Re: Leaky Tubes

1

"That is not dead which may eternal lie..."

Clearly, Cthlulu is rising. Or at least scuttling about the ocean floor, severing cables.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 9:50 AM
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2

Ambitious publicity stunt for Cloverfield?


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:09 AM
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3

If they were all laid around the same time, maybe things are starting to have lifetime maintenance problems?


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:14 AM
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3: Five in a week, all serving the Middle East?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:17 AM
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The Mediterranean one did cause a fair bit of disruption and scrambling as its impact spread to places like India and Pakistan. THe others are not as big, but does seem to be a cluster. There does not appear to be any malice, but it has put some focus on the fact that there are some choke points in connectivity. Good summary here.

(And Iran is not down.)


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:20 AM
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For the story of this series of tubes, see "Mother Earth Mother Board", the best thing Neal Stephenson ever wrote.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:25 AM
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7

An article on the repair effort of the original two breaks in the Mediterranean. Presumably with that they will discover the cause. I must say that on reading more, despite assurances, I am not as convinced that malice can be ruled out.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:28 AM
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It is a little out of date, but here is a "drag anchor here" map of underwater cables. Illustrates the relative fragility of Middle East and African connectivity.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:33 AM
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Alright—I'll fess up. I did it, it was me. Sorry to cause a fuss.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:42 AM
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10

I have to admit, I'm not convinced by the reassurances of 'no malice' either.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 10:57 AM
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8 - That is absolutely amazing. I can't believe we are so rich we can afford to run lots of cables across the ocean.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:02 AM
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12

"Once is happensance, twice is a coincidence, thrice is a conspiracy....four times is a provocation, and five times a campaign."


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:06 AM
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s/b happenstance. Grrrrr.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:07 AM
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14

"First time is funny, second time is silly, third time is a spanking."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:13 AM
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12: Is that your own additions on to the Fleming (actually Goldfinger)?

"Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action."
Auric Goldfinger in Goldfinger by Ian L. Fleming


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:15 AM
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"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:33 AM
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17

When I worked for Huge Global Telco, cables such as these broke, got cut by accident, wore out, etc., routinely. There are lots and lots of cables down there and I see nothing more sinister than some rough days in a NOC somewhere when I read about this.

I mentioned it to a friend and we had a good laugh over his suggestion it's more evidence of the fearsome and rumored Cable Shark. It can smell photons from miles away, y'know.

This is of course purest speculation. I have no first-hand knowledge of the cables or causes but from dozens, maybe hundreds of times that I had people affected by a cable cut there was never one that was intentional.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:33 AM
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15: yes. though I misremembered "enemy action" as "a conspiracy".


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:36 AM
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"There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."


Posted by: asl | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:38 AM
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17: There are a number of infrastructure issues like this that make us quite economically vulnerable. You hear lots of speculations about suitcase-nukes etc. as examples of really-bad-things-terrorists-could-do (TM), but it always seemed to me that they could get an awful lot of bang for the buck at fairly low risk going after infrastructure in remote(ish) areas.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:42 AM
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I haven't been following closely, but my understanding is that one of the 5 incidents was an intentional shutdown to fiddle with something rather than a cable break.


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:44 AM
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17: Yes, that is my default position as well. But this time, the one what interests me is the two off of Egypt that happened nearly at the same time, they were both very major and somewhat close but not right next to each other (so I don't think anchor drag). Maybe an undetected underwater "landslide" type event in Nile Delta sediments, the sea bottom off of large deltas is not very stable.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:46 AM
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23

re: 20

Yeah. In fact, talking shite in the pub one night, some friends and I came up with literally dozens of hugely disruptive and/or fatal infrastructure related attacks that could be carried out with stuff available in a standard hardware shop. And, I hasten to add, this wasn't a bunch of MacGyver-like mechanics, but just some blokes with a some basic science and engineering education.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:47 AM
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24

The MacGyver-like mechanics talk shite in an entirely different pub.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:48 AM
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re: 24

Yeah, "The Ferret and Duct-Tape".


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:49 AM
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23: Absolutely. If you start thinking about what groups with actual funding and manpower could do, it's a bit cognitive dissonance inducing --- if `they' are so numerous and so motivated to fuck with `us', why haven't we seen a bunch of this?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:52 AM
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Richard Clarke's second spy novel starts with terrorists' blowing up Atlantic seaboard cables, coordinated with a Chinese hacker attack. I don't know how it ended because Clarke is so dreadful at writing characters and dialogue.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:57 AM
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26: Because terrorism isn't about bodycounts or fiscal damages, it's about publicity. Those things make for better publicity so they are set as goals but they are not the point. Chopping up an undersea cable makes for lame terrorism; completely yawn-inducing.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:58 AM
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27: I'm almost interested to read it, just to see what whack idea it has in it, but life is short.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:59 AM
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re: 26

I think it's partly because 'they' are largely total idiots and/or much more into the idea of being martyred than into the achieving of any concrete objectives. The IRA and/or ETA are just technological bad-asses by comparison.

Dsquared wrote something about this recently.

But yeah, if a group with some manpower and some funding really wanted to wreak havoc, they could really do a lot without worry about acquiring explosives or firearms.

26 is wrong, I think. There are lots of things that could be done that would generate huge publicity.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 11:59 AM
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Amen to 28. Except that the feared Cable Shark could go into heavy rotation during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:00 PM
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28: Hence the cognitive dissonance; if there were large, funded, organized groups whose goals were actually what there is a lot of media coverage claiming they are --- you would expect them to get on with the boring but relatively effective work.

Since we don't see this, some assumptions must be incorrect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:01 PM
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33

Also some of the things that could be done would be hugely public, or at least in a relative cost/risk sense. Not as sensational as blowing up the WTC perhaps, but very effective.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:03 PM
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34

32: indeed.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:11 PM
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35

Ah, I misread your original comment. Yes, if the actual methods of achieving an assumed goal and the methods used do not fit one another then either we've made the wrong assumption or they are morons. I'm betting on a little of both.

As to lasting damage, the various technologies to achieve basic connectivity have been around long enough and duplicated one another sufficiently that there is always another way of getting there and so it's hard to do real, lasting damage. Chop up every cable in the sea and someone who really needed it would get a crap satellite link going. The most - and maybe only - exciting day of my entire career thus far would have made an extremely dull movie and never made headlines despite recognizable names being involved because two colleagues and I fixed the problem in a matter of minutes and the closest we came to a chase sequence was moving to workstations that had modems attached so we could bypass the lines the bad men wanted to clog.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:16 PM
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36

35: Actually I was thinking of other infrastructure, which is vulnerable all out of proportion to its economic cost of failure and repair (some locations of electrical, gas lines, .water, freeway, etc. infrastructure)

Your point about data connectivity is a good one, although doesn't address the economic cost of largish scale failures, which might even make data worth going after.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:25 PM
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37

You could cause pretty serious disruption of you were able to bring a large number of core routers down simultaneously, a concept oft-discussed in hacker circles.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:28 PM
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38

Robust, I think you underestimate the excitement that a good bass-driven soundtrack can provide.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:29 PM
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37: Exactly.

There are also high nuisance for low cost things that could be done, if you had a lot of people but not a lot of cash.

Sort of like the problem people have around here with copper & brass fittings, etc. The scrap payout is big enough that people are walking off with all sorts of things, and and it's basically impossible to police well. One interesting thing it points out though, is the relative vulnerability of some technologies, because they haven't been designed with security in mind. So someone spends 5 minutes with a screwdriver and a crowbar, to walk off with $50 worth of copper from a switch. But the system replacement cost is $10,000. We've got one set of (underwater) lights that were lifted for the brass casings --- replacement estimate is $500,000 and they just aren't going to do it.

Point being, an awful lot of fairly critical infrastructure was designed with the implicit assumption that people wouldn't try too hard to fuck with it. In many cases it's impossible to secure cost effectively, you need a significant redesign. If that assumption fails, the costs could be monumental.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:36 PM
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Robust, I think you underestimate the excitement that a good bass-driven soundtrack can provide.

Also, Robust plus two colleagues is enough to split the screen up into three separate simultaneous views of the action, which is quite exciting all by itself.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:38 PM
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41

Robust plus two colleagues is ALSO enough for a love triangle subplot.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:48 PM
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42

I hope you're taking notes, Robust.


Posted by: felix | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 12:51 PM
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43

Robust McManlypants and Peter North star in A Series of Tubes out soon on Blu-Ray DVD from Titan Media.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:06 PM
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44

Shorter thread: Pussies! I take away your internet, your connectivity, or god forbid, your electricity and you are helpless, helpless, I tell you! No joke. (Never forget that. Seriously. Electricity.)


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:09 PM
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Never forget that. Seriously. Electricity.

Yup.

In winter up north.

Or summer down south.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:11 PM
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46

43 cont'd: and Rah as the Network Serviced Technician.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:17 PM
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46: I hear WETA digital is going to do the cable shark!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:19 PM
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If you just use a few action scenes to break up all the sex scenes, I'm certain it will do well in the cinemax/straight to DVD market.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:19 PM
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23: Our personal safety depends heavily on the fact that almost nobody actually wants to kill large numbers of strangers. And believe it or not, we are often or usually justified in relying on this fact. Enormous ethnic massacres are actually rare enough to be remembered a century later. Serial killers and mass-murderers likewise become legendary.

The main exception is nation-states, which are murderous by definition. But nation-states wreak havoc, by and large, only intermittently, and only for specific quasi-rational and somewhat predictable reasons.

I tend to think of terrorist groups as proto-nation-states which plan to replace or establish existing nation states, though I've toyed with the idea that they're just armed NGO's, like a more lethal version of Greenpeace or Amnest International.

O'Brien's question in "1984": "Would you terribly kill a small child for The Party?" has always pissed me off. It's meant to show how horrible Communism is, but communist parties are only ghorrible because they're proto-nation-states. Any combat soldier runs the risk of horribly killing small children, even in the nicest of wars.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:23 PM
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36, 37: That's an excellent point, especially about how the example of data cables doesn't necessarily apply to other infrastructure. For all that it seems backhoes cut one every five seconds on some days, a lot of the cabling infrastructure is buried and forgotten without consequence.

That said, if you want to scare the people in charge of Huge Global Telco you start talking about root nameservers or peering sites. Even then, the best, concerted effort to attack the root nameservers resulted in a temporary nuisance and nothing more. That could change, someone can do it better next time, but I also think there's a lot of pointless hand-wringing.

Point being, an awful lot of fairly critical infrastructure was designed with the implicit assumption that people wouldn't try too hard to fuck with it.

This is so incredibly true. My experience has been that very little is built with security in mind and that which does have security in mind tends to go overboard with it. We end up thinking of everything in terms of acceptable risk rather than security because there basically is no security for anyone or anything who is a specific target. The only rational steps to be taken are to avoid being a target of opportunity. Unfortunately, even that rarely seems to make its way into budgets because no one wants to spend money on a problem that in their limited view doesn't yet exist.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:23 PM
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On the Shark Internet, "Jumping the Cable" means it's all minnows for you from there on out.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:27 PM
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50: there were a couple of BGP exploits that could in theory have done a number on most if not all peering routers for a while in the late 90s, but then there's the issue of motivation and knowledge intersecting; of the couple of dozen or so people who knew enough early enough to do something, well, why would they? They like the Internet too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:34 PM
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52: This has probably saved the net from a really big lose a few times; the exploits are esoteric enough that only a smallish number of people could work them out, and they tend to be the least likely to want to bring it down.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:37 PM
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52, 53: Right. Even now, the vast majority of "attacks" that have any conscious human involvement are launched by script kiddies with no clue what the hell they're doing or, at best, a partial and purely theoretical understanding. Part of the reason Mitnick is at all well-known within the field is the rarity of a knowledgeable, focused attacker. The most actively troublesome exploits of the last five years that I can think of off the top of my head were automated and required no human activity beyond the original coding.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:46 PM
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Sort of like the problem people have around here with copper & brass fittings, etc. The scrap payout is big enough that people are walking off with all sorts of things, and and it's basically impossible to police well. One interesting thing it points out though, is the relative vulnerability of some technologies, because they haven't been designed with security in mind. So someone spends 5 minutes with a screwdriver and a crowbar, to walk off with $50 worth of copper from a switch. But the system replacement cost is $10,000. We've got one set of (underwater) lights that were lifted for the brass casings --- replacement estimate is $500,000 and they just aren't going to do it.

This is one of the developments that really depresses me in the "since when do I live in a freaking third world country?" sense. I have the vague sense that it's in the same vein as the people who go around pulling my empty cans out of my recycling bin, and think there's an intersection between the minimum wage, labor unions, and potential justifications for a welfare state.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:58 PM
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56

Enormous ethnic massacres

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Hanif Kureishi's "My Son the Fanatic," possibly topical, is the next book I will start. I like the film of My beautiful Laundrette a lot.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 1:59 PM
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Hanif Kureishi's "My Son the Fanatic," possibly topical, is the next book I will start

Don't miss the film. Great performance by Om Puri.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:03 PM
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Yup. "Knowledgeable" I knew lots of, I even knew a few who were also pretty focused on actual ownzoring, but also malicious? I can think of a couple, maybe, and only one (u4/ea) who was much concerned with actual destruction.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:03 PM
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58 to 52.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:05 PM
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60

Also, I am taking notes. One of the colleagues is very photogenic but quit shortly after. The other looks like malnourished Grizzly Adams. Rah trumps both of them in a heartbeat.

That said, it was awfully funny to be running a debug on a router and see 'ameriKa sux!' in the data portion of a packet. It would make a better farce than an action film.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:05 PM
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60: Leslie Nielson will need to be involved in the film version, then. The Naked Tubes.


Posted by: Sharkey | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:15 PM
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On that theme, good lord but I've known people who could do terrible things to and with a network. I used to work at SunSITE, I couldn't cross the room without tripping over someone a thousand times more gifted and more capable than me. Having them be a part of the frontier was the best security policy around.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:24 PM
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Rah trumps both of them in a heartbeat.

True, but this is a fictionized version, Robust. You may have to make out with (a grizzled but still suave incarnation of) George Clooney in the mainframe room before it's all over. That's just how Hollywood works. Brace yourself.


Posted by: Wrenae | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 2:32 PM
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As long as it's important to George Clooneythe story I'll do whatever is asked of me.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 3:01 PM
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62: oh, yeah, all those most talented hackers I know work in security now. It's all the same people, when you're talking about the upper echelons.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 3:29 PM
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65: oh, yeah, all those most talented hackers I know work in security now

As far as you know they work in security.

We're all going to die!!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 3:45 PM
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Obviously Job the Conqueror got his submarine working.


Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Link to this comment | 02- 6-08 8:43 PM
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