The New Guy has Arrived

Say hello to Harry Eugene Barnett, named after his paternal grandfather.


We welcomed him into the world at the end of August. He weighed in at 8.5 lbs and 21.25 inches.  Mother and son are both doing well.

The Big Update

So I’ve been meaning to actually drop this on the blog for a while but busy has barely begun to describe my life.

Why so busy?

Well we went into overdrive getting the house fully ready for sale. It’s on the market, we have an offer and we’re waiting for the other party to sell their current house. If I don’t look at a caulk gun for another 4 months it will still be too soon. Same thing with paint, dry wall, and mud.

We ended up in overdrive to sell the house because well…

Barnett 2.0 arriving August 2015.

Barnett 2.0 arriving August 2015.

That’s right, Barnett V2.0 is due August 24th. We needed to get as much done in advance because well this month is going to be spent finding more stuff we don’t want/need to clear out, moving stuff to storage, and rearranging the house.

Couple this with job related item and other things I just haven’t had much time for anything and well the outlook into the future doesn’t look good for my spare time either.

If you need a regular fix of my dry sense of humor, make sure to hit up the Gun Blog Variety Cast. It may only be once a week but it’s better than nothing. You can also go follow me on the Facebooks.

Ear Worm Wednesday – 7/8/2015

Now you may not speak German, so here’s the original which you will probably recognize.

Yes that is the singer from Rammstein. There is something about the tone in the Apocalyptica version that just seems better.

Apocalyptica – Helden / David Bowe – Heros

I’d say I told you so…

But what’s the point? The people who realize that using Javascript for everything is a bad idea don’t need me lecturing them. The people who want to use Javascript for everything couldn’t create a secure system, much less understand the realities of a hostile environment if their life depended on it. Their fandom precedes the ability for critical thinking.

This is why when I read this, this morning;

This impacts Node at the Buffer to UTF8 String conversion and can cause a process to crash. The security concern comes from the fact that a lot of data from outside of an application is delivered to Node via this mechanism which means that users can potentially deliver specially crafted input data that can cause an application to crash when it goes through this path.

I said, “And nothing will change.” At least, as a minor saving grace, HTTP(S) headers do not fall vulnerable to this particular bug, but that’s mainly the headers there is question to the remainder of the processing.

The fact is, nothing is perfect, nothing is fool-proof, and frankly my hate for Javascript is largely due to the people I find who fall over themselves defending it. Does it serve a purpose? Yup, you bet. Is is a hammer that should be used while seeing every problem as a nail? Absolutely NOT.


I always thought this was a bad idea…

So I had previously seen a lot of different coverage in different places about the “festival of colors“. For a quick background see this.

I always thought it intriguing yet weird because well my fascination with fire and explosives has taught me the dangers of such things as dust, especially in large quantities. Well my apprehension was evidently well founded.

An article on the incident had this to say,

Explosions and blasts continued to take or put human lives in danger across the globe over the past week as fun and frolic turned into tragedy in the space of minutes. In the Formosa Water Park in the Bali district in Taiwan, over 200 people suffered severe burns after a dust explosion engulfed an area where people were merrily dancing.

I learned about the wonders of dust explosions back in scouts and the ripe age of 13. Non-dairy creamer, flour, really anything in a powdered form that is combustable will produce fantastic results. The MSDS for white chalk further provides data that while it may be chalk, danger is a serious concern for fire and explosion.

So remember, trust your gut and just because a bunch of people are doing it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe.

Today We Celebrate Our Independence

Today without question is a day to celebrate, but don’t lose sight of what it is your celebrating. Don’t lose sight of exactly what transpired in history that made this day worth celebrating.

I would recommend watching this.

And as usual, here’s a music video that nails it.

Screw The Facebooks…

So if you’re friends/follow me on Facebook you will have probably noticed that I, who am normally active and full of commentary have been dead silent. Not only that if you try to hit up my Facebook page it is gone. Every comment I ever wrote, everything. Facebook has scrubbed me entirely from its system.

What was my transgression I hear you ask. You would think I was excessively nasty or offensive or did something that pissed someone off and the answer to that is a simple no. That isn’t to say I don’t say things that are offensive to some or that I don’t poke the bear, it’s just that I don’t do it in a manner that I walk into someone else’s house to do it.

No the burr up Facebook’s ass is they seem to think my name is not my real name. Let me repeat that, they thinks my name isn’t a real name. Evidently the idea that someone is named Barron with two r’s is just too damn hard to fathom. Now it should be noted I only used my last initial because well they wouldn’t let me suppress the damn thing otherwise. Frankly I’m not a fan of stalkers, supporting stalkers, or making it easier for stalkers, yet here Facebook is doing exactly that. Sure you could do some digging and find my Facebook page, not the one tied to the blog, but the fact of the matter is I’d rather keep the people who are missing the order of fries and the drink in their happy meal away from my personal page. I use the FB mainly to keep in touch with friends and family, if I feel like a debate it’s here or twitter. News flash Facebook, you claim this is to make sure people can find me. Everyone who knows me can find me, quite easily I might add. So please STFU.

So now that my account is disabled though, with no real note of when they will re-enable it if at all, I am wondering. Why do we need Facebook? Why do we need a centralized cloud which can censor everything? I’ve chatted with friends about a possible alternative method to remove the central gate-keeper. The main reason we haven’t is because well who cares? Facebook works right? Why is it worth my time? Well all the sudden you’ve taken the guy with the idea and the means and given him a motive.

So in the mean-time, maybe I should just blog more. Because eventually, we’re not going to need you Mark Zuckerberg and when that day comes you’ll merely be like Tom from MySpace.

Something is Afoot…

OG-AA794_GRIDAT_NS_20140204171308Back in April of 2013 there was an attack on a power station in Southern California. The attack was calculated, detailed, planned, and execute well. There were many details that perked my interest including the oil tanks being targeted instead of the windings themselves. This would limit catastrophic damage to the transformer. Additionally numerous fiber-optic lines in the area were cut, including those run by Level 3 Communications.

I have read a few writeup discussing the attack and I did come across one theory that was interesting.

Gabriel: Have you ever heard of Harry Houdini? Well he wasn’t like today’s magicians who are only interested in television ratings. He was an artist. He could make an elephant disappear in the middle of a theater filled with people, and do you know how he did that? Misdirection.
Stanley: What the f*** are you talking about?
Gabriel: Misdirection. What the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes.
Swordfish movie (2001)

[See the PowerPoint here]

On the morning of the 16th of April 2013 the following events unfolded at, and around, the PG&E Metcalf Transmission Substation in San Jose, Calif.:

  • 12:58 a.m. AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were cut not far from U.S. Highway 101 just outside south San Jose.
  • 1:07 a.m. Some customers of Level 3 Communications, an Internet service provider, lost service. Cables in its vault near the Metcalf substation were also cut.
  • 1:31 a.m. A surveillance camera pointed along a chain-link fence around the substation recorded a streak of light that investigators from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office think was a signal from a waved flashlight. It was followed by the muzzle flash of rifles and sparks from bullets hitting the fence.
  • 1:37 a.m. PG&E confirms received an alarm from motion sensors at the substation, possibly from bullets grazing the fence.
  • 1:41 a.m. San Jose Sheriff’s department received a 911 call about gunfire, sent by an engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service.
  • 1:45 a.m. The first bank of transformers, riddled with bullet holes and having leaked 52,000 gallons of oil, overheated – at which time PG&E’s control center about 90 miles north received an equipment-failure alarm.
  • 1:50 a.m. Another apparent flashlight signal, caught on film, marked the end of the attack. More than 100 shell casings of the sort ejected by AK-47s were later found at the site.
  • 1:51 a.m. Law-enforcement officers arrived, but found everything quiet. Unable to get past the locked fence and seeing nothing suspicious, they left.
  • 3:15 a.m. A PG&E worker arrives to survey the damage.

The damage to the substation took 27 days to repair and cost $15.4 Million. In the substation’s 500kV yard, ten transformers were damaged; In the 230kV yard, seven transformers were damaged; In the 115kV yard, 6 circuit breakers were damaged. It was also claimed that a total of 52,000 gallons of mineral oil (used for cooling) leaked as a result of the bullet strikes.

The damage to the fiber-optic telecommunications infrastructure was repaired within 24 hours. AT&T had six cables cut and needed to install new cables to work around the affected area. LEVEL 3 Communications had one cable cut, which was repaired within 10 hours.

The attack on the substation was so over-the-top, especially given that no long-term damage was inflicted, that it more appropriately should have been an entry in Bruce Schneier’s Movie Plot Threat Contest. The trope “orgy of evidence” comes to mind because the attack was so inconsequential for the level of effort expended. Sure it lightened PG&E’s wallet and provided an opportunity for endless sound bites by consultants and lobbyists touting their employers agendas, but nobody’s lights went out as a result of this attack.

So this brings us back to Houdini’s misdirection. Two events occur, one is over-the-top and will obviously lead in the morning media, the other deals with some cut cables in holes next to railroad tracks – decidedly non-spectacular and non-photogenic.

The thing is is that the Metcalf Transmission Substation is next to railroad tracks. And it happens that the railroads’ right of way is used to run fiber-optic cables. I’m sure you’ve heard of SPRINT, which use to be SP Communications, which was founded by Southern Pacific Railroad way back when. Fiber is why all the big name companies in Silicon Valley want to be as close to the railroad tracks as possible!

If we assume that the real target was the telecommunications infrastructure, how would someone tap some of the most monitored lines in the world?

By causing the fiber cables to be so extensively damaged that new sections have to be pulled to work around the damage. This level of disruption would require that any quality/security scans performed – using optical time domain reflectometers (OTDRs) – be re-calibrated after the repairs. The new cable sections could have been pre-engineered to have clip-on couplers (passive taps) built in that exert “micro bending” (i.e., spatial wavelength displacement). If they are detectable by the OTDR they would probably show up as noise near the repaired areas and be ignored. And the voila! Job done.

The next challenge for the strike team would be getting the output from the couplers to somewhere it could be analyzed. Once it was confirmed that the couplers had not been detected, then another team could move in and install appropriate transmitters or couple them into dark fiber for back-haul to data extraction.

We may never know the who/why of this attack. The over-the-top nature of it suggests that it was corporate sponsored as opposed to sovereign. The Metcalf Substation does have some interesting corporate neighbors, but given the nature of the communications traffic flowing in that right of way just about anyone using or traversing that corridor could have been the target.

TL;DR: The substation was actually a diversion.

But there wasn’t much to give credence to the situation until I saw my inbox this morning. Let me repeat something before we start with the new data:

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three or more times is enemy action. And I don’t believe in coincidence.

Lets start with the first article that hit my inbox, USA today.

The FBI is investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California’s San Francisco Bay Area dating back a year, including one early Tuesday morning.

Agents confirm the latest attack disrupted Internet service for businesses and residential customers in and around Sacramento, the state’s capital.

FBI agents declined to specify how significantly the attack affected customers, citing the ongoing investigation. In Tuesday’s attack, someone broke into an underground vault and cut three fiber-optic cables belonging to Colorado-based service providers Level 3 and Zayo.

The attacks date back to at least July 6, 2014, said FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich.

(Emphasis mine.) Well that’s interesting, but it doesn’t sound all that interesting. The article does note that the incidents have occurred in remote areas but attempts to play it as merely petty vandalism to delay people from getting their cat videos. (No I’m not making it up, see this line…)

Backup systems help cushion consumers from the worst of the attacks, meaning people may notice slower email or videos not playing, but may not have service completely disrupted, he said.

But repairs are costly and penalties are not stiff enough to deter would-be vandals, Doherty said.

“It’s a terrible social crime that affects thousands and millions of people,” he said.

First you have to catch the vandals to fine them, and if this has nothing to do with vandalizing infrastructure but instead tapping it this is a very serious thing. But certainly those lines will help calm those who don’t know details, have the attention span of a squirrel, and don’t have the memory to correlate other external events that are most likely related.

Now lets flip over to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest attack hit several cables in Livermore, Calif., shortly before 4:30 a.m. Pacific time and hadn’t been repaired as of early Tuesday evening, according to several Internet service providers affected by the outage. Some operators complained that law enforcement activity made it harder for crews to fix the problem.

“It’s very inconvenient in terms of getting up at 4 in the morning,” said Peter Kranz, chief executive of local Internet provider Unwired Ltd.

FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich said the agency understood operators’ frustration but needed its investigators to look for evidence before anyone patches up the cuts.

“When some of the first cuts were taking place, the cuts and cables were fixed, and there was no evidence, no anything to look at,” he said. “We just need to have a little bit more time to have our people go in.”

I love the complaints about law enforcement making it difficult to repair the communication lines because they want to inspect and collect evidence. This is a classic case of “repair the problem, investigate no further on root cause.” Please stop digging you could induce panic.

Again the paper plays this off not nearly as serious almost as if it’s just some kids out pranking the world. Then we get to the local paper…

The severed fiber optic cables that disrupted Sacramento-area communications is just one in a series of 11 Bay Area incidents in the past year being investigated by the FBI.

Phone, television and Internet services were disrupted in Auburn and the surrounding areas following three severed cables in Alameda County Tuesday morning, according to the federal agency.

Since July 6, 2014, there have been 11 incidents of vandalism to fiber optic cable networks in the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

FBI Special Agent Greg Wuthrich said at this point it is unclear why the cables are being damaged, but said state and federal law enforcement are coordinating on the investigation.

According to communications provider Wave Broadband, three major fiber optic cables were severed at around 4:20 a.m., causing service outages in Sacramento, Rocklin and Auburn areas.

Wait, it wasn’t just one cable shared by multiple service providers, but three different cables? Additionally as these were related to the backbone and given one of the providers involved you just tapped a decent chunk of the internet. Just what the hell is going on down there. I start searching for more information, including something on the Metcalf substation incident to try to cross reference and discover this:

The Silicon Valley power substation that was attacked by a sniper in April 2013 was hit by thieves early Wednesday morning, according to the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, despite increased security.

The substation, near San Jose, Calif., is the source of energy for thousands of customers, and the idea that it was the target of a well-organized attack, and that it might have been disabled for an extended period, raised anxieties about the possible broader vulnerability of the grid. The attack this week did not involve gunfire, and it did not seem intended to disable the facility.

The date on that “theft” is August 27, 2014. The recent string of attacks on the fibre lines started July 2014. Tell me, if you wanted to inspect the response and repair actions of an attack couldn’t you just easily disguise it as a simple theft? You could get up close and personal and inspect exactly how the substation was repaired and what additional actions were taken to harden the substation.

Look, I’m a big fan of Halon’s razor and I hate conspiracy theories because honestly 99% of them are bullshit. But we have multiple, repeat incidents. There were clues and suspicion of possible nation-state involvement which were dismissed. We have an administration who actively works to diminish the significance of attacks and events that surround us and affect us in deep and profound ways. Additionally we see that there are outside nation states who have taken a keen interest in the United States. Just look at the Office of Personnel Management hack, seriously that is a threat beyond what most realize. Then while all this is going on we have people calling to critically weaken our cyber security infrastructure, in the name of stopping terrorism.

There is someone gathering intelligence, placing equipment in the correct locations, and improving their leverage against us. We’re in a technological cold war and we’re seeing the spill over from the physical side of things. Things are not looking good, safe, or secure, especially with over 18 trillion in national debt. Stay safe and keep your powder dry.