David Westerfield

Gospel. Culture. Technology.

Category: Technology Page 1 of 16

ERLC Releases Statement on Artificial Intelligence

https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/why-we-need-a-statement-of-principles-for-artificial-intelligence

“For the first time in a long time, I believe that we can speak the words of truth into an issue that can have true and lasting effects on how tools like AI are developed and used in our world. The benefits of this technology are great, but the dangers are real. Just as electricity changed everything about our society, AI is due to change even more in a shorter period of time. We are entering a new age of AI where everything about your life and our communities will be different. The church has the unique opportunity and obligation to speak boldly to a watching word with a word of hope and peace that who you are is not tied to what you do, rather your dignity is tied to the One that created the entire world. No matter how advanced AI might become in the future or how dependent our society already is on the technology, nothing can change who you are as an image bearer of God. This guiding ethic drives everything we do as Christians and has life-altering applications to the issues that AI is presenting to our homes, communities, and world.”

Security Mashup: Four Steps to Secure WordPress

After working through a number of WordPress sites over the years and either preventing hack attempts or intervening in cleaning up hacked sites, I’ve “engineered” a free way to keep your site secure with the use of these plugins in conjunction:

  1. iQ Block Country: This plugin will prevent certain countries that you set from accessing either the front-end of your site, or (in the cases I use it for almost exclusively) the back-end. For the purposes of the sites I manage, I block all except the United States on the back-end and leave the front-end open to all.
  2. Jetpack: this is a great plugin to utilize anyway just for stats collection, image/CDN offloading, but included within this plugin is the ability to turn on brute force login protection. Another very helpful prevent if these other tools don’t catch something.
  3. WordFence: this free tool (that actually does have a subscription service for even better protection) is a web application firewall for use directly within WordPress. One of the big things it prevents are brute force login attacks, XSS attacks and SQL injection attacks, amongst others. Now, a web app firewall (like ModSecurity or some other hardware appliance like a Barricuda or Cisco firewall) in front of the application itself would work even better at preventing attacks before they even got to your WordPress site (if setup correctly), but can be quite advanced to install and configure. Regardless, this plugin is a great way to keep those kinds of attacks at bay.
  4. Invisible reCaptcha: this utilizes the newer version 3 of Google’s reCaptcha to prevent automated bots from either spamming the comment sections of your posts or pages or from brute force attempts to login to your site as admin.

None of these methods are fool proof from attacks getting through some other threat vector, but I’ve found this to catch quite a bit of junk on all the sites I’ve set them up on.

And one last thing: make sure and secure your site with SSL?!? 🙂

Linux to Windows Backups Using Rsync Over SSH

In the course of attempting to find a good, fast solution to running backups from my Linux server to my laptop for all the important stuff, I worked through the ability to run rsync on my Windows laptop using the cygwin environment, bash scripts and scheduling the backups to run in Task Scheduler. Here’s a run down of the steps I went through:

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Watching the BIND Query Log in Real-time

The following commands enable, follow in real-time and disable the querylog entries for when you’re trying to troubleshoot or watch the connection.

1. Enable: sudo rndc querylog
2. Follow: sudo journalctl -f
3. Disable: sudo rndc querylog

Carrots and Sticks: The Underpinning of China’s Surveillance and Social Credit System

This is a fascinating article about the underpinning and foundation of China’s surveillance and social credit system and the systems engineering theories and methodologies that brought it about. I find it particularly interesting the author specifies the use of “carrots” (means of pleasure, getting at the desires and loves of the populace) and “sticks” (means of coercion, inflicting punishments on the populace for stepping out of line) to essentially control the masses. This has roots (though not one for one) in some things Aldous Huxley said in a lecture at Berkeley in the 1960’s about “scientific dictatorships” of the future. It’s worth listening to:

https://archive.org/details/AldousHuxley-TheUltimateRevolution

SocialMedia’ing Ourselves to Death

“The average American teenager who uses a smart phone receives her first phone at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on it (excluding texting and talking). 78% of teens check their phones at least hourly and 50% report feeling ‘addicted’ to their phones. It would defy common sense to argue that this level of usage, by children whose brains are still developing, is not having at least some impact, or that the maker of such a powerful product has no role to play in helping parents to ensure it is being used optimally. It is also no secret that social media sites and applications for which the iPhone and iPad are a primary gateway are usually designed to be as addictive and time-consuming as possible, as many of their original creators have publicly acknowledged.”

https://thefederalist.com/2018/01/10/apple-facebook-arent-going-save-us-smartphone-addiction/

Artificial Intelligence Weaponization Possibilities

From an interview with James Cameron, director of the Terminator and Alien movies, amongst many others, and Tim Miller.

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Automated Living Follow-up

In a previous blog, I discussed how the increasing automation of jobs and services will lead to a loss of the desire and design to be productive as humans, created in the image of God. Guardian has an article out that speaks to this, but how it will lead to two ultimate ends: the elusive utopia I spoke of in the previous blog (and showed how it really won’t be that at all), or a new form of serfdom. I would argue that either way there is a loss of humanity in removing the role of working as being a fulfillment of one of our designs as humans. Nevertheless, here’s the article:

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The Dawn of Automated Living

Automation, automation, and then some more… automation:

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Robbing You of Joy

http://www.inc.com/amy-morin/science-explains-how-facebook-makes-you-sad.html

“They don’t recognize that it’s actually robbing them of joy.”

Robbing them of joy.” That phrase stuck in my mind as I read this article about Facebook and the endless scrolling we can find ourselves addicted to, and how it sucks the life and joy right out of us. There is tons of spiritual application in this, especially during this Lenten season of self-assessment, confession, repentance, cleansing, and joy-renewal in the full scope of Christ’s person and work on our behalf.

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