The Skim Reaper – a Credit Card Skimmer Detector

If you have heard about credit card skimmers, you probably know the advice to tug on a credit-card scanner before using it. That’s not really that effective against more and more of the scanners, as they are getting smaller, and more easily hidden within or on top of real scanners in such a way that a sharp tug just won’t reveal them any more. Enter the Skim Reaper, a scanner that works instead by checking for multiple voltage spikes such as those caused by a hidden reader.

We have partnered with law enforcement agencies to comprehensively characterize skimmers, with the goal of designing and delivering strong tools to reduce this kind of crime. As a result, we created the Skim Reaper™, which specifically targets overlay and deep-insert skimmers.

A better  brief explanation can be found at Ars Technica, one of the finest geek sites on the web.


SkimReaper is aimed specifically at overlays and inserts. It uses a card-shaped sensor with a printed circuit that, when powered, can detect the voltage spikes created by coming in contact with magnetic reader heads. If it detects two or more, there’s a skimmer in play.

While I have found no information yet on how to build your own nor how to buy your own Skim Reaper to keep yourself safe, I am sure that both a DIY guide and a pre-made Reaper purchase option will happen before too long.

The World is Warming

One day of Summer 2018 heat showing huge areas of daily and all-time highs.
A single day from Washington Post’s animated image of summer 2018 heat and record highs.

Earth is warming. Slowly, and not noticeably so to most people, but nevertheless it is happening. More ways to see this are available in this Washington Post titled “Red hot planet: This summer’s punishing and historic heat in 7 maps and charts” and published Friday. I expect some people will read this and have something of a “OK, the planet is getting warmer, but we aren’t causing it to happen.” I really can’t do any more to convince those people than post Skeptoid’s “The Simple Proof of Man-Made Global Warming” for their reading or listening pleasure.

You might think that carbon is carbon, and that if we find there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere, its source can’t easily be proven. But chemistry is a bit more complicated than that; there are different kinds of carbon, as there are of most elements. They’re called isotopes. One isotope of carbon is carbon-14.

The science involved isn’t really that difficult to understand. The knowledge that we are doing this and possibly making the planet uninhabitable for ourselves isn’t hard to gain. But getting some people to believe it sure seems tough. As denialists become fewer in the United States, we are hopefully moving to a period where we can make progress on reducing our effect on the planet, but we still have a way to go before we become part of the solution. But the general population is catching up to the scientific consensus, I think, which is a good thing.

The most frustrating thing, though, is that some folks knew 40 years ago, and rather than work to prevent this and make sure everyone knew about the potential harm, they kept it silent and made sure to profit from the ignorance of others. I know that this is just how big corporations work, but it still sucks. And I realize they did do research on the topic, but they could have brought humanity’s knowledge of the problem much further along than it is know if they had made a big deal of it in the 70s. That’s just me being a hopeless romantic, though.

They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today.

The Worst Asbestos-Laced Consumer Products Ever Made

While asbestos has been around for a long time, it really took off in the late 19th century as something of a wonder material given its light weight and fire/heat/electrical resistance. Of course, given how bad we later learned the material is for lungs, some of that luster has faded. So when I found a website which presented a list of the worst asbestos-laced products, I just had to share it. My favorite WTF product? Why, number 3:

Um, no more ciggarette [sic] burns? Just what the hell are you people doing with your babies in Australia?!?

Cyber Security Skills Guide

I have a great interest in computer security. I used to work in a job with a team of network/computer security specialists. I had to leave that job when the wife found work elsewhere, but I’ve never lost my love for the field. So when I saw this tweet today about a Cyber Security Skills Report, I figured I’d head over, sign up, and download the guide.

If you are interested, you can head to Security Colony and create an account so you can download the guide. It was created with an Australian focus, but from what little I’ve read of the guide so far, I think it is relevant to security practitioners elsewhere.

The Great Whiskey Fire of Dublin – 1875

In a tweet I can no longer find (I’ve searched and found many about this, but not the exact one which made me look up the fire), I learned today of The Great Whiskey Fire of Dublin, 1875. This may be the most Irish historic event I can recall:

The Illustrated London Times noted that: “Crowds of people assembled, and took off their hats and boots to collect the whisky, which ran in streams along the streets. Four persons have died in the hospital from the effects of drinking the whisky, which was burning hot as it flowed. Two corn-porters, named Healy and M’Nulty, were found in a lane off Cork street, lying insensible, with their boots off, which they had evidently used to collect the liquor. There are many other persons in the hospital who are suffering from the same cause. Two boys are reported to be dying, and it is feared that other deaths will follow.”

It is a little sad to read about those who suffered, but yet one can’t help but think “That could only happen in Ireland.” Right?

And reading about this makes me think about the Great Molasses Flood in Boston, 1919:

At around 12:40 p.m., the mid-afternoon calm was broken by the sound of a metallic roar. Before residents had time to register what was happening, the recently refilled molasses tank ripped wide open and unleashed 2.3 million gallons of dark-brown sludge. “A rumble, a hiss—some say a boom and a swish—and the wave of molasses swept out,” the Boston Post later wrote. A fifteen-foot wall of syrup cascaded over Commercial Street at 35 miles per hour, obliterating all the people, horses, buildings and electrical poles in its path.

But I think Dublin had it worse in comparing these 2 events. Fire vs. wave of sludge? Just my thinking.

On iPhone Sales and Predictions

iPhone 4 (no idea why I'm using such an old model)

Ever since I predicted poor success for the iPhone, I’ve wanted to return and try to figure out why I was so wrong. I mean, with Apple recently becoming the first company worth $1 trillion, it’s pretty clear I was really far off in my prediction. I still can’t say for sure why I was so wrong, but I can make some hindsight guesses that are probably accurate. And 11 years later seems as good a time as any to reflect on how dumb I can be.

What I’m wondering on this, though, is why get a phone with all those features if it is going to cost that much? I’ll admit that I’m probably not the target demographic for this whiz-bang gadget. I like to get single task gadgets for the most part

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City of Heroes, a Little History

I used to play the hell out of City of Heroes (CoH) and City of Villains (CoV). To the point where it probably affected my parenting and my marital status. Sadly for me, the game shut down in November 2012. But I still see people online talking about the game quite a bit, as it was very unlike any other MMORPG out there. Even the similarly-themed Champions Online (CO) and DC Universe Online (DCUO) played so differently that I personally never enjoyed them enough to stick around (although I paid for lifetime subscriptions to both prior to launch in hopes either would replace CoH/CoV for me). My most recent spotting of CoH/CoV talk is this Massively Overpowered article on some of the history of the games, including launch, the Marvel lawsuit, going free-to-play, and issue roll-outs.

One of the perks of this subscription was the delivery of a monthly City of Heroes comic book. That was a neat idea, but gradually this deal changed, with NCsoft charging an additional fee for the comic and then scrapping the physical book entirelly and making them available only on the website. The first issue came out in June 2004 and the 32nd and last arrived in August 2007.

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