The meme of EMP attack.

Mar 10 2017

For the last couple of years, the meme of an EMP attack against the United States has been an integral part of the thoughtbase of the prepper community.  So the idea goes, the next major attack by a foreign power will involve not the bombing of a major city but bombardment with an electromagnetic pulse (local mirror, snapshot taken 20170310 @ 2030 hours PST8PDT).  Due to the fact that "electromagnetic" is kind of a loose term, sometimes they mean an actual magnetic field, sometimes they speak of a microwave burst (which means that you've got bigger problems than your electronics getting fried - humans are mostly water, after all), sometimes they mean RF, and sometimes they mean some other unspecified thing.  At any rate, the pulse emitted is enough to fry all major electronics, knock out the power grid, and generally return the country to a hunter-gatherer mode of existence for the forseeable future.  Just how this happens is never really explained but the answer can be determined with basic physics.  Electricity and magnetism are two sides of the same coin: Where you have one, you have the other.  Pass a powerful enough magnetic field through a long enough wire and it might generate enough voltage to blow out the components soldered to it.  Do that to enough electronic devices in the area, and all the equipment goes down.  Seems simple enough.

So, what's actually the score here?

Fifty-five years ago, the United States government wanted to find out what would happen if somebody popped off a nuke in space.  So, the initiated a project called Starfish Prime, in which they detonated a 1.4 megaton nuclear device 240 miles above the surface of the Earth, a distance which is on the low end of low earth orbit.  The detonation created an artificial aurora that was seen in the sky for thousands of kilometers around, in addition to scattering fallout in LEO and the upper atmosphere.  To be fair it was probably only a little fallout, relatively speaking, because it was only the remnants of the nuke itself and not the vaporized debris one would expect of a terrestrial detonation.  It was observed by the project's scientists that the orbital detonation generated an electromagnetic pulse that briefly disrupted electrical power on the ground hundreds of kilometers around where the center of the blast sphere was.  It was later discovered that Telstar-1, the first comsat launched into orbit, was damaged by the radiation.  In Hawaii, the power surges were such that street lights blew out, knocked out telephones, and caused radio blackouts.  Physicists later determined that the burst of electrons loosed by the detonation were trapped by the Earth's geomagnetic field and didn't return to a low-energy state for several months.  This had the net effect of interfering with radio propagation for about as long, making communications difficult.

Seems legit so far.

Neologism: Disk Paranoia

Jan 08 2017

Disk paranoia - noun - That occasionally well-founded sense of creeping dread one feels when repartitioning, reformatting, or clearing a USB drive.  The dread stems from the fear that one is not, in fact, doing something terminal to the correct drive and you're actually zorching one of your internal drives (usually the one with all of your data on it).  This leads one to recheck the terminal window once every nine or ten seconds to make sure you're messing with the correct drive.  This may also include opening multiple other terminal windows to display the list of currently mounted devices, cross-checking the output with the disk manipulation command you're running to make sure you got the right one, and scrolling back to re-re-re-check earlier diagnostic output.

Boot loaders and securing dual-booting portable systems.

May 29 2008

UPDATE - 20170327 - Truecrypt was disconnected in 2014.ev when Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP.  DO NOT USE IT.  This blog post must be considered historical in nature.

If you've been following the news media for the past year or so, stores have been cropping up with frightening regularity about travelers who are detained at the border while customs agents demand the login credentials for their notebook computers so that they can be examined for gods-know-what kind of information. From time to time, the hard drives of computers are actually imaged for later analysis. As if that weren't enough, the United States Supreme Court has stated the opinion that this is permissible and a legally defensible thing to do, regardless of whether or not you are an American citizens, regardless of whether or not you're actually up to no good. Just a few days ago, it came out that Canada is trying to push through the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which would make it legal for Canadian border authorities to search not only portable computers, but USB keys, cellular phones, and MP3 players for information (specifically, pirated MP3 files)... the very act of searching one's personal and corporate storage media constitutes a potential information spillage situation because it may not be possible to prove in a court of law that data wasn't copied during the search. You can't necessarily prove a negative when you're dealing with file systems.