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Covid19 Crime Cybercrime Intelwars UK

Cybercrime in the Age of COVID-19

The Cambridge Cybercrime Centre has a series of papers on cybercrime during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Covid19 Intelwars Medicine Squid

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Proteins for a Better Face Mask

Researchers are synthesizing squid proteins to create a face mask that better survives cleaning. (And you thought there was no connection between squid and COVID-19.) The military thinks this might have applications for self-healing robots.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

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The Security Value of Inefficiency

For decades, we have prized efficiency in our economy. We strive for it. We reward it. In normal times, that’s a good thing. Running just at the margins is efficient. A single just-in-time global supply chain is efficient. Consolidation is efficient. And that’s all profitable. Inefficiency, on the other hand, is waste. Extra inventory is inefficient. Overcapacity is inefficient. Using many small suppliers is inefficient. Inefficiency is unprofitable.

But inefficiency is essential security, as the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us. All of the overcapacity that has been squeezed out of our healthcare system; we now wish we had it. All of the redundancy in our food production that has been consolidated away; we want that, too. We need our old, local supply chains — not the single global ones that are so fragile in this crisis. And we want our local restaurants and businesses to survive, not just the national chains.

We have lost much inefficiency to the market in the past few decades. Investors have become very good at noticing any fat in every system and swooping down to monetize those redundant assets. The winner-take-all mentality that has permeated so many industries squeezes any inefficiencies out of the system.

This drive for efficiency leads to brittle systems that function properly when everything is normal but break under stress. And when they break, everyone suffers. The less fortunate suffer and die. The more fortunate are merely hurt, and perhaps lose their freedoms or their future. But even the extremely fortunate suffer — maybe not in the short term, but in the long term from the constriction of the rest of society.

Efficient systems have limited ability to deal with system-wide economic shocks. Those shocks are coming with increased frequency. They’re caused by global pandemics, yes, but also by climate change, by financial crises, by political crises. If we want to be secure against these crises and more, we need to add inefficiency back into our systems.

I don’t simply mean that we need to make our food production, or healthcare system, or supply chains sloppy and wasteful. We need a certain kind of inefficiency, and it depends on the system in question. Sometimes we need redundancy. Sometimes we need diversity. Sometimes we need overcapacity.

The market isn’t going to supply any of these things, least of all in a strategic capacity that will result in resilience. What’s necessary to make any of this work is regulation.

First, we need to enforce antitrust laws. Our meat supply chain is brittle because there are limited numbers of massive meatpacking plants — now disease factories — rather than lots of smaller slaughterhouses. Our retail supply chain is brittle because a few national companies and websites dominate. We need multiple companies offering alternatives to a single product or service. We need more competition, more niche players. We need more local companies, more domestic corporate players, and diversity in our international suppliers. Competition provides all of that, while monopolies suck that out of the system.

The second thing we need is specific regulations that require certain inefficiencies. This isn’t anything new. Every safety system we have is, to some extent, an inefficiency. This is true for fire escapes on buildings, lifeboats on cruise ships, and multiple ways to deploy the landing gear on aircraft. Not having any of those things would make the underlying systems more efficient, but also less safe. It’s also true for the internet itself, originally designed with extensive redundancy as a Cold War security measure.

With those two things in place, the market can work its magic to provide for these strategic inefficiencies as cheaply and as effectively as possible. As long as there are competitors who are vying with each other, and there aren’t competitors who can reduce the inefficiencies and undercut the competition, these inefficiencies just become part of the price of whatever we’re buying.

The government is the entity that steps in and enforces a level playing field instead of a race to the bottom. Smart regulation addresses the long-term need for security, and ensures it’s not continuously sacrificed to short-term considerations.

We have largely been content to ignore the long term and let Wall Street run our economy as efficiently as it can. That’s no longer sustainable. We need inefficiency — the right kind in the right way — to ensure our security. No, it’s not free. But it’s worth the cost.

This essay previously appeared in Quartz.

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COVID-19 Risks of Flying

I fly a lot. Over the past five years, my average speed has been 32 miles an hour. That all changed mid-March. It’s been 105 days since I’ve been on an airplane — longer than any other time in my adult life — and I have no future flights scheduled. This is all a prelude to saying that I have been paying a lot of attention to the COVID-related risks of flying.

We know a lot more about how COVID-19 spreads than we did in March. The “less than six feet, more than ten minutes” model has given way to a much more sophisticated model involving airflow, the level of virus in the room, and the viral load in the person who might be infected.

Regarding airplanes specifically: on the whole, they seem safer than many other group activities. Of all the research about contract tracing results I have read, I have seen no stories of a sick person on an airplane infecting other passengers. There are no superspreader events involving airplanes. (That did happen with SARS.) It seems that the airflow inside the cabin really helps.

Airlines are trying to make things better: blocking middle seats, serving less food and drink, trying to get people to wear masks. (This video is worth watching.) I’ve started to see airlines requiring masks and banning those who won’t, and not just strongly encouraging them. (If mask wearing is treated the same as the seat belt wearing, it will make a huge difference.) Finally, there are a lot of dumb things that airlines are doing.

This article interviewed 511 endocrinologists, and the general consensus was that flying is riskier than getting a haircut but less risky than eating in a restaurant. I think that most of the risk is pre-flight, in the airport: crowds at the security checkpoints, gates, and so on. And that those are manageable with mask wearing and situational awareness. So while I am not flying yet, I might be willing to soon. (It doesn’t help that I get a -1 on my COVID saving throw for type A blood, and another -1 for male pattern baldness. On the other hand, I think I get a +3 Constitution bonus. Maybe, instead of sky marshals we can have high-level clerics on the planes.)

And everyone: wear a mask, and wash your hands.

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Covid19 Intelwars Interviews Voting

Gene Spafford on Internet Voting

Good interview.

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anthony fauci CDC Coronavirus Covid19 Intelwars schools Schools reopening When will schools reopen

Dr. Fauci: It’s time to start thinking about reopening schools, and saying we ‘shouldn’t open schools’ is ‘a bit of a reach’

Dr. Anthony Fauci said it is time to start thinking about reopening schools, but also noted that the hardest-hit communities will need to “be creative” by implementing “some modifications” to avoid COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I think we need to discuss the pros and the cons of bringing kids back to school in September,” Fauci told CNN.

“I hesitate to make any broad statements about whether it is or is not quote ‘safe’ for kids to come back to school,” Fauci said. “Children can get infected, so, yes, so you’ve got to be careful. You got to be careful for them and you got to be careful that they may not spread it. Now, to make an extrapolation that you shouldn’t open schools, I think is a bit of a reach.”

“When you talk about children going back to school and their safety, it really depends on the level of viral activity, and the particular area that you’re talking about,” he continued. “What happens all too often, understandably, but sometimes misleadingly, is that we talk about the country as a whole in a unidimensional way.”

Fauci warned that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for reopening schools across the country.

“In some situations, there will be no problem for children to go back to school,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said. “In others, you may need to do some modifications. You know, modifications could be breaking up the class, so you don’t have a crowded classroom, maybe half in the morning, half in the afternoon, having children doing alternate schedules. There’s a whole bunch of things that one can do.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published guidelines and precautions schools can make to ensure a safe reopening. The CDC recommends personal hygiene, hand-washing, staying home when sick, wearing face coverings, social distancing, spacing desks six feet apart, regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces, proper ventilation, and limiting sizes of groups.

By mid-May, at least 124,000 U.S. public schools across 48 states were closed because of the coronavirus, affecting over 55 million public school students, according to Education Week. There were also hundreds of colleges that moved to online courses or canceled classes, affecting more than 14 million U.S. students.

More than 160 countries closed schools over COVID-19 concerns, forcing nearly 90% of the world’s student population out of class.

After research and studies discovered that the coronavirus didn’t affect children as severely as adults in most cases, some countries kept their schools open, including Singapore, Australia, Sweden, and Taiwan.

Researchers at the University College London published a paper in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health that doubted the effectiveness of shutting down schools to prevent the coronavirus deaths.

“The international research team reviewed 16 studies, which included nine peer-reviewed papers on the 2003 SARS outbreak, one not peer-reviewed preprint on previous coronavirus transmission and five not peer-reviewed pre-prints and one report on the COVID-19 pandemic,” the paper said. “Data collected from the SARS epidemic did not generally support a role for school closures; one modeling pre-print showed that school closure, as an isolated measure, was predicted to reduce total deaths by only around 2-4% during a COVID-19 outbreak in the U.K.”

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Covid19 epidemiology falsenegatives falsepositives Intelwars Medicine securitytheater

Thermal Imaging as Security Theater

Seems like thermal imaging is the security theater technology of today.

These features are so tempting that thermal cameras are being installed at an increasing pace. They’re used in airports and other public transportation centers to screen travelers, increasingly used by companies to screen employees and by businesses to screen customers, and even used in health care facilities to screen patients. Despite their prevalence, thermal cameras have many fatal limitations when used to screen for the coronavirus.

  • They are not intended for medical purposes.
  • Their accuracy can be reduced by their distance from the people being inspected.
  • They are “an imprecise method for scanning crowds” now put into a context where precision is critical.
  • They will create false positives, leaving people stigmatized, harassed, unfairly quarantined, and denied rightful opportunities to work, travel, shop, or seek medical help.
  • They will create false negatives, which, perhaps most significantly for public health purposes, “could miss many of the up to one-quarter or more people infected with the virus who do not exhibit symptoms,” as the New York Times recently put it. Thus they will abjectly fail at the core task of slowing or preventing the further spread of the virus.
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concealment Covid19 Crime Intelwars lawenforcement

Criminals and the Normalization of Masks

I was wondering about this:

Masks that have made criminals stand apart long before bandanna-wearing robbers knocked over stagecoaches in the Old West and ski-masked bandits held up banks now allow them to blend in like concerned accountants, nurses and store clerks trying to avoid a deadly virus.

“Criminals, they’re smart and this is a perfect opportunity for them to conceal themselves and blend right in,” said Richard Bell, police chief in the tiny Pennsylvania community of Frackville. He said he knows of seven recent armed robberies in the region where every suspect wore a mask.

[…]

Just how many criminals are taking advantage of the pandemic to commit crimes is impossible to estimate, but law enforcement officials have no doubt the numbers are climbing. Reports are starting to pop up across the United States and in other parts of the world of crimes pulled off in no small part because so many of us are now wearing masks.

In March, two men walked into Aqueduct Racetrack in New York wearing the same kind of surgical masks as many racing fans there and, at gunpoint, robbed three workers of a quarter-million dollars they were moving from gaming machines to a safe. Other robberies involving suspects wearing surgical masks have occurred in North Carolina, and Washington, D.C, and elsewhere in recent weeks.

The article is all anecdote and no real data. But this is probably a trend.

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bill gates Blazetv Covid19 Intelwars Louder with crowder microchipping Steven Crowder

Bill Gates offers a creepy response to Covid

What do you and Bill Gates have in common? Both are equally qualified to offer medical advice.

Never forget, Bill Gates told the world via Twitter that COVID-19 couldn’t spread from human to human contact. Now Gates wants to microchip humans who have had COVID-19.

No. Just no. Considering our country was shut down for what equates to a flu, maybe Gates should spend his free time coming up with ways to help millions of people find employment rather than trying to track people who had the misfortune of contracting Chinese AIDS.

Crowder ripped Gates during his CNN Livestream last Thursday. Watch the video below for the scoop.


EXPOSED: Bill Gates’ CREEPY Covid Response | Louder with Crowder

youtu.be

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To enjoy more of Steven’s uncensored late-night comedy that’s actually funny, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

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Friday Squid Blogging: Cocaine Smuggled in Squid

Makes sense; there’s room inside a squid’s body cavity:

Latin American drug lords have sent bumper shipments of cocaine to Europe in recent weeks, including one in a cargo of squid, even though the coronavirus epidemic has stifled legitimate transatlantic trade, senior anti-narcotics officials say.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

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baserate Bluetooth Covid19 falsenegatives falsepositives GPS Identification Intelwars Medicine privacy Surveillance tracing

Me on COVAD-19 Contact Tracing Apps

I was quoted in BuzzFeed:

“My problem with contact tracing apps is that they have absolutely no value,” Bruce Schneier, a privacy expert and fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, told BuzzFeed News. “I’m not even talking about the privacy concerns, I mean the efficacy. Does anybody think this will do something useful? … This is just something governments want to do for the hell of it. To me, it’s just techies doing techie things because they don’t know what else to do.”

I haven’t blogged about this because I thought it was obvious. But from the tweets and emails I have received, it seems not.

This is a classic identification problem, and efficacy depends on two things: false positives and false negatives.

  • False positives: Any app will have a precise definition of a contact: let’s say it’s less than six feet for more than ten minutes. The false positive rate is the percentage of contacts that don’t result in transmissions. This will be because of several reasons. One, the app’s location and proximity systems — based on GPS and Bluetooth — just aren’t accurate enough to capture every contact. Two, the app won’t be aware of any extenuating circumstances, like walls or partitions. And three, not every contact results in transmission; the disease has some transmission rate that’s less than 100% (and I don’t know what that is).
  • False negatives: This is the rate the app fails to register a contact when an infection occurs. This also will be because of several reasons. One, errors in the app’s location and proximity systems. Two, transmissions that occur from people who don’t have the app (even Singapore didn’t get above a 20% adoption rate for the app). And three, not every transmission is a result of that precisely defined contact — the virus sometimes travels further.

Assume you take the app out grocery shopping with you and it subsequently alerts you of a contact. What should you do? It’s not accurate enough for you to quarantine yourself for two weeks. And without ubiquitous, cheap, fast, and accurate testing, you can’t confirm the app’s diagnosis. So the alert is useless.

Similarly, assume you take the app out grocery shopping and it doesn’t alert you of any contact. Are you in the clear? No, you’re not. You actually have no idea if you’ve been infected.

The end result is an app that doesn’t work. People will post their bad experiences on social media, and people will read those posts and realize that the app is not to be trusted. That loss of trust is even worse than having no app at all.

It has nothing to do with privacy concerns. The idea that contact tracing can be done with an app, and not human health professionals, is just plain dumb.

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Automation Covid19 hacking Intelwars

Automatic Instacart Bots

Instacart is taking legal action against bots that automatically place orders:

Before it closed, to use Cartdash users first selected what items they want from Instacart as normal. Once that was done, they had to provide Cartdash with their Instacart email address, password, mobile number, tip amount, and whether they prefer the first available delivery slot or are more flexible. The tool then checked that their login credentials were correct, logged in, and refreshed the checkout page over and over again until a new delivery window appeared. It then placed the order, Koch explained.

I think I am writing a new book about hacking in general, and want to discuss this. First, does this count as a hack? I feel like it is, since it’s a way to subvert the Instacart ordering system.

When asked if this tool may give people an unfair advantage over those who don’t use the tool, Koch said, “at this point, it’s a matter of awareness, not technical ability, since people who can use Instacart can use Cartdash.” When pushed on how, realistically, not every user of Instacart is going to know about Cartdash, even after it may receive more attention, and the people using Cartdash will still have an advantage over people who aren’t using automated tools, Koch again said, “it’s a matter of awareness, not technical ability.”

Second, should Instacart take action against this? On the one hand, it isn’t “fair” in that Cartdash users get an advantage in finding a delivery slot. But it’s not really any different than programs that “snipe” on eBay and other bidding platforms.

Third, does Instacart even stand a chance in the long run. As various AI technologies give us more agents and bots, this is going to increasingly become the new normal. I think we need to figure out a fair allocation mechanism that doesn’t rely on the precise timing of submissions.

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Global Surveillance in the Wake of COVID-19

OneZero is tracking thirty countries around the world who are implementing surveillance programs in the wake of COVID-19:

The most common form of surveillance implemented to battle the pandemic is the use of smartphone location data, which can track population-level movement down to enforcing individual quarantines. Some governments are making apps that offer coronavirus health information, while also sharing location information with authorities for a period of time. For instance, in early March, the Iranian government released an app that it pitched as a self-diagnostic tool. While the tool’s efficacy was likely low, given reports of asymptomatic carriers of the virus, the app saved location data of millions of Iranians, according to a Vice report.

One of the most alarming measures being implemented is in Argentina, where those who are caught breaking quarantine are being forced to download an app that tracks their location. In Hong Kong, those arriving in the airport are given electronic tracking bracelets that must be synced to their home location through their smartphone’s GPS signal.

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blaze conservative Conservative commentary Coronavirus news Coronavirus outbreak covid COVID-19 Covid19 freedom Intelwars libertarian liberty news political news Politics Rand Rand Paul Rand paul coronavirus Senate The Blaze US NEWS

Rand Paul returns to Congress after beating coronavirus and gives a fiery speech against ‘draconian’ lockdown

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky excoriated his colleagues in Congress over their efforts to provide relief to Americans while putting the country in debt instead of opening up the economy.

“If you print up billions of dollars and give it to people, they are unlikely to spend it until you end the quarantine,” said Paul in his speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday after returning from his battle with coronavirus.

He went on to point out that there were some studies showing that experts’ predictions of mortality rates from coronavirus could be inaccurate and overblown.

“The virus is still dangerous,” he added, “and we shouldn’t ignore the risks, but we should put those risks in perspective!”

Paul said that these randomized studies show that America can manage the coronavirus without continuing the “draconian” lockdown policies.

Plagued by a lack of commerce, not money

“So today I arise in opposition to spending $500 billion more. The virus bailouts have already cost over two trillion dollars. Our annual deficit this year will approach four trillion dollars!” he said.

“We can’t continue on this course!” Paul added.

“No amount of bailout dollars will stimulate an economy that is being strangled by quarantine!” he exclaimed. “It is not a lack of money that plagues us, but a lack of commerce!”

Paul praised the numerous efforts from Americans to combat the coronavirus pandemic, then returned to the subject of the debt amassed by the relief bills.

“With the recent $2 trillion bailout we are borrowing faster than we have ever borrowed before!” he continued. “Had we practiced sound budgeting in the past, we would have been better, significantly better position to weather this storm.”

He pointed out that the most recent statistics said more than 20 million Americans were unemployed.

“Make no mistake. The massive economic calamity we’re experiencing right now is caused by government. Passing out $1,200 checks indiscriminately, to people who haven’t lost their job, will do nothing to rescue the country!” he explained.

“Our recovery only comes when the quarantine is ended,” Paul added.

‘A terrible terrible conclusion’

Paul said that economists should also weigh in on what the balance should be between fighting a virus and causing harm to the entire economy.

“We need to get past a one size fits all approach to infectious disease!” he said.

Paul also decried the passage of the massive relief bill without a recorded vote.

“I don’t want to see this massive accumulation of debt destroy this great country,” Paul concluded. “So my advice to the Senate and to the American people is, let’s be aware of what we’re doing by creating all this new debt and let’s think before we jump to a terrible terrible conclusion.”

Here’s the video of Paul’s speech:


Rand Paul Delivers EXPLOSIVE Speech From Senate Floor After Recovering From Coronavirus

www.youtube.com

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Chinese COVID-19 Disinformation Campaign

The New York Times is reporting on state-sponsored disinformation campaigns coming out of China:

Since that wave of panic, United States intelligence agencies have assessed that Chinese operatives helped push the messages across platforms, according to six American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to publicly discuss intelligence matters. The amplification techniques are alarming to officials because the disinformation showed up as texts on many Americans’ cellphones, a tactic that several of the officials said they had not seen before.

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Blazetv COVID-19 Covid19 Intelwars primary election Steve deace Wisconsin

BOMBSHELL: IF panic peddlers were right, Wisconsin should be a pile of smoldering ash right now

Anyone who has ever been on Twitter knows the platform is a hub for virtues signaling. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin was targeted on Twitter by virtue signalers far and wide for holding it’s presidential primary as scheduled on April 7.

Wednesday, BlazeTV’s Steve Deace delved into claims made by the left that Wisconsin would be the death of us for allowing voters to leave the safety of their homes and head to the polls.

Here’s what we learned

  • Wisconsin holds a controversial primary election on April 7
  • 70% of voters voted by mail, one of the highest percentages in American history, because of concerns of COVID-19 virus
  • If 70% voted via mail-in ballot, that means 465,786 people voted in person on April 7, which is twice as many people as live in Madison, Wisconsin’s second-largest city
  • Today marks 15 days since Wisconsin’s primary election
  • COVID-19 requires a 14-day incubation period
  • To see if Wisconsin’s outpouring of 465,786 voters was the massive public health disaster as originally touted by panic peddles, Deace went to the stats.

Image source: BlazeTV screenshot

In the chart above, the red line is active cases, and the blue line is new cases in Dane County.

Image source: BlazeTV screenshot

In the second chart, Deace took the top three populous counties in Wisconsin to compare hospitalizations since April 7.

How is it possible holding the primary election in such densely populated areas show no spike in new cases after the April 7 election?

To learn why watch the video below.

Use code DEACE to save $30 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Steve Deace?

To enjoy more of Steve’s take on national politics, Christian worldview and principled conservatism with a snarky twist, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

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Blazetv COVID-19 Covid19 Intelwars primary election Steve deace Wisconsin

BOMBSHELL: IF panic peddlers were right, Wisconsin should be a pile of smoldering ash right now

Anyone who has ever been on Twitter knows the platform is a hub for virtues signaling. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin was targeted on Twitter by virtue signalers far and wide for holding it’s presidential primary as scheduled on April 7.

Wednesday, BlazeTV’s Steve Deace delved into claims made by the left that Wisconsin would be the death of us for allowing voters to leave the safety of their homes and head to the polls.

Here’s what we learned

  • Wisconsin holds a controversial primary election on April 7
  • 70% of voters voted by mail, one of the highest percentages in American history, because of concerns of COVID-19 virus
  • If 70% voted via mail-in ballot, that means 465,786 people voted in person on April 7, which is twice as many people as live in Madison, Wisconsin’s second-largest city
  • Today marks 15 days since Wisconsin’s primary election
  • COVID-19 requires a 14-day incubation period
  • To see if Wisconsin’s outpouring of 465,786 voters was the massive public health disaster as originally touted by panic peddles, Deace went to the stats.

Image source: BlazeTV screenshot

In the chart above, the red line is active cases, and the blue line is new cases in Dane County.

Image source: BlazeTV screenshot

In the second chart, Deace took the top three populous counties in Wisconsin to compare hospitalizations since April 7.

How is it possible holding the primary election in such densely populated areas show no spike in new cases after the April 7 election?

To learn why watch the video below.

Use code DEACE to save $30 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Steve Deace?

To enjoy more of Steve’s take on national politics, Christian worldview and principled conservatism with a snarky twist, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

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Breaches Covid19 Intelwars Medicine privacy

California Needlessly Reduces Privacy During COVID-19 Pandemic

This one isn’t even related to contact tracing:

On March 17, 2020, the federal government relaxed a number of telehealth-related regulatory requirements due to COVID-19. On April 3, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-43-20 (the Order), which relaxes various telehealth reporting requirements, penalties, and enforcements otherwise imposed under state laws, including those associated with unauthorized access and disclosure of personal information through telehealth mediums.

Lots of details at the link.

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Contact Tracing COVID-19 Infections via Smartphone Apps

Google and Apple have announced a joint project to create a privacy-preserving COVID-19 contact tracing app. (Details, such as we have them, are here.) It’s similar to the app being developed at MIT, and similar to others being described and developed elsewhere.

I was going to write a long essay about the privacy and other concerns, but Ross Anderson beat me to it. (Note that some of his comments are UK-specific.)

First, it isn’t anonymous. Covid-19 is a notifiable disease so a doctor who diagnoses you must inform the public health authorities, and if they have the bandwidth they call you and ask who you’ve been in contact with. They then call your contacts in turn. It’s not about consent or anonymity, so much as being persuasive and having a good bedside manner.

I’m relaxed about doing all this under emergency public-health powers, since this will make it harder for intrusive systems to persist after the pandemic than if they have some privacy theater that can be used to argue that the whizzy new medi-panopticon is legal enough to be kept running.

Second, contact tracers have access to all sorts of other data such as public transport ticketing and credit-card records. This is how a contact tracer in Singapore is able to phone you and tell you that the taxi driver who took you yesterday from Orchard Road to Raffles has reported sick, so please put on a mask right now and go straight home. This must be controlled; Taiwan lets public-health staff access such material in emergencies only.

Third, you can’t wait for diagnoses. In the UK, you only get a test if you’re a VIP or if you get admitted to hospital. Even so the results take 1-3 days to come back. While the VIPs share their status on twitter or facebook, the other diagnosed patients are often too sick to operate their phones.

Fourth, the public health authorities need geographical data for purposes other than contact tracing – such as to tell the army where to build more field hospitals, and to plan shipments of scarce personal protective equipment. There are already apps that do symptom tracking but more would be better. So the UK app will ask for the first three characters of your postcode, which is about enough to locate which hospital you’d end up in.

Fifth, although the cryptographers – and now Google and Apple – are discussing more anonymous variants of the Singapore app, that’s not the problem. Anyone who’s worked on abuse will instantly realise that a voluntary app operated by anonymous actors is wide open to trolling. The performance art people will tie a phone to a dog and let it run around the park; the Russians will use the app to run service-denial attacks and spread panic; and little Johnny will self-report symptoms to get the whole school sent home.

I recommend reading his essay in full. Also worth reading are this EFF essay, and this ACLU white paper.

To me, the real problems aren’t around privacy and security. The efficacy of any app-based contact tracing is still unproven. A “contact” from the point of view of an app isn’t the same as an epidemiological contact. And the ratio of infections to contacts is high. We would have to deal with the false positives (being close to someone else, but separated by a partition or other barrier) and the false negatives (not being close to someone else, but contracting the disease through a mutually touched object). And without cheap, fast, and accurate testing, the information from any of these apps isn’t very useful. So I agree with Ross that this is primarily an exercise in that false syllogism: Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.

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Covid19 Cybersecurity hacking Intelwars Phishing

Cybersecurity During COVID-19

Three weeks ago (could it possibly be that long already?), I wrote about the increased risks of working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One, employees are working from their home networks and sometimes from their home computers. These systems are more likely to be out of date, unpatched, and unprotected. They are more vulnerable to attack simply because they are less secure.

Two, sensitive organizational data will likely migrate outside of the network. Employees working from home are going to save data on their own computers, where they aren’t protected by the organization’s security systems. This makes the data more likely to be hacked and stolen.

Three, employees are more likely to access their organizational networks insecurely. If the organization is lucky, they will have already set up a VPN for remote access. If not, they’re either trying to get one quickly or not bothering at all. Handing people VPN software to install and use with zero training is a recipe for security mistakes, but not using a VPN is even worse.

Four, employees are being asked to use new and unfamiliar tools like Zoom to replace face-to-face meetings. Again, these hastily set-up systems are likely to be insecure.

Five, the general chaos of “doing things differently” is an opening for attack. Tricks like business email compromise, where an employee gets a fake email from a senior executive asking him to transfer money to some account, will be more successful when the employee can’t walk down the hall to confirm the email’s validity — and when everyone is distracted and so many other things are being done differently.

NASA is reporting an increase in cyberattacks. From an agency memo:

A new wave of cyber-attacks is targeting Federal Agency Personnel, required to telework from home, during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. During the past few weeks, NASA’s Security Operations Center (SOC) mitigation tools have prevented success of these attempts. Here are some examples of what’s been observed in the past few days:

  • Doubling of email phishing attempts
  • Exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems
  • Double the number of mitigation-blocking of NASA systems trying to access malicious sites (often unknowingly) due to users accessing the Internet

Here’s another article that makes basically the same points I did:

But the rapid shift to remote working will inevitably create or exacerbate gaps in security. Employees using unfamiliar software will get settings wrong and leave themselves open to breaches. Staff forced to use their own ageing laptops from home will find their data to be less secure than those using modern equipment.

That’s a big problem because the security issues are not going away. For the last couple of months coronavirus-themed malware and phishing scams have been on the rise. Business email compromise scams — where crooks impersonate a CEO or other senior staff member and then try to trick workers into sending money to their accounts — could be made easier if staff primarily rely on email to communicate while at home.

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Doctors say it’s not a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water — and here’s how to deal with groceries during COVID-19

Benjamin Chapman, a professor at North Carolina State University and a food specialist, says that washing fruits and vegetables with soap and water is not necessarily a good idea.

Other experts also weighed in with their own tips for food safety and staying healthy during the COVID-19 outbreak.

What’s the deal with fresh foods?

Chapman told Live Science that there are “toxicity issues” with household dish soaps.

“We’ve known for 60 years that there are toxicity issues about consuming household dish soaps,” he said. “Drinking dish soap or eating it can lead to nausea, can lead to upset stomach. It’s not a compound that our stomach is really built to deal with.”

Chapman said that a good rinse with cold water will suffice.

How about grocery shopping?

In a now-viral video, Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, a private practice doctor out of Michigan, warned about the dangers of grocery shopping.

“I felt an urgency to get the word out to people that despite the stay-at-home order, we need to use caution when we go out,” he said. “That’s really the most important piece of the message: If you don’t have to go out, don’t. But if you must, to get food, do so with caution.”

VanWingen says that people who have no choice but to leave the house and grocery shop should take the highest precautions when keeping germ-free.


PSA Safe Grocery Shopping in COVID-19 Pandemic UPDATED!!! www.DrJeffVW.com

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Some recommendations include wiping down grocery carts with disinfectant or disinfectant wipes. He also recommends that people store newly purchased dry goods on a porch or in a garage for at least three days, and says that containers should be disinfected or discarded.

Chapman added, however, that there’s no evidence that food or its packaging can transmit the virus, and says that VanWingen’s suggestion isn’t “based on any science.”

Chapman said that people should simply put away their groceries and wash their hands well with soap and water.

“[R]inse fresh fruits and vegetables with running cold water,” Chapman says. “That may remove 90 to 99% of what’s there.”

What else?

Donald Schaffner, a professor at Rutgers University, echoed Chapman’s sentiments about washing hands after returning from the grocery store.

“[I]f you’re still feeling worried after you put all your groceries away, wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer,” he said.

Schaffner also said that if COVID-19 is on the food, “it’s not going to make you sick from eating that food” because coronavirus reportedly dies in stomach acid.

Conclusions?

Schnaffner says that people should be more worried about spending time in the grocery store rather than disinfecting their foods — and to wash your hands.

“That’s the big risk right there,” he said.

(H/T: Fox News)

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Mark Cuban says President Donald Trump should get ‘all the credit in the world’ for handling COVID-19 pandemic

Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban sat down for an interview with The Daily Caller where he praised President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that is gripping the country and the rest of the world.

At the time of this writing, more than 148,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S. At least 2,575 people have died because of the virus.

What are the details?

During the interview with outlet’s White House Correspondent Maranda Finney, Cuban said he gives credit to the president for his strong grip on the country and the COVID-19 crisis.

Finney said, “I’m curious how do you think the president is doing when it comes to addressing citizens of America during this COVID-19 pandemic, and what kind of grade would you possibly give him?”

“Look, I’m not gonna throw anybody under the bus,” he began, echoing sentiments he made during last week’s tele-appearance on “The View” when co-host Sunny Hostin attempted to bait him into bashing the president over his response to the coronavirus.

“I’m not a fan of Donald Trump’s as president, I haven’t been for awhile, but, that said, he’s obviously adjusted and adapted, and he’s doing his best,” he continued. “We are where we are.”

Cuban said that Trump has taken a backseat to let others shine in the fight against the virus, and the positive benefits are obvious.

“In the past, it wasn’t all that long ago when he was saying — people were thinking, wondering how he understood medicine so well. They thought he was just a genius for being able to understand all this stuff, but now he’s kind of evolved to the point where he’s putting his experts up front,” he reasoned. “There’s a reason why Dr. [Anthony] Fauci became a rock star, and he’s only a rock star because Donald Trump stepped aside.”

He also pointed to Dr. Deborah Birx, who he also called a “rock star” for her hard work in educating the public about the severity of the disease.

What else did Cuban say?

“The head of FEMA, the surgeon general, there’s just people who have really put themselves out there and put themselves at risk, and during the press conferences, he steps aside,” Cuban added. “He’s not even in camera shot, and that’s good. And I give him all the credit in the world. Do I like the side comments and all the picking on journalists? No, never have, never will. That’s who he is, but credit earned is credit deserved, and so I’ll give him credit where we’re at right now.”


Mark Cuban’s Stock Market Advice During Coronavirus Crisis

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Privacy vs. Surveillance in the Age of COVID-19

The trade-offs are changing:

As countries around the world race to contain the pandemic, many are deploying digital surveillance tools as a means to exert social control, even turning security agency technologies on their own civilians. Health and law enforcement authorities are understandably eager to employ every tool at their disposal to try to hinder the virus ­ even as the surveillance efforts threaten to alter the precarious balance between public safety and personal privacy on a global scale.

Yet ratcheting up surveillance to combat the pandemic now could permanently open the doors to more invasive forms of snooping later.

I think the effects of COVID-19 will be more drastic than the effects of the terrorist attacks of 9/11: not only with respect to surveillance, but across many aspects of our society. And while many things that would never be acceptable during normal time are reasonable things to do right now, we need to makes sure we can ratchet them back once the current pandemic is over.

Cindy Cohn at EFF wrote:

We know that this virus requires us to take steps that would be unthinkable in normal times. Staying inside, limiting public gatherings, and cooperating with medically needed attempts to track the virus are, when approached properly, reasonable and responsible things to do. But we must be as vigilant as we are thoughtful. We must be sure that measures taken in the name of responding to COVID-19 are, in the language of international human rights law, “necessary and proportionate” to the needs of society in fighting the virus. Above all, we must make sure that these measures end and that the data collected for these purposes is not re-purposed for either governmental or commercial ends.

I worry that in our haste and fear, we will fail to do any of that.

More from EFF.

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Dem lawmaker bought COVID-19 test-kit stock after a secret briefing. When questioned about it, he sold the stock and donated the earnings.

After attending a secret meeting about the coronavirus pandemic last month, Democratic Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) reportedly bought stock from a German diagnostics company that produces COVID-19 testing kits.

Welch purchased more than $7,500 worth of stock in Qiagen, reported VTDigger, a Vermont-based nonprofit news outlet. The outlet also noted that Qiagen is one of the rare companies that has experienced increasing stock value amid the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Welch bought the stock on Feb. 27, the very same day the House Intelligence Committee, of which he is a member, was reportedly briefed by U.S. spy agencies regarding the virus.

When questioned about the suspicious activity by the VTDigger, Welch announced that he had sold the stocks and planned to donate the earnings:

In an interview Tuesday, the Vermont Democrat said the purchase was made by his investment adviser and without his consultation. “I can assure you that I had no knowledge of the purchase,” he said. “I had never heard of the company Qiagen.”

Welch said he sold the Qiagen stocks Tuesday and planned to donate all profits from the transaction — he estimated somewhere between $300 and $500 — to the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), a Vermont-based charity that helps the homeless.

… Welch acknowledged attending recent intelligence briefings, but said he was barred from commenting on their contents. He contended that congressional briefings do not influence his investment portfolio, and said he was first alerted to the coronavirus threat through public channels. “I know the first information I heard about corona was in the newspaper,” he said.

The news outlet went on to note, given the date of purchase and Welch’s supposed date of sale, that the Vermont representative likely made between $514 and $735, depending on what time Tuesday he sold the stock.

While the earnings are modest, relatively speaking, the upshot is that Welch may have used insider knowledge that only he and a select few other people were privy to in order to advance his own financial interests.

The allegations against Welch come as several other members of Congress have been accused of taking advantage of classified briefings about COVID-19 by buying or selling off stocks.

Politico noted that while “it’s illegal for lawmakers and aides to trade stocks based on private information,” it is legal for them “to buy and sell shares based on public information they absorb on Capitol Hill so long as they disclose those trades within 30 days.”

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