Spot a Bug, Go to Jail

From Wired News:

A new federal prosecution again raises the issue of whether computer security experts must fear prison time for investigating and reporting vulnerabilities.

On April 28, 2006, Eric McCarty was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. McCarty is a professional computer security consultant who noticed that there was a problem with the way the University of Southern California had constructed its web page for online applications. A database programming error allowed outsiders to obtain applicants’ personal information, including Social Security numbers.

For proof, the man copied seven applicants’ personal records and anonymously sent them to a reporter for SecurityFocus. The journalist notified the school, the school fixed the problem, and the reporter wrote an article about it.

The incident might have ended there, but didn’t.

The school went through its server logs and easily traced the activity back to McCarty, who had made no attempt to hide his tracks. The FBI interviewed McCarty, who explained everything to the agents. Then the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles charged the security expert with violating 18 U.S.C. 1030, the federal computer crime law.

Man Who Bought MIG on Ebay Wants Refund

Seems he didn’t check to see if it could be shipped to China.

BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese businessman who bought a Russian fighter jet online wants his money back after finding it could not be shipped to China, state media reported on Tuesday.

Zhang Cheng, a Beijing businessman, bid $24,730 and paid a $2,000 deposit for the former Czech air force plane on Chinese-based eBay, Xinhua news agency said.

But legal experts informed Zhang that the MiG-21, located in Idaho in the United States, was “almost impossible to ship back,” Xinhua said, quoting the Beijing Times.

Moreover, the seller had clearly confined the destination of the plane to the United States and Canada, Xinhua quoted a member of eBay’s public relations staff as saying.

Home Made Biosphere

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Biologists call the Earth’s environment and all organisms the Earth’s biosphere. But biosphere is also the name of a man-made and sealed environment, which simulates the earth’s biosphere. This could for example be in a bottle, or a greenhouse. Another (maybe more correct) name for such an artificial biosphere is ecosphere, or closed ecosystem.

You could of course buy one of these and watch it, but it is much more fun (and cheaper!) to make your own biosphere. Making a perfect biosphere is very complicated, because the cycle of nutrients has to be balanced for your biosphere to be stable. For example: animals breath oxygen and produce CO2, plants produce oxygen (in the sun) and use CO2. In theory they could keep each other in balance. But there is more: the nitrogen cycle also has to be balanced. Animals and plants contain amounts of nitrogen. If they die and are not decomposed, then nitrogen will be removed from the cycle (because it stays in the dead organisms), and eventually there will not be enough nitrogen left for the living organisms. These are the two most obvious and important cycles of nutrients, but there are more, like the cycles of various minerals etc.

(via Make:Blog)

Elevator Hacking

A few tricks that may or may not work.


  • Press the button for your floor and hold it until you reach the floor you need to get there in express time. This may also work for service/closed floors which are usually inaccessible to the public!
  • In lifts with manual doors, you can often get the lift to wait for you by pressing the emergency button just as you reach your floor. The doors should open and the lift cannot be called until you go back in and press a button inside. Useful for when you need to nip back to a floor for a moment!