Category Archives: Computer Science

Former NSA Employees Blame Hack on “Rogue Insider”

The NSA’s special operations team, an organization called the “Equation Group,” has just become the victim of a cyberattack by a potentially Russian-based hacking group called “The Shadow Brokers”. According to some former employees of the US National Security Agency, this troubling interception may be an inside job, similar to that which was carried out by exiled American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

nsa2“My colleagues and I are fairly certain that this was no hack, or group for that matter,” said one former NSA employee. “This ‘Shadow Brokers’ character is one guy, an insider employee.”

The source of this opinion, who chose to remain anonymous, said it would way easier for an employee to obtain the data that the Shadow Brokers put online than it would be for any elite hacker, Russian-based or not. He went on to argue that “naming convention of the file directories, as well as some of th scripts in the dump are only accessible internally” and that “there is no reason” for those files to exist on a hackable server. According to the former employee, the files that were exposed were kept on a physically separated network that had no connection to the internet.

In response to this theory, Matt Suiche, CEO of Dubai-based cybersecurity company Comae, posited another: perhaps a member of NSA’s elite hacking team, Tailored Access Operation or TAO, made a major mistake by leaving the hacking tools on a server that was connected to the internet.

That said, the former NSA employee is sticking to his guns:

“We are 99.9 percent sure that Russia has nothing to with this and even though all this speculation is more sensational in the media, the insider theory should not be dismissed… We think it is the most plausible.”

nsa3“Now seeing that’s being paraded in the media like the wildly speculative attribution to Russia, I feel a personal responsibility to propose the more plausible theory on behalf of the rest of the guys like me,” the source explained, stating that he was getting “a little nervous” about the fact that major politicians were already accusing Russia of taking part in the hacks based on little to no evidence. “I think it’s dangerous to point fingers when they shouldn’t be. That could have real implications that affect real people.”

The source, who provided a military award as proof of his employment in which his role was described as “Cyber Intrusion Analyst.” The source went on to say that while he was not a member of TAO, he did work with TAO operators and analyze the data that TAO operators received.

Another NSA source who was contacted independently and also wishes to remain anonymous said that the insider theory is definitely “plausible” as it was much easier to walk out of the NSA with a USB drive or a CD than it was to hack its servers.

Michael Adams, an information security expert who worked for US Special Operations Command for over 20 years, also confirmed the viability of the theory.

“It’s Snowden Junior,” he explained. “Except he doesn’t want to end up in virtual prison in Russia. He’s smart enough to rip off shit, but also smart enough to be unidentifiable.”

It’s worth noting that there is as much information attributing responsibility to an insider as there is to Russia; in other words, there’s no evidence whatsoever.

Mobile Ransomware Gains Speed

Since the internet went mainstream, malware has existed in ever-changing reiterations. In the past year, phishing scams, Trojan viruses, and a variety of other kinds of malevolent software have given way to ransomware, the most common type of malware currently circulating the web. Ransomware poses a threat not just to personal computers and corporate systems; according to a report published by Kaspersky Lab, now more than ever, ransomware targets people’s mobile devices.

mob2Kaspersky software was able to protect over 135,000 users targeted by ransomware spanning from April 2015 to March 2016. That’s up from 35,413 in the year prior, meaning the amount of mobile ransomware victims quadrupled last year.

“The growth curve may be less than that seen for PC ransomware, but it is still significant enough to confirm a worrying trend,” it reads in the report.

How and why did this trend come about? The software firm attributes the spike in ransomware targets to the fact that people are willing to pay ransoms and that the value of information stored on digital devices is high enough that paying that ransom is actually the most cost-effective way to recover the data. In addition, law enforcement has been incapable of effectively responding to the problem and new payment tools and anonymous currencies are making it easier than ever for hackers to collect their fees.

“The problem for criminals is that legitimate payment systems, reacting to the rise in fraudulent payments, have started to track and block suspicious transactions, making money transfer a far more risky business for cyber crooks,” the report states. However, it goes on to explain that criminals have found new payments systems that allow them to work around this.

“With underground and semi-legal payment systems the problem is that no guarantees are given to the users of such systems (no refunds, no protection from other criminals) and the privacy of these transactions is also questionable.”

Then cryptocurrencies like bitcoin made it fundamentally easier for criminals to obtain money made illegally:

“Criminals have started to exploit the advantages crypto-currencies offer over other types of e-currency: anonymity and a distributed nature, which both allow them to hide fraudulent transactions and make it possible for a law enforcement agency to do anything… These features help to support individual privacy rights but, unfortunately also give cybercriminals a very reliable and secret payment tool. The main outcome of this is that ransomware has become the new black in the underground.”

mobWireless extortionists approach hacking mobile devices differently than they would approach hacking a personal computer:

“With a PC, the ransomware encrypts your files, encrypts your backup and leaves everything as garbage on our machine and then [demands] a ransom payment,” explained Ryan Naraine, global research and analaysis team head at Kaspersky Lab.

“On mobile, in some cases they’re doing encryption, but in most cases, they’re just locking the screen and not allowing you to get into the phone at all… It’s the same model. You make the end user completely desperate to get access to his files, and that desperation leads to paying the ransom.”

What is the Tech Bubble?

The rise of Silicon Valley and the companies that comprise it has been well documented by economists and the media alike. However, many have come to question whether these tech powerhouses can sustain the incredible rates of growth that they have enjoyed over the past few years. There has been plenty of talk regarding a “tech bubble” that’s ready to burst, so here’s a little background information about exactly that.

tech bubbleUp until recently, talk of the tech bubble was isolated among Wall Street analysts and venture capitalists, and received little to no interest from other entities. However, recent investors have valued companies like Uber at $50 billion and Airbnb at $25 billion, and that kind of valuation is generally cause for more general attention.

There are some general concepts to keep in mind when deciding whether these valuations are indicative of a healthy economy or one on the brink of collapse. One is the definition of a bubble.

“I define a bubble as something where assets have prices that cannot be justified with any reasonable assumption,” said Jay Ritter, professor of finance at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration. Ritter studies valuation and IPOs.

In general, bubbles tend to occur when an economic sector’s development creates a situation in which the most recent money to be inputted is extremely unlikely to realize a return that justifies the risk it has taken. This circumstance tends to be helped along by new companies with new products claiming that they should not be subjected to conventional P/E-based valuation analysis, especially if and when those companies keep their earnings a secret.

So back to Uber: Uber’s $50 billion alleged worth was only made possible by the company being valued at a multiple of 100 times its sales. Many other companies are valued at high integers of their actual sales (Airbnb is a 28x multiple, Slack is at 90x, Zipcar was at 6x during its peak, etc.). The ruling logic behind these valuations is that so many tech companies have become so large so fast, that it’s silly to set a ceiling to how valuable a company with real promise may become. Many economists have an issue with that.

tech bub3“Private valutations have become disconnected from public reality,” explained Jules Maltz, a general partner at Institutional Venture Partners. Many other higher-up partners at investment companies have seen reason to warn partenrs of an “extreme end of a cycle” due to the increasing trend of late-stage investors having “essentially abandoned traditional risk analysis” and pouring money into totally unsustainable companies.

Many believe that the question is not if, but when the bubble will pop, and how bad it will be. Some say that it shouldn’t be too bad, but others expect unpredictable results due to the fact that this bubble has been caused almost entirely by private companies backed by private money. That means the only people who stand to get hurt are those that privately invest.

However, some are pointing to the fact that when private deals get too big for VCs to underwrite, public money gets involved through direct investments from mutual funds like Fidelity, Janus, and T. Rowe Price, and indirectly through pension-backed hedge funds and private equity. These funds state that only 1 to 2 percent of their assets are going to private tech firms, so that no one’s 401(k) or IRA is overly dependent on the firms’ success, but this percentage may have increased over the past few years due to the longevity of the tech boom’s success. In fact, the give mutual funds that are the most active startup investors have made 45 tech investments in 2014 compared with 18 in 2013.

The Creation of Online Space

Internet cookies enable corporations, online social media and search engine providers, and even government entities to track a private internet user’s browsing history and manage or adjust the content that the user sees accordingly. In addition to this online-space revising power done basically without consent by these entities, internet users can themselves mold the internet that they come into contact with; they can download certain search extensions (like the one that replaces all instances of “Donald Trump” with “Donald Drumpf”) that block certain content, revise some content, or emphasize certain kinds of content based on theinternet cookies2 user’s preferences.

Although privacy advocates have taken issue with the non consensual use of internet cookies or selling of private internet browsing history to major corporations for advertising purposes, little to nothing has been said about an internet user’s ability to mold his or her own internet space, be it the news that he or she receives, the filters he or she employs, etc.

This lack of conversation constitutes a major absence in the discussion of contemporary politics and philosophy; now more than ever people are navigating an internet space that to them represents the exploration of wider scope of reality than is accessible to them physically. However, due to factors both in and outside of their control, this space is warped, limited, and invisibly tied into a feedback loop that relies on the user’s own habitual use of the internet. This of course does not apply to those using proxies, VPNs, cryptocurrencies, and the like. 

In other words, despite the unlimited breadth of information that the world wide web represents to our culture, people are much more likely to find what they’re looking for more often and in greater proportions than how that information exists in reality. A power crystal enthusiast will find power crystal products and articles pop up all the time in side margins of web pages and news articles, even outside what that enthusiast seeks out on his or her own.

internet cookies3To continue with this hypothetical situation, the power crystal believer may not only continue in his or her hobby, but become increasingly polarized as a result of being constantly bombarded with this information and with confirmation of its validity. Where there might have once been doubt or at least the feeling of being part of a fringe spirituality (if this person was to navigate the nonvirtual world espousing his or her beliefs in power crystals), there may instead be an assuredness in numbers that could only be felt by use of the internet.

This is relatively harmless, if somewhat sad, for the power crystal believer. However, there are other fringe cultures and non-universally-held radical belief systems that this aspect of the internet feeds into an increasingly polarized status. Take the tragic massacre in Charleston that occured in 2015. The shooter was polarized by white supremacist websites and likely found support in white supremacist chatrooms. Perhaps gun advertisements lined the shooter’s web pages.

All in all, it’s important to consider that while the web can be an unlimited source of new and ground breaking information, it can be used to further the momentum of a person’s worldview, as opposed to destabilizing that world view. In fact, in most cases, the former is more common than the latter.

Tech Giants See New Investment Opportunity

Remember the Bitcoin gold rush? That may be happening again, but this time there’s a new digital currency challenger on the block.

Called Ethereum, the alternative digital currency uses a similar blockchain system as its older and more successful counterpart, but has a slightly more sophisticated set of applications due to the smart payment system that can be written directly into its blockchain.

What does that mean? It means that with Ethereum, it’s possible to program binding agreements into the blockchain that enable people to, for example, place bets on a sports game and then set a mandatory pay out to whoever becomes the victor is before the results are known. The system is called a “smart contract” system and could be used for anything from gambling to online banking to Ponzi schemes.

italikThis capability was precisely what 21-year-old Russian-Canadian Vitalik Buterin had in mind when he dropped out of Waterloo University in Ontario to create the software in question. Ether has since become one of the only alt-coins to present serious competition to the Bitcoin; the price of Ether has risen from $1 to $12 over the course of the last three months and JPMorgan already has set up its own private Ethereum network and blockchain.

The total value of all Ether currency has been toggling back and forth across the $1 billion line, putting it at second place to Bitcoin’s $6 billion value.

Bitcoin has been perilously close to losing the momentum ever since a rift was created among users regarding certain software developments. The dispute has caused many foundational creators to wash their hands of what some of them call a “failed experiment,” and many potential investors and banks have developed an ear for other digital currency  opportunities.

The Ethereum system can be described as a single shared computer that is run by a network of users and on which resources are parceled out and paid for by Ether. Similar to Bitcoin, Ethereum’s success can be largely attributed to its ability to attract a dedicated network of users who have supported the software in hopes that their efforts will increase the value of the Ether they purchased.

ethereum2Although Ethereum’s overall currency value may be well under that of Bitcoin’s, its network of supporters rivals that of Bitcoin by much closer margins. Last week it was recorded that just under 6,000 computers (called nodes in this context) are helping to support the Ethereum network. The Bitcion network has somewhere around 7,400 nodes.

One Ethereum co-founder, Joseph Lubin, is currently running a company called ConsenSys out of Brooklyn. ConsenSys has hired over 50 developers to aid in the construction of applications on and for the Ethereum system, one of which enables music distribution and another that makes it possible to perform a revolutionary kind of financial auditing. All of these efforts represent the rapid growth and hungry culture behind Ethereum, and perhaps explain its quick rise to 2nd place in the digital currency game.

“Bitcoin presented the broad strokes vision, and Ethereum presented the crystallization of how to deliver that vision,” said Lubin in explanation of his decision to throw himself into Ethereum’s development.

That said, computer science researcher at Stanford Joseph Bonneau has studied crypto-currencies for years and has stressed that Ethereum is far from a “sure thing.”

“Bitcion is still probably the safest bet, but Ethereum is certainly No. 2, and some folks will say it is more likely to be around in 10 years,” Bonneau stated. “It will depend if any real markets develop around it. If there is some actual application.”

 

The Volunteer Techies Behind Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has amassed more individual contributions towards his campaign than any US Presidential hopeful in the history of American elections. However, his grassroots support is more multifaceted than monetary contributions; his unexpected and monumentally competitive campaign against Hillary Clinton owes a significant proportion of its success the work of volunteer coders from all around the country.

Take Jon Hughes, for example. Hughes is a 29-year-old father and computer programmer operating out of southern Oregon. He hadn’t been very impressed by the last few rounds of presidential candidates, but he saw Bernie Sanders as a beacon of hope long awaited in the depressing and corrupt American political system. Despite his lack of affiliation with the Sanders campaign, he built a webpage at the URL voteforbernie (.org) that performs a very simple very important service: when you click on your location, the website instructs you on where and when to vote in your Democratic primary or caucus.

techbernieThe site has amassed over 2 million unique views since its launch last June, and has earned for itself the title of top search hit not only for Sanders supporters, but for anyone interested in how to vote in the primaries. That means all across America, anyone interested in voting in their primary for the first time will be asked in large florid lettering, “Will you be able to Vote for Bernie?”

Sanders has also likely become the biggest beneficiary of the rise in importance of apps in the 2016 election. His anti-establishment independent-turned-Democrat status appeals to the many young, code-savvy voters that he inspired to be come politically active for the first time. His volunteer coders tend to be under-30 political neophytes who first heard of him through his supporters’ Reddit page. The page has over 188,000 subscribers and the SandersForPresident subReddit has become more popular than a variety of big-name pages featuring cars, beer, and porn.

“It’s been a great resource for us,” stated Kenneth Pennington, the Sanders campaign’s digital director and one of many Sanders officials who regularly communicate with tech volunteers. “It speaks to the ethos of the entire campaign. The volunteers are running the ship here.”

An attendee holds a campaign sign of Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, not pictured, as he speaks at the Iowa State Fair Soapbox in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. The Iowa State Fair is expected to host 18 presidential candidates and runs until Aug. 23. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The breadth of Sanders-related apps is somewhat astounding- some are free and built for anyone with access to the Apple and Google Play stores. Others are made specifically as internal tools for Sanders’ campaign volunteers. For example, techie volunteers helped create an app called “Ground Control” that helps to organize volunteer phone-bank hosts and helps campaign staffers improve grass-roots events. Another app is called Bernie BNB and has about 1,000 Sanders-supporting members either seeking a place to spend the night or offering a free spare bed. There are websites that compile Sanders’ stances on a variety of policies, helping potential voters to see if they truly align with the candidate.

“I’ve heard of superPACs building crappier websites with full-time staff for $1 to $2 milllion,” said Daniela Perdomo, a tech volunteer who spearheaded the creation of the feelthebern (.org) website. She apparently spent more than five weeks of all-night shifts in her home in Brooklyn to create the url.

Bitcoin Schism Remains Chaotic

Ex-Googler and bitcoin software co-creator Mike Hearn stated last month that the bitcoin was “a failed experiment” and promptly divorced himself from the bitcoin community and sold all of his bitcoin.

Among his complaints regarding the anarchic, unregulated internet currency was that it was “completely controlled by just a handful of people” and “on the brink of technical collapse.”

Hearn has started out trying to avoid this technical collapse, but then ran into issues with that handful of people at the heart of the bitcoin community, who were also core bitcoin developers and who had their own visions for the future of bitcoin. Thus began the dispute Hearn refers to as the bitcoin “open civil war.”

bitcoinf ork“When parts of the community are viciously turning on the people that have introduced millions of users to the currency, you know things have gotten really crazy,” Hearn stated in response to the company Coinbase being banned from the bitcoin website and removed from discussion groups.

The New York Times reported that some bitcoin developers had received anonymous death threats, and hackers allegedly carried out denial-of-service attacks against Coinbase and other bitcoin companies with controversial bitcoin opinions.

However, some of the very people that Hearn opposes state that there is no opposition; the civil war is in his head, and bitcoin is not splitting up.

CEO of Coinbase Brian Armstrong believes that the debate over software is a normal part of the democratic process integral to the development of the bitcoin system:

“Bitcoin is not having a crisis. It’s having an election,” he claimed “The [prevailing] mental model for what’s going on is a split, a divide in the community. But the right model is an election.”

Of course, Armstrong runs one of the world’s largest bitcoin exchanges. He has a lot to lose from the belief that bitcoins have failed, especially since the only thing that attributes value to a currency is human belief in the first place; especially when there’s no government to regulate and enforce its use.

So what exactly is this ideological issue? It all comes down to the size of something called “blocks” which identify transactions on the network. Armstrong and his camp believe that the community must increase block size to accommodate the increasingly large number of transactions on the network.

bitcoin mining“Assuming the transaction volume keeps going up, transactions will get increasingly unreliable at random times. That’s just not a good situation,” explained Gavin Andresen, a software developer of the big block camp. As Bitcoin scales up, these people just believe that their software’s infrastructure will need to as well.

That means changing the software responsible for the miners, or computers specialized n the art of running bitcoin software and harvesting bitcoin. However, those of the Hearn camp believe that this could make it so that bitcoin’s original mission (to keep large businesses and government agencies from regulating money in such a way that they always have a disproportionate amount of it) fails.

It may be relevant here to say that bitcoin’s successful creation owes itself in large part to its response as an alternative to the fraudulent banking practices that caused the financial crisis in 2008.

 

The Lowdown on the Hyperloop

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has received funding for a project many people see as closer to science fiction than domestic travel; the innovative tech giant is attempting to build a Hyperloop that travels from city to city at speeds of over 600 miles an hour.

The research and development group behind the Hyperloop scheme is appropriately called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies and has received over $37 million in funding for testing. It has gathered engineers, scientists and researchers from NASA and SpaceX to shed light on how to best make Elon Musk’s vision a reality.

The Hyperloop will have begin its success story once it successfully makes good on its first proposition: a track would span from Los Angeles to San Francisco, a project that could cost as much as $8 billion and take three years to complete.

hyperloop podAs expensive as that sounds, a previous plan to create a high-speed rail system that traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles at a top speed of 220 miles per hour was said to cost about $82.5 million per mile of construction. HTT’s version of the Hyperloop would only cost $20 million per mile to create, yet another upgrade allowed by its extremely efficient, magnetized architecture.

“In 36 months we will have the first passenger in the first full-scale hyper loop,” chief operating officer at Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Bebop Gresta stated. “We are announcing the filling of the first building permit to Kings County o the building of the first full-scale hyper loop, not a test track.”

The Hyperloop would constitute a futuristic tubular public transit system in which passengers enter a capsule like train and then are propelled by magnets across the land in a giant pipe. Capsules would travel at just below the speed of sound. By those calculations, people could travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in only 30 minutes.

The HTT is currently focused on making a smaller-scale project that would transport people across Quay Valley, California. That track will only be 5 miles long.

“This will be the world’s first passenger-ready Hyperloop system,” HTT Chief Executive Dirk Ahlborn stated. “Everyone traveling on California’s I-5 in 2016 will be able to see your activities from the freeway.”

“We think of this a more than a company, it’s a movement,” Ahlborn continued.

Quay Valley is a bit of a moment unto itself; the 75,000 resident solar-powered concept city is being built in King’s County, California, basically as an experiment. It is exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its residents (who aren’t quite there yet) should be able to board the Hyperloop in 2018. According to Ahlborn, the Hyperloop would be able to span the length of Quay in 80 seconds. The ride will also be equipped with large windows and free WiFi, as well as some “Hollywood experiences.”

021_14A_HYPERLOOP ART“Being in L.A. and being in Hollywood we think there’s maybe some movie experience on the screens,” Ahlborn explained. “Rather than a trailer, it’s like you are going through Jurassic World and look outside and you see dinosaurs outside. You would have the screens all over the capsule so everybody has kind of the same experience.”

According to the HTT, city-to-city hyper Hyperloops are possible, but due to regulations could not be built in the US within a 5 year period starting today.

For now, Hyperloop testing occurs mainly in desert stretches in Nevada.

What Are Fabric PCs?

Although they’re not much more than concepts, fabric PCs may occupy a revolutionary space in the future of computing.

Fujitsu, Inc has created a concept design for a personal computer that is encased in a touch but pliable fabric frame. The screen will be bendable and foldable with a flexibility and thickness similar to that of a laminated sheet of paper.This may sound completely different from anything you’ve heard of or are used to, but it’s actually not a technology that is that far off, according to Fujitsu. They believe they’ll be able to crank out fabric computers within the next two to ten years.

You’re likely wondering how a computer could be designed to fit into fabric instead of a bulky steel frame. First off, it’s important to wonder why laptops are built in bulky steel frames in the first place. Even though it’s normalized, it’s not actually the way things necessarily have to be. It’s just been the first response to a recurring problem, which is that people only know how to make the components of your PC out of rigid, inflexible, bulky and fragile materials. From hard disk drives to screen displays, computers are made out of extremely vulnerable materials.

fabric pc2How will fabric PCs escape this issue? It starts with e-paper, a cutting-edge technology that allows the display screen to be paper-thin and bendable. Once the screen itself can bend, you free up a lot of the design to be flexible. The PC can be made with a pliable fabric backbone rather than a metal frame, and the components can remain rigid but at least be spread apart within the fabric, allowing for more flexibility within the larger object as a whole. The fabric PC also necessitates extremely straight-forward engineering that allows for individual components to be as small and lightweight as possible and omits non-essential components entirely. That means swapping hard disk drives for flash memory and removing CD/DVD capabilities completely (since you can download or stream audio/video files anyway, who really needs them?).

Let’s rewind for a second; how do you make a flexible display screen? You may not have heard of e-paper before this article, but you definitely will at some point. The technology was actually pioneered back in the 1970s by a man named Nick Sheridan at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center and has been developing ever since.

electronic inkA huge aspect of e-paper technology is E ink, which is created by putting millions of tiny plastic wells into two sheets of flexible plastic. Each well contains both white and place particles that are suspended within a clear fluid. Because the white and black particles have opposite charges, if you apply electric voltage to individual wells using an underlying circuit board, the black and white particles can be separated to opposite sides of the plastic. This allows each well to operate as a separate pixel.

Using this design, e-paper can be curled or even folded like a sheet of laminated paper while suffering no damage. This is the technology that Fujitsu hopes to use for its fabric PC.

What Makes Up Your Computer?

Everyone uses them, very few understand how they work. Here’s the basics so you can bring your device to a repair shop without sounding like a total idiot.

cpuThe CPU (central processing unit) acts as the brain of your computer. It actually processes the binary instructions that makeup software.

Often these instructions involve storing data, a task for which the hard drive is responsible. A hard drive uses patterns of magnetized and demagnetized microscopic areas of metal on a spinning disk to store binary code. It’s also possible that your device stores information on a solid-state drive, which does not use a spinning disk and instead conveys binary information via the presence and absence of electric current. On a smaller device such as a smartphone, it’s likely that data is stored on flash memory chips like those used for storing images on digital cameras.

RAM, or random access memory, is another type of data storage that’s more short-term and has a smaller overall storage capacity. It takes less time to access RAM than a hard drive, so it’s used for the purposes of overall system speed and multi-tasking.

If the CPU is the brain, the motherboard is more like the human central nervous system. It connects all of the different components of a computer and allows for them to function harmoniously. This circuit board connects every electrical component together.

cpu in factoryOk so those are all the most fundamental parts, but where do they come from? Your computer’s components are made up of all kinds of different things including silica sand, iron ore, gold, steel, glass, bauxite and a lot of other substances you’ve never even heard of. The raw materials are gathered in factories specialized for the production of particular components, be they RAM chips, hard drive platters, or high-end CPUs.

Here’s a little summary of what it takes just to create a CPU: They’re made almost entirely of a crystalline silicon that starts out as sand but is eventually purified, melted, and shaped into a wafer upon which lines and imprints are etched. Transistors and circuits are then placed along the board accordingly and the wafers are cut into the individual CPU chips that provide the processing power of your device.

When all the components are manufactured, they must be fitted together. This can either be done in the exact same way in mass, or perhaps you might have the option of ordering which components you would like and having your computer assembled accordingly. Either way, a technician must build the computer by hand, scanning the serial number of each individual part so that it is associated with the service tag on your machine. This information is stored in the assembler’s company’s database and makes it easier for said company to offer you technical assistance if and when your machine fails.

After it has been assembled, your device travels to the software installation area where an operating system is generally preloaded onto it. It is tested and so long as everything is working properly, it is shipped to its destination!

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