Links for 2019-02-13

  • The curious case of disappearing buses

    Nice investigation into some dodgy pseudo-real-time bus location data in the Bristol real time passenger information system (via Tony Finch)

    So what have we learned? One thing we are sure is that data of different qualities – genuinely real-time, pseudo real-time (Type 2 and Type 1), and non-real-time (scheduled) data – all present in the data stream. Among these the most interesting are Type 2 pseudo real-time data. They appear to be the root cause of the phenomenon of disappearing buses. Type 2 pseudo-real-time data are not totally bogus. One possible explanation of their existence can be this. The bus company has limited but not full tracking information on some of their buses. For example, it may know the location of a bus only when the bus leaves the bus terminal. Instead of not showing any data at all about the bus, the bus company uses interpolation to predict the locations of the bus, and reports these as if those are real-time data.

    (tags: via:fanf bristol buses public-transport rtpi estimation open-data)

  • Blockchain: What’s Not To Like?

    ‘We’re in a period when blockchain or “Distributed Ledger Technology” is the Solution to Everything™, so it is inevitable that it will be proposed as the solution to the problems of academic communication and digital preservation. These proposals typically assume, despite the evidence, that real-world blockchain implementations actually deliver the theoretical attributes of decentralization, immutability, anonymity, security, scalability, sustainability, lack of trust, etc. The proposers appear to believe that Satoshi Nakamoto revealed the infallible Bitcoin protocol to the world on golden tablets; they typically don’t appreciate or cite the nearly three decades of research and implementation that led up to it. This talk will discuss the mis-match between theory and practice in blockchain technology, and how it applies to various proposed applications of interest to the CNI audience.’
    Quite a collection of dunks on blockchain, Bitcoin, ICOs, the DAO, Ethereum, etc.

    (tags: talks bitcoin blockchain icos ethereum dao security)

  • Attack of the week: searchable encryption and the ever-expanding leakage function

    In all seriousness: database encryption has been a controversial subject in our field. I wish I could say that there’s been an actual debate, but it’s more that different researchers have fallen into different camps, and nobody has really had the data to make their position in a compelling way. There have actually been some very personal arguments made about it. The schools of thought are as follows: The first holds that any kind of database encryption is better than storing records in plaintext and we should stop demanding things be perfect, when the alternative is a world of constant data breaches and sadness. To me this is a supportable position, given that the current attack model for plaintext databases is something like “copy the database files, or just run a local SELECT * query”, and the threat model for an encrypted database is “gain persistence on the server and run sophisticated statistical attacks.” Most attackers are pretty lazy, so even a weak system is probably better than nothing. The countervailing school of thought has two points: sometimes the good is much worse than the perfect, particularly if it gives application developers an outsized degree of confidence of the security that their encryption system is going to provide them. If even the best encryption protocol is only throwing a tiny roadblock in the attacker’s way, why risk this at all? Just let the database community come up with some kind of ROT13 encryption that everyone knows to be crap and stop throwing good research time into a problem that has no good solution. I don’t really know who is right in this debate. I’m just glad to see we’re getting closer to having it.
    (via Jerry Connolly)

    (tags: cryptography attacks encryption database crypto security storage ppi gdpr search databases via:ecksor)

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