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Weird and wacky security stories from 2017 – each in a single tweet!

We had fun squashing our favourite 2017 stories into tweet-sized versions. We'd love you to join in - try your hand at lossy compression!

For a bit of fun at the back end of 2017, we thought we’d revisit some of the weirder and wackier issues we’ve written about in the past year.

Of course, we’re well aware that “stories about stories” are a bit of a copout, and although most readers don’t mind – it is the season of goodwill, after all – we figured we’d try to make ours “stories about stories with a difference”.

Actually, like arithmetical expressions written in C, that last phrase could do with some brackets to make the precedence clear: we mean (stories about stories) with a difference, not stories about (stories with a difference)“.

And the difference in this case is that we asked our writers to cover a range of issues that had piqued our collective interest earlier in the year, but written to fit into a single tweet.

Ironically, tweets themselves underwent a major revolution this year, abruptly doubling in maximum length from 140 characters to 280 characters.

As a Naked Security writer who wants to remain anonymous put it:

Tweets got longer. Still pretty short, though.

In case you’re wondering, 140 bytes is the maximum length for a single message using the mobile phone Short Messaging Peer to Peer protocol, and thus choosing 140 characters as the original tweet limit allowed early twitterers to use old-school text messages to join the new-fangled microblogging scene. But who sends tweets via SMS any more? And when extending the size of objects in the IT world, what better way than outright doubling? For example, when you replace your 16GB USB sticks, you can move up to 32GB or 64GB, but when did you hear of an in-between capacity such as 22GB or 48GB?

First up is Maria Varmazis, who was profoundly grateful for the fact that tweets ended the year twice as long as they were at the start.

That’s because we set Maria the tricky task of summarising the Mr Robot TV series – and not just this year’s season but the entire box set of three series, right back to the pilot from June 2015

As a Mr Robot viewer who watched the pilot episode but missed out on the rest, I found this an enormously helpful way to catch up quickly!

MR ROBOT (short version)

Unreliable narrator in haxx0r hoodie uses his powers for good, not Evilcorp. 
Innocents die, cryptocoin happens, society's effed, also late-stage capitalism. 
Dad issues & time travel? Ends up being the smartest guy in the room gets 
old fast, yet 3 seasons (and counting) of this.

Next at bat is Taylor Armerding, whom we asked to to encapsulate the US debate on net neutrality, the principle by which service providers are supposed to carry each others’ traffic without fear or favour.

The bottom line is that after back-and-forth arguments either way, a decision was finally made to allow ISPs to favour their own traffic…

…except that it turns out not to be the end, or even the beginning of the end, and perhaps not even the end of the beginning.

Taylor took the bold approach of telling this ongoing saga not only squashed into in a Twitter-length of text, but also encoded as a limerick, like this:


Six months of debate on repeal
On what was a certain done deal
  When it came to a vote
  Only one side could gloat
But the other has vowed to appeal

Mark Stockley took on the epic Equifax breach, which you’d think would need every one of those 280 characters.

However, by focusing on the breach itself rather than the apparently never-ending fallout from, Mark was able to fit the entire story into a haiku:

EQUIFAX (interpreted through haiku)

Crack appears in Struts
140 million SSNs fall
Land in a Dark Web

And last into bat is Lisa Vaas, who took on the troublesome issues of surveillance – not by the government, but the sort of surveillance by people we’re doing business with, yet who have little or no excuse better that pervy creepiness for keeping their digital eyes on us, even in the shower.

Remember that story about an AirBnB operator who had booby-trapped his guests’ bedroom with a camera disguised as a motion detector?

SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY (things to look out for)

I am there, I am there, like a webcam in a bear, perched upon a shelf like a naughty hotel elf.

What next?

Do you fancy seeing your favourite 2017 security stories encapsulated in a tweet?

Why not have a try yourself, in the comments?

You have 280 characters, including spaces. (Please note: we can’t promise to publish every submission.)


For example, when you replace your 16GB USB sticks, you can move up to 32GB or 64GB, but when did you hear of an in-between capacity such as 22GB or 48GB?

I know you don’t like URLs in replies but:
[link to a thing called]/Panasonic-48GB-Class-Memory-RP-SDW48GJ1K/dp/B00359FXKA


Y’know, I originally wrote 47GB but figured I didn’t need to be so careful not to get caught out :-)

Having said that, the product you mention, on the website I won’t mention, is [a] an SD card and [b] listed as: “Currently unavailable. We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”

On that basis I am not going to capitulate just yet.


Given how clearly I recognize that URL… I’ll see there any way of getting that back into stock. :) might just have to send you one for belated Christmas if I can pull it off…
(don’t hold your breath, it was probably a set of 32+16 removed for a misleading title anyway)

Then again,

[url redacted]/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820161325

almost counts and is in stock :D


For other readers, that one was a 48GB SSD but when I visited it was listed OUT OF STOCK. That could be down to geolocation but I’m not going to weaken my position by mentioning that :-)


[url redacted]/groupon/click_co_48.jpg

Never underestimate the defenders of the 48(%)!


I shouldn’t do this because I am helping your argument but…

…the site you sent in also has a 12GB USB stick as well. (The rest of their products are more conventional capacities.)


> For example, when you replace your 16GB USB sticks, you can move up to 32GB or 64GB, but when did you hear of an in-between capacity such as 22GB or 48GB?

The digital camera I bought in 2000 came with an 8MB CF card. I soon bought a state-of-the-art 96MB card. I expect it really had three 32MB chips inside but never X-rayed it to see.

(Later I bought a 1 GB card for it. That’s when I discovered that the camera firmware didn’t support over 512 MB. As soon as I took that next picture, the camera hung without recording the photo. Right after that I bought a new camera.)


Hah. I got a camera in early 2002, and the (128MB) sticks were $99 each. Few things trigger buyer’s remorse like, “my thousand dollar gadget from yesteryear now comes free with purchase of a 7-11 hot dog.”
Hope you at least got to use that 1G card elsewhere. :-)


Depending on camera firmware, it might have been possible to create a single 500MB partition on it, format it as a FAT volume, and use it as if it were half its real size.


The above conversation had me chuckling the whole way–thanks guys!

In the spirit of the tweeted news, I’ve selected the security company employee who launched a competing business, only to be found guilty of stealing his former employer’s software, merely restyling as he reused it. Not as monumental as Net Neutrality or Equifax, but nonetheless reported here at NS!

I quickly gave up on finding the article, but regular readers will recall it (I just hope it actually happened in 2017). I followed Taylor’s reporting style:

An agent whose name I forgot
Was dismissed, and so he did plot
To re-skin the code
For sale as his own
But jail time was all that he got


I faintly remember someone (Mahnn?) turning every article into a rhyme a while back. Might have been over on Krebs’ blog rather than here, though… I feel like we need to make that a thing again, but I can’t rhyme to save my life. :/


Mahhn started the Naked Security alternate headlines, yes. I took a couple stabs–once after noticing he hadn’t yet pounced–but Mahhn indisputably earned the “innovator” badge.

I agree it should occur more often–it’s one reason I enjoyed this article and hope to return in a few days.


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