Showing posts from February, 2012

Crypto is Not Broken

By Patrick Ball On 14 February 2012, the New York Times reported that a Swiss team had found a weakness in a key algorithm used to make secure connections online. We were worried because the algorithm (called RSA) is also a central part of Martus , our self-encrypting database that backs itself up to a network of servers. The bottom line: We've consulted with cryptographers and studied the Martus code, and we do not believe that there is a weakness affecting Martus users. The flaw turns out to be related to a design error in the implementation of RSA in specific "embedded" devices, specifically firewalls and routers. It's not a general problem with RSA, and there's no current risk to Martus users. The way this flaw emerged has motivated us to review Martus's security model, and we are pleased with how well it has stood up. I've organized the detailed discussion as a series of questions. What exactly is the problem? How did this happen? Does it affect Ma

Interning in Guatemala on the Archive Project

A guest Beneblog by Max Schneider People don’t typically associate boisterous merengue music with high-tech statistical analysis. Then again, I shouldn’t have been surprised when I heard the playful notes of a street band wafting through the window while in Guatemala with Benetech's Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). You see, HRDAG is anything but a typical organization. But first: why was I, a fresh graduate of UCLA, in Guatemala in the first place? (It’s funny, my parents asked the same question.) As an intern with HRDAG , I was part of the team analyzing data drawn from documents in the National Police Archive, a cache of approximately 80 million sheets of paper kept by the police system during the Guatemalan Civil War, a 36-year long conflict that ended in 1996. Our statistical analysis is being used as evidence for an upcoming trial charging former Police Chief Colonel Hector Bol de la Cruz with crimes related to the disappearance of a trade union and student leader in 1984

Bookshare International Now Serves Thirty Countries

People with print disabilities around the world have a right to high-quality ebooks that they can read with assistive technology. Benetech’s Bookshare library continues to expand its international service providing accessible books and publications to members in more than 30 countries. Our international Bookshare service recently announced new partnerships with three organizations that are reaching out to readers with print disabilities in their home countries. These partners include the Norwegian Library of Talking Books and Braille (NLB), the Hoerbuecherei des OSBV Talking Book Library in Austria, and the Dorina Nowill Foundation in Brazil.
 Benetech looks forward to working with all these groups to provide the latest books, especially textbooks (primarily in English). 
These ebooks can quickly be turned into Braille, large print or be read aloud by a synthetic voice synthesizer. Bookshare International members now have access to more than 50,000 titles, including books in Spanis

Reverse Engineering the Nissan Leaf's Range Display

Geeks are textbook early adopters. We can't resist a new gadget, or pushing the envelope to find out what's really possible! I'm no exception to this rule. Recently, our family took delivery of a new Nissan Leaf, a completely electric vehicle. I now breeze by gas stations with $4 per gallon prices and think how I'll never pull into one of these places and spend dozens of dollars to fill up. Of course, the downside to all-electric is that when your battery runs out, you don't have a little gas engine to get you home. This causes range anxiety , which is the fear of being stranded on the side of the road because of exceeding the range of the battery charge. The Leaf range display is somewhat twitchy. It's trying to predict how many miles you have left in your range (as a one-way measurement), depending on battery charge, your driving habits, speed, temperature, use of climate control and so on. As a geek, I knew that the engineers designing the Leaf would