Sunday, November 11, 2018

A review of Mossad 101

Ann and I are always looking for new shows to watch on Netflix or Prime as we've mostly watched all the well known ones and are excited when we find something new that we like. For example, we loved both seasons of Fauda. I felt the last season of Breaking Bad might have been the most entertaining TV ever, and we recently binged on the new season of Ozarks.

So, we learned about a show called Mossad 101 on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. The show, like Fauda, is in Hebrew with subtitles. Here is my review.

Season 1 took some time to grow on us. My all time favorite Israeli singer, Yehoram Gaon, who was very popular around the time I was born, and who stars in Israel's version of West Side Story called Kazablan, is in the show, and I was excited to see him. However, I was disappointed to realize that he is a much better singer than actor. He is clearly the weak link in the show.

If you've ever seen the below average show Quantico, based on a group of FBI trainees, you'll appreciate that Mossad 101 season 1 is very similar. A group of elite Mossad up and comers undergoes a series of exercises and in-field test that challenge them on every level. Those who fail get eliminated. The plot is slightly less hoaky than Quantico's, and the acting is better, but initially, we were not sure that we were watching a winner. In fact, some of the early episodes are slmost painful to watch in their absurdity. That changed towards the end of the season. Some major plot elements came together in a very exciting and surprising way, and the last episode was phenomenal.

Season two is where Mossad 101 really started blowing us away.  The show had a completely different feel to it as though they hired a new team of incredible writers. We watched the last five episodes in one sitting. I don't want to give anything away, but the biggest shock of all was the two star rating on Netflix for a show whose second season was in the league with the last season of Breaking Bad, and just as gripping, interesting and exciting as Fauda. Yehoram Gaon was smartly left out of season 2, and the acting was world class. It was fun to see that one of the major characters in Fauda has a starring role in Mossad 101 season 2.

If you can sit through the first half of season one, you will be treated to an amazingly good show that seems to have gone under everyone's radar. I had not heard of it until I saw a list of Netflix shows in Hebrew and thought we would try it out. All I can say is five stars for season 2 - one of the most entertaining and exciting shows I've ever seen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A change of venue

I arrived in San Francisco last night for the RSA conference, tired from a long 6 hour flight and having just barely gotten over the flu. After a nice dinner with my cousins who live in the area, getting to bed quickly became the priority, as I was fading fast.

Last year, I came to this conference at stayed at the W hotel, very convenient, right next to the conference venue, but unreasonably priced. I took a lot of flack from Hopkins for the $700+ per night room. So, this year, I opted for a budget option recommended by JHU's automated online travel site. Yes, it's about a 1.2 mile walk to the conference, but exercise is good, and how bad could it be for $250/night?

My cousin Shaina drove me from the restaurant to the hotel, and as we pulled up, she exclaimed, "Are you really staying here?" I saw her point. Neighborhood was really seedy, and the facade was uninviting. I shrugged because it was too late now - San Francisco has been sold out for months. RSA is huge!

Checking in at the front desk, I asked if I could get a quiet room, and was assured I would be on the 6th floor, the highest for this hotel. The elevator was rickety and small, and for someone as claustrophobic as me, not a fun time. The ride was slow and squeaky, but I would be able to lie down soon, and I took consolation in that. As I approached room #603, I couldn't help notice that it was very loud. Someone nearby was watching TV. I might have to ask for another room because it was too early West Coats time to complain, but it was approaching midnight for me, still on Eastern time.

I put the key in the lock and opened the door. Oh, it was my TV that was on. I guess they make you feel welcome that way. I walked in, pulling my suitcase behind me. With a strange chill up my spine, I noticed a large pair of men's shoes in the middle of the floor. As if in slow motion, I panned the room and saw clothes everywhere. Someone was living here! And then I saw a change in the shadow of the light from the bathroom from under the closed door, and heard a sound. The bathroom was occupied! I grabbed my stuff and bolted out the door. Breathing heavily, I practically fell back into the elevator and made my way down to the lobby, slowly, very slowly, and squeaky.

When I got down to the front desk, a line had formed, and the single person working there was attending to others. I walked to the front of the line, to the looks of consternation from the other customers, and the hotel clerk asked if everything was okay with my room. I replied that everything seemed fine, except that someone was living there. He gave me a puzzled look and said he would look into that as soon as he finished with the other customers. It took about 10 minutes for him to check them in, and he came back to me and said, sorry about that, here is the key to room #605. I asked if he was sure that nobody was in that room, and he said he was.

I had to wait for the slow, squeaky elevator to come back down, and then I took it up for my 3rd ride of the evening. I got into the room, and was pleased to see that the room was completely empty. I started unpacking and felt really cold, so I called down to the front desk and asked where the thermostat could be found. He informed me that there is no heat in the rooms except a small radiator that is manually controlled, by the window.

As I leaned over the bed to check out the radiator, I heard a rustling from behind the bed. What the hell was that?!? I looked to the side of the bed by the window and was stared back at by what looked like a cross between a large rat and a guinea pig. It had a lot of fur and a big tail. It ran back behind the bed, and then came out again as if to check if I was still there.

I was surprised at how calm I remained. I grabbed my phone and my keys and left everything in its place and jolted out of the room. For someone who was sick from travel and tired and just over the flu, who knew I could move that quickly? As the elevator descended for ride #4, with all my stuff still in the room, I had a sinking feeling that this evening would never end. I had been at the hotel for 45 minutes already, and no closer to getting to sleep than I was when I arrived.

The guy at the front desk got a real kick out of my report. "Shall I go up and kill it?" he asked? I must have had quite the expression on my face because he quickly reassured me that he was kidding, and that I could have another room. I indicated that I was not going back into the room with "that thing". So, he came up with me, and I stood in the hall while he packed up my stuff and handed it all to me. We went down to the 4th floor, to probably the loudest room in the hotel.  Below the window was a crowd of homeless people in an endless battle. They literally were yelling at each other all night. As emergency vehicles pulled up to my window, their sirens blaring, and as large trucks with their backup horns were working through the night, I lay in bed in my vermin-infested hotel wondering if it was really worth getting a budget hotel for RSA this year.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

FIrmware Upload Contest

I'm working on a new security research project. We need to collect firmware files from IoT devices. To crowdsource the collection, I am running a contest through my company with great prizes, including an iPad mini 4, Nintendo Switch, Apple HomePod, Apple Watch, Chromebook, PS4, and more.

See for details.

Finding and entering proper Firmware is a great project for high schoolers in the STEM field. The prizes are potentially life changing for a 16 year old!

Please spread the word. The contest runs until April 15.