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Day 8: A silver platter for Snowden investigators
Poor Julian Assange. Rumor has it that he helped Edward Snowden become the household name he has become over these last months. And while Snowden parties it up in Putin's Russia, Assange is still trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy somewhere in London.
And then there's poor, confused, guilty Bradley Manning, who is living out his days in the jail cell he created for himself when he, too, stole documents from the United States government.
Manning is in jail, and Assange pretty much is, in his own way. And yet Snowden has a new job, has probably had his fill of okroshka, coulibiac, caviar, and, of course, some blini. He may yearn for a good pizza, but even so, he's in a far better place than Assange or Manning.
But we don't get gifts for criminals. We get gifts for those who are hunting down the criminals. And to those investigators, diplomats, and, yes, spies, we offer a simple thing. Simply a platter. A nice, pretty, silver platter.
We can't offer you Snowden's or Assange's head on a platter, since there are a whole host of diplomatic and political issues. But when you overcome those issues, now you've got the platter.
DEF CON won
For years, the annual DEF CON shindig in Las Vegas hosted two very similar, yet very different types of people: spies and geeks. The idea of DEF CON is to show the latest hacks, cracks, and methods of overcoming and defeating security of all kinds, and then discuss how to better protect us all from those hacks.
And, for years, the suits from the various federal agencies concerned with information security partied quite well with the geeks from the various Internet companies, universities, and parents' basements all over America.
But not this year. This year, the geeks put their feet down and banned the feds. There were to be no spies, no suits, no shadowy government types at this years DEF CON. After all, with all the noise about the NSA spying, and all the one-upsmanship spying that goes on at DEF CON just for fun, the Snowden revelations clearly put the government spies on one side of the game and the geeks on the other.
They could not be seen together anymore.
While this was disappointing for the geeks who wanted government money or government jobs, it was devastating to the suits who looked forward to DEF CON for the opportunity to let down their hair, take off their ties, and hack like it's 1999.
As former and occasional suits ourselves, we feel bad for the ban. So, as our gift to you, we give you permission to listen in to the planning conferences for next year's DEF CON, and our recommendation that you swipe the plans for the identification cards that will let you into the event. After all, if you can hack the event, you deserve to get in, don't you think?
Day 10: A Fiverr for Department of State
Wow, this has just not been the best year for America's top diplomatic institution, the United States Department of State. First, there was the whole "blame-it-on-YouTube" incident in Benghazi a year or so ago. And then, apparently, there's just not enough love (or at least "Like") in the Department of State (which abbreviates, disturbingly, as DoS, which we all know as Denial of Service). Hmmm...
In any case, some very lonely officials at Foggy Bottom decided that they wanted to froth up their reputation, and decided to go about spending $630 thousand on acquiring Facebook "Likes". Yep, almost a million bucks to raise their likability on Facebook. Using our tax dollars.
After this, State's own inspector general put together a 57-page report on how much money was wasted on getting Facebook "Likes," because writing a 57-page report at government speed was an excellent way to throw good money after bad.
So, to both the State Department itself as well as State's Inspector General -- and, hey, let's be generous and include Hillary and John Kerry as well -- we gift a free registration to Fiverr.com. You can get almost anything from Fiverr for five bucks.
You want a pile of useless Facebook Likes? Rather than spending nearly a million bucks, pull out a Lincoln and you got it. Want a 57-page report on something? Another five bucks. We estimate that with this gift, we can save State millions of dollars.
Not spending our money? Hmmm... I wonder if people will "Like" that?