Low-quality, high-entropy information incites war

This article is practice for my ongoing and developing theory of fundamental information classification. I do this for fun.

From the SANS NewsBites Vol. 14 Num. 76 email:

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has issued a warning to US financial institutions to be alert for cyberattacks following outages on the public websites of Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. There are reports that several banks are being targeted by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, but the others have not been named. The warning from the FS-ISAC comes just two days after the FBI issued a fraud alert warning that cyber criminals may be launching attacks as a distraction from attempts to conduct fraudulent wire transfers. National security officials in the US now believe that Iran is behind the attacks on the bank sites, and they may have been launched in retaliation for US sanctions on Iranian banks.

Source-provided link: Officials see Iran, not outrage over film, behind cyber attacks on US banks

The primary information of this specific article includes: “Iran” “attacks”, and “US”. Information classification has been discussed here: http://yawnbox.com/736. Information entropy has been discussed here: http://yawnbox.com/385.

All possible facts aside…

A group of purported hackers in the Middle East has claimed credit for problems at the websites of both banks, citing the online video mocking the founder of Islam. One security source called that statement “a cover” for the Iranian government’s operations.

A “…source…” existing at all is primary-derivative information, because the primary information would exist without the support of this derivative information — in other words, the information network(s) that this article is, is bettered by the inclusion of this derivative information.

All in-network information (having to do with the primary information) should start out with a “primary-” indicator. All in-sub-network information, or, information concerning supportive information (secondary, meta, operational, or derivative) should start out with a “primary-[secondary,etc]-” indicator. Dependencies should always be explicit when identifying information classifications and information network definition.

“One [ ] source…” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational information. It is “operational” because of the defined rule of there being one and only one source, from which the primary information is presumed to be based, creating a low-quality primary-derivative information dependency. The stakes on this dependency is high and the explicit nature of one-and-only-one, lacking diversity or specificity, can only get lower one more time (zero sources). Information entropy = high.

One “…security…” source is low-quality primarty-derivative-operational-meta information. It is “meta” (purely: an indication about the nature of non-meta information and not definitive enough to be operational or derivative, yet attempts to be operational) information in an attempt to support the “…source…” operational information, being that “security” has multiple (non-related) definitions that are dependent on third-party and/or non-communicated ideas. Information entropy = high.

Observational note: the inclusion of “…security…” to describe the “…source…” can go both ways in terms of supporting information or disinformation. It may be that fourth-tier information (primary=1st, -derivative= 2nd, -operational=3rd, -meta=4th) will always have this “either-or” effect. Or, perhaps, because it is dependent “meta” information.

“One security source called that statement “a cover”…” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-derivative information. It is “derivative” information, in support of the operational information provided by the “source” (priamry-derivative) information. Due to the dependency on the upper-tier information (derivative and derivative-operational) and the stark “take my word for it (by an unknown actor)” play, information entropy = very high.

The attack is described by one source, a former U.S. official familiar with the attacks, as being “significant and ongoing” and looking to cause “functional and significant damage.” Also, one source suggested the attacks were in response to U.S. sanctions on Iranian banks.

“…[B]y one source…” is low-quality, primary-derivative-operational (see above) and primary-derivative-operational-derivative information. The additional, fourth-tier information classification (-derivative) is evident due to the fact that the language used distinguishes this source from the former source in the article. It is not “meta” information due to the fact that it is supportive in understanding the article’s supportive presumed-information. This additional information classification is further supported by the (still low-quality) primary-derivative-operational-operational information, or, the operational information that specifies that this source is “…a former U.S. official…”. Information entropy = high.

Observational note: Information can and likely always has multiple classifications.

“…[F]amiliar with the attacks…” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-meta information. It is “meta” to the “…one source…” because it attempts to describe how well the source should understand the nature of the primary information of this article. It is implicit information, meaning that it is lacking any supportive information, yet is being used as supportive information for dependent upper-tier information.

Observational note: “implicit information” needs further definition. Perhaps it is simply high-entropy information, which requires an explanation, or it simply represents the nature of “meta” information.

“Also, one source suggested…” is low-quality and follows the same logic outlined above. This appears to be a third, unknown source. Information entropy = high.

The former head of cyber-security for the White House testified Thursday that “we were waiting for something like this from Iran.

“We” is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-meta information. It is “meta” because “we” (more than one, including s/he) is not supported by any explicit information–the sentence implicitly suggests close ties with the White House. It is attempting to support the third-tier operational information, or, the act of said group (second-tier derivative) expecting (third-tier operational) an attack “like” this. There is a disconnect here. At first glance, “we” reads as if explicit derivative (fourth-tier) information. It is very easy for me to read this sentence and presume that “we” is explicit given the implicit context of the quote. This portion of the article could be substantially bettered by the addition of derivative (fourth-tier) information. Information entropy: very high.

“…[L]ike…” is a huge red flag. This is low-quality primary-derivative-operational-meta information. Qualitatively, there are so many things that an “attack” can be like. US intelligence for government requires specificity. Information entropy = very high.

Retrospectively, all primary information networks that have dependencies on these  primary-derivative pieces of information have high to very-high entropy, meaning, the likelihood of misleading and/or disleading information is high to very high.

Information that is intended to conform an informee to an idea(s) can be dangerous. In the United States, citizens are often[1] exposed to information that compels an informee to generate information networks (knowledge) that align with the possibility of war between the US and Iran.

[1] http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2012/02/20122258252674477.html

This analysis of this single source is still dependent upon the likely existence of “secondary” information (the absence of primary information) and/or the likely existence of supportive (meta, operational, or derivative) information or misinformation.

UPDATE 2012-SEP-23

Some support my findings:

“Iran has not hacked the US banks,” Head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization Gholam Reza Jalali told FNA on Sunday.

Source: http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.php?nn=9106241736

UPDATE 2012-OCT-03

Some more support my findings:

…none of the five experts interviewed for this article had any evidence to support claims the attacks were sponsored or carried out by Iran…

Source: http://arstechnica.com/security/2012/10/ddos-attacks-against-major-us-banks-no-stuxnet/

State institutions should not restrict learning disabled students from education

Washington State Governor, Chris Gregoire, on March 30, 2012, passed House Bill 2483 aimed at expanding the Student Achievement Council. [1]

“The legislature finds that increasing educational attainment is essential for maintaining the health of a democratic society and the competitiveness of the state in the global economy. It is necessary to have educational opportunities that meet both the educational and economic requirements of the state. Increasing educational attainment means Washington needs more students with high school diplomas, postsecondary certificates, [associate] degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and graduate degrees. According to a fall 2010 study by the Georgetown University center on education and the workforce, Washington will rank sixth in the nation in jobs that will require postsecondary education or special training.”

While in primary school and at university, I was tested and diagnosed as being gifted and learning disabled. I have two specific learning-disabilities that are documented in my medical records and are supported by the Americans with Disabilities Act. There has been a considerable amount of research that has concluded that students with my “twice-exceptional” condition are continually misunderstood by schools and even personal mentors.

“Intellectually gifted individuals with specific learning disabilities are the most misjudged, misunderstood and neglected segment of the student population and the community. Teachers, counselors, and other are inclined to overlook signs of intellectual giftedness and to focus attention on such deficits as poor spelling, reading, and writing. Expectations for academic achievement generally are inaccurate—either too high and unrealistically positive or too low and discouraging of high aspirations. It is not uncommon for gifted students with learning disabilities to be told that college study is inappropriate for them, that professional careers will be unattainable, and that jobs requiring only mechanical or physical abilities are more fitting to their abilities. Without equal opportunity to try, these individuals may be denied access to appropriate educational and professional career opportunities.” [2]

With much support and thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, I was accepted as an Achievers Scholar and successfully graduated, this year, with an undergraduate degree in Information Technology and Administrative Management from Central Washington University. An undergraduate degree is not a stopping point. I have applied to the University of Washington’s Master of Infrastructure Planning and Management (MIPM) online degree program with an explicit interest in communications and cyber infrastructure systems. Upon applying to the University of Washington degree program, I requested a Graduate Record Examinations exam waiver. My request to submit a waiver was denied. Retrospectively, I have been denied the opportunity for graduate-level education from a state-sponsored institution. The Graduate Record Examinations exam has no bearing on critical thought or creativity. Generalized examinations are dramatically more stressful for learning-disabled students, especially when accommodations are not provided.

“Many educators and psychometricians agree that using a single test score to make a high stakes determination represents an ethical abuse.” [3] writes Dr. Peter McLaren, professor, UCLA Graduate School of Education, in his book Life in schools: an introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education.

Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit public interest law center, has written an applicable paper titled, “Do No Harm–High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities”. Highlights include:

“Learning disabilities stem from neurological and sometimes heritable differences in brain structure, and can dramatically impact the manner and duration in which persons with learning disabilities read, write, learn and take tests. They cannot be cured.” [4]

This is a direct contradiction to the expectations of Educational Testing Services:

“For LD, testing must generally have been completed within the past five years.” [5]

My “LD” medical records were created in 2003 and thus not valid for accommodation. I have not grown out of my disability and do not have the funds or the time to retake a stressful psychological examination. The University of Washington, who has chosen to support this discrimination by requiring my participation of the Graduate Record Examinations exam, an intellectual monopoly, should be liable for discrimination because they offer no alternative.

“Federal civil rights statutes protect students with learning disabilities in the educational context. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (“IDEA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“Section 504”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) all prohibit schools from discriminating against students on the basis of their disabilities. These laws, and the regulations under them contain specific prohibitions relevant to the high-stakes standardized testing and its impact on students with learning disabilities. …. There is no educational or legal basis for limiting the availability of alternate assessments.” [4]

“As noted in a recent report by The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, “[t]ests that are valid for influencing classroom practice, “leading” the curriculum, or holding schools accountable are not appropriate for making high-stakes decisions about individual student mastery unless the curriculum, the teaching, and the tests are aligned.”” [4]

It was clearly stated on May 15, 2012, in the online information meeting about the MIPM degree program, that prospective students should take the Graduate Record Examinations exam as a matter of procedure, and that the score itself does not matter.

Dr. Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED talk in 2006 states:

“We have a huge vested interest in [education], partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp. …. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. …. [A]cademic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.” [6]

Dr. Barbara Endicott-Popovsky, Director for the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity at the University of Washington included this information in her recommendation for me to the MIPM program:

I have known Christopher since AY2009 when he became a student in my Information Security and Risk Management certificate. During this time he worked on a variety of projects in class that demonstrated to me that he had exceptional abilities for research and graduate studies. He distinguished himself with his questions and the kinds of connections he discovered in the materials he read. He developed several models for describing organizational approaches to information assurance that reflected a sophistication of thinking unusual for someone working on their bachelor’s degree. He was well received by students and other faculty alike.

The critical infrastructure of Washington State requires a diversity of intellectual strengths to support its function and longevity. Leaders in the White House, Congress, and Senate have repeatedly stated that there is a shortage of cyber-security talent in this nation [7]. I deserve the right to participate in education, including the responsibility to take on the tremendous financial dept to better our state.

Thank you for your time.

[1] HB 2483 – 2011-12: Creating the office of the student achievement council. Revised for 2nd Substitute: Regarding higher education coordination. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=2483

[2] Whitmore, J. & Maker, J. Intellectual giftedness among disabled persons. Rockville, MD: Aspen Press., 1985.

[3] McLaren, Peter. Life in schools : an introduction to critical pedagogy in the foundations of education. New York: Longman, 1989.

[4] Disability Rights Advocates. Do No Harm–High Stakes Testing and Students with Learning Disabilities. 2011. http://www.dralegal.org/downloads/pubs/do_no_harm.pdf

[5] Educational Testing Services. Policy Statement for Documentation of a Learning Disability In Adolescents and Adults, Second Edition. 2007. https://www.ets.org/disabilities/documentation/documenting_learning_disabilities

[6] Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. 2006. https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

[7] Homeland Security Secretary Discusses Cybersecurity in Oversight Hearing. http://www.c-span.org/Events/Homeland-Security-Secretary-Discusses-Cybersecurity-in-Oversight-Hearing/10737430136/

Citation needed

When people say that something is information, they probably really mean that it is presumed-information, very much like the notion of being presumed innocent until proven guilty.


In one of my most favorite blog posts ever, for satisfying the feeling of both accomplishment (subtle pleasures) and development, I disused a process for identifying disinformation surrounding the primary information in a news article. The focus, and the reason why I wanted to ‘out’ the disinformation, was the headline.

I only went so far as deconstructing the articles headline for two reasons; first, I am still developing my ideas and wanted to start with something small. Second, compared to how much time it takes for me to consume a normal news article, consuming it in this fashion takes considerably more time. I hope to eventually streamline some of these processes with the help of computer software, but first I need to practice and better understand this stuff.

Processing an entire article, and not just processing a headline and specific parts of an article, will take much longer. I have not committed enough time to try it, yet. But every so often, while reading an interesting article, I spot some presumed-information that is obviously needing support.

For instance, this article from Foreignpolicy.com titled, “All the Pentagon’s Lawyers”, contains a sentence that is screaming vagueness.

The United States was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations and the various international human rights treaties and institutions.

I could not help but think about the above XKCD comic after reading it.

The quote by Rosa Brooks, however much support the author (information producer) may think it provides, initiated a slippery slope condition for me (the information consumer), so much so that I was no longer thinking about the story of the article but instead how ill-used this specific byte of information is.

Aside, however stark this specific byte of information is, every sentence consumed should have its own probability-of-informativeness.

This is not to say that the sentence in question is not informative–it has highlighted an issue, obviously important to the information producer, that has been presumed by the information producer to be important, and relevant, to the primary information of the article.

So, what is this sentence, in the scope of inferred information classification, as stand-alone information? This is mostly a mental exercise, but critical for breaking information down for identifying entropy or misinformation. This is not exhaustive:

– Primary: the United States as a stakeholder
– Primary: the United Nations as a stakeholder
– Primary-meta: the notion of international human rights
– Primary-operational: the notion of creating treaties and institutions

What is clearly lacking here, as stand-alone information, is derivative information. To me, “The United States was instrumental [how]…” is where this could have easily been expanded, and ideally, in relation to the rest of the article.

What is the inferred information classification of the article? It seems that there are four ways of figuring this out:

1. Read the article-title
2. Read the article and describe it in a sentence or two
3. Visually depict the article by word-count
4. Visually depict the article by information-network

#1 is easiest, but only to obtain a general (and likely memorable) idea. #2 is easy, but describing it as if inputting its content into a Wikipedia article takes a bit of work. Especially for me since I have a reading-comprehension learning disability. It takes longer than most for me to synthesize written text, and is probably why I am so keen to break information down in this manner. #2 also has the strength of showing the articles retrospective subjectivity according to the information consumer.

There is a tool to make #3 in a snap: Wordle.net. However unfortunately, doing so severely lacks specificity:

#4 is where I hope to take this research, as I am unaware of any tool to help do this in any useful way. To accomplish this would be very complex, which mirrors the nature of information, let alone the nature of sharing information. Information should be understood according to the scope of the story provided (the shared network of information), but also in the larger context of an information network, where these bits and bytes link with the other bits and bytes of other available information by other information producers.

Back to the sentence in question, it is clearly derivative. Concerning the scope of the article, without following up in such a manner that would require me to do my own research, it does appear to be valid in use, and therefore is likely primary-derivative in nature. Hence the slippery slope–the information byte is derivative, but so much so that it is lacking its own derivative support to appear sound. There is so much entropy between this byte of primary-derivative information and the scope of this article that it, at first, appeared to be misinformation. Using information like this should be discouraged.

Rosa Brooks, the author, probably knew that including this byte of information was a stretch because of her use of parenthesis (yet being its own sentence). This might only be a sign laziness, but I certainly cannot claim to remember to replicate 100% of my knowledge into information for others when writing. It is very interesting to see the diversity of branches and leaves in an intelligently created network of semantic information.