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How to Compete with Giants

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-compete-with-giants/

How to Compete with Giants

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the sixth in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

Perhaps your business is competing in a brand new space free from established competitors. Most of us, though, start companies that compete with existing offerings from large, established companies. You need to come up with a better mousetrap — not the first mousetrap.

That’s the challenge Backblaze faced. In this post, I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from that experience.

Backblaze vs. Giants

Competing with established companies that are orders of magnitude larger can be daunting. How can you succeed?

I’ll set the stage by offering a few sets of giants we compete with:

  • When we started Backblaze, we offered online backup in a market where companies had been offering “online backup” for at least a decade, and even the newer entrants had raised tens of millions of dollars.
  • When we built our storage servers, the alternatives were EMC, NetApp, and Dell — each of which had a market cap of over $10 billion.
  • When we introduced our cloud storage offering, B2, our direct competitors were Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. You might have heard of them.

What did we learn by competing with these giants on a bootstrapped budget? Let’s take a look.

Determine What Success Means

For a long time Apple considered Apple TV to be a hobby, not a real product worth focusing on, because it did not generate a billion in revenue. For a $10 billion per year revenue company, a new business that generates $50 million won’t move the needle and often isn’t worth putting focus on. However, for a startup, getting to $50 million in revenue can be the start of a wildly successful business.

Lesson Learned: Don’t let the giants set your success metrics.

The Advantages Startups Have

The giants have a lot of advantages: more money, people, scale, resources, access, etc. Following their playbook and attacking head-on means you’re simply outgunned. Common paths to failure are trying to build more features, enter more markets, outspend on marketing, and other similar approaches where scale and resources are the primary determinants of success.

But being a startup affords many advantages most giants would salivate over. As a nimble startup you can leverage those to succeed. Let’s breakdown nine competitive advantages we’ve used that you can too.

1. Drive Focus

It’s hard to build a $10 billion revenue business doing just one thing, and most giants have a broad portfolio of businesses, numerous products for each, and targeting a variety of customer segments in multiple markets. That adds complexity and distributes management attention.

Startups get the benefit of having everyone in the company be extremely focused, often on a singular mission, product, customer segment, and market. While our competitors sell everything from advertising to Zantac, and are investing in groceries and shipping, Backblaze has focused exclusively on cloud storage. This means all of our best people (i.e. everyone) is focused on our cloud storage business. Where is all of your focus going?

Lesson Learned: Align everyone in your company to a singular focus to dramatically out-perform larger teams.

2. Use Lack-of-Scale as an Advantage

You may have heard Paul Graham say “Do things that don’t scale.” There are a host of things you can do specifically because you don’t have the same scale as the giants. Use that as an advantage.

When we look for data center space, we have more options than our largest competitors because there are simply more spaces available with room for 100 cabinets than for 1,000 cabinets. With some searching, we can find data center space that is better/cheaper.

When a flood in Thailand destroyed factories, causing the world’s supply of hard drives to plummet and prices to triple, we started drive farming. The giants certainly couldn’t. It was a bit crazy, but it let us keep prices unchanged for our customers.

Our Chief Cloud Officer, Tim, used to work at Adobe. Because of their size, any new product needed to always launch in a multitude of languages and in global markets. Once launched, they had scale. But getting any new product launched was incredibly challenging.

Lesson Learned: Use lack-of-scale to exploit opportunities that are closed to giants.

3. Build a Better Product

This one is probably obvious. If you’re going to provide the same product, at the same price, to the same customers — why do it? Remember that better does not always mean more features. Here’s one way we built a better product that didn’t require being a bigger company.

All online backup services required customers to choose what to include in their backup. We found that this was complicated for users since they often didn’t know what needed to be backed up. We flipped the model to back up everything and allow users to exclude if they wanted to, but it was not required. This reduced the number of features/options, while making it easier and better for the user.

This didn’t require the resources of a huge company; it just required understanding customers a bit deeper and thinking about the solution differently. Building a better product is the most classic startup competitive advantage.

Lesson Learned: Dig deep with your customers to understand and deliver a better mousetrap.

4. Provide Better Service

How can you provide better service? Use your advantages. Escalations from your customer care folks to engineering can go through fewer hoops. Fixing an issue and shipping can be quicker. Access to real answers on Twitter or Facebook can be more effective.

A strategic decision we made was to have all customer support people as full-time employees in our headquarters. This ensures they are in close contact to the whole company for feedback to quickly go both ways.

Having a smaller team and fewer layers enables faster internal communication, which increases customer happiness. And the option to do things that don’t scale — such as help a customer in a unique situation — can go a long way in building customer loyalty.

Lesson Learned: Service your customers better by establishing clear internal communications.

5. Remove The Unnecessary

After determining that the industry standard EMC/NetApp/Dell storage servers would be too expensive to build our own cloud storage upon, we decided to build our own infrastructure. Many said we were crazy to compete with these multi-billion dollar companies and that it would be impossible to build a lower cost storage server. However, not only did it prove to not be impossible — it wasn’t even that hard.

One key trick? Remove the unnecessary. While EMC and others built servers to sell to other companies for a wide variety of use cases, Backblaze needed servers that only Backblaze would run, and for a single use case. As a result we could tailor the servers for our needs by removing redundancy from each server (since we would run redundant servers), and using lower-performance components (since we would get high-performance by running parallel servers).

What do your customers and use cases not need? This can trim costs and complexity while often improving the product for your use case.

Lesson Learned: Don’t think “what can we add” to what the giants offer — think “what can we remove.”

6. Be Easy

How many times have you visited a large company website, particularly one that’s not consumer-focused, only to leave saying, “Huh? I don’t understand what you do.” Keeping your website clear, and your product and pricing simple, will dramatically increase conversion and customer satisfaction. If you’re able to make it 2x easier and thus increasing your conversion by 2x, you’ve just allowed yourself to spend ½ as much acquiring a customer.

Providing unlimited data backup wasn’t specifically about providing more storage — it was about making it easier. Since users didn’t know how much data they needed to back up, charging per gigabyte meant they wouldn’t know the cost. Providing unlimited data backup meant they could just relax.

Customers love easy — and being smaller makes easy easier to deliver. Use that as an advantage in your website, marketing materials, pricing, product, and in every other customer interaction.

Lesson Learned: Ease-of-use isn’t a slogan: it’s a competitive advantage. Treat it as seriously as any other feature of your product

7. Don’t Be Afraid of Risk

Obviously unnecessary risks are unnecessary, and some risks aren’t worth taking. However, large companies that have given guidance to Wall Street with a $0.01 range on their earning-per-share are inherently going to be very risk-averse. Use risk-tolerance to open up opportunities, and adjust your tolerance level as you scale. In your first year, there are likely an infinite number of ways your business may vaporize; don’t be too worried about taking a risk that might have a 20% downside when the upside is hockey stick growth.

Using consumer-grade hard drives in our servers may have caused pain and suffering for us years down-the-line, but they were priced at approximately 50% of enterprise drives. Giants wouldn’t have considered the option. Turns out, the consumer drives performed great for us.

Lesson Learned: Use calculated risks as an advantage.

8. Be Open

The larger a company grows, the more it wants to hide information. Some of this is driven by regulatory requirements as a public company. But most of this is cultural. Sharing something might cause a problem, so let’s not. All external communication is treated as a critical press release, with rounds and rounds of editing by multiple teams and approvals. However, customers are often desperate for information. Moreover, sharing information builds trust, understanding, and advocates.

I started blogging at Backblaze before we launched. When we blogged about our Storage Pod and open-sourced the design, many thought we were crazy to share this information. But it was transformative for us, establishing Backblaze as a tech thought leader in storage and giving people a sense of how we were able to provide our service at such a low cost.

Over the years we’ve developed a culture of being open internally and externally, on our blog and with the press, and in communities such as Hacker News and Reddit. Often we’ve been asked, “why would you share that!?” — but it’s the continual openness that builds trust. And that culture of openness is incredibly challenging for the giants.

Lesson Learned: Overshare to build trust and brand where giants won’t.

9. Be Human

As companies scale, typically a smaller percent of founders and executives interact with customers. The people who build the company become more hidden, the language feels “corporate,” and customers start to feel they’re interacting with the cliche “faceless, nameless corporation.” Use your humanity to your advantage. From day one the Backblaze About page listed all the founders, and my email address. While contacting us shouldn’t be the first path for a customer support question, I wanted it to be clear that we stand behind the service we offer; if we’re doing something wrong — I want to know it.

To scale it’s important to have processes and procedures, but sometimes a situation falls outside of a well-established process. While we want our employees to follow processes, they’re still encouraged to be human and “try to do the right thing.” How to you strike this balance? Simon Sinek gives a good talk about it: make your employees feel safe. If employees feel safe they’ll be human.

If your customer is a consumer, they’ll appreciate being treated as a human. Even if your customer is a corporation, the purchasing decision-makers are still people.

Lesson Learned: Being human is the ultimate antithesis to the faceless corporation.

Build Culture to Sustain Your Advantages at Scale

Presumably the goal is not to always be competing with giants, but to one day become a giant. Does this mean you’ll lose all of these advantages? Some, yes — but not all. Some of these advantages are cultural, and if you build these into the culture from the beginning, and fight to keep them as you scale, you can keep them as you become a giant.

Tesla still comes across as human, with Elon Musk frequently interacting with people on Twitter. Apple continues to provide great service through their Genius Bar. And, worst case, if you lose these at scale, you’ll still have the other advantages of being a giant such as money, people, scale, resources, and access.

Of course, some new startup will be gunning for you with grand ambitions, so just be sure not to get complacent. 😉

The post How to Compete with Giants appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/734761/rss

Security updates have been issued by Debian (bzr, clamav, libgd2, libraw, samba, and tomcat7), Fedora (drupal7-views, gnome-shell, httpd, krb5, libmspack, LibRaw, mingw-LibRaw, mpg123, pkgconf, python-jwt, and samba), Gentoo (adobe-flash, chromium, cvs, exim, mercurial, oracle-jdk-bin, php, postfix, and tcpdump), openSUSE (Chromium and libraw), Red Hat (chromium-browser), and Slackware (libxml2 and python).

Delivering Graphics Apps with Amazon AppStream 2.0

Post Syndicated from Deepak Suryanarayanan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/delivering-graphics-apps-with-amazon-appstream-2-0/

Sahil Bahri, Sr. Product Manager, Amazon AppStream 2.0

Do you need to provide a workstation class experience for users who run graphics apps? With Amazon AppStream 2.0, you can stream graphics apps from AWS to a web browser running on any supported device. AppStream 2.0 offers a choice of GPU instance types. The range includes the newly launched Graphics Design instance, which allows you to offer a fast, fluid user experience at a fraction of the cost of using a graphics workstation, without upfront investments or long-term commitments.

In this post, I discuss the Graphics Design instance type in detail, and how you can use it to deliver a graphics application such as Siemens NX―a popular CAD/CAM application that we have been testing on AppStream 2.0 with engineers from Siemens PLM.

Graphics Instance Types on AppStream 2.0

First, a quick recap on the GPU instance types available with AppStream 2.0. In July, 2017, we launched graphics support for AppStream 2.0 with two new instance types that Jeff Barr discussed on the AWS Blog:

  • Graphics Desktop
  • Graphics Pro

Many customers in industries such as engineering, media, entertainment, and oil and gas are using these instances to deliver high-performance graphics applications to their users. These instance types are based on dedicated NVIDIA GPUs and can run the most demanding graphics applications, including those that rely on CUDA graphics API libraries.

Last week, we added a new lower-cost instance type: Graphics Design. This instance type is a great fit for engineers, 3D modelers, and designers who use graphics applications that rely on the hardware acceleration of DirectX, OpenGL, or OpenCL APIs, such as Siemens NX, Autodesk AutoCAD, or Adobe Photoshop. The Graphics Design instance is based on AMD’s FirePro S7150x2 Server GPUs and equipped with AMD Multiuser GPU technology. The instance type uses virtualized GPUs to achieve lower costs, and is available in four instance sizes to scale and match the requirements of your applications.

Instance vCPUs Instance RAM (GiB) GPU Memory (GiB)
stream.graphics-design.large 2 7.5 GiB 1
stream.graphics-design.xlarge 4 15.3 GiB 2
stream.graphics-design.2xlarge 8 30.5 GiB 4
stream.graphics-design.4xlarge 16 61 GiB 8

The following table compares all three graphics instance types on AppStream 2.0, along with example applications you could use with each.

  Graphics Design Graphics Desktop Graphics Pro
Number of instance sizes 4 1 3
GPU memory range
1–8 GiB 4 GiB 8–32 GiB
vCPU range 2–16 8 16–32
Memory range 7.5–61 GiB 15 GiB 122–488 GiB
Graphics libraries supported AMD FirePro S7150x2 NVIDIA GRID K520 NVIDIA Tesla M60
Price range (N. Virginia AWS Region) $0.25 – $2.00/hour $0.5/hour $2.05 – $8.20/hour
Example applications Adobe Premiere Pro, AutoDesk Revit, Siemens NX AVEVA E3D, SOLIDWORKS AutoDesk Maya, Landmark DecisionSpace, Schlumberger Petrel

Example graphics instance set up with Siemens NX

In the section, I walk through setting up Siemens NX with Graphics Design instances on AppStream 2.0. After set up is complete, users can able to access NX from within their browser and also access their design files from a file share. You can also use these steps to set up and test your own graphics applications on AppStream 2.0. Here’s the workflow:

  1. Create a file share to load and save design files.
  2. Create an AppStream 2.0 image with Siemens NX installed.
  3. Create an AppStream 2.0 fleet and stack.
  4. Invite users to access Siemens NX through a browser.
  5. Validate the setup.

To learn more about AppStream 2.0 concepts and set up, see the previous post Scaling Your Desktop Application Streams with Amazon AppStream 2.0. For a deeper review of all the setup and maintenance steps, see Amazon AppStream 2.0 Developer Guide.

Step 1: Create a file share to load and save design files

To launch and configure the file server

  1. Open the EC2 console and choose Launch Instance.
  2. Scroll to the Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Base Image and choose Select.
  3. Choose an instance type and size for your file server (I chose the general purpose m4.large instance). Choose Next: Configure Instance Details.
  4. Select a VPC and subnet. You launch AppStream 2.0 resources in the same VPC. Choose Next: Add Storage.
  5. If necessary, adjust the size of your EBS volume. Choose Review and Launch, Launch.
  6. On the Instances page, give your file server a name, such as My File Server.
  7. Ensure that the security group associated with the file server instance allows for incoming traffic from the security group that you select for your AppStream 2.0 fleets or image builders. You can use the default security group and select the same group while creating the image builder and fleet in later steps.

Log in to the file server using a remote access client such as Microsoft Remote Desktop. For more information about connecting to an EC2 Windows instance, see Connect to Your Windows Instance.

To enable file sharing

  1. Create a new folder (such as C:\My Graphics Files) and upload the shared files to make available to your users.
  2. From the Windows control panel, enable network discovery.
  3. Choose Server Manager, File and Storage Services, Volumes.
  4. Scroll to Shares and choose Start the Add Roles and Features Wizard. Go through the wizard to install the File Server and Share role.
  5. From the left navigation menu, choose Shares.
  6. Choose Start the New Share Wizard to set up your folder as a file share.
  7. Open the context (right-click) menu on the share and choose Properties, Permissions, Customize Permissions.
  8. Choose Permissions, Add. Add Read and Execute permissions for everyone on the network.

Step 2:  Create an AppStream 2.0 image with Siemens NX installed

To connect to the image builder and install applications

  1. Open the AppStream 2.0 management console and choose Images, Image Builder, Launch Image Builder.
  2. Create a graphics design image builder in the same VPC as your file server.
  3. From the Image builder tab, select your image builder and choose Connect. This opens a new browser tab and display a desktop to log in to.
  4. Log in to your image builder as ImageBuilderAdmin.
  5. Launch the Image Assistant.
  6. Download and install Siemens NX and other applications on the image builder. I added Blender and Firefox, but you could replace these with your own applications.
  7. To verify the user experience, you can test the application performance on the instance.

Before you finish creating the image, you must mount the file share by enabling a few Microsoft Windows services.

To mount the file share

  1. Open services.msc and check the following services:
  • DNS Client
  • Function Discovery Resource Publication
  • SSDP Discovery
  • UPnP Device H
  1. If any of the preceding services have Startup Type set to Manual, open the context (right-click) menu on the service and choose Start. Otherwise, open the context (right-click) menu on the service and choose Properties. For Startup Type, choose Manual, Apply. To start the service, choose Start.
  2. From the Windows control panel, enable network discovery.
  3. Create a batch script that mounts a file share from the storage server set up earlier. The file share is mounted automatically when a user connects to the AppStream 2.0 environment.

Logon Script Location: C:\Users\Public\logon.bat

Script Contents:


net use H: \\path\to\network\share 

PING localhost -n 30 >NUL


  1. Open gpedit.msc and choose User Configuration, Windows Settings, Scripts. Set logon.bat as the user logon script.
  2. Next, create a batch script that makes the mounted drive visible to the user.

Logon Script Location: C:\Users\Public\startup.bat

Script Contents:
REG DELETE “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer” /v “NoDrives” /f

  1. Open Task Scheduler and choose Create Task.
  2. Choose General, provide a task name, and then choose Change User or Group.
  3. For Enter the object name to select, enter SYSTEM and choose Check Names, OK.
  4. Choose Triggers, New. For Begin the task, choose At startup. Under Advanced Settings, change Delay task for to 5 minutes. Choose OK.
  5. Choose Actions, New. Under Settings, for Program/script, enter C:\Users\Public\startup.bat. Choose OK.
  6. Choose Conditions. Under Power, clear the Start the task only if the computer is on AC power Choose OK.
  7. To view your scheduled task, choose Task Scheduler Library. Close Task Scheduler when you are done.

Step 3:  Create an AppStream 2.0 fleet and stack

To create a fleet and stack

  1. In the AppStream 2.0 management console, choose Fleets, Create Fleet.
  2. Give the fleet a name, such as Graphics-Demo-Fleet, that uses the newly created image and the same VPC as your file server.
  3. Choose Stacks, Create Stack. Give the stack a name, such as Graphics-Demo-Stack.
  4. After the stack is created, select it and choose Actions, Associate Fleet. Associate the stack with the fleet you created in step 1.

Step 4:  Invite users to access Siemens NX through a browser

To invite users

  1. Choose User Pools, Create User to create users.
  2. Enter a name and email address for each user.
  3. Select the users just created, and choose Actions, Assign Stack to provide access to the stack created in step 2. You can also provide access using SAML 2.0 and connect to your Active Directory if necessary. For more information, see the Enabling Identity Federation with AD FS 3.0 and Amazon AppStream 2.0 post.

Your user receives an email invitation to set up an account and use a web portal to access the applications that you have included in your stack.

Step 5:  Validate the setup

Time for a test drive with Siemens NX on AppStream 2.0!

  1. Open the link for the AppStream 2.0 web portal shared through the email invitation. The web portal opens in your default browser. You must sign in with the temporary password and set a new password. After that, you get taken to your app catalog.
  2. Launch Siemens NX and interact with it using the demo files available in the shared storage folder – My Graphics Files. 

After I launched NX, I captured the screenshot below. The Siemens PLM team also recorded a video with NX running on AppStream 2.0.


In this post, I discussed the GPU instances available for delivering rich graphics applications to users in a web browser. While I demonstrated a simple setup, you can scale this out to launch a production environment with users signing in using Active Directory credentials,  accessing persistent storage with Amazon S3, and using other commonly requested features reviewed in the Amazon AppStream 2.0 Launch Recap – Domain Join, Simple Network Setup, and Lots More post.

To learn more about AppStream 2.0 and capabilities added this year, see Amazon AppStream 2.0 Resources.

Russian Hacking Tools Codenamed WhiteBear Exposed

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/russian_hacking.html

Kaspersky Labs exposed a highly sophisticated set of hacking tools from Russia called WhiteBear.

From February to September 2016, WhiteBear activity was narrowly focused on embassies and consular operations around the world. All of these early WhiteBear targets were related to embassies and diplomatic/foreign affair organizations. Continued WhiteBear activity later shifted to include defense-related organizations into June 2017. When compared to WhiteAtlas infections, WhiteBear deployments are relatively rare and represent a departure from the broader Skipper Turla target set. Additionally, a comparison of the WhiteAtlas framework to WhiteBear components indicates that the malware is the product of separate development efforts. WhiteBear infections appear to be preceded by a condensed spearphishing dropper, lack Firefox extension installer payloads, and contain several new components signed with a new code signing digital certificate, unlike WhiteAtlas incidents and modules.

The exact delivery vector for WhiteBear components is unknown to us, although we have very strong suspicion the group spearphished targets with malicious pdf files. The decoy pdf document above was likely stolen from a target or partner. And, although WhiteBear components have been consistently identified on a subset of systems previously targeted with the WhiteAtlas framework, and maintain components within the same filepaths and can maintain identical filenames, we were unable to firmly tie delivery to any specific WhiteAtlas component. WhiteBear focused on various embassies and diplomatic entities around the world in early 2016 — tellingly, attempts were made to drop and display decoy pdf’s with full diplomatic headers and content alongside executable droppers on target systems.

One of the clever things the tool does is use hijacked satellite connections for command and control, helping it evade detection by broad surveillance capabilities like what what NSA uses. We’ve seen Russian attack tools that do this before. More details are in the Kaspersky blog post.

Given all the trouble Kaspersky is having because of its association with Russia, it’s interesting to speculate on this disclosure. Either they are independent, and have burned a valuable Russian hacking toolset. Or the Russians decided that the toolset was already burned — maybe the NSA knows all about it and has neutered it somehow — and allowed Kaspersky to publish. Or maybe it’s something in between. That’s the problem with this kind of speculation: without any facts, your theories just amplify whatever opinion you had previously.

Oddly, there hasn’t been much press about this. I have only found one story.

EDITED TO ADD: A colleague pointed out to me that Kaspersky announcements like this often get ignored by the press. There was very little written about ProjectSauron, for example.

EDITED TO ADD: The text I originally wrote said that Kaspersky released the attacks tools, like what Shadow Brokers is doing. They did not. They just exposed the existence of them. Apologies for that error — it was sloppy wording.

Top 10 Most Obvious Hacks of All Time (v0.9)

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/07/top-10-most-obvious-hacks-of-all-time.html

For teaching hacking/cybersecurity, I thought I’d create of the most obvious hacks of all time. Not the best hacks, the most sophisticated hacks, or the hacks with the biggest impact, but the most obvious hacks — ones that even the least knowledgeable among us should be able to understand. Below I propose some hacks that fit this bill, though in no particular order.

The reason I’m writing this is that my niece wants me to teach her some hacking. I thought I’d start with the obvious stuff first.

Shared Passwords

If you use the same password for every website, and one of those websites gets hacked, then the hacker has your password for all your websites. The reason your Facebook account got hacked wasn’t because of anything Facebook did, but because you used the same email-address and password when creating an account on “beagleforums.com”, which got hacked last year.

I’ve heard people say “I’m sure, because I choose a complex password and use it everywhere”. No, this is the very worst thing you can do. Sure, you can the use the same password on all sites you don’t care much about, but for Facebook, your email account, and your bank, you should have a unique password, so that when other sites get hacked, your important sites are secure.

And yes, it’s okay to write down your passwords on paper.

Tools: HaveIBeenPwned.com

PIN encrypted PDFs

My accountant emails PDF statements encrypted with the last 4 digits of my Social Security Number. This is not encryption — a 4 digit number has only 10,000 combinations, and a hacker can guess all of them in seconds.
PIN numbers for ATM cards work because ATM machines are online, and the machine can reject your card after four guesses. PIN numbers don’t work for documents, because they are offline — the hacker has a copy of the document on their own machine, disconnected from the Internet, and can continue making bad guesses with no restrictions.
Passwords protecting documents must be long enough that even trillion upon trillion guesses are insufficient to guess.

Tools: Hashcat, John the Ripper

SQL and other injection

The lazy way of combining websites with databases is to combine user input with an SQL statement. This combines code with data, so the obvious consequence is that hackers can craft data to mess with the code.
No, this isn’t obvious to the general public, but it should be obvious to programmers. The moment you write code that adds unfiltered user-input to an SQL statement, the consequence should be obvious. Yet, “SQL injection” has remained one of the most effective hacks for the last 15 years because somehow programmers don’t understand the consequence.
CGI shell injection is a similar issue. Back in early days, when “CGI scripts” were a thing, it was really important, but these days, not so much, so I just included it with SQL. The consequence of executing shell code should’ve been obvious, but weirdly, it wasn’t. The IT guy at the company I worked for back in the late 1990s came to me and asked “this guy says we have a vulnerability, is he full of shit?”, and I had to answer “no, he’s right — obviously so”.

XSS (“Cross Site Scripting”) [*] is another injection issue, but this time at somebody’s web browser rather than a server. It works because websites will echo back what is sent to them. For example, if you search for Cross Site Scripting with the URL https://www.google.com/search?q=cross+site+scripting, then you’ll get a page back from the server that contains that string. If the string is JavaScript code rather than text, then some servers (thought not Google) send back the code in the page in a way that it’ll be executed. This is most often used to hack somebody’s account: you send them an email or tweet a link, and when they click on it, the JavaScript gives control of the account to the hacker.

Cross site injection issues like this should probably be their own category, but I’m including it here for now.

More: Wikipedia on SQL injection, Wikipedia on cross site scripting.
Tools: Burpsuite, SQLmap

Buffer overflows

In the C programming language, programmers first create a buffer, then read input into it. If input is long than the buffer, then it overflows. The extra bytes overwrite other parts of the program, letting the hacker run code.
Again, it’s not a thing the general public is expected to know about, but is instead something C programmers should be expected to understand. They should know that it’s up to them to check the length and stop reading input before it overflows the buffer, that there’s no language feature that takes care of this for them.
We are three decades after the first major buffer overflow exploits, so there is no excuse for C programmers not to understand this issue.

What makes particular obvious is the way they are wrapped in exploits, like in Metasploit. While the bug itself is obvious that it’s a bug, actually exploiting it can take some very non-obvious skill. However, once that exploit is written, any trained monkey can press a button and run the exploit. That’s where we get the insult “script kiddie” from — referring to wannabe-hackers who never learn enough to write their own exploits, but who spend a lot of time running the exploit scripts written by better hackers than they.

More: Wikipedia on buffer overflow, Wikipedia on script kiddie,  “Smashing The Stack For Fun And Profit” — Phrack (1996)
Tools: bash, Metasploit

SendMail DEBUG command (historical)

The first popular email server in the 1980s was called “SendMail”. It had a feature whereby if you send a “DEBUG” command to it, it would execute any code following the command. The consequence of this was obvious — hackers could (and did) upload code to take control of the server. This was used in the Morris Worm of 1988. Most Internet machines of the day ran SendMail, so the worm spread fast infecting most machines.
This bug was mostly ignored at the time. It was thought of as a theoretical problem, that might only rarely be used to hack a system. Part of the motivation of the Morris Worm was to demonstrate that such problems was to demonstrate the consequences — consequences that should’ve been obvious but somehow were rejected by everyone.

More: Wikipedia on Morris Worm

Email Attachments/Links

I’m conflicted whether I should add this or not, because here’s the deal: you are supposed to click on attachments and links within emails. That’s what they are there for. The difference between good and bad attachments/links is not obvious. Indeed, easy-to-use email systems makes detecting the difference harder.
On the other hand, the consequences of bad attachments/links is obvious. That worms like ILOVEYOU spread so easily is because people trusted attachments coming from their friends, and ran them.
We have no solution to the problem of bad email attachments and links. Viruses and phishing are pervasive problems. Yet, we know why they exist.

Default and backdoor passwords

The Mirai botnet was caused by surveillance-cameras having default and backdoor passwords, and being exposed to the Internet without a firewall. The consequence should be obvious: people will discover the passwords and use them to take control of the bots.
Surveillance-cameras have the problem that they are usually exposed to the public, and can’t be reached without a ladder — often a really tall ladder. Therefore, you don’t want a button consumers can press to reset to factory defaults. You want a remote way to reset them. Therefore, they put backdoor passwords to do the reset. Such passwords are easy for hackers to reverse-engineer, and hence, take control of millions of cameras across the Internet.
The same reasoning applies to “default” passwords. Many users will not change the defaults, leaving a ton of devices hackers can hack.

Masscan and background radiation of the Internet

I’ve written a tool that can easily scan the entire Internet in a short period of time. It surprises people that this possible, but it obvious from the numbers. Internet addresses are only 32-bits long, or roughly 4 billion combinations. A fast Internet link can easily handle 1 million packets-per-second, so the entire Internet can be scanned in 4000 seconds, little more than an hour. It’s basic math.
Because it’s so easy, many people do it. If you monitor your Internet link, you’ll see a steady trickle of packets coming in from all over the Internet, especially Russia and China, from hackers scanning the Internet for things they can hack.
People’s reaction to this scanning is weirdly emotional, taking is personally, such as:
  1. Why are they hacking me? What did I do to them?
  2. Great! They are hacking me! That must mean I’m important!
  3. Grrr! How dare they?! How can I hack them back for some retribution!?

I find this odd, because obviously such scanning isn’t personal, the hackers have no idea who you are.

Tools: masscan, firewalls

Packet-sniffing, sidejacking

If you connect to the Starbucks WiFi, a hacker nearby can easily eavesdrop on your network traffic, because it’s not encrypted. Windows even warns you about this, in case you weren’t sure.

At DefCon, they have a “Wall of Sheep”, where they show passwords from people who logged onto stuff using the insecure “DefCon-Open” network. Calling them “sheep” for not grasping this basic fact that unencrypted traffic is unencrypted.

To be fair, it’s actually non-obvious to many people. Even if the WiFi itself is not encrypted, SSL traffic is. They expect their services to be encrypted, without them having to worry about it. And in fact, most are, especially Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and other major services that won’t allow you to log in anymore without encryption.

But many services (especially old ones) may not be encrypted. Unless users check and verify them carefully, they’ll happily expose passwords.

What’s interesting about this was 10 years ago, when most services which only used SSL to encrypt the passwords, but then used unencrypted connections after that, using “cookies”. This allowed the cookies to be sniffed and stolen, allowing other people to share the login session. I used this on stage at BlackHat to connect to somebody’s GMail session. Google, and other major websites, fixed this soon after. But it should never have been a problem — because the sidejacking of cookies should have been obvious.

Tools: Wireshark, dsniff

Stuxnet LNK vulnerability

Again, this issue isn’t obvious to the public, but it should’ve been obvious to anybody who knew how Windows works.
When Windows loads a .dll, it first calls the function DllMain(). A Windows link file (.lnk) can load icons/graphics from the resources in a .dll file. It does this by loading the .dll file, thus calling DllMain. Thus, a hacker could put on a USB drive a .lnk file pointing to a .dll file, and thus, cause arbitrary code execution as soon as a user inserted a drive.
I say this is obvious because I did this, created .lnks that pointed to .dlls, but without hostile DllMain code. The consequence should’ve been obvious to me, but I totally missed the connection. We all missed the connection, for decades.

Social Engineering and Tech Support [* * *]

After posting this, many people have pointed out “social engineering”, especially of “tech support”. This probably should be up near #1 in terms of obviousness.

The classic example of social engineering is when you call tech support and tell them you’ve lost your password, and they reset it for you with minimum of questions proving who you are. For example, you set the volume on your computer really loud and play the sound of a crying baby in the background and appear to be a bit frazzled and incoherent, which explains why you aren’t answering the questions they are asking. They, understanding your predicament as a new parent, will go the extra mile in helping you, resetting “your” password.

One of the interesting consequences is how it affects domain names (DNS). It’s quite easy in many cases to call up the registrar and convince them to transfer a domain name. This has been used in lots of hacks. It’s really hard to defend against. If a registrar charges only $9/year for a domain name, then it really can’t afford to provide very good tech support — or very secure tech support — to prevent this sort of hack.

Social engineering is such a huge problem, and obvious problem, that it’s outside the scope of this document. Just google it to find example after example.

A related issue that perhaps deserves it’s own section is OSINT [*], or “open-source intelligence”, where you gather public information about a target. For example, on the day the bank manager is out on vacation (which you got from their Facebook post) you show up and claim to be a bank auditor, and are shown into their office where you grab their backup tapes. (We’ve actually done this).

More: Wikipedia on Social Engineering, Wikipedia on OSINT, “How I Won the Defcon Social Engineering CTF” — blogpost (2011), “Questioning 42: Where’s the Engineering in Social Engineering of Namespace Compromises” — BSidesLV talk (2016)

Blue-boxes (historical) [*]

Telephones historically used what we call “in-band signaling”. That’s why when you dial on an old phone, it makes sounds — those sounds are sent no differently than the way your voice is sent. Thus, it was possible to make tone generators to do things other than simply dial calls. Early hackers (in the 1970s) would make tone-generators called “blue-boxes” and “black-boxes” to make free long distance calls, for example.

These days, “signaling” and “voice” are digitized, then sent as separate channels or “bands”. This is call “out-of-band signaling”. You can’t trick the phone system by generating tones. When your iPhone makes sounds when you dial, it’s entirely for you benefit and has nothing to do with how it signals the cell tower to make a call.

Early hackers, like the founders of Apple, are famous for having started their careers making such “boxes” for tricking the phone system. The problem was obvious back in the day, which is why as the phone system moves from analog to digital, the problem was fixed.

More: Wikipedia on blue box, Wikipedia article on Steve Wozniak.

Thumb drives in parking lots [*]

A simple trick is to put a virus on a USB flash drive, and drop it in a parking lot. Somebody is bound to notice it, stick it in their computer, and open the file.

This can be extended with tricks. For example, you can put a file labeled “third-quarter-salaries.xlsx” on the drive that required macros to be run in order to open. It’s irresistible to other employees who want to know what their peers are being paid, so they’ll bypass any warning prompts in order to see the data.

Another example is to go online and get custom USB sticks made printed with the logo of the target company, making them seem more trustworthy.

We also did a trick of taking an Adobe Flash game “Punch the Monkey” and replaced the monkey with a logo of a competitor of our target. They now only played the game (infecting themselves with our virus), but gave to others inside the company to play, infecting others, including the CEO.

Thumb drives like this have been used in many incidents, such as Russians hacking military headquarters in Afghanistan. It’s really hard to defend against.

More: “Computer Virus Hits U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan” — USNews (2008), “The Return of the Worm That Ate The Pentagon” — Wired (2011), DoD Bans Flash Drives — Stripes (2008)

Googling [*]

Search engines like Google will index your website — your entire website. Frequently companies put things on their website without much protection because they are nearly impossible for users to find. But Google finds them, then indexes them, causing them to pop up with innocent searches.
There are books written on “Google hacking” explaining what search terms to look for, like “not for public release”, in order to find such documents.

More: Wikipedia entry on Google Hacking, “Google Hacking” book.

URL editing [*]

At the top of every browser is what’s called the “URL”. You can change it. Thus, if you see a URL that looks like this:


Then you can edit it to see the next document on the server:


The owner of the website may think they are secure, because nothing points to this document, so the Google search won’t find it. But that doesn’t stop a user from manually editing the URL.
An example of this is a big Fortune 500 company that posts the quarterly results to the website an hour before the official announcement. Simply editing the URL from previous financial announcements allows hackers to find the document, then buy/sell the stock as appropriate in order to make a lot of money.
Another example is the classic case of Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer who did this trick in order to download the account email addresses of early owners of the iPad, including movie stars and members of the Obama administration. It’s an interesting legal case because on one hand, techies consider this so obvious as to not be “hacking”. On the other hand, non-techies, especially judges and prosecutors, believe this to be obviously “hacking”.

DDoS, spoofing, and amplification [*]

For decades now, online gamers have figured out an easy way to win: just flood the opponent with Internet traffic, slowing their network connection. This is called a DoS, which stands for “Denial of Service”. DoSing game competitors is often a teenager’s first foray into hacking.
A variant of this is when you hack a bunch of other machines on the Internet, then command them to flood your target. (The hacked machines are often called a “botnet”, a network of robot computers). This is called DDoS, or “Distributed DoS”. At this point, it gets quite serious, as instead of competitive gamers hackers can take down entire businesses. Extortion scams, DDoSing websites then demanding payment to stop, is a common way hackers earn money.
Another form of DDoS is “amplification”. Sometimes when you send a packet to a machine on the Internet it’ll respond with a much larger response, either a very large packet or many packets. The hacker can then send a packet to many of these sites, “spoofing” or forging the IP address of the victim. This causes all those sites to then flood the victim with traffic. Thus, with a small amount of outbound traffic, the hacker can flood the inbound traffic of the victim.
This is one of those things that has worked for 20 years, because it’s so obvious teenagers can do it, yet there is no obvious solution. President Trump’s executive order of cyberspace specifically demanded that his government come up with a report on how to address this, but it’s unlikely that they’ll come up with any useful strategy.

More: Wikipedia on DDoS, Wikipedia on Spoofing


Tweet me (@ErrataRob) your obvious hacks, so I can add them to the list.

The end of Flash

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/728790/rss

The long-awaited end of Flash has come a little closer with this
from Adobe. “Given this progress, and in
collaboration with several of our technology partners – including Apple,
Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla – Adobe is planning to end-of-life
Flash. Specifically, we will stop updating and distributing the Flash
Player at the end of 2020 and encourage content creators to migrate any
existing Flash content to these new open formats.

Introducing Our Content Director: Roderick

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/introducing-content-director-roderick/

As Backblaze continues to grow, and as we go down the path of sharing our stories, we found ourselves in need of someone that could wrangle our content calendar, write blog posts, and come up with interesting ideas that we could share with our readers and fans. We put out the call, and found Roderick! As you’ll read below he has an incredibly interesting history, and we’re thrilled to have his perspective join our marketing team! Lets learn a bit more about Roderick, shall we?

What is your Backblaze Title?
Content Director

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Southern California, but have lived a lot of different places, including Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Texas, New Mexico, Austria, and Italy.

What attracted you to Backblaze?
I met Gleb a number of years ago at the Failcon Conference in San Francisco. I spoke with him and was impressed with him and his description of the company. We connected on LinkedIn after the conference and I ultimately saw his post for this position about a month ago.

What do you expect to learn while being at Backblaze?
I hope to learn about Backblaze’s customers and dive deep into the latest in cloud storage and other technologies. I also hope to get to know my fellow employees.

Where else have you worked?
I’ve worked for Microsoft, Adobe, Autodesk, and a few startups. I’ve also consulted to Apple, HP, Stanford, the White House, and startups in the U.S. and abroad. I mentored at incubators in Silicon Valley, including IndieBio and Founders Space. I used to own vineyards and a food education and event center in the Napa Valley with my former wife, and worked in a number of restaurants, hotels, and wineries. Recently, I taught part-time at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in the Napa Valley. I’ve been a partner in a restaurant and currently am a partner in a mozzarella di bufala company in Marin county where we have about 50 water buffalo that are amazing animals. They are named after famous rock and roll vocalists. Our most active studs now are Sting and Van Morrison. I think singing “a fantabulous night to make romance ‘neath the cover of October skies” works for Van.

Where did you go to school?
I studied at Reed College, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, and the Università per Stranieri di Perugia in Italy. I put myself through college so was in and out of school a number of times to make money. Some of the jobs I held to earn money for college were cook, waiter, dishwasher, bartender, courier, teacher, bookstore clerk, head of hotel maintenance, bookkeeper, lifeguard, journalist, and commercial salmon fisherman in Alaska.

What’s your dream job?
I think my dream would be having a job that would continually allow me to learn new things and meet new challenges. I love to learn, travel, and be surprised by things I don’t know.

I love animals and sometimes think I should have become a veterinarian.

Favorite place you’ve traveled?
I lived and studied in Italy, and would have to say the Umbria region of Italy is perhaps my favorite place. I also worked in my father’s home country of Austria, which is incredibly beautiful.

Favorite hobby?
I love foreign languages, and have studied Italian, French, German, and a few others. I am a big fan of literature and theatre and read widely and have attended theatre productions all over the world. That was my motivation to learn other languages—so I could enjoy literature and theatre in the languages they were written in. I started scuba diving when I was very young because I wanted to be Jacques-Yves Cousteau and explore the oceans. I also sail, motorcycle, ski, bicycle, hike, play music, and hope to finish my pilot’s license someday.

Coke or Pepsi?
Red Burgundy

Favorite food?
Both my parents are chefs, so I was exposed to a lot of great food growing up. I would have to give more than one answer to that question: fresh baked bread and bouillabaisse. Oh, and white truffles.

Not sure we’ll be able to stock our cupboards with Red Burgundy, but we’ll see what our office admin can do! Welcome to the team!

The post Introducing Our Content Director: Roderick appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/728666/rss

Security updates have been issued by CentOS (graphite2 and java-1.8.0-openjdk), Debian (atril, bind9, catdoc, and qemu), Fedora (glpi, GraphicsMagick, heimdal, kernel, nodejs, perl-XML-LibXML, and qt5-qtwebengine), Gentoo (adobe-flash), Mageia (c-ares, expat, flash-player-plugin, gnutls, libgcrypt, libtiff, sane, and tnef), openSUSE (evince and xorg-x11-server), Scientific Linux (graphite2), Slackware (seamonkey), and Ubuntu (heimdal and linux-lts-trusty).

AWS Price Reduction – SQL Server Standard Edition on EC2

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-price-reduction-sql-server-standard-edition-on-ec2/

I’m happy to be able to announce the 62nd AWS price reduction, this one for Microsoft SQL Server Standard Edition on EC2.

Many enterprise workloads run on Microsoft Windows, primarily on-premises or in corporate data centers. We believe that AWS is the best place to build, deploy, scale, and manage Windows applications due to the breadth of services that we provide, backed up by our global reach and our partner ecosystem. Customers like Adobe, Pitney Bowes, and DeVry University have all moved core production Windows Server workloads to AWS. Their applications run the gamut from SharePoint sites to custom .NET applications and SAP, and frequently use SQL Server.

Microsoft SQL Server on AWS runs on an EC2 Windows instance and can support your application development and migration efforts. It gives you control over every setting, just as you would have if you were running your relational database on-premises, with support for 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Today we are reducing the On-Demand and Reserved Instance prices for Microsoft SQL Server Standard Edition on EC2 running on R4, M4, I3, and X1 instances by up to 52%, depending on instance type, size, and region. You can build and run enterprise-scale applications, massively scalable websites. and mobile applications even more cost-effectively than before.

Here are the largest price reductions for each region and instance type:

Region R4 M4 I3 X1
US East (Northern Virginia) -51% -29% -50% -52%
US East (Ohio) -51% -29% -50% -52%
US West (Oregon) -51% -29% -50% -52%
US West (Northern California) -51% -30% -50%
Canada (Central) -51% -51% -50% -44%
South America (São Paulo) -49% -30% -48%
EU (Ireland) -51% -29% -50% -51%
EU (Frankfurt) -51% -29% -50% -50%
EU (London) -51% -51% -50% -44%
Asia Pacific (Singapore) -51% -31% -50% -50%
Asia Pacific (Sydney) -51% -30% -50% -50%
Asia Pacific (Tokyo) -51% -29% -50% -50%
Asia Pacific (Seoul)  -51% -31% -50% -50%
Asia Pacific (Mumbai)  -51% -33% -50% -50%

The new, lower prices for On-Demand instances are in effect as of July 1, 2017. The new pricing for Reserved Instances is in effect today.



A Raspbian desktop update with some new programming tools

Post Syndicated from Simon Long original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/a-raspbian-desktop-update-with-some-new-programming-tools/

Today we’ve released another update to the Raspbian desktop. In addition to the usual small tweaks and bug fixes, the big new changes are the inclusion of an offline version of Scratch 2.0, and of Thonny (a user-friendly IDE for Python which is excellent for beginners). We’ll look at all the changes in this post, but let’s start with the biggest…

Scratch 2.0 for Raspbian

Scratch is one of the most popular pieces of software on Raspberry Pi. This is largely due to the way it makes programming accessible – while it is simple to learn, it covers many of the concepts that are used in more advanced languages. Scratch really does provide a great introduction to programming for all ages.

Raspbian ships with the original version of Scratch, which is now at version 1.4. A few years ago, though, the Scratch team at the MIT Media Lab introduced the new and improved Scratch version 2.0, and ever since we’ve had numerous requests to offer it on the Pi.

There was, however, a problem with this. The original version of Scratch was written in a language called Squeak, which could run on the Pi in a Squeak interpreter. Scratch 2.0, however, was written in Flash, and was designed to run from a remote site in a web browser. While this made Scratch 2.0 a cross-platform application, which you could run without installing any Scratch software, it also meant that you had to be able to run Flash on your computer, and that you needed to be connected to the internet to program in Scratch.

We worked with Adobe to include the Pepper Flash plugin in Raspbian, which enables Flash sites to run in the Chromium browser. This addressed the first of these problems, so the Scratch 2.0 website has been available on Pi for a while. However, it still needed an internet connection to run, which wasn’t ideal in many circumstances. We’ve been working with the Scratch team to get an offline version of Scratch 2.0 running on Pi.

Screenshot of Scratch on Raspbian

The Scratch team had created a website to enable developers to create hardware and software extensions for Scratch 2.0; this provided a version of the Flash code for the Scratch editor which could be modified to run locally rather than over the internet. We combined this with a program called Electron, which effectively wraps up a local web page into a standalone application. We ended up with the Scratch 2.0 application that you can find in the Programming section of the main menu.

Physical computing with Scratch 2.0

We didn’t stop there though. We know that people want to use Scratch for physical computing, and it has always been a bit awkward to access GPIO pins from Scratch. In our Scratch 2.0 application, therefore, there is a custom extension which allows the user to control the Pi’s GPIO pins without difficulty. Simply click on ‘More Blocks’, choose ‘Add an Extension’, and select ‘Pi GPIO’. This loads two new blocks, one to read and one to write the state of a GPIO pin.

Screenshot of new Raspbian iteration of Scratch 2, featuring GPIO pin control blocks.

The Scratch team kindly allowed us to include all the sprites, backdrops, and sounds from the online version of Scratch 2.0. You can also use the Raspberry Pi Camera Module to create new sprites and backgrounds.

This first release works well, although it can be slow for some operations; this is largely unavoidable for Flash code running under Electron. Bear in mind that you will need to have the Pepper Flash plugin installed (which it is by default on standard Raspbian images). As Pepper Flash is only compatible with the processor in the Pi 2.0 and Pi 3, it is unfortunately not possible to run Scratch 2.0 on the Pi Zero or the original models of the Pi.

We hope that this makes Scratch 2.0 a more practical proposition for many users than it has been to date. Do let us know if you hit any problems, though!

Thonny: a more user-friendly IDE for Python

One of the paths from Scratch to ‘real’ programming is through Python. We know that the transition can be awkward, and this isn’t helped by the tools available for learning Python. It’s fair to say that IDLE, the Python IDE, isn’t the most popular piece of software ever written…

Earlier this year, we reviewed every Python IDE that we could find that would run on a Raspberry Pi, in an attempt to see if there was something better out there than IDLE. We wanted to find something that was easier for beginners to use but still useful for experienced Python programmers. We found one program, Thonny, which stood head and shoulders above all the rest. It’s a really user-friendly IDE, which still offers useful professional features like single-stepping of code and inspection of variables.

Screenshot of Thonny IDE in Raspbian

Thonny was created at the University of Tartu in Estonia; we’ve been working with Aivar Annamaa, the lead developer, on getting it into Raspbian. The original version of Thonny works well on the Pi, but because the GUI is written using Python’s default GUI toolkit, Tkinter, the appearance clashes with the rest of the Raspbian desktop, most of which is written using the GTK toolkit. We made some changes to bring things like fonts and graphics into line with the appearance of our other apps, and Aivar very kindly took that work and converted it into a theme package that could be applied to Thonny.

Due to the limitations of working within Tkinter, the result isn’t exactly like a native GTK application, but it’s pretty close. It’s probably good enough for anyone who isn’t a picky UI obsessive like me, anyway! Have a look at the Thonny webpage to see some more details of all the cool features it offers. We hope that having a more usable environment will help to ease the transition from graphical languages like Scratch into ‘proper’ languages like Python.

New icons

Other than these two new packages, this release is mostly bug fixes and small version bumps. One thing you might notice, though, is that we’ve made some tweaks to our custom icon set. We wondered if the icons might look better with slightly thinner outlines. We tried it, and they did: we hope you prefer them too.

Downloading the new image

You can either download a new image from the Downloads page, or you can use apt to update:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

To install Scratch 2.0:

sudo apt-get install scratch2

To install Thonny:

sudo apt-get install python3-thonny

One more thing…

Before Christmas, we released an experimental version of the desktop running on Debian for x86-based computers. We were slightly taken aback by how popular it turned out to be! This made us realise that this was something we were going to need to support going forward. We’ve decided we’re going to try to make all new desktop releases for both Pi and x86 from now on.

The version of this we released last year was a live image that could run from a USB stick. Many people asked if we could make it permanently installable, so this version includes an installer. This uses the standard Debian install process, so it ought to work on most machines. I should stress, though, that we haven’t been able to test on every type of hardware, so there may be issues on some computers. Please be sure to back up your hard drive before installing it. Unlike the live image, this will erase and reformat your hard drive, and you will lose anything that is already on it!

You can still boot the image as a live image if you don’t want to install it, and it will create a persistence partition on the USB stick so you can save data. Just select ‘Run with persistence’ from the boot menu. To install, choose either ‘Install’ or ‘Graphical install’ from the same menu. The Debian installer will then walk you through the install process.

You can download the latest x86 image (which includes both Scratch 2.0 and Thonny) from here or here for a torrent file.

One final thing

This version of the desktop is based on Debian Jessie. Some of you will be aware that a new stable version of Debian (called Stretch) was released last week. Rest assured – we have been working on porting everything across to Stretch for some time now, and we will have a Stretch release ready some time over the summer.

The post A Raspbian desktop update with some new programming tools appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Security updates for Friday

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/723927/rss

Security updates have been issued by CentOS (kernel), Debian (graphicsmagick, imagemagick, kde4libs, and puppet), Fedora (FlightCrew, kernel, libvncserver, and wordpress), Gentoo (adobe-flash, smb4k, teeworlds, and xen), Mageia (kernel, kernel-linus, kernel-tmb, and perl-CGI-Emulate-PSGI), openSUSE (GraphicsMagick and rpcbind), Oracle (kernel), Red Hat (kernel and kernel-rt), and Scientific Linux (kernel).

Protecting Your Account

Post Syndicated from Tim Nufire original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/protecting-your-account/

Editor’s Note: This is a copy of an email sent to our customers on 4/28/17. The Backblaze login database has in no way been compromised. That said, we have seen a number of automated login attempts to our site and wanted to alert our users of the risk. See below for more info.
Dear Customer –

Over the last 72 hours, our security team has noticed an increase in automated attempts to log into our users’ accounts using credentials stolen from other websites. To protect your account, we recommend that you:

Change your password
● Add Two-Factor Authentication for additional security

NOTE: The Backblaze login database has not been compromised – the credentials were stolen from other sources.

Regrettably, we live in an era where companies have been breached and their customers’ credentials have been leaked – Dropbox , Adobe , and LinkedIn are just a few, high profile examples. What happens in these attacks is that the attacker acquires “the Dropbox list” and simply tries those usernames and passwords on another site. If your credentials were leaked in one of those hacks and you used the same username/password combination to sign up for other services (such as ours), you are vulnerable.

While we have a number of methods in place to thwart nefarious attacks, there is a limit to what we can do to prevent someone from signing in to an account with a valid username and password. We are sending this message to you today because we know that some of our users credentials are in these stolen lists.

Changing your password now ensures you’re not using a password that was previously leaked. Adding Two-Factor Authentication provides an extra layer of security and protection if end up on one of these lists in the future.

Thank you,

Chief Cloud Officer

The post Protecting Your Account appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How To Back Up Your Flickr Library

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/how-to-backup-your-flickr-library/

Download Your Flickr Library

Flickr is a popular photo blogging service used by pro and amateur photographers alike. Flickr helps you archive your photos in the cloud and share them publicly with others. What happens when Flickr is the only place you can find your photos, though?

I hadn’t thought that much of that contingency. I’ve been a Flickr user since the pre-Yahoo days – 2004. I recently took stock of all the photos I’d uploaded to Flickr and realized something unsettling: I didn’t have some of these images on my Mac. It’s been 13 years and probably half a dozen computers since then, so I wasn’t surprised that some photos had fallen through the cracks.

I decided to be better safe than sorry. I set out to backup my entire Flickr library to make sure I had everything. And I’m here to pass along what I learned.

Flickr’s Bulk Downloader

Most of Flickr’s workflow – and most of their supported apps – focus on getting images into Flickr, not out of Flickr. That doesn’t mean you can’t download images from Flickr, but it isn’t straightforward.

Flickr Bulk Downloader

Flickr includes a bulk downloader that activates as soon as you selected images in your Camera Roll. Click on the Download button, and Flickr will compress the images into a ZIP file, then download them to your computer.

Flickr’s bulk downloader has the advantage of being free and built into the service. Unfortunately, Flickr’s developers haven’t made it seamless to use. You can only select individual images or groups of photos at a time. So if you’d like to select your entire library – in my case, over 8,000 photos – it’ll take a long time to choose them all. I haven’t found an easier way using Flickr’s downloader yet.

Where Flickr’s downloading tool is terrific, though, is if you just need a few of your images back. If you’re trying to get back individual photos or galleries you might be missing, this is going to be the path of least resistance.

Third-party apps

Some third-party app makers have tapped into Flickr’s API to create various import and export services and apps.

Bulkr is one such app. The app, free to download, lets you download images from your Flickr library with the touch of a button. It’s dependent on Adobe Flash and requires Adobe AIR. Some features are unavailable unless you pay for the “Pro” version ($29).


Flickr downloadr is another free app that lets you download your Flickr library. It also works on Mac, Windows and Linux systems. No license encumbrances to download extra content – it’s released as open source.

Flickr Downloadr

I’ve tried them both on my library of over 8,000 images. In either case, I just set up the apps and let them run – they took a while, a couple of hours to grab everything. So if you’re working with a large archive of Flickr images, I’d recommend setting aside some time when you can leave your computer running.

What To Do With Your Flickr Images

You’ve downloaded the images to your local hard drive. What next? Catalog what you have. Both Macs and PCs include such software. The apps for each platform are both called “Photos.” They have the benefit of being free, built-in, and well-supported using existing tools and workflows.

If the Photos apps included with your computer don’t suit you, there are other commercial app options. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is one of the more popular options that work with both Macs and Windows PCs. It’s included with Adobe’s $9.99 per month Creative Cloud Photography subscription (bundled with Photoshop), or you can buy it separately for $149.

Archive Your Backup

Now that you’ve downloaded all of your Flickr images, make sure they’re safe by backing them up. Back them up locally using Time Machine (on the Mac), Windows Backup or whatever means you prefer.

Even though you’ve gotten the images from the cloud by downloading them from Flickr, it’d be a good idea to store a backup copy offsite just in case. That’s keeping with the guidelines of the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy – a solid way to make sure that nothing bad can happen to your data.

Backblaze is a great option, of course, but the main thing is to make sure your photos are safe and sound. If anything happens to your computer or your local backup, you’ll still have a copy of those precious memories stored securely.

Need more tips on how to back up your computer? Check out our Computer Backup Guide for more details.

The post How To Back Up Your Flickr Library appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Security updates for Monday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/717588/rss

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (firefox, mbedtls, and wordpress), CentOS (firefox, openjpeg, and tomcat6), Debian (deluge, ioquake3, r-base, and wireshark), Fedora (qemu, rabbitmq-server, and sscg), Gentoo (adobe-flash, openoffice-bin, and putty), openSUSE (Chromium, irssi, putty, and roundcubemail), Oracle (firefox and openjpeg), Red Hat (firefox and openjpeg), Scientific Linux (firefox and openjpeg), and SUSE (firefox).

Security updates for Tuesday

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/715160/rss

CentOS has updated openssl (C7; C6: two vulnerabilities).

Debian-LTS has updated gtk-vnc (two vulnerabilities).

Fedora has updated kernel (F25; F24: two
vulnerabilities), mingw-gstreamer1 (F25:
denial of service), mingw-gstreamer1-plugins-bad-free (F25: two
vulnerabilities), mingw-gstreamer1-plugins-base (F25: multiple
vulnerabilities), mingw-gstreamer1-plugins-good (F25: multiple
vulnerabilities), mingw-wavpack (F25; F24:
multiple vulnerabilities), and xen (F25: denial of service).

Gentoo has updated adobe-flash
(multiple vulnerabilities), dropbear
(multiple vulnerabilities), firefox
(multiple vulnerabilities), libass
(multiple vulnerabilities), libvncserver
(two vulnerabilities), mariadb (multiple
vulnerabilities), mysql (multiple
vulnerabilities), nagios-core (multiple
vulnerabilities, one from 2008), ocaml
(information leak), opus (code execution),
php (multiple vulnerabilities), pycrypto (denial of service), qemu (multiple vulnerabilities), redis (three vulnerabilities), tcpdump (multiple vulnerabilities), thunderbird (multiple vulnerabilities), tigervnc (code execution), and xen (code execution).

Mageia has updated ruby-archive-tar-minitar (file overwrites).

openSUSE has updated libplist
(42.1: multiple vulnerabilities) and nodejs
(42.1: three vulnerabilities).

Oracle has updated openssl (OL7; OL6: two vulnerabilities).

SUSE has updated flash-player
(SLE12-SP1: multiple vulnerabilities).

Ubuntu has updated gtk-vnc
(14.04, 12.04: two vulnerabilities), spice
(16.10, 16.04, 14.04: two vulnerabilities), and tomcat6, tomcat7 (14.04, 12.04: denial of service).

Tuesday’s security advisories

Post Syndicated from ris original http://lwn.net/Articles/711185/rss

Arch Linux has updated icoutils (code execution).

CentOS has updated gstreamer-plugins-bad-free (C7: three code
execution vulnerabilities), gstreamer-plugins-good (C7: multiple
vulnerabilities), gstreamer1-plugins-bad-free (C7: multiple
vulnerabilities), and gstreamer1-plugins-good (C7: multiple vulnerabilities).

Debian-LTS has updated python-crypto (denial of service).

Gentoo has updated adobe-flash (multiple vulnerabilities), python (two vulnerabilities), and tiff (multiple vulnerabilities).

Mageia has updated nvidia304,
(three vulnerabilities) and xen (multiple vulnerabilities).

openSUSE has updated irssi (42.2, 42.1, 13.2; SPH for SLE12: multiple vulnerabilities).

Scientific Linux has updated subscription-manager (SL7: information disclosure).

Backblaze 2016 Year in Review

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-2016-year-review/

It is hard to believe that 2016 is nearly over. It has been a busy year as Backblaze continued to grow. We have 30% more employees, 30% more hard drives, and 45% more data than this time last year. Here are a few of our highlights from 2016.

20 Billion Files Restored. There are many reasons why someone requests a file to be restored, from a crashed computer to downloading a photo of grandma to your smartphone to show the family. In November, Backblaze restored its 20 billionth file and 10 lucky winners won some goodies from Backblaze.

30% more hard drives. We’ll finish out this year with over 72,000 hard drives spinning in our data center. That’s up from 56,224 at the beginning of 2016. Our Hard Drive Stats continue to draw interest and generate great discussions each time we publish our quarterly reviews. By the way, in late January, keep an eye out for the 2016 Hard Drive Stats Year-in-Review blog post and sign up now for the webinar on February 2nd.

In case your invitation was lost in the mail and you missed the party, the hard drive turned 60 in September 2016. Still, you can check out our “A History of Hard Drives” post and get your hard drives facts back on track in time for the new year.

In July we got the chance to tell the amazing story of “How Una Got Her Stolen Laptop Back”. A thief absconded with Una’s laptop, then it trekked across three continents for 18 months. Thanks to Una’s perseverance and a little help from Backblaze, Una and her wayward laptop were happily reunited.

Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage was launched in June to rave reviews. The launch included integration partners like Synology, CloudBerry, OpenIO, and more. Launched with a complete Web GUI, CLI and API, application developers, IT professionals and many others have embraced B2 as the way to economically store their data in the cloud.

Storage Pod 6.0 was introduced in April 2016. We upgraded the chassis to support 60 drives and with 8 TB drives installed we have a 480 TB 4U storage server. We’ve now deployed over 100 of these 60-drive chassis with 40 of them having 8 TB drives. And 10 TB drives are next…

On April 1st, Backblaze introduced our new product, Catblaze Cloud Backup, which backs up an unlimited amount of your cat photos and videos for just $5/month/computer. Also in April, Backblaze celebrated our 9th birthday.

In 2016 we updated the Backblaze Backup client four times.

In February, we discovered that when you upgraded Adobe Creative Cloud to version you could break Backblaze. After a fun weekend of finger pointing and twitter exchanges, Adobe released a fix.

In January, we introduced our wildly popular Restore Return Refund program for Backblaze backup customers. If you order a flash drive or hard drive restore from Backblaze and then return the drive to us within 30 days we will refund you the purchase price of the restore. Of course you can opt to keep the drive, in which case your payment will cover the purchase of the drive.

Dropbox and Backblaze

Throughout the year we’ve worked hard to bring you nearly 50 blog posts focused on everything related to backing up your laptop or desktop. Along the way we covered topics like, “How to Backup your iPhone”, “How Backblaze and Dropbox work together” and many more.

For the third consecutive year, Backblaze was named as one of the fastest growing technologies companies in the United States. The Technology Fast 500 program is run by the good folks at Deloitte, and the award is based on a company’s revenue increase over a specific period of time (either 4 or 5 years).

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Here’s to an even better 2017.

The post Backblaze 2016 Year in Review appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

PIXEL for PC and Mac

Post Syndicated from Eben Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pixel-pc-mac/

Our vision in establishing the Raspberry Pi Foundation was that everyone should be able to afford their own programmable general-purpose computer. The intention has always been that the Raspberry Pi should be a full-featured desktop computer at a $35 price point. In support of this, and in parallel with our hardware development efforts, we’ve made substantial investments in our software stack. These culminated in the launch of PIXEL in September 2016.

PIXEL represents our best guess as to what the majority of users are looking for in a desktop environment: a clean, modern user interface; a curated suite of productivity software and programming tools, both free and proprietary; and the Chromium web browser with useful plugins, including Adobe Flash, preinstalled. And all of this is built on top of Debian, providing instant access to thousands of free applications.

Put simply, it’s the GNU/Linux we would want to use.

The PIXEL desktop on Raspberry Pi

Back in the summer, we asked ourselves one simple question: if we like PIXEL so much, why ask people to buy Raspberry Pi hardware in order to run it? There is a massive installed base of PC and Mac hardware out there, which can run x86 Debian just fine. Could we do something for the owners of those machines?

So, after three months of hard work from Simon and Serge, we have a Christmas treat for you: an experimental version of Debian+PIXEL for x86 platforms. Simply download the image, burn it onto a DVD or flash it onto a USB stick, and boot straight into the familiar PIXEL desktop environment on your PC or Mac. Or go out and buy this month’s issue of The MagPi magazine, in stores tomorrow, which has this rather stylish bootable DVD on the cover.

Our first ever covermount

You’ll find all the applications you’re used to, with the exception of Minecraft and Wolfram Mathematica (we don’t have a licence to put those on any machine that’s not a Raspberry Pi). Because we’re using the venerable i386 architecture variant it should run even on vintage machines like my ThinkPad X40, provided they have at least 512MB of RAM.

The finest laptop ever made, made finer

Why do we think this is worth doing? Two reasons:

  • A school can now run PIXEL on its existing installed base of PCs, just as a student can run PIXEL on her Raspberry Pi at home. She can move back and forth between her computing class or after-school club and home, using exactly the same productivity software and programming tools, in exactly the same desktop environment. There is no learning curve, and no need to tweak her schoolwork to run on two subtly different operating systems.
  • And bringing PIXEL to the PC and Mac keeps us honest. We don’t just want to create the best desktop environment for the Raspberry Pi: we want to create the best desktop environment, period. We know we’re not there yet, but by running PIXEL alongside Windows, Mac OS, and the established desktop GNU/Linux distros, we can more easily see where our weak points are, and work to fix them.

Remember that this is a prototype rather then a final release version. Due to the wide variety of PC and Mac hardware out there, there are likely to be minor issues on some hardware configurations. If we decide that this is something we want to commit to in the long run, we will do our best to address these as they come up. You can help us here – please let us know how you get on in the comments below!


Download the image, and either burn it to a DVD or write it to a USB stick. For the latter, we recommend Etcher.

Etcher from resin.io

Insert the DVD or USB stick into your PC or Mac, and turn it on. On a PC, you will generally need to enable booting from optical drive or USB stick in the BIOS, and you will have to ensure that the optical drive or USB stick is ahead of all other drives in the boot order. On a Mac, you’ll need to hold down C during boot*.

If you’ve done that correctly, you will be greeted by a boot screen.

Boot screen

Here you can hit escape to access the boot menu, or do nothing to boot through to the desktop.

Spot the difference: the PIXEL desktop on a PC

* We are aware of an issue on some modern Macs (including, annoyingly, mine – but not Liz’s), where the machine fails to identify the image as bootable. We’ll release an updated image once we’ve got to the bottom of the issue.


If you are running from DVD, any files you create, or modifications you make to the system, will of course be lost when you power off the machine. If you are running from a USB stick, the system will by default use any spare space on the device to create a persistence partition, which allows files to persist between sessions. The boot menu provides options to run with or without persistence, or to erase any persistence partition that has been created, allowing you to roll back to a clean install at any time.

Boot menu


One of the great benefits of the Raspberry Pi is that it is a low-consequence environment for messing about: if you trash your SD card you can just flash another one. This is not always true of your PC or Mac. Consider backing up your system before trying this image.

Raspberry Pi can accept no liability for any loss of data or damage to computer systems from using the image.

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