On this day in 1767, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed their survey of the disputed Maryland-Pennsylvania border, which became even more contentious in 1780 when Pennsylvania aboolished slavery. A group of surveyors started re-surveying the border in 2019; I can't find out whether they finished.
Meanwhile, 255 years later, politics is still mostly local:
Finally, Chicago has perfectly clear skies for only the third time this month after yesterday and the 4th, getting only 39% of possible sunshine for almost the past three weeks.
BGP stands for Border Gateway Protocol. It's a mechanism to exchange routing information between autonomous systems (AS) on the Internet. The big routers that make the Internet work have huge, constantly updated lists of the possible routes that can be used to deliver every network packet to their final destinations. Without BGP, the Internet routers wouldn't know what to do, and the Internet wouldn't work.
The Internet is literally a network of networks, and it’s bound together by BGP. BGP allows one network (say Facebook) to advertise its presence to other networks that form the Internet. As we write Facebook is not advertising its presence, ISPs and other networks can’t find Facebook’s network and so it is unavailable.
The individual networks each have an ASN: an Autonomous System Number. An Autonomous System (AS) is an individual network with a unified internal routing policy. An AS can originate prefixes (say that they control a group of IP addresses), as well as transit prefixes (say they know how to reach specific groups of IP addresses).
At 1658 UTC we noticed that Facebook had stopped announcing the routes to their DNS prefixes.
We keep track of all the BGP updates and announcements we see in our global network. At our scale, the data we collect gives us a view of how the Internet is connected and where the traffic is meant to flow from and to everywhere on the planet.
A BGP UPDATE message informs a router of any changes you’ve made to a prefix advertisement or entirely withdraws the prefix. We can clearly see this in the number of updates we received from Facebook when checking our time-series BGP database. Normally this chart is fairly quiet: Facebook doesn’t make a lot of changes to its network minute to minute.
But at around 15:40 UTC we saw a peak of routing changes from Facebook. That’s when the trouble began.
So, someone at Facebook may have applied a router update incorrectly. And as of now, they've corrected the problem.
The United States Supreme Court began their term earlier today, in person for the first time since March 2020. Justice Brett Kavanagh (R) did not attend owing to his positive Covid-19 test last week.
In other news:
So how did facebook.com disappear from root DNS, the day after 60 Minutes aired a segment on Haugen?
Just a couple today, but they seem interesting:
And wow, did the Chicago Bears have a bad game yesterday.
So these things happened:
And finally, break out the Glühwein: Chicago's Christkindlmarket will return to Daley Plaza and Wrigleyville this winter.
I've just spent the last 45 minutes transferring all my auto-pay accounts to a new credit card after my bank notified me that someone in Berlin tried to use my old card to buy something on a French website. Since this happened just a couple of days after T-Mobile once again lost control of millions of customer records, I assume that's how my card number wound up with a European criminal.
Or maybe it came from one of the companies whose accounts I just had to update? According to C-Net, "T-Mobile says there's no indication any consumer financial data, such as credit card or other payment information, was compromised." Uh huh.
Until companies have to endure real consequences for their own crappy security, this will continue to happen.
I have opened these on my Surface at work, but I'll have to read them at home:
Finally, Empirical Brewery has a new line of beer that supports Tree House Cats at Work. I'll try some and let you know.
Eugene Wesley Roddenberry would have been 100 years old today. Star Trek and NASA have a livestream today to celebrate.
In other news:
Finally, sometime today I hope to finish reading Joe Pinsker's interview with author Oliver Burkeman about how not to get sucked into things that waste your time, like the Internet.
Those topics led this afternoon's news roundup:
- The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 6th periodic report on the state of the planet, and it's pretty grim. But as Josh Marshall points out, "Worried about life on earth? Don’t be. Life’s resilient and has a many hundreds of millions of years track record robust enough to handle and adapt to anything we throw at it. But the player at the top of the heap is the first to go."
- Charles Blow has almost run out of empathy for people who haven't gotten a Covid-19 jab. Author John Scalzi takes a more nuanced view, at least distinguishing between the people who peddle the lie and those who merely buy it.
- A research group has discovered how they can own your locked-down computer in about 30 minutes with a few tools, but at least they also tell you how to lock it down better.
- Almost half of Amtrak's $66 billion cash infusion will go to making New York City more navigable. I want my HSR to Milwaukee, dammit!
- Sometime last week, a Russian capsule accidentally fired a thruster, sending the International Space Station into a 540-degree roll.
Finally, long-time police reporter Radley Balko exposes the lie that keeps innocent people in jail.
Via Bruce Schneier, researchers have developed software that can bamboozle facial-recognition software up to 60% of the time:
The work suggests that it’s possible to generate such ‘master keys’ for more than 40% of the population using only 9 faces synthesized by the StyleGAN Generative Adversarial Network (GAN), via three leading face recognition systems.
The paper is a collaboration between the Blavatnik School of Computer Science and the school of Electrical Engineering, both at Tel Aviv.
StyleGAN is initially used in this approach under a black box optimization method focusing (unsurprisingly) on high dimensional data, since it’s important to find the broadest and most generalized facial features that will satisfy an authentication system.
This process is then repeated iteratively to encompass identities that were not encoded in the initial pass. In varying test conditions, the researchers found that it was possible to obtain authentication for 40-60% with only nine generated images.
The paper contends that ‘face based authentication is extremely vulnerable, even if there is no information on the target identity’, and the researchers consider their initiative a valid approach to a security incursion methodology for facial recognition systems.
Hey, humans have evolved for 20,000 years or longer to recognize faces, and we make mistakes all the time. Maybe security software just needs more time?