Tuesday News: Amazon, the OED, Apple, and Letters Bookshop
Amazon’s customer service backdoor – A very frightening account of how customer service can give someone trying to get your personal information, including a credit card number, a “backdoor,” as long as they have enough details (name, email address) to provide to the customer service agent. One commenter notes that he had the same issue three years ago, and Amazon has apparently done nothing to fix it.
After being the victim of these attacks for months, I’d like to make some recommendations for services:
- NEVER DO CUSTOMER SUPPORT UNLESS THE USER CAN LOG IN TO THEIR ACCOUNT. The only exception to this, would be if the user forgot the password, and there should be a very strict policy. The problem is, 9999 times out of 10000 support requests are legitimate, agents get trained to assume they’re legitimate. But in the 1 case they’re not, you can completely fuck someone over.
- Show support agents the ip address of the person connecting. Is it a usual one? Is it a VPN/tor one? etc. Give them a warning to be suspicious.
- Email services should allow me to easily create lots of aliases. Right now the best defense against social engineering seems to be my fastmail account which allows me to create 1 email address alias per service. This makes it incredibly difficult for an attacker when they can’t even figure out your email. – Eric/Medium
Feminists attack Oxford Dictionary of English for ‘reinforcing sexist stereotypes’ – I know this is the most horrible title ever, but I refuse to link to The Guardian, and this article has a great summary of Michael Oman-Reagan’s tweets providing examples of what appear to be a pretty consistent gender bias in the OED. You can read Oman-Reagan’s full account here, (he’s an anthropologist of space, science, and social movements at Memorial University in Newfoundland), where he provides examples like “shrill,” “promiscuous,” and “grating,” which includes sentences featuring the pronoun “she,” and words like “research” and “doctor,” featuring sentences with the pronoun “he.” The OED’s basic defense seems to be that the sentences come from real media sources, ignoring the fact that they’ve actually selected those sentences rather than others.
According to the Oxford Dictionaries website, its example sentences are “extracted from the world’s newspapers and magazines, academic journals, fiction, and blogs.”
In what could be read as a premptive caveat to such criticisms, Oxford Dictionaries says: “There are hundreds of thousands of English headwords and senses in Oxford Dictionaries, and almost every one of these words, senses, and phrases has been linked to a selection of up to 20 extra examples from the databank. If a word or phrase has more than one meaning, each individual sense is linked to its own set of example sentences.
“Please note: All the examples sentences throughout the site are real examples of usage. They are taken from a huge variety of different sources, from all parts of the world where English is used, and they reflect a wide spectrum of views and levels of language. Opinions and views expressed in the usage examples are the views of the individuals concerned and are not endorsed by Oxford University Press.” – The Telegraph and Michael Oman-Reagan
Apple’s “Night Shift” Mode: How Smartphones Disrupt Sleep – As I sit in bed and type this, I know that I should not be sleeping anywhere near my smartphone and/or laptop. Because the light from these devices can apparently disrupt the circadian rhythms, which in turn can lead to chronic health problems. Apple will apparently be coming out with a feature called “Night Shift,” to mitigate this risk. As Penn State neuroscientist Ann-Marie Chang explains,
But exposure to artificial light at unusual times can cause similar shifts that disturb natural circadian rhythms. And Chang said human retinal ganglion cells are particularly sensitive to light with shorter wavelengths at the blue end of the spectrum, such as the light produced by smartphone, computer and TV displays.
While modern LED domestic lighting is often blue-light-enriched as well, the displays on many popular gadgets are more likely to have a negative effect, Chang said. “The reason for the focus on phones, laptops, tablets and other portable light-emitting devices as causing issues with circadian rhythms is that they are light sources that the user looks directly into, as opposed to an ambient light source,” she said. – Scientific American
Wonder of Thunder Bay: Look inside a gallery of overlooked books – This is just a lovely, and bittersweet, portrait of Canadian bookseller Nicky Drumbolis. Actually, “bookseller” isn’t an encompassing enough word for all that Drumbolis and his store represent. He is also a writer, a publisher, a writer’s advocate, and more. And his store, Letters Bookshop, represents 50 years of working, collecting, and caring for one-of-a-kind literary objects.
What’s most fascinating about Nicky Drumbolis and his one-of-a-kind collection isn’t its value, which he estimates is in the millions, or its size – although it includes roughly 50,000 titles, and fills the building, floor to ceiling – but the focus. He has devoted a great portion of his life and livelihood to work that, as he describes it, “slips through the cracks.” Pamphlets and hand-sewn chapbooks that were produced in minuscule print runs; novels and poetry collections published by the most obscure of presses; the work of authors whose names the world has forgotten, if it ever knew them.
Mr. Drumbolis describes himself, as do many others, as an outsider, and he has devoted himself to the literary equivalents. Walking into his bookstore is to be exposed to an alternate history of publishing, one in which the likes of Blew Ointment Press and Ganglia and grOnk are just as celebrated as McClelland & Stewart or Farrar, Straus and Giroux. . . .
“All of this is my memory,” Mr. Drombolis says. “Every single thing in here has some memorable factor about it, and every piece in here was scavenged from some experience. And that experience is still pregnant in these things. This is all the inside of my head, in a way.” – The Globe and Mail