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Month: August 2007

Immobilizer Chip Attack Found

Immobilizer Chip Attack Found

It looks like a Belgian and Israeli Research team has found a way to break the immobilizer system in many major car companies ECU’s. In the press release, the team mentions they have discovered a way to decipher the code the ECU uses to authenticate chip keys, taking as little as a day to decipher the code. They claim to be able to uncover the key after only an hour of exposure to the remote control attached to the key. A Link to the Presentation can be found here.

This is pretty big news for the home tuning crowd. A major setback in reverse engineering obd-2 ecu’s has been the immobilizer and the presence of an encrypted data bus. If this attack proves useful, reverse engineers may be able to crack these devices and pave the way for developers to enable the modification of the ecu in newer cars. This movement has been going on for some time in the Honda tuning scene, where websites like http://forum.pgmfi.org have sprung up as a resource for developers interested in Honda Ecu’s. If you are interested in ECU development, be sure to check out the How-To section here on mycomputerninja.com for details on how to modify obd-0 Honda ecu’s.


Call Center Chaos

Call Center Chaos

Hi, this is my first post on mycomputerninja.com, so be sweet.

Without really getting in to the details, I work at a company that has a website. We deal with insurance companies, banks and mortgage companies. Sometimes I have to help customers log in to our website so they can place orders for various risk assessment purposes.

Here’s how it usually goes down:

Customer – “I need to place an order.”

Me – “Well, we can’t accept orders over the phone, but I can help you log in to the website where you can place the order. If you go to websiteaddress.com, I can help you log in.”

Customer – “Ok, fine. God, I really just want to do this over the phone. Come on, just take this one over the phone please. I really need this right now. I’ll order the next one online.”

Me – “I’m sorry, but we can’t accept orders over the phone. If you go to websiteaddress.com I can help you log in.”
(obviously this is not the real website address, but you get the idea.)

Customer – “But I called in yesterday and the lady took the order over the phone! I need this RIGHT NOW!”

Me – “Well, she really shouldn’t have placed the order. If you go to websiteaddress.com, I can help you log in.”

Customer – “Ok . . . (30 seconds later) What was the website again?” (Please note that I have already told them the address three times.)

Me – “websiteaddress.com”

Customer – “(talking to themselves and sounding like they are struggling) www.website.what?”

Me – “websiteaddress.com”

Customer – “How do I get there?!”

Me – (Thinking – How can a person not know how to get to a website.
That’s like telling someone to change the channel to HBO and them saying “YEAH, BUT HOW DO I GET THERE?!”)

“Well, you just have to type the address in the URL field of your browser.”

Customer – “Ok: double you, double you, double you – dot – website address – dot com?”

Me – “Well, that’s correct, but you don’t need the W’s, so you can just type – websiteaddress.com.”

Customer – (Not even registering my last comment) Ok, I’m getting a couple of matches, WHICH ONE IS IT?!!!!”

Me – “. . . What do you mean a couple of matches?”

And then I realize that, against all logic, this person is searching for the address with a search engine instead of typing the URL in to the URL field and actually going to the website itself. And I haven’t confirmed this yet, but they probably use DogPile or AOL Keyword, or Alta Vista or Map Quest or any number of search engines that only very old people use. And believe me, after dealing with these people, I would not put it past them to try Map Quest.

This is not a one-time occurrence. This happens everyday. These people have jobs in an office. They sit at a desk with a computer. The use the computer everyday, and they have no idea how to go to a website.

Please take a moment and think about that. I speak with dozens of people a week who work in pretty important positions, and they have no idea how to go directly to a website. Most of them don’t even know the difference between an email address and a website address. Sometimes when I tell a customer to go to websiteaddress.com, they ask, “so I go to my email and send the order to websiteaddress.com?”

And then there is the classic response from May 2006, which I will never, ever forget:

Customer – “Can you email me my username and password?”

Me – “Ok, what is your email address.”

Customer – “Kate.com”

I’ve talked to maybe 15 people over the last year who honestly don’t know the difference between an email address and a website address. They can’t tell the difference between Outlook and Internet Explorer. They don’t know what a browser is, and if you told them that they needed to “type the URL in your browser, not your email client,” I’m sure their faces would melt off.

And yet, these are the people who write your home owner’s insurance and underwrite the mortgage on your house. But most importantly, these people are our moms and dads. These people are our aunts and uncles. These people are our friends and relatives. Please, when your dad tells you that he won’t use that new copy of Firefox that you installed on his computer, because it doesn’t have all of his passwords stored, just help him out and try to explain things as best as you can. We are the people who can help the internet scrubs. It’s stupefyingly frustrating, but don’t give up on them. After all, the insurance premium on your sweet new car might depend on you helping a person to understand that it really is necessary to put that damn “@” symbol in your email address.


Stock Picking 101 : Lesson 4 : Small Cap Growth

Stock Picking 101 : Lesson 4 : Small Cap Growth

Given the market volatility over the last week, I’m sure you may be ready to throw in the towel as far as speculation is concerned. This volatility is exactly the reason I created the “Stock Picking 101” series here on mycomputerninja.com. I got tired of trying to read up on “Tuesday’s Hot 5” or “Wednesday’s Big Losers” which were actually Tuesday’s Hot 5, and decided to find metrics with which I can use to find my own “hot 5”. Some well known and generally sound investing methods have already been covered here, and if you are interested, I encourage you to take a look at the investing category for a review of what we have previously covered. As I have mentioned before, all the stock picking methods explained in “Stock Picking 101” come from a set of preset screens included with the Yahoo.com free stock screener.

Today’s new lesson will cover a method of finding stocks in companies expected to exhibit uncharacteristic high growth in the foreseeable future. In particular, I am going to cover the criteria used to pick small market capitalization growth stocks. Stocks that fall into this category follow these metrics:

  • Market Capitalization of $250 million to $1 billion dollars
  • Price/Earnings growth ratio of less than or equal to 1.0
  • Earnings growth for the last 5 years greater than or equal to 25

Market capitalization has already been covered extensively here at mycomputerninja.com, but if you would like to read up anyway, take a look at Lesson 2 and Lesson 3 for a refresher.

Price/Earnings to Growth ratio is the first new metric in this set of criteria. The metric itself is comprised of 2 separate metrics, one being forward price to earnings ratio, and the other being earnings per share growth estimates. Forward price to earnings ratio is the projected price of a share divided by the earnings per share of the stock. The growth portion of the metric is actually the annual earnings per share growth estimate of the stock. In order to calculate the P/E to growth ratio, divide P/E by the annual earnings per share estimate to arrive at the value that we will use to compare different stock’s potential for growth. In the case of this criteria, the P/E to growth ratio should be equal to or less than 1.0.

It is important to note that, as with many metrics, the potential for manipulation exists. In the case of the Price/Earnings to growth ratio, both numbers could be considered untrustworthy. These values generally come from predicted earnings per share reports submitted by the company itself, so it is easy to see that insider manipulation can effect the quality of the number being reported.

Trailing year earnings growth is the final metric that this set of criteria looks at to determine the growth potential of a company. Trailing growth is a look at the previous years net income, with emphasis on the delta year over year. If the company exhibits net earnings growth equal to or greater than 25% for the trailing 5 years, then the stock has met this requirement. This metric relies on hard data, so it is easier to trust than the P/E to growth ratio, but a wise speculator must always remember that trailing growth is no indication of future growth.

A quick glance at mycomputerninja.com’s favorite whipping boy, Google, reveals that the only criteria it does not meet for this set of metrics is the small cap part. Google, being worth $160 billion, is firmly entrenched in the large cap growth sector, which we will cover in the next “Stock Picking 101” lesson.

The admin of this site and author of this post, Jon Steege, is not a financial analyst or a stock broker. He is a Computer Scientist with a knack for data analysis. He does not own Google stock, but wishes he did. As always, a friendly reminder to buy smart, but buy at your own risk.