If you see any of these on your kid’s computer, give them a hug.

National Crime Agency posted scaring parents about tools that help understand how the internet works.
If you find these on your kid’s computer then be thankful they’re interested in how the internet works instead of being a mindless, constantly tracked consumer in training.

According to the internet today, the Walsall Council, tucked somewhere up in the midlands north of Birmingham and east of Wolverhampton, is warning parents to call the cops on their children if they have any hacking things.

If you find any of this software on kiddo’s machine, do not be alarmed, and do not alert the authorities. It is technology, not witch craft. Your child is not in a cult. She or he isn’t about to hack into GCHQ. They do have a keen interest in understanding how the internet works. Don’t put them on a watch list, give them a hug.

The Tor Browser is great for staying anonymous and private online and is helpful for understanding how your identity exists on internet networks. Great for researching assignments without being constantly tracked and monitored by companies who’s primary interest is praying on young people’s insecurities to sell more crap. Your kid has it? Fabulous.

Virtual machines are great for learning modern computing without having to, say, by a separate computer for each operating system you want to try out. If you’re going to learn about how systems work, virtual machines are a necessary tool to load them and explore them. It’s amazing that Virtual Machines would be seen as evil while it seems everyone loves a Raspberry Pi. Both are great for learning and hacking (which is learning). If your kid is spinning up VMs to learn how different kinds of Linux distros work, ask them if they need more monitors. They’ll say yes. Awesome.

Kali Linux is a penetration testing operating system that comes with a lot of different tools pre-installed. Having this doesn’t render one a hacker. You still need to learn how they all work (and often don’t work) and in what context they’re even useful. It’s great for learning about security. If your kid has this, there’s a good chance they saw Mr. Robot and wanted to see what that OS with the dragon logo was about, and then got bored when they found that in fact it’s not an incredibly user friendly thing. Still, it means they’re interested in how things work, and son’t work. It means they’re probably more cautious on how to use the internet than you are and you should ask them for advice on how not to not get attacked or have someone steal your online banking credentials. They are both the hero you want and the hero you need. Amazing.

If your kid has a Wifi Pineapple in there backpack then you should check out if your credit card has been used to buy anything else online, because you can’t just go to the local PC World and pick one up with the lunch money. These are for interrogating WiFi networks and the devices connected to them. Tell them to harden you’re home’s network and give their school’s probably crappy network an audit for extra credit. If your kid is this interested in security, buy them one of these for Christmas or their birthday or for Halloween. At the very least, it’ll make a nice conversation piece in the room.

Discord is an online chat platform with loads of channels, a lot of them about gaming or other useless nonsense. It’s fairly secure by design, open source and has great voice and video functionality, but there’s no reason you should view it any differently than you’d view your kid being on WhatsApp or Instagram or SnapChat ot TikTok or Reddit or whatever. Online communities all have their advantages and dangers. If your kid is online talking to strangers, understand the issues around that, work with them to stay safe while they investigate their interest in security and computers.

Metasploit can be useful for hacking, but like having Kali Linux, it doesn’t make hacking “simple.” Sort of like how owning a stove doesn’t make duck flambe simple. It scans computers and systems for potential vulnerabilities and gives the user reports on areas that may be worth checking out. If your kid has this installed, they are checking out how things work and learning the fundamentals on what is the difference between a secure configuration and the opposite, and all the ways things are broken. Encourage this kind of behavior. It will make them more cautious when they’re other networks or accessing things online because they’ll understand how weak it all is underneath.

The internet trains people to be consumers, and it starts on it when they’re young. To click, download, install and trust. Blindly, trust. To click past Terms of Use agreements, allow the cookies, accept the targeted advertising, and share, share, share. It penalizes those who use privacy settings with ostracism. It demands “real name policies” and encourages young people toward promoting narcissistic, false perceptions of themselves online. If you’re lucky enough to have a kid who’s interested in the underlying mechanisms of this ugliness, then you should give yourself a pat on the back. You raised a kid who might just be resilient enough to survive the shit storm their parent’s generation (your generation) networked together and dishes to them ever hour on different sized screens.

If you’re kid has hacking tools, don’t turn them over to the cops. Give them a hug. Find other hacking groups. Or help them start one. The only chance kids will have in fixing this mess if they understand how to see all the ways that it’s broken.

Blogging with bots

Check out the Brutalist aesthetic(!)

Just pushed online dystopia.report, which is aimed at achieving a couple of things: I wanted to mess about a little with the Hugo flat site builder and Github pages, and also create a sort of spoof sci-fi project which is actually neither very much sci or fi, but just some creative output on the the trash fire humanity is backing itself into. Lastly, I wanted to see how much I could lazy write posts with the help of different generators, bots, machine learning or AI things, which itself creates a kind of dark timeline effect.

As much as possible, I’ll commission the bots do the heavy lifting on it and describe the fermenting doom as they see it, and maybe just do a bit of prodding and editing around the edges, or add present day artefacts that should be stuffed into a time capsule for future civilisations to at least understand we were self aware of our looming decline.

A resolution for roaring ’20s

Earn the scorn your opponents already have for you.

Yours truly

The 2010s were a heck of a decade. In the last 10 years I watched my kid grow from 3 to 11, snagged a second passport, spent a lot of time talking to journalists and others about digital safety and information security in some of the toughest spots to think about such things, saw more countries than in all the previous decades of my life combined, Grew old(er) and actually felt it, got unhitched, watched both my countries take tragic moves toward the stupidly far right via Brexit and Trump while the left tore itself to shreds, moved house, dealt with mortgages, enjoyed a lot of coffee, some decent beer, etc. etc., etc.

My resolution is mostly unchanged from previous years: Have adventures.

Wiping it out.

Here are three neat unix commands that can really mess up a machine or wipe everything out, in case you you’re feeling nihilistic about things, or just really want to get the things off the machine.

<!-- Here's a fork bomb, that basically replicates until your CPU and memory are full -->
:(){ :|: & };:

<!-- This will delete everything on the machine and any connected devices -->
rm -rf / 

<!-- Send everything from a home directory into a void -->
mv ~ /dev/null

Remember that there may still be backups to be dealt with.

Hard reboot

I killed the old blog, which you may have been forwarded from. With regard to the name of the new one, both the first and second definitions apply. I do this every so often. The last site replace the one before that, and that one replaced an earlier one, still. It’s become sort of a nod to the idea that you can remake yourself online. Until other people start taking over that job for you, anyway.

Do you really want to know?