Philly With a Side of B-Sides

Over the weekend, I got my second taste of B-Sides.  This time Drexel University in Philadelphia played host to the 2nd annual B-Sides Philly.

Much like the event in April, I got a good cross-section of technical and non-technical information to ponder.  The event began with the keynote, given by a speaker I had heard in Rochester.  Ernest Wong, from the US Military Academy, gave a talk on “Innovating for 21st Century Warfare”.  Though the examples he used for innovation were the original “Mission Impossible” and the movie “Top Gun”.   The speech that bored me in Rochester, was downright interesting.

The next talk was on Russian Information Operations and how much of it is social engineering.  I couldn’t help see a lot of similarities between the tactics Russia is using and the tactics Trump, Fox News, etc are using on the minions in the mobile estates, etc.   This was interesting enough that I actually streamed it for a fellow activist:

Now it was time to get logged into the system a bit, with a talk on the Unix, etc command line called “Out With The Old–In With the GNU.”  A look at how people often use commands that they have learned or are familiar with, without looking for alternatives.  This can lead to ‘fingerprints’ that can be used to track and trace a user, and the talk was on how to avoid leaving such a trail.

The next topic I explored is something I could see my fellow activists being interested in, “Disinformation and Hiding Personal Information”.  Trump will eventually tighten the grip on “The Resistance”, and being able to go incognito may be something that needs to be explored.  Oddly enough the “Dark Web” was not brought up either in the talk or the questions.

I broke for lunch and then explored the vendors room, where I got some business cards that I plan to follow up on once I get my Security+ Certification.

The afternoon session brought a talk on ransomware that was interrupted by a fire alarm and a very quick introduction to a web security dojo.

I managed to save the best for last, with a talk on how there’s common ground between improv comedy and social engineering that  has me looking at reaching out to a local improv theater troupe and finally a talk on the mind of a hacker that was a bit chilling.

The closing remarks brought a surprise for me.  I am now the proud owner of a Bitcoin wallet; it’s really more like a personal vault, and there’s the matter of me learning how to get some cryptocurrency into it.

I hope to return for 2018, but may leave the driving to Amtrak.

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Keeping Down

I am nervously watching the sky this morning.  Later this afternoon, I may be doing some door-knocking in a community that is likely to feel the affects of both Trump’s policies and the people he has empowered.  If the event is postponed, it will likely be until tomorrow, which will be a good thing for me.

The event being moved will mean I don’t have to worry about what to do while the Steelers-Ravens game is on.  I’ve been doing well boycotting the NFL, at least the games themselves.  Opening weekend, I had a meeting.  The next week, a kayaking trip.  Last week, a peace festival and unexpected visit to my Aunt in the hospital.

What is more interesting is that Trump’s “trailer park caucus” seems to have decided to start boycotts of their own.  They’re demand is for the players to stand for the National Anthem or for the NFL to take some action.

What I think has happened is that some people have confused patriotism with nationalism.  This has happened many times in the past, a common way to stifle dissent is to convince folks that the dissenters are “unpatriotic” or “Un-American”; the response to Civil Right and Anti-War protesters in the 1960’s, and the response to “Black Lives Matter” and the NFL players taking a knee.

If the event today is not moved, I can still keep busy.  I can clean my floors, work on some pictures and maybe get some coding time in.

Compared to what folks in Selma, Montgomery, Standing Rock, etc had to deal with, a day without football isn’t so bad.

The Weekend Code Warrior(2017 Version)

It is with great pleasure that I report that I will be back in the ranks of the employed!  I begin a new job Monday testing defective Apple products.

With the job, I won’t have as much time during the week to work on programming, etc.  I do want to get back to preparing for my Security+ certification exam, but I also see a need to work with; Python and the Raspberry Pi, Kali Linux and maybe TAILS, JavaScript and App Development, and “doxxing”.

I think about it, and the only time I may have to do all this may be the weekend.  I get up pretty early on Saturdays and Sundays, so I could get an hour in before breakfast, or even during it.  College football could be a good background for coding as well.  Since I’m boycotting the NFL in solidarity with Colin Kapernick, that leaves Sundays free.

Now I may have to cut back on my “field work”, maybe just restrict that to meetings, etc.

It would seem that I still feel the call of the activist geek, or want to be found by the South-Central PA cell of Anonymous.

23 Hours for Health Care

I do some crazy things for “The Resistance”, the loosely organized individuasl and organizations that have sprung up to oppose Trump and his agenda.  I have marched, rallied and attended council meetings.  But yesterday, September 25th, was a test of my commitment.

It began at 2:00A.M with my alarm waking me up; a quick snack-sized breakfast, getting dressed and even doing my dishes followed.  From there I was off to a fellow activists house for us to stage for our destination, Washington DC for the Senate Finance Committee Hearing on the health care repeal.  We drove through the night and into the dawn, stopping at a drive-thru for what was for me a 2nd breakfast.  Along the way, it was announced that the driver planned to get arrested.  That would affect my plans later.

We arrived in DC around 6:30, and by 7AM we were at the building.  We got in with no incident, and lunch and water were already handed out.  From around 8AM until the hearing began at 2PM we waited, not to get in, but to disrupt.  “Walking the line”, doing Facebook live feeds of the size of the line, became a common way for folks to get exercise and show the literal depth of the crowd.  Much of the crowd were from the group ADAPT , a direct action group of Americans with disabilities.  I was impressed by the energy and conviction these citizens brought to the event:

Lives In The Line

A post shared by James D'Angelo (@james.l.dangelo) on

Another take-away was the way the Senators entered.  The Democrats we saw came in and walked our lines with heads held high, and received a rock stars welcome; Senators Brown(OH), Bennett(CO), Casey(PA) and Coons(DE) all were seen from where I stood.  Besides Senator Graham(SC), who arrogantly smirked at us, most of the Republicans walked in with heads low, or waited for the Capitol Police to arrive.

The Hearing began, and with ADAPT leading the chants, was soon recessed.  I am not sure if the hearing actually even took place, as under threat of arrest, I and a fellow activist exited the building.  Our driver did indeed get arrested, so now we had to figure out when she was getting out, and what to do about me.

We might a delightful woman, who led us to a Texas-style BBQ place where to made our plans over beers and in my case, dinner.  A decision was made to put me on a train, that would get me to Harrisburg around 1A.M on the 26th.

The woman was nice enough to drive me to the station, after a walk to her car, and I boarded a train first to Philadelphia, and then to Harrisburg.  Thanks to some careful co-ordination on my part, and some negotiations between two activists in Harrisburg, I found I had a ride back to where this had all started, and around 1:15A.M, was back home.

On the train, I found that it looks like it was all time well-spent.  It looks like the latest attempt to repeal the ACA, is again DOA.  But there will be other battles; DACA, and perhaps even Medicare for All.  I may volunteer to drive for whatever the next one is.

Focus!

Since my last entry, my employment situation has taken a turn for the worst.  I was fired from my help desk job on the 31st of August.  The best reason I can give is a violation of the company’s conduct policy.  I have another part-time job and unemployment to keep me afloat, and am on a vigorous and determined job search.

While I was there, one thing one of my co-workers was always reminding me to do was to stay focused on my current call.  I did get better at this, though instant messaging was still an occasional stumbling block.

It would seem to me that Trump and the rest of the Republican party is trying to catch the resistance off guard.  It looks like another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act is working its way through the Senate.  It looks to be more of the same, with attacks on Medicaid added in for even more damage.

Trump may be counting on several things that he thinks may distract the resistance.  One is that a lot of the younger people are in school, they may not have time to rally or call as they’re in classes now.

Second is that he may think a lot of people figure that it can’t get 50 votes in the Senate.  Previous attempts have failed, so what makes this any different.  Senator McConnell may have figured out ways to “sweeten the deal” for a few Senators, or there may be threats to primary Senators from the “Trailer Park Caucus”.

The final reason Trump may think this can get through is he thinks the resistance is going to be too busy trying to get the “Medicare for All” plan that Bernie Sanders is supporting through.  Trump may not realize that unlike much of his base, the resistance is smart enough to multitask.

The best strategy for the resistance may be a two stage plan.  Make sure this latest attempt to repeal is repelled, then advance the “Medicare for all” as a replacement that instead of causing people to lose coverage, ensures universal coverage.

 

Layered Defense?

Some of you may remember that I am in the process of studying for my Security+ technical certification.  One of the things I have taken from my pursuit is that security has many layers; a network may have an Intrusion Detection System to deal with external threats, anti-virus and anti-malware software to combat “Trojan Horses”, and group policies so users only have access to what they should.

As I was considering the best way for the Harrisburg activist community to respond to the city council’s decision to give the Police $65,000 in riot gear, a decision likely influenced by events in places like Charlottesville, etc.  Now from what I have seen at fascist or “Alt-Right” events in Harrisburg, the police seem more likely to deploy against the opponents of fascists than the actual fascists.  I have seen with my own eyes the police facing the protesters as opposed to the fascists, sending a clear message who they see as the greater threat.

But might the response demonstrate that “Community Defense” needs to be multi-faceted and multi-layered.

When I would speak of the concept to my allies, it was purely physical.  Being able to defend oneself or one’s allies against attack, be it from fascists or police[NSFW Language] .   Now I do think that is a component, but finding the techniques in one place may be difficult.  This may be something that has to be cobbled together, in a sense a true “Mixed Martial Art”.

A second component may be monitoring.  I could see either a form of Cop Watch just for the “geared up” officers or perhaps to monitor the actions of the police as a whole.   This could be a bit simpler, a matter of reaching out to the leadership of a group from Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore or New York City and asking them to come and present.  Interested parties from Harrisburg could also meet members of affiliates in their cities and bring what they learn back to train members of the Harrisburg Community.

A third component, and the one I may be the most familiar with, is technology.  Being able to communicate securely and in some degree of secrecy is likely almost another component of self-defense.  We’re back to the idea of providing activists with the resources they may find useful in their struggle against a state and system that seems more likely to protect a fascist than defend a person of color, a transgender person or one of their woke allies.

Another “Generation Gap”

One of the earlier posts to this blog concerned me feeling “stuck in the middle” between the Sanders and Clinton backers. I was too old to be part of Bernie’s Millennial base, but seemed too young for Hillary’s base.  I like to say I have seen things from all sides; I backed Bernie in the primary, Hillary in the general, and now see myself as a member of “The Resistance”.

But could there be a “Generation Gap” among “The Resistance”.  The actions of the “AntiFa” in places like Charlottesville, Berkeley, etc seem to have exposed one.  On one side, you have those who seem to say “Let the ‘alt-right’ speak,” their rhetoric will show them as the bigots they are.  Alas, Trump may have helped give the deplorable confidence to come out and spread the message.  A second group advocates for the kind of non-violent, pacifist, resistance of Martin Luther King, etc.  I more and more think that this approach may better be called passive-ism, as I have stated before, I think the “Community Defense” model of the Black Panthers, etc is a superior tactic.

These first two approaches are that of an older generation.  Some of the activists of the Millennial Generation and the trailing end of “Generation X” have gone “all in”.  They are the “Black Bloc”, the ones taking to the streets to battle the “Alt-Right”.   They are the folks recording the police, or “doxxing” fascists.  With the ideas of White Supremacy, or at least White Superiority, resurgent, resistance through direct action may be the best option.  As an old anti-racist poster I once saw said “Pull them up–before they take root”.  Perhaps a better phrase for now if “Cut them down, before they spread”


Choosing My Battles

I had a guest for part of this past weekend.  One of my Facebook friends came to visit some of his family.  I had to pick him up at the train station and we did go out for a late dinner.  The conversation centered around two things; the McGregor-Mayweather fight and my life.

I felt at times like I was being analyzed and interrogated at the same time.  But there was one thing I took away, I need to put me first a bit more.

One aspect of this may be me scaling back on my resistance activities a bit.  Fear not, I am not giving up the fight.  I just may be picking my battles based on two separate, but related questions; “Do I have the time” or “Can I make the time”.

And much of what I do when I’m not on the streets may still be helpful when I do take to the streets.  I want to learn how to search for information that can be used to out fascists, yes I want to learn how to “doxx” people.  I want to be able to better defend myself and others against fascists, etc.  I may even want to finish starting my app–again.