Google’s Advanced Protection: no support for old mobile devices

Google has warned me that: “We believe that attackers backed by certain states may be attempting to compromise your account or computer”. There’s a good chance this is because of the Stratfor hack, though it may also be for anti-pipeline/activism related reasons.

For a couple of years now, I have been using the two-factor authentication (2FA) option they offer, in which you need to enter your password as well as a rapidly-changing passcode from a smartphone app in order to access your account. I also keep a close eye on the access logs they provide under “Last account activity” and “Details” at the bottom of the GMail screen. Having 2FA turned on means someone with just your password cannot access your account. This is valuable for many reasons. If you recycle passwords between different accounts, a breach in one place might spread to another. Attackers may also use phishing (setting up a real-looking login page and tricking you into entering your login credentials) to steal a password.

Since the security of my Google account is so important, I bought two physical access tokens and joined their free Advanced Protection Program. Now to login I need my password and one of the keys. It also adds other security enhancements, like a more complex process for recovering an account which you have been locked out from. The keys aren’t Google-specific, so I may eventually be able to use them to authenticate myself to other important accounts as well.

Advanced Protection has already involved some headaches. I generally prefer Firefox because of its open source community and because it seems to have the most extensions for blocking ads, controlling which scripts run on websites, and protecting privacy. With Advanced Protection, I can now only use Google services through Chrome.

Even more of a hassle is that Google Calendar no longer works on the Apple-made Calendar app on my iPhone and iPad. I can’t even use the Google Calendar app because my iPhone is too old to run a version of iOS new enough to be supported. On my iPad, I installed the Smart Lock app which is meant to log me into the GMail, Google Calendar, and YouTube apps. Unfortunately, it produces only an endless loop. A login window comes up, I enter my username and password, I authenticate using the Bluetooth token and… it kicks me right back to entering my username. It’s a fairly old iPad and not running the newest iOS either, so perhaps that’s the problem.

Calendar sharing across devices including my phone is pretty essential for me, but I also want to do everything possible to protect my GMail account. For that reason, I have switched to Apple’s iCloud calendar-sharing system, which works on both my Macs, my iPhone, and my iPad. Maybe when my ancient iPhone 4 finally dies and I replace it with something that runs a modern version of iOS I will be able to get Smart Lock to work.

Fire excluded from U.S. nuclear death estimates

The fact is that the estimate of fatalities, in terms of what was calculated at that time—even before the discovery of nuclear winter—was a fantastic underestimate. More than forty years later, Dr. Lynn Eden, a scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, revealed in Whole World on Fire the bizarre fact that the war planners of SAC and the Joint Chiefs—throughout the nuclear era to the present day—have deliberately omitted entirely from their estimates of the destructive effects of U.S. or Russian nuclear attacks the effects of fire.

Yet even in the sixties the firestorms caused by thermonuclear weapons were known to be predictably the largest producers of fatalities in a nuclear war. Given that for almost all strategic nuclear weapons, the damage radius of the firestorms would be two to five times the radius destroyed by the blast, a more realistic estimate of the fatalities caused directly by the planned U.S. attacks on the Sino-Soviet bloc, even in 1961, would surely have been double the summary in the graph I held in my hand, for a total death toll of a billion or more: a third of the earth’s population, then three billion.

Ellsberg, Daniel. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Bloomsbury; New York. 2017. p. 140–1 (italics in original)

Threat to neutral and allied states from an American nuclear strike on the Soviet Union and China

Fallout from our surface explosions in the Soviet Union, its satellites, and China would decimate the populations in the Sino-Soviet bloc as well as in all the neutral nations bordering these countries—Finland, Sweden, Austria, and Afghanistan, for example—as well as Japan and Pakistan. Given prevailing wind patterns, the Finns would be virtually exterminated by the fallout from surface bursts on Soviet submarine pens near their borders. These fatalities from U.S. attacks, up to another hundred million, would occur without a single U.S. warhead landing on the territories of these countries outside the NATO and Warsaw Pacts.

Fallout fatalities inside our Western European NATO allies from U.S. attacks against the Warsaw Pact would depend on climate and weather conditions. As a general testifying before Congress put it, these could be up to a hundred million European allied deaths from our attacks, “depending on which way the wind blows.”

Ellsberg, Daniel. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Bloomsbury; New York. 2017. p. 137 (italics in original)

Ellsberg’s on America’s nuclear posture

The basic elements of American readiness for nuclear war remain today what they were almost sixty years ago: Thousands of nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, aimed mainly at Russian military targets including command and control, many in or near cities. The declared official rationale for such a system has always been primarily the supposed need to deter—or if necessary respond to—an aggressive Russian nuclear first strike against the United States. That widely believed public rationale is a deliberate deception. Deterring a surprise Soviet nuclear attack—or responding to such an attack—has never been the only or even the primary purpose of our nuclear plans and preparations. The nature, scale, and posture of our strategic nuclear forces has always been shaped by the requirements of quite different purposes: to attempt to limit the damage to the United States from Soviet or Russian retaliation to a U.S. first strike against the USSR or Russia. This capability is, in particular, intended to strengthen the credibility of U.S. threats to initiate limited nuclear attacks, or escalate them—U.S. threats of “first use”—to prevail in regional, initially non-nuclear conflicts involving Soviet or Russian forces or their allies.

Ellsberg, Daniel. The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Bloomsbury; New York. 2017. p. 12 (italics in original)