Posts by R. Elgin

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Using Smartphones to Rob Us?

robbers_and_shiz

Imagine that there was a better way to help crooks steal more money . . .

Well, now there is a new way to do just that. Apple developed a new way to pay for things by using the iPhone and a new payment system called Apple Pay.  The idea is that when a person goes into a store, instead of using a credit card, they can pay, using their iPhone,  however there is a problem with this.

Brian Krebs, a touted authority on security in today’s online world says “Apple Pay makes it possible for cyber thieves to buy high-priced merchandise from brick-and-mortar stores using stolen credit and debit card numbers that were heretofore only useful for online fraud.” (cite) The banks that Apple has partnered with are now feeling this increase in fraud (6% and growing) and the pressure is on Apple to fix this though the problem is not really their’s to fix.  To be fair, the real real weak point in security is the bank since what is really happening is stolen credit cards are being put into Apple Pay and the banks are not catching this.  Remember all of those stolen credit cards from the Target credit card heist? Apple Pay allows theives to use this stolen information in a  new way (cite).  Avivah Litan (a fraud analyst with Gartner Inc.) believes that this problem will only become worse:

. . . This problem is only going to get worse as Samsung/LoopPay and the MCX/CurrentC (supported by Walmart, BestBuy and many other major retailers) release their mobile payment systems, without the customer data advantages Apple has in their relatively closed environment.

Samsung has wooed the same bank partners Apple did to start a mobile payment service (Samsung Pay), they have released the Galaxy 6 phone as being a means to conduct mobile payments (it is a nice phone too) and they released a security layer for Android called Knox, which enables the user to securely pay for things with their smartphone (preferably their Galaxy phone).  Samsung’s Knox was even certified as being safe and secure by a part of the American Government (the guys that want backdoors into everything).  Knox had been compromised, however Samsung is working to address this problem and has made progress,  Samsung wants their cyberpayment software to use a magnetic card reader, which is not encouraging since credit cards with magnetic strips are known enablers of credit card fraud. (cite and cite)   Samsung will also waive fees for using their mobile payment system, which does encourage use.

Business does make for unusual alliances, and so Blackberry and IBM have come together with Samsung to create SecuTablet – a modified Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 bundled with security management software and a hardware encryption module, however the normally 500.00 USD Samsung phone becomes a 2,250.00 USD device called SecuTablet! (cite) This sort of device is not for the casual user that wants to buy something though, rather it is intended to be for environments that require better security (government, etc.).

Though Apple and Samsung may eventually perfect secure devices, the banks are still the biggest source of security worries, especially when they continue to use cards with magnetic strips or a chip and PIN system that has been hacked.  Even now, the Korean banking industry is finally getting around to blocking the use of mag-stripe plastic cards, in all Korean ATMs, from May.  (cite) There are still reports of credit card information being stolen by infected POP systems in business.  One place that has seen a rise in credit card fraud is Aspen, Colorado, since Aspen has so many holiday visitors from everywhere.  As one Aspen police detective notes:

A lot of these network intrusions are coming from the Ukraine, Russia, North Korea and China . . . It all comes down to the information stored on credit cards. Once a card is scanned at a business that information is sent to a server. If it’s infected with malware, that server sends the credit card information to criminals.

Considering how more and more large businesses are having their fee processing system infected with malware and how inept banks are at dealing with credit card fraud, companies like Apple and Samsung may eventually become more trustworthy than banks, especially if they don’t gouge their customers with processing fees and are more secure than banks are now in their transactions.

Anti-Corruption Law Passed – Weasels Ride Woodpeckers – End Times Are Near

woodpecker_rider

These are strange days indeed – The National Assembly (South Korea) actually passed an anti-corruption law that calls for up to three years in prison for journalists, teachers and public servants (?) who accept single cash donations or gifts valued at more than a million won, or about $910 (USD).  When I read this and see photos like the one above, I am wondering if the eschaton is at hand.

Chejudo and the Influx of Chinese Money

Choe Sang-hun has an interesting article on the effect of so many Chinese pouring into Chejudo and the local government’s own policies that makes it easier for foreigners to buy property, though the influx of Chinese has pushed the price of property there up higher than before:

Although Chinese-owned land in Jeju is still less than 1 percent, it has grown to 2,050 acres last year from just five acres in 2009. More than 70 percent of $6.1 billion in foreign investments in Jeju announced between 2010 and last year came from China

jejuweddingThe local government has even advertised in the PRC for wedding tours.  Jeju Tourism Organization has been working with five tourism companies to create wedding tour programs for customers from the mainland. (cite) According to the link, “350,000 overseas tourists have visited Chejudo and just over half, or about 190,000, have come from China, which is approximately 180% up from last year.

Another Wall Street Journal article explains some of the reasons why travel to and investment in Chejudo is growing in popularity for Chinese (cite):

. . .Jeju is a one-hour flight from Shanghai and 2½ hours from Beijing. “The major reason for most people to travel to Jeju is that it’s visa-free. And the price for group travel is so cheap,” said Willa Wu, a Hangzhou, China, businesswoman who has traveled to Jeju several times.

The Choe article is here.

So He *Did* Intervene in The Election

Get_smart

For those that remember the story of Won Sei-hoon, former director of the NIS, that carried out a Tweeter campaign to bolster Park Guen-hye’s presidential campaign, it may come as a suprise that  the previous district court ruling that determined there was not enough proof that he tried to intervene in the election, was thrown out.

Won, instead won a brand-new go-to-jail card for three years:

The Seoul High Court, on Monday, dismissed the lower court’s decision and said he had also violated election laws. “It is fair to say Won had the intention to intervene in the election,”
(Judge Kim Sang-hwan)

I guess no one asked if anyone instructed him to do this, though Won was quoted as saying he did what he did “for the safety of my country and its people”.  Likewise, one might also say that the Seoul High Court overthrew the previous ruling for the integrity of the country and its people.

The Walls Have Ears and They Are Korean Made . . .

SS-smartv

Some time back I made mention of the strong possibility of smart TVs being able to spy on unwary users.   Cory Doctorow has pointed out that:

a “part of the Samsung Smarttv EULA: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

This is part of their speech-recognition tech, which uses third parties (whose privacy policies Samsung doesn’t make any representations about) to turn your words into text.” (cite)

and, even back in the late part of 2013, it was discovered in the UK that LG SmartTVs were gleaning information on user habits even after privacy settings were set to block the sharing of any information, which could be accessed by third parties.

Another reason I like my TVs dumber than I am.

Why Does the PRC Leadership Persecute Christianity?

Chinese-Jeasus

Not that persecution is anything new to Christians, however the PRC has steadily increased its suppression of domestic Churches and Christian-related NGOs, including those that work to help people in the DPRK that need help (such as orphanages).

This last November, Peter Hahn, a Korean-American, who had used his life savings to help relocate from the United States and set up his NGOs, was detained and accused of various crimes (He is being held on suspicion of embezzlement and using fraudulent invoices) by the PRC:

The 73-year-old naturalised US citizen, who has overseen a range of aid projects straddling the border between China and North Korea over the past two decades, was called in by authorities in Tumen, China for questioning on Tuesday and placed under detention after a six-hour interrogation. Two other staff members, including a South Korean national, have also been detained in recent weeks. . . .”I feel that the Chinese government doesn’t want foreign NGOs working on North Korea any more,” (Mr Hahn’s wife, Eunice), having fled to Seoul soon after the first police raid. “In the past, it just left us alone; but now it is cracking down.” (cite)

Several months ago, a Canadian couple, (Kevin and Julia Garratt) who ran a coffeehouse in Dandong, PRC were arrested by the Chinese Government and charged under the notoriously vague state secrets law since they were allegedly spying and stealing military secrets (believe it or not).  The Garratt’s were also loosely affiliated with local Christian NGOs, thus drawing the attention of the government there.

Certain sources report that this increased anti-Christian action has become more common as of late:

. . . South Korean missionaries working in China near the North Korean border have reported being forced out in recent months after having their visa renewals refused.  The crackdown is variously viewed as part of a broader campaign against Christianity, or consistent with a ramp up in official rhetoric against foreign influence seen as undermining Chinese interests. (cite)

As of several days ago, the Chinese have decided to formally detain (as if this has any meaning at all!) Mr. Garratt and charge him under their state secrets law.  His wife has been released but can not leave the PRC, according to an article:

The Garratts have not been formally arrested and no charges have been filed, the family said in a statement released through their lawyer, James Zimmerman, who is based in Beijing. “No evidence of any crime has been provided to the Garratts, family members, or their lawyers of any criminal conduct,” the statement said.
Ms. Garratt has been barred from leaving mainland China for one year. Her husband has been relocated to “a more formal detention center at an unknown location,” the statement said. (cite)

The Garratts apparently were motivated by spiritual concerns to move to and open a coffeeshop in Dandong:

Their relocation to Dandong was divinely inspired, Mr. Garratt said in a recorded sermon that had been posted on the website of the Terra Nova Church in Surrey, British Columbia, before it was removed in August. “God said, in a prayer meeting, ‘Go to Dandong and I’ll meet you there,’ and he said start a coffee house,” Mr. Garratt said, adding that “we’re trying to reach North Korea with God, with Jesus and with practical assistance.”

Rather than this being an issue of “state secrets” – which is clearly unlikely – this case and many others shows that the PRC leadership seems to have panicked over  the increasing influence and afluence of Christian groups within the PRC, which is something that they can not control, therefore is percieved as a direct threat to their existence.  According to an article in the CS Monitor:

While Christianity is waning in many parts of the world, in China it is growing rapidly – despite state strictures. The rise in evangelical Protestantism in particular, driven both by people’s spiritual yearnings and individual human needs in a collective society, is taking place in nearly every part of the nation.
Western visitors used to seeing empty sanctuaries in the United States or Europe can be dumbfounded by the Sunday gatherings held in convention center-size buildings where people line up for blocks to get in – one service after another. In Wenzhou, not far from Hangzhou, an estimated 1.2 million Protestants now exist in a city of 9 million people alone. (It is called “China’s Jerusalem.”) By one estimate, China will become the world’s largest Christian nation, at its current rate of growth, by 2030.

which is enough to make the current CCP leadership sweat in anticipation as their grip on power is unwittingly contested by Chinese in pursuit of spiritual meaning.  This pursuit, as in South Korea, also has the smell of money though.  One recent study proports that Christianity has been a major part in the PRC’s success.

“Christianity (in the PRC) has the most significant effect on economic growth” and that the steady increase of Christianity has played an important role in China’s economic rise.

This study, by Qunyong Wang of the Institute of Statistics and Econometrics at Nankai University and Xinyu Lin of Renmin University of China, claims that Christianity has significantly contributed to China’s economic growth by demonstrating a positive correlation between areas of particularly robust economic growth and the prevalence of Christian congregations and institutions in these areas, in China. (cite)

Having spiritual beliefs can be enriching for many people and help them in their lives, however, a collective body can be easily lead and manipulated if the collective is prone to the effects of blind faith – faith in someone or something without the benefit of reasoning.

Faith without reason can be an incredibly dangerous thing and it is precisely this blind faith the party would love to harness for their own goals, however it can become a very unmanagable thing as they are belatedly discovering, thus the pronounced effort to clamp down on churches, in the PRC and on the border with the DPRK, that are not sanctioned by the Party.

Having the Intellegence to Know When to Slap the Right Hand

tricky handsThe Bible speaks of the “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing” and when applicable to a government, this is usually bad news since it could imply a “deep government” that exerts undue control over a democratic process.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina has announced plans to disband Argentina’s intelligence agency after the suicide (murder) of prosecutor Alberto Nisman – hours before he had been due to testify against senior government officials about the government cover-up of Iran’s role in a bombing that took place in 1994 (cite).

President Kirchner was quoted:

“I have prepared a bill to reform the intelligence service,” President Fernandez said, adding that she wanted the proposal to be discussed at an urgent session of Congress. “The plan is to dissolve the Intelligence Secretariat and create a Federal Intelligence Agency,” she said that a new leadership should be chosen by a president but would be subject to a Senate approval. (cite)
“Combating impunity has been a priority of my government,” she added. She further stated that the existing intellegence service “has not served the national interests”.

Considering the heavy-handed direct interference of the NIS (1, 2, 3)  and the CIA (torture instead of gathering actual information) in their respective governments, the undue political interference in the Prosecutor’s Office in Seoul, and the use of these intellegence services to further the political aims of a select group of politicians, it is past time to make a greater committment to our respective societies’s democracy and make these agencies anew.