We have seen a lot of discussion this past week about the role of Amazon Rekognition in facial recognition, surveillance, and civil liberties, and we wanted to share some thoughts.
Amazon Rekognition is a service we announced in 2016. It makes use of new technologies – such as deep learning – and puts them in the hands of developers in an easy-to-use, low-cost way. Since then, we have seen customers use the image and video analysis capabilities of Amazon Rekognition in ways that materially benefit both society (e.g. preventing human trafficking, inhibiting child exploitation, reuniting missing children with their families, and building educational apps for children), and organizations (enhancing security through multi-factor authentication, finding images more easily, or preventing package theft). Amazon Web Services (AWS) is not the only provider of services like these, and we remain excited about how image and video analysis can be a driver for good in the world, including in the public sector and law enforcement.
There have always been and will always be risks with new technology capabilities. Each organization choosing to employ technology must act responsibly or risk legal penalties and public condemnation. AWS takes its responsibilities seriously. But we believe it is the wrong approach to impose a ban on promising new technologies because they might be used by bad actors for nefarious purposes in the future. The world would be a very different place if we had restricted people from buying computers because it was possible to use that computer to do harm. The same can be said of thousands of technologies upon which we all rely each day. Through responsible use, the benefits have far outweighed the risks.
Customers are off to a great start with Amazon Rekognition; the evidence of the positive impact this new technology can provide is strong (and growing by the week), and we’re excited to continue to support our customers in its responsible use.
-Dr. Matt Wood, general manager of artificial intelligence at AWS
Hey folks, Rob here! It’s the last Thursday of the month, and that means it’s time for a brand-new The MagPi. Issue 70 is all about home automation using your favourite microcomputer, the Raspberry Pi.
Home automation in this month’s The MagPi!
Raspberry Pi home automation
We think home automation is an excellent use of the Raspberry Pi, hiding it around your house and letting it power your lights and doorbells and…fish tanks? We show you how to do all of that, and give you some excellent tips on how to add even more automation to your home in our ten-page cover feature.
Upcycle your life
Our other big feature this issue covers upcycling, the hot trend of taking old electronics and making them better than new with some custom code and a tactically placed Raspberry Pi. For this feature, we had a chat with Martin Mander, upcycler extraordinaire, to find out his top tips for hacking your old hardware.
Upcycling is a lot of fun
But wait, there’s more!
If for some reason you want even more content, you’re in luck! We have some fun tutorials for you to try, like creating a theremin and turning a Babbage into an IoT nanny cam. We also continue our quest to make a video game in C++. Our project showcase is headlined by the Teslonda on page 28, a Honda/Tesla car hybrid that is just wonderful.
We review PiBorg’s latest robot
All this comes with our definitive reviews and the community section where we celebrate you, our amazing community! You’re all good beans
An amazing, and practical, Raspberry Pi project
Get The MagPi 70
Issue 70 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.
New subscription offer!
Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? We’ve launched a new way to subscribe to the print version of The MagPi: you can now take out a monthly £4 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre-order system that saves you money on each issue.
You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W plus case and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.
Today I’m excited to announce built-in authentication support in Application Load Balancers (ALB). ALB can now securely authenticate users as they access applications, letting developers eliminate the code they have to write to support authentication and offload the responsibility of authentication from the backend. The team built a great live example where you can try out the authentication functionality.
Identity-based security is a crucial component of modern applications and as customers continue to move mission critical applications into the cloud, developers are asked to write the same authentication code again and again. Enterprises want to use their on-premises identities with their cloud applications. Web developers want to use federated identities from social networks to allow their users to sign-in. ALB’s new authentication action provides authentication through social Identity Providers (IdP) like Google, Facebook, and Amazon through Amazon Cognito. It also natively integrates with any OpenID Connect protocol compliant IdP, providing secure authentication and a single sign-on experience across your applications.
How Does ALB Authentication Work?
Authentication is a complicated topic and our readers may have differing levels of expertise with it. I want to cover a few key concepts to make sure we’re all on the same page. If you’re already an authentication expert and you just want to see how ALB authentication works feel free to skip to the next section!
Authentication verifies identity.
Authorization verifies permissions, the things an identity is allowed to do.
OpenID Connect (OIDC) is a simple identity, or authentication, layer built on top on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol. The OIDC specification document is pretty well written and worth a casual read.
Identity Providers (IdPs) manage identity information and provide authentication services. ALB supports any OIDC compliant IdP and you can use a service like Amazon Cognito or Auth0 to aggregate different identities from various IdPs like Active Directory, LDAP, Google, Facebook, Amazon, or others deployed in AWS or on premises.
When we get away from the terminology for a bit, all of this boils down to figuring out who a user is and what they’re allowed to do. Doing this securely and efficiently is hard. Traditionally, enterprises have used a protocol called SAML with their IdPs, to provide a single sign-on (SSO) experience for their internal users. SAML is XML heavy and modern applications have started using OIDC with JSON mechanism to share claims. Developers can use SAML in ALB with Amazon Cognito’s SAML support. Web app or mobile developers typically use federated identities via social IdPs like Facebook, Amazon, or Google which, conveniently, are also supported by Amazon Cognito.
ALB Authentication works by defining an authentication action in a listener rule. The ALB’s authentication action will check if a session cookie exists on incoming requests, then check that it’s valid. If the session cookie is set and valid then the ALB will route the request to the target group with X-AMZN-OIDC-* headers set. The headers contain identity information in JSON Web Token (JWT) format, that a backend can use to identify a user. If the session cookie is not set or invalid then ALB will follow the OIDC protocol and issue an HTTP 302 redirect to the identity provider. The protocol is a lot to unpack and is covered more thoroughly in the documentation for those curious.
ALB Authentication Walkthrough
I have a simple Python flask app in an Amazon ECS cluster running in some AWS Fargate containers. The containers are in a target group routed to by an ALB. I want to make sure users of my application are logged in before accessing the authenticated portions of my application. First, I’ll navigate to the ALB in the console and edit the rules.
I want to make sure all access to /account* endpoints is authenticated so I’ll add new rule with a condition to match those endpoints.
Now, I’ll add a new rule and create an Authenticate action in that rule.
I’ll have ALB create a new Amazon Cognito user pool for me by providing some configuration details.
After creating the Amazon Cognito pool, I can make some additional configuration in the advanced settings.
I can change the default cookie name, adjust the timeout, adjust the scope, and choose the action for unauthenticated requests.
I can pick Deny to serve a 401 for all unauthenticated requests or I can pick Allow which will pass through to the application if unauthenticated. This is useful for Single Page Apps (SPAs). For now, I’ll choose Authenticate, which will prompt the IdP, in this case Amazon Cognito, to authenticate the user and reload the existing page.
Now I’ll add a forwarding action for my target group and save the rule.
Over on the Facebook side I just need to add my Amazon Cognito User Pool Domain to the whitelisted OAuth redirect URLs.
I would follow similar steps for other authentication providers.
Now, when I navigate to an authenticated page my Fargate containers receive the originating request with the X-Amzn-Oidc-* headers set by ALB. Using the information in those headers (claims-data, identity, access-token) my application can implement authorization.
All of this was possible without having to write a single line of code to deal with each of the IdPs. However, it’s still important for the implementing applications to verify the signature on the JWT header to ensure the request hasn’t been tampered with.
Of course everything we’ve seen today is also available in the the API and AWS Command Line Interface (CLI). You can find additional information on the feature in the documentation. This feature is provided at no additional charge.
With authentication built-in to ALB, developers can focus on building their applications instead of rebuilding authentication for every application, all the while maintaining the scale, availability, and reliability of ALB. I think this feature is a pretty big deal and I can’t wait to see what customers build with it. Let us know what you think of this feature in the comments or on twitter!
During KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2018, Justin Cormack and Nassim Eddequiouaq presented a proposal to simplify the setting of security parameters for containerized applications. Containers depend on a large set of intricate security primitives that can have weird interactions. Because they are so hard to use, people often just turn the whole thing off. The goal of the proposal is to make those controls easier to understand and use; it is partly inspired by mobile apps on iOS and Android platforms, an idea that trickled back into Microsoft and Apple desktops. The time seems ripe to improve the field of container security, which is in desperate need of simpler controls.
I’m happy to announce that Sumerian is now generally available. You can create realistic virtual environments and scenes without having to acquire or master specialized tools for 3D modeling, animation, lighting, audio editing, or programming. Once built, you can deploy your finished creation across multiple platforms without having to write custom code or deal with specialized deployment systems and processes.
Sumerian gives you a web-based editor that you can use to quickly and easily create realistic, professional-quality scenes. There’s a visual scripting tool that lets you build logic to control how objects and characters (Sumerian Hosts) respond to user actions. Sumerian also lets you create rich, natural interactions powered by AWS services such as Amazon Lex, Polly, AWS Lambda, AWS IoT, and Amazon DynamoDB.
Sumerian was designed to work on multiple platforms. The VR and AR apps that you create in Sumerian will run in browsers that supports WebGL or WebVR and on popular devices such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and those powered by iOS or Android.
During the preview period, we have been working with a broad spectrum of customers to put Sumerian to the test and to create proof of concept (PoC) projects designed to highlight an equally broad spectrum of use cases, including employee education, training simulations, field service productivity, virtual concierge, design and creative, and brand engagement. Fidelity Labs (the internal R&D unit of Fidelity Investments), was the first to use a Sumerian host to create an engaging VR experience. Cora (the host) lives within a virtual chart room. She can display stock quotes, pull up company charts, and answer questions about a company’s performance. This PoC uses Amazon Polly to implement text to speech and Amazon Lex for conversational chatbot functionality. Read their blog post and watch the video inside to see Cora in action:
Now that Sumerian is generally available, you have the power to create engaging AR, VR, and 3D experiences of your own. To learn more, visit the Amazon Sumerian home page and then spend some quality time with our extensive collection of Sumerian Tutorials.
Spencer Ackerman has this interesting story about a guy assigned to crack down on unauthorized White House leaks. It’s necessarily light on technical details, so I thought I’d write up some guesses, either as a guide for future reporters asking questions, or for people who want to better know the risks when leak information.
It should come as no surprise that your work email and phone are already monitored. They can get every email you’ve sent or received, even if you’ve deleted it. They can get every text message you’ve sent or received, the metadata of every phone call sent or received, and so forth.
To a lesser extent, this also applies to your well-known personal phone and email accounts. Law enforcement can get the metadata (which includes text messages) for these things without a warrant. In the above story, the person doing the investigation wasn’t law enforcement, but I’m not sure that’s a significant barrier if they can pass things onto the Secret Service or something.
The danger here isn’t that you used these things to leak, it’s that you’ve used these things to converse with the reporter before you made the decision to leak. That’s what happened in the Reality Winner case: she communicated with The Intercept before she allegedly leaked a printed document to them via postal mail. While it wasn’t conclusive enough to convict her, the innocent emails certainly put the investigators on her trail.
The path to leaking often starts this way: innocent actions before the decision to leak was made that will come back to haunt the person afterwards. That includes emails. That also includes Google searches. That includes websites you visit (like this one). I’m not sure how to solve this, except that if you’ve been in contact with The Intercept, and then you decide to leak, send it to anybody but The Intercept.
By the way, the other thing that caught Reality Winner is the records they had of her accessing files and printing them on a printer. Depending where you work, they may have a record of every file you’ve accessed, every intranet page you visited. Because of the way printers put secret dots on documents, investigators know precisely which printer and time the document leaked to The Intercept was printed.
Photographs suffer the same problem: your camera and phone tag the photographs with GPS coordinates and time the photograph was taken, as well as information about the camera. This accidentally exposed John McAfee’s hiding location when Vice took pictures of him a few years ago. Some people leak by taking pictures of the screen — use a camera without GPS for this (meaning, a really old camera you bought from a pawnshop).
These examples should impress upon you the dangers of not understanding technology. As soon as you do something to evade surveillance you know about, you may get caught by surveillance you don’t know about.
If you nonetheless want to continue forward, the next step may be to get a “burner phone”. You can get an adequate Android “prepaid” phone for cash at the local Walmart, electronics store, or phone store.
There’s some problems with such phones, though. They can often be tracked back to the store that sold them, and the store will have security cameras that record you making the purchase. License plate readers and GPS tracking on your existing phone may also place you at that Walmart.
I don’t know how to resolve these problems. Perhaps the best is grow a beard and on the last day of your vacation, color your hair, take a long bike/metro ride (without your existing phone) to a store many miles away and pick up a phone, then shave and change your color back again. I don’t know — there’s a good chance any lame attempt you or I might think of has already been experienced by law enforcement, so they are likely ahead of you. Maybe ask your local drug dealer where they get their burner phones, and if they can sell you one. Of course, that just means when they get caught for drug dealing, they can reduce their sentence by giving up the middle class person who bought a phone from them.
Lastly, they may age out old security videos, so simply waiting six months before using the phone might work. That means prepaying for an entire year.
Note that I’m not going to link to examples of cheap burner phones on this page. Web browsers will sometimes prefetch some information from links in a webpage, so simply including links in this page can condemn you as having interest in burner phones. You are already in enough trouble for having visited this web page.
Burner phones have GPS. Newer the technology, like the latest Android LTE phones, have pretty accurate GPS that the police can query (without a warrant). If you take the phone home and turn it on, they’ll then be able to trace back the phone to your home. Carrying the phone around with you has the same problem, with the phone’s location correlating with your existing phone (which presumably you also carry) or credit card receipts. Rumors are that Petraeus was partly brought down by tracking locations where he used his credit card, namely, matching the hotel he was in with Internet address information.
Older phones that support 3G or even 2G have poorer GPS capabilities. They’ll still located you to the nearest cell tower, but not as accurately to your exact location.
A better strategy than a burner phone would be a burner laptop computer used with WiFi. You can get a cheap one for $200 at Amazon.com. My favorite are the 11 inch ones with a full sized keyboard and Windows 10. Better yet, get an older laptop for cash from a pawn shop.
You can install chat apps on this like “Signal Desktop”, “Wire Desktop”, or “WhatsApp” that will allow you to securely communicate. Or use “Discord”, which isn’t really encrypted, but it’s popular among gamers so therefore less likely to stand out. You can sit in a bar with free WiFi and a USB headset and talk to reporters without having a phone. If the reporter you want to leak to doesn’t have those apps (either on their own laptop or phone) then you don’t want to talk to them.
Needless to say, don’t cross the streams. Don’t log onto your normal accounts like Facebook. If you create fake Facebook accounts, don’t follow the same things. Better yet, configure your browser to discard all information (especially “cookies”) every time you log off, so you can’t be tracked. Install ad blockers, or use the “Brave” web browser, to remove even more trackers. A common trick among hackers is to change the “theme” to a red background, as a constant subliminal reminder that you using your dangerous computer, and never to do anything that identifies the real you.
Put tape over the camera. I’m not sure it’s a really big danger, but put tape over the camera. If they infect you enough to get your picture, they’ve also infected you enough to record any audio on your computer. Remember that proper encryption is end-to-end (they can’t eavesdrop in transit), but if they hack the ends (your laptop, or the reporter’s) they can still record the audio.
Note that when your burner laptop is in “sleep” mode, it can still be talking to the local wifi. Before taking it home, make sure it’s off. Go into the settings and configure it so that when the lid is closed, the computer is turned completely off.
It goes without saying: don’t use that burner laptop from home. Luckily, free wifi is everyone, so the local cafe, bar, or library can be used.
The next step is to also use a VPN or Tor to mask your Internet address. If there’s an active investigation into the reporter, they’ll get the metadata, the Internet address of the bar/cafe you are coming from. A good VPN provider or especially Tor will stop this. Remember that these providers increase latency, making phone calls a bit harder, but they are a lot safer.
Remember that Ross Ulbricht (owner of dark website market Silk Road) was caught in a library. They’d traced back his Internet address and grabbed his laptop out of his hands. Having it turn off (off off, not sleep off) when the lid is closed is one way to reduce this risk. Configuring your web browser to flush all cookies and passwords on restart is another. If they catch you in mid conversation with your secret contact, though, they’ll at least be able to hear your side of the conversation, and know who you are talking to.
The best measure, though it takes some learning, is “Tails live”. It’s a Linux distribution preconfigured with Tor and various secure chat apps that’ll boot from the USB or SD card. When you turn off the computer, nothing will be saved, so there will be no evidence saved to the disk for investigators to retrieve later.
While we are talking about Tor, it should be noted that many news organizations (NYTimes, Washington Post, The Intercept, etc.) support “SecureDrop” accessed only through Tor for receiving anonymous tips. Burner laptops you use from bars from Tails is the likely your most secure way of doing things.
The point of this post was not to provide a howto guide, but to discuss many of the technological issues involved. In a story about White House people investigating leaks, I’d like to see something in this technological direction. I’d like to know exactly how they were investigating leaks. Certainly, they were investigating all work computers, accounts, and phones. Where they also able to get to non-work computers, accounts, phones? Did they have law enforcement powers? What could they do about burner phones and laptops?
In any case, if you do want a howto guide, the discussion above should put some fear into you how easily you can inadvertently make a mistake.
In our blog post on Tuesday, Cryptocurrency Security Challenges, we wrote about the two primary challenges faced by anyone interested in safely and profitably participating in the cryptocurrency economy: 1) make sure you’re dealing with reputable and ethical companies and services, and, 2) keep your cryptocurrency holdings safe and secure.
In this post, we’re going to focus on how to make sure you don’t lose any of your cryptocurrency holdings through accident, theft, or carelessness. You do that by backing up the keys needed to sell or trade your currencies.
$34 Billion in Lost Value
Of the 16.4 million bitcoins said to be in circulation in the middle of 2017, close to 3.8 million may have been lost because their owners no longer are able to claim their holdings. Based on today’s valuation, that could total as much as $34 billion dollars in lost value. And that’s just bitcoins. There are now over 1,500 different cryptocurrencies, and we don’t know how many of those have been misplaced or lost.
Now that some cryptocurrencies have reached (at least for now) staggering heights in value, it’s likely that owners will be more careful in keeping track of the keys needed to use their cryptocurrencies. For the ones already lost, however, the owners have been separated from their currencies just as surely as if they had thrown Benjamin Franklins and Grover Clevelands over the railing of a ship.
The Basics of Securing Your Cryptocurrencies
In our previous post, we reviewed how cryptocurrency keys work, and the common ways owners can keep track of them. A cryptocurrency owner needs two keys to use their currencies: a public key that can be shared with others is used to receive currency, and a private key that must be kept secure is used to spend or trade currency.
Many wallets and applications allow the user to require extra security to access them, such as a password, or iris, face, or thumb print scan. If one of these options is available in your wallets, take advantage of it. Beyond that, it’s essential to back up your wallet, either using the backup feature built into some applications and wallets, or manually backing up the data used by the wallet. When backing up, it’s a good idea to back up the entire wallet, as some wallets require additional private data to operate that might not be apparent.
No matter which backup method you use, it is important to back up often and have multiple backups, preferable in different locations. As with any valuable data, a 3-2-1 backup strategy is good to follow, which ensures that you’ll have a good backup copy if anything goes wrong with one or more copies of your data.
One more caveat, don’t reuse passwords. This applies to all of your accounts, but is especially important for something as critical as your finances. Don’t ever use the same password for more than one account. If security is breached on one of your accounts, someone could connect your name or ID with other accounts, and will attempt to use the password there, as well. Consider using a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password, which make creating and using complex and unique passwords easy no matter where you’re trying to sign in.
Approaches to Backing Up Your Cryptocurrency Keys
There are numerous ways to be sure your keys are backed up. Let’s take them one by one.
1. Automatic backups using a backup program
If you’re using a wallet program on your computer, for example, Bitcoin Core, it will store your keys, along with other information, in a file. For Bitcoin Core, that file is wallet.dat. Other currencies will use the same or a different file name and some give you the option to select a name for the wallet file.
To back up the wallet.dat or other wallet file, you might need to tell your backup program to explicitly back up that file. Users of Backblaze Backup don’t have to worry about configuring this, since by default, Backblaze Backup will back up all data files. You should determine where your particular cryptocurrency, wallet, or application stores your keys, and make sure the necessary file(s) are backed up if your backup program requires you to select which files are included in the backup.
Backblaze B2 is an option for those interested in low-cost and high security cloud storage of their cryptocurrency keys. Backblaze B2 supports 2-factor verification for account access, works with a number of apps that support automatic backups with encryption, error-recovery, and versioning, and offers an API and command-line interface (CLI), as well. The first 10GB of storage is free, which could be all one needs to store encrypted cryptocurrency keys.
2. Backing up by exporting keys to a file
Apps and wallets will let you export your keys from your app or wallet to a file. Once exported, your keys can be stored on a local drive, USB thumb drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud with any cloud storage or sync service you wish. Encrypting the file is strongly encouraged — more on that later. If you use 1Password or LastPass, or other secure notes program, you also could store your keys there.
3. Backing up by saving a mnemonic recovery seed
A mnemonic phrase, mnemonic recovery phrase, or mnemonic seed is a list of words that stores all the information needed to recover a cryptocurrency wallet. Many wallets will have the option to generate a mnemonic backup phrase, which can be written down on paper. If the user’s computer no longer works or their hard drive becomes corrupted, they can download the same wallet software again and use the mnemonic recovery phrase to restore their keys.
The phrase can be used by anyone to recover the keys, so it must be kept safe. Mnemonic phrases are an excellent way of backing up and storing cryptocurrency and so they are used by almost all wallets.
A mnemonic recovery seed is represented by a group of easy to remember words. For example:
The first four letters are enough to unambiguously identify the word.
Similar words are avoided (such as: build and built).
Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, Ethereum, and others use mnemonic seeds that are 12 to 24 words long. Other currencies might use different length seeds.
4. Physical backups — Paper, Metal
Some cryptocurrency holders believe that their backup, or even all their cryptocurrency account information, should be stored entirely separately from the internet to avoid any risk of their information being compromised through hacks, exploits, or leaks. This type of storage is called “cold storage.” One method of cold storage involves printing out the keys to a piece of paper and then erasing any record of the keys from all computer systems. The keys can be entered into a program from the paper when needed, or scanned from a QR code printed on the paper.
Printed public and private keys
Some who go to extremes suggest separating the mnemonic needed to access an account into individual pieces of paper and storing those pieces in different locations in the home or office, or even different geographical locations. Some say this is a bad idea since it could be possible to reconstruct the mnemonic from one or more pieces. How diligent you wish to be in protecting these codes is up to you.
Mnemonic recovery phrase booklet
There’s another option that could make you the envy of your friends. That’s the CryptoSteel wallet, which is a stainless steel metal case that comes with more than 250 stainless steel letter tiles engraved on each side. Codes and passwords are assembled manually from the supplied part-randomized set of tiles. Users are able to store up to 96 characters worth of confidential information. Cryptosteel claims to be fireproof, waterproof, and shock-proof.
Cryptosteel cold wallet
Of course, if you leave your Cryptosteel wallet in the pocket of a pair of ripped jeans that gets thrown out by the housekeeper, as happened to the character Russ Hanneman on the TV show Silicon Valley in last Sunday’s episode, then you’re out of luck. That fictional billionaire investor lost a USB drive with $300 million in cryptocoins. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to you.
Encryption & Security
Whether you store your keys on your computer, an external disk, a USB drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud, you want to make sure that no one else can use those keys. The best way to handle that is to encrypt the backup.
With Backblaze Backup for Windows and Macintosh, your backups are encrypted in transmission to the cloud and on the backup server. Users have the option to add an additional level of security by adding a Personal Encryption Key (PEK), which secures their private key. Your cryptocurrency backup files are secure in the cloud. Using our web or mobile interface, previous versions of files can be accessed, as well.
Our object storage cloud offering, Backblaze B2, can be used with a variety of applications for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. With B2, cryptocurrency users can choose whichever method of encryption they wish to use on their local computers and then upload their encrypted currency keys to the cloud. Depending on the client used, versioning and life-cycle rules can be applied to the stored files.
Other backup programs and systems provide some or all of these capabilities, as well. If you are backing up to a local drive, it is a good idea to encrypt the local backup, which is an option in some backup programs.
Some experts recommend using a different address for each cryptocurrency transaction. Since the address is not the same as your wallet, this means that you are not creating a new wallet, but simply using a new identifier for people sending you cryptocurrency. Creating a new address is usually as easy as clicking a button in the wallet.
One of the chief advantages of using a different address for each transaction is anonymity. Each time you use an address, you put more information into the public ledger (blockchain) about where the currency came from or where it went. That means that over time, using the same address repeatedly could mean that someone could map your relationships, transactions, and incoming funds. The more you use that address, the more information someone can learn about you. For more on this topic, refer to Address reuse.
Note that a downside of using a paper wallet with a single key pair (type-0 non-deterministic wallet) is that it has the vulnerabilities listed above. Each transaction using that paper wallet will add to the public record of transactions associated with that address. Newer wallets, i.e. “deterministic” or those using mnemonic code words support multiple addresses and are now recommended.
There are other approaches to keeping your cryptocurrency transaction secure. Here are a couple of them.
Multi-signature refers to requiring more than one key to authorize a transaction, much like requiring more than one key to open a safe. It is generally used to divide up responsibility for possession of cryptocurrency. Standard transactions could be called “single-signature transactions” because transfers require only one signature — from the owner of the private key associated with the currency address (public key). Some wallets and apps can be configured to require more than one signature, which means that a group of people, businesses, or other entities all must agree to trade in the cryptocurrencies.
Deep Cold Storage
Deep cold storage ensures the entire transaction process happens in an offline environment. There are typically three elements to deep cold storage.
First, the wallet and private key are generated offline, and the signing of transactions happens on a system not connected to the internet in any manner. This ensures it’s never exposed to a potentially compromised system or connection.
Second, details are secured with encryption to ensure that even if the wallet file ends up in the wrong hands, the information is protected.
Third, storage of the encrypted wallet file or paper wallet is generally at a location or facility that has restricted access, such as a safety deposit box at a bank.
Deep cold storage is used to safeguard a large individual cryptocurrency portfolio held for the long term, or for trustees holding cryptocurrency on behalf of others, and is possibly the safest method to ensure a crypto investment remains secure.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
You should always make sure that you are using the latest version of your app or wallet software, which includes important stability and security fixes. Installing updates for all other software on your computer or mobile device is also important to keep your wallet environment safer.
One Last Thing: Think About Your Testament
Your cryptocurrency funds can be lost forever if you don’t have a backup plan for your peers and family. If the location of your wallets or your passwords is not known by anyone when you are gone, there is no hope that your funds will ever be recovered. Taking a bit of time on these matters can make a huge difference.
To the Moon*
Are you comfortable with how you’re managing and backing up your cryptocurrency wallets and keys? Do you have a suggestion for keeping your cryptocurrencies safe that we missed above? Please let us know in the comments.
*To the Moon — Crypto slang for a currency that reaches an optimistic price projection.
If your day has been a little fraught so far, watch this video. It opens with a tableau of methodically laid-out components and then shows them soldered, screwed, and slotted neatly into place. Everything fits perfectly; nothing needs percussive adjustment. Then it shows us glimpses of an AR future just like the one promised in the less dystopian comics and TV programmes of my 1980s childhood. It is all very soothing, and exactly what I needed.
Transform any surface into mixed-reality using Raspberry Pi, a laser projector, and Android Things. Android Experiments – http://experiments.withgoogle.com/android/lantern Lantern project site – http://nordprojects.co/lantern check below to make your own ↓↓↓ Get the code – https://github.com/nordprojects/lantern Build the lamp – https://www.hackster.io/nord-projects/lantern-9f0c28
Creating augmented reality with projection
We’ve seen plenty of Raspberry Pi IoT builds that are smart devices for the home; they add computing power to things like lights, door locks, or toasters to make these objects interact with humans and with their environment in new ways. Nord Projects‘ Lantern takes a different approach. In their words, it:
imagines a future where projections are used to present ambient information, and relevant UI within everyday objects. Point it at a clock to show your appointments, or point to speaker to display the currently playing song. Unlike a screen, when Lantern’s projections are no longer needed, they simply fade away.
Lantern is set up so that you can connect your wireless device to it using Google Nearby. This means there’s no need to create an account before you can dive into augmented reality.
Your own open-source AR lamp
Nord Projects collaborated on Lantern with Google’s Android Things team. They’ve made it fully open-source, so you can find the code on GitHub and also download their parts list, which includes a Pi, an IKEA lamp, an accelerometer, and a laser projector. Build instructions are at hackster.io and on GitHub.
This is a particularly clear tutorial, very well illustrated with photos and GIFs, and once you’ve sourced and 3D-printed all of the components, you shouldn’t need a whole lot of experience to put everything together successfully. Since everything is open-source, though, if you want to adapt it — for example, if you’d like to source a less costly projector than the snazzy one used here — you can do that too.
The instructions walk you through the mechanical build and the wiring, as well as installing Android Things and Nord Projects’ custom software on the Raspberry Pi. Once you’ve set everything up, an accelerometer connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins lets the lamp know which surface it is pointing at. A companion app on your mobile device lets you choose from the mini apps that work on that surface to select the projection you want.
The designers are making several mini apps available for Lantern, including the charmingly named Space Porthole: this uses Processing and your local longitude and latitude to project onto your ceiling the stars you’d see if you punched a hole through to the sky, if it were night time, and clear weather. Wouldn’t you rather look at that than deal with the ant problem in your kitchen or tackle your GitHub notifications?
What would you like to project onto your living environment? Let us know in the comments!
Earlier this month, the Pentagon stopped selling phones made by the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei on military bases because they might be used to spy on their users.
It’s a legitimate fear, and perhaps a prudent action. But it’s just one instance of the much larger issue of securing our supply chains.
All of our computerized systems are deeply international, and we have no choice but to trust the companies and governments that touch those systems. And while we can ban a few specific products, services or companies, no country can isolate itself from potential foreign interference.
In this specific case, the Pentagon is concerned that the Chinese government demanded that ZTE and Huawei add “backdoors” to their phones that could be surreptitiously turned on by government spies or cause them to fail during some future political conflict. This tampering is possible because the software in these phones is incredibly complex. It’s relatively easy for programmers to hide these capabilities, and correspondingly difficult to detect them.
This isn’t the first time the United States has taken action against foreign software suspected to contain hidden features that can be used against us. Last December, President Trump signed into law a bill banning software from the Russian company Kaspersky from being used within the US government. In 2012, the focus was on Chinese-made Internet routers. Then, the House Intelligence Committee concluded: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”
Nor is the United States the only country worried about these threats. In 2014, China reportedly banned antivirus products from both Kaspersky and the US company Symantec, based on similar fears. In 2017, the Indian government identified 42 smartphone apps that China subverted. Back in 1997, the Israeli company Check Point was dogged by rumors that its government added backdoors into its products; other of that country’s tech companies have been suspected of the same thing. Even al-Qaeda was concerned; ten years ago, a sympathizer released the encryption software Mujahedeen Secrets, claimed to be free of Western influence and backdoors. If a country doesn’t trust another country, then it can’t trust that country’s computer products.
But this trust isn’t limited to the country where the company is based. We have to trust the country where the software is written — and the countries where all the components are manufactured. In 2016, researchers discovered that many different models of cheap Android phones were sending information back to China. The phones might be American-made, but the software was from China. In 2016, researchers demonstrated an even more devious technique, where a backdoor could be added at the computer chip level in the factory that made the chips without the knowledge of, and undetectable by, the engineers who designed the chips in the first place. Pretty much every US technology company manufactures its hardware in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.
We also have to trust the programmers. Today’s large software programs are written by teams of hundreds of programmers scattered around the globe. Backdoors, put there by we-have-no-idea-who, have been discovered in Juniper firewalls and D-Link routers, both of which are US companies. In 2003, someone almost slipped a very clever backdoor into Linux. Think of how many countries’ citizens are writing software for Apple or Microsoft or Google.
We can go even farther down the rabbit hole. We have to trust the distribution systems for our hardware and software. Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency installing backdoors into Cisco routers being shipped to the Syrian telephone company. There are fake apps in the Google Play store that eavesdrop on you. Russian hackers subverted the update mechanism of a popular brand of Ukrainian accounting software to spread the NotPetya malware.
I could go on. Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government. And just as Russia is penetrating the US power grid so they have that capability in the event of hostilities, many countries are almost certainly doing the same thing at the consumer level.
We don’t know whether the risk of Huawei and ZTE equipment is great enough to warrant the ban. We don’t know what classified intelligence the United States has, and what it implies. But we do know that this is just a minor fix for a much larger problem. It’s doubtful that this ban will have any real effect. Members of the military, and everyone else, can still buy the phones. They just can’t buy them on US military bases. And while the US might block the occasional merger or acquisition, or ban the occasional hardware or software product, we’re largely ignoring that larger issue. Solving it borders on somewhere between incredibly expensive and realistically impossible.
Perhaps someday, global norms and international treaties will render this sort of device-level tampering off-limits. But until then, all we can do is hope that this particular arms race doesn’t get too far out of control.
Many of my colleagues are fortunate to be able to spend a good part of their day sitting down with and listening to our customers, doing their best to understand ways that we can better meet their business and technology needs. This information is treated with extreme care and is used to drive the roadmap for new services and new features.
AWS customers in the financial services industry (often abbreviated as FSI) are looking ahead to the Fundamental Review of Trading Book (FRTB) regulations that will come in to effect between 2019 and 2021. Among other things, these regulations mandate a new approach to the “value at risk” calculations that each financial institution must perform in the four hour time window after trading ends in New York and begins in Tokyo. Today, our customers report this mission-critical calculation consumes on the order of 200,000 vCPUs, growing to between 400K and 800K vCPUs in order to meet the FRTB regulations. While there’s still some debate about the magnitude and frequency with which they’ll need to run this expanded calculation, the overall direction is clear.
Building a Big Grid In order to make sure that we are ready to help our FSI customers meet these new regulations, we worked with TIBCO to set up and run a proof of concept grid in the AWS Cloud. The periodic nature of the calculation, along with the amount of processing power and storage needed to run it to completion within four hours, make it a great fit for an environment where a vast amount of cost-effective compute power is available on an on-demand basis.
Our customers are already using the TIBCO GridServer on-premises and want to use it in the cloud. This product is designed to run grids at enterprise scale. It runs apps in a virtualized fashion, and accepts requests for resources, dynamically provisioning them on an as-needed basis. The cloud version supports Amazon Linux as well as the PostgreSQL-compatible edition of Amazon Aurora.
Working together with TIBCO, we set out to create a grid that was substantially larger than the current high-end prediction of 800K vCPUs, adding a 50% safety factor and then rounding up to reach 1.3 million vCPUs (5x the size of the largest on-premises grid). With that target in mind, the account limits were raised as follows:
Spot Instance Limit – 120,000
EBS Volume Limit – 120,000
EBS Capacity Limit – 2 PB
If you plan to create a grid of this size, you should also bring your friendly local AWS Solutions Architect into the loop as early as possible. They will review your plans, provide you with architecture guidance, and help you to schedule your run.
Running the Grid We hit the Go button and launched the grid, watching as it bid for and obtained Spot Instances, each of which booted, initialized, and joined the grid within two minutes. The test workload used the Strata open source analytics & market risk library from OpenGamma and was set up with their assistance.
The grid grew to 61,299 Spot Instances (1.3 million vCPUs drawn from 34 instance types spanning 3 generations of EC2 hardware) as planned, with just 1,937 instances reclaimed and automatically replaced during the run, and cost $30,000 per hour to run, at an average hourly cost of $0.078 per vCPU. If the same instances had been used in On-Demand form, the hourly cost to run the grid would have been approximately $93,000.
Despite the scale of the grid, prices for the EC2 instances did not move during the bidding process. This is due to the overall size of the AWS Cloud and the smooth price change model that we launched late last year.
To give you a sense of the compute power, we computed that this grid would have taken the #1 position on the TOP 500 supercomputer list in November 2007 by a considerable margin, and the #2 position in June 2008. Today, it would occupy position #360 on the list.
I hope that you enjoyed this AWS success story, and that it gives you an idea of the scale that you can achieve in the cloud!
Enterprises want to provide their employees with apps and tools that will allow them to do a better and more efficient job, while still providing oversight and governance. AWS Service Catalog helps enterprise IT to meet all of these needs, with a focus on cloud-based solutions. Administrators assemble portfolios of products, add rules to control and manage user access, and make the resulting portfolios available to their organization. Employees browse the catalog to find and launch the desired product. ServiceNow is an IT service management (ITSM) platform built around activities, tasks, processes, and workflows. The ServiceNow Service Catalog allows users to locate and order IT services, powered by a workflow that includes approval and fulfillment steps.
We recently launched the AWS Service Catalog Connector for ServiceNow and I would like to tell you about it today. The connector is available in the ServiceNow Store. It synchronizes AWS Service Catalog portfolios and products with the ServiceNow Service Catalog so that ServiceNow users can request approved AWS products without having to log in to an AWS account. The ServiceNow Service Catalog administrator has full control of the AWS-powered IT services (visible as products in the AWS Service Catalog) that they make available to their user base. This includes service configuration, AWS tagging, and access control at the individual, group, and role level. Provisioning requests can be connected to workflows and can also make use of a default workflow. ServiceNow users can browse the catalog and request provisioning of products that are managed within AWS Service Catalog, including AWS Marketplace products that have been copied to AWS Service Catalog.
Most likely you’ve read the tantalizing stories of big gains from investing in cryptocurrencies. Someone who invested $1,000 into bitcoins five years ago would have over $85,000 in value now. Alternatively, someone who invested in bitcoins three months ago would have seen their investment lose 20% in value. Beyond the big price fluctuations, currency holders are possibly exposed to fraud, bad business practices, and even risk losing their holdings altogether if they are careless in keeping track of the all-important currency keys.
It’s certain that beyond the rewards and risks, cryptocurrencies are here to stay. We can’t ignore how they are changing the game for how money is handled between people and businesses.
Some Advantages of Cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency is accessible to anyone.
Decentralization means the network operates on a user-to-user (or peer-to-peer) basis.
Transactions can completed for a fraction of the expense and time required to complete traditional asset transfers.
Transactions are digital and cannot be counterfeited or reversed arbitrarily by the sender, as with credit card charge-backs.
There aren’t usually transaction fees for cryptocurrency exchanges.
Cryptocurrency allows the cryptocurrency holder to send exactly what information is needed and no more to the merchant or recipient, even permitting anonymous transactions (for good or bad).
Cryptocurrency operates at the universal level and hence makes transactions easier internationally.
There is no other electronic cash system in which your account isn’t owned by someone else.
On top of all that, blockchain, the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies, is already being applied to a variety of business needs and itself becoming a hot sector of the tech economy. Blockchain is bringing traceability and cost-effectiveness to supply-chain management — which also improves quality assurance in areas such as food, reducing errors and improving accounting accuracy, smart contracts that can be automatically validated, signed and enforced through a blockchain construct, the possibility of secure, online voting, and many others.
Like any new, booming marketing there are risks involved in these new currencies. Anyone venturing into this domain needs to have their eyes wide open. While the opportunities for making money are real, there are even more ways to lose money.
We’re going to cover two primary approaches to staying safe and avoiding fraud and loss when dealing with cryptocurrencies. The first is to thoroughly vet any person or company you’re dealing with to judge whether they are ethical and likely to succeed in their business segment. The second is keeping your critical cryptocurrency keys safe, which we’ll deal with in this and a subsequent post.
Caveat Emptor — Buyer Beware
The short history of cryptocurrency has already seen the demise of a number of companies that claimed to manage, mine, trade, or otherwise help their customers profit from cryptocurrency. Mt. Gox, GAW Miners, and OneCoin are just three of the many companies that disappeared with their users’ money. This is the traditional equivalent of your bank going out of business and zeroing out your checking account in the process.
That doesn’t happen with banks because of regulatory oversight. But with cryptocurrency, you need to take the time to investigate any company you use to manage or trade your currencies. How long have they been around? Who are their investors? Are they affiliated with any reputable financial institutions? What is the record of their founders and executive management? These are all important questions to consider when evaluating a company in this new space.
Would you give the keys to your house to a service or person you didn’t thoroughly know and trust? Some companies that enable you to buy and sell currencies online will routinely hold your currency keys, which gives them the ability to do anything they want with your holdings, including selling them and pocketing the proceeds if they wish.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever allow a company to keep your currency keys in escrow. It simply means that you better know with whom you’re doing business and if they’re trustworthy enough to be given that responsibility.
Keys To the Cryptocurrency Kingdom — Public and Private
If you’re an owner of cryptocurrency, you know how this all works. If you’re not, bear with me for a minute while I bring everyone up to speed.
Cryptocurrency has no physical manifestation, such as bills or coins. It exists purely as a computer record. And unlike currencies maintained by governments, such as the U.S. dollar, there is no central authority regulating its distribution and value. Cryptocurrencies use a technology called blockchain, which is a decentralized way of keeping track of transactions. There are many copies of a given blockchain, so no single central authority is needed to validate its authenticity or accuracy.
The validity of each cryptocurrency is determined by a blockchain. A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called “blocks”, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Blockchains by design are inherently resistant to modification of the data. They perform as an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable, permanent way. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority. On a scaled network, this level of collusion is impossible — making blockchain networks effectively immutable and trustworthy.
The other element common to all cryptocurrencies is their use of public and private keys, which are stored in the currency’s wallet. A cryptocurrency wallet stores the public and private “keys” or “addresses” that can be used to receive or spend the cryptocurrency. With the private key, it is possible to write in the public ledger (blockchain), effectively spending the associated cryptocurrency. With the public key, it is possible for others to send currency to the wallet.
Cryptocurrency “coins” can be lost if the owner loses the private keys needed to spend the currency they own. It’s as if the owner had lost a bank account number and had no way to verify their identity to the bank, or if they lost the U.S. dollars they had in their wallet. The assets are gone and unusable.
The Cryptocurrency Wallet
Given the importance of these keys, and lack of recourse if they are lost, it’s obviously very important to keep track of your keys.
If you’re being careful in choosing reputable exchanges, app developers, and other services with whom to trust your cryptocurrency, you’ve made a good start in keeping your investment secure. But if you’re careless in managing the keys to your bitcoins, ether, Litecoin, or other cryptocurrency, you might as well leave your money on a cafe tabletop and walk away.
What Are the Differences Between Hot and Cold Wallets?
Just like other numbers you might wish to keep track of — credit cards, account numbers, phone numbers, passphrases — cryptocurrency keys can be stored in a variety of ways. Those who use their currencies for day-to-day purchases most likely will want them handy in a smartphone app, hardware key, or debit card that can be used for purchases. These are called “hot” wallets. Some experts advise keeping the balances in these devices and apps to a minimal amount to avoid hacking or data loss. We typically don’t walk around with thousands of dollars in U.S. currency in our old-style wallets, so this is really a continuation of the same approach to managing spending money.
A “hot” wallet, the Bread mobile app
Some investors with large balances keep their keys in “cold” wallets, or “cold storage,” i.e. a device or location that is not connected online. If funds are needed for purchases, they can be transferred to a more easily used payment medium. Cold wallets can be hardware devices, USB drives, or even paper copies of your keys.
A “cold” wallet, the Trezor hardware wallet
A “cold” wallet, the Ledger Nano S
A “cold” Bitcoin paper wallet
Wallets are suited to holding one or more specific cryptocurrencies, and some people have multiple wallets for different currencies and different purposes.
A paper wallet is nothing other than a printed record of your public and private keys. Some prefer their records to be completely disconnected from the internet, and a piece of paper serves that need. Just like writing down an account password on paper, however, it’s essential to keep the paper secure to avoid giving someone the ability to freely access your funds.
How to Keep your Keys, and Cryptocurrency Secure
In a post this coming Thursday, Securing Your Cryptocurrency, we’ll discuss the best strategies for backing up your cryptocurrency so that your currencies don’t become part of the millions that have been lost. We’ll cover the common (and uncommon) approaches to backing up hot wallets, cold wallets, and using paper and metal solutions to keeping your keys safe.
In the meantime, please tell us of your experiences with cryptocurrencies — good and bad — and how you’ve dealt with the issue of cryptocurrency security.
Last month, Wired published a long article about Ray Ozzie and his supposed new scheme for adding a backdoor in encrypted devices. It’s a weird article. It paints Ozzie’s proposal as something that “attains the impossible” and “satisfies both law enforcement and privacy purists,” when (1) it’s barely a proposal, and (2) it’s essentially the same key escrow scheme we’ve been hearing about for decades.
Basically, each device has a unique public/private key pair and a secure processor. The public key goes into the processor and the device, and is used to encrypt whatever user key encrypts the data. The private key is stored in a secure database, available to law enforcement on demand. The only other trick is that for law enforcement to use that key, they have to put the device in some sort of irreversible recovery mode, which means it can never be used again. That’s basically it.
I have no idea why anyone is talking as if this were anything new. Severalcryptographershavealreadyexplained why this key escrow scheme is no better than any other key escrow scheme. The short answer is (1) we won’t be able to secure that database of backdoor keys, (2) we don’t know how to build the secure coprocessor the scheme requires, and (3) it solves none of the policy problems around the whole system. This is the typical mistake non-cryptographers make when they approach this problem: they think that the hard part is the cryptography to create the backdoor. That’s actually the easy part. The hard part is ensuring that it’s only used by the good guys, and there’s nothing in Ozzie’s proposal that addresses any of that.
I worry that this kind of thing is damaging in the long run. There should be some rule that any backdoor or key escrow proposal be a fully specified proposal, not just some cryptography and hand-waving notions about how it will be used in practice. And before it is analyzed and debated, it should have to satisfy some sort of basic security analysis. Otherwise, we’ll be swatting pseudo-proposals like this one, while those on the other side of this debate become increasingly convinced that it’s possible to design one of these things securely.
Already people are using the National Academies report on backdoors for law enforcement as evidence that engineers are developing workable and secure backdoors. Writing in Lawfare, Alan Z. Rozenshtein claims that the report — and a related New York Timesstory — “undermine the argument that secure third-party access systems are so implausible that it’s not even worth trying to develop them.” Susan Landau effectively corrects this misconception, but the damage is done.
Here’s the thing: it’s not hard to design and build a backdoor. What’s hard is building the systems — both technical and procedural — around them. Here’s Rob Graham:
He’s only solving the part we already know how to solve. He’s deliberately ignoring the stuff we don’t know how to solve. We know how to make backdoors, we just don’t know how to secure them.
A bunch of us cryptographers have already explained why we don’t think this sort of thing will work in the foreseeable future. We write:
Exceptional access would force Internet system developers to reverse “forward secrecy” design practices that seek to minimize the impact on user privacy when systems are breached. The complexity of today’s Internet environment, with millions of apps and globally connected services, means that new law enforcement requirements are likely to introduce unanticipated, hard to detect security flaws. Beyond these and other technical vulnerabilities, the prospect of globally deployed exceptional access systems raises difficult problems about how such an environment would be governed and how to ensure that such systems would respect human rights and the rule of law.
The reason so few of us are willing to bet on massive-scale key escrow systems is that we’ve thought about it and we don’t think it will work. We’ve looked at the threat model, the usage model, and the quality of hardware and software that exists today. Our informed opinion is that there’s no detection system for key theft, there’s no renewability system, HSMs are terrifically vulnerable (and the companies largely staffed with ex-intelligence employees), and insiders can be suborned. We’re not going to put the data of a few billion people on the line an environment where we believe with high probability that the system will fail.
SMS messaging is becoming an increasingly vital tool for companies in a variety of industries and across a diverse range of use cases. For example, many app developers use SMS messaging as part of their process for onboarding new customers. When new customers sign up for a service, they’re asked to provide their mobile phone numbers. The developer sends the customer a one-time password in an SMS message, which the customer then enters into a form on the web or in an app to complete the registration process. This capability is an important tool for ensuring the security of customers’ accounts. However, if the customer doesn’t receive the SMS message that contains the one-time password, he or she may become frustrated, and might abandon the registration process completely.
There are many things that could prevent an SMS message from arriving, but the most common causes are data entry errors. Apps and web forms typically only perform basic verification of phone numbers that end users provide. For example, they might check to make sure customers only entered numeric characters, or that the number contains the right number of digits. When customers enter their mobile numbers into an app or on a web form, they might accidentally enter their country code twice, or not enter a country code at all, or enter a leading zero in front of their phone number, or any of a variety of other common errors. In some cases, customers might even enter numbers that aren’t capable of receiving SMS messages, such as landline or Voice over IP (VoIP) numbers. Basic number validation techniques won’t stop any of these common errors from occurring. To help our customers find and correct these common issues, we’re launching a new feature in Amazon Pinpoint called Phone Number Verify.
With Phone Number Verify, Amazon Pinpoint checks to see whether the phone number provided is in a valid format based on its country code prefix. If the number is formatted correctly, Amazon Pinpoint leaves the number as the customer entered it. If the number isn’t formatted correctly, Amazon Pinpoint compares the phone number to various rules to make it valid. For example, if a customer enters a leading zero after the country code, Phone Number Verify removes the extra character to make the number valid. In this case, if the customer entered +1 0 206 555 0199 (a United States phone number in the 206 area code), Phone Number Verify changes the number to a correctly formatted number without the extra zero (+1 206 555 0199).
In addition to formatting numbers properly, Phone Number Verify can also detect and fix country-specific nuances. For example, in Brazil, older mobile phone numbers had eight digits. To create a larger pool of possible mobile phone numbers, Brazilian mobile companies added a ninth digit, and added a 9 to the beginning of the older eight digit numbers. If a customer provides a Brazilian mobile number that contains eight digits, Phone Number Verify will detect the issue and automatically insert the 9 in the appropriate place, between the area code and the phone number. In this example, Phone Number Verify would change +55 11 9123 4567 (a number in country code 55 and area code 11) to +55 11 99123 4567. By capturing and addressing these issues at the time of entry, Phone Number Verify can potentially increase the number of customers you’re able to contact. Our internal testing shows that up to 10% of mobile phone numbers contain these kinds of errors—that’s 10% of your potential customers that you might not be able to contact otherwise!
Phone Number Verify also returns metadata about phone numbers, such as the name of the telephone carrier, the type of phone number (landline, VoIP, mobile), and the geographic location (city, country, state and time zone) where the number is registered. Amazon Pinpoint users can use this metadata to perform additional validation. For example, if a user provides a landline number, you can immediately prompt the customer to enter a phone number that is capable of receiving text messages. Alternatively, when a customer provides a landline or VoIP number, you can call the user by using text-to-speech technology, rather than by sending a text message.
Phone Number Verify is now available in Amazon Pinpoint in a limited release. If you’re interested in testing this feature, complete our application form.
Some gaming consoles make it easy to stream to Twitch, some gaming consoles don’t (come on, Nintendo). So for those that don’t, I’ve made this beta version of the “Twitch-O-Matic”. No it doesn’t chop onions or fold your laundry, but what it DOES do is stream anything with HDMI output to your Twitch channel with the simple push of a button!
eSports and online game streaming
Interest in eSports has skyrocketed over the last few years, with viewership numbers in the hundreds of millions, sponsorship deals increasing in value and prestige, and tournament prize funds reaching millions of dollars. So it’s no wonder that more and more gamers are starting to stream live to online platforms in order to boost their fanbase and try to cash in on this growing industry.
Streaming to Twitch
Launched in 2011, Twitch.tv is an online live-streaming platform with a primary focus on video gaming. Users can create accounts to contribute their comments and content to the site, as well as watching live-streamed gaming competitions and broadcasts. With a staggering fifteen million daily users, Twitch is accessible via smartphone and gaming console apps, smart TVs, computers, and tablets. But if you want to stream to Twitch, you may find yourself using third-party software in order to do so. And with more buttons to click and more wires to plug in for older, app-less consoles, streaming can get confusing.
Side note: we Tinkernut
We’ve featured Tinkernut a few times on the Raspberry Pi blog – his tutorials are clear, his projects are interesting and useful, and his live-streamed comment videos for every build are a nice touch to sharing homebrew builds on the internet.
So, yes, we love him. [This is true. Alex never shuts up about him. – Ed.] And since he has over 500K subscribers on YouTube, we’re obviously not the only ones. We wave our Tinkernut flags with pride.
The Raspberry Pi Zero W is connected to the HDMI to CSI adapter via the camera connector, in the same way you’d attach the camera ribbon. Tinkernut uses a standard Raspbian image on an 8GB SD card, with SSH enabled for remote access from his laptop. He uses the simple command Raspivid to test the HDMI connection by recording ten seconds of video footage from his console.
One lead is all you need
Once you have the Pi receiving video from your console, you can connect to Twitch using your Twitch stream key, which you can find by logging in to your account at Twitch.tv. Tinkernut’s tutorial gives you all the commands you need to stream from your Pi.
To up the aesthetic impact of your project, adding buttons and backlights is fairly straightforward.
Pretty LED frills
To run the stream command, Tinketnut uses a button: press once to start the stream, press again to stop. Pressing the button also turns on the LED backlight, so it’s obvious when streaming is in progress.
For the full code and 3D-printable case STL file, head to Tinketnut’s hackster.io project page. And if you’re already using a Raspberry Pi for Twitch streaming, share your build setup with us. Cheers!
Hi folks, Rob from The MagPi here with the good news that The MagPi 69 is out now! Nice. Our latest issue is all about 3D printing and how you can get yourself a very affordable 3D printer that you can control with a Raspberry Pi.
Get 3D printing from just £99!
Pi-powered 3D printing
Affordability is always a big factor when it comes to 3D printers. Like any new cosumer tech, their prices are often in the thousands of pounds. Over the last decade, however, these prices have been dropping steadily. Now you can get budget 3D printers for hundreds rather than thousands – and even for £99, like the iMakr. Pairing an iMakr with a Raspberry Pi makes for a reasonably priced 3D printing solution. In issue 69, we show you how to do just that!
Portable Raspberry Pis
Looking for a way to make your Raspberry Pi portable? One of our themes this issue is portable Pis, with a feature on how to build your very own Raspberry Pi TV stick, coincidentally with a 3D-printed case. We also review the Noodle Pi kit and the RasPad, two products that can help you take your Pi out and about away from a power socket.
And of course we have a selection of other great guides, project showcases, reviews, and community news.
Get The MagPi 69
Issue 69 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.
New subscription offer!
Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? We’ve launched a new way to subscribe to the print version of The MagPi: you can now take out a monthly £4 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre-order system that saves you money on each issue.
You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W, Pi Zero case, and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.
According to this Wired article, Ray Ozzie may have a solution to the crypto backdoor problem. No, he hasn’t. He’s only solving the part we already know how to solve. He’s deliberately ignoring the stuff we don’t know how to solve. We know how to make backdoors, we just don’t know how to secure them.
The vault doesn’t scale
Yes, Apple has a vault where they’ve successfully protected important keys. No, it doesn’t mean this vault scales. The more people and the more often you have to touch the vault, the less secure it becomes. We are talking thousands of requests per day from 100,000 different law enforcement agencies around the world. We are unlikely to protect this against incompetence and mistakes. We are definitely unable to secure this against deliberate attack.
A good analogy to Ozzie’s solution is LetsEncrypt for getting SSL certificates for your website, which is fairly scalable, using a private key locked in a vault for signing hundreds of thousands of certificates. That this scales seems to validate Ozzie’s proposal.
But at the same time, LetsEncrypt is easily subverted. LetsEncrypt uses DNS to verify your identity. But spoofing DNS is easy, as was recently shown in the recent BGP attack against a cryptocurrency. Attackers can create fraudulent SSL certificates with enough effort. We’ve got other protections against this, such as discovering and revoking the SSL bad certificate, so while damaging, it’s not catastrophic.
But with Ozzie’s scheme, equivalent attacks would be catastrophic, as it would lead to unlocking the phone and stealing all of somebody’s secrets.
In particular, consider what would happen if LetsEncrypt’s certificate was stolen (as Matthew Green points out). The consequence is that this would be detected and mass revocations would occur. If Ozzie’s master key were stolen, nothing would happen. Nobody would know, and evildoers would be able to freely decrypt phones. Ozzie claims his scheme can work because SSL works — but then his scheme includes none of the many protections necessary to make SSL work.
What I’m trying to show here is that in a lab, it all looks nice and pretty, but when attacked at scale, things break down — quickly. We have so much experience with failure at scale that we can judge Ozzie’s scheme as woefully incomplete. It’s not even up to the standard of SSL, and we have a long list of SSL problems.
Cryptography is about people more than math We have a mathematically pure encryption algorithm called the “One Time Pad”. It can’t ever be broken, provably so with mathematics.
It’s also perfectly useless, as it’s not something humans can use. That’s why we use AES, which is vastly less secure (anything you encrypt today can probably be decrypted in 100 years). AES can be used by humans whereas One Time Pads cannot be. (I learned the fallacy of One Time Pad’s on my grandfather’s knee — he was a WW II codebreaker who broke German messages trying to futz with One Time Pads).
The same is true with Ozzie’s scheme. It focuses on the mathematical model but ignores the human element. We already know how to solve the mathematical problem in a hundred different ways. The part we don’t know how to secure is the human element.
How do we know the law enforcement person is who they say they are? How do we know the “trusted Apple employee” can’t be bribed? How can the law enforcement agent communicate securely with the Apple employee?
You think these things are theoretical, but they aren’t. Consider financial transactions. It used to be common that you could just email your bank/broker to wire funds into an account for such things as buying a house. Hackers have subverted that, intercepting messages, changing account numbers, and stealing millions. Most banks/brokers require additional verification before doing such transfers.
Let me repeat: Ozzie has only solved the part we already know how to solve. He hasn’t addressed these issues that confound us.
We still can’t secure security, much less secure backdoors
We already know how to decrypt iPhones: just wait a year or two for somebody to discover a vulnerability. FBI claims it’s “going dark”, but that’s only for timely decryption of phones. If they are willing to wait a year or two a vulnerability will eventually be found that allows decryption.
That’s what’s happened with the “GrayKey” device that’s been all over the news lately. Apple is fixing it so that it won’t work on new phones, but it works on old phones.
Ozzie’s solution is based on the assumption that iPhones are already secure against things like GrayKey. Like his assumption “if Apple already has a vault for private keys, then we have such vaults for backdoor keys”, Ozzie is saying “if Apple already had secure hardware/software to secure the phone, then we can use the same stuff to secure the backdoors”. But we don’t really have secure vaults and we don’t really have secure hardware/software to secure the phone.
Again, to stress this point, Ozzie is solving the part we already know how to solve, but ignoring the stuff we don’t know how to solve. His solution is insecure for the same reason phones are already insecure.
Locked phones aren’t the problem Phones are general purpose computers. That means anybody can install an encryption app on the phone regardless of whatever other security the phone might provide. The police are powerless to stop this. Even if they make such encryption crime, then criminals will still use encryption.
That leads to a strange situation that the only data the FBI will be able to decrypt is that of people who believe they are innocent. Those who know they are guilty will install encryption apps like Signal that have no backdoors.
In the past this was rare, as people found learning new apps a barrier. These days, apps like Signal are so easy even drug dealers can figure out how to use them.
We know how to get Apple to give us a backdoor, just pass a law forcing them to. It may look like Ozzie’s scheme, it may be something more secure designed by Apple’s engineers. Sure, it will weaken security on the phone for everyone, but those who truly care will just install Signal. But again we are back to the problem that Ozzie’s solving the problem we know how to solve while ignoring the much larger problem, that of preventing people from installing their own encryption.
The FBI isn’t necessarily the problem Ozzie phrases his solution in terms of U.S. law enforcement. Well, what about Europe? What about Russia? What about China? What about North Korea?
Technology is borderless. A solution in the United States that allows “legitimate” law enforcement requests will inevitably be used by repressive states for what we believe would be “illegitimate” law enforcement requests.
Ozzie sees himself as the hero helping law enforcement protect 300 million American citizens. He doesn’t see himself what he really is, the villain helping oppress 1.4 billion Chinese, 144 million Russians, and another couple billion living in oppressive governments around the world.
Conclusion Ozzie pretends the problem is political, that he’s created a solution that appeases both sides. He hasn’t. He’s solved the problem we already know how to solve. He’s ignored all the problems we struggle with, the problems we claim make secure backdoors essentially impossible. I’ve listed some in this post, but there are many more. Any famous person can create a solution that convinces fawning editors at Wired Magazine, but if Ozzie wants to move forward he’s going to have to work harder to appease doubting cryptographers.
Many of today’s discussions around blockchain technology remind me of the classic Shimmer Floor Wax skit. According to Dan Aykroyd, Shimmer is a dessert topping. Gilda Radner claims that it is a floor wax, and Chevy Chase settles the debate and reveals that it actually is both! Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding, and other use cases. Either way, it is clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.
We are launching AWS Blockchain Templates today. These templates will let you launch an Ethereum (either public or private) or Hyperledger Fabric (private) network in a matter of minutes and with just a few clicks. The templates create and configure all of the AWS resources needed to get you going in a robust and scalable fashion.
Launching a Private Ethereum Network The Ethereum template offers two launch options. The ecs option creates an Amazon ECS cluster within a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) and launches a set of Docker images in the cluster. The docker-local option also runs within a VPC, and launches the Docker images on EC2 instances. The template supports Ethereum mining, the EthStats and EthExplorer status pages, and a set of nodes that implement and respond to the Ethereum RPC protocol. Both options create and make use of a DynamoDB table for service discovery, along with Application Load Balancers for the status pages.
Here are the AWS Blockchain Templates for Ethereum:
First, nothing will break now or after April 11, 2019. GCM device tokens are completely interchangeable with the newer Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) device tokens. If you have existing GCM tokens, you’ll still be able to use them to send notifications. This statement is also true for GCM tokens that you generate in the future.
On the back end, we’ve already migrated Amazon SNS and Amazon Pinpoint to the server endpoint for FCM (https://fcm.googleapis.com/fcm/send). As a developer, you don’t need to make any changes as a result of this deprecation.
We created the following mini-FAQ to address some of the questions you may have as a developer who uses Amazon SNS or Amazon Pinpoint.
If I migrate to FCM from GCM, can I still use Amazon Pinpoint and Amazon SNS?
Yes. Your ability to connect to your applications and send messages through both Amazon SNS and Amazon Pinpoint doesn’t change. We’ll update the documentation for Amazon SNS and Amazon Pinpoint soon to reflect these changes.
If I don’t migrate to FCM from GCM, can I still use Amazon Pinpoint and Amazon SNS?
Yes. If you do nothing, your existing credentials and GCM tokens will still be valid. All applications that you previously set up to use Amazon Pinpoint or Amazon SNS will continue to work normally. When you call the API for Amazon Pinpoint or Amazon SNS, we initiate a request to the FCM server endpoint directly.
What are the differences between Amazon SNS and Amazon Pinpoint?
Amazon SNS makes it easy for developers to set up, operate, and send notifications at scale, affordably and with a high degree of flexibility. Amazon Pinpoint has many of the same messaging capabilities as Amazon SNS, with the same levels of scalability and flexibility.
The main difference between the two services is that Amazon Pinpoint provides both transactional and targeted messaging capabilities. By using Amazon Pinpoint, marketers and developers can not only send transactional messages to their customers, but can also segment their audiences, create campaigns, and analyze both application and message metrics.
Almost a decade ago, my colleague Deepak Singh introduced the AWS Public Datasets in his post Paging Researchers, Analysts, and Developers. I’m happy to report that Deepak is still an important part of the AWS team and that the Public Datasets program is still going strong!
Today we are announcing a new take on open and public data, the Registry of Open Data on AWS, or RODA. This registry includes existing Public Datasets and allows anyone to add their own datasets so that they can be accessed and analyzed on AWS.
Inside the Registry The home page lists all of the datasets in the registry:
Entering a search term shrinks the list so that only the matching datasets are displayed:
Each dataset has an associated detail page, including usage examples, license info, and the information needed to locate and access the dataset on AWS:
In this case, I can access the data with a simple CLI command:
I could also access it programmatically, or download data to my EC2 instance.
Adding to the Repository If you have a dataset that is publicly available and would like to add it to RODA , you can simply send us a pull request. Head over to the open-data-registry repo, read the CONTRIBUTING document, and create a YAML file that describes your dataset, using one of the existing files in the datasets directory as a model:
We’ll review pull requests regularly; you can “star” or watch the repo in order to track additions and changes.
Impress Me I am looking forward to an inrush of new datasets, along with some blog posts and apps that show how to to use the data in powerful and interesting ways. Let me know what you come up with.
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