I’ve got stories today about neo nazis, Russian hackers and fake news, which is pretty much the trifecta of evil these days. Well, maybe not evil. Maybe more like the trifecta of stupid. Also, mental health as it relates to mass shootings. (Spoilers: turns out it doesn’t, so much.)
5 Things to Read Today (10/5/17)
- Wall Street Journal: Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense (.pdf)
- ProPublica: Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health
- The Atlantic: Google and Facebook Failed Us
- New York Times Magazine: How Fake News Turned a Small Town Upside Down
- The Stranger: We Snuck into Seattle’s Super Secret White Nationalist Convention
You might be aware that the US government has had their knickers in a twist over a popular antivirus product, Kaspersky Antivirus, made by Kaspersky Labs, a Russian corporation. Kaspersky Antivirus is popular and enjoys a pretty good reputation as an antivirus product. It’s usually listed as one of the best. Recently it’s come under fire, though, what with the government issuing guidance for departments not to use it, and other problems.
There was some eye rolling from computer security folks when the government booted Kaspersky Antivirus a month or two ago, because it seemed a bit reactive and unfounded. I never installed Kaspersky myself because I was always a wee bit suspicious of it. Kind of a “Aren’t Russians the ones who hack literally everything? And they want me to stick a Russian-made antivirus product on my computer? That doesn’t seem like a good idea” thing, which was, admittedly, paranoid on my part.
Turns out, though, that in 2015, Russian hackers used a vulnerability in Kaspersky Antivirus to hack the frickin’ NSA and steal a bunch of information, which is probably going to have ongoing repercussions on information security. So who’s paranoid now, huh?
I mean, still me, clearly. I’m the one who puts tape over my laptop camera. But for a hot second here I get to be all “I KNEW IT.”
Meanwhile, in other news, ProPublica talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, about the connection between mental health and mass shootings, and it turns out there kinda really isn’t one? Swanson says, “Even if we had a perfect mental health care system, that is not going to solve our gun violence problem. If we were able to magically cure schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression, that would be wonderful, but overall violence would go down by only about 4 percent.”
I point that one out because whenever some white guy shoots a crapton of people, the Republican response is always “BUT MENTAL HEALTH,” when that really isn’t going to solve the problem. Sensible gun control, people. We can do this.
Speaking of the recent shooting in Los Vegas, Google and Facebook are in hot water because they spent the hours immediately after the shooting promoting garbage conspiracy theories above actual news. When asked, their excuse was “Well, y’know. Algorithms.” Like, what can you do, right? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I mean, we can program Google Assistant to know what bus stops you’re closest to and whether you’re more likely to take the bus or use the car we already know you own, but we just can’t stop these crazy conspiracy theorists from blazing up the search results!
And since I mentioned conspiracy theories, there’s a fantastic story from New York Times Magazine about how fake news all but ruined a small town by blaming Syrian refugees for a sex crime that happened in the town, despite the fact that no Syrian refugees lived there at the time or had ever lived in that town. It’s a fascinating read. My only complaint is that the article is just a bit too kind to Breitbart reporter Lee Stranahan, who stoked the flames of stupidity surrounding the story.
Finally, the Stranger, an alt-weekly newspaper from Seattle (with a great reputation, in case you’re not familiar), sent a reporter undercover into a neo-nazi meetup in Seattle. There aren’t a lot of surprises in the article. Things go about how you’d expect them. Lots of slurs and crazy. The thing that stuck out to me, though, was the creeping insidiousness of neo nazi-ism. These guys have stealth infiltration plans, and they’re working. Be aware, folks.