Ellen ends with one of the most hopeful images a surviving loved one can hope for… a rainbow above her studio!
Watch Ellen’s tearful words (above) to find out what that meant to her and see her photo tribute on Twitter (below):
When I was a kid, my dad took us on one vacation to Warner Bros. Studios. He loved this business. He loved that I was in it. When he died, I saw this rainbow over the stage they named for me. pic.twitter.com/QQswe3mwfi — Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) January 12, 2018
Logan Paul, YouTuber and professional troll, may have raised awareness of Japans suicide problem during his stay in our country unintentionally, but he seems to have broken several criminal laws intentionally. Or so the police see it. And if he returns to Japan, he wont be welcome; he may even end up arrested and charged with several misdemeanors. He could be accused of more serious crimes as well.
Logan Paulbrother of viral king Jake Paulis a superstar in the YouTube world. Blonde, square-jawed, 22 and buff, he has his own clothing brand, and regularly posts videos of his outrageous antics and slapstick comedy for eager fans. While in Japan, last year, he posted a shocking video showing the body of a dead man who had hanged himself.
After filming closeups of the mans body, Paul uploaded a 15-minute video of the incident to YouTube on Dec. 31, with the title, We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest. In the video, Paul can be heard laughing.
It went viral and collected more than 6.3 million views before it was taken offline due to tremendous blowback. Paul apologized and explained that while he was trying to raise suicide awareness, the video was in poor taste.
By filming the dead man, Paul gave huge offense to many people, not only in Japan, but he probably didnt violate any criminal laws. The clips hes posted since are a different matter.
Japanese police officers who have seen his videos taken in Japan found at least four crimes that he could be charged with: destruction of property, public indecency, interference with business operations, and numerous traffic violations. Plus hes left video evidence, on his own YouTube channel, said a former police detective. We havent seen such a dumb criminal since those idiots uploaded videos of themselves bullying a convenience store clerk and stealing cigarettes [in 2014].
The original response in Japan to Logan Pauls visit to and his filming a corpse at Aokigahara, the suicide forest, was muted. After publicizing the number of deaths there in years past, when there were often scores of suicides by hanging, drug overdose or other means, Japanese authorities have decided not to publicize the sea of trees on the slope of Mt. Fuji a favorite venue for auto-termination. So, conservative newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported that the U.S. media and public were offended by Pauls actions while explaining his celebrity status to readers.
The more recent videos he released, however, raised the ire of many and captured the attention of the police as well. In those, Paul runs amok in a hotel and in the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo; he sleeps in the middle of the road, and strips in the middle of a crowded street. His actions rival those of the odious self-promoting pick-up artist Julien Blanc, whos been banned from Japan.
Logan has uploaded evidence of himself committing violations of several laws with apparent criminal intent, says one former prosecutor who declined to go on the record. Even if some of the events were staged, not all of them can have been, and if there were criminal complaints filed, the police would have to (probably happily) investigate.
If other people see these videos and think they can get away with doing this in Japan, it wont end well.
Taihei Ogawa, one of Japan's most decorated police officers
One of Japans most decorated former police officers, Taihei Ogawa, author of The Detective Who Pursued Burglars, was not reluctant to speak. In fact, in response to an email from The Daily Beast, he called enthusiastically around midnight Japan time to give his take on the matter.
This kind of behavior sets a terrible precedent before the 2020 Olympics. If other people see these videos and think they can get away with doing this in Japan, it wont end well, he cautions. There are numerous possible illegal acts in his videos, but here are the ones I think are most likely to merit investigation and prosecution.
Mr. Ogawa then dissected the clips from the standpoint of a veteran detective.
He throws a Japanese persimmon at the wall in his hotel and stains it. Not only a waste of a good persimmon but thats destruction of property, one count. There are more.
Ogawa notes several violations of the Road Traffic Laws.
He runs a red light and puts his hands in a car stopped at the crossing. Thats a traffic violationand one of many. Even tossing a ball into the basket of a moving bicycle is a traffic violation, which he does. Sleeping in the middle of the roadanother. Throwing stuffed animals at a car, another. Hes a traffic cops worst nightmareor maybe a dream come true, if they really like their job.
In addition to this, Paul may also be guilty of forcible obstruction of business operations.
At the fish market, he jumps on board a conveyor cart without permission. He then jumps on the back of a truck. He takes raw fish and an octopus and pushes them against the windows at Shibuya Crossings video rental shop, Tsutaya, bothering customers. He carries the sea food into a western clothing store with him and touches the clothingwhich is not only interfering with business, that could also be an additional count of destruction of property. The smell must have been awful.
Ogawa notes that in practice police dont investigate obstruction of business cases unless the victim has filed a criminal complaint. If public outcry was loud enough, though, the police might encourage the businesses to file.
Even without criminal charges, Paul still seems to be in trouble. He pulls down his pants in the middle of the street and appears to be butt naked, notes Ogawa. Theres a mosaic covering the video, so its not clear if his chin-chin is showing, but if that was the case, thats public obscenity.
As Daily Beast readers know, Japans police take public indecency quite seriously. Megumi Igarashi, the so-called vagina artist, was nabbed and held in custody for weeks when she made 3D images of her genitalia.
In the videos, Paul also throws Pokemon balls at numerous people, including a policeman. Theyre soft balls. It would be hard to call that assault, said one veteran cop. However, its a jackass thing to do. And throwing them at a very tolerant police officer doesnt win him points with us.
Ogawa has some harsh words for Paul. Its not an issue that youre Japanese or a foreignerbut that youre breaking the law. And youre showing these lawless acts to thousands of people who follow you on YouTube, which sets a bad example. Even if you did things as a prank, you damaged property, you bothered people, you obstructed the work of innocent people trying to make an honest living, you were rude to many and you were a pain in the ass. If the hotel wanted to press charges, any police department would follow up on itand you have uploaded the evidence for them.
You must be ashamed of him, as an American yourself.
Former Chiba Prefecture police detective Yukimasa Mori
Ogawa says that the small scale of Pauls crimes would not likely result in an international arrest warrant. However, as long as Paul is not in Japan, the statute of limitations doesnt kick in. Ten years from now he could still be arrested.
If Paul comes back, Ogawa predicts that it is highly likely he would be asked by the police to come in for questioning. If he refused to come in voluntarily, hed probably be arrested. And once someone is caught up in the wheels of the Japanese justice system, where you often are presumed guilty until proven guilty, they dont get out easily. He advises Paul that he should send his lawyers in advance to settle accounts, if he ever wants to come back to Japan.
Former Chiba Prefecture police detective Yukimasa Mori also believes that Paul could beand probably should becharged with multiple crimes, including defamation. You must be ashamed of him, as an American yourself, pointed out Mori. If anyone files a criminal complaint, he can be arrested at the airport. Personally, I think the best thing to do is let him back in, follow him, and arrest him red-handed. He seems like an idiot; hed break the law again.
Yes, Japanese cops and former cops dont like Paul-san.
Of course, some Japanese and some foreigners, like myself, who have lived here for decades just find Logan Pauls antics wildly amusing. Really. He made our day.
In fact, Logan, wed like to thank you for coming to our tiny island country and blessing us with your presence. Weve all bought you a whole box of fine caffeinated Japanese chewing gum, Black-Black, as a gesture of our appreciation. Let us know where to send it.
And since it may be difficult for you to come back to Japan, can we suggest you take your humorous exploits next to another Asian country, like Singapore? Theyd love you there and they have a great sense of humor.
The Taraji P. Henson-starrer was one of the years most anticipated films when the trailer dropped last year. Hensons turn as Mary, a hitwoman working for an organized crime family in Boston, seemed like the black response to Atomic Blondethat is until this year rolled around, where it seems like Sony and Screen Gems have completely dropped the ball on promoting it.
Proud Mary is out this Friday, and social media has been flooded not with excitement for the film but confusion as to why its not being pushed harder. Is it a case of a studio underselling a black film, as is customary in Hollywood? Or does Sony want to hide the fact that the film might not be very good?
Its not screening for critics this week, so dont expect any advance reviews of Proud Mary. Furthermore, critics attending the films press junket werent allowed to screen the film first, so interviews with Taraji will have to remain vague as its a little hard to discuss a film that you havent seen yet with an actress.
Henson herself has even voiced frustration with the promotion of the film.
In a pre-Christmas interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Henson said shes been begging and pleading my connections and doing whatever I can to make this movie the best it can be. I dont just put my name on stuff just to say it; I get down and dirty. [Studios] never expect [black films] to do well overseas. Meanwhile, you go overseas and what do you see? People trying to look like African-Americans with Afros and dressing in hip-hop fashions. To say that black culture doesnt sell well overseas, thats a lie. Somebody just doesnt want to do their job and promote the film overseas. Do you not have people streaming my Christmas specials in Australia? Come on, yall! I dont understand the thinking. Send me over there, and if it fails, then we dont do it again, but why not try? If I knew this movie was gonna make money domestically, I would try to get more money overseas. Its business!
Traditionally, Hollywood has blamed lack of interest in black films overseas as the reason why they dont promote them there. But just last year, Get Out raked in big money overseasas did Hidden Figures the year beforeand historically, films like Coming to America, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Independence Day, and Bad Boys 2 have, too. If anything, its a systemic problem of assuming black films undersell in America and in turn, fail overseas. Henson starred in Hidden Figures and her television drama Empire screens internationally, so why not develop her into a burgeoning international box-office star?
As Octavia Spencer, Hensons Hidden Figures co-star, said, [Will Smith] was told the same thingthat he wasnt going to be taken to promote his film. Had he not paid for himself to fly all over the world that very first time, he would not be an international box-office star. So they have to start investing and taking black actresses and actors across the world just like they do with unknown white actors. They need to do the same thing for black actors. If you dont know em, why would you go support the film?
Henson has been a star for decades and its a shame that there isnt a bigger push for Proud Mary. This week, I accidentally stumbled upon a Facebook Live interview with the actress that lasted less than 10 minutes and had her scrolling through an iPad to find fans questions to answer in real time. It looked like a thrown-together operation from a flailing media company that has decided to pivot to video.
Ive been rooting for Henson for years. Fans are excited to see the movie and want to support it and help studios realize that black filmsand films starring womenhave a hungry audience that craves more than a few tweets and TV commercials. As Henson told THR, If a man can do it, why cant we? I feel like women get better as we age. Give us the same chances as you give men.
Imagine it’s your first night with a new roommate, and they drop this warning on you: “Hey, you should know I’m kind of a sleepwalker, only instead of walking, I have nasty unconscious sex with whoever is near. Well, goodnight!” Incredibly, that is a real thing. It’s called sexsomnia, and it is totally recognized by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders. We talked to “James,” who has suffered from this for most of his adult life.
The First Time, He Thought He Was Being Raped
“That first experience was with the girl I was dating at the time,” says James. “I was 17. That was the first girl I was dating who I was sleeping over regularly with, and also, probably not coincidentally, around this time, I had started drinking. That’s a big factor in sexsomnia. I woke up mid-sex without any memory of how or why the girl was on top of me. I don’t know if this was the first time it happened, but it was certainly the first time it happened and progressed to the stage where there was enough physical activity and noise happening that I then woke up a bit, toward the end.”
He froze. He was confused and frightened, because he assumed his partner had violated him while he was sound asleep. She finished; he never slept with her again, and ultimately ghosted. It wasn’t until years later that James realized he probably initiated it.
“My next serious girlfriend made an offhand comment a few times. The next morning, she’d be saying, ‘You tried to do such and such last night, but I think you were sleeping because you weren’t really speaking to me,’ that kind of thing. I’d apologize for it and we’d talk about it. And maybe the second or third time, I thought there might be a connection.”
It Seems Like A Very Vivid Sex Dream
Science isn’t totally sure what causes sexsomnia. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to study. James doesn’t believe he has a higher than average libido in waking life. And even weirder, his sexual preferences change dramatically when he’s asleep. He’ll find out he, uh, did things he wouldn’t normally be aroused by. OK, we’ll just say it: During sleep sex, he’s suddenly super into butt stuff.
“Sometimes it’ll be accompanied by a kind of vague sex dream. Again, it’s hard to tell if it’s a dream or if it’s me coming in and out of consciousness and being sort of partially aware of what’s actually happening. I’ve had it happen a few times where my wife will say, ‘Oh, you did such and such in your sleep last night,’ and I’ll say, ‘You know, I thought that was a dream that time!’ There was a time where I was just kissing my wife’s butt cheeks repeatedly for a long, long time. And I thought it was just some sort of weird fever dream, because whether I’m sleeping or awake, why would I just do that for a long time? Why wouldn’t there be some sort of escalation of it? I was sure that was a strange dream I had. Nope.”
So, big deal, right? He’s simply sleepily initiating sex with women he already has an intimate relationship with, who always assume he’s awake and go along with it. Really, how could this ever possibly go wrong?
Well, He Once Fell Asleep In The Middle Of A Party …
Most of us have at least one embarrassing drunk moment in our lives. Maybe you puked in a friend’s car, or peed your pants, or accidentally ate dish detergent packets. Whatever you did, you probably still feel kind of embarrassed when you think about it or when people bring it up. Now amplify that shame and embarrassment by a factor of “all the numbers,” and you’ll understand where James is coming from.
“After drinking way too much wine, I fell asleep on the floor at a party. A room full of people — some friends, but most strangers and acquaintances — were then treated to the sight of me thrusting vigorously into the wooden floorboards, complete with sex moans. When I woke up from my drunken slumber, the men in the room took great delight in telling me what they’d witnessed, while the women all glared at me like I was a creep …”
After all, would any of them assume “sexsomnia” as the cause? How many of you had even heard that word before today? They probably thought he was putting on a show. “Still to this day … there are certain women who were there who definitely look at me in a really disgusting and strange way.”
Now think of the implications. James had found out that no, in fact, this condition isn’t magically confined to situations where he’s cuddled up against a consenting sex partner. It can happen any time he falls asleep.
Falling Asleep Will Never Not Be Risky
James started taking precautions. He made sure he had his own room, he didn’t crash with friends, and he avoided alcohol when possible. But he still had normal human desires, like not being desperately alone on a tiny rock hurtling through the infinite void toward oblivion. Plus he wanted sex of the non-sleeping variety. So he started to date again, and holy shit, was that a can of worms.
“There was all the normal anxiety that goes with a first date, but then I had to reckon with, ‘If she wants to come back to my place or I want to go back to her place, how do I have this conversation in a way that isn’t going to completely ruin the night?'”
He then he decided to see a doctor. Hoping to avoid an awkward night in a sleep clinic, he kept a journal of his abnormal nighttime behaviors, aided by his then-girlfriend. It was enough for an initial diagnosis of sexsomnia. After finding out alcohol exacerbates the condition, he stopped drinking entirely. It helped, but was by no means a cure. After his diagnosis, he realized he’d have to disclose his condition to any potential partners before things went very far. It’s easy to make glib jokes about this because, you know, he started humping a floor at a party. But for all he knew, he was fully capable of committing sexual assault in his sleep, complete with trauma for the victim and a felony conviction for him.
As far as he knows, he’s never forced himself on an unwilling partner in his sleep. But he’s only so certain that’s true. “In order for me to really know that, I would have to ask everyone I’ve ever shared a bed with if this is something that happened and they didn’t want to tell me about it,” James says. “Which is another thing that can get to you with this — if someone seems a bit off the next day, the worry of, ‘What have I done to them?'”
So He Has Created A System (Which Is Incredibly Life-Limiting)
James is now married to a woman who’s aware of his issues (and kind of into it, to be frank), and he estimates that he has no more than a dozen sexsomnia episodes a year. OK, that actually sounds like a lot. “[T]hat being a dozen times in a year where it’s severe enough and sort of pressing enough that my wife actually wakes up and is aware of what’s happening. That’s another thing that’s really strange about it: It’s very hard to quantify and to figure out exactly what’s happened, because the other person may not actually wake up if there’s just a little bit of touching or kissing, and then you go back to sleep.”
Even though he’s not a sleepwalker, he has a lock on his bedroom door for when guests are in town, for peace of mind. After all … who knows? Is this the kind of thing you take risks with? But that also means that basically the only person he can sleep in the same room with is his wife. “I can’t share a room with a friend or family member. And I don’t really tell them why; I just insist on having my own room, and it makes me look like a bit of an asshole … It’s not just about trying to initiate something with them, it’s also about what I might do on my own.
“I had to go on a business trip with my boss six months ago, and then he booked a twin room, and I had to get my own room. I really don’t want my boss to be sitting up at night reading a book, or to wake up in the middle of the night because I’m orgasming in the bed next to him.”
So what’s your cover story in that situation, if you don’t want to have the “potential sleep rapist” conversation with your employer? If you say, “I snore really bad,” they might be nice about it and say, “Oh, that’s fine, I don’t mind!” or “I have earplugs.” Most people would rather put up with someone snoring or sleepwalking than pay the extra money for a hotel room.
This sort of thing comes up more than you’d think. Like, say, at music festivals — the kind where everyone camps for the weekend. “Last-minute, someone didn’t have a tent and wanted to stay in my tent, when they were already there and had no way of getting one. So I had to navigate that thing of, like, how do I get this person away from me and still be nice and accommodating and find them another place to sleep? Finally he got too drunk anyway and went home.”
Another minefield? Travel. “[Episodes] are most common with people you would be sort of sexually attracted to anyway … I can’t fall asleep on any kind of transport at all … if a woman that you find attractive sits next to you, there’s this thing in your head like, ‘If I fall asleep, I may sexually assault this person.'”
Oh, It Gets Worse
“My wife are at that point where we’re talking about kids,” says James. “I haven’t really been able to figure out a way to have that conversation with her. It’s such a crazy, scary topic. But it’s definitely something that’s weighed on my mind, and I think keep putting off the conversation of when we’re going to start a family partially for that reason.” And sweet sleep-fucking Jesus, it’s not hard to understand why.
“I think the worst-case scenario is what I would do if my kid’s in my bed with me. Or how do I get around that? How do I go about, if I am going to be a loving dad and the kid has a nightmare, like I used to have, how do I tell the kids to leave me alone and not come into my bed? Can I just go ahead and think, ‘Well, it’s probably not going to happen because they’re my child and I’m not attracted to them?’ Is that a risk I ever really want to take?”
Is that a risk you’d take? Is it a risk you can even imagine? We can’t think of any other type of person who has to add “accidental child molestation” to their list of worries about parenthood. “It’s not just that I would initiate something with a kid in the bed, it’s that I would initiate something with my wife and then the kid’s there to watch Mommy and Daddy do that, you know?”
The World Will Rarely Buy This As A Criminal Defense
When sexsomnia turns up in the news, you can bet the word “rape” is somewhere in the headline. As a criminal defense, sexsomnia has been both successful and not so much. The reality is that a sexsomniac could assault someone without consciously meaning to do so, and it would be virtually impossible to determine whether or not they’re telling the truth about it. There was a famous case in the UK last year in which charges were dropped against a man who was accused of raping his partner hundreds of times, using sexsomnia as the excuse.
“The conversation around it on Twitter amongst friends, people I generally agree with ideologically, a lot of the conversation was like, ‘This is a bullshit, unethical male excuse. This is rape, this isn’t any kind of condition.'” James has mixed feelings about that, as you can imagine. “You can’t be white-knighting for the guy who’s accused of hundreds of counts of rape, but at the same time, I’m in this position where I understand the condition and I know this is entirely feasible that he has done this and not been aware of it.” Still, he can’t really make that argument without outing himself to some degree. After all, it’s a weird cause for somebody to take up at random.
That said, James believes anyone with a ton of assault allegations against them who blames sexsomnia is full of shit, one way or the other. The issue is disclosure. Continuing to take on new partners without informing them is almost as bad as consciously assaulting someone. “There’s only so much sympathy I can have for you at this stage when you know you’ve had this thing but you continued going to bed with new people and not letting them know what the deal is upfront. If something happens, it is kind of on you.”
Sometimes people just want something to snuggle up to at night — we’d recommend a body pillow.
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One member of Labour’s shadow cabinet told the BBC Mr Blair’s intervention was “utterly unhelpful”.
“Lots of Labour voters voted for Brexit and this to them sounds like the metropolitan elite ignoring them,” he said.
“The whole Tony Blair project was about being on the right side of public opinion. And now look at this. Are you telling me the Tony Blair of 1994 would have said this?”
Britain is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, but Mr Blair said it would be too late to change course by then.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer says Labour will push for a deal that would preserve as many of the benefits of the single market and customs union as possible, as well as protecting workers’ rights and the environment.
But Mr Blair believes this is a “confusing” strategy and is not “credible”.
“Far better to fight for the right for the country to re-think, demand that we know the full details of the new relationship before we quit the old one, go to the high ground on opposing Brexit and go after the Tories for their failures to tackle the country’s real challenges.
“Make Brexit the Tory Brexit. Make them own it 100%. Show people why Brexit isn’t, and never was, the answer.”
Mr Blair – a longstanding critic of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – has ditched his business interests to take a more active role in British politics through his Institute for Global Change think tank.
Richard Tice, co-chairman of the pro-Brexit Leave Means Leave campaign, said Mr Blair “and his elite gang” were “still determined to stop Brexit” and will lead the UK “to the very bad deal which we had in the single market and the customs union”.
Mr Blair said there were “elites on both sides” of the Brexit debate and it was not “undemocratic” to call for another vote because it was not clear what kind of relationship the UK would have with the EU when the 2016 referendum took place.
“When we see what the actual alternative is, we are perfectly entitled to say, having looked at it, we do not believe it’s a better way forward for the country than what we have now,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said “democracy doesn’t just stop on one day” and “we are entitled to think again”.
In Mr Blair’s latest article published on his institute’s website, he offered this advice to Jeremy Corbyn and his team: “At every PMQs nail each myth of the Brexit campaign, say why the Tory divisions are weakening our country, something only credible if we are opposed to Brexit, not advocating a different Brexit, and challenge the whole farce head on of a prime minister leading our nation in a direction which even today she can’t bring herself to say she would vote for.
“If we do leave Europe, the governing mind will have been that of the Tory right.
“But, if Labour continues to go along with Brexit and insists on leaving the single market, the handmaiden of Brexit will have been the timidity of Labour.”
Mr Blair’s comments came as his institute issued a document highlighting developments in the UK since the Brexit vote, including a downgrade in economic forecasts.
Former Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister Sir Nick Clegg – a longstanding pro-European and supporter of cross party campaign group Open Britain – said the document shows “the eye-watering costs and sheer complexity of disentangling ourselves from our nearest neighbours and largest trading partner are becoming clearer by the day.
“People have every right to keep an open mind as to whether this is the right future for our country.”
On a cold Sunday early last month in the small Austrian city of Graz, three young researchers sat down in front of the computers in their homes and tried to break their most fundamental security protections.
Two days earlier, in their lab at Graz's University of Technology, Moritz Lipp, Daniel Gruss, and Michael Schwarz had determined to tease out an idea that had nagged at them for weeks, a loose thread in the safeguards underpinning how processors defend the most sensitive memory of billions of computers. After a Saturday night drinking with friends, they got to work the next day, each independently writing code to test a theoretical attack on the suspected vulnerability, sharing their progress via instant message.
That evening, Gruss informed the other two researchers that he'd succeeded. His code, designed to steal information from the deepest, most protected part of a computer's operating system, known as the kernel, no longer spat out random characters but what appeared to be real data siphoned from the sensitive guts of his machine: snippets from his web browsing history, text from private email conversations. More than a sense of achievement, he felt shock and dismay.
"It was really, really scary," Gruss says. "You don’t expect your private conversations to come out of a program with no permissions at all to access that data."
From their computers across the city, Lipp and Schwarz soon tested proof-of-concept code they'd written themselves, and could see the same results: Lipp remembers seeing URLs and file names materializing out of the digital noise. "Suddenly I could see strings that shouldn't belong there," he says. "I thought, 'Oh God, this is really working.'"
That night, none of the three Graz researchers slept more than a few hours. The next day, they sent a message to Intel warning them of a potentially industry-shaking flaw in their chips. They'd found a gap in one of the most basic security defenses computers offer: that they isolate untrusted programs from accessing other processes on the computer or the deepest layers of the computer's operating system where its most sensitive secrets are kept. With their attack, any hacker who could run code on a target computer could break the isolation around that low-privilege program to access secrets buried in the computer's kernel like private files, passwords, or cryptographic keys.
On cloud computing services like Amazon Web Services, where multiple virtual machines coexist in the same physical server, one malicious virtual machine could peer deeply into the secrets of its neighbors. The Graz team's discovery, an attack that would come to be known as Meltdown, proved a critical crack in one of computing's most basic safeguards. And perhaps most troubling of all, the feature they had exploited was introduced into Intel chips in the mid-1990s. The attack had somehow remained possible, without any apparent public discovery, for decades.
Yet when Intel responded to the trio's warning—after a long week of silence—the company gave them a surprising response. Though Intel was indeed working on a fix, the Graz team wasn't the first to tell the chip giant about the vulnerability. In fact, two other research teams had beaten them to it. Counting another, related technique that would come to be known as Spectre, Intel told the researchers they were actually the fourth to report the new class of attack, all within a period of just months.
"As far as I can tell it’s a crazy coincidence," says Paul Kocher, a well-known security researcher and one of the two people who independently reported the distinct but related Spectre attack to chipmakers. "The two threads have no commonality," he adds. "There’s no reason someone couldn’t have found this years ago instead of today."
In fact, the bizarre confluence of so many disparate researchers making the same discovery of two-decade-old vulnerabilities raises the question of who else might have found the attacks before them—and who might have secretly used them for spying, potentially for years, before this week's revelations and the flood of software fixes from practically every major tech firm that have rushed to contain the threat.
The synchronicity of those processor attack findings, argues security researcher and Harvard Belfer Center fellow Bruce Schneier, represents not just an isolated mystery but a policy lesson: When intelligence agencies like the NSA discover hackable vulnerabilities and exploit them in secret, they can't assume those bugs won't be rediscovered by other hackers in what the security industry calls a "bug collision."
'There’s no reason someone couldn’t have found this years ago instead of today.'
Paul Kocher, Cryptography Research
The Meltdown and Spectre incident isn't, after all, the first time major bugs have been found concurrently. Something—and even Schneier admits it's not clear what—leads the world's best security researchers to make near-simultaneous discoveries, just as Leibniz and Newton simultaneously invented calculus in the late 17th century, and five different engineers independently invented the television within years of one another in the 1920s.
"It's weird, right? It’s like there’s something in the water," says Schneier, who last summer co-authored a paper on vulnerability discovery. "Something happens in the community and it leads people to think, let’s look over here. And then they do. And it definitely occurs way more often than chance."
So when the NSA finds a so-called zero-day vulnerability—a previously unknown hackable flaw in software or hardware—Schneier argues that tendency for rediscovery needs to factor into whether the agency stealthily exploits the bug for espionage, or instead reports it to whatever party can fix it. Schneier argues bug collisions like Spectre and Meltdown mean they should err on the side of disclosure: According to rough estimates in the Harvard study he co-authored , as many as one third of all zero-days used in a given year may have first been discovered by the NSA.
"If I discover something lying dormant for 10 years, something made me discover it, and something more than randomly will make someone else discover it too," Schneier says. "If the NSA discovered it, it’s likely some other intelligence agency likely discovered it, too—or at least more likely than random chance."
While some elements of Meltdown and Spectre's four-way bug collision—a bug pile-up may be a better description—remain inexplicable, some of the researchers followed the same public breadcrumbs to their discoveries. Most prominently, security researcher Anders Fogh, a malware analyst for German firm GData, in July wrote on his blog that he had been exploring a curious feature of modern microprocessors called speculative execution. In their insatiable hunger for faster performance, chipmakers have long designed processors to skip ahead in their execution of code, computing results out of order to save time rather than wait at a certain bottleneck in a process.
Perhaps, Fogh suggested, that out-of-order flexibility could allow malicious code to manipulate a processor to access a portion of memory it shouldn't have access to—like the kernel—before the chip actually checked whether the code should have permission. And even after the processor realized its mistake and erased the results of that illicit access, the malicious code could trick the processor again into checking its cache, the small part of memory allotted to the processor to keep recently used data easily accessible. By watching the timing of those checks, the program could find traces of the kernel's secrets.
Fogh failed to build a working attack, due to what other researchers now say were quirks of his testing setup. But Fogh nonetheless warned that speculative execution was likely a "Pandora's box" for future security research.
Still, Fogh's post hardly sounded alarms for the broader hardware security research community. It was only months later that the researchers at the Graz University of Technology started to closely consider his warnings. Their first real clue came instead from the Linux kernel mailing list: In October, they noticed that developers from major companies including Intel, Amazon, and Google were all suddenly interested in a new defensive redesign of operating systems, called KAISER, that the Graz researchers had created, with the goal of better isolating the memory of programs from the memory of the operating system.
The Graz researchers had intended KAISER to solve a far less serious issue than Meltdown or Spectre; their focus was on hiding the location of a computer's memory from malicious, not necessarily blocking access to it. "We felt happy," Lipp remembers. "People were interested in deploying our countermeasures."
Soon, however, developers on the mailing list began to note that the KAISER patch could slow down some Intel chips by as much as five to 30 percent for some processes—a far more serious side effect than the Graz researchers had found. And yet, Intel and other tech giants were still pushing for the fix.
"There must be something bigger here," Lipp remembers thinking. Were the tech firms using KAISER to patch a secret, more severe chip-level flaw? Only then did he and the other Graz researchers think back to Fogh's failed speculative execution attack. When they decided to try it themselves, they were shocked when their slightly tweaked implementation of Fogh's technique worked.
They also weren't alone. Just weeks earlier, by chance, researcher Thomas Prescher at Dresden, Germany security firm Cyberus had finally gotten around to testing Fogh's method. "I had looked at it half a year ago and found the ideas very interesting, but at some point I just forgot about it." Prescher says. "In November, I came across it again by chance and just decided to try it. I got it to work very, very quickly."
In the end, the Cyberus and Graz researchers reported their work to Intel within days of each other in early December. Only after Intel responded to each of the researchers' bug reports in the middle of that month did they learn that someone had independently discovered and reported their Meltdown attack months prior—as well as the distinct speculative execution attack known as Spectre. That warning came from Project Zero, Google's elite team of bug-hunting hackers. In fact, Project Zero researcher Jann Horn had found the attack in June—weeks before Anders Fogh's blog post.
Starting From Zero
How did Horn independently stumble on the notion of attacking speculative execution in Intel's chips? As he tells it, by reading the manual.
In late April of last year, the 22-year-old hacker—whose job at Project Zero was his first out of college—was working in Zurich, Switzerland, alongside a coworker, to write a piece of processor-intensive software, one whose behavior they knew would be very sensitive to the performance of Intel's chips. So Horn dived into Intel's documentation to understand how much of the program Intel's processors could run out-of-order to speed it up.
He soon saw that for one spot in the code he was working on, the speculative execution quirks Intel used to supercharge its chip speed could lead to what Horn describes as a "secret" value being accidentally accessed, and then stored in the processor's cache. "In other words, [it would] make it possible for an attacker to figure out the secret," Horn writes in an email to WIRED. "I then realized that this could—at least in theory—affect more than just the code snippet we were working on, and decided to look into it."
'Something happens in the community and it leads people to think, let’s look over here. And then they do.'
Bruce Schneier, Harvard Belfer Center
By early May, Horn had developed that technique into the attack that would come to be known as Spectre. Unlike Meltdown's more straightforward abuse of the processor, Spectre leverages speculative execution to trick innocent programs or system processes on a computer into planting their secrets in the processor's cache, where they could then be leaked out to a hacker performing a Meltdown-like timing attack. A web browser, for instance, could be manipulated into leaking a user's browsing history or passwords.
Spectre is harder for attackers to exploit than Meltdown, but also far more complex to fix. It also works not only in Intel chips, but across ARM and AMD chips too, an even thornier and longer-term problem for the industry. Horn reported his findings to the chipmakers on June 1. And as he continued to explore speculative execution's other possibilities, he found and reported the Meltdown attack to Intel three weeks later.
Finally, there would be one more coincidence in the storm of bug collisions around Meltdown and Spectre. Just around the time that Horn was beginning to test his attacks, Paul Kocher was starting a sabbatical from the San Francisco-based company he'd founded, Cryptography Research. He wanted time, in part, to explore a broad issue he saw in computer security: the increasingly desperate drive to squeeze ever-greater performance out of microchips at all costs—including, perhaps, the cost of their fundamental security.
At a cryptography and hardware conference in Taipei last September, Kocher's former colleague Mike Hamburg raised suspicions about speculative execution. Kocher was immediately determined to prove the problem. "It wasn't so much of an 'aha' moment as an an 'eww' moment," Kocher says of the realization that led him to the same attack method. "As soon as I started to look at speculative execution, it was pretty clear to me as a security person that this as a really bad idea."
Not long after he'd returned from Taipei, Kocher had coded a working exploit of his own—with no knowledge that Google's Horn had found exactly the same decades-old issue just months earlier.
Outlier or Telling Anecdote?
For Kocher, the key question isn't how so many researchers stumbled onto the same class of attack at roughly the same time. It's how the attacks remained undiscovered for so long—or whether they were in fact discovered, and used to hack unwitting targets in secret.
"If you asked me whether intelligence agencies found this years ago, I would guess certainly yes," Kocher says. "They have some of the world’s best efforts at these sorts of things. It would be quite likely they would have noticed. And if they found something like this, as long it's yielding good intelligence, they don’t tell anyone."
"It's not just the NSA," he adds. Other state-sponsored hackers likely have the skills—and had the time—to have potentially found the Spectre and Meltdown attacks, too.
On Friday, White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce, a former senior NSA official, told The Washington Post that the NSA didn't know about Spectre and Meltdown and had never exploited the flaws. Joyce has also touted a move to reveal more about the NSA's rules for disclosing vulnerabilities it finds, a policy known known as the Vulnerabilities Equities Process.
'If you asked me whether intelligence agencies found this years ago, I would guess certainly yes.'
Despite the almost uncanny anecdotal evidence for bug rediscovery that Spectre and Meltdown represent, it's far from clear just how common that phenomenon has become. The Harvard Study co-authored by Bruce Schneier, for one, examined a trove of bug report data containing 4,300 vulnerabilities. Fourteen percent of Android vulnerabilities were reported again within just 60 days of their initial discovery, and around 13 percent of Chrome bugs. "For the NSA, holding onto vulnerabilities is way more dangerous than you’d think, given the raw numbers," Schneier says.
But another study released last year by the RAND corporation, which looked at bugs from an unnamed research organization, found only a 5.7 percent chance that a given bug would be found again and reported within a year—although the study didn't account for other, secret bug discoveries.
Lillian Ablon, one of the RAND study's authors, sees the Spectre and Meltdown rediscoveries not as a broad sign that all bugs are found several times over, but that trends in computer security can suddenly focus many eyes on a single, narrow field. "There may be bug collisions in one area, but we can’t make the grand statement that bug collisions happen all the time," she says. "There will be codebases and classes of bugs where no attention exists."
Paul Kocher argues the real lesson, then, is for the security research community not to follow in each others' footsteps but to find and fix bugs in the obscure code that rarely attracts widespread attention.
"Throughout my career, whenever I've looked somewhere there isn’t a security person looking, I find something nasty and unpleasant there," Kocher says. "The shocker for me is that these attacks weren't discovered long ago. And the question that I struggle with and fear is, how many other things like this have been sitting around for 10 or 15 years?"
After more than a century making vehicles for humans to drive, General Motors has ripped the heart out of its latest ride, and is now holding the grisly spectacle up for all the world to see: A car with no steering wheel. And it plans to put a fleet of these newfangled things to work in a taxi-like service, somewhere in the US, next year.
And no, this robo-chariot, a modified all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, doesn't have pedals either. This is GM's truly driverless debut, a car that will have to handle the world on its own. No matter what happens, you, dear human passenger, cannot help it now.
Terrifying? Maybe. But it's also a major step in GM’s aggressive bid to maintain its big dog status as the auto industry evolves away from individual ownership and flesh-and-blood drivers. And it’s just the beginning for the Detroit stalwart. “We’ve put together four generations of autonomous vehicles over the course of 18 months,” says Dan Ammann, GM’s president. “You can safely assume that the fourth generation won’t be the last.”
To lay the foundation for a business that doesn’t rely on selling cars to people, it launched a car-sharing service called Maven. And it has flexed its manufacturing muscles (perhaps its biggest advantage coming in), configuring its Orion assembly plant north of Detroit to build this latest generation of robocar. Indeed, GM is counting on its manufacturing prowess to give it an edge in this new world. “Either you can do that or you don’t have a business,” says Kyle Vogt, who founded and heads Cruise.
Of course, dropping the steering wheel gets tricky when you consider federal regulations that require things like steering wheels. So GM has officially asked the federal Department of Transportation to exempt these vehicles from certain parts of the rules that govern automotive safety. Because those were written for human-driven cars, they include requirements like a foot-activated brake pedal and an airbag built into the steering wheel.
In an age where cars won’t need any kind of pedals or steering wheels, those don’t quite make sense. They’re “almost illogical or missing a predicate when there is an artificial intelligence, a computer driver,” says Paul Hemmersbaugh, GM’s policy director for autonomous vehicles. Pending legislation would let the feds grant up to 100,000 such exemptions a year for each manufacturer, up from the current 2,500. Good thing, because there's no serious movement to rewrite the rulebook.
The federal government in general is all for autonomous vehicles, and usually grants such exemptions, so that’s one of the easy bits. Harder is finding the right spot to launch this system. Vogt wouldn’t offer any clues (nor would he say how many cars will make up the fleet), but you can put your money on one of the states that have expressly welcomed self-driving tech without much in the way of rules. California, where companies must publicly report crashes and other data, seems less inviting here than a state like Arizona, which doesn’t put any special restrictions on robocars. Plus, the weather in Phoenix is good year round (minus the occasional haboob), and the driving environment is far simpler than a place like San Francisco, where Cruise does the bulk of its testing.
The real tough part, however, will be accounting for the wildcard: the human passenger. In the past century, GM’s relationships with its customers more or less ended when the dealer handed over the keys. It never had to think much about how people behaved inside its vehicles. Now it does. Vogt says his team has considered how to account for all sorts of annoying human habits. If the rider doesn’t close the door after walking away, the car can do that itself. But plenty of questions—like what the car should do if it can’t safely and legally pull over near its passenger’s pickup or drop off point—remain.
To handle riders who demand a human touch, and to do things like call emergency services in case of a crash, GM will rely on its in-vehicle OnStar system. And, as an early test for a rideshare system, GM built an app with which Cruise employees can call robocars for free rides around San Francisco. It’s a logical start, but challenges will emerge that engineers and human factors specialists would never think to consider.
The old-school behemoth had better remain flexible enough to navigate them—steering wheel or no.
How a Bunch of Geeks and Dreamers Jump-Started the Self-Driving Car
A decade ago, the idea of self-driving cars on American city streets was almost unthinkable. But a series of contests spurred the development of software and hardware that have brought us to dawn of the next automotive revolution.