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DataDownload: Remembering Dan Kaminsky, the digital Paul Revere | by NYC Media Lab | May, 2021

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DataDownload: Remembering Dan Kaminsky, the digital Paul Revere A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

Daniel Kaminsky died this week. He was an internet innovator, and he was 42. What isn’t as widely known is that he died from diabetes. It was, as we now so often hear, a ‘preexisting condition.’ That phrase was used to explain early deaths from COVID-19, and to battle get American’s decent health care coverage. But the simple fact is, most everyone you know has something. It’s time to acknowledge that improving heath care is a national priority for everyone.

Then we have good news — lots of it in fact. A great piece on the innovations at Spotify. The growth of Crypto among migrant workers. Congress getting schooled on algorithmic misinformation. And some surprising data in who’s reading news platforms (hint, Google isn’t at the top of the list).

This week, don’t miss our Podcast recommendation — This American Life’s episode called: The Herd. It’s a brilliant, chilling look at vaccine hesitancy — and how hard it is to combat it.

And, the big news is our amazing panel on NFTs and the future of Art and Artists. It’s a can’t miss event. And we’re co-sponsoring the WSJ Future of Everything Festival. We have tix, so grab ’em fast.

That’s this week. It’s May — already. So buckle up for a busy spring and summer.

Steve

Steven Rosenbaum
[email protected]
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read Daniel Kaminsky, Internet Security Savior, Dies at 42

It’s sad that the unsung heroes of the internet are really only sung about when they’ve passed on. Daniel Kaminsky, who had taught himself how to code by the age of 5 and got through the Pentagon’s defenses by 11, recently died at the age of 42. In 2008, Kaminsky alerted the Department of Homeland Security, executives at Microsoft and Cisco, and other internet security experts about a fundamental flaw of the internet. He discovered that the Domain Name System, or DNS, protocol had a flaw that would allow hackers to manipulate traffic so that “a person typing the website for a bank would instead be redirected to an impostor site that could steal…

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Dan Kaminsky, S.F. native and pioneer of internet security, dies at 42

Protect yourself from online attacks that threaten your identity, your files, your system, and your financial well-being.


Dan Kaminsky was an 11-year-old computer whiz working all night behind his bedroom door in St. Francis Wood when his mother, Trudy Maurer, got a phone call alerting her to what her son was up to.



Dan Kaminsky wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building: Daniel Kaminsky at a computer convention in 2000.


© Angie Roberts

Daniel Kaminsky at a computer convention in 2000.


The call came from the internet administrator of the Western U.S., warning her that someone in the house was “looking around in places where he should not be looking,” specifically military sites, and that he should stop under threat of seeing the family connection shut down.

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Maurer responded with a threat of her own. She took out an ad in The Chronicle saying that “government security is so crappy, even an 11-year-old can break it.” They negotiated a three-day suspension of service, which drove Dan nuts. “He was infuriated that his rights were abrogated,” she said. “At 11 he knew the word abrogated.”

He also knew the word “cybersecurity,” and after that three-day suspension lifted, young Dan went on to prove that he could hack into any system, anywhere. He put that expertise to good use by becoming a preeminent expert in internet security. Kaminsky worked on contract for Microsoft, Google, Cisco and other big technology firms.

Kaminsky died April 23 at his home in San Francisco. The cause of death was diabetic ketoacidosis, said his aunt, Dr. Toby Maurer. He was 42.

“Most people in his profession are nerds,” his mother said, “but Dan was captain of his high school debate team and he could speak to people who knew nothing about cybersecurity in layman terms that they could understand.”

In a 2016 video on hacker history, Kaminsky said: “We made the internet less flammable. … The internet was never designed to be secure. The internet was designed to move pictures of cats. … We didn’t think you’d be moving trillions of dollars on this. What are we going to do? And here’s the answer: Some of us gotta go out and fix it.”

To do so, Kaminsky was perpetually on the road troubleshooting problems on computer networks all over the world. He’d return for a day or two and stay with his mother, then be gone again, sometimes with less than 24 hours’ notice….

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Daniel Kaminsky, Internet Security Savior, Dies at 42

Protect yourself from online attacks that threaten your identity, your files, your system, and your financial well-being.


In a community known for its biting, sometimes misogynistic discourse on Twitter, Mr. Kaminsky stood out for his empathy. He disdained Twitter pile-ons and served as a mentor to journalists and aspiring hackers. He would often foot a hotel or travel bill to Black Hat for those who could not afford it. When one protégé broke up with her boyfriend, Mr. Kaminsky bought her a plane ticket to go see the young man, believing they were meant to be. (They married.)

He was outspoken when privacy and security were on the line. After the F.B.I. tried to force Apple, in federal court, to weaken the encryption of its iPhones in 2015, James B. Comey, who was then the F.B.I. director, testified to Congress in 2016 that he was not asking for a backdoor, but for Apple to “take the vicious guard dog away and let us pick the lock.”

“I am that vicious guard dog, and that used to be a compliment,” Mr. Kaminsky told this reporter at the time. “The question for Mr. Comey is: What is the policy of the United States right now? Is it to make things more secure or to make them less secure?”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that promotes civil liberties, said in a tweet on Saturday that Mr. Kaminsky had been a “friend of freedom and embodiment of the true hacker spirit.” Jeff Moss, the founder of the DefCon and Black Hat hacking conferences, suggested that Mr. Kaminsky be inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.

Mr. Kaminsky’s generosity extended to his many side projects. When a friend struggled with color blindness, he developed the DanKam, a mobile app that uses a phone’s camera to decipher colors otherwise indecipherable to the colorblind. When his grandmother Raia Maurer, now 97, experienced hearing loss, he refocused his efforts on hearing-aid technology.

And when his aunt, a dermatologist, told him that she could no longer treat under-resourced patients for AIDS-related skin diseases, some potentially fatal, in sub-Saharan Africa and Rohingya refugee camps, Mr. Kaminsky helped develop telemedicine tools for the National Institutes of Health and AMPATH, a health project led by Indiana University that he sought to bring to San Francisco during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Black Hat: Kaminsky says Trump is a troll.

Donald Trump is a troll looking to say whatever will stir up the most people, according to security expert Dan Kaminsky who delivered the keynote at Black Hat today.

“Don figures out what people don’t want to hear,” and then he says it, Kaminsky said in an interview after his speech.

+More on Network World: Black Hat: Be wary of HTTP/2 on Web servers |

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“It’s not that Donald Trump is the worst troll ever, it’s just that the American public has never been trolled so effectively. The reaction is the point.”

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