Sunday, 24 June 2012

How Smart - Algorithms, Passwords & CAPTCHAs

Thought that might catch your eye.
But it's true. Seems I have had downloaded onto my Kindle for a number of weeks now "Mummy Porn"  and it has shocked me, for a few minute anyway. After all I am not only a mummy but a Grand mummy too.  I'd never heard of this genre of fiction until reading a BBC online article by Will Gompertz  Have to say I 'd never heard of him either until yesterday.
So, what is this pornographic material that I have not only downloaded but paid for as well ?
It's Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. 

Apparently, Fifty Shades of Grey sold 205, 130 paperback copies in the past week
The sequels, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed sold 132, 174 and 115,086 copies. 
That's more than on next 50 bestselling paperback novels.

Now I do appreciate that by writing about this 'phenomenon' (as I have now heard it called)  that I am giving free promotion to the author and as this blog is read by millions I am sure sales will increase dramatically (!) too. Well good luck to EL James. Maybe one day she will blog about something that I have written, even if it's only on what I have written about her books.

For my bedtime reading last night I put Stuart Ayris and Vivien Hampshire to one side and began to read Fifty Shades of Grey, which I honestly knew nothing about. I'm not sure who recommended it or why I downloaded
                            "Hackers use dictionaries to guess your passwords ! "


When I read this headline on a dictionary website, I first thought - they'll not find mine as I forget them on a regular basis and spend a lot of time creating new ones before I can get to do what I intended on the internet. It's quite rare for me to be using the same password for any length of time on one site, but of course I do shuffle them around. Sometimes my limited mental capacity is not enough to produce a unique word or set of letters and numbers that can be re used.

Last week I read that LinkedIn which has 161 million members, had their passwords hacked and published online. This news didn't bother me particularly as of course I have no idea what my LinkedIn password is and don't really use the site since I set it up about 8 years ago. I used to get emails messages that some one somewhere had joined or had linked to someone who had linked to someone else etc. But I managed to work out how to stop those 'alerts'.
Passwords are hacked into by a 'dictionary attack'. Apparently with a smart algorithm and a dictionary (I know what smart means as many things today are 'smart' - from my phone to a TV to a car, but I did have to check a dictionary for algorithm, which I seem to remember is something to do with maths) So, an algorithm is a procedure for calculations and a smart algorithm is one that works with computer data. 
For those who are inclined to know more on the scientific aspects of smart algorithms click here and for information on the very clever man who knows all about this, Joseph Bonneau, click here

By using the 1,000 most common words in the dictionary and separating passwords from user names an algorithm can correctly guess up to 10% of a passwords users.

If these algorithms are so smart, how can we prove we are who we say we are when we sign into our emails, bank accounts or make a comment on a blog or Facebook ? We have to encounter a  CAPTCHA   which tests if you are a human or a machine. 
From my experience of CAPTCHAs, they also test your eyesight, your ability to recognise a capital letter and, if you resort to the audio version, your hearing.

This is all very "smart", clever and ingenius. But it doesn't help me when I have trawled through notebooks, diaries and scraps of paper from the year dot and then still resorted to making a new password - which involves a CAPTCHA - just because I fancied doing an online shop from Tesco.

Still, keeps my brain semi alert I suppose and I am actually working on a piece of writing (not sure if it's a poem or not yet - might even be a new language) using numerous CAPTCHAs that I now make a note of, in case I need them in the future. 

Who says paper and pencil is dead ? 

it and don't know what I was expecting porn-wise. But after the first 3 chapters I was bored with the repeatative descriptions of  "cold white sandstone and glass"  and "cold steel and marble" which seemed to be applied to every thing from the entrance lobbies of  hotels and offices, to the body language of  the main character and his many receptionists. The asides of the character of the story to herself , in italics, also got rather annoying - "Damn that woman" "Damn that man"  "Damn that elevator"  "Damn this feeling" ...  

It's probably a sign that I am well passed the middle aged woman who is titillated by "racy writing" stage. Or maybe it's just not my style of reading.

Either way, the FSG trilogy is going into my Kindle archives, unfinished.

Don't suppose it will affect my reading habits in any way except for being more careful what I download as so called 'recommendations'. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sympathise, Lexia. I have the same problem - and I hate CAPTCHAs. It often takes me several tries to get them right by which time I've usually lost interest and given up!