The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Month: November 2018 Page 2 of 5

Advices for college students

After stepping into college, the internet becomes more and more popular in our daily life. Nowadays we purchase things through the internet, we upload our assignments through the internet, we book our session through the internet. Meanwhile, internet privacy gradually becomes a problem.

The first advice I would give a college student is that do not use the same password for many websites. Especially in the modern society, all of your accounts are connected. Some websites have strong security systems but some don't. If one of these websites was invaded and your password was decrypted by the hackers, all of your information on other websites is bare as well. For example, we may correlate our Facebook account to a video game account. If the security system of the game company was weak and the hacker got the information of your account, your Facebook is going to be invaded easily.

The second advice would be that try to avoid logging in your account on public devices. You never know what will happen to others' devices. Even though sometimes we can choose to not save the password. There would be cookies that can track your account and. Especially when it comes to your payment method, such as the credit card information. There might be unknown computer viruses that were implanted in the public computer system, which means your information could be stolen by others without any trace.

Finally, I would recommend the Apple productions for their security system. All of their devices are connected if you log into your account. If someone else wants to log in your account on a new device then they must get your approvement because there will be a required verification code showed on your old devices. Also, the "Find my Apple" function is useful for finding lost. Even though your mobile phone was turned off, you can trace its location in 24 hours, in order to find it in time.

Don't hack me

The first part of the RadioLab episode “Darkode” is probably the most interesting episode I’ve ever heard. Though it’s probably not very ethical of me, the story, the tone, and the voice just kept me laughing all the time. On the other hand, it does tell us something about internet privacy protecting. First of all, we should avoid visiting suspicious websites or downloading files from insecure resources. Maybe not in this case in the podcast, but many victims got infected by a virus created by hackers because they went into the websites that shouldn’t be opened. Therefore, surfing the internet in legal ways is an important step to protect yourself from hackers.

What’s more, in the episode, the woman was about to erase the computer files completely so that the virus will go away. However, there was important data in her computer that her husband needed. So my suggestion is to keep a backup file in a hard disk regularly, or back the files up on those online storing websites. Doing so can help to reduce your total dependence on your computer. Even if being infected by a virus is inevitable, you can still protect your data and have your files back. It’s also going to reduce the loss if you lost your laptops or phones.

In the end, for college students, there are many places to turn for help or learn about privacy protecting in the university. Try to find professional help when you’re under a potential hacking attack. There are many new things or websites in college life. Stop filling out too much personal information on the websites can help reduce the risk of private information being leaked out.

Advice for College Students on their online security

First of all, to ensure the security of the computer operating system, install important and urgent patches, the operating system now has the function of automatically updating the patch, the system is often updated to ensure security. If the security of the operating system is not guaranteed, hackers or Trojans can easily obtain various private information of users through system vulnerabilities. For Windows systems, the daily login system, preferably users of the Power User or User group, avoid using the Administrators group, so even if the computer has a Trojan, the damage is controllable.

In terms of security, the iPhone that is not jailbroken is the best in common mobile phones. To use the iPhone, you need to turn on the "fingerprint unlocking" function and the "find my iPhone" function, while ensuring the security of the Apple ID password, using a unique The only secure password. If the phone is lost, log in to the iCloud website for the first time, and enable “Lost Mode” on the device in “Find My iPhone”, so that you can't use your phone by any method (even if reset the phone), then you can hit it. The phone is reported to the operator for loss of the SIM card. In the event of an emergency, you can remotely erase the information in your phone from the iCloud website.

Try to avoid using software that is suspected of having a privacy risk. Use caution on software developed by small companies. Do not enter personal information in it.

What We Learned from Snowden

  1. With a top-secret court order, the NSA collected the telephone records from millions of Verizon customers. — June 6, 2013
  2. The NSA accessed and collected data through back doors into US internet companies such as Google and Facebook with a program called Prism. — June 7, 2013
  3. Britain's GCHQ tapped fiber-optic cables to collect and store global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories, and calls, and then shares the data with the NSA. — June 21, 2013
  4. Using a program called Fairview, the NSA intercepted internet and phone-call data of Brazilian citizens. — July 6, 2013
  5. NSA analysts, using the XKeyscore program, could search through enormous databases of emails, online chats, and browsing histories of targets. — July 31, 2013
  6. Seven of the world's leading telecommunications companies provided GCHQ with secret, unlimited access to their network of undersea cables. — August 2, 2013
  7. The NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, according to an internal audit. — August 15, 2013
  8. The NSA had the ability to access user data for most major smartphones on the market, including Apple iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Google Android phones. — September 7, 2013
  9. The NSA used metadata augmented with other data from public, commercial, and other sources to create sophisticated graphs that map Americans' social connections. — September 28, 2013
  10. The NSA stored a massive amount of internet metadata from internet users, regardless of whether they are being targeted, for up to one year in a database called Marina. — September 30, 2013
  11. The NSA and GCHQ worked together to compromise the anonymous web-browsing Tor network. — October 4, 2013
  12. The NSA tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. — October 23, 2013

And much more:

Blog Assignment #11

For your next (last?) blog assignment, write a post between 200 and 400 words in which you respond to one of the following questions concerning the RadioLab episodes "Darkode" and "Ceremony," which you should listen to before class on Friday.

  1. Given what you heard in the RadioLab episodes, what advice would you have for a fellow college student about internet privacy?
  2. What's one argument you could make relevant to the security vs. privacy debate based on evidence shared in the RadioLab episodes?
  3. What steps did the podcast producer take to make the material more interesting or accessible?

Please (1) give your post a descriptive title, (2) assign it to the "Student Posts" category, and (3) give it at least three useful tags. Your post is due by 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 30th.

Paper #2 - Security vs. Privacy

Here's the info on your final paper assignment, due Wednesday, December 12th.

A Good Podcast By Using Excellent Introductions and Voices

After listening to the podcast “Something Out of Nothing” by Maria Sellers, I found many interest points about this podcast, both the content and the structure. Also, I learned several useful ideas about the production of a podcast.

First of all, The title of the show notes of the podcast,  “Something Out of Nothing”, would definitely draw everyone’s attention in a series of titles and push the audience to click into the podcast. After that, the show notes provide a great introduction to the whole story. We could know that the story is about the true identity of Shakespeare and the hide secrets in his plays. However, in order to learn more about the interesting story, we have to move on.

I have to admit that the introductory music is excellent. It successfully builds a mysterious atmosphere of the whole story and it is also used between every section of the whole story. Each time this little period of music shows up, I am looking forward to learning about a new interesting part of the story of Shakespeare.

Another voice she combines in her podcast is the monologue of Shakespeare. This part after the intro music also helps to build the atmosphere and leads to the topic. She also read several pieces of Shakespeare’s work to enrich the elements of the whole podcast.

To summarize, the podcast “Something Out of Nothing” helps me a lot on the producing of my own podcast. I learn about the use of music between each part and introduce various elements in the story. Also, an attractive title and proper show notes could attract more audience to listen to my podcast. I really appreciate the reasonable structure and exquisite production of this podcast.

Social Media provides more gaps between parents and teens

"Social media has introduced a new dimension to the well-worn fights over private space and personal expression."

Have you ever hide part of your school life as secrets from your parents through social media? Shared with your friends that you played a trick with your teacher in high school but hide it from your parents? Well, after the birth of social media, teens gradually share less with their parents. Even stay at home, we would not talk about our real life with our parents but chat with our friends through the Internet.

This phenomenon is related to the purpose of social media. As it showed up in our lives, social media become a perfect tool to improve the relationship between friends. People can not only chat in real life face to face but also chat online at any point. Meanwhile, social media also aggravate the tense relationship between parents and teens. Before the era of social media, parents worry about what teens had done outside and tried to talk with them when they back home. Teens enjoyed their time outside and had to face their parents' question and chatter. However, through the social media, teens could bring their social life and resistance to parents back home. They could lock themselves in their bedrooms and still chat or post with their phones and laptops. It's much harder for parents to try to learn about their children's social lives.

Definitely, teens are happy with this change. They have more rooms and freedom now. They could hide their secrets from their parents by simply finishing a privacy setting. At the same time, the gaps between teens and parents become larger and larger. Parents could no longer know what teens want to hide and start to worry more. With almost a blank impression about what their children have posted on Facebook or Instagram, as well as what their children have said to their friends, parents will imagine possible bad manners that kids may be accustomed to. Those imaginations then become new gaps that teens won't talk to their parents about but parents keeping worrying.


The Ethics of Invading Privacy

"For example, even when two people happen to be sitting across from each other on the subway, social norms dictate that they should not stare at each other or insert themselves into the other’s conversations. Of course, people still do these things, but they also feel a social responsibility to avert their eyes and pretend that they cannot hear the conversation taking place. What’s at stake is not whether someone can listen in but whether one should"


I found this quote interesting because it was reminiscent of the discussion we had in class of using locks as a social cue for security. In danah boyd's book It's Complicated, she tries to highlight the distinction between the ability to violate privacy and consciously doing so. Given the degree of entanglement of our social lives and the internet, violating privacy is extremely easy. While taking steps to strengthen your privacy can be helpful, it is often futile either because it is difficult to implement effectively or because someone actively seeking to override your privacy could probably succeed by putting in enough effort. In such cases, it is better to define what is right or wrong and not keep much faith in the efficacy of privacy.

In her book, boyd gives the example of Christopher, a fifteen year old teenager who gave his social media passwords to his parents, trusting them not to violate his privacy. I feel this is somewhat the middle ground which finds a balance between what adults want and what teenagers desire. If we ignore intensive parenting for the moment, parents want their children to be safe and not be doing anything wrong, and teenagers want to be able to regulate which part of their lives their parents should see. By trusting them their your password,  teenagers can inspire confidence in their parents that they are not doing something unlawful while parents can feel like they have the means to protect their child. Additionally, giving access to parents breaks the false notion they hold that privacy is associated with wrongdoing.

Communicating in Plain Sight

One passage from It's Complicated by danah boyd that caught my attention was, "Many teens are happy to publicly perform their social dramas for their classmates and acquaintances, provided that only those in the know will actually understand what’s really going on and those who shouldn’t be involved are socially isolated from knowing what’s unfolding. These teens know that adults might be present, but they also feel that, if asked, they could create a convincing alternate interpretation of what was being discussed."

This passage illustrates the concept of social steganography, a strategy that teens often use to privately communicate.  What I find interesting is that I have always been aware of the existence of this technique, even used it myself, but I had never realized that it was a form of steganography.  Now, it seems quite obvious.  When someone posts an "inside joke" or uses vague or special language that means something to a particular group but appears meaningless to everyone else, they are basically hiding a message in plain sight.  Anyone with access to their online profile could see what they are putting out there, but only a specific target audience would understand what they are really communicating.  Clearly, steganography has a much larger presence in everyday life than I previously thought.

As boyd explains, many adults often criticize teens for posting information publicly while also caring so much about their privacy.  They see these things as acting against each other, but what they don't realize is that teens are very careful in deciding what they expose to the public.  By using strategies such as social steganography, it is possible to have an easily accessible online presence while simultaneously maintaining control over who you share sensitive information with.

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