August 20, 2017
August 12, 2017
The human body and bacteria
Despite common knowledge, bacteria is something the human body cannot live without.
The false belief that bacteria is always bad is mostly propagated by the advertising industry, who try to promote the idea that we’re constantly at risk of getting infections because of bacteria. This scares us, and we end up buying antibacterial soaps.
The truth is that not all bacteria is bad. Without good bacteria, our digestive systems cannot break down food properly. This puts us at risk of low Biotin and Vitamin K levels.
A study concluded that guinea pigs raised in a sterile environment are malnourished and die young because they aren’t exposed to bacteria.
Bacteria is one of the primary teachers of our immune system. When our body is exposed to bacteria, it tries its best to fight it. Regular exposure can straighten out our immune system and teach it how to suppress infections more effectively.
However, bacteria can be harmful too. Let’s take for example the staph bacteria that can be found on your skin.
As long as you don’t get any cuts, the staph bacteria won’t attack your body. But if you do, you set yourself up for a battle against a bacteria that can undergo mutations and become resistant to antibiotics.
How our eyes use bacteria to fight infections
Not so long ago, specialists were certain that our eyes lack a bacterial community. This idea is rooted in the defense mechanism of the eyes. Human tears contain compounds that are deadly to microbes.
In recent years, however, scientists found traces of bacterial DNA in human tears. But it doesn’t stop there. Soon, more tests were done and a modified version of Corynebacterium mastitis was found.
Why are these findings relevant?
Research shows that even though we previously thought the superpowers of our tears are due to lack of bacteria, we find out that bacteria itself is part of the defense mechanism that helps kill microbes.
A study done on mice put this theory to the test. After removing the Corynebacterium mastitis in mice, their eyes became more vulnerable to infections.
In conclusion, a modified version of bacteria survives in our eyes. It not only survives, but it’s now collaborating with our bodies to keep infections at bay.
How your gut is linked to your immune system and brain
A bit over 60% of your immune system’s cell tissues can be found in your gut. It just so happens that your gut is the part of your body that is most exposed to unfriendly bacteria.
Unwashed vegetables, bad meats, and old foods are just among the few ways pathogens can attack your gut. Perhaps, this is why the immune system keeps its headquarters in your gut.
The immune system in your gut doesn’t just protect you from pathogens. It also produces specialized cells that help your body defend itself from viruses.
In conclusion, your gut’s health greatly influences your immune system. Without enough good bacteria in your gut, your body becomes weaker.
But your gut’s bacteria not only influences your digestion, but it also impacts your metabolism and immune system. Researchers at the University of California believe that bacteria can even influence the way we think and feel.
Emeran Mayer, a gastroenterologist at the University of California, believes there’s a link between autism and your gut.
It seems that both mice and humans who suffer from autism benefit from Bacteroides Fragilis.
In a study, Bacteroides Fragilis was given to both humans and mice suffering from autism, and the results were astonishing. Both mice and humans experienced a change in behavior, with less repetitive behavior and an increased desire to socialize.
But autism is not the only ailment that can be helped with a healthier gut. Studies also show that depression and anxiety may be linked to changes in the gut bacteria.
Studies conducted on chimps demonstrate how interaction helps us “grow” good bacteria.The logic behind it is quite simple, the more we socialize, the more we expose ourselves to germs. Therefore, the relationship between brain and gut is a two-way street.
The brain influences the gut and the gut influences the brain, and ultimately our behaviors. Someone who is depressed will deepen their issues by choosing isolation. Less exposure to others means less good bacteria.
How to hack your gut and restore balance
There are many ways by which you can restore balance to your gut. But the first step is to remove all toxins from your diet.
You’ve probably guessed some of the usual suspects. Yes, grains, sweets, and artificial sweeteners can all irritate your gut. It’s also a good idea to avoid antibiotics when you can, or start taking a probiotic soon after you finished the treatment.
Anti-inflammatory medication such as Advil and Ibuprofen can also bring negative changes in your gut bacteria.
To make sure your gut’s bacteria flourishes, you need more than just the removal of inflammatory foods. Adding fermented foods can speed up the healing process since it introduces a number of good bacteria into your body.
Fermented veggies and products made from whole milk can help you populate your gut with “good” bacteria.
Sometimes, the problems you might have with your gut could be caused by stress. As I mentioned before, the relationship between your brain and your gut’s bacteria is a two-way street. This is why stress management is so important.
Stress takes its toll on all of your body’s function, and even though it might be impossible for some of us to find a way to control it, we all have something we enjoy doing.
Instead of thinking about doing yoga to manage stressful periods in your life, think about the things you love doing. It might be spending time with your pets or even playing a video game. Don’t eliminate all the fun activities from your life. Make time for them, and your body will thank you for it.
In conclusion, the way we eat and how we manage stress has a bigger impact on our immune system and brain than we thought before.
My Experiment: #1 Control, #2 Stress (DEFCON), & #3 Antibiotics
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives over the years. They’ve killed many microbes and pathogens and increased the quality of our lives.
However, studies show that antibiotics also attack our gut flora, not to mention that the irresponsible use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistant pathogens.
There are many contradictory claims. Some researchers say that antibiotics don’t have a big impact on gut flora, or that the impact is merely temporary.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are researchers who believe that antibiotics can cause irreversible damage to our gut flora in large doses over extended periods of time. The damage caused by antibiotics can sometimes lead to dairy and gluten intolerances.
My experience with antibiotics and its effects on my gut flora
I did this experiment using Ubiome to sample my gut’s flora, compare it with other samples and track any changes in my own flora.
I’ve introduced into Ubiome’s system three sets of testings samples, the first set was taken with no changes in my diet, lifestyle, stress levels or any type of antibiotics. This sets our control group of bacteria.
The second set of my bacteria sampling was immediately after DEFCON, a six day stressful event with little food, sleep and tons and tons of exercise.
With the 2nd group sampling, let’s start with the good news, likely due to the changes during DEFCON. My gut flora changed completely. Some of the changes were actually positive. For example, Firmicutes were lowered by at least 40% while Bactoroidedes were doubled. Both changes decrease the chances of obesity.
A study done on mice revealed that mice who had more Firmicutes and less Bactoroidedes had a higher body fat percentage by 15% despite not having a different diet from mice with a healthy gut flora.
This means that my gut flora will now be more likely to defend my body from gaining weight.
The bad news is that I also saw an increase in Kluyvera ascorbata, a bacteria that is associated with a large range of infections.
The third set of my bacteria sampling was taken after I’ve 10 days of antibiotics. During these 10 days I took Amoxicillin 875mg, one tablet per day, for 10 days. This led to some good and some bad news.
Antibiotics, which are normally intended to treat infections, stimulate a bacteria that is associated with a large range of infections. This is what happened in my case.
Also, the bifidobacteria population went down after I used the antibiotics. This type of bacteria is associated with aging, or at least diminishes with age.
At birth, humans have their highest bifidobacteria population. As they age, the population of this type of bacteria diminishes.
In conclusion, DEFCON and antibiotics did changed almost every aspect of my gut flora. However, not all changes were negative. My body is now better at managing weight gain, but I might have some issues with infections in the future. This ended up being true, as I had a month of sickness… although my child went to a new school around the same time. Yikes.
August 12, 2017
You probably heard about rewilding before. The process is actually quite simple. Humans have destroyed, and are in the process of destroying, many ecosystems. Rewilding is the process in which individuals or organizations reverse and fight for the conservation of these destroyed ecosystems.
Rewilding is not only about conservation. It’s also about action based on knowledge and physical strength of planting seeds of plants that used to live in a certain place or trying to reintroduce both predators and key species to a certain area are also part of the rewilding process. There are a few organizations around the world that deal with the conservation of the environment. One great example is The American Chestnut Foundation in which I’ve been a member of for many years. In reality though, you can begin your own rewilding process if you have a bit of land.
How does the rewilding process begin?
Use research to try to find out the key species that can live in certain areas, as well as their key predators. Next, determine how damaged a certain area is. If damaged, try to determine the numbers of predators and key species by contacting local authorities.Sometimes, due to pollution or changes in the environment, some species go extinct. For example, if predators are hunted for their fur, the population of wild rabbits will grow wildly, and some of the population will migrate since they need more space.
When it comes to plants, using native seeds is extremely important because the regular seeds found in stores are genetically modified and might not have the same nutrients that native seeds have. This is particularly important for herbivores who will need as many nutrients as possible from their food.
Why should we care about rewilding in Wisconsin?
According to Greenpeace, the Amazonian forest will disappear by 2100 if we continue at this rate. The earth strongest lung will fade due to the illegal deforestation that occurs in Brazil. Despite the fact that many forests are protected on paper, hundreds of trees are being chopped down and sent to highly industrialized countries. We read tons of articles about corals and fish populations disappearing in the great barrier reef, but why should we care here at home? Rewilding is the only way we can save certain species from extinction that do not get press, look at the list . Introducing animals that once lived in captivity back into the wilderness again is the only way we can help them adapt and survive. This also applies to Wisconsin insects and plants that are threatened by the human activity, either through our abundant farming with pesticides or deforestation.
Unlike what most people think, rewilding doesn’t affect commercial activity that much. For example, whale watching is a more profitable business than hunting whales and selling their body parts. Fascinating travel activities like safaris can also be monetized without doing much harm to the ecosystem itself. Lake Michigan does not need to be over-fished for business to thrive. The best part about rewilding is the creation of self-sustainable systems. Once an area is protected from pollution and the right animal and plants are introduced, nature finds a way to keep the ecosystem balanced. You won’t have to worry about planting new seeds or constantly watching them if the ratio predator-prey is imbalanced.
Biodiversity is another concern that makes rewilding so important. Damaging habitats and overhunting can have disastrous effects. We all know what happened to the famous Dodo bird, which surprisingly survived the volcanic activity in Madagascar but went extinct 100 years later after Spaniards discovered Madagascar. Unfortunately, the Dodo bird is not an isolated case. Over 14 major species went extinct during the last century.
How you can contribute to the rewilding process
If you want to make a positive change and help the Wisconsin environment, there are few steps you can take, even if you aren’t part of a large organization.
One of the first things you should do is protect the animals by not feeding them bread, especially birds. What few people know is that doves and ducks do not thrive on a diet high in carbohydrates. Therefore, bread that both old and young people give to their favorite animals on the lake is actually harmful. Also, littering is often associated with environmental harm. However, few people know that animals are most impacted by it. When you throw food out the window while driving, you attract animals to the road. This why so many animals get hit by vehicles. Often times, they’re just searching for food.
Even simple things such as choosing paper over plastic can have a huge impact on the wildlife as well. On the coast, thousands of marine animals die every year because they mistake plastic bags for jellyfish. Whales, turtles, seals, and birds suffer a slow and painful death because they end up consuming the plastic, which can’t be digested by their gut. Pesticides are harmful both to the insects and plants. Also, pesticides used in agriculture can lead to serious health issues in humans who regularly consume vegetables on which pesticides were sprayed.
Recently it was discovered that the widely used pesticide Glyphosate may cause cancer. It’s also known to block the hormonal pathways in women, among many other issues. Fighting against pesticides not only saves the environment but our health as well.
What else can you do? Restore a Wisconsin prairie.
How to restore a prairie? First, you need to make sure that your area was even a prairie 100 years ago and make sure that it wasn’t recently deforested. If your site of choice was recently deforested, you’ll still have trees competing with whatever you choose to plant. Besides, a recently deforested area is not a native prairie. When trying to restore a prairie make sure you use native seeds, no exotic plants, no genetically modified seeds. The whole point of restoring it is to recreate the ecosystem that was once damaged and to encourage the same type of insects and animals that one left the prairie to come back.
Prairies in Wisconsin
Over 400 types can be found in the prairies of Wisnconsin, however the prairies in this state, especially the tall grass prairies are in danger of disappearing. It takes a lot of research to find exactly what you should replant in your particular area. However between 1950 and 2017 plants specific to prairies started to be replaced by generalistic plants, like the ones you could find near roads or in a ditch. Many plants such as Ratlesnake master can absorb large amounts of water, protect communities against drought and absorb carbon dioxide. One of the easiest forms of making an impact is planting oak trees for forest land or native milkweed for fields. The amount of wildlife that uses both oak and milkweed is well over 1500 native species and would cause a major ecosystem impact in four years. Doing so is relatively cheap costing about $200 for 30,000 milkweed seeds covering about 10 acres.
Hope you enjoyed some random environmental thoughts, go plant oak trees!
July 16, 2017
Our bodies are wonderful biological machines. Sadly, they’re also flawed. Issues like neurodegenerative diseases and aging are difficult to ignore. The reality is that we’ve yet to become the best versions of ourselves through evolution. Biohacking is all about improving our bodies beyond what evolution offers. In some cases, it involves tweaking our diet and actively measuring the results of our efforts, whereas in others it involves using prosthetics to replace missing limbs or even computer/electronic systems imbedded into our bodies. Rooted in transhumanism, biohacking is all about helping humans reach their full potential and preserving the most valuable asset on the planet: the human brain and the memories within. While we’re far from having the technology to upload or conscientiousness and achieve immortality, humanity is taking small steps in that direction.
While there are many definitions, transhumanism is simply a philosophy focused on improving our biological functions through the use of technology. Transhumanism aims to reach certain technological advancements that will inevitably defeat death itself, and it’s based on the belief that one day we can separate our consciousness from our biological bodies and download it as digital information that can be uploaded into cyborg-like bodies that will never die. This is rather a simplistic explanation of the transhumanist philosophy, but I believe it’s a good start for those who want to understand its core principles. While it might sound like your favorite sci-fi television/streaming series, technological advancements are now made at a such a rapid pace that we can only wonder how long we have left until we can really say that we can improve our body functions trough implants or even robot-like parts. Biohacking is just the next step in learning more about our bodies and how to improve their performance. There are many approaches to biohacking, from using nootropics to improve brain performance to steroids to increase body strength.
Biohacking is already happening! Before you jump to conclusions about how radical the biohacking movement is, you should know that you probably use several biohacks yourself. Anything that you put in your body and that improves your performance can be considered a biohack. You can’t start your day without the energy coffee gives you? Caffeine is your biohack of choice. Biohacking doesn’t have to be a radical treatment. It could be something more subtle, such as creatine for muscles or nootropics for an improved brain performance. Any substance that you use to increase your body’s performance can fall into the biohacking category. But biohacking sometimes comes with a twist. It empowers regular people who don’t have access to studies in medicine and engineering to study their own bodies and experiment with them. For instance, some biohackers try to improve their body by adding small magnets near their fingertips in order to “feel” magnetic fields. This type of improvement of the senses helps make us aware of magnetic fields that otherwise can’t be observed by our senses.
Biohacking majority impacts the health industry too. From nootropics to tracking down changes inside your body after adopting a new diet or taking a new supplement, biohacking is empowering people all over the world to find out more about their bodies and experiment with them. For example, you now have the opportunity to find out to what genetic diseases you’re predisposed to, what genetic diseases you’re currently suffering from, what your ancestry is, and many other useful pieces of information, just by mailing in your saliva in a tube.
The company I’ve brought up time after time is 23andme, a service that analyzes your DNA and delivers the results of 240 tests. These results let you truly understand one’s self. You can easily find out if you’re predisposed to ailments such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and much, much more. There are also many websites that help you keep a record of your medical history as well as websites that can help you get an idea what supplements should you use based on your height, weight, gender, and current dietary intake.
What’s so revolutionary about all this? For the first time ever, anyone can take these tests in a very comfort of their own home, at a very affordable price. The company can even “guess” your hair color and eye color. But biohacking doesn’t end there. Hormonal treatments for aging and prosthetics for the disabled can help us both live longer and improve the quality of our lives. Many people who are interested in biohacking just get regular tests. They measure the impact of certain supplements, and they generally try to improve their health some like our friend’s at DEFCON’s Biohacking village go way beyond the fringe with body modifications.
These friends at DEFCON’s Biohacking Village take body modifications one step further, many members of these biohacking communities are looking forward to incorporating new technology in their bodies each year. Magnets that can help user detect magnetic fields, and LED’s have the potential to make life even easier. Optimists say that in a few years the LED’s inside one’s body will allow you to communicate with your smartphone, giving commands. For example, you’ll have the ability to open your car door with LED’s. Nanotechnology is also on biohackers’ minds when it comes to body modifications. What if we could perform “surgeries” from the inside of the body? What if nanobots can help us detect cancer cells in early stages? What if these nanobots constantly examine our health state and report data to our laptops or smartphones? As technology advances, biohackers hope that they will accomplish the ultimate transhumanist dream: merging the human body with machines that not only enhance its capabilities but also transfer the human conscience in digital form to an undying body.
We’re living in a time where we can no longer deny their weakness or ignore death. But instead of giving up, we fight using technology. The ultimate goal of transhumanism is to defeat our biggest enemy: the flawed human body. While it’s undoubtedly a biological masterpiece, it has many shortcomings as well. Biohacking is not just about incorporating technology in our bodies. How far you wish to take it also depends on your goals and how you want to experience life. Some biohackers are more concerned about their mental performance, while others try to fight or prevent certain diseases. Biohacking is not limited to a small segment of people. It comes in many forms. However, the pursuit is all about changing your body and your human experience for the better, and always aiming to become a better human.
Come check us out at DEFCON’s Biohacking Village DC25
October 28, 2016
With the recent DNS denial-of-service attacks originating from compromised Internet of Things (IoT)/ Connected Devices, I thought it would make sense to break down all the various areas companies are struggling to keep these devices safe. The Internet of Things (IoT) can be defined as Cisco well states “a pervasive and ubiquitous network which enables monitoring and control of the physical environment by collecting, processing, and analyzing the data generated by sensors or smart objects.”
The problem with these devices is the perimeter of software and hardware realms that could be compromised. Security professionals working with product development can build better IoT ecosystems, but a full scope IOT security testing program encompasses MANY disciplines and volumes of knowledge – this is not something we can fix overnight. Here is a list of areas to consider when you are looking into IOT hardening.
- Code Security Assessment “Code Review”: Security code review is the process of auditing the source code for an application to verify that the proper security controls are present, that they work as intended, and that they have been invoked in all the right places. Code review is a way of ensuring that the application has been developed so as to be “self-defending” in its given environment. Covers both Automated or Manuel Reviews
- Binary Testing: we create various ways to dynamically exploit the code on the phone like it would be in the real world
- Hardware Testing: Not knowing the application details can be frightening, encryption and protection are important, here we use hardware-based attacks such as power-timing or side-channel to compromise the application.
- Host Forensics: What does the application leave on the host that could make it vulnerable? Does any leftover data give attackers insight?
- iOS/Android Environment Assessment “APK”: Digital Rights Management, Content Protection
- Authentication/Authorization Review: How credentials are transmitted and stored. With authentication and authorization components, a trust relationship is established between IoT devices to exchange appropriate information.
- Vulnerability Assessment/ Penetration Testing: Process of identifying and quantifying security vulnerabilities in an environment then simulate the actions of an external and/or internal cyber attacker that aims to breach the information security of the organization.
- Automated Fuzzing: Software testing technique that involves providing invalid, unexpected, or random data to the inputs of a computer program.
- System Architecture Security Analysis: Early assessment for General Hardening will reduce tons of additional work in the development process.
- Cloud or Systems/Network Architecture Security Analysis: Does the application communicate with a back-end? If so, that should be in scope. We analyze the network traffic and how it relates between host and server, particularly with encryption, there are typically vulnerabilities.
- Backend Systems/Network: Traditional areas should not be forgotten.
- Protocol Analysis: BLE/ WiFi, 802.15.4/Zigbee, USB, and Ethernet.
- Database Security Review: Trust Modeling & Verification
- Key management systems (KMS) / Cryptanalysis “cryptography”: Addresses problems associated with the design and security analysis of network protocols that use cryptographic primitives. Examples: public-key protocol, TLS, probabilistic, computational soundness, polynomial-time process, game-based verification
- Malware Analysis: The number of malware threats targeting the segment is rising
- API Analysis: Application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API specifies how software components should interact and APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components.
- Configuration Assessment: Reducing configuration drift and unauthorized changes with static analysis/methodology.
- Security Documentation Review: A document that establishes standards for Information Security documentation – What risks were calculated and how to monitor/protect against.
The defenders have the difficult job to get it right every time, whereas the attackers/criminals only need to find one seemingly small weakness to bring the whole thing crashing down.
Regarding DNS attacks, the creator of DNS, Paul Mockapetris, said “DDoS threatens our values and freedoms, as well as our surfing”. Therefore, I believe security researchers, businesses, and government will learn from previous attacks and keep healing our system into a bigger, better, and stronger global network.
~Michael Goetzman “Korgo”
August 2, 2016
The new website is live! Wisconsin Hackers
Also check out Hack the Badge!
April 7, 2016
CYPHERCON 2016 WAS A HUGE SUCCESS, If you didn’t attend, make sure you check out the presentations and join us in 2017:
Presenter: Nicole Tatrow & Michael Goetzman “Korgo”
Presenter: Jason Lang
Presenter: Eric Escobar
Presenter: Lieutenant Colonel Bill Hagestad II
Presenters: J0hnnyxm4s & Lesley Carhart
Presenter: Parker Schmitt
Presenter: JP SMITH
Presenter: Chris Roberts
Presenter: Joe Cicero
Presenter: Trenton Ivey
Presenter: Caleb Madrigal
Presenter: David Webber
Presenter: Scott Erven
Presenter: Werner Juretzko
Thank you IronGeek for recording the CYPHERCON 2016 videos
July 29, 2015
I am excited to announce I’ll be speaking on “DNA Security” at the EC-Council’s conference: Hacker Halted on September 17, 2015! http://www.hackerhalted.com/2015/speaker/michael-goetzman/
Talk Title: GATTACA – Final Warning!
Abstract: You were warned in 1997 that a not-too-distant future was approaching. This dystopian future is here now due to rapid technological advances, much quicker than we initially imagined. These breakthrough DNA technologies are exposing your deepest darkest secrets. Who can see this information? What will they do with this information? Little does anyone know they are only one data breach away from public exposure.
July 13, 2015
March 21, 2015
I was honored to have been presented with the Exceptional Service award last night by the Chappee Rapids Audubon Society!
Technology is important to local and regional nonprofit organizations for maintaining members, spreading news, and fighting challenges. While maintaining their twitter site, working on the website, and configuring their Google apps I’ve learned so much about birds and the community. I’m glad I could help the organization and ultimately the endangered bird populations! Please check out the Chappee Rapids Audubon Society website at http://craudubon.com