Search Results for: Wired

How a Hacker Named P4x Took Down North Korea’s Internet

A North Korean hacker silhouetted against the North Korean flag
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Score one for the little guys. When an American security researcher — who goes by the handle P4x — got hacked by North Korea, the United States Government took little notice. To send a message, P4x wrote some code to take down North Korea’s internet. As Andy Greenberg reports in this fascinating story at Wired, North’s Korea’s internet presence is small, amounting to only a few dozen sites online.

P4x says he’s found numerous known but unpatched vulnerabilities in North Korean systems that have allowed him to singlehandedly launch “denial-of-service” attacks on the servers and routers the country’s few internet-connected networks depend on. For the most part, he declined to publicly reveal those vulnerabilities, which he argues would help the North Korean government defend against his attacks.

After P4x discovered North Korea’s vulnerabilities, he wrote a script to automate his attacks, which included denying access to email and other internet-based services. Not bad for a guy “in a T-shirt, pajama pants, and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks—and periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.”

Those relatively simple hacking methods have had immediate effects. Records from the uptime-measuring service Pingdom show that at several points during P4x’s hacking, almost every North Korean website was down. (Some of those that stayed up, like the news site Uriminzokkiri.com, are based outside the country.) Junade Ali, a cybersecurity researcher who monitors the North Korean internet, says he began to observe what appeared to be mysterious, mass-scale attacks on the country’s internet starting two weeks ago and has since closely tracked the attacks without having any idea who was carrying them out.

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A Lab of Her Own

Longreads Pick
Source: Nautilus
Published: Dec 1, 2021
Length: 20 minutes (5,095 words)

How To Make $1000 PER DAY From ANYWHERE In The World!!! Totally Not Shady!

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Making your millions while working on a tropical beach in your swimwear is the ideal for many digital nomads dreaming of breaking away from the 9-5 for good. As Sirin Kale discovered for Wired UK, dropshipping is one way people have been earning big just by clutching their Macbooks. Dropshipping is a “fulfillment” method where an entrepreneur identifies a product — usually through Chinese eCommerce platform AliExpress — that they think they can sell to European or American consumers. They then create a website using Shopify, and identify and target buyers. You never even see the products you sell. 

The town, once a stop-off for backpackers en route to Ubud’s yoga studios and hippy scene, has in recent years become a hub for self-described “digital nomads”. In Canggu’s cafés, barefoot westerners run fledgling companies from MacBook Pros. When not talking Facebook ads or cost-per-click, they socialise exclusively with each other. “The thing is, not many Indonesians are on a level with bule [an Indonesian term for foreigners],” explains one digital nomad over the fart of hot tub jets in Amo, a luxury spa. Around us, statue-like men wander in and out of steam rooms (CrossFit is big here), talking about e-commerce and intermittent fasting.

Inside the city’s co-working spaces (Dojo is the oldest in Canggu, Outpost the new challenger), people are building business empires selling products they’ve never handled, from countries they’ve never visited, to consumers they’ve never met. Welcome to the world of dropshipping.

Those who make it in dropshipping are idealized by people desperate to follow suit. Some dropshippers are adding to their profits by selling courses on how to achieve success to their acolytes, while others have stepped away from a business they now recognize as unethical.

A gruff, profane Australian who speaks his mind, Craig, 41, has banned anyone from selling dropshipping courses in Dojo. “My main gripe is that you’re selling a course for $6,000 to a person from middle America who’s put all their funds into this, and you’re teaching them to sell avocado slicers online with 40 other people who are also selling avocado slicers,” he says.

Some dropshippers are shuttering their stores, and shipping out. Louden is one of them. Despite the fact that he’s earning executive-level pay while wearing boardshorts, he wants to leave dropshipping behind. He’s aware that even the most successful dropshipping store will eventually run out of steam: when the cost of Facebook advertising increases beyond your marketing spend, you’re done. “At the end of this year, we’re probably done with dropshipping,” he says. “I want to build brands – actual ones – that provide value to people.”

I’m reminded of a comment one of the statue-men made amid the ice baths and steam rooms of Amo Spa. I’d asked him if he was a dropshipper, and he’d laughed and said that he wasn’t any more: “I’m doing something ethical.”

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Editor’s Roundtable: Stories About Stories

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On our October 11, 2019 roundtable episode of the Longreads Podcast, Head of Audience Catherine Cusick, Head of Fact-Checking Matt Giles, and Contributing Editor Aaron Gilbreath share what they’ve been reading and nominate stories for the Weekly Top 5 Longreads

This week, the editors discuss stories in ProPublica, Wired, and Esquire.


Subscribe and listen now everywhere you get your podcasts.


1:13 An Unseen Victim of the College Admissions Scandal: The High School Tennis Champion Aced Out by a Billionaire Family. (Daniel Golden and Doris Burke, October 8, 2019, ProPublica/The New Yorker)

14:02 This economist has a plan to fix capitalism. It’s time we all listened. (João Medeiros, October 8, 2019, Wired)

23:00 Signs and Wonders (J.D. Daniels, May 1, 2017, Esquire)

* * *

Produced by Longreads and Charts & Leisure.

Inside Cameo, the Celebrity Shoutout App Hungry For Fame

Longreads Pick

Cameo lets you buy personalized greetings from sports stars, singers, influencers, and zoo animals. What does it say about the nature of modern celebrity?

Source: Wired UK
Published: Sep 1, 2020
Length: 18 minutes (4,632 words)

No Escape from Online Memories

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In the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a couple uses a medical procedure to erase each other from their memories after the relationship ends. It was a simpler time — that wouldn’t work now. Memories of relationships (and all life events), don’t just exist in our heads anymore, they are online, and online memories are very tricky to destroy

Social media memory prompts popping up over the past year have been challenging for everyone — photos showing our former, blissfully unaware selves, hugging family, having dinner with friends, going to a concert — constant reminders that thanks to the pandemic, we are now sitting at home in our pajamas binge-watching Netflix. But what if social media thinks even bigger life events are still happening? In 2019 Lauren Goode called off her wedding. The internet didn’t get the memo. In this fascinating article for Wired Goode explores what it means to be stalked by “a digital ghost, that is still getting married.”

Even if I could permanently delete my WeddingWire account, I had already shared uncountable bits of data with marketers during the time I used the website. “It’s one thing to say ‘I want to buy shoes’ and then have that ad follow you across the internet,” says Jeremy Tillman. “But there are specific life events that are these exclamation points for marketers. Like, I’m going to get married! Or, I’m going to have a kid! And the more valuable that data is, the more intrusive it seems.”

Tillman is the president of Ghostery, which offers an open source browser extension that shows you how many trackers are receiving data from the websites you visit—a mere glimpse at the network of data brokers that are creating shadow profiles of you. While I was on the phone with Tillman, I punched WeddingWire.com into a Chrome browser, navigated to a page for a wedding DJ, then clicked on the Ghostery extension. At least 16 trackers were identified—including Google Ads, DoubleClick, and Facebook Custom Audience. I had browsed web pages like this dozens of times in 2019. And then, suddenly, I had stopped.

“In your case, you have the life cycle of somebody that you’re not, following you throughout the web and beyond,” Tillman says. “It’s like a ghost life cycle that you never had the chance to live out.”

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Bringing Species Back … From the Brink

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I don’t often get to use the term gobsmacked, but that is how I was rendered when I saw the film Jurassic Park. I remember the 1993 cinema trip vividly: clutching my popcorn, wide-eyed, as the first dinosaur, a brachiosaurus, ambled across the screen. Walking out with my parents, I jabbered with excitement: “Could we really make dinosaurs real again, Dad? Could we? Could we?”

These memories came flooding back as I read Natasha Bernal’s piece in Wired UK, exploring the world of biobanking animal cells. Bernal answers the question of whether extinct animals could be brought back with a tentative yes — science has long proved that “frozen cells from extinct animals could potentially be used to revive species” — but that is not what biobanking is about. The intention is to increase the diversity of living species, cloning to prevent further loss, rather than to bring back what is already gone. As a species dwindles, so does its genetic pool, and frozen cells from extinct animals could potentially be used to help prevent extreme inbreeding. 

Bernal’s case study is Tullis Mason, a chap who sports “three-quarter length shorts” even in a lab coat. Matson runs an artificial insemination company for racehorses from his family’s farm in Shropshire, England. However, on the side, he is also planning to save the animal kingdom by building the biggest biobank of animal cells in Europe. It’s not always a dignified business, with Bernal describing Mason hooking an elephant penis into a device that looks like “a huge condom,” but the science and the ethics her article explores are fascinating. We may not be about to bring dinosaurs back to life, but with help from biobanking, life already on this planet might still find a way.

This is why, back at Matson’s farm, there is a tiny, black, felt-like ear and two bat testicles the size of olive pits on a lab bench. The Seba’s short-tailed bats at Chester Zoo are usually housed in the Fruit Bat Forest, where visitors can feed them as part of a £56 “experience”. Though not currently listed as endangered, with global biodiversity at a tipping point, it’s likely that no species is entirely safe. This bat died of natural causes, but its genetic material will live on.

The first thing that Lucy Morgan, a scientific advisor at Nature’s SAFE, does is shave the ear. “Ears grow to a certain extent throughout our lifetime, so they’re a cell type that’s already wanting to grow and regenerate itself,” she says. “So when choosing a sample that you’re trying to pick to culture in the future, it’s a good one.”

She puts the ear to soak in chlorhexidine to clean it from bacteria and switches on a timer. After two minutes, she transfers it to a petri dish, and starts cutting it into small pieces the size of chocolate chips. Using tweezers, she puts them in cryovials filled with cryopreservant. The tiny testicles will be preserved whole. They couldn’t get any semen out of them – a common problem for animals that are too small to preserve in the traditional manner.

Safely pipetted into a cryovial or straw, an animal’s tissue, semen or ova are deposited into the cryogenic tank, ready to be unfrozen when they may be needed for repopulation programmes in zoos or, if feasible, the wild. In the case of some creatures, whose anatomical challenges do not currently permit artificial insemination using sperm or ova, the samples may stay there for decades. For now, all of Nature’s SAFE’s samples are in one location, but the charity aims to build a backup so that tissue can be split into different places and safeguarded for the future.

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The Household Covid Budget

Full length of young female friends using smart phones while relaxing on bed at home during slumber party

Since the arrival of Covid-19 even popping to the shop for some milk has become a risk — and if you live with people, it is also a risk for them. In a shared housing situation figuring out what is acceptable behavior has become harder, and even the clearest advice “doesn’t address many of the subtle situations in which we find ourselves.” Gregory Barber asks in Wired what to do if you are a group of six people, including polyamorous members, living together in a house share? For such a group in San Francisco, the answer lay in maths — they came up with a calculator to work out risk, giving each other a points budget to use each week. 

Some activities were trickier to translate into points. First dates, in particular, would trigger a reversion to what Olsson calls a “one-off person-risk estimate.” The fact-finding missions these estimates required were a little strange and intrusive. The housemates wanted to know how often a new person shopped for groceries, who they lived with. Were they a gym rat? An ER doctor? Bachar found these interrogations uncomfortable. It felt as if she was implying that her friends were behaving badly. But others felt the questions were a reasonable concession to the pandemic. Dobro says that polyamory had prepared her for these awkward conversations around trade-offs. “We’re used to having conversations that are linked to risk,” she says. If you choose to be indoors with someone, the roommates agreed, make it count. Make it a deep conversation. Make it sex.

This was a house share better suited to calculating risk than most — Olsson works for a Silicon Valley foundation on projects that seek to mitigate the potentially catastrophic effects of advanced AI — and the other residents, to various degrees, are adherents to “rationalist modes of thinking.” The calculator this particular house came up with has now been used around the world — including by Bob Wachter, the chair of internal medicine at UC San Francisco and a frequent public commentator on all matters Covid-19.

Olsson called their risk points microcovids, in a tip of the hat to Howard, and one microcovid equaled a one-in-a-million chance of catching the virus. They pulled epidemiology papers from Google Scholar and gathered around the table in the hearth to go through the data. The first step was to impose a top-line risk budget that would anchor all of their calculations. They debated this question at length. Olsson floated the idea of 10,000 microcovids per person per year—the equivalent of a 1 percent chance of catching Covid. But what was the actual cost of 10,000 microcovids? By their estimations, for people their age, a 1 percent chance of getting sick was about as risky as driving, which was something they did without thinking. And besides, they figured, if other people who could stay home kept to a similar budget, the hospitals would not overflow. The virus might even disappear.

To some extent, governments around the world are using their version of Covid point calculators. It may seem strange that in some areas regulations mean we cannot meet friends while children are still going to school, but it is how risk has been allocated across a community to keep it at an acceptable level. 

This was the initial premise of shutdowns and social distancing and sheltering in place. Our common infection budget was tied to hospital capacity—the number of ICU beds and respirators and medical staff able to respond. For those who could work from home, the task was to contribute as little as possible to the overall sum. This left more points for those who couldn’t. Then, as the first infection curve began to flatten, the foundation of the societal budget seemed to shift. Yes, we still had to worry about public health, but that concern was being stretched by other considerations: business closures, job losses, some ideal of liberty, the desire to eat burritos.

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I Shredded a 70-Mile Dirt Ride on a Folding Commuter Bike

Longreads Pick

If you’re ripping off 70 miles of off-road riding in a day, you’d probably go for a mountain bike or gravel bike. Maybe a cyclocross bike. Or you could, as Elena Lacey details in this joyous travelogue for WIRED, opt for a $5,000 titanium folding Brompton. Just don’t expect to clear any obstacles.

As I skidded down a hill, I cackled like a deranged vulture at the thrill of taking this tiny, light-as-air bike off-roading. It was perfect practice to get me pumped for the North London Dirt. I took a picture of what I think was a quail, or some kind of turkey. I sneezed as I passed fields of yellow flowers. I turned a corner and saw a castle. Scotland is wild.

Source: Wired
Published: Jul 20, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,463 words)

The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

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This week, we’re sharing stories from Lauren Smiley, Reid Forgrave, Susan Casey, Michael Rosenberg, and Lucy Jones.

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1. The True Story of the Antifa Invasion of Forks, Washington

Lauren Smiley | Wired | October 8, 2020 | 36 minutes (9,000 words)

A false report on Twitter about violent leftist activists traveling by bus exploded into a call to arms. Then a bus, carrying a family and two dogs, rolled into a remote Northwestern town best known as the setting for the Twilight series. Chaos ensued.

2. Lives, on the Line

Reid Forgrave | Star Tribune | October 2, 2020 | 43 minutes (10,816 words)

Six lives changed forever, as COVID-19 swept across Minnesota.

3. How Iceman Wim Hof Uncovered the Secrets to Our Health

Susan Casey | Outside | October 12, 2020 | 19 minutes (4,900 words)

“In a world addicted to comfort, it isn’t easy to convince a vast audience that what they really need is to take teeth-chattering swims and ice baths—but Hof has managed to do this.”

4. USC’s Dying Linebackers

Michael Rosenberg | Sports Illustrated | October 7, 2020 | 24 minutes (6,000 words)

In 1989, USC had a depth chart of a dozen linebackers. Five have died, each before age 50. Football was inextricably tied to their mortality. These are their stories.

5. Pathways in the Urban Wild

Lucy Jones | Emergence Magazine | July 27, 2020 | 8 minutes (2,120 words)

“As Lucy Jones and her daughter encounter wildflowers in a housing development, Lucy considers the healing benefits of an attentive relationship with the living world and the complex barriers to that relationship within urban areas.”