Tag Archives: Bitcoin

Torrent Pioneers: isoHunt’s Gary Fung, Ten Years Later

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/torrent-pioneers-isohunts-gary-fung-ten-years-later-180106/

Ten years ago, November 2007 to be precise, we published an article featuring the four leading torrent site admins at the time.

Niek van der Maas of Mininova, Justin Bunnell of TorrentSpy, Pirate Bay’s Peter Sunde and isoHunt’s Gary Fung were all kind enough to share their vision of BitTorrent’s future.

This future is the present today, and although the predictions were not all spot-on, there are a few interesting observations to make.

For one, these four men were all known by name, despite the uncertain legal situation they were in. How different is that today, when the operators of most of the world’s largest torrent sites are unknown to the broader public.

Another thing that stands out is that none of these pioneers are still active in the torrent space today. Niek and Justin have their own advertising businesses, Peter is a serial entrepreneur involved in various startups, while Gary works on his own projects.

While they have all moved on, they also remain a part of Internet history, which is why we decided to reach out to them ten years on.

Gary Fung was the first to reply. Those who’ve been following torrent news for a while know that isoHunt was shut down in 2013. The shutdown was the result of a lawsuit and came with a $110 million settlement with the MPAA, on paper.

Today the Canadian entrepreneur has other things on his hands, which includes “leveling up” his now one-year-old daughter. While that can be a day job by itself, he is also finalizing a mobile search app which will be released in the near future.

“The key is speed, and I can measure its speedup of the whole mobile search experience to be 10-100x that of conventional mobile web browsers,” Gary tells us, noting that after years of development, it’s almost ready.

The new search app is not one dedicated to torrents, as isoHunt once was. However, looking back, Gary is proud of what he accomplished with isoHunt, despite the bitter end.

“It was a humbling experience, in more ways than one. I’m proud that I participated and championed the rise of P2P content distribution through isoHunt as a search gateway,” Gary tells us.

“But I was also humbled by the responsibility and power at play, as seen in the lawsuits from the media industry giants, as well as the even larger picture of what P2P technologies were bringing, and still bring today.”

Decentralization has always been a key feature of BitTorrent and Gary sees this coming back in new trends. This includes the massive attention for blockchain related projects such as Bitcoin.

“2017 was the year Bitcoin became mainstream in a big way, and it’s feeling like the Internet before 2000. Decentralization is by nature disruptive, and I can’t wait to see what decentralizing money, governance, organizations and all kinds of applications will bring in the next few years.

“dApps [decentralized apps] made possible by platforms like Ethereum are like generalized BitTorrent for all kinds of applications, with ones we haven’t even thought of yet,” Gary adds.

Not everything is positive in hindsight, of course. Gary tells us that if he had to do it all over again he would take legal issues and lawyers more seriously. Not doing so led to more trouble than he imagined.

As a former torrent site admin, he has thought about the piracy issue quite a bit over the years. And unlike some sites today, he was happy to look for possible solutions to stop piracy.

One solution Gary suggested to Hollywood in the past was a hash recognition system for infringing torrents. A system to automatically filter known infringing files and remove these from cooperating torrent sites could still work today, he thinks.

“ContentID for all files shared on BitTorrent, similar to YouTube. I’ve proposed this to Hollywood studios before, as a better solution to suing their customers and potential P2P technology partners, but it obviously fell on deaf ears.”

In any case, torrent sites and similar services will continue to play an important role in how the media industry evolves. These platforms are showing Hollywood what the public wants, Gary believes.

“It has and will continue to play a role in showing the industry what consumers truly want: frictionless, convenient distribution, without borders of country or bundles. Bundles as in cable channels, but also in any way unwanted content is forced onto consumers without choice.”

While torrents were dominant in the past, the future will be streaming mostly, isoHunt’s founder says. He said this ten years ago, and he believes that in another decade it will have completely replaced cable TV.

Whether piracy will still be relevant then depends on how content is offered. More fragmentation will lead to more piracy, while easier access will make it less relevant.

“The question then will be, will streaming platforms be fragmented and exclusive content bundled into a hundred pieces besides Netflix, or will consumer choice and convenience win out in a cross-platform way?

“A piracy increase or reduction will depend on how that plays out because nobody wants to worry about ten monthly subscriptions to ten different streaming services, much less a hundred,” Gary concludes.

Perhaps we should revisit this again next decade…


The second post in this series, with Peter Sunde, will be published this weekend. The other two pioneers did not respond or declined to take part.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

“LOL,” The Pirate Bay Adds Donation Options, Mocks Bitcoin Cash?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/lol-the-pirate-bay-adds-donation-options-mocks-bitcoin-cash-171227/

The Pirate Bay has been both an early adopter and a pioneer when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Earlier this year the site made headlines when it started to mine cryptocurrency through its visitors, which proved to be a controversial move. Still, many sites followed Pirate Bay’s example.

Pirate Bay’s interest in cryptocurrency wasn’t new though.

The torrent site first allowed people to donate Bitcoin five years ago, which paid off right away. In little more than a day, 73 transactions were sent to Pirate Bay’s address, adding up to a healthy 5.56 BTC, roughly $700 at the time.

Today, the site still accepts Bitcoin donations. While it doesn’t bring in enough to pay all the bills, it doesn’t hurt either.

Around Christmas, The Pirate Bay decided to expand its cryptocurrency donation options. In addition to the traditional Bitcoin address, the torrent site added a Bitcoin Segwit Bech32 option, plus Litecoin and Monero addresses.

While the new donation options show that The Pirate Bay has faith in multiple currencies, the site doesn’t appear to be a fan of them all. The Bitcoin fork “Bitcoin Cash” is also listed, for example, but in a rather unusual way.

“BCH: Bcash. LOL,” reads a mention posted on the site.

BCH: Bcash. LOL

Those who are following the cryptocurrency scene will know that there has been quite a bit of infighting between some supporters of the Bitcoin Cash project and those of the original Bitcoin in recent weeks.

Several high-profile individuals have criticized Bitcoin’s high transaction fees and limitations, while others have very little faith in the future of the Bitcoin Cash alternative.

Although there are not a lot of details available, the “LOL” mention suggests that the TPB team is in the latter camp.

In recent years The Pirate Bay has received a steady but very modest flow of Bitcoin donations. Lasy year we calculated that it ‘raked’ in roughly $9 per day.

However, with the exponential price increase recently, the modest donations now look pretty healthy. Since 2013 The Pirate Bay received well over 135 BTC in donations, which is good for $2 million today. LOL.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Bitcoin: In Crypto We Trust

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/12/bitcoin-in-crypto-we-trust.html

Tim Wu, who coined “net neutrality”, has written an op-ed on the New York Times called “The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust“. He is wrong about “code”.

The wrong “trust”

Wu builds a big manifesto about how real-world institutions aren’t can’t be trusted. Certainly, this reflects the rhetoric from a vocal wing of Bitcoin fanatics, but it’s not the Bitcoin manifesto.

Instead, the word “trust” in the Bitcoin paper is much narrower, referring to how online merchants can’t trust credit-cards (for example). When I bought school supplies for my niece when she studied in Canada, the online site wouldn’t accept my U.S. credit card. They didn’t trust my credit card. However, they trusted my Bitcoin, so I used that payment method instead, and succeeded in the purchase.

Real-world currencies like dollars are tethered to the real-world, which means no single transaction can be trusted, because “they” (the credit-card company, the courts, etc.) may decide to reverse the transaction. The manifesto behind Bitcoin is that a transaction cannot be reversed — and thus, can always be trusted.

Deliberately confusing the micro-trust in a transaction and macro-trust in banks and governments is a sort of bait-and-switch.

The wrong inspiration

Wu claims:

“It was, after all, a carnival of human errors and misfeasance that inspired the invention of Bitcoin in 2009, namely, the financial crisis.”

Not true. Bitcoin did not appear fully formed out of the void, but was instead based upon a series of innovations that predate the financial crisis by a decade. Moreover, the financial crisis had little to do with “currency”. The value of the dollar and other major currencies were essentially unscathed by the crisis. Certainly, enthusiasts looking backward like to cherry pick the financial crisis as yet one more reason why the offline world sucks, but it had little to do with Bitcoin.

In crypto we trust

It’s not in code that Bitcoin trusts, but in crypto. Satoshi makes that clear in one of his posts on the subject:

A generation ago, multi-user time-sharing computer systems had a similar problem. Before strong encryption, users had to rely on password protection to secure their files, placing trust in the system administrator to keep their information private. Privacy could always be overridden by the admin based on his judgment call weighing the principle of privacy against other concerns, or at the behest of his superiors. Then strong encryption became available to the masses, and trust was no longer required. Data could be secured in a way that was physically impossible for others to access, no matter for what reason, no matter how good the excuse, no matter what.

You don’t possess Bitcoins. Instead, all the coins are on the public blockchain under your “address”. What you possess is the secret, private key that matches the address. Transferring Bitcoin means using your private key to unlock your coins and transfer them to another. If you print out your private key on paper, and delete it from the computer, it can never be hacked.

Trust is in this crypto operation. Trust is in your private crypto key.

We don’t trust the code

The manifesto “in code we trust” has been proven wrong again and again. We don’t trust computer code (software) in the cryptocurrency world.

The most profound example is something known as the “DAO” on top of Ethereum, Bitcoin’s major competitor. Ethereum allows “smart contracts” containing code. The quasi-religious manifesto of the DAO smart-contract is that the “code is the contract”, that all the terms and conditions are specified within the smart-contract code, completely untethered from real-world terms-and-conditions.

Then a hacker found a bug in the DAO smart-contract and stole most of the money.

In principle, this is perfectly legal, because “the code is the contract”, and the hacker just used the code. In practice, the system didn’t live up to this. The Ethereum core developers, acting as central bankers, rewrote the Ethereum code to fix this one contract, returning the money back to its original owners. They did this because those core developers were themselves heavily invested in the DAO and got their money back.

Similar things happen with the original Bitcoin code. A disagreement has arisen about how to expand Bitcoin to handle more transactions. One group wants smaller and “off-chain” transactions. Another group wants a “large blocksize”. This caused a “fork” in Bitcoin with two versions, “Bitcoin” and “Bitcoin Cash”. The fork championed by the core developers (central bankers) is worth around $20,000 right now, while the other fork is worth around $2,000.

So it’s still “in central bankers we trust”, it’s just that now these central bankers are mostly online instead of offline institutions. They have proven to be even more corrupt than real-world central bankers. It’s certainly not the code that is trusted.

The bubble

Wu repeats the well-known reference to Amazon during the dot-com bubble. If you bought Amazon’s stock for $107 right before the dot-com crash, it still would be one of wisest investments you could’ve made. Amazon shares are now worth around $1,200 each.

The implication is that Bitcoin, too, may have such long term value. Even if you buy it today and it crashes tomorrow, it may still be worth ten-times its current value in another decade or two.

This is a poor analogy, for three reasons.

The first reason is that we knew the Internet had fundamentally transformed commerce. We knew there were going to be winners in the long run, it was just a matter of picking who would win (Amazon) and who would lose (Pets.com). We have yet to prove Bitcoin will be similarly transformative.

The second reason is that businesses are real, they generate real income. While the stock price may include some irrational exuberance, it’s ultimately still based on the rational expectations of how much the business will earn. With Bitcoin, it’s almost entirely irrational exuberance — there are no long term returns.

The third flaw in the analogy is that there are an essentially infinite number of cryptocurrencies. We saw this today as Coinbase started trading Bitcoin Cash, a fork of Bitcoin. The two are nearly identical, so there’s little reason one should be so much valuable than another. It’s only a fickle fad that makes one more valuable than another, not business fundamentals. The successful future cryptocurrency is unlikely to exist today, but will be invented in the future.

The lessons of the dot-com bubble is not that Bitcoin will have long term value, but that cryptocurrency companies like Coinbase and BitPay will have long term value. Or, the lesson is that “old” companies like JPMorgan that are early adopters of the technology will grow faster than their competitors.

Conclusion

The point of Wu’s paper is to distinguish trust in traditional real-world institutions and trust in computer software code. This is an inaccurate reading of the situation.

Bitcoin is not about replacing real-world institutions but about untethering online transactions.

The trust in Bitcoin is in crypto — the power crypto gives individuals instead of third-parties.

The trust is not in the code. Bitcoin is a “cryptocurrency” not a “codecurrency”.

The deal with Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-deal-with-bitcoin.html

♪ Used to have a little now I have a lot
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block
          chain ♪

For all that has been written about Bitcoin and its ilk, it is curious that the focus is almost solely what the cryptocurrencies are supposed to be. Technologists wax lyrical about the potential for blockchains to change almost every aspect of our lives. Libertarians and paleoconservatives ache for the return to “sound money” that can’t be conjured up at the whim of a bureaucrat. Mainstream economists wag their fingers, proclaiming that a proper currency can’t be deflationary, that it must maintain a particular velocity, or that the government must be able to nip crises of confidence in the bud. And so on.

Much of this may be true, but the proponents of cryptocurrencies should recognize that an appeal to consequences is not a guarantee of good results. The critics, on the other hand, would be best served to remember that they are drawing far-reaching conclusions about the effects of modern monetary policies based on a very short and tumultuous period in history.

In this post, my goal is to ditch most of the dogma, talk a bit about the origins of money – and then see how “crypto” fits the bill.

1. The prehistory of currencies

The emergence of money is usually explained in a very straightforward way. You know the story: a farmer raised a pig, a cobbler made a shoe. The cobbler needed to feed his family while the farmer wanted to keep his feet warm – and so they met to exchange the goods on mutually beneficial terms. But as the tale goes, the barter system had a fatal flaw: sometimes, a farmer wanted a cooking pot, a potter wanted a knife, and a blacksmith wanted a pair of pants. To facilitate increasingly complex, multi-step exchanges without requiring dozens of people to meet face to face, we came up with an abstract way to represent value – a shiny coin guaranteed to be accepted by every tradesman.

It is a nice parable, but it probably isn’t very true. It seems far more plausible that early societies relied on the concept of debt long before the advent of currencies: an informal tally or a formal ledger would be used to keep track of who owes what to whom. The concept of debt, closely associated with one’s trustworthiness and standing in the community, would have enabled a wide range of economic activities: debts could be paid back over time, transferred, renegotiated, or forgotten – all without having to engage in spot barter or to mint a single coin. In fact, such non-monetary, trust-based, reciprocal economies are still common in closely-knit communities: among families, neighbors, coworkers, or friends.

In such a setting, primitive currencies probably emerged simply as a consequence of having a system of prices: a cow being worth a particular number of chickens, a chicken being worth a particular number of beaver pelts, and so forth. Formalizing such relationships by settling on a single, widely-known unit of account – say, one chicken – would make it more convenient to transfer, combine, or split debts; or to settle them in alternative goods.

Contrary to popular belief, for communal ledgers, the unit of account probably did not have to be particularly desirable, durable, or easy to carry; it was simply an accounting tool. And indeed, we sometimes run into fairly unusual units of account even in modern times: for example, cigarettes can be the basis of a bustling prison economy even when most inmates don’t smoke and there are not that many packs to go around.

2. The age of commodity money

In the end, the development of coinage might have had relatively little to do with communal trade – and far more with the desire to exchange goods with strangers. When dealing with a unfamiliar or hostile tribe, the concept of a chicken-denominated ledger does not hold up: the other side might be disinclined to honor its obligations – and get away with it, too. To settle such problematic trades, we needed a “spot” medium of exchange that would be easy to carry and authenticate, had a well-defined value, and a near-universal appeal. Throughout much of the recorded history, precious metals – predominantly gold and silver – proved to fit the bill.

In the most basic sense, such commodities could be seen as a tool to reconcile debts across societal boundaries, without necessarily replacing any local units of account. An obligation, denominated in some local currency, would be created on buyer’s side in order to procure the metal for the trade. The proceeds of the completed transaction would in turn allow the seller to settle their own local obligations that arose from having to source the traded goods. In other words, our wondrous chicken-denominated ledgers could coexist peacefully with gold – and when commodity coinage finally took hold, it’s likely that in everyday trade, precious metals served more as a useful abstraction than a precise store of value. A “silver chicken” of sorts.

Still, the emergence of commodity money had one interesting side effect: it decoupled the unit of debt – a “claim on the society”, in a sense – from any moral judgment about its origin. A piece of silver would buy the same amount of food, whether earned through hard labor or won in a drunken bet. This disconnect remains a central theme in many of the debates about social justice and unfairly earned wealth.

3. The State enters the game

If there is one advantage of chicken ledgers over precious metals, it’s that all chickens look and cluck roughly the same – something that can’t be said of every nugget of silver or gold. To cope with this problem, we needed to shape raw commodities into pieces of a more predictable shape and weight; a trusted party could then stamp them with a mark to indicate the value and the quality of the coin.

At first, the task of standardizing coinage rested with private parties – but the responsibility was soon assumed by the State. The advantages of this transition seemed clear: a single, widely-accepted and easily-recognizable currency could be now used to settle virtually all private and official debts.

Alas, in what deserves the dubious distinction of being one of the earliest examples of monetary tomfoolery, some States succumbed to the temptation of fiddling with the coinage to accomplish anything from feeding the poor to waging wars. In particular, it would be common to stamp coins with the same face value but a progressively lower content of silver and gold. Perhaps surprisingly, the strategy worked remarkably well; at least in the times of peace, most people cared about the value stamped on the coin, not its precise composition or weight.

And so, over time, representative money was born: sooner or later, most States opted to mint coins from nearly-worthless metals, or print banknotes on paper and cloth. This radically new currency was accompanied with a simple pledge: the State offered to redeem it at any time for its nominal value in gold.

Of course, the promise was largely illusory: the State did not have enough gold to honor all the promises it had made. Still, as long as people had faith in their rulers and the redemption requests stayed low, the fundamental mechanics of this new representative currency remained roughly the same as before – and in some ways, were an improvement in that they lessened the insatiable demand for a rare commodity. Just as importantly, the new money still enabled international trade – using the underlying gold exchange rate as a reference point.

4. Fractional reserve banking and fiat money

For much of the recorded history, banking was an exceptionally dull affair, not much different from running a communal chicken
ledger of the old. But then, something truly marvelous happened in the 17th century: around that time, many European countries have witnessed
the emergence of fractional-reserve banks.

These private ventures operated according to a simple scheme: they accepted people’s coin
for safekeeping, promising to pay a premium on every deposit made. To meet these obligations and to make a profit, the banks then
used the pooled deposits to make high-interest loans to other folks. The financiers figured out that under normal circumstances
and when operating at a sufficient scale, they needed only a very modest reserve – well under 10% of all deposited money – to be
able to service the usual volume and size of withdrawals requested by their customers. The rest could be loaned out.

The very curious consequence of fractional-reserve banking was that it pulled new money out of thin air.
The funds were simultaneously accounted for in the statements shown to the depositor, evidently available for withdrawal or
transfer at any time; and given to third-party borrowers, who could spend them on just about anything. Heck, the borrowers could
deposit the proceeds in another bank, creating even more money along the way! Whatever they did, the sum of all funds in the monetary
system now appeared much higher than the value of all coins and banknotes issued by the government – let alone the amount of gold
sitting in any vault.

Of course, no new money was being created in any physical sense: all that banks were doing was engaging in a bit of creative accounting – the sort of which would probably land you in jail if you attempted it today in any other comparably vital field of enterprise. If too many depositors were to ask for their money back, or if too many loans were to go bad, the banking system would fold. Fortunes would evaporate in a puff of accounting smoke, and with the disappearance of vast quantities of quasi-fictitious (“broad”) money, the wealth of the entire nation would shrink.

In the early 20th century, the world kept witnessing just that; a series of bank runs and economic contractions forced the governments around the globe to act. At that stage, outlawing fractional-reserve banking was no longer politically or economically tenable; a simpler alternative was to let go of gold and move to fiat money – a currency implemented as an abstract social construct, with no predefined connection to the physical realm. A new breed of economists saw the role of the government not in trying to peg the value of money to an inflexible commodity, but in manipulating its supply to smooth out economic hiccups or to stimulate growth.

(Contrary to popular beliefs, such manipulation is usually not done by printing new banknotes; more sophisticated methods, such as lowering reserve requirements for bank deposits or enticing banks to invest its deposits into government-issued securities, are the preferred route.)

The obvious peril of fiat money is that in the long haul, its value is determined strictly by people’s willingness to accept a piece of paper in exchange for their trouble; that willingness, in turn, is conditioned solely on their belief that the same piece of paper would buy them something nice a week, a month, or a year from now. It follows that a simple crisis of confidence could make a currency nearly worthless overnight. A prolonged period of hyperinflation and subsequent austerity in Germany and Austria was one of the precipitating factors that led to World War II. In more recent times, dramatic episodes of hyperinflation plagued the fiat currencies of Israel (1984), Mexico (1988), Poland (1990), Yugoslavia (1994), Bulgaria (1996), Turkey (2002), Zimbabwe (2009), Venezuela (2016), and several other nations around the globe.

For the United States, the switch to fiat money came relatively late, in 1971. To stop the dollar from plunging like a rock, the Nixon administration employed a clever trick: they ordered the freeze of wages and prices for the 90 days that immediately followed the move. People went on about their lives and paid the usual for eggs or milk – and by the time the freeze ended, they were accustomed to the idea that the “new”, free-floating dollar is worth about the same as the old, gold-backed one. A robust economy and favorable geopolitics did the rest, and so far, the American adventure with fiat currency has been rather uneventful – perhaps except for the fact that the price of gold itself skyrocketed from $35 per troy ounce in 1971 to $850 in 1980 (or, from $210 to $2,500 in today’s dollars).

Well, one thing did change: now better positioned to freely tamper with the supply of money, the regulators in accord with the bankers adopted a policy of creating it at a rate that slightly outstripped the organic growth in economic activity. They did this to induce a small, steady degree of inflation, believing that doing so would discourage people from hoarding cash and force them to reinvest it for the betterment of the society. Some critics like to point out that such a policy functions as a “backdoor” tax on savings that happens to align with the regulators’ less noble interests; still, either way: in the US and most other developed nations, the purchasing power of any money kept under a mattress will drop at a rate of somewhere between 2 to 10% a year.

5. So what’s up with Bitcoin?

Well… countless tomes have been written about the nature and the optimal characteristics of government-issued fiat currencies. Some heterodox economists, notably including Murray Rothbard, have also explored the topic of privately-issued, decentralized, commodity-backed currencies. But Bitcoin is a wholly different animal.

In essence, BTC is a global, decentralized fiat currency: it has no (recoverable) intrinsic value, no central authority to issue it or define its exchange rate, and it has no anchoring to any historical reference point – a combination that until recently seemed nonsensical and escaped any serious scrutiny. It does the unthinkable by employing three clever tricks:

  1. It allows anyone to create new coins, but only by solving brute-force computational challenges that get more difficult as the time goes by,

  2. It prevents unauthorized transfer of coins by employing public key cryptography to sign off transactions, with only the authorized holder of a coin knowing the correct key,

  3. It prevents double-spending by using a distributed public ledger (“blockchain”), recording the chain of custody for coins in a tamper-proof way.

The blockchain is often described as the most important feature of Bitcoin, but in some ways, its importance is overstated. The idea of a currency that does not rely on a centralized transaction clearinghouse is what helped propel the platform into the limelight – mostly because of its novelty and the perception that it is less vulnerable to government meddling (although the government is still free to track down, tax, fine, or arrest any participants). On the flip side, the everyday mechanics of BTC would not be fundamentally different if all the transactions had to go through Bitcoin Bank, LLC.

A more striking feature of the new currency is the incentive structure surrounding the creation of new coins. The underlying design democratized the creation of new coins early on: all you had to do is leave your computer running for a while to acquire a number of tokens. The tokens had no practical value, but obtaining them involved no substantial expense or risk. Just as importantly, because the difficulty of the puzzles would only increase over time, the hope was that if Bitcoin caught on, latecomers would find it easier to purchase BTC on a secondary market than mine their own – paying with a more established currency at a mutually beneficial exchange rate.

The persistent publicity surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies did the rest – and today, with the growing scarcity of coins and the rapidly increasing demand, the price of a single token hovers somewhere south of $15,000.

6. So… is it bad money?

Predicting is hard – especially the future. In some sense, a coin that represents a cryptographic proof of wasted CPU cycles is no better or worse than a currency that relies on cotton decorated with pictures of dead presidents. It is true that Bitcoin suffers from many implementation problems – long transaction processing times, high fees, frequent security breaches of major exchanges – but in principle, such problems can be overcome.

That said, currencies live and die by the lasting willingness of others to accept them in exchange for services or goods – and in that sense, the jury is still out. The use of Bitcoin to settle bona fide purchases is negligible, both in absolute terms and in function of the overall volume of transactions. In fact, because of the technical challenges and limited practical utility, some companies that embraced the currency early on are now backing out.

When the value of an asset is derived almost entirely from its appeal as an ever-appreciating investment vehicle, the situation has all the telltale signs of a speculative bubble. But that does not prove that the asset is destined to collapse, or that a collapse would be its end. Still, the built-in deflationary mechanism of Bitcoin – the increasing difficulty of producing new coins – is probably both a blessing and a curse.

It’s going to go one way or the other; and when it’s all said and done, we’re going to celebrate the people who made the right guess. Because future is actually pretty darn easy to predict — in retrospect.

"Crypto" Is Being Redefined as Cryptocurrencies

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/12/crypto_is_being.html

I agree with Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, “Cryptocurrencies aren’t ‘crypto’“:

Lately on the internet, people in the world of Bitcoin and other digital currencies are starting to use the word “crypto” as a catch-all term for the lightly regulated and burgeoning world of digital currencies in general, or for the word “cryptocurrency” — which probably shouldn’t even be called “currency,” by the way.

[…]

To be clear, I’m not the only one who is mad about this. Bitcoin and other technologies indeed do use cryptography: all cryptocurrency transactions are secured by a “public key” known to all and a “private key” known only to one party­ — this is the basis for a swath of cryptographic approaches (known as public key, or asymmetric cryptography) like PGP. But cryptographers say that’s not really their defining trait.

“Most cryptocurrency barely has anything to do with serious cryptography,” Matthew Green, a renowned computer scientist who studies cryptography, told me via email. “Aside from the trivial use of digital signatures and hash functions, it’s a stupid name.”

It is a stupid name.

timeShift(GrafanaBuzz, 1w) Issue 24

Post Syndicated from Blogs on Grafana Labs Blog original https://grafana.com/blog/2017/12/01/timeshiftgrafanabuzz-1w-issue-24/

Welcome to TimeShift

It’s hard to believe it’s already December. Here at Grafana Labs we’ve been spending a lot of time working on new features and enhancements for Grafana v5, and finalizing our selections for GrafanaCon EU. This week we have some interesting articles to share and a number of plugin updates. Enjoy!


Latest Release

Grafana 4.6.2 is now available and includes some bug fixes:

  • Prometheus: Fixes bug with new Prometheus alerts in Grafana. Make sure to download this version if you’re using Prometheus for alerting. More details in the issue. #9777
  • Color picker: Bug after using textbox input field to change/paste color string #9769
  • Cloudwatch: build using golang 1.9.2 #9667, thanks @mtanda
  • Heatmap: Fixed tooltip for “time series buckets” mode #9332
  • InfluxDB: Fixed query editor issue when using > or < operators in WHERE clause #9871

Download Grafana 4.6.2 Now


From the Blogosphere

Monitoring Camel with Prometheus in Red Hat OpenShift: This in-depth walk-through will show you how to build an Apache Camel application from scratch, deploy it in a Kubernetes environment, gather metrics using Prometheus and display them in Grafana.

How to run Grafana with DeviceHive: We see more and more examples of people using Grafana in IoT. This article discusses how to gather data from the IoT platform, DeviceHive, and build useful dashboards.

How to Install Grafana on Linux Servers: Pretty self-explanatory, but this tutorial walks you installing Grafana on Ubuntu 16.04 and CentOS 7. After installation, it covers configuration and plugin installation. This is the first article in an upcoming series about Grafana.

Monitoring your AKS cluster with Grafana: It’s important to know how your application is performing regardless of where it lives; the same applies to Kubernetes. This article focuses on aggregating data from Kubernetes with Heapster and feeding it to a backend for Grafana to visualize.

CoinStatistics: With the price of Bitcoin skyrocketing, more and more people are interested in cryptocurrencies. This is a cool dashboard that has a lot of stats about popular cryptocurrencies, and has a calculator to let you know when you can buy that lambo.

Using OpenNTI As A Collector For Streaming Telemetry From Juniper Devices: Part 1: This series will serve as a quick start guide for getting up and running with streaming real-time telemetry data from Juniper devices. This first article covers some high-level concepts and installation, while part 2 covers configuration options.

How to Get Metrics for Advance Alerting to Prevent Trouble: What good is performance monitoring if you’re never told when something has gone wrong? This article suggests ways to be more proactive to prevent issues and avoid the scramble to troubleshoot issues.

Thoughtworks: Technology Radar: We got a shout-out in the latest Technology Radar in the Tools section, as the dashboard visualization tool of choice for Prometheus!


GrafanaCon Tickets are Going Fast

Tickets are going fast for GrafanaCon EU, but we still have a seat reserved for you. Join us March 1-2, 2018 in Amsterdam for 2 days of talks centered around Grafana and the surrounding monitoring ecosystem including Graphite, Prometheus, InfluxData, Elasticsearch, Kubernetes, and more.

Get Your Ticket Now


Grafana Plugins

We have a number of plugin updates to highlight this week. Authors improve plugins regularly to fix bugs and improve performance, so it’s important to keep your plugins up to date. We’ve made updating easy; for on-prem Grafana, use the Grafana-cli tool, or update with 1 click if you’re using Hosted Grafana.

UPDATED PLUGIN

Clickhouse Data Source – The Clickhouse Data Source received a substantial update this week. It now has support for Ace Editor, which has a reformatting function for the query editor that automatically formats your sql. If you’re using Clickhouse then you should also have a look at CHProxy – see the plugin readme for more details.


Update

UPDATED PLUGIN

Influx Admin Panel – This panel received a number of small fixes. A new version will be coming soon with some new features.

Some of the changes (see the release notes) for more details):

  • Fix issue always showing query results
  • When there is only one row, swap rows/cols (ie: SHOW DIAGNOSTICS)
  • Improve auto-refresh behavior
  • Show ‘message’ response. (ie: please use POST)
  • Fix query time sorting
  • Show ‘status’ field (killed, etc)

Update

UPDATED PLUGIN

Gnocchi Data Source – The latest version of the Gnocchi Data Source adds support for dynamic aggregations.


Update

UPDATED PLUGINS

BT Plugins – All of the BT panel plugins received updates this week.


Upcoming Events:

In between code pushes we like to speak at, sponsor and attend all kinds of conferences and meetups. We have some awesome talks and events coming soon. Hope to see you at one of these!

KubeCon | Austin, TX – Dec. 6-8, 2017: We’re sponsoring KubeCon 2017! This is the must-attend conference for cloud native computing professionals. KubeCon + CloudNativeCon brings together leading contributors in:

  • Cloud native applications and computing
  • Containers
  • Microservices
  • Central orchestration processing
  • And more

Buy Tickets

FOSDEM | Brussels, Belgium – Feb 3-4, 2018: FOSDEM is a free developer conference where thousands of developers of free and open source software gather to share ideas and technology. Carl Bergquist is managing the Cloud and Monitoring Devroom, and we’ve heard there were some great talks submitted. There is no need to register; all are welcome.


Tweet of the Week

We scour Twitter each week to find an interesting/beautiful dashboard and show it off! #monitoringLove

YIKES! Glad it’s not – there’s good attention and bad attention.


Grafana Labs is Hiring!

We are passionate about open source software and thrive on tackling complex challenges to build the future. We ship code from every corner of the globe and love working with the community. If this sounds exciting, you’re in luck – WE’RE HIRING!

Check out our Open Positions


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A Thanksgiving Carol: How Those Smart Engineers at Twitter Screwed Me

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/a-thanksgiving-carol-how-those-smart.html

Thanksgiving Holiday is a time for family and cheer. Well, a time for family. It’s the holiday where we ask our doctor relatives to look at that weird skin growth, and for our geek relatives to fix our computers. This tale is of such computer support, and how the “smart” engineers at Twitter have ruined this for life.

My mom is smart, but not a good computer user. I get my enthusiasm for science and math from my mother, and she has no problem understanding the science of computers. She keeps up when I explain Bitcoin. But she has difficulty using computers. She has this emotional, irrational belief that computers are out to get her.

This makes helping her difficult. Every problem is described in terms of what the computer did to her, not what she did to her computer. It’s the computer that needs to be fixed, instead of the user. When I showed her the “haveibeenpwned.com” website (part of my tips for securing computers), it showed her Tumblr password had been hacked. She swore she never created a Tumblr account — that somebody or something must have done it for her. Except, I was there five years ago and watched her create it.

Another example is how GMail is deleting her emails for no reason, corrupting them, and changing the spelling of her words. She emails the way an impatient teenager texts — all of us in the family know the misspellings are not GMail’s fault. But I can’t help her with this because she keeps her GMail inbox clean, deleting all her messages, leaving no evidence behind. She has only a vague description of the problem that I can’t make sense of.

This last March, I tried something to resolve this. I configured her GMail to send a copy of all incoming messages to a new, duplicate account on my own email server. With evidence in hand, I would then be able solve what’s going on with her GMail. I’d be able to show her which steps she took, which buttons she clicked on, and what caused the weirdness she’s seeing.

Today, while the family was in a state of turkey-induced torpor, my mom brought up a problem with Twitter. She doesn’t use Twitter, she doesn’t have an account, but they keep sending tweets to her phone, about topics like Denzel Washington. And she said something about “peaches” I didn’t understand.

This is how the problem descriptions always start, chaotic, with mutually exclusive possibilities. If you don’t use Twitter, you don’t have the Twitter app installed, so how are you getting Tweets? Over much gnashing of teeth, it comes out that she’s getting emails from Twitter, not tweets, about Denzel Washington — to someone named “Peaches Graham”. Naturally, she can only describe these emails, because she’s already deleted them.

“Ah ha!”, I think. I’ve got the evidence! I’ll just log onto my duplicate email server, and grab the copies to prove to her it was something she did.

I find she is indeed receiving such emails, called “Moments”, about topics trending on Twitter. They are signed with “DKIM”, proving they are legitimate rather than from a hacker or spammer. The only way that can happen is if my mother signed up for Twitter, despite her protestations that she didn’t.

I look further back and find that there were also confirmation messages involved. Back in August, she got a typical Twitter account signup message. I am now seeing a little bit more of the story unfold with this “Peaches Graham” name on the account. It wasn’t my mother who initially signed up for Twitter, but Peaches, who misspelled the email address. It’s one of the reasons why the confirmation process exists, to make sure you spelled your email address correctly.

It’s now obvious my mom accidentally clicked on the [Confirm] button. I don’t have any proof she did, but it’s the only reasonable explanation. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gotten the “Moments” messages. My mom disputed this, emphatically insisting she never clicked on the emails.

It’s at this point that I made a great mistake, saying:

“This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Twitter has very smart engineers. What’s the chance they made the mistake here, or…”.

I recognized condescension of words as they came out of my mouth, but dug myself deeper with:

“…or that the user made the error?”

This was wrong to say even if I were right. I have no excuse. I mean, maybe I could argue that it’s really her fault, for not raising me right, but no, this is only on me.

Regardless of what caused the Twitter emails, the problem needs to be fixed. The solution is to take control of the Twitter account by using the password reset feature. I went to the Twitter login page, clicked on “Lost Password”, got the password reset message, and reset the password. I then reconfigured the account to never send anything to my mom again.

But when I logged in I got an error saying the account had not yet been confirmed. I paused. The family dog eyed me in wise silence. My mom hadn’t clicked on the [Confirm] button — the proof was right there. Moreover, it hadn’t been confirmed for a long time, since the account was created in 2011.

I interrogated my mother some more. It appears that this has been going on for years. She’s just been deleting the emails without opening them, both the “Confirmations” and the “Moments”. She made it clear she does it this way because her son (that would be me) instructs her to never open emails she knows are bad. That’s how she could be so certain she never clicked on the [Confirm] button — she never even opens the emails to see the contents.

My mom is a prolific email user. In the last eight months, I’ve received over 10,000 emails in the duplicate mailbox on my server. That’s a lot. She’s technically retired, but she volunteers for several charities, goes to community college classes, and is joining an anti-Trump protest group. She has a daily routine for triaging and processing all the emails that flow through her inbox.

So here’s the thing, and there’s no getting around it: my mom was right, on all particulars. She had done nothing, the computer had done it to her. It’s Twitter who is at fault, having continued to resend that confirmation email every couple months for six years. When Twitter added their controversial “Moments” feature a couple years back, somehow they turned on Notifications for accounts that technically didn’t fully exist yet.

Being right this time means she might be right the next time the computer does something to her without her touching anything. My attempts at making computers seem rational has failed. That they are driven by untrustworthy spirits is now a reasonable alternative.

Those “smart” engineers at Twitter screwed me. Continuing to send confirmation emails for six years is stupid. Sending Notifications to unconfirmed accounts is stupid. Yes, I know at the bottom of the message it gives a “Not my account” selection that she could have clicked on, but it’s small and easily missed. In any case, my mom never saw that option, because she’s been deleting the messages without opening them — for six years.

Twitter can fix their problem, but it’s not going to help mine. Forever more, I’ll be unable to convince my mom that the majority of her problems are because of user error, and not because the computer people are out to get her.

Don Jr.: I’ll bite

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/don-jr-ill-bite.html

So Don Jr. tweets the following, which is an excellent troll. So I thought I’d bite. The reason is I just got through debunk Democrat claims about NetNeutrality, so it seems like a good time to balance things out and debunk Trump nonsense.

The issue here is not which side is right. The issue here is whether you stand for truth, or whether you’ll seize any factoid that appears to support your side, regardless of the truthfulness of it. The ACLU obviously chose falsehoods, as I documented. In the following tweet, Don Jr. does the same.

It’s a preview of the hyperpartisan debates are you are likely to have across the dinner table tomorrow, which each side trying to outdo the other in the false-hoods they’ll claim.

What we see in this number is a steady trend of these statistics since the Great Recession, with no evidence in the graphs showing how Trump has influenced these numbers, one way or the other.

Stock markets at all time highs

This is true, but it’s obviously not due to Trump. The stock markers have been steadily rising since the Great Recession. Trump has done nothing substantive to change the market trajectory. Also, he hasn’t inspired the market to change it’s direction.
To be fair to Don Jr., we’ve all been crediting (or blaming) presidents for changes in the stock market despite the fact they have almost no influence over it. Presidents don’t run the economy, it’s an inappropriate conceit. The most influence they’ve had is in harming it.

Lowest jobless claims since 73

Again, let’s graph this:

As we can see, jobless claims have been on a smooth downward trajectory since the Great Recession. It’s difficult to see here how President Trump has influenced these numbers.

6 Trillion added to the economy

What he’s referring to is that assets have risen in value, like the stock market, homes, gold, and even Bitcoin.
But this is a well known fallacy known as Mercantilism, believing the “economy” is measured by the value of its assets. This was debunked by Adam Smith in his book “The Wealth of Nations“, where he showed instead the the “economy” is measured by how much it produces (GDP – Gross Domestic Product) and not assets.
GDP has grown at 3.0%, which is pretty good compared to the long term trend, and is better than Europe or Japan (though not as good as China). But Trump doesn’t deserve any credit for this — today’s rise in GDP is the result of stuff that happened years ago.
Assets have risen by $6 trillion, but that’s not a good thing. After all, when you sell your home for more money, the buyer has to pay more. So one person is better off and one is worse off, so the net effect is zero.
Actually, such asset price increase is a worrisome indicator — we are entering into bubble territory. It’s the result of a loose monetary policy, low interest rates and “quantitative easing” that was designed under the Obama administration to stimulate the economy. That’s why all assets are rising in value. Normally, a rise in one asset means a fall in another, like selling gold to pay for houses. But because of loose monetary policy, all assets are increasing in price. The amazing rise in Bitcoin over the last year is as much a result of this bubble growing in all assets as it is to an exuberant belief in Bitcoin.
When this bubble collapses, which may happen during Trump’s term, it’ll really be the Obama administration who is to blame. I mean, if Trump is willing to take credit for the asset price bubble now, I’m willing to give it to him, as long as he accepts the blame when it crashes.

1.5 million fewer people on food stamps

As you’d expect, I’m going to debunk this with a graph: the numbers have been falling since the great recession. Indeed, in the previous period under Obama, 1.9 fewer people got off food stamps, so Trump’s performance is slight ahead rather than behind Obama. Of course, neither president is really responsible.

Consumer confidence through the roof

Again we are going to graph this number:

Again we find nothing in the graph that suggests President Trump is responsible for any change — it’s been improving steadily since the Great Recession.

One thing to note is that, technically, it’s not “through the roof” — it still quite a bit below the roof set during the dot-com era.

Lowest Unemployment rate in 17 years

Again, let’s simply graph it over time and look for Trump’s contribution. as we can see, there doesn’t appear to be anything special Trump has done — unemployment has steadily been improving since the Great Recession.
But here’s the thing, the “unemployment rate” only measures those looking for work, not those who have given up. The number that concerns people more is the “labor force participation rate”. The Great Recession kicked a lot of workers out of the economy.
Mostly this is because Baby Boomer are now retiring an leaving the workforce, and some have chosen to retire early rather than look for another job. But there are still some other problems in our economy that cause this. President Trump has nothing particular in order to solve these problems.

Conclusion

As we see, Don Jr’s tweet is a troll. When we look at the graphs of these indicators going back to the Great Recession, we don’t see how President Trump has influenced anything. The improvements this year are in line with the improvements last year, which are in turn inline with the improvements in the previous year.
To be fair, all parties credit their President with improvements during their term. President Obama’s supporters did the same thing. But at least right now, with these numbers, we can see that there’s no merit to anything in Don Jr’s tweet.
The hyperpartisan rancor in this country is because neither side cares about the facts. We should care. We should care that these numbers suck, even if we are Republicans. Conversely, we should care that those NetNeutrality claims by Democrats suck, even if we are Democrats.

Game of Thrones Leaks “Carried Out By Former Iranian Military Hacker”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-leaks-carried-out-by-former-iranian-military-hacker-171122/

Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO.

The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

“Hi to all mankind,” an email sent to reporters read. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!”

In follow-up correspondence, the hackers claimed to have penetrated HBO’s internal network, gaining access to emails, technical platforms, and other confidential information.

Image released by the hackers

Soon after, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler confirmed a breach at his company, telling employees that there had been a “cyber incident” in which information and programming had been taken.

“Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests,” he said.

During mid-August, problems persisted, with unreleased shows hitting the Internet. HBO appeared rattled by the ongoing incident, refusing to comment to the media on every new development. Now, however, it appears the tide is turning on HBO’s foe.

In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the FBI, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

“Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins,” Kim said.

“Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice. American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”

According to the Department of Justice, Mesri honed his computer skills working for the Iranian military, conducting cyber attacks against enemy military systems, nuclear software, and Israeli infrastructure. He was also a member of the Turk Black Hat hacking team which defaced hundreds of websites with the online pseudonym “Skote Vahshat”.

The indictment states that Mesri began his campaign against HBO during May 2017, when he conducted “online reconnaissance” of HBO’s networks and employees. Between May and July, he then compromised a number of HBO employee user accounts and used them to access the company’s data and TV shows, copying them to his own machines.

After allegedly obtaining around 1.5 terabytes of HBO’s data, Mesri then began to extort HBO, warning that unless a ransom of $5.5 million wasn’t paid in Bitcoin, the leaking would begin. When the amount wasn’t paid, three days later Mesri told HBO that the amount had now risen to $6m and as an additional punishment, data could be wiped from HBO’s servers.

Subsequently, on or around July 30 and continuing through August 2017, Mesri allegedly carried through with his threats, leaking information and TV shows online and promoting them via emails to members of the press.

As a result of the above, Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of computer hacking (five years), three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information (five years each), and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication (two years). No copyright infringement offenses are mentioned in the indictment.

The big question now is whether the US will ever get their hands on Mesri. The answer to that, at least through any official channels, seems to be a resounding no. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Iran meaning that if Mesri stays put, he’s likely to remain a free man.

Wanted

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

How to Recover From Ransomware

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/complete-guide-ransomware/

Here’s the scenario. You’re working on your computer and you notice that it seems slower. Or perhaps you can’t access document or media files that were previously available.

You might be getting error messages from Windows telling you that a file is of an “Unknown file type” or “Windows can’t open this file.”

Windows error message

If you’re on a Mac, you might see the message “No associated application,” or “There is no application set to open the document.”

MacOS error message

Another possibility is that you’re completely locked out of your system. If you’re in an office, you might be looking around and seeing that other people are experiencing the same problem. Some are already locked out, and others are just now wondering what’s going on, just as you are.

Then you see a message confirming your fears.

wana decrypt0r ransomware message

You’ve been infected with ransomware.

You’ll have lots of company this year. The number of ransomware attacks on businesses tripled in the past year, jumping from one attack every two minutes in Q1 to one every 40 seconds by Q3.There were over four times more new ransomware variants in the first quarter of 2017 than in the first quarter of 2016, and damages from ransomware are expected to exceed $5 billion this year.

Growth in Ransomware Variants Since December 2015

Source: Proofpoint Q1 2017 Quarterly Threat Report

This past summer, our local PBS and NPR station in San Francisco, KQED, was debilitated for weeks by a ransomware attack that forced them to go back to working the way they used to prior to computers. Five months have passed since the attack and they’re still recovering and trying to figure out how to prevent it from happening again.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware typically spreads via spam or phishing emails, but also through websites or drive-by downloads, to infect an endpoint and penetrate the network. Once in place, the ransomware then locks all files it can access using strong encryption. Finally, the malware demands a ransom (typically payable in bitcoins) to decrypt the files and restore full operations to the affected IT systems.

Encrypting ransomware or “cryptoware” is by far the most common recent variety of ransomware. Other types that might be encountered are:

  • Non-encrypting ransomware or lock screens (restricts access to files and data, but does not encrypt them)
  • Ransomware that encrypts the Master Boot Record (MBR) of a drive or Microsoft’s NTFS, which prevents victims’ computers from being booted up in a live OS environment
  • Leakware or extortionware (exfiltrates data that the attackers threaten to release if ransom is not paid)
  • Mobile Device Ransomware (infects cell-phones through “drive-by downloads” or fake apps)

The typical steps in a ransomware attack are:

1
Infection
After it has been delivered to the system via email attachment, phishing email, infected application or other method, the ransomware installs itself on the endpoint and any network devices it can access.
2
Secure Key Exchange
The ransomware contacts the command and control server operated by the cybercriminals behind the attack to generate the cryptographic keys to be used on the local system.
3
Encryption
The ransomware starts encrypting any files it can find on local machines and the network.
4
Extortion
With the encryption work done, the ransomware displays instructions for extortion and ransom payment, threatening destruction of data if payment is not made.
5
Unlocking
Organizations can either pay the ransom and hope for the cybercriminals to actually decrypt the affected files (which in many cases does not happen), or they can attempt recovery by removing infected files and systems from the network and restoring data from clean backups.

Who Gets Attacked?

Ransomware attacks target firms of all sizes — 5% or more of businesses in the top 10 industry sectors have been attacked — and no no size business, from SMBs to enterprises, are immune. Attacks are on the rise in every sector and in every size of business.

Recent attacks, such as WannaCry earlier this year, mainly affected systems outside of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of computers were infected from Taiwan to the United Kingdom, where it crippled the National Health Service.

The US has not been so lucky in other attacks, though. The US ranks the highest in the number of ransomware attacks, followed by Germany and then France. Windows computers are the main targets, but ransomware strains exist for Macintosh and Linux, as well.

The unfortunate truth is that ransomware has become so wide-spread that for most companies it is a certainty that they will be exposed to some degree to a ransomware or malware attack. The best they can do is to be prepared and understand the best ways to minimize the impact of ransomware.

“Ransomware is more about manipulating vulnerabilities in human psychology than the adversary’s technological sophistication.” — James Scott, expert in Artificial Intelligence

Phishing emails, malicious email attachments, and visiting compromised websites have been common vehicles of infection (we wrote about protecting against phishing recently), but other methods have become more common in past months. Weaknesses in Microsoft’s Server Message Block (SMB) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) have allowed cryptoworms to spread. Desktop applications — in one case an accounting package — and even Microsoft Office (Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Exchange — DDE) have been the agents of infection.

Recent ransomware strains such as Petya, CryptoLocker, and WannaCry have incorporated worms to spread themselves across networks, earning the nickname, “cryptoworms.”

How to Defeat Ransomware

1
Isolate the Infection
Prevent the infection from spreading by separating all infected computers from each other, shared storage, and the network.
2
Identify the Infection
From messages, evidence on the computer, and identification tools, determine which malware strain you are dealing with.
3
Report
Report to the authorities to support and coordinate measures to counter attacks.
4
Determine Your Options
You have a number of ways to deal with the infection. Determine which approach is best for you.
5
Restore and Refresh
Use safe backups and program and software sources to restore your computer or outfit a new platform.
6
Plan to Prevent Recurrence
Make an assessment of how the infection occurred and what you can do to put measures into place that will prevent it from happening again.

1 — Isolate the Infection

The rate and speed of ransomware detection is critical in combating fast moving attacks before they succeed in spreading across networks and encrypting vital data.

The first thing to do when a computer is suspected of being infected is to isolate it from other computers and storage devices. Disconnect it from the network (both wired and Wi-Fi) and from any external storage devices. Cryptoworms actively seek out connections and other computers, so you want to prevent that happening. You also don’t want the ransomware communicating across the network with its command and control center.

Be aware that there may be more than just one patient zero, meaning that the ransomware may have entered your organization or home through multiple computers, or may be dormant and not yet shown itself on some systems. Treat all connected and networked computers with suspicion and apply measures to ensure that all systems are not infected.

This Week in Tech (TWiT.tv) did a videocast showing what happens when WannaCry is released on an isolated system and encrypts files and trys to spread itself to other computers. It’s a great lesson on how these types of cryptoworms operate.

2 — Identify the Infection

Most often the ransomware will identify itself when it asks for ransom. There are numerous sites that help you identify the ransomware, including ID Ransomware. The No More Ransomware! Project provides the Crypto Sheriff to help identify ransomware.

Identifying the ransomware will help you understand what type of ransomware you have, how it propagates, what types of files it encrypts, and maybe what your options are for removal and disinfection. It also will enable you to report the attack to the authorities, which is recommended.

wanna decryptor 2.0 ransomware message

WannaCry Ransomware Extortion Dialog

3 — Report to the Authorities

You’ll be doing everyone a favor by reporting all ransomware attacks to the authorities. The FBI urges ransomware victims to report ransomware incidents regardless of the outcome. Victim reporting provides law enforcement with a greater understanding of the threat, provides justification for ransomware investigations, and contributes relevant information to ongoing ransomware cases. Knowing more about victims and their experiences with ransomware will help the FBI to determine who is behind the attacks and how they are identifying or targeting victims.

You can file a report with the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

There are other ways to report ransomware, as well.

4 — Determine Your Options

Your options when infected with ransomware are:

  1. Pay the ransom
  2. Try to remove the malware
  3. Wipe the system(s) and reinstall from scratch

It’s generally considered a bad idea to pay the ransom. Paying the ransom encourages more ransomware, and in most cases the unlocking of the encrypted files is not successful.

In a recent survey, more than three-quarters of respondents said their organization is not at all likely to pay the ransom in order to recover their data (77%). Only a small minority said they were willing to pay some ransom (3% of companies have already set up a Bitcoin account in preparation).

Even if you decide to pay, it’s very possible you won’t get back your data.

5 — Restore or Start Fresh

You have the choice of trying to remove the malware from your systems or wiping your systems and reinstalling from safe backups and clean OS and application sources.

Get Rid of the Infection

There are internet sites and software packages that claim to be able to remove ransomware from systems. The No More Ransom! Project is one. Other options can be found, as well.

Whether you can successfully and completely remove an infection is up for debate. A working decryptor doesn’t exist for every known ransomware, and unfortunately it’s true that the newer the ransomware, the more sophisticated it’s likely to be and a perhaps a decryptor has not yet been created.

It’s Best to Wipe All Systems Completely

The surest way of being certain that malware or ransomware has been removed from a system is to do a complete wipe of all storage devices and reinstall everything from scratch. If you’ve been following a sound backup strategy, you should have copies of all your documents, media, and important files right up to the time of the infection.

Be sure to determine as well as you can from file dates and other information what was the date of infection. Consider that an infection might have been dormant in your system for a while before it activated and made significant changes to your system. Identifying and learning about the particular malware that attacked your systems will enable you to understand how that malware operates and what your best strategy should be for restoring your systems.

Backblaze Backup enables you to go back in time and specify the date prior to which you wish to restore files. That date should precede the date your system was infected.

Choose files to restore from earlier date in Backblaze Backup

If you’ve been following a good backup policy with both local and off-site backups, you should be able to use backup copies that you are sure were not connected to your network after the time of attack and hence protected from infection. Backup drives that were completely disconnected should be safe, as are files stored in the cloud, as with Backblaze Backup.

System Restores Are not the Best Strategy for Dealing with Ransomware and Malware

You might be tempted to use a System Restore point to get your system back up and running. System Restore is not a good solution for removing viruses or other malware. Since malicious software is typically buried within all kinds of places on a system, you can’t rely on System Restore being able to root out all parts of the malware. Instead, you should rely on a quality virus scanner that you keep up to date. Also, System Restore does not save old copies of your personal files as part of its snapshot. It also will not delete or replace any of your personal files when you perform a restoration, so don’t count on System Restore as working like a backup. You should always have a good backup procedure in place for all your personal files.

Local backups can be encrypted by ransomware. If your backup solution is local and connected to a computer that gets hit with ransomware, the chances are good your backups will be encrypted along with the rest of your data.

With a good backup solution that is isolated from your local computers, such as Backblaze Backup, you can easily obtain the files you need to get your system working again. You have the flexility to determine which files to restore, from which date you want to restore, and how to obtain the files you need to restore your system.

Choose how to obtain your backup files

You’ll need to reinstall your OS and software applications from the source media or the internet. If you’ve been managing your account and software credentials in a sound manner, you should be able to reactivate accounts for applications that require it.

If you use a password manager, such as 1Password or LastPass, to store your account numbers, usernames, passwords, and other essential information, you can access that information through their web interface or mobile applications. You just need to be sure that you still know your master username and password to obtain access to these programs.

6 — How to Prevent a Ransomware Attack

“Ransomware is at an unprecedented level and requires international investigation.” — European police agency EuroPol

A ransomware attack can be devastating for a home or a business. Valuable and irreplaceable files can be lost and tens or even hundreds of hours of effort can be required to get rid of the infection and get systems working again.

Security experts suggest several precautionary measures for preventing a ransomware attack.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to Patch Early and Patch Often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

It’s clear that the best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. Other than that, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or avoided completely.

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please let us know in the comments.

The post How to Recover From Ransomware appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

BitBarista: a fully autonomous corporation

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/bitbarista/

To some people, the idea of a fully autonomous corporation might seem like the beginning of the end. However, while the BitBarista coffee machine prototype can indeed run itself without any human interference, it also teaches a lesson about ethical responsibility and the value of quality.

BitBarista

Bitcoin coffee machine that engages coffee drinkers in the value chain

Autonomous corporations

If you’ve played Paperclips, you get it. And in case you haven’t played Paperclips, I will only say this: give a robot one job and full control to complete the task, and things may turn in a very unexpected direction. Or, in the case of Rick and Morty, they end in emotional breakdown.

BitBarista

While the fully autonomous BitBarista resides primarily on the drawing board, the team at the University of Edinburgh’s Center for Design Informatics have built a proof-of-concept using a Raspberry Pi and a Delonghi coffee maker.

BitBarista fully autonomous coffee machine using Raspberry Pi

Recently described by the BBC as ‘a coffee machine with a life of its own, dispensing coffee to punters with an ethical preference’, BitBarista works in conjunction with customers to source coffee and complete maintenance tasks in exchange for BitCoin payments. Customers pay for their coffee in BitCoin, and when BitBarista needs maintenance such as cleaning, water replenishment, or restocking, it can pay the same customers for completing those tasks.

BitBarista fully autonomous coffee machine using Raspberry Pi

Moreover, customers choose which coffee beans the machine purchases based on quality, price, environmental impact, and social responsibility. BitBarista also collects and displays data on the most common bean choices.

BitBarista fully autonomous coffee machine using Raspberry Pi

So not only is BitBarista a study into the concept of full autonomy, it’s also a means of data collection about the societal preference of cost compared to social and environmental responsibility.

For more information on BitBarista, visit the Design Informatics and PETRAS websites.

Home-made autonomy

Many people already have store-bought autonomous technology within their homes, such as the Roomba vacuum cleaner or the Nest Smart Thermostat. And within the maker community, many more still have created such devices using sensors, mobile apps, and microprocessors such as the Raspberry Pi. We see examples using the Raspberry Pi on a daily basis, from simple motion-controlled lights and security cameras to advanced devices using temperature sensors and WiFi technology to detect the presence of specific people.

How to Make a Smart Security Camera with a Raspberry Pi Zero

In this video, we use a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a Raspberry Pi camera to make a smart security camera! The camera uses object detection (with OpenCV) to send you an email whenever it sees an intruder. It also runs a webcam so you can view live video from the camera when you are away.

To get started building your own autonomous technology, you could have a look at our resources Laser tripwire and Getting started with picamera. These will help you build a visitor register of everyone who crosses the threshold a specific room.

Or build your own Raspberry Pi Zero W Butter Robot for the lolz.

The post BitBarista: a fully autonomous corporation appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Assassins Creed Origin DRM Hammers Gamers’ CPUs

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/assassins-creed-origin-drm-hammers-gamers-cpus-171030/

There’s a war taking place on the Internet. On one side: gaming companies, publishers, and anti-piracy outfits. On the other: people who varying reasons want to play and/or test games for free.

While these groups are free to battle it out in a manner of their choosing, innocent victims are getting caught up in the crossfire. People who pay for their games without question should be considered part of the solution, not the problem, but whether they like it or not, they’re becoming collateral damage in an increasingly desperate conflict.

For the past several days, some players of the recently-released Assassin’s Creed Origins have emerged as what appear to be examples of this phenomenon.

“What is the normal CPU usage for this game?” a user asked on Steam forums. “I randomly get between 60% to 90% and I’m wondering if this is too high or not.”

The individual reported running an i7 processor, which is no slouch. However, for those running a CPU with less oomph, matters are even worse. Another gamer, running an i5, reported a 100% load on all four cores of his processor, even when lower graphics settings were selected in an effort to free up resources.

“It really doesn’t seem to matter what kind of GPU you are using,” another complained. “The performance issues most people here are complaining about are tied to CPU getting maxed out 100 percent at all times. This results in FPS [frames per second] drops and stutter. As far as I know there is no workaround.”

So what could be causing these problems? Badly configured machines? Terrible coding on the part of the game maker?

According to Voksi, whose ‘Revolt’ team cracked Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus before its commercial release last week, it’s none of these. The entire problem is directly connected to desperate anti-piracy measures.

As widely reported (1,2), the infamous Denuvo anti-piracy technology has been taking a beating lately. Cracking groups are dismantling it in a matter of days, sometimes just hours, making the protection almost pointless. For Assassin’s Creed Origins, however, Ubisoft decided to double up, Voksi says.

“Basically, Ubisoft have implemented VMProtect on top of Denuvo, tanking the game’s performance by 30-40%, demanding that people have a more expensive CPU to play the game properly, only because of the DRM. It’s anti-consumer and a disgusting move,” he told TorrentFreak.

Voksi says he knows all of this because he got an opportunity to review the code after obtaining the binaries for the game. Here’s how it works.

While Denuvo sits underneath doing its thing, it’s clearly vulnerable to piracy, given recent advances in anti-anti-piracy technology. So, in a belt-and-braces approach, Ubisoft opted to deploy another technology – VMProtect – on top.

VMProtect is software that protects other software against reverse engineering and cracking. Although the technicalities are different, its aims appear to be somewhat similar to Denuvo, in that both seek to protect underlying systems from being subverted.

“VMProtect protects code by executing it on a virtual machine with non-standard architecture that makes it extremely difficult to analyze and crack the software. Besides that, VMProtect generates and verifies serial numbers, limits free upgrades and much more,” the company’s marketing reads.

VMProtect and Denuvo didn’t appear to be getting on all that well earlier this year but they later settled their differences. Now their systems are working together, to try and solve the anti-piracy puzzle.

“It seems that Ubisoft decided that Denuvo is not enough to stop pirates in the crucial first days [after release] anymore, so they have implemented an iteration of VMProtect over it,” Voksi explains.

“This is great if you are looking to save your game from those pirates, because this layer of VMProtect will make Denuvo a lot more harder to trace and keygen than without it. But if you are a legit customer, well, it’s not that great for you since this combo could tank your performance by a lot, especially if you are using a low-mid range CPU. That’s why we are seeing 100% CPU usage on 4 core CPUs right now for example.”

The situation is reportedly so bad that some users are getting the dreaded BSOD (blue screen of death) due to their machines overheating after just an hour or two’s play. It remains unclear whether these crashes are indeed due to the VMProtect/Denuvo combination but the perception is that these anti-piracy measures are at the root of users’ CPU utilization problems.

While gaming companies can’t be blamed for wanting to protect their products, there’s no sense in punishing legitimate consumers with an inferior experience. The great irony, of course, is that when Assassin’s Creed gets cracked (if that indeed happens anytime soon), pirates will be the only ones playing it without the hindrance of two lots of anti-piracy tech battling over resources.

The big question now, however, is whether the anti-piracy wall will stand firm. If it does, it raises the bizarre proposition that future gamers might need to buy better hardware in order to accommodate anti-piracy technology.

And people worry about bitcoin mining……?

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Blockchain? It’s All Greek To Me…

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/blockchain-its-all-greek-to-me/

The blockchain hype is huge, the ICO craze (“Coindike”) is generating millions if not billions of “funding” for businesses that claim to revolutionize basically anything.

I’ve been following all of that for a while. I got my first (and only) Bitcoin several years ago, I know how the technology works, I’ve implemented the data structure part, I’ve tried (with varying success) to install an Ethereum wallet since almost as soon as Ethereum appeared, and I’ve read and subscribed to newsletters about dozens of projects and new cryptocurrencies, including storj.io, siacoin, namecoin, etc. I would say I’m at least above average in terms of knowledge on how the cryptocurrencies, blockchain, smart contracts, EVM, proof-of-wahtever operates. And I’ve voiced my concerns about the technology in general.

Now it’s rant time.

I’ve been reading whitepapers of various projects, I’ve been to various meetups and talks, I’ve been reading the professed future applications of the blockchain, and I have to admit – it’s all Greek to me. I have no clue what these people are talking about. And why would all of that make any sense. I still think I’m not clever enough to understand the upcoming revolution, but there’s also a cynical side of me that says “this is all a scam”.

Why “X on the blockchain” somehow makes it magical and superior to a good old centralized solution? No, spare me the cliches about “immutable ledger”, “lack of central authority” and the likes. These are the phrases that a person learns after reading literally one article about blockchain. Have you actually written anything apart from a complex-sounding whitepaper or a hello-world smart contract? Do you really know how the overlay network works, how the economic incentives behind that network work, how all the cryptography works? Maybe there are many, many people that indeed know that and they know it better than me and are thus able to imagine the business case behind “X on the blockchain”.

I can’t. I can’t see why it would be useful to abandon a centralized database that you can query in dozens of ways, test easily and scale trivially in favour of a clunky write-only, low-throughput, hard-to-debug privacy nightmare that is any public blockchain. And how do you imagine to gain a substantial userbase with an ecosystem where the Windows client for the 2nd most popular blockchain (Ethereum) has been so buggy, I (a software engineer) couldn’t get it work and sync the whole chain. And why would building a website ontop of that clunky, user-unfriendly database has any benefit over a centralized competitor?

Do we all believe that somehow the huge datacenters with guarnateed power backups, regular hardware and network checks, regular backups and overall – guaranteed redundancy – will somehow be beaten by a few thousand machines hosting a software that has the sole purpose of guaranteeing integrity? Bitcoin has 10 thousand nodes. Ethereum has 22 thousand nodes. And while these nodes are probably very well GPU-equipped, they aren’t supercomputers. Amazon’s AWS has a million servers. How’s that for comparison. And why would anyone take seriously 22 thousand non-servers. Or even 220 thousand, if we believe in some inevitable growth.

Don’t get me wrong, the technology is really cool. The way tamper-evident data structures (hash chains) were combined with a consensus algorithm, an overlay network and a financial incentive is really awesome. When you add a distributed execution environment, it gets even cooler. But is it suitable for literally everything? I fail to see how.

I’m sure I’m missing something. The fact that many of those whitepapers sound increasingly like Greek to me might hint that I’m just a dumb developer and those enlightened people are really onto something huge. I guess time will tell.

But I happen to be living in a country that saw a transition to capitalism in the years of my childhood. And there were a lot of scams and ponzi schemes that people believed in. Because they didn’t know how capitalism works, how the market works. I’m seeing some similarities – we have no idea how the digital realm really works, and so a lot of scams are bound to appear, until we as a society learn the basics.

Until then – enjoy your ICO, enjoy your tokens, enjoy your big-player competitor with practically the same business model, only on a worse database.

And I hope that after the smoke of hype and fraud clears, we’ll be able to enjoy the true benefits of the blockchain innovation.

The post Blockchain? It’s All Greek To Me… appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Epic Games Sues Man Over Bitcoin Mining Fortnite ‘Cheat’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-man-over-bitcoin-mining-fortnite-cheat-171019/

A few weeks ago, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

The release also attracted attention from thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. In addition, Epic Games went a step further by taking several cheaters to court over copyright infringement.

This week the North Carolina-based game developer continued its a war against cheaters. In a new lawsuit, it targets two other cheaters who promoted their hacks through YouTube videos.

One of the defendants is a Swedish resident, Mr. Josefson. He created a cheat and promoted it in various videos, adding instructions on how to download and install it. In common with the previous defendants, he is being sued for copyright infringement.

The second cheater listed in the complaint, a Russian man named Mr. Yakovenko, is more unique. This man also promoted his Fortnite cheats through a series of YouTube videos, but they weren’t very effective.

When Epic downloaded the ‘cheat’ to see how it works, all they got was a Bitcoin miner.

“Epic downloaded the purported cheat from the links provided in Yakovenko’s YouTube videos. While the ‘cheat’ does not appear to be a functional Fortnite cheat, it functions as a bitcoin miner that infects the user’s computer with a virus that causes the user’s computer to mine bitcoin for the benefit of an unknown third party,” the complaint reads.

Epic ‘cheat’

Despite the non-working cheat, Epic Games maintains that Yakovenko created a cheat for Fortnite’s Battle Royale game mode, pointing to a YouTube video he posted last month.

“The First Yakovenko video and associated post contained instructions on how to download and install the cheat and showed full screen gameplay using the purported cheat,” the complaint reads.

All the videos have since been removed following takedown notices from Epic. Through the lawsuit, the game developer now hopes to get compensation for the damages it suffered.

In addition to the copyright infringement claims the two men are also accused of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

There’s little doubt that Epic Games is doing its best to hold cheaters accountable. However, the problem is not easy to contain. A simple search for Fortnite Hack or Fortnite Cheat still yields tens of thousands of results, with new videos being added continuously.

A copy of the full complaint against Josefson and Yakovenko is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Sean Hodgins’ Haunted Jack in the Box

Post Syndicated from Janina Ander original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/sean-hodgins-haunted-jack-box/

After making a delightful Bitcoin lottery using a Raspberry Pi, Sean Hodgins brings us more Pi-powered goodness in time for every maker’s favourite holiday: Easter! Just kidding, it’s Halloween. Check out his hair-raising new build, the Haunted Jack in the Box.

Haunted Jack in the Box – DIY Raspberry Pi Project

This project uses a raspberry pi and face detection using the pi camera to determine when someone is looking at it. Plenty of opportunities to scare people with it. You can make your own!

Haunted jack-in-the-box?

Imagine yourself wandering around a dimly lit house. Your eyes idly scan a shelf. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a twangy melody! What was that? You take a closer look…there seems to be a box in jolly colours…with a handle that’s spinning by itself?!

Sidling up to Sean Hodgins' Haunted Jack in the Box

What’s…going on?

You freeze, unable to peel your eyes away, and BAM!, out pops a maniacally grinning clown. You promptly pee yourself. Happy Halloween, courtesy of Sean Hodgins.

Clip of Sean Hodgins' Haunted Jack in the Box

Eerie disembodied voice: You’re welco-o-o-ome!

How has Sean built this?

Sean purchased a jack-in-the-box toy and replaced its bottom side with one that would hold the necessary electronic components. He 3D-printed this part, but says you could also just build it by hand.

The bottom of the box houses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and a servomotor which can turn the windup handle. There’s also a magnetic reed switch which helps the Pi decide when to trigger the Jack. Sean hooked up the components to the Pi’s GPIO pins, and used an elastic band as a drive belt to connect the pulleys on the motor and the handle.

Film clip showing the inside of Sean Hodgin's Haunted Jack in the Box

Sean explains that he has used a lot of double-sided tape and superglue in this build. The bottom and top are held together with two screws, because, as he describes it, “the Jack coming out is a little violent.”

In addition to his video walk-through, he provides build instructions on Instructables, Hackaday, Hackster, and Imgur — pick your poison. And be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel to see what he comes up with next.

Wait, how does the haunted part work?

But if I explain it, it won’t be scary anymore! OK, fiiiine.

With the help of a a Camera Module and OpenCV, Sean implemented facial recognition: Jack knows when someone is looking at his box, and responds by winding up and popping out.

View of command line output of the Python script for Sean Hodgins' Haunted Jack in the Box

Testing the haunting script

Sean’s Python script is available here, but as he points out, there are many ways in which you could adapt this code, and the build itself, to be even more frightening.

So very haunted

What would you do with this build? Add creepy laughter? Soundbites from It? Lighting effects? Maybe even infrared light and a NoIR Camera Module, so that you can scare people in total darkness? There are so many possibilities for this project — tell us your idea in the comments.

The post Sean Hodgins’ Haunted Jack in the Box appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Popcorn Time Creator Readies BitTorrent & Blockchain-Powered Video Platform

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/popcorn-time-creator-readies-bittorrent-blockchain-powered-youtube-competitor-171012/

Without a doubt, YouTube is one of the most important websites available on the Internet today.

Its massive archive of videos brings pleasure to millions on a daily basis but its centralized nature means that owner Google always exercises control.

Over the years, people have looked to decentralize the YouTube concept and the latest project hoping to shake up the market has a particularly interesting player onboard.

Until 2015, only insiders knew that Argentinian designer Federico Abad was actually ‘Sebastian’, the shadowy figure behind notorious content sharing platform Popcorn Time.

Now he’s part of the team behind Flixxo, a BitTorrent and blockchain-powered startup hoping to wrestle a share of the video market from YouTube. Here’s how the team, which features blockchain startup RSK Labs, hope things will play out.

The Flixxo network will have no centralized storage of data, eliminating the need for expensive hosting along with associated costs. Instead, transfers will take place between peers using BitTorrent, meaning video content will be stored on the machines of Flixxo users. In practice, the content will be downloaded and uploaded in much the same way as users do on The Pirate Bay or indeed Abad’s baby, Popcorn Time.

However, there’s a twist to the system that envisions content creators, content consumers, and network participants (seeders) making revenue from their efforts.

At the heart of the Flixxo system are digital tokens (think virtual currency), called Flixx. These Flixx ‘coins’, which will go on sale in 12 days, can be used to buy access to content. Creators can also opt to pay consumers when those people help to distribute their content to others.

“Free from structural costs, producers can share the earnings from their content with the network that supports them,” the team explains.

“This way you get paid for helping us improve Flixxo, and you earn credits (in the form of digital tokens called Flixx) for watching higher quality content. Having no intermediaries means that the price you pay for watching the content that you actually want to watch is lower and fairer.”

The Flixxo team

In addition to earning tokens from helping to distribute content, people in the Flixxo ecosystem can also earn currency by watching sponsored content, i.e advertisements. While in a traditional system adverts are often considered a nuisance, Flixx tokens have real value, with a promise that users will be able to trade their Flixx not only for videos, but also for tangible and semi-tangible goods.

“Use your Flixx to reward the producers you follow, encouraging them to create more awesome content. Or keep your Flixx in your wallet and use them to buy a movie ticket, a pair of shoes from an online retailer, a chest of coins in your favourite game or even convert them to old-fashioned cash or up-and-coming digital assets, like Bitcoin,” the team explains.

The Flixxo team have big plans. After foundation in early 2016, the second quarter of 2017 saw the completion of a functional alpha release. In a little under two weeks, the project will begin its token generation event, with new offices in Los Angeles planned for the first half of 2018 alongside a premiere of the Flixxo platform.

“A total of 1,000,000,000 (one billion) Flixx tokens will be issued. A maximum of 300,000,000 (three hundred million) tokens will be sold. Some of these tokens (not more than 33% or 100,000,000 Flixx) may be sold with anticipation of the token allocation event to strategic investors,” Flixxo states.

Like all content platforms, Flixxo will live or die by the quality of the content it provides and whether, at least in the first instance, it can persuade people to part with their hard-earned cash. Only time will tell whether its content will be worth a premium over readily accessible YouTube content but with much-reduced costs, it may tempt creators seeking a bigger piece of the pie.

“Flixxo will also educate its community, teaching its users that in this new internet era value can be held and transferred online without intermediaries, a value that can be earned back by participating in a community, by contributing, being rewarded for every single social interaction,” the team explains.

Of course, the elephant in the room is what will happen when people begin sharing copyrighted content via Flixxo. Certainly, the fact that Popcorn Time’s founder is a key player and rival streaming platform Stremio is listed as a partner means that things could get a bit spicy later on.

Nevertheless, the team suggests that piracy and spam content distribution will be limited by mechanisms already built into the system.

“[A]uthors have to time-block tokens in a smart contract (set as a warranty) in order to upload content. This contract will also handle and block their earnings for a certain period of time, so that in the case of a dispute the unfair-uploader may lose those tokens,” they explain.

That being said, Flixxo also says that “there is no way” for third parties to censor content “which means that anyone has the chance of making any piece of media available on the network.” However, Flixxo says it will develop tools for filtering what it describes as “inappropriate content.”

At this point, things start to become a little unclear. On the one hand Flixxo says it could become a “revolutionary tool for uncensorable and untraceable media” yet on the other it says that it’s necessary to ensure that adult content, for example, isn’t seen by kids.

“We know there is a thin line between filtering or curating content and censorship, and it is a fact that we have an open network for everyone to upload any content. However, Flixxo as a platform will apply certain filtering based on clear rules – there should be a behavior-code for uploaders in order to offer the right content to the right user,” Flixxo explains.

To this end, Flixxo says it will deploy a centralized curation function, carried out by 101 delegates elected by the community, which will become progressively decentralized over time.

“This curation will have a cost, paid in Flixx, and will be collected from the warranty blocked by the content uploaders,” they add.

There can be little doubt that if Flixxo begins ‘curating’ unsuitable content, copyright holders will call on it to do the same for their content too. And, if the platform really takes off, 101 curators probably won’t scratch the surface. There’s also the not inconsiderable issue of what might happen to curators’ judgment when they’re incentivized to block curate content.

Finally, for those sick of “not available in your region” messages, there’s good and bad news. Flixxo insists there will be no geo-blocking of content on its part but individual creators will still have that feature available to them, should they choose.

The Flixx whitepaper can be downloaded here (pdf)

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Private Torrent Sites Allow Users to Mine Cryptocurrency for Upload Credit

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/private-torrent-sites-allow-users-to-mine-cryptocurrency-for-upload-credit-171008/

Ever since The Pirate Bay crew added a cryptocurrency miner to their site last month, the debate over user mining has sizzled away in the background.

The basic premise is that a piece of software embedded in a website runs on a user’s machine, utilizing its CPU cycles in order to generate revenue for the site in question. But not everyone likes it.

The main problem has centered around consent. While some sites are giving users the option of whether to be involved or not, others simply run the miner without asking. This week, one site operator suggested to TF that since no one asks whether they can run “shitty” ads on a person’s machine, why should they ask permission to mine?

It’s a controversial point, but it would be hard to find users agreeing on either front. They almost universally insist on consent, wherever possible. That’s why when someone comes up with something innovative to solve a problem, it catches the eye.

Earlier this week a user on Reddit posted a screenshot of a fairly well known private tracker. The site had implemented a mining solution not dissimilar to that appearing on other similar platforms. This one, however, gives the user something back.

Mining for coins – with a twist

First of all, it’s important to note the implementation. The decision to mine is completely under the control of the user, with buttons to start or stop mining. There are even additional controls for how many CPU threads to commit alongside a percentage utilization selector. While still early days, that all sounds pretty fair.

Where this gets even more interesting is how this currency mining affects so-called “upload credit”, an important commodity on a private tracker without which users can be prevented from downloading any content at all.

Very quickly: when BitTorrent users download content, they simultaneously upload to other users too. The idea is that they download X megabytes and upload the same number (at least) to other users, to ensure that everyone in a torrent swarm (a number of users sharing together) gets a piece of the action, aka the content in question.

The amount of content downloaded and uploaded on a private tracker is monitored and documented by the site. If a user has 1TB downloaded and 2TB uploaded, for example, he has 1TB in credit. In basic terms, this means he can download at least 1TB of additional content before he goes into deficit, a position undesirable on a private tracker.

Now, getting more “upload credit” can be as simple as uploading more, but some users find that difficult, either due to the way a tracker’s economy works or simply due to not having resources. If this is the case, some sites allow people to donate real money to receive “upload credit”. On the tracker highlighted in the mining example above, however, it’s possible to virtually ‘trade-in’ some of the mining effort instead.

Tracker politics aside (some people believe this is simply a cash grab opportunity), from a technical standpoint the prospect is quite intriguing.

In a way, the current private tracker system allows users to “mine” upload credits by donating bandwidth to other users of the site. Now they have the opportunity to mine an actual cryptocurrency on the tracker and have some of it converted back into the tracker’s native ‘currency’ – upload credit – which can only be ‘spent’ on the site. Meanwhile, the site’s operator can make a few bucks towards site maintenance.

Another example showing how innovative these mining implementations can be was posted by a member of a second private tracker. Although it’s unclear whether mining is forced or optional, there appears to be complete transparency for the benefit of the user.

The mining ‘Top 10’ on a private tracker

In addition to displaying the total number of users mining and the hashes solved per second, the site publishes a ‘Top 10’ list of users mining the most currently, and overall. Again, some people might not like the concept of users mining at all, but psychologically this is a particularly clever implementation.

Utilizing the desire of many private tracker users to be recognizable among their peers due to their contribution to the platform, the charts give a user a measurable status in the community, at least among those who care about such things. Previously these charts would list top uploaders of content but the addition of a ‘Top miner’ category certainly adds some additional spice to the mix.

Mining is a controversial topic which isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. But, for all its faults, it’s still a way for sites to generate revenue, away from the pitfalls of increasingly hostile and easy-to-trace alternative payment systems. The Pirate Bay may have set the cat among the pigeons last month, but it also gave the old gray matter a boost too.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Cloudflare Bans Sites For Using Cryptocurrency Miners

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-bans-sites-for-using-cryptocurrency-miners-171004/

After years of accepting donations via Bitcoin, last month various ‘pirate’ sites began to generate digital currency revenues in a brand new way.

It all began with The Pirate Bay, which quietly added a Javascript cryptocurrency miner to its main site, something that first manifested itself as a large spike in CPU utilization on the machines of visitors.

The stealth addition to the platform, which its operators later described as a test, was extremely controversial. While many thought of the miner as a cool and innovative way to generate revenue in a secure fashion, a vocal majority expressed a preference for permission being requested first, in case they didn’t want to participate in the program.

Over the past couple of weeks, several other sites have added similar miners, some which ask permission to run and others that do not. While the former probably aren’t considered problematic, the latter are now being viewed as a serious problem by an unexpected player in the ecosystem.

TorrentFreak has learned that popular CDN service Cloudflare, which is often criticized for not being harsh enough on ‘pirate’ sites, is actively suspending the accounts of sites that deploy cryptocurrency miners on their platforms.

“Cloudflare kicked us from their service for using a Coinhive miner,” the operator of ProxyBunker.online informed TF this morning.

ProxyBunker is a site that that links to several other domains that offer unofficial proxy services for the likes of The Pirate Bay, RARBG, KickassTorrents, Torrentz2, and dozens of other sites. It first tested a miner for four days starting September 23. Official implementation began October 1 but was ended last evening, abruptly.

“Late last night, all our domains got deleted off Cloudflare without warning so I emailed Cloudflare to ask what was going on,” the operator explained.

Bye bye

As the email above shows, Cloudflare cited only a “possible” terms of service violation. Further clarification was needed to get to the root of the problem.

So, just a few minutes later, the site operator contacted Cloudflare, acknowledging the suspension but pointing out that the notification email was somewhat vague and didn’t give a reason for the violation. A follow-up email from Cloudflare certainly put some meat on the bones.

“Multiple domains in your account were injecting Coinhive mining code without
notifying users and without any option to disabling [sic] the mining,” wrote Justin Paine, Head of Trust & Safety at Cloudflare.

“We consider this to be malware, and as such the account was suspended, and all domains removed from Cloudflare.”

Cloudflare: Unannounced miners are malware

ProxyBunker’s operator wrote back to Cloudflare explaining that the Coinhive miner had been running on his domains but that his main domain had a way of disabling mining, as per new code made available from Coinhive.

“We were running the miner on our proxybunker.online domain using Coinhive’s new Javacode Simple Miner UI that lets the user stop the miner at anytime and set the CPU speed it mines at,” he told TF.

Nevertheless, some element of the configuration appears to have fallen short of Cloudflare’s standards. So, shortly after Cloudflare’s explanation, the site operator asked if he could be reinstated if he completely removed the miner from his site. The response was a ‘yes’ but with a stern caveat attached.

“We will remove the account suspension, however do note you’ll need to re-sign up the domains as they were removed as a result of the account suspension. Please note — if we discover similar activity again the domains and account will be permanently blocked,” Cloudflare’s Justin warned.

ProxyBunker’s operator says that while he sees the value in cryptocurrency miners, he can understand why people might be opposed to them too. That being said, he would appreciate it if services like Cloudflare published clear guidelines on what is and is not acceptable.

“We do understand that most users will not like the miner using up a bit of their CPU but we do see the full potential as a new revenue stream,” he explains.

“I think third-party services need to post clear information that they’re not allowed on their services, if that’s the case.”

At time of publication, Cloudflare had not responded to TorrentFreak’s requests for comment.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Can an Army of Bitcoin “Bounty Hunters” Deter Pirates?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/can-an-army-of-bitcoin-bounty-hunters-deter-pirates-170917/

When we first heard of the idea to use Bitcoin bounties to track down pirated content online, we scratched our heads.

Snitching on copyright infringers is not a new concept, but the idea of instant cash rewards though cryptocurrency was quite novel.

In theory, it’s pretty straightforward. Content producers can add a unique identifying watermark into movies, eBooks, or other digital files before they’re circulated. When these somehow leak to the public, the bounty hunters use the watermark to claim their Bitcoin, alerting the owner in the process.

This helps to spot leaks early on, even on networks where automated tools don’t have access, and identify the source at the same time.

Two years have passed and it looks like the idea was no fluke. Custos, the South African company that owns the technology, has various copyright holders on board and recently announced a new partnership with book publisher Erudition Digital.

With help from anti-piracy outfit Digimarc, the companies will add identifying watermarks to eBook releases, counting on the bounty hunters to keep an eye out for leaks. These bounty hunters don’t have to be anti-piracy experts. On the contrary, pirates are more than welcome to help out.

“The Custos approach is revolutionary in that it attacks the economy of piracy by targeting uploaders rather than downloaders, turning downloaders into an early detection network,” the companies announced a few days ago.

“The result is pirates turn on one another, sowing seeds of distrust amongst their communities. As a result, the Custos system is capable of penetrating hard-to-reach places such as the dark web, peer-to-peer networks, and even email.”



Devon Weston, Director of Market Development for Digimarc Guardian, believes that this approach is the next level in anti-piracy efforts. It complements the automated detection tools that have been available in the past by providing access to hard-to-reach places.

“Together, this suite of products represents the next generation in technical measures against eBook piracy,” Weston commented on the partnership.

TorrentFreak reached out to Custos COO Fred Lutz to find out what progress the company has made in recent years. We were informed that they have been protecting thousands of copies every month, ranging from pre-release movie content to eBooks.

At the moment the company works with a selected group of “bounty hunters,” but they plan to open the extraction tool to the public in the near future, so everyone can join in.

“So far we have carefully seeded the free bounty extractor tool in relevant communities with great success. However, in the next phase, we will open the bounty hunting to the general public. We are just careful not to grow the bounty hunting community faster than the number of bounties in the wild require,” Lutz tells us.

The Bitcoin bounties themselves vary in size based on the specific use case. For a movie screener, they are typically anything between $10 and $50. However, for the most sensitive content, they can be $100 or more.

“We can also adjust the bounty over time based on the customer’s needs. A low-quality screener that was very sensitive prior to cinematic release does not require as large a bounty after cam-rips becomes available,” Lutz notes.

Thus far, roughly 50 Bitcoin bounties have been claimed. Some of these were planted by Custos themselves, as an incentive for the bounty hunters. Not a very high number, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not working.

“While this number might seem a bit small compared to the number of copies we protect, our aim is first and foremost not to detect leaks, but to pose a credible threat of quick detection and being caught.”

People who receive content protected by Custos are made aware of the watermarks, which may make them think twice about sharing it. If that’s the case, then it’s having effect without any bounties being claimed.

The question remains how many people will actively help to spot bounties. The success of the system largely depends on volunteers, and not all pirates are eager to rat on the people that provide free content.

On the other hand, there’s also room to abuse the system. In theory, people could claim the bounties on their own eBooks and claim that they’ve lost their e-reader. That would be fraud, of course, but since the bounties are in Bitcoin this isn’t easy to prove.

That brings us to the final question. What happens of a claimed bounty identifies a leaker? Custos admits that this alone isn’t enough evidence to pursue a legal case, but the measures that are taken in response are up to the copyright holders.

“A claim of a bounty is never a sufficient legal proof of piracy, instead, it is an invaluable first piece of evidence on which a legal case could be built if the client so requires. Legal prosecution is definitely not always the best approach to dealing with leaks,” Lutz says.

Time will tell if the Bitcoin bounty approach works…

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

The Pirate Bay Website Runs a Cryptocurrency Miner

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/the-pirate-bay-website-runs-a-cryptocurrency-miner-170916/

Four years ago many popular torrent sites added an option to donate via Bitcoin. The Pirate Bay was one of the first to jump on board and still lists its address on the website.

While there’s nothing wrong with using Bitcoin as a donation tool, adding a Javascript cryptocurrency miner to a site is of a totally different order.

A few hours ago many Pirate Bay users began noticing that their CPU usage increased dramatically when they browsed certain Pirate Bay pages. Upon closer inspection, this spike appears to have been caused by a Bitcoin miner embedded on the site.

The code in question is tucked away in the site’s footer and uses a miner provided by Coinhive. This service offers site owners the option to convert the CPU power of users into Monero coins.

The miner does indeed appear to increase CPU usage quite a bit. It is throttled at different rates (we’ve seen both 0.6 and 0.8) but the increase in resources is immediately noticeable.

The miner is not enabled site-wide. When we checked, it appeared in the search results and category listings, but not on the homepage or individual torrent pages.

There has been no official comment from the site operators on the issue (update, see below), but many users have complained about it. In the official site forums, TPB supermoderator Sid is clearly not in agreement with the site’s latest addition.

“That really is serious, so hopefully we can get some action on it quickly. And perhaps get some attention for the uploading and commenting bugs while they’re at it,” Sid writes.

Like many others, he also points out that blocking or disabling Javascript can stop the automatic mining. This can be done via browser settings or through script blocker addons such as NoScript and ScriptBlock. Alternatively, people can block the miner URL with an ad-blocker.

Whether the miner is a new and permanent tool, or perhaps triggered by an advertiser, is unknown at the point. When we hear more this article will be updated accordingly.

Update: We were told that the miner is being tested for a short period as a new way to generate revenue. This could eventually replace the ads on the site. More info may be revealed later.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.