Monday 16 January, 2023

On the Beach

My grandson Jasper on one of my favourite beaches.

Quote of the Day

“The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.

  • Blaise Pascal

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Brownie McGhee | Good Morning Blues


Just the thing for a Monday morning!

Long Read of the Day

Choosing Secure Passwords

Really helpful advice from Bruce Schneier, who knows this stuff inside out.

The best way to explain how to choose a good password is to explain how they’re broken. The general attack model is what’s known as an offline password-guessing attack. In this scenario, the attacker gets a file of encrypted passwords from somewhere people want to authenticate to. His goal is to turn that encrypted file into unencrypted passwords he can use to authenticate himself. He does this by guessing passwords, and then seeing if they’re correct. He can try guesses as fast as his computer will process them—and he can parallelize the attack—and gets immediate confirmation if he guesses correctly. Yes, there are ways to foil this attack, and that’s why we can still have four-digit PINs on ATM cards, but it’s the correct model for breaking passwords.

There are commercial programs that do password cracking, sold primarily to police departments. There are also hacker tools that do the same thing. And they’re really good.

The efficiency of password cracking depends on two largely independent things: power and efficiency.

Power is simply computing power. As computers have become faster, they’re able to test more passwords per second; one program advertises eight million per second. These crackers might run for days, on many machines simultaneously. For a high-profile police case, they might run for months.

Efficiency is the ability to guess passwords cleverly…

Read on to get to his advice. Better still, take it.

Computers need to make a quantum leap before they can crack encrypted messages

Yesterday’s Observer column:

Since the early 1980s, physicists and computer scientists such as Richard Feynman, Paul Benioff, Yuri Manin (who died last weekend at the age of 85) and Britain’s David Deutsch have been thinking about a different idea – using some ideas from subatomic physics to design a new and very distinct kind of computing engine – a quantum computer. In 1985, Deutsch published a proposal for one. And in recent times, companies such as Google and IBM have begun building them.

Why is that relevant? Basically because quantum computers are potentially much more powerful than conventional ones, which are based on digital bits – entities that have only two possible states, on and off (or 1 and zero). Quantum machines are built around qubits, or quantum bits, which can simultaneously be in two different states.

At this point, you may be anxiously checking for the nearest exit. Before doing so, remember that to understand subatomic physics you need first of all to divest yourself of everything you think you know about the physical world we ordinary mortals inhabit. We may sometimes be rude about people who believe in fairies, but particle physicists fervently believe in the neutrino, a subatomic particle that can pass right through the Earth without stopping and we take these scientists seriously…

Do read the whole piece.

My commonplace booklet

Ukraine Army Video Tells Russians How to Surrender to a Drone

I knew that drones were changing warfare, but I never thought of this. One of the many things Putin didn’t understand is the ingenuity of the Ukrainians.

And btw, if you’d like some insight into why the Russians have run into such trouble, this podcast is pretty informative.

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