As the world descends into utter chaos, I take comfort in knowing that people are generally very levelheaded. It doesn’t quite always work that way, but seeing how North Korea’s government lives another day to threaten the flooding of Seoul in a sea of fire; or that European countries haven’t copped out to what some would call the “easy” solution; or how politicians have literally kept their heads in the midst of one of the largest protests in Brazil’s history, I’d say that rationality is still present and strong.
But, cracks are beginning to show. For example, I was quite perturbed when the venerated Gray Lady printed blurb while covering what we’ve learned about the ISIS terrorist attack in Paris:
One of the terrorists pulled out a laptop, propping it open against the wall, said the 40-year-old woman. When the laptop powered on, she saw a line of gibberish across the screen: “It was bizarre — he was looking at a bunch of lines, like lines of code. There was no image, no Internet,” she said. Her description matches the look of certain encryption software, which ISIS claims to have used during the Paris attacks.
The whole of the article was stellar but the above rankled me to no end (and apparently I’m not the only one). “Her description matches the look of certain encryption software?” Pray tell, New York Times, which ones? The ones that turn ordinary text into gibberish, I suppose? Which, practically speaking, is every single encryption software out there?
I’ve got a news flash for you: encryption does turn plaintext into gibberish; yet nobody, but nobody, works with encrypted data in encrypted form. Otherwise, why would the FBI need to force Apple to decrypt an iPhone? Why would France and the UK draft laws for weakening encryption? If a couple of terrorists can read data in encrypted form, you can bet your nuts that non-terrorists can, too.
In other words, stuff like this is not real:
…there’s way too much information to decode the Matrix. You get used to it, though. Your brain does the translating. I don’t even see the code. All I see is blonde, brunette, redhead. Hey uh, you want a drink?
Oy, vey. I’ll take that drink, thank you.
Jumping the Gun
The witness said that the terrorist’s laptop showed gibberish – although I notice that she wasn’t directly quoted for the word “gibberish” – and that stuff looked like lines of code, and that there were no images, and no internet.
I have no idea what that last statement means: what does the internet “look like” on a laptop? If she’s referring to the lack of images, I remember how the internet looked like around 1994 while using Lynx, which, incidentally, still has a following today.
As for “gibberish”… well, that really is subjective isn’t it? Take the following, for example:
To those raised in English-speaking countries the above would be gibberish. But according Google Translate these are, in order: Yiddish, Arabic, Polish, Kyrgyz, Tamil, Korean, Amharic, and Kannada. (To be more specific, I typed “gibberish” as the source word and these are the translated outputs).
In the case of Polish, even if the letters are familiar, the word itself isn’t to an English speaker. Why, it looks like something you find on the pages of a Jumble puzzle.
So, the New York Times take a witness’s testimony, where nothing is concretely revealed, except that images were lacking on a laptop (the horror! The horror!), and the writer decides to glom on that it could be encryption.
All the news that fit to print…and a little bit more, it looks like.
One More Thing
Looking over this post, I realized something else was bothering me:
“It was bizarre — he was looking at a bunch of lines, like lines of code. There was no image, no Internet,” she said. Her description matches the look of certain encryption software, which ISIS claims to have used during the Paris attacks.
Maybe I missed something regarding the news on the Paris attacks, but has ISIS claimed the use of encryption in the Paris attacks? My understanding is that burner phones (lots and lots of burner phones) were used. The only mention of encryption that I know of was made by the investigators and “highly-placed sources” who’ve remained anonymous all these many months later.
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