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The Collected Discontents of a Socially Conscious Computer Programmer & Visual Artist

Password “Complexity” is Outright Shit

Enforced Complexity Might Be Making Things Worse.

Dec 25, 2013. You know you do this: You forget your password. You try three times. Fuck it, send me a reset link. "Please enter a new password." What do you do? Type the same fucking password. "You already used this password." You make the first letter upper case. "Plus you need a number and symbol." What do you do? Add a number to the end with an exclamation point behind it (maybe an ampersand).


Not only does complexity make attack vectors (permutations on common passwords easy) it makes them hard for humans to remember. When we know we are going to forget them (because they're too complicated) we will reuse them across different sites. I never reused a single password until every site started enforcing complexity. FUCK YOU! They were already complex, I'm not a fucking idiot! But I'm not a robot either. All this does is waste time and frustrate intelligent internet users. Does it really protect the lazy any more? I fail to see how increasing the number of password reset emails by 10-fold could possibly increase security.

If you don’t believe me about complexity leading to easy guessing, read this: The Tangled Web of Password Reuse. When forced to modify an existing password, "98% of insertions/deletions occurred at either the front or end of the password."

How I got three overdraft fees while having a positive balance.

Banking software lies to you and me: before and after Obamma’s bank reform

A programmer reveals how the bank software algorithms of deception changed in form, but not function.

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Dec 20, 2011. So, as many other Americans and bank customers around the world, I woke up and begrudgingly rubbed my eyes. It was one of those days. I knew that payroll was going to be late this week, as happens to small companies occasionally. I plopped down in front of the computer to make sure I had enough money to cover lunch and parking fees. Low and behold, I had three overdraft fees, yet nowhere on my online statement did it EVER show a negative balance. I am no stranger to these fees. Back when I was inexperienced with money and freelancing, I had whopping numbers of them. When you go in to try to reduce your fees they’d embarass you by reading outloud what nights that week you went to some trashy bar. They had been trained for this, ignoring the $5.98 you spent on toothpaste and a box of cereal, declaring, ”I see you spent $19.50 at the Basement Pub on the 13th.“ But there’s a new incidous technique to financially enslave the already ducket-marginalized. Which brings us to what is fundamentally wrong with our electronic personal banking systems.

“Our online banking is crappy. It doesn't show the balance I see in my system”

—US Bank Manager, Greg

The manager I spoke to went on to say that basically online banking shows a complete discrepency from his records. “That‘s not what I see... It sucks, but it‘s like we‘re on two completely different systems.“ Well, you tried to be suave and play-up to my grievences, but eat your words, corporate balding guy. I knew my account was low, but not quite negative. Whereas he had a detailed, minute-by-minute record at his disposal, showing hours-old transactions to the tee. I made a small $200 deposit on the 16th, and, according to my online statement my balance the day before was $18, but his record said I was $47 negative on that particular day.**See image below.

Shouldn‘t my statement be accurate, and not some rounding off of dates? But wait, it goes even farther to decieve you. This deception is no mistake. The banks hire software engineers. The best engineers who know quite well what the fuck they‘re doing. They have to be top-notch for both security and stability of the entire system. They’re not cheap. I've sat through entire design meetings for hours discussing the placement of a 'next' button on a kiosk interface, the collective hourly rates of all involved was probably upwards of $800 per hour. It’s not like they’re paying transient freelance developers to churn out one-offs. This is big money spent on big lies. Here’s how it used to work before the banking legislation went into effect.

How they lied before the law change

OVERVIEW: Banks would wait for you to rack up tiny purchases. They’d “hold” onto your big ticket checks or purchases for extended periods, eventually clearing it FIRST supposedly so your boat payment wouldn‘t bounce. I don’t have a fucking boat, do you?

STEP 1: Banks would wait for you to accumulate many small purchases, maybe over the course of a week.

STEP 2: Banks then clear your big ticket item first, making your account negative.

STEP 3: The bank clears all your small purchases in rapid succession, often all on the same day so you have no time to respond. **The date it clears is the date of the overdraft.

Legislators found this to be unfair and deceptive. So, the law changed prohibiting this practice. Banks stood up to the challenge by creating an even more deceptive “workaround“ as us programmers would say.

How they lie now

OVERVIEW: Hide your true balance, and then back-date transactions to gain a probabalistic advantage of overdrafting your account.

STEP 1: Never show you up to date information. Deduct the amount from your secret balance.

STEP 2: Hide the secret balance with the "slow" statement balance.

STEP 3: Charge you an overdraft fee based on the **Original date of the transaction. Note that this differs drastically from the old model where they depended on the merchant payment date to justify their fee.

The old system relied on abstract “clear“ dates, wheras the new system depends on mysteriously back-dating balances. Essentially, they are gaining insanely high interest rates on miniscule transactions. As the bank manager told me (in a mechanically rehearsed yet casual fashion) the pending transactions are incomplete because the merchant needs to verify and process the amount of the final transaction. In other words, the merchant has to wait for the money, and the bank has not paid them yet. So “naturally” my online balance would not reflect it. Here’s the catch: once it does clear, they charge the overdraft fee based on the original transaction date.*See image of my statement below.

This is the fundamental difference between the old model and the now model. Now, banks back-date the transaction even though the money was still in your account at the time. LIES!

I would still be in prison if I created a web application that was two days behind, let alone still have a job.

We walk around with microprosessors in our pockets a million fold more powerful than the super computers of yesteryear. Engineers in photonics and signal processing work around the clock to double the capacity of fiberoptic cable nearly every two years. Information is instant. There is absolutely no reason anybody should have to keep a paper ledger under no circumstances—unless you’re being lied to. Since the banks internal system is so immediate, it would be no problem whatsoever to use that API (application programming interface) to update your online banking instantly. He‘ll, that‘s child‘s play to any real developer.

I‘m not saying people shouldn’t think about their money and manage it, I’m saying our thinking should be focussed on REAL, up to date data, even if that data is known to be subject to finalization. Why blur the facts, show me the internals. You’d expect no less from your instant twitter feed. Facebook will tell you the instant your ex-girlfriend logs on, why would your bank tell you that you spent too much on booze... Two days ago? Information is power, and they don’t want you and me to have it.

Einstein said, ”We scientists... must consider it our solemn and transcendant duty to do all in our power to prevent these [nuclear] weapons from being used for the brutal purposes for which they were intended...“ I would argue that my duty as a programmer to mankind is to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of data, but that’s another article. Shame on you developers for agreeing to boatloads of our hard-earned fucking money. Harry S. Truman died before Einstein‘s letter was even opened.

Here’s my proposal: fire all the high earning branch managers who spend 75% of their day dealing with overdraft complaints and give us real information. Maybe hire a teller or two while you‘re at it. Don’t spend 2.5 Million dollars making a cross-platform mobile app to lie to us and show us partial and innacurate information. Call your representatives and say the law is all wrong, what we should be after is truth and accuracy in information. A comittee of greedmongers will find any way possible to avoid a particular behaviour, but you can‘t dodge

the truth.

For more on how credit cards are killing the US Middle Class: Watch Maxed Out (It’s on netflix, too).

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Disclaimer: I am not a trusted media source. All I can offer is inferred and subjective knowledge based on my experiences, observations and interactions with the world. If you find any factual discrepencies, please inform me vance[at] and innacurate information will be corrected if evidence warrants it. Vance Feldman hereby claims that the opinions expressed here are for entertainment purposes only, and if you sue me for the last 18 bucks I have in my US bank account, you're one messed up bastard and I will see you on the other side of the Foreverscape.

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