. I mean, if one is honest, and looks at the different events that happened, how could anyone possibly pin the problems of the whole on just one person? All who are a part of the whole have their part in making or breaking something in the whole. Yet, mathematics aside, and transgression of others as well, when it comes down to it in the end, no one's actions matter as much as your own. How you deal with what you personally do does make a difference in the end. And, in looking at this, pondering in my head all my faults, I realize that one rock song that I used to listen to while alive rings true:
All the times
That I’ve cried
All that’s wasted
It’s all inside
The faults are ours, they are inside us. They are the thorns that do not allow us to love as we would like to. To treat others as we would want them to treat us. Because we put up barriers. We make ourselves fortresses, or towers, or skyscrapers in a city, and try to maintain that rigid posture that we are unbendable, that we can face all storms and weathering that the world has to dish out on us.
Yet, another lesson of the era in which I lived was that even the tallest and the greatest of skyscrapers could fall.
You'd think we could have learned that lesson from back in the days of the tower of Babel, but we don't learn lessons too easily. Sometimes we don't want to. We just go about our lives and decide that the folly of the past was that they weren't as smart as us, didn't have the proper technologies, and thus, we of the future generations are far better and more advanced and so much more capable of handling what those in the past could not.
Even with my own perspective and respect for times and cultures past, I too failed to do better and found myself in a pride just as destructive as that of the general modern population. For I dwelled in the synthetic metaverse created by Another World, trying to recreate a past in a fictional character. Enjoying the mythologies of cultures times past, I took that and ran with the ideas in order make an age of my own creation.
And now, in my own dark prison, I find myself reliving my failure. Thusly, another dream, and I am transported back once again to that era before my fourth felix. I am beginning to wonder if I will be stuck in that time, or maybe these dreams have some purpose I have yet to fully comprehend. Who knows? I don't. And I am the one here taking note of my pondering into... nothingness. A black slate of nothingness.
I blinked for a moment as I heard someone call out my first Kitten's name. It wasn't my voice. But it was of someone familiar. Eyes became focused. I saw that I was on a rooftop. There was my Kitten at the ledge. I kept my gaze firm on Beast. She didn't look back.
"Don't do it."
I heard the familiar voice again speak, and I started to realize who it was. Ashur Kentoku, or Ash, as I called my old friend.
"You'll only hurt yourself. You need a waaay taller building than this one," Ash said lightly, trying to inject a bit of humor into an already very bad situation. "Come on. You still need to get back at me for tickling you so much earlier."
I gave a growly murr towards Beast. "What you talk about here Kitten is not courage. Here, let me show you something I rarely show anyone."
My Kitten turned slowly. She looked sad and angry. Her vision was past Ioh for a moment, "Ashur. You know I won't get revenge on you. You're not the enemy."
I took from behind my back a blade. "Do you see this Kitten? Do you know what it is?"
Beast shook her head slowly as if understanding the basic concept but not getting the meaning. "Somewhat. What is it?"
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : okay im going to let you do your thing Ioh, my roleplaying slant here is way different...I'll wait some.
I answered Beast, “It's called a Tanto. From my days training as a samurai in the Tendai clan. I had always kept this on me behind my back.”
Beast nodded as she viewed the blade. "And why?"
I replied, “It is for if I were ever captured by the enemy. We were told in no uncertain terms that, rather than face being captured, we were to die instead.”
Beast nodded again slightly. "Why show it to me then?"
"I kept it there as a reminder of the importance of strength to keep in battle. To remind myself that it was the fight that mattered, and not to accept defeat."
Beast looked back to the drop off. She started to cry again. But this time more in shame. "I'm... I'm sorry. I shouldn't be here. I... I can't do it." She took a slight step forward.
I looked to the blade, speaking while guiding it across my gut. "You see, if I were to be captured, I would have to perform Hari Kari. As was the tradition. I would take this blade and force it into my gut, ripping out my insides in a rather painful death." I looked to my Kitten. "So you don't want to go through with it now?"
She started to cry more. "I can't. I can't do it. I'm not ready. It's not my time."
"Good, because I haven't fought my last battle yet either Kitten."
Beast moved closer to me, continuing to cry in shame and in pain. "Why did I almost do it?"
Ashur looked at Beast with eyes also full of pain and anger. "I know how you feel Beast. What the Matron did was utterly wrong. And I told her so." Her use of the word 'Matron' instead of the name 'Rith' was evident.
Beast nodded, still crying. She held her hand out as it bled freely. Her skin slowly changed back to it's usual, more human skin, rather than her dark gray fur, tiger striped feral skin.
"But you don’t need to do anything stupid because of it." Ash continued on to say. "We're here for you. Even if she isn't."
I sheathed my tanto and sighed in relief. I nodded to Ash. "Yes, this was uncalled for."
Ashur turned toward me. "I had just peacefully dealt with two potentially violent problems. And was about to deal with a third. In about as many minutes, practically. Then Rith arrived, lost her temper and undid everything I had fixed."
I sighed at hearing this. "I am still a Catwalker due to the ideal as a Feles Royale. But even the Matronii and Patronii have been wrong."
Ashur nodded. "And when they cannot admit it. It leads to discontent, even rebellion."
"We were cursed never to have an empire again because of a grave error in judgment by the Old Empire's royal Matron and Patron." I added.
"I have never heard the Matron compliment any of us when we deserved such," said Ash, "I will not stay in a family where the Matron rules with ire and does not show support for her family. I will NOT."
Beast nodded. "Well I'm in those shoes now Ash."
Ashur nodded. "I am interested in seeing what comes of this. Sarika was there also. She also expressed dissatisfaction. The Matron threw it back in our faces. I have served the Catwalkers above and beyond the call of duty for a long time now, and I feel there is little if any reward in doing such any more. I will wait a short while to see what comes of this. Most likely Rith will hide from us and these issues again, leaving us to fend for ourselves." She growled in anger.
I softened my eyes in seeing Beast crying, then hugged her. "We'll work things out Kitten. We'll find a way."
Beast nodded as I held her away from the ledge and allowed her to cry freely.
I sighed at hearing Ash's comments. "I know our Matron has erred. But remember, we're still family." I looked to Beast, "You are of an even more closer familia to me than even the Catwalkers my love."
Beast stopped crying and started to murr softly. "I'm happy to be that one hun. You are my only family now."
"Ash is in that familia too. Reserved only for my closest friends and those I love most, especially you my Kitten."
Beast smiled at Ioh. "Then let that be enough. Because other than Dui, you two are the closest thing to family I can call. And sorry about earlier when I got mad at you Ash."
I sighed. "This is a mess, I don't even know how this even came to be. Our Matron herself was with me at Snake Pit last week, we even talked over a few drinks there." I then nuzzled Beast. "My familia is the most important thing to me. I will do what I can to protect the ones I care for and love."
Ashur shook her head. "She is unstable. She loves us, but she also has strange ideas on leadership. And she seems to lose perspective and the ability to do what she tells us to do. To be, in her own words, and I qoute, 'Smart, empathic, disciplined, good-natured, obediant, and amibitious.'"
Beast nuzzled back with a smile. "I will protect those who deserve it. Like you. Ioh. And you too Ash. Don't think we forgot about you." Beast headed over and hugged Ashur in an apologetic way. "I'm sorry Ash. Can you forgive me?"
I shrugged. "Maybe Rithy's getting cranky in her old age. " I smirked, "But I'm even older than she is, so what's that say about me?" I chuckled trying to lighten things up a bit.
Ashur decided to let Ioh take the lead and stopped her complaining. She hugged Beast and purred. Beast then tickled her sides while mewing. "gotcha back now hehe."
Ashur eeped and lept back grinning. Beast giggled.
"Its okay Beast." Ashur said, "We all make mistakes. It's how we move on from them that matters."
Beast nodded, smiling. Moving as fast as Grease Lightning, she pokes Ashur's sides again for a laugh.
As the silliness was going on, I was pondering a bit. "You know, the ideal of the Catwalkers is what drew me here. Even partially the tradition of a Matron. As my clan was run by the Matronis and Patronis as head of the familiae. So the ideal is appealing, even while the reality is flawed."
Beast giggled while nodding to what I said. Ashur looked at Ioh, not understanding his words well but got the gist of it.
I murred, then sighed. "I don't know yet. To remain or to go from the Catwalkers."
Beast sighed, "I'm gone already."
I nodded, then shook my head. "It may be possible to appeal. Maybe fight to regain your place among the Kittenwalkers again." I shruged, "That is, if that is what you'd want to do, my Kitten."
Ashur pondered on that. "Beast, just think about it for a day or two. Approach and speak to Rith if you have to. She is the source of your unhappiness. I think if anyone logically speaks to her and she still won't listen, then your case is untainted. You tried.
As for me, and perhaps others, the time is fast approaching for a big change in the Catwalkers." Ashur let her ominous words trail off, the unspoken words spoke louder than a gunshot.
I shrugged. "It is hard to say. I'm just amazed at what happed. Shocked that such a thing would happen in the first place." I then listened to what Ash was saying, "There is indeed a need to do something, but what?"
"There have been too many of us who have left." Ashur continued, "Even one is too much. Rith needs to wake up or we can do what needs to be done."
Beast nodded to Ashur. "If anything, Rith will kill me for this. But I'll talk with her in three days. And if all goes wrong, I'll leave and start something new. Or just wander alone like a vigilanty or something, helping the innocent."
Ashur nodded to Beast. "Fine. But don't despair yet. Okay?"
Beast gave a small look of gratitude to Ashur.
"As a Catwalker, my loyalties are to the Matron and Master." I then began thinking, "However..."
Ashur nodded to me. "However..."
I looked around. When I felt comfortable that I was secure to speak in the area, I continued, "However, even among the Feles, there were times that the Matronis and Patronis would 'retire.'" I said with a serious and somewhat grim look.
"And then becomes anarchy right?" asked Beast.
Ashur nodded again. "In the military, an unfit leader is ousted and another installed. By force, if necessary."
Beast gravely nodded in agreement.
I nodded, then sighed, "I don't like thinking like this, but, the Matron has not seemed herself."
Beast slowly brought her hand into a fist and pushed it into her other palm. "Then let us do something?"
I looked to Beast solemnly, "What we're talking about here is a last resort situation."
Beast shook her head, "It now is my only resort."
Ashur nodded gravely. "Yes." But her face seemed to say, "This has been a long time coming."
Beast had put a fist in the air, as if vowing to a cause. Ashur looked at Beast, wondering if she knew the horror and bloodshed that could occur becasue of their intended actions.
I shrugged. "For the time being, let's not speak of this, especially not in so open an area." I then pondered, "We have to be careful no matter. If we do anything, we need to find a place where we're relatively safe to speak openly and without much..." I looked about the rooftops, "Ears from our family's well known security up here."
Beast nodded. "Where will I go now?" Her face was sullen and dark. She looked down, "I can see if Mitz has a place to stay. 'Cause I got none."
"If you need to be in the city. But remember, we've got our hideout away from the city as well Kitten." I winked at Beast.
Beast smiled back with a twinkle in her eyes.
Ashur said quietly. "I have always found the ruined zone to be good place for qiuet. Most stay away from that place."
Beast shivered from the mention of the ruins.
"If you are seriously in need, let me know also, Beast. I am not without resources." Added Ashur.
Beast nodded and smiled to Ashur. "Thanks. I will. But first I will see if I can fix me something."
I pondered a bit more on the subject. "But remember, the Strays are around in the south side of the city now. Though they might be interested, for now, this should be an internal issue."
Ashur looked at me again. "Ioh. Sarika was also angry about this. Speak to her. Speak to others. See who will join in a... change... in the status quo. Let me know. I will do the same."
Beast added, "First talk with Gin and Dui. They'd be big."
Ashur looked at Beast, and nodded slowly.
"I'll keep my ears open." I pondered again, "What about Linds? Is she still around?"
Beast nodded, "Yeah she is."
"Good," I replied, "she's a veteran, and she brought me into the Pride."
Ashur added "Rarely have I seen her. I don't know her that well. This whole affair has left me feeling sick. I'm going somehwere to be alone for a time. See you both soon, I hope. Take care."
Beast turned to them. "Ok well I'm heading to Mitz's place for now to heal. Thanks for pulling me out of this one."
I nodded and waved to Ash, "Take care and be safe. I'm not looking to do Hari Kari any time soon with my blade!" I chuckled, meaning it to be somewhat a joke, despite how morbid it sounded.
Ashur said nothing. Her thoughts leaned toward the future, and bloodletting...
And so began the working of the revolution of the Catwalkers. One Matron to step down, and two to take her place. However, I was not looking to be in the revolution. While on my quest to learn more about the history of the Catwalkers, I had met with the first leader of the Catwalkers. Her alias in town was Sekhmet, and her story of the town, and what happened to the original Catwalkers was enough to make me see the vanity of the revolution. For Rith was said to had started the first revolution to which not only ousted Sekhmet, but started a whole new Catwalker group, to which took over the old group's property, due to internal simulus politics. In other words, Rith's fate was just a continuation of that which she first began when she usurped Sekhmet and Bastet to start the first reign of the Matronage. So too would the dual Matronage of Lindsay and Tober step down, then Dui, then Elise, and now...
I don't want to speak on it. Not now...
"The things we do sometimes, to protect the Pride... it can be a mess sometime, huh?"
I said to Ashur, who by the time I spoke those words was made a Wrath in the Catwalkers. Me? I was grafted back in, and had just turned Satomi into a cat.
"It can be," Ash replied back to me. "Mari showed us that."
I nodded, "Yeah, Mari..." It had not been long after I attempted to kill that cat.
"But the Pride is first," Ash continued on to say. "Yes. Family First."
I then looked down towards the ground and asked her, "Am I...?"
"Are you what, Ioh?"
"Becoming like Mari?"
Ashur frowned, "Why do you say that?"
I shrugged, "I dunno..."
Just then, a visitor dropped by the park, and Ash responded, "Oh, hey Ginkitty." She then smiled to him. "Whats new?"
Gin eyed the big cannon on Ash's back "Is that a gun?"
I looked and saw Gin, "Hey there."
Ashur nods nodded to Gin. "Yus, it is. A 20mm sniper/anti-armour rifle. I got it in Hong Kong while I was a away."
"Wow Ash. Impressive." Said Gin before turning to me. "Hi Ioh. Just wanted to say 'night to the both of you." He licked his fur as he prepared for his bedtime.
"Well thanks, kind Gin." Said Ash, "Sleep well. It's good to see you again."
"Sleep well Gin." I replied.
Gin then ran off in the direction of the Den.
I waved as Gin ran off, then slumped a bit.
"So, Ioh... You have something to tell me?" Asked Ashur.
I nodded, then sighed, "I'll have to tell the Matrons eventually, so might as well talk with you first then...."
Ashur perked her ears. "I'm listening, Ioh." she said in her soft voice.
Looking away for a moment, I then said, "You remember that military recruit that we captured before you went on vacation? Well, she came back to the Den a few more times, shot Dui, Elise, and even Aspie Kitten."
Ash nodded knowingly.
I shrugged, "Then you probably heard about how I had her captured a second time, and what happened after that."
"All I know is you got ahold of her and she's not been seen since. Did you kill her?"
"So you've heard a bit about the third time huh?" I shook my head, "It didn't turn out how I expected. You see, I intended to at least torment her, maybe shoot and kill her, but..."
Ashur tilted her head, looking at me.
I looked up toward military base just behind the cement walls of the park, "Think we should head some place a little further from here?"
Ashur nodded. "Follow me."
I nodded as I stood up. We then went out into the ruins.
"Technically Pack turf," Ash explianed, "But I came here when they were still dreaming of their own territory. Besides, Angela likes me. So go on."
"Alright," I then began my story, "So I got to a point when interrogating her, trying to figure out her motives, that, I don't know. I could see the usual fear you'd expect. But, there was something else, like an uncertainty about the military, about her role." I shrugged, "Stupid stuff I guess, that I should have not paid any mind to."
Ashur shook her head. "What are you getting at, Ioh?"
"I couldn't kill her, and I couldn't simply let her free either."
"What did you do to her Ioh?"
"I turned her into a cat... sorta."
Ashur blinked rapidly, then frowned. "Er, say what?"
"Well, I guess she's technically like the test tube cats, being half human, and half my pure bred Feles."
She raised an eyebrow. "How, precisely, did you do that, may I ask?"
"Well, it's a long story. But basically, seven years ago, I met a scientist who I became friends with. He extracted some of my DNA and mixed it in a vial with, I think it's a virus or bacterial host." I shrugged, "Either way, it was developed to carry my DNA into the host after being injected, and thus reforming the host to be more like the DNA found in syrum."
Ashur nodded. "I see... well, she's a cat now. Well, I hope she goes insane and kills herself for what she did to us. But also..., I dunno. I feel it's an invasion making scum like her one of us."
I shrugged, "Well, apparently it cured her of her illness. Though she's still transitioning." I murred, knowing that it won't be easy to explain, "Ash... she's a sired one of mine now."
She pursed her lips and folded her arms, thinking. "Umm... This is difficult Ioh. What you did was sneaky. Almost Ghost-like. But also, your ability to torment people in your clutches is self-evident too. Thing is, umm..., she's not likely to be welcomed into the Pride, at least not until she does penance for what she did to us."
Looking up at her from the incline, still trying to gauge her reaction, I looked down, "Yes, I know, and I knew then that she likely would not be accepted by the Pride. Though I think she's willing to do penance. I don't know if any amount will be good for some in the Pride." I sighed, "Aspie Kitten already seems to hate me. Or really dislikes what I did." A tear came down from my cheek, "She even called me a monster..."
Ashur reached a small but clawed hand up to my face and brushed the tear away." I'm sorry to hear that Ioh. What you did was... strange and unusual punishment..., but you're hardly a monster for it. Satomi is a better person now from what you tell me. That's something."
I nodded with a sniff, "Yeah..., but I don't know." I then shrugged, "I still have to pay for my actions. At least, I guess, I need penance..., seek attonement, or whatever."
At least then, I could be granted penance more freely. But now, either I am paying back the pennies for my debt I piled up in my life, so I may be polished and made whole again. Or I am being tormented, and only now seeing my missed opportunity to learn the life lesson and repent of my follies.
Ashur had been there many times to reveal the warning signs of the path we walked upon in that city and in the Pride. She too before me was brought high. She was the one who sought for me the position of Tormentor. And then, an upstart cat by the name of Ayami came into the Pride and ruined Ash. She caused Ash's departure from the Pride. I also made friends with, and eventually called another young recruit in the Catwalkers my sis', who was named Baily Dazy, but went by the name of Dazy.
God. If I would have known the foolishness of befriending and making family this pink cat, I would have never made her so. But, she was in the Pride, as was Ayami. And so, they were family regardless. Yet, now, the logic seems stupid, considering that such an unconditional acceptance was not reciprocated in the end. They came to despise me. Just as Mari was torn down out of favor. And then Ashur. What came reciprocal was mutual hatred, as the scars of internal 'family' warfare took their toll. And somehow, I knew that this would all fall to pieces as it did. I could just feel it. It should have been apparent when...
I found myself standing on the ledge in the middle of the high rising building that stood next to the Den. Gin was struggling in agony, looking over to me with some hope in his eyes.
"Last chance, cat boy," I heard Ash say as I approached. She dropped to a knee, using Gin as cover, and fired a burst at me.
I heard the gun fire, then hopped back behind the wall, quickly drawing my duals. Dazy growled and came up behind me. Gin still struggled with his good leg to push off the ground with his back against the black clad figure to cause her aim to be off. Ashur stayed crouched as she unclipped a grenade from her utility belt. She popped the pin, counted to 3, and skittered it around the corner after I and Dazy, prepaing for the blast a second later. Dazy started around the back corner to get to Ashur's other side she approached the other side of the building behind Ashur. I ducked as I did a barrol roll, taking a hop back towards the black uniformed bioweapon.
And then, a time out was called by Ash, to which the log, I try to recollect here:
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : hold on a sec!
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : my grenade action please...
: Bailey Dazy OOC : i was on my way around the building when that post was made, so i'd have been around a wall by then
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : you were next to Ioh when I tossed the grenade Baily, not behind me....
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : one second fuse after I tossed it...
: Bailey Dazy OOC : i was typing out that i was walking around the building, i walked the long way around...
: Bailey Dazy OOC : i'll bow out though if this is gunna run funky i dont wanna cause rp issues
Ginseng Kyong: ((what is the order? and I change mine from push to struggle to get a footing of some sorts)
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : you werent, you were approaching Ioh..read up...suddenly you're not, your going back the other way...please repost?
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : Bailey Dazy growls and approaches behind Ioh......
: Bailey Dazy OOC : ugh nevermind ignore me im out. in my eyes this was what happened i was typing (apparently not fast enough) that i was heading around the building when your post came though... i went ahead and hit enter anyway after... maybe i should have just stopped there. well ignore everything ive done. im bowing out.
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : sorry Bailey, Im not accepting your movement, you stated you were approaching Ioh, then suddenly you"re running around the building to the other side...yes....bow out then if you feel that way
Ginseng Kyong ((Bailey you are starting your way around the building right now))
: Bailey Dazy OOC : i do :) bye.... no gins im out. ill be at the med den when you need help
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : and consider yourself out of my storyline in future if its going to devolve into OOC squabbles....
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : now, for the rest of you...grenade to deal with.
Iohannes Crispien: ((back, my connection has been like this all day, and Ash, any more like that and I'm out of here too))
Ginseng Kyong ((Ash she just needs some experience with battles
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : she needs to be muted , and thats what Im doing to her. I have no time for this.
Iohannes Crispien: ((Ash fine then, I'm voiding and muting you as well.))
Iohannes Crispien: ((Sorry Gin, but this RP is going nowhere, so you can stay, void, or whatever.))
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : Well your decision is to support those who mess up combat RP, then do it Ioh. Nothing surprises me anymore really, even hearing things like this from my friends.))
Ginseng Kyong ((wait guys))
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : What, gin?
Iohannes Crispien: ((Sorry, but she had every right to go around the building, that was her decision, and that's what I would have /told/ her to do as well))
Ginseng Kyong ((how about we get Baily back.. and do this like we should and have fun))
Ginseng Kyong ((but she did go around a little too quick
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : NOT when she had posted she was approaching you from behind! Thats not acceptable!
Ginseng Kyong ((she needs to post it before she moves))
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : I'll not be party to being metagamed and god-modded in combat RP anymore. its not fair. And you"re supporting her Ioh. Im surprised, and disappointed.
Iohannes Crispien: ((Ash doesn't seem to want to do that, she seems more in dictating everyone else's moves.... that's power gaming, and in effect, godmoding))
Iohannes Crispien: ((out of here, and I don't care Ash, you brought it on yourself))
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : So go ahead and mute me then if you want Ioh, I cant stop you of course. Was nice being friends, i suppose....
Ginseng Kyong ((Ash you could of been more nice.. Bailey is still new to combat))
Iohannes Crispien: ((Yeah, too bad you turned into Rith and Mari, Ash. But that's your RP))
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : THEN MAYBE YOU catwalkers should train her better...so she doesn't annoy people when it comes to combat!
Ginseng Kyong ((I plan to talk to her later))
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : And you Ioh? So quick to Mute me over an obvious case of someone else messing with the RP...
: Ashur Kentoku OOC : Well fine your decision. Gin, wanna finish this?
Ginseng Kyong ((if we get a replacement for Ioh))
Iohannes Crispien: ((Gin, she was Fine, and no, I don't see her messing it up. I see someone I considered a friend take over the RP, and essentially power gamed it into OOC.))
Ashur Kentoku: 22 Well, I have to goto work now Gin
*shakes my head*
It was a stupid argument, and nearly ended a friendship. And I defended who? My sis'? My fair weather sis'? Dazy, who could give a damn about me now? Yes, I was stupid for it. And almost lost a true friend to keep someone who turned out to be a fake one. But what does it matter, now that I'm dead. They're both lost to me now.
But now, what does it matter? Though Ash was there, I didn't heed her warnings. And now look. Here I am in this dream. This nightmare. Replaying a fake life I lived in a fake city in a fake world. And what do I have to show for myself? A man who died in his early thirties. He lived alone, and died alone. And now I am here in the prison of my own making. Alone. And apparently fated to watch the reruns of my pathetic life and where I screwed up. Alone.
And I leave
A burning path of flame
I'm posting this photo for the colour and the patterns in the water rather than for the female Mallard (which isn't as sharp as it should be). It's amazing how the swirls and colours aren't always seen when you are actually taking the photo, but reveal themselves once the image has been downloaded to the computer. Taken in SW Calgary on 1 May 2014. The only birds I could see were several Canada Geese, a pair of Red-necked Grebes, a Yellow-headed Blackbird, a Red-winged Blackbird, a few Mallards and a number of Coots. This was just a very quick visit, to relieve the stress of discovering that I could no longer access McAfee anti-virus on my computer and having to dash out and buy Norton, and get it installed before any viruses, etc. reached my computer. I had to reinstall a driver for my printer, too, which stopped working after I had installed Norton - apparently, a common problem. Then I had to finish doing my Taxes, lol!! Couldn't get an appointment locally, so have to do the walk-in on Monday (the deadline).
You could say we are back to winter yet again. There must be around 8" of snow on my fence this morning - and it's still snowing! I decided not to go on a birding day out, east of the city, today, as I wasn't sure what any of the roads would be like. I had half expected the trip to be cancelled. Not sure I can even go out very locally, as I don't think I'll be able to lift my arms high enough to clear all the snow off my car, with my painful arms and shoulder. It's quite the winter wonderland, though. We are now into the eighth month of snow!!!!
A few nice machining solutions images I found:
Houston, Texas (1956) … Tools published that exploit router flaw (December 30, 2011) …item 4.. Hackers continue to exploit outdated browser plug-ins (Posted on 07. Mar, 2012) …
Image by marsmet481
Typically, it would take a hacker about 100 million tries to crack an eight digit code. But because the router indicates whether or not some digits are correct, that number drops to around 11,000 attempts before access can be gained, according to Viehbock’s research paper.
Once an hacker figures out the PIN, it’s much easier to figure out the router’s password and gain access to the network.
……..***** All images are copyrighted by their respective authors ……..
… marsmet501 photostream
…..item 1)…. CNET … news.cnet.com … Tools published that exploit router flaw …
by Marguerite Reardon … December 30, 2011 8:32 AM PST ….
Researchers have released two tools that can be used to exploit a vulnerability in a protocol that makes it easier to set up secure home Wi-Fi networks.
Stefan Viehbock, who first reported the vulnerability to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, released a tool that can crack a home Wi-Fi network in two hours. And Craig Heffner of Tactical Network Solutions, who had been working independently on figuring out the same vulnerability that Viebock reported to US-CERT, has also developed a tool that will allow hackers to gain access to some secure Wi-Fi networks in four to 10 hours. His tool called Reaver is hosted on Google Code.
The vulnerability itself is inherent in the Wi-Fi Protected Set-up protocol. This protocol, which is often bundled into Wi-Fi routers, is designed to allow unskilled home users to set up secure networks using WPA encryption without much hassle. Users are then able to type in a shortened PIN instead of a long pass-phrase when adding a new device to the secure network.
The problem is that when security PINs are entered for access to the network, the router actually lets the user know if has gotten the first or last numbers of the 8-digit code correct. The code that Viehbock and Heffner have written use a brute-force approach, which means different combinations of PINs are tried over and over until one is found that allows the hacker access. This can be done since most routers don’t limit the number of attempts on the passwords used to access the router.
Typically, it would take a hacker about 100 million tries to crack an eight digit code. But because the router indicates whether or not some digits are correct, that number drops to around 11,000 attempts before access can be gained, according to Viehbock’s research paper. Once an hacker figures out the PIN, it’s much easier to figure out the router’s password and gain access to the network.
The security flaw could affect millions of people with Wi-Fi routers in their homes and businesses, since the protocol is integrated into most new wireless routers sold today. The US-CERT warning named all the major wireless router brands: Buffalo, D-Link, Cisco Linksys, Netgear, Technicolor, TP-Link, and ZyXEL.
So far none of these companies have responded to the US-CERT warning with a fix, nor have they provided comment to the press on this situation. CNET reached out to each of these companies. Buffalo and Cisco representatives said they were looking into the issue, but they have still not officially responded.
Viehbock and Heffner say this is why they have published their tools, so that they could draw attention to the issue.
The fix right now is that users can disable the WPS set-up on their routers.
Originally posted at Signal Strength
Marguerite Reardon has been a CNET News reporter since 2004, covering cell phone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate, as well as the ongoing consolidation of the phone companies.
…..item 2)…. Yahoo! Finance … finance.yahoo.com/news … If You’re Using ‘Password1,’ Change It. Now.
By Stacy Cowley | CNNMoney.com – 6 hours ago ….. Thursday March 01, 2012 …
The number one way hackers get into protected systems isn’t through a fancy technical exploit. It’s by guessing the password.
That’s not too hard when the most common password used on business systems is "Password1."
There’s a technical reason for Password1′s popularity: It’s got an upper-case letter, a number and nine characters. That satisfies the complexity rules for many systems, including the default settings for Microsoft’s widely used Active Directory identity management software.
Security services firm Trustwave spotlighted the "Password1" problem in its recently released "2012 Global Security Report," which summarizes the firm’s findings from nearly 2 million network vulnerability scans and 300 recent security breach investigations.
Around 5% of passwords involve a variation of the word "password," the company’s researchers found. The runner-up, "welcome," turns up in more than 1%.
Easily guessable or entirely blank passwords were the most common vulnerability Trustwave’s SpiderLabs unit found in its penetration tests last year on clients’ systems. The firm set an assortment of widely available password-cracking tools loose on 2.5 million passwords, and successfully broke more than 200,000 of them.
Verizon came up with similar results in its 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, one of the security industry’s most comprehensive annual studies. The full report will be released in several months, but Verizon previewed some of its findings at this week’s RSA conference in San Francisco.
Exploiting weak or guessable passwords was the top method attackers used to gain access last year. It played a role in 29% of the security breaches Verizon’s response team investigated.
[Related: Smartphone Features You Don't Really Need]
Verizon’s scariest finding was that attackers are often inside victims’ networks for months or years before they’re discovered. Less than 20% of the intrusions Verizon studied were discovered within days, let alone hours.
Even scarier: Few companies discovered the breach on their own. More than two-thirds learned they’d been attacked only after an external party, such as a law-enforcement agency, notified them. Trustwave’s findings were almost identical: Only 16% of the cases it investigated last year were internally detected.
So if your password is something guessable, what’s the best way to make it more secure? Make it longer.
Adding complexity to your password — swapping "password" for "p@S$ w0rd" — protects against so-called "dictionary" attacks, which automatically check against a list of standard words.
But attackers are increasingly using brute-force tools that simply cycle through all possible character combinations. Length is the only effective guard against those. A seven-character password has 70 trillion possible combinations; an eight-character password takes that to more than 6 quadrillion.
Even a few quadrillion options isn’t a big deal for modern machines, though. Using a ,500 computer built with off-the-shelf parts, it took Trustwave just 10 hours to harvest its 200,000 broken passwords.
"We’ve got to get ourselves using stuff larger than human memory capacity," independent security researcher Dan Kaminsky said during an RSA presentation on why passwords don’t work.
He acknowledged that it’s an uphill fight. Biometric authentication, smartcards, one-time key generators and other solutions can increase security, but at the cost of adding complexity.
"The fundamental win of the password over every other authentication technology is its utter simplicity on every device," Kaminsky said. "This is, of course, also their fundamental failing." To top of page
…..item 3)…. Phantom Report … www.phantomreport.com … Resistance Against the Enemies of Freedom …
China testing cyber-attack capabilities
March 8, 2012 Posted by Phantom Report
For a decade or more, Chinese military officials have talked about conducting warfare in cyberspace, but in recent years they have progressed to testing attack capabilities during exercises, according to a congressional report to be released Thursday.
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) probably would target transportation and logistics networks before an actual conflict to try to delay or disrupt the United States’ ability to fight, according to the report prepared by Northrop Grumman for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
The Chinese military conducted an exercise in October involving “joint information offensive and defensive operations” and another in 2010 featuring attacks on communications command-and-control systems, according to the commission, which was set up by Congress.
Such exercises, combined with evidence that China is streamlining its forces to integrate cyber and electronic warfare and is financing research in the two areas, show that “Chinese capabilities in computer network operations have advanced sufficiently to pose genuine risk to U.S. military operations in the event of a conflict,” the report asserted.
Although the report provides no evidence that China can launch destructive attacks on U.S. targets, it serves as yet another warning to policymakers and the public that the United States has adversaries intent on catching up to, or surpassing, it in cyber capabilities. The report comes as Congress considers major cybersecurity legislation.
Read More: Washington Post
In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.
…..item 4)…. CYBER WAR ZONE … www.cyberwarzone.com … Hackers continue to exploit outdated browser plug-ins
Posted on 07. Mar, 2012 by siavash
Tag: Adobe Shockwave, Android devices, attack vector, blackberry, hackers, iPhone, Malicious URLs Pick a random article for me
img code photo … cybersecurity
Outdated browser plug-ins continue to be a leading attack vector, according to a recent Zscaler ThreatLabZ report.
Zscaler ThreatLabZ, the research arm of cloud security firm Zscaler, observed that Adobe Shockwave was the most outdated browser plug-in during the third quarter of 2011, with 94% of those installed being outdated.
According to its most recent ’2011 State of the Web’ report, there was a dramatic shift in the fourth quarter. Shockwave is down to 52% outdated of all installed, and Adobe Reader now tops the list at 61%. Hackers are aware that large amounts of users continue to run outdated plug-ins and use these as an easy attack vector, the report warned.
Botnets comprised the majority of threats seen in December, at 80% of Zscaler blocks. Malicious URLs followed far behind at 14%, while a mere 3% of threats blocked were identified by anti-virus/signature detection.
The report found that enterprises are moving to the more secure Internet Explorer 8. The use of IE 8 has more than doubled in the enterprise over 2011, from 26% of overall IE traffic in January to 55% in December. The report noted that while enterprises are moving to newer and more secure web browsers, IE 9 adoption remains very low.
Overall, IE use in the enterprise followed a slow decline, down to 53% in the fourth quarter from 58% in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Chrome usage saw a big jump from 0.17% of all web browser use in the third quarter to 5% in the fourth quarter, while Safari saw a decline from 7% in third quarter to 4% in the fourth quarter. Firefox usage remained constant at 10%.
In addition, Zscaler ThreatLabZ observed an 85% increase in mobile traffic during the fourth quarter. iPhone and Android devices dominated mobile traffic, accounting for about 87% of such, while Blackberry use fell sharply from 27% to 13% over the quarter.
…..item 5)…. The SCADA & Smart Grid Cyber Security Summit 2012 … April 26th & 27th, London ..
…..MARCH 08, 2012….
Assess the nature of the latest threats being faced by energy companies and the impact of these upon your organisation.
Discover why Utility Cyber Security has been reaching a state of near chaos and the latest strategies from utilities to gain the upper-hand against hackers.
Understand the importance of industrial control system (ICS) security and assess the latest solutions on offer.
Discuss the most promising cyber security technologies in the marketplace.
Assess the trends to watch in utility cyber security.
Discover the best practice from across Europe in protecting SCADA and the Smart Grid from cyber-attack.
Benefit from case study presentations from a wide range of international utilities and energy companies.
Network with your industry peers in the comfort of a 5 star venue.
—Featuring a two-day Conference & Exhibition, with over 25 top level speakers.
—Discover the latest technologies and solutions for cyber security in the Technology Exhibition
—By popular demand from Utilities this year’s event will include a selection of 3 not to be missed training workshops on SCADA and Smart Grid Cyber Security.
—Network with your industry peers and make vital new contacts.
High level event taking place in Miami 21st & 22nd May – REGISTRATIONS are now open to attend & sponsor the…: t.co/5FTZjgy4
@ Thu Mar 08 19:45:15
White House simulates cyberattack for senators in push for more regulation – t.co/NWshFv6O
@ Thu Mar 08 17:27:28
Apple takes wraps off iPad 3 – t.co/yeytOrf2
@ Thu Mar 08 17:27:01
join the conversation
Toxic Wasteland – Cyanide Storage Room
Image by RightBrainPhotography
These wooden barrels contained some sort of toxic waste, cyanide I think. They are housed in a building which looks more like a little jail cell. Bars are on all windows, and there is a smell coming from them!
You can not go inside this building. It is only visable inside thru the four barred windows (like the ones that you see in the picture), one on each wall.
The only way that I could get this shot was to set up the camera INSIDE the window, through the bars. Without a camera having Live-View, I had to guess on the position of the camera, as well as the exposure settings. As you can see, it all worked out quite well.
4 Au + 8(NaCN) +O2 + 2 H2O = 4 NaAu(CN)2 + 4 NaOH
(Posted by CNC Machining China Company)
NSA-CIA-Mossad cyber terrorists get a kick out of daily hacking and attacking Americans servers and computers, then reporting immediately how EVIL CHINA ATTACKED AMERICA AGAIN!!!!
Like Iraq and Saddam attacked us on 911...while luckily CIA-Mossad-Pentagon kept the 3000+ murdered Americans safe.
US Getting Better at Cyber Blaming, Not Cyber Security
June 13, 2015
Color me skeptical about the Sunday Times report that Edward Snowden’s archive got cracked. Not saying it couldn’t happen despite 256 bit encryption, accidents do happen, but the story as presented reeks of psyops bullshit unloaded by the NSA-GCHQ team with the help of obliging media in the UK.
What I think is happening is that the United States is upping its game…in public cyberattribution.
Honestly parsing and presenting a cyberattribution dossier is a thankless job. Remember how the Obama administration looked foolish on the Sony hack?
Sure you don’t. That was so…four months ago.
Here’s what I wrote back then on the occasion of the rollout of the US government’s Cyber Threats Intelligence Integration Center:
According to AP (actually, according to AP’s Ken Dilanian, the n otoriously obliging amanuensis to the US security establishment ):
White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel has concluded that cyberintelligence at the moment is bedeviled by the same shortcomings that afflicted terrorism intelligence before 9/11 — bureaucracy, competing interests, and no streamlined way to combine analysis from various agencies, the official said.
The hack on Sony’s movie subsidiary, for example, resulted in a variety of different analytical papers from various agencies. Each one pointed to North Korea, but with varying degrees of confidence.
As I argued in various venues recently with reference to the Sony hack, for purposes of semiotics (clear messaging, positioning, blame avoidance, and signaling of US government intentions) if not forensics (proving whodunit), painting a convincing, action-worthy cyberbullseye on the back of some foreign enemy is a major challenge for governments these days.
When some high-profile outrage like Sony occurs, the US government has to make a prompt show of control, capability, and resolve. Letting a bunch of data nerds chew over the data for a few weeks and spit up an equivocal conclusion like “It looks like the same guys who did this did that, and maybe the guys who did that were…” doesn’t quite fill the bill.
Which is pretty much what happened on Sony. Various private sector and government actors all stuck their oar in, contradictory opinions emerged, messaging was all over the map.
… By establishing a central clearing house for relevant information, the US government is on the right side of the information symmetry equation. “You say you think this, but you don’t know this, this, and this, or the stuff we can’t tell you because it’s classified above your clearance.”
And even if the real takeaway from the investigatory process still is “It looks like the same guys who did this did that, and maybe the guys who did that were…” it comes out as “The Cyber Threats Intelligence Integration Center has attributed this cyberattack to North Korea with a high degree of confidence. By Executive Order, the President has already commanded CyberCommand to make a proportional response.”
You get the picture.
So I expect jobs one and two and three for CTIIC will be to generate persuasive dossiers for backgrounding, leaking, whatever on the PRC, North Korea, and the Russian Federation, to be deployed when some mysterious alchemy of evidence, circumstance, and strategy dictate that one of them has to get tagged as The Bad Guy for some cyberoutrage.
Fast-forward, to employ a quaint VHS-era term, to June 5. Ellen Nakashima lays out the administration position on the OPM hack in a Washington Post article remarkable for its completely categorical no-two-ways-about-it statement that “China” had dunnit:
With a series of major hacks, China builds a database on Americans
China is building massive databases of Americans’ personal information by hacking government agencies and U.S. health-care companies, using a high-tech tactic to achieve an age-old goal of espionage: recruiting spies or gaining more information on an adversary, U.S. officials and analysts say.
Groups of hackers w orking for the Chinese government have compromised the networks of the Office of Personnel Management…
China hacked into the federal government’s network, compromising four million current and former employees’ information. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima talks about what kind of national security risk this poses and why China wants this information. (Alice Li/The Washington Post)
U.S. officials privately said China was behind it.
“This is an intelligence operation designed to help the Chinese government,” the China expert said.
Emphasis added, natch.
Either the US has spectacularly upped its forensics game since Michael Daniel’s rueful reflections in February or (my theory)…
The great minds were sitting around a table in Washington and concluded:
“We can’t prove this was a Chinese hack, but let’s turn this around. Nobody can disprove this was a Chinese hack, so nobody can prove us wrong when if we declare without qualification it was a Chinese hack. So let’s just go for it.”
Parenthetically, I might point out that one problem I see is, If with categorically and openly identifying the PRC as source of the hack is that we should immediately and openly retaliate at a commensurate level. Otherwise, where’s our national credibility & deterrence? Still waiting for the shoe to drop on that one.
The tip-off for me that the WaPo was carrying Obama administration water with this totally backgrounded mostly anonymous scoop was this:
The big-data approach being taken by the Chinese might seem to mirror techniques used abroad by the NSA, which has come under scrutiny for its data-gathering practices under executive authority. But in China, the authorities do not tolerate public debate over the proper limits of large-scale spying in the digital age.
The piece was written June 5, three days after the Obama administration had put the Snowden unpleasantness behind it and totally regained the moral high ground, in its own mind if nobody else’s, by replacing the Patriot Act with the USA Freedom Act a.k.a. “Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet-collection and Online Monitoring Act.”
Now, with the legalities of the US cyberprograms re-established, it was time to stop playing defense and go on offense against those public-debate-intolerant Chinese!
And that means relaunching the China cyberoutlaw product! With the story of a hack that had, if I understand Nakashima’s account correctly, had occurred in December 2014!
Again, it is perhaps little remembered except by me that a key US objective for the Xi Jinping—Barack Obama summit in Sunnylands in June 2013 was to cap an eighteen month public opinion campaign against PRC cyberoffenses with a personal rebuke by President Obama and the presentation of an embarrassing dossier to Xi Jinping.
If, as I did, one googled “Xi Jinping cyberwarfare” on June 3, 2013, the first four pages of results included hits like these, indicating that the Western press was energetically singing from the same cyberwar hymnal:
China Doesn’t Care if Its ‘Digitalized’ Military Cyberwar Drill Scares You
China Is Winning the Cyber War Because They Hacked U.S. Plans for Real War
Krauthammer to Obama: Launch cyber war on China
China Is Our Number One National Security Threat
International Business Journal
House Intelligence Chairman: US “Losing” Cyber-War
Wall Street Journal
US Says China Is Stepping Up Cyber War
U.S. China Cyberbattle Intensifies
Just a reminder; these headlines are from June 2013, not June 2015.
In this case, the China Matters serendipity engine was firing on all cylinders; three days later the Washington Post and Guardian newspapers published their first revelations from Edward Snowden, fundamentally skewing the frame of the Chinese cyberwarfare story.
I’ve always wondered if the timing of Snowden’s revelations had something to do with the hypocrisy of the world’s biggest cybersnoop trying to stick that label on the PRC.
Anyway, the Obama administration has had two years to lick its wounds, do damage control, and reboot the program.
And guess what! Xi Jinping’s coming to the United States again in September! This time we’ll be ready for him fer sure! Snowden discredited! NSA on top! PRC in doghouse!
I must state here that I believe that PRC cyberespionage program is massive, government-backed, full spectrum, and actively exploring offensive capabilities. But I also think that the US tactics are destabilizing and escalatory & have more to do with maintaining the US cyberadvantage as part of the burgeoning and profitable China-threat milsec business than they do with diminishing the threat to the American people from PRC cyber misbehavior.
And I take the current spate of news stories as part of an effort to get us used to perpetual cyberwar, just as we were bombarded with stories about malevolent Muslims in the last decade to reconcile us the the Global War on Terror, the erosion of civil liberties, and expensive and perpetual conflicts.
At this time, a trip down memory lane is warranted for people who have forgotten how the Obama administration methodically rolled out PRC Cyberthreat v. 1.0, the buggy pre-Snowden product, and are perhaps not connecting the dots on the rollout of PRC Cyberthreat v. 2.0, Now Bigger and Scarier! and how this might be a factor in the headlines blaring out of their newspapers & TVs & tablets.
Below the fold, for the sake of posterity, a lengthy recap on the first abortive US salvo in the China cyberthreat propaganda war.
What I wrote back in April 2012:
The Barack Obama administration went public with its case against China in November 2011, with a report on industrial espionage titled Foreign Economic Collection. It described China rather generously as a “Persistent Collector” given the PRC’s implication in several high-profile industrial espionage cases and soft-pedaled the issue of official Chinese government involvement. The report stated:
US corporations and cyber-security specialists also have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions originating from Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in China, which private sector specialists call “advanced persistent threats.” Some of these reports have alleged a Chinese corporate or government sponsor of the activity, but the IC [intelligence community] has not been able to attribute many of these private sector data breaches to a state sponsor. Attribution is especially difficult when the event occurs weeks or months before the victims request IC or law enforcement help. 
A month later, in December 2011, US criticism of China became a lot more pointed. Business Week published an exhaustive report on Chinese cyber-espionage, clearly prepared with the cooperation of federal law enforcement authorities as it named and described several investigations:
The hackers are part of a massive espionage ring codenamed Byzantine Foothold by US investigators, according to a person familiar with efforts to track the group. They specialize in infiltrating networks using phishing e-mails laden with spyware, often passing on the task of exfiltrating data to others.
Segmented tasking among various groups and sophisticated support infrastructure are among the tactics intelligence officials have revealed to Congress to show the hacking is centrally coordinated, the person said. US investigators estimate Byzantine Foothold is made up of anywhere from several dozen hackers to more than one hundred, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter is secret. 
United States security boffin Richard Clarke had this to say about Chinese cyber-espionage in an interview with Smithsonian magazine:
“I’m about to say something that people think is an exaggeration, but I think the evidence is pretty strong,” he tells me. “Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China.”
“The British government actually said [something similar] about their own country.”
Clarke claims, for instance, that the manufacturer of the F-35, our next-generation fighter bomber, has been penetrated and F-35 details stolen. And don’t get him started on our supply chain of chips, routers and hardware we import from Chinese and other foreign suppliers and what may be implanted in them-”logic bombs,” trapdoors and “Trojan horses,” all ready to be activated on command so we won’t know what hit us. Or what’s already hitting us. 
Some big numbers are being thrown around to publicize the Chinese threat.
Business Week’s report, while admitting the woolliness of its methodology, stated that losses to American companies from international cyber-espionage amounted to US$500 billion in a single year.
Scott Borg, director of a non-profit outfit called the US Cyber Consequences Unit told Business Week:
“We’re talking about stealing entire industries … This may be the biggest transfer of wealth in a short period of time that the world has ever seen.”
Beyond these apocalyptic economic and military scenarios, we might also descend to the personal and political and point out that Google, a favorite target of Chinese cyber-attacks, is Obama’s friend, indispensable ally, brain trust and source of personnel in the high-tech sector.
Connect the dots, and it is clear that the Obama administration, in its usual meticulous way, is escalating the rhetoric and preparing the public and the behind-the-scenes groundwork for major pushback against China in the cyber-arena.
And in March 2013, a few weeks before Sunnylands, I wrote:
[National Security Advisor] Donilon came up with a nuanced approach to Chinese cyber-mischief during his speech to the Asia Society…
Bypassing the issue of cyber-spying against military and government targets that probably falls into the grey area of “everybody does it and why shouldn’t they”, and defining and limiting the issue to a specific and remediable problem – the massive state-sponsored PRC program of industrial and commercial espionage against Western targets – Donilon’s framing placed “cyber-theft” in a category similar to the intellectual property gripe, also know as systematic piracy of US software, as an info strategy condoned by the Chinese government:
This rather unexceptionable and reasonable demand that the PRC reign in its gigantic program of economic/commercial hacking, i.e. cyber-enabled theft as Donilon put it, and give US businesses a break, was not good enough for the Christian Science Monitor, which has apparently shed, together with its print edition, the sober inhibitions that once characterized its news operations.
The CSM’s headline:
US tells China to halt cyberattacks, and in a first, lays out demands
Obama’s national security adviser, Thomas Donilon, spelled out a more aggressive US stance on the cyberattacks, saying China must recognize the problem, investigate it, and join in a dialogue. 
Note in the CSM story the effortless slide down the slippery slope from cyber-theft to cyber-espionage to cyber-attacks (and for that matter, “should” and “needs” to “demands”). Well, fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and eyeballs have to be wrenched from their accustomed paths and turned into click-fodder.
And don’t get me started on the Pentagon:
A new report for the Pentagon concludes that the US military is unprepared for a full-scale cyber-conflict with a top-tier adversary. The report says the United States must increase its offensive cyberwarfare capabilities. The report also calls on the US intelligence agencies to invest more resources in obtaining information about other countries’ cyberwar capabilities and plans.
The Washington Post reports that the report says that the United States must maintain the threat of a nuclear strike as a deterrent to a major cyberattack by other countries. The report notes that very few countries, for example, China and Russia, have the skills and capabilities to create vulnerabilities in protected systems by interfering with components.
The report emphasizes that defensive cyber capabilities are not enough, and that the United States must have offensive cyber capabilities which, when needed, could be used either preemptively or in retaliation for a cyber attack by an adversary. 
Security consultant Bruce Schneier addressed the threat inflation issue (and the dangers of trying to design and justify retaliation in the murky realm of cyberspace) in a blog post on February 21:
Wow, is this a crazy media frenzy. We should know better. These attacks happen all the time, and just because the media is reporting about them with greater frequency doesn’t mean that they’re happening with greater frequency.
But this is not cyberwar. This is not war of any kind. This is espionage, and the difference is important. Calling it war just feeds our fears and fuels the cyberwar arms race.
In a private e-mail, Gary McGraw made an important point about attribution that matters a lot in this debate.
Because espionage unfolds over months or years in realtime, we can triangulate the origin of an exfiltration attack with some certainty. During the fog of a real cyber war attack, which is more likely to happen in milliseconds, the kind of forensic work that Mandiant did would not be possible. (In fact, we might just well be “Gandalfed” and pin the attack on the wrong enemy.)
Those of us who work on security engineering and software security can help educate policymakers and others so that we don’t end up pursuing the folly of active defense.
This media frenzy is going to be used by the US military to grab more power in cyberspace. They’re already ramping up the US Cyber Command. President Obama is issuing vague executive orders that will result in we-don’t-know what. I don’t see any good coming of this. 
Not to worry, is the US attitude.
A head-to-head conventional war with China isn’t likely, despite the overheated imagination displayed in the AirSea Battle scenario, and it is difficult to identify any satisfying proxy battlefield in meatspace where the PRC and the USA might be tempted to slug it out.
But cyberwarfare?…Bring it!
The Department of Defense has a “Cyber Command” which, it revealed to the Washington Post, is muscling up from 500 staff to 4000 “cyberwarriors”.
The Post interviewed William J. Lynn III, identified as one of the maestros of the DoD’s cyber strategy:
“Given the malicious actors that are out there and the development of the technology, in my mind, there’s little doubt that some adversary is going to attempt a significant cyber-attack on the United States at some point…The only question is whether we’re going to take the necessary steps like this one to deflect the impact of the attack in advance or… read about the steps we should have taken in some post-attack commission report.”
The DoD is keen to emphasize that its cyberwarriors will be primarily playing defense, understandable considering the vulnerabilities of America’s immense, dispersed, highly integrated and—and the case of the power grid, at least—rather decrepit national infrastructure.
But of course there will be “combat mission forces”:
The combat mission forces, one of the three divisions of Cyber Command will launch cyber-attacks alongside traditional military offensives.
“This new class of cyber warrior would be responsible for penetrating the machines behind identified attack sources, installing spyware to monitor connections to those machines, and following the trail back to the desktop of the attacker. They would have to research and exploit vulnerabilities, craft malware, operate honey pots, and even engage in targeted Denial of Service attacks,” Richard Stiennon, chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, told GlobalPost.
Contra Dr. Stiennon’s assertions, I don’t think that the DoD really believes that the scope of Cyber Command combat missions will be limited to delectable honey pots and “even” targeted Denial of Service attacks.
Not when the cyberwar scenarios, according to Leon Panetta, include our enemies derailing trains, contaminating water supplies, or shutting down power grids. We’re going to be able to do that, too.
The United States security/military apparatus apparently feels that it can “win the Internet” by harnessing the power of the invincible American technological knowhow to the anti-Chinese cyber-crusade.
In another of the seemingly endless series of self-congratulatory backgrounders given by US government insiders, the godlike powers of the National Security Agency were invoked to Foreign Policy magazine in an article titled Inside the Black Box: How the NSA is helping US companies fight back against Chinese hackers:
In the coming weeks, the NSA, working with a Department of Homeland Security joint task force and the FBI, will release to select American telecommunication companies a wealth of information about China’s cyber-espionage program, according to a US intelligence official and two government consultants who work on cyber projects. Included: sophisticated tools that China uses, countermeasures developed by the NSA, and unique signature-detection software that previously had been used only to protect government networks.
Very little that China does escapes the notice of the NSA, and virtually every technique it uses has been tracked and reverse-engineered. For years, and in secret, the NSA has also used the cover of some American companies – with their permission – to poke and prod at the hackers, leading them to respond in ways that reveal patterns and allow the United States to figure out, or “attribute,” the precise origin of attacks. The NSA has even designed creative ways to allow subsequent attacks but prevent them from doing any damage. Watching these provoked exploits in real time lets the agency learn how China works.
And amid the bluster, a generous serving of bullshit:
Now, though, the cumulative effect of Chinese economic warfare – American companies’ proprietary secrets are essentially an open book to them – has changed the secrecy calculus. An American official who has been read into the classified program – conducted by cyber-warfare technicians from the Air Force’s 315th Network Warfare Squadron and the CIA’s secret Technology Management Office – said that China has become the “Curtis LeMay” of the post-Cold War era: “It is not abiding by the rules of statecraft anymore, and that must change.”
“The Cold War enforced norms, and the Soviets and the US didn’t go outside a set of boundaries. But China is going outside those boundaries now. Homeostasis is being upset,” the official said. 
A more impressive and evocative term than “upset homeostasis” to describe the US cyber-war conundrum is “Stuxnet”.
The Obama administration’s cyber-maneuverings have been complicated and, it appears, intensified, by the problem that the United States “did not abide by the rules of statecraft” and “went outside the boundaries” and, indeed, became the “Curtis LeMay of the post Cold War era” when it cooperated with Israel to release the Stuxnet exploit against Iran’s nuclear program.
Not unsurprisingly, post-Stuxnet the Chinese government has even less interest in the “Law of Armed Conflict in cyberspace” norms that the United States wants to peddle to its adversaries but apparently ignore when the exigencies of US interests, advantage, and politics dictate.
Instead, the PRC and Russia have lined up behind a proposed “International Code of Conduct for Internet Security”, an 11-point program that says eminently reasonable things like:
Not to use ICTs including networks to carry out hostile activities or acts of aggression and pose threats to international peace and security. Not to proliferate information weapons and related technologies.
It also says things like:
To cooperate in combating criminal and terrorist activities which use ICTs [information and computer technologies] including networks, and curbing dissemination of information which incites terrorism, secessionism, extremism or undermines other countries’ political, economic and social stability, as well as their spiritual and cultural environment. 
The United States, of course, has an opposite interest in “freedom to connect” and “information freedom,” (which the Chinese government regards as little more than “freedom to subvert”) and has poured scorn on the proposal.
The theoretical gripe with the PRC/Russian proposal is that it endorses the creation of national internets under state supervision, thereby delaying the achievement of the interconnected nirvana that information technology evangelists assure us is waiting around the next corner – and also goring the ox of West-centric Internet governing organizations like ICANN.
So the Chinese proposal is going exactly nowhere.
The (genuine) irony here is that the Chinese and Russians are showing and driving the rest of the world in their response to the undeniable dangers of the Internet ecosystem, some of which they are themselves responsible for but others – like Stuxnet – can be laid at the door of the US.
In response to hacking, the Internet as a whole has evolved beyond its open architecture to a feudal structure of strongly-defended Internet fortresses, with cyber-surfs free to roam the undefended commons outside the gates, glean in the fields, and catch whatever deadly virus happens to be out there.
In recent months, the word “antivirus” has disappeared from the homepages of Symantec and MacAfee as they have recognized that their reference libraries of viruses can’t keep up with the proliferation of millions of new threats emerging every year, let alone a carefully weaponized packet of code like Stuxnet, and protect their privileged and demanding users. Now the emphasis – and gush of VC and government money – has shifted to compartmentalizing data and applications and detecting, reducing the damage, and cleaning up the mess after a virus has started rummaging through the innards of an enterprise.
In other words, the Internet fortresses, just like their medieval analogues, are increasingly partitioned into outer rampart, inner wall, and keep – complete with palace guard – in order to create additional lines of defense for the lords and their treasure.
In other words, they are starting to look like the Chinese and Russian national internets.
Absolute cyber-safety, through defense or deterrence against an antagonist, is a chimera. The best hope for the Internet might be “peaceful coexistence” – the move toward cooperation instead of confrontation that characterized the US-USSR relationship when it became apparent that “mutually assured destruction” was leading to a proliferation of dangerous and destabilizing asymmetric workarounds instead of “security through terror”.
Or, as the Chinese spokesperson put it in Demick’s article:
“Cyberspace needs rules and cooperation, not war. China is willing to have constructive dialogue and cooperation with the global community, including the United States,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a briefing Tuesday. 
It looks like the Obama administration, by carefully and convincingly placing the cyber-theft issue on the table, might be working toward some kind of modus vivendi that leads to a joint reduction of Internet threats – dare I say, win-win solution? – with the PRC.
It remains to be seen if this initiative can withstand the pressures of the US military, security, and technology industries for a profitable threat narrative – and the Obama administration’s own inclination toward zero-sum China-bashing.
How to make yourself hack-proof
That’s it. You’ve finally heard enough hacking horror stories – even been involved in one yourself – to finally commit to actually doing something to protect yourself against them.
We’re not gonna lie – you’re probably going to be a little inconvenienced. And yes, you’ll have to stop opening every email attachment that drops into your inbox, not download any app that takes your fancy and stop oversharing on social media.
Still, it’s absolutely worth it to take the time. Just ask anyone who has ever lost their entire video and photo collection, had their credit card information jacked or been the victim of an online scam – you’ll bet they wished they had taken some reasonable steps.
So, without further ado, we’ll look at our top five techniques for avoiding the worst.
1. Security software
It’s fair to say that Windows has become a lot better at protecting your stuff. Microsoft has made significant strides when it comes to security, and Apple has improved as well. But that’s not to say the that the default tools you get are good – but it’s getting close to “acceptable.”
Still, if you want to be best protected, you do really need to install extra software on your system. That extra software starts with an anti-malware solution – possibly as part of a packaged suite. Check out this guide to the best anti-virus software of 2015.
Windows 7 does not come with anti-virus at all, so installation is a must. You can get Microsoft Security Essentials for free – but you’re actually better off with one of the third party tools available. Anti-virus test results have shown that Security Essentials is still a ways off the best anti-virus tools available.
In Windows 8, Microsoft folded Security Essentials into the base package (it’s part of Windows Defender), but it’s still using the same engine, so it’s still best to install a third-party tool.
If you’re like most people, you probably know VPNs as the services that let you spoof your internet address to foil geoblocking. And they are pretty good at that: they let you watch the US versions of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu or the UK’s BBC iPlayer in spite of those companies not really wanting you to.
But they have a very important security function as well. Several, in fact. With a VPN, the only site you make a connection to is the VPN provider, and that connection is protected by heavy encryption. The VPN provider then relays your connection to the end sites you want to visit. This has a number of beneficial effects:
1. Your ISP (and by extension, the government) has no way of tracking which web sites you visit, barring a subpoena of the VPN providers records – and it’s likely that a) the VPN provider is outside their jurisdiction and b) doesn’t keep records anyway. The only connection that your ISP and anybody else monitoring your internet link can see is the one between you and the VPN provider. All other connections are obscured.
2. Web sites you visit have no way of tracking your IP address or figuring out who you are unless you explicitly tell them. All your connections appear to come from the VPN provider and cannot be traced back to you, thus making you completely anonymous. This is how VPNs bypass geo-blocking – they make your IP address appear to be one in the authorised country. It also prevents tracking on other internet services like BitTorrent: if you download something from BitTorrent while connected to a VPN, there’s no easy way that the download can be traced back to you.
3. Your data cannot be intercepted and read locally. This is an important one that people often forget. The data link (“tunnel”) between you and the VPN provider is encrypted, so nobody can intercept and read your data en-route. That doesn’t just defeat most government spying: it’s critically important if you use public WiFi hotspots.
Thanks to the way that WiFi works, it’s very easy for someone on the same WiFi network as you to intercept and read the data you’re sending over the internet, grabbing your emails, IMs and any other unencrypted data. Normally, WiFi data is encrypted so that somebody outside the network can’t listen in, but if someone is on the same WiFi network as you (as is the case in a public hotspot), they have that decryption key and can listen in. A VPN encrypts all your traffic, so that anybody listening in gets nothing but jibberish.
VPNs: Setting one up
Setting up a VPN is easier than ever. There are a host of VPN providers operating around the world: Tor, Hide My Ass, and ExpressVPN are among dozens – hundreds – of VPN services operating worldwide. Most charge between US$5 and US$10 per month, and may or may not have data volume restrictions.
Nearly all of those providers supply an app you can install and run on a PC that connects you to their VPN. Many also provide mobile apps so you can extend that security to your iOS and Android phone as well (yep, mobiles need VPN security too). More sophisticated users can potentially set up their routers to push all data on a home network through the VPN, though that is a more technical task.
3. Password managers
Do you need to have roughly a million passwords for all the sites you visit and apps you use? It’s 2015: of course you do. And is each one a unique combination of random letters and numbers? Pretty unlikely – you’re only human after all.
The truth is that most passwords used by regular people can be cracked in a matter of minutes using a “dictionary attack” – simply trying out a bunch of common words and phrases with an automated tool. A random alphanumeric password (something like “s7Hnd3Fa4″) will fool this, but we humans are not good at remembering those. Maybe we can remember one or two, but a different one for every site? Nope.
Which is why a password manager is an absolute must. It remembers passwords for you, letting you use a unique combination of letters and numbers for each site and WiFi network. You only have to remember a master password to access all of them.
3. Password managers: LastPass
When it comes to password managers, we just love LastPass, a cloud based tool that’s free for PC platforms but does require a Premium subscription for US$12 per year for access on mobiles. It’s available for Windows, Mac, Linux and all the major mobile platforms. Because it’s cloud-based, it lets you share your passwords across your devices.
While the company recently experienced a hacking of their servers, all encrypted information (other than possibly a users master passwords) were protected, demonstrating how secure and reliable the service truly is.
Installing LastPass will add a widget to your browsers and (optionally) import all the passwords stored in your browser password caches. From then on, any time you visit a site with a password a LastPass icon will appear in the username/password fields and you can click on it to choose which password you will use.
In addition to remembering your passwords and sharing them across multiple platforms, LastPass has several features that you really should be using. The first is the password generator.
When you create an account on a web site, a little icon will appear in the password field. Click on it to bring up the password generator (you can also access this via the LastPass widget). This will generate a secure and unique password for the site which LastPass will remember for you.
The second thing you should do is set up two-factor authentication. Click on the LastPass widget and go to My Secure Vault – this is a web page where you can view and edit all your saved passwords. Then click on Settings, then Multifactor Options.
It’s here that you can add an extra level of authentication for LastPass. We really like using it with Google Authenticator for mobiles – whenever someone tries to log into LastPass, your mobile will get an authentication message that you have to confirm before proceeding.
LastPass may seem like a bit of an inconvenience at first, but you’ll get used to it very quickly – and likely appreciate its capacity to share your passwords across devices.
4. Mobile security
It’s not just your PC that needs some security lovin’. Mobiles are often just as vulnerable as PCs. In addition to being subject to viruses the same way PCs are, mobiles can have dodgy tracking and identity stealing apps installed, and can be easily lost or stolen, giving whoever gets them access to all your stuff.
4. Mobile security: Android
An anti-virus security app for your Android mobile is a good start. There are a bunch of them available for free, including solutions from Trend Micro, AVG, BitDefender, Avast, McAfee, Norton (Symantec), Kaspersky, Lookout and ESET. All of those offer good solutions, including anti-virus and anti-theft.
But it also comes with an app locker that will require your phone pin before selected apps will start, and an app permission analyser that checks your existing installed apps for shaky privacy practices.
It doesn’t just rely on Google permissions (you know, that list of access permissions that pops up when you install a new app, which you never actually check and just approve automatically) – it checks the app against a cloud database.
Avast is another favourite if you’re not a fan of BitDefender. In addition to the anti-malware and theft and recovery tools, it includes a backup solution as well as a firewall – though the latter is available only on rooted phones.
Installing an anti-virus solution is a good start, but it’s not the final solution for Android. Some other things you should look at include:
– Lock your lock screen. Head to Settings->Security and tap on Screen Lock. Choose the Pin, Pattern or Password lock options (or Fingerprint if you have it). We particularly like Pattern for the convenience.
– Encrypt your mobile. In the security settings, tap on the Encryption option and follow the prompts. It will take a while, but when it’s done nobody will be able to access data on the device without going through the unlock process.
– Use secure messaging apps. TextSecure and RedPhone (both from Open Whisper Systems, and available on Google Play) are phenomenal tools for secure text and voice communications between Android users. They provide end-to-end encryption of your communications, with nobody but you and the recipient being able to read or listen in – unlike regular SMS and voice, which are easily intercepted. WhatsApp recently began using the TextSecure protocol on Android, so that’s pretty great for private conversations as well (it doesn’t offer it for iOS devices, however).
4. Mobile security: iOS
iOS users have fewer security tools available to them, but it’s fair to say that they have less to worry about. The closed nature of the Apple ecosystem has been pretty effective at keeping viruses out.
Still, there are some things worth looking at. While Apple provides its own backup and location tools with iCloud, you’re better off using Lookout, available on the iTunes App store. It provides lost and stolen phone tracking and locking, local backup and a system advisor and process scanner that checks currently running apps for anything malicious.
One other important thing to do is enable the Passcode lock screen. If you have an iPhone 5s, you can also enable Touch ID, a fingerprint scanner. Head to Settings->Passcode and Touch ID and enable them.
If you’ve been using computers for more than, say, five minutes, you’ve probably downloaded some shady stuff – and paid for it with a nasty virus infection or rootkit. Any executable file you download can potentially be bundled with a virus. So you need to be a little vigilant about what you download.
5. Downloads: App stores
One of the great things about mobiles is that they come by default with curated app stores. Apps on Google Play and iTunes App Store are pre-checked for viruses and are generally safe to download.
There have been a few nasties that have slipped through on Google Play in the past, but nothing for some time. Sure, some apps with awful privacy may be on there, but they’re not actually viruses.
If you’re on a mobile, you should pretty much stick to always downloading from the App Store and Google Play. On iOS devices you have no choice (sans jailbreaking), but even on Android it’s generally a good idea to have the “unknown sources” option in the security settings unchecked.
On Windows, unfortunately, we generally don’t have that option. There is the Windows Store, but right now it only provides a very limited array of Modern UI (Windows 8) apps. When Windows 10 comes out, that policy is set to change and hopefully we’ll be able to get a full array of Desktop apps as well – but we’ll have to wait and see. For games, there’s also Steam.
5. Downloads: Get apps from the source
When downloading PC apps, you should always endeavour to get them from the software maker’s own web site, and not from a third party download site. Some third party download sites do make an effort to scan for viruses, but not all sites can be trusted.
5. Downloads: Scan before opening
When you download an app, you should give it a quick virus scan before opening it. Most anti-virus solutions add a right click context menu item to Windows Explorer/File Explorer with an option to scan a file for viruses. While in theory the AV tool should automatically scan any downloaded files, give it a run anyway.
5. Downloads: Read the comments
Okay, you’re committed to getting an app from a peer to peer network. We can’t stop you. But at least read the user comments on the BitTorrent site you’re grabbing it from before downloading. If there’s a virus embedded in the file, it’s possible that someone may have spotted it and left a comment to that effect.
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