Tag Archives: cci

Have Friends Who Don’t Back Up? Share This Post!

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/beginner-guide-to-computer-backup/

pointing out how to backup a computer

We’ve all been there.

A friend or family member comes to you knowing you’re a knowledgeable computer user and tells you that he has lost all the data on his computer.

You say, “Sure, I’ll help you get your computer working again. We’ll just restore your backup to a new drive or a new computer.”

Your friend looks at his feet and says, “I didn’t have a backup.”

You have to tell your friend that it’s very possible that without a backup that data is lost forever. It’s too late for a lecture about how he should have made regular backups of his computer. Your friend just wants his data back and he’s looking to you to help him.

You wish you could help. You realize that the time you could have helped was before the loss happened; when you could have helped your friend start making regular backups.

Yes, we’ve all been there. In fact, it’s how Backblaze got started.

You Can Be a Hero to a Friend by Sharing This Post

If you share this post with a friend or family member, you could avoid the situation where your friend loses his data and you wish you could help but can’t.

The following information will help your friend get started backing up in the easiest way possible — no fuss, no decisions, and no buying storage drives or plugging in cables.

The guide begins here:

Getting Started Backing Up

Your friend or family member has shared this guide with you because he or she believes you might benefit from backing up your computer. Don’t consider this an intervention, just a friendly tip that will save you lots of headaches, sorrow, and maybe money. With the right backup solution, it’s easy to protect your data against accidental deletion, theft, natural disaster, or malware, including ransomware.

Your friend was smart to send this to you, which probably means that you’re a smart person as well, so we’ll get right to the point. You likely know you should be backing up, but like all of us, don’t always get around to everything we should be doing.

You need a backup solution that is:

  1. Affordable
  2. Easy
  3. Never runs out of storage space
  4. Backs up everything automatically
  5. Restores files easily

Why Cloud Backup is the Best Solution For You

Backblaze Personal Backup was created for everyone who knows they should back up, but doesn’t. It backs up to the cloud, meaning that your data is protected in our secure data centers. A simple installation gets you started immediately, with no decisions about what or where to back up. It just works. And it’s just $5 a month to back up everything. Other services might limit the amount of data, the types of files, or both. With Backblaze, there’s no limit on the amount of data you can back up from your computer.

You can get started immediately with a free 15 day trial of Backblaze Unlimited Backup. In fewer than 5 minutes you’ll be all set.

Congratulations, You’re Done!

You can now celebrate. Your data is backed up and secure.

That’s it, and all you really need to get started backing up. We’ve included more details below, but frankly, the above is all you need to be safely and securely backed up.

You can tell the person who sent this to you that you’re now safely backed up and have moved on to other things, like what advice you can give them to help improve their life. Seriously, you might want to buy the person who sent this to you a coffee or another treat. They deserve it.

Here’s more information if you’d like to learn more about backing up.

Share or Email This Post to a Friend

Do your friend and yourself a favor and share this post. On the left side of the page (or at the bottom of the post) are buttons you can use to share this post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, or to email it directly to your friend. It will take just a few seconds and could save your friend’s data.

It could also save you from having to give someone the bad news that her finances, photos, manuscript, or other work are gone forever. That would be nice.

But your real reward will be in knowing you did the right thing.

Tell us in the comments how it went. We’d like to hear.

The post Have Friends Who Don’t Back Up? Share This Post! appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Simplify Your Jenkins Builds with AWS CodeBuild

Post Syndicated from Paul Roberts original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/simplify-your-jenkins-builds-with-aws-codebuild/

Jeff Bezos famously said, “There’s a lot of undifferentiated heavy lifting that stands between your idea and that success.” He went on to say, “…70% of your time, energy, and dollars go into the undifferentiated heavy lifting and only 30% of your energy, time, and dollars gets to go into the core kernel of your idea.”

If you subscribe to this maxim, you should not be spending valuable time focusing on operational issues related to maintaining the Jenkins build infrastructure. Companies such as Riot Games have over 1.25 million builds per year and have written several lengthy blog posts about their experiences designing a complex, custom Docker-powered Jenkins build farm. Dealing with Jenkins slaves at scale is a job in itself and Riot has engineers focused on managing the build infrastructure.

Typical Jenkins Build Farm

 

As with all technology, the Jenkins build farm architectures have evolved. Today, instead of manually building your own container infrastructure, there are Jenkins Docker plugins available to help reduce the operational burden of maintaining these environments. There is also a community-contributed Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS) plugin that helps remove some of the overhead, but you still need to configure and manage the overall Amazon ECS environment.

There are various ways to create and manage your Jenkins build farm, but there has to be a way that significantly reduces your operational overhead.

Introducing AWS CodeBuild

AWS CodeBuild is a fully managed build service that removes the undifferentiated heavy lifting of provisioning, managing, and scaling your own build servers. With CodeBuild, there is no software to install, patch, or update. CodeBuild scales up automatically to meet the needs of your development teams. In addition, CodeBuild is an on-demand service where you pay as you go. You are charged based only on the number of minutes it takes to complete your build.

One AWS customer, Recruiterbox, helps companies hire simply and predictably through their software platform. Two years ago, they began feeling the operational pain of maintaining their own Jenkins build farms. They briefly considered moving to Amazon ECS, but chose an even easier path forward instead. Recuiterbox transitioned to using Jenkins with CodeBuild and are very happy with the results. You can read more about their journey here.

Solution Overview: Jenkins and CodeBuild

To remove the heavy lifting from managing your Jenkins build farm, AWS has developed a Jenkins AWS CodeBuild plugin. After the plugin has been enabled, a developer can configure a Jenkins project to pick up new commits from their chosen source code repository and automatically run the associated builds. After the build is successful, it will create an artifact that is stored inside an S3 bucket that you have configured. If an error is detected somewhere, CodeBuild will capture the output and send it to Amazon CloudWatch logs. In addition to storing the logs on CloudWatch, Jenkins also captures the error so you do not have to go hunting for log files for your build.

 

AWS CodeBuild with Jenkins Plugin

 

The following example uses AWS CodeCommit (Git) as the source control management (SCM) and Amazon S3 for build artifact storage. Logs are stored in CloudWatch. A development pipeline that uses Jenkins with CodeBuild plugin architecture looks something like this:

 

AWS CodeBuild Diagram

Initial Solution Setup

To keep this blog post succinct, I assume that you are using the following components on AWS already and have applied the appropriate IAM policies:

·         AWS CodeCommit repo.

·         Amazon S3 bucket for CodeBuild artifacts.

·         SNS notification for text messaging of the Jenkins admin password.

·         IAM user’s key and secret.

·         A role that has a policy with these permissions. Be sure to edit the ARNs with your region, account, and resource name. Use this role in the AWS CloudFormation template referred to later in this post.

 

Jenkins Installation with CodeBuild Plugin Enabled

To make the integration with Jenkins as frictionless as possible, I have created an AWS CloudFormation template here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/proberts-public/jenkins.yaml. Download the template, sign in the AWS CloudFormation console, and then use the template to create a stack.

 

CloudFormation Inputs

Jenkins Project Configuration

After the stack is complete, log in to the Jenkins EC2 instance using the user name “admin” and the password sent to your mobile device. Now that you have logged in to Jenkins, you need to create your first project. Start with a Freestyle project and configure the parameters based on your CodeBuild and CodeCommit settings.

 

AWS CodeBuild Plugin Configuration in Jenkins

 

Additional Jenkins AWS CodeBuild Plugin Configuration

 

After you have configured the Jenkins project appropriately you should be able to check your build status on the Jenkins polling log under your project settings:

 

Jenkins Polling Log

 

Now that Jenkins is polling CodeCommit, you can check the CodeBuild dashboard under your Jenkins project to confirm your build was successful:

Jenkins AWS CodeBuild Dashboard

Wrapping Up

In a matter of minutes, you have been able to provision Jenkins with the AWS CodeBuild plugin. This will greatly simplify your build infrastructure management. Now kick back and relax while CodeBuild does all the heavy lifting!


About the Author

Paul Roberts is a Strategic Solutions Architect for Amazon Web Services. When he is not working on Serverless, DevOps, or Artificial Intelligence, he is often found in Lake Tahoe exploring the various mountain ranges with his family.

New Network Load Balancer – Effortless Scaling to Millions of Requests per Second

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-network-load-balancer-effortless-scaling-to-millions-of-requests-per-second/

Elastic Load Balancing (ELB)) has been an important part of AWS since 2009, when it was launched as part of a three-pack that also included Auto Scaling and Amazon CloudWatch. Since that time we have added many features, and also introduced the Application Load Balancer. Designed to support application-level, content-based routing to applications that run in containers, Application Load Balancers pair well with microservices, streaming, and real-time workloads.

Over the years, our customers have used ELB to support web sites and applications that run at almost any scale — from simple sites running on a T2 instance or two, all the way up to complex applications that run on large fleets of higher-end instances and handle massive amounts of traffic. Behind the scenes, ELB monitors traffic and automatically scales to meet demand. This process, which includes a generous buffer of headroom, has become quicker and more responsive over the years and works well even for our customers who use ELB to support live broadcasts, “flash” sales, and holidays. However, in some situations such as instantaneous fail-over between regions, or extremely spiky workloads, we have worked with our customers to pre-provision ELBs in anticipation of a traffic surge.

New Network Load Balancer
Today we are introducing the new Network Load Balancer (NLB). It is designed to handle tens of millions of requests per second while maintaining high throughput at ultra low latency, with no effort on your part. The Network Load Balancer is API-compatible with the Application Load Balancer, including full programmatic control of Target Groups and Targets. Here are some of the most important features:

Static IP Addresses – Each Network Load Balancer provides a single IP address for each VPC subnet in its purview. If you have targets in a subnet in us-west-2a and other targets in a subnet in us-west-2c, NLB will create and manage two IP addresses (one per subnet); connections to that IP address will spread traffic across the instances in the subnet. You can also specify an existing Elastic IP for each subnet for even greater control. With full control over your IP addresses, Network Load Balancer can be used in situations where IP addresses need to be hard-coded into DNS records, customer firewall rules, and so forth.

Zonality – The IP-per-subnet feature reduces latency with improved performance, improves availability through isolation and fault tolerance and makes the use of Network Load Balancers transparent to your client applications. Network Load Balancers also attempt to route a series of requests from a particular source to targets in a single subnet while still allowing automatic failover.

Source Address Preservation – With Network Load Balancer, the original source IP address and source ports for the incoming connections remain unmodified, so application software need not support X-Forwarded-For, proxy protocol, or other workarounds. This also means that normal firewall rules, including VPC Security Groups, can be used on targets.

Long-running Connections – NLB handles connections with built-in fault tolerance, and can handle connections that are open for months or years, making them a great fit for IoT, gaming, and messaging applications.

Failover – Powered by Route 53 health checks, NLB supports failover between IP addresses within and across regions.

Creating a Network Load Balancer
I can create a Network Load Balancer opening up the EC2 Console, selecting Load Balancers, and clicking on Create Load Balancer:

I choose Network Load Balancer and click on Create, then enter the details. I can choose an Elastic IP address for each subnet in the target VPC and I can tag the Network Load Balancer:

Then I click on Configure Routing and create a new target group. I enter a name, and then choose the protocol and port. I can also set up health checks that go to the traffic port or to the alternate of my choice:

Then I click on Register Targets and the EC2 instances that will receive traffic, and click on Add to registered:

I make sure that everything looks good and then click on Create:

The state of my new Load Balancer is provisioning, switching to active within a minute or so:

For testing purposes, I simply grab the DNS name of the Load Balancer from the console (in practice I would use Amazon Route 53 and a more friendly name):

Then I sent it a ton of traffic (I intended to let it run for just a second or two but got distracted and it created a huge number of processes, so this was a happy accident):

$ while true;
> do
>   wget http://nlb-1-6386cc6bf24701af.elb.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/phpinfo2.php &
> done

A more disciplined test would use a tool like Bees with Machine Guns, of course!

I took a quick break to let some traffic flow and then checked the CloudWatch metrics for my Load Balancer, finding that it was able to handle the sudden onslaught of traffic with ease:

I also looked at my EC2 instances to see how they were faring under the load (really well, it turns out):

It turns out that my colleagues did run a more disciplined test than I did. They set up a Network Load Balancer and backed it with an Auto Scaled fleet of EC2 instances. They set up a second fleet composed of hundreds of EC2 instances, each running Bees with Machine Guns and configured to generate traffic with highly variable request and response sizes. Beginning at 1.5 million requests per second, they quickly turned the dial all the way up, reaching over 3 million requests per second and 30 Gbps of aggregate bandwidth before maxing out their test resources.

Choosing a Load Balancer
As always, you should consider the needs of your application when you choose a load balancer. Here are some guidelines:

Network Load Balancer (NLB) – Ideal for load balancing of TCP traffic, NLB is capable of handling millions of requests per second while maintaining ultra-low latencies. NLB is optimized to handle sudden and volatile traffic patterns while using a single static IP address per Availability Zone.

Application Load Balancer (ALB) – Ideal for advanced load balancing of HTTP and HTTPS traffic, ALB provides advanced request routing that supports modern application architectures, including microservices and container-based applications.

Classic Load Balancer (CLB) – Ideal for applications that were built within the EC2-Classic network.

For a side-by-side feature comparison, see the Elastic Load Balancer Details table.

If you are currently using a Classic Load Balancer and would like to migrate to a Network Load Balancer, take a look at our new Load Balancer Copy Utility. This Python tool will help you to create a Network Load Balancer with the same configuration as an existing Classic Load Balancer. It can also register your existing EC2 instances with the new load balancer.

Pricing & Availability
Like the Application Load Balancer, pricing is based on Load Balancer Capacity Units, or LCUs. Billing is $0.006 per LCU, based on the highest value seen across the following dimensions:

  • Bandwidth – 1 GB per LCU.
  • New Connections – 800 per LCU.
  • Active Connections – 100,000 per LCU.

Most applications are bandwidth-bound and should see a cost reduction (for load balancing) of about 25% when compared to Application or Classic Load Balancers.

Network Load Balancers are available today in all AWS commercial regions except China (Beijing), supported by AWS CloudFormation, Auto Scaling, and Amazon ECS.

Jeff;

 

Game of Thrones Piracy Peaks After Season Finale

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-piracy-peaks-after-season-finale-170828/

The seventh season of Game of Thrones has been the most-viewed thus far, with record-breaking TV ratings.

Traditionally, the season finale is among the most-viewed episodes of the season. This is true on official channels, but also on pirate sites.

Despite numerous legal options, Game of Thrones remains extremely popular among pirates. Minutes after the official broadcast ended last night people flocked to various torrent and streaming sites, to watch it for free.

Looking at the torrent download numbers we see that the latest episode is topping all previous ones of this season. At the time of writing, more than 400,000 people were actively sharing one of the many available torrents.

Some of the more popular GoT torrents

While the demand is significant, there is no all time “swarm record” as we saw two years ago.

In part, this may be due to improved legal options, but the recent rise of pirate streaming sites and services are also ‘stealing’ traffic. While there is no hard data available, millions of people now use streaming sites and services to watch pirated episodes of Game of Thrones.

Record or not, there is little doubt that Game of Thrones will end up being the most pirated show of the year once again. That will be the sixth year in a row, which is unprecedented.

In recent years, HBO has tried to contain piracy by sending DMCA takedown notices to pirate sites. In addition, the company also warned tens of thousands of BitTorrent downloaders directly. Nonetheless, many people still find their way to this unofficial market.

While HBO has grown used to mass-scale piracy in recent years, it encountered some other major setbacks this season. Hackers leaked preliminary outlines of various episodes before they aired. The same hackers also threatened to release the season finale, but that never happened.

There were two episode leaks this year, but these were unrelated to the aforementioned. The fourth episode leaked through the Indian media processing company Prime Focus Technologies, which resulted in several arrests. Two weeks later, HBO Spain accidentally made the sixth episode public days in advance, which spread online soon after.

On the upside. Piracy aside, the interest of the media and millions of ‘legal’ viewers appears to be on a high as well, so there’s certainly something left to celebrate.

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

ROI is not a cybersecurity concept

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/08/roi-is-not-cybersecurity-concept.html

In the cybersecurity community, much time is spent trying to speak the language of business, in order to communicate to business leaders our problems. One way we do this is trying to adapt the concept of “return on investment” or “ROI” to explain why they need to spend more money. Stop doing this. It’s nonsense. ROI is a concept pushed by vendors in order to justify why you should pay money for their snake oil security products. Don’t play the vendor’s game.

The correct concept is simply “risk analysis”. Here’s how it works.

List out all the risks. For each risk, calculate:

  • How often it occurs.
  • How much damage it does.
  • How to mitigate it.
  • How effective the mitigation is (reduces chance and/or cost).
  • How much the mitigation costs.

If you have risk of something that’ll happen once-per-day on average, costing $1000 each time, then a mitigation costing $500/day that reduces likelihood to once-per-week is a clear win for investment.

Now, ROI should in theory fit directly into this model. If you are paying $500/day to reduce that risk, I could use ROI to show you hypothetical products that will …

  • …reduce the remaining risk to once-per-month for an additional $10/day.
  • …replace that $500/day mitigation with a $400/day mitigation.

But this is never done. Companies don’t have a sophisticated enough risk matrix in order to plug in some ROI numbers to reduce cost/risk. Instead, ROI is a calculation is done standalone by a vendor pimping product, or a security engineer building empires within the company.

If you haven’t done risk analysis to begin with (and almost none of you have), then ROI calculations are pointless.

But there are further problems. This is risk analysis as done in industries like oil and gas, which have inanimate risk. Almost all their risks are due to accidental failures, like in the Deep Water Horizon incident. In our industry, cybersecurity, risks are animate — by hackers. Our risk models are based on trying to guess what hackers might do.

An example of this problem is when our drug company jacks up the price of an HIV drug, Anonymous hackers will break in and dump all our financial data, and our CFO will go to jail. A lot of our risks come now from the technical side, but the whims and fads of the hacker community.

Another example is when some Google researcher finds a vuln in WordPress, and our website gets hacked by that three months from now. We have to forecast not only what hackers can do now, but what they might be able to do in the future.

Finally, there is this problem with cybersecurity that we really can’t distinguish between pesky and existential threats. Take ransomware. A lot of large organizations have just gotten accustomed to just wiping a few worker’s machines every day and restoring from backups. It’s a small, pesky problem of little consequence. Then one day a ransomware gets domain admin privileges and takes down the entire business for several weeks, as happened after #nPetya. Inevitably our risk models always come down on the high side of estimates, with us claiming that all threats are existential, when in fact, most companies continue to survive major breaches.

These difficulties with risk analysis leads us to punting on the problem altogether, but that’s not the right answer. No matter how faulty our risk analysis is, we still have to go through the exercise.

One model of how to do this calculation is architecture. We know we need a certain number of toilets per building, even without doing ROI on the value of such toilets. The same is true for a lot of security engineering. We know we need firewalls, encryption, and OWASP hardening, even without specifically doing a calculation. Passwords and session cookies need to go across SSL. That’s the starting point from which we start to analysis risks and mitigations — what we need beyond SSL, for example.

So stop using “ROI”, or worse, the abomination “ROSI”. Start doing risk analysis.

Growing up alongside tech

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/08/09/growing-up-alongside-tech/

IndustrialRobot asks… or, uh, asked last month:

industrialrobot: How has your views on tech changed as you’ve got older?

This is so open-ended that it’s actually stumped me for a solid month. I’ve had a surprisingly hard time figuring out where to even start.


It’s not that my views of tech have changed too much — it’s that they’ve changed very gradually. Teasing out and explaining any one particular change is tricky when it happened invisibly over the course of 10+ years.

I think a better framework for this is to consider how my relationship to tech has changed. It’s gone through three pretty distinct phases, each of which has strongly colored how I feel and talk about technology.

Act I

In which I start from nothing.

Nothing is an interesting starting point. You only really get to start there once.

Learning something on my own as a kid was something of a magical experience, in a way that I don’t think I could replicate as an adult. I liked computers; I liked toying with computers; so I did that.

I don’t know how universal this is, but when I was a kid, I couldn’t even conceive of how incredible things were made. Buildings? Cars? Paintings? Operating systems? Where does any of that come from? Obviously someone made them, but it’s not the sort of philosophical point I lingered on when I was 10, so in the back of my head they basically just appeared fully-formed from the æther.

That meant that when I started trying out programming, I had no aspirations. I couldn’t imagine how far I would go, because all the examples of how far I would go were completely disconnected from any idea of human achievement. I started out with BASIC on a toy computer; how could I possibly envision a connection between that and something like a mainstream video game? Every new thing felt like a new form of magic, so I couldn’t conceive that I was even in the same ballpark as whatever process produced real software. (Even seeing the source code for GORILLAS.BAS, it didn’t quite click. I didn’t think to try reading any of it until years after I’d first encountered the game.)

This isn’t to say I didn’t have goals. I invented goals constantly, as I’ve always done; as soon as I learned about a new thing, I’d imagine some ways to use it, then try to build them. I produced a lot of little weird goofy toys, some of which entertained my tiny friend group for a couple days, some of which never saw the light of day. But none of it felt like steps along the way to some mountain peak of mastery, because I didn’t realize the mountain peak was even a place that could be gone to. It was pure, unadulterated (!) playing.

I contrast this to my art career, which started only a couple years ago. I was already in my late 20s, so I’d already spend decades seeing a very broad spectrum of art: everything from quick sketches up to painted masterpieces. And I’d seen the people who create that art, sometimes seen them create it in real-time. I’m even in a relationship with one of them! And of course I’d already had the experience of advancing through tech stuff and discovering first-hand that even the most amazing software is still just code someone wrote.

So from the very beginning, from the moment I touched pencil to paper, I knew the possibilities. I knew that the goddamn Sistine Chapel was something I could learn to do, if I were willing to put enough time in — and I knew that I’m not, so I’d have to settle somewhere a ways before that. I knew that I’d have to put an awful lot of work in before I’d be producing anything very impressive.

I did it anyway (though perhaps waited longer than necessary to start), but those aren’t things I can un-know, and so I can never truly explore art from a place of pure ignorance. On the other hand, I’ve probably learned to draw much more quickly and efficiently than if I’d done it as a kid, precisely because I know those things. Now I can decide I want to do something far beyond my current abilities, then go figure out how to do it. When I was just playing, that kind of ambition was impossible.


So, I played.

How did this affect my views on tech? Well, I didn’t… have any. Learning by playing tends to teach you things in an outward sprawl without many abrupt jumps to new areas, so you don’t tend to run up against conflicting information. The whole point of opinions is that they’re your own resolution to a conflict; without conflict, I can’t meaningfully say I had any opinions. I just accepted whatever I encountered at face value, because I didn’t even know enough to suspect there could be alternatives yet.

Act II

That started to seriously change around, I suppose, the end of high school and beginning of college. I was becoming aware of this whole “open source” concept. I took classes that used languages I wouldn’t otherwise have given a second thought. (One of them was Python!) I started to contribute to other people’s projects. Eventually I even got a job, where I had to work with other people. It probably also helped that I’d had to maintain my own old code a few times.

Now I was faced with conflicting subjective ideas, and I had to form opinions about them! And so I did. With gusto. Over time, I developed an idea of what was Right based on experience I’d accrued. And then I set out to always do things Right.

That’s served me decently well with some individual problems, but it also led me to inflict a lot of unnecessary pain on myself. Several endeavors languished for no other reason than my dissatisfaction with the architecture, long before the basic functionality was done. I started a number of “pure” projects around this time, generic tools like imaging libraries that I had no direct need for. I built them for the sake of them, I guess because I felt like I was improving some niche… but of course I never finished any. It was always in areas I didn’t know that well in the first place, which is a fine way to learn if you have a specific concrete goal in mind — but it turns out that building a generic library for editing images means you have to know everything about images. Perhaps that ambition went a little haywire.

I’ve said before that this sort of (self-inflicted!) work was unfulfilling, in part because the best outcome would be that a few distant programmers’ lives are slightly easier. I do still think that, but I think there’s a deeper point here too.

In forgetting how to play, I’d stopped putting any of myself in most of the work I was doing. Yes, building an imaging library is kind of a slog that someone has to do, but… I assume the people who work on software like PIL and ImageMagick are actually interested in it. The few domains I tried to enter and revolutionize weren’t passions of mine; I just happened to walk through the neighborhood one day and decided I could obviously do it better.

Not coincidentally, this was the same era of my life that led me to write stuff like that PHP post, which you may notice I am conspicuously not even linking to. I don’t think I would write anything like it nowadays. I could see myself approaching the same subject, but purely from the point of view of language design, with more contrasts and tradeoffs and less going for volume. I certainly wouldn’t lead off with inflammatory puffery like “PHP is a community of amateurs”.

Act III

I think I’ve mellowed out a good bit in the last few years.

It turns out that being Right is much less important than being Not Wrong — i.e., rather than trying to make something perfect that can be adapted to any future case, just avoid as many pitfalls as possible. Code that does something useful has much more practical value than unfinished code with some pristine architecture.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in game development, where all code is doomed to be crap and the best you can hope for is to stem the tide. But there’s also a fixed goal that’s completely unrelated to how the code looks: does the game work, and is it fun to play? Yes? Ship the damn thing and forget about it.

Games are also nice because it’s very easy to pour my own feelings into them and evoke feelings in the people who play them. They’re mine, something with my fingerprints on them — even the games I’ve built with glip have plenty of my own hallmarks, little touches I added on a whim or attention to specific details that I care about.

Maybe a better example is the Doom map parser I started writing. It sounds like a “pure” problem again, except that I actually know an awful lot about the subject already! I also cleverly (accidentally) released some useful results of the work I’ve done thusfar — like statistics about Doom II maps and a few screenshots of flipped stock maps — even though I don’t think the parser itself is far enough along to release yet. The tool has served a purpose, one with my fingerprints on it, even without being released publicly. That keeps it fresh in my mind as something interesting I’d like to keep working on, eventually. (When I run into an architecture question, I step back for a while, or I do other work in the hopes that the solution will reveal itself.)

I also made two simple Pokémon ROM hacks this year, despite knowing nothing about Game Boy internals or assembly when I started. I just decided I wanted to do an open-ended thing beyond my reach, and I went to do it, not worrying about cleanliness and willing to accept a bumpy ride to get there. I played, but in a more experienced way, invoking the stuff I know (and the people I’ve met!) to help me get a running start in completely unfamiliar territory.


This feels like a really fine distinction that I’m not sure I’m doing justice. I don’t know if I could’ve appreciated it three or four years ago. But I missed making toys, and I’m glad I’m doing it again.

In short, I forgot how to have fun with programming for a little while, and I’ve finally started to figure it out again. And that’s far more important than whether you use PHP or not.

Me on Restaurant Surveillance Technology

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/07/me_on_restauran.html

I attended the National Restaurant Association exposition in Chicago earlier this year, and looked at all the ways modern restaurant IT is spying on people.

But there’s also a fundamentally creepy aspect to much of this. One of the prime ways to increase value for your brand is to use the Internet to practice surveillance of both your customers and employees. The customer side feels less invasive: Loyalty apps are pretty nice, if in fact you generally go to the same place, as is the ability to place orders electronically or make reservations with a click. The question, Schneier asks, is “who owns the data?” There’s value to collecting data on spending habits, as we’ve seen across e-commerce. Are restaurants fully aware of what they are giving away? Schneier, a critic of data mining, points out that it becomes especially invasive through “secondary uses,” when the “data is correlated with other data and sold to third parties.” For example, perhaps you’ve entered your name, gender, and age into a taco loyalty app (12th taco free!). Later, the vendors of that app sell your data to other merchants who know where and when you eat, whether you are a vegetarian, and lots of other data that you have accidentally shed. Is that what customers really want?

The Terrible Horrors of ‘Kodi Boxes’ Shock The UK

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/the-terrible-horrors-of-kodi-boxes-shock-the-uk-170702/

In the beginning, we were told that Kodi Boxes are probably going to destroy Hollywood, not to mention companies like Sky and The Premier League. But who cares about the big people in suits drinking champagne from gold swimming pools?

No, what the unwashed masses need to hear are stories that make us realize that these little plastic wonder boxes are going to ruin our miserable lives. Luckily, they’ve been appearing thick and fast this past couple of weeks.

It turns out that Kodi Boxes are not only likely to burn your house down, but they’re also part of a master plan to pick away at the delicate threads holding family life together.

Forget about the piracy, that doesn’t matter. The powers that be need you to understand that Kodi Boxes are Trojan horses of misery that people are willingly bringing in to their own homes. Can you believe people are being so stupid?

According to an article in this week’s The Mirror, for example, kids’ movies spewed out by these evil devices are now being interrupted by adverts for alcohol. Well, it makes a change from seeing Phil Mitchell smashed out of his mind at 8pm on BBC1, doesn’t it?

At the same time, Kodi Boxes are straining relationships between father and son, not to mention subjecting unsuspecting parents to malware threats. They include scams purporting to be from the ‘FBI’ which demand money for using Popcorn Time inside Kodi. The world truly has gone mad.

Of course, if only one person sees this nonsense it’s too much, and The Mirror piece is quite rightly filled with quotes from real people who gave up piracy as a result of their bad experiences. It also has plenty of useful advice from the UK’s leading anti-piracy outfit, as you’d expect.

Intrigued, we decided to carry out our own research among a handful of the millions of maniacs who are still prepared to plug one of these death devices into their UK mains supply. And we were shocked – not by a dodgy power adaptor from China – but by the huge numbers of other problems these Kodi Boxes can foist upon the honest working man.

A user called Neil told us that he’d bought a Kodi Box off eBay after hearing all the hype in the media. His plan was to watch Premier League football without paying a penny. However, instead of scooping up that forbidden 3pm kick-off excitement, all it did was ruin his enjoyment of the beautiful game.

“I’d been out drinking all day with the lads. I was proper, proper smashed. I got home and shoved the thing into the nearest telly to watch Liverpool versus Manchester United and although I felt really sick, couldn’t focus on the screen, and soon fell unconscious, I think the picture wasn’t too bad,” he said.

“I don’t think I saw that wheel thing spinning in the middle of the screen and everything stopping either, which is a big plus for me on a free box. And to top it all, Liverpool beat United 2:1, which was a real bonus.

“However, when discussing the game the next day with my dad who watched the game on Sky with a proper subscription, I was horrified to learn that Manchester United actually won the game 3:0 – against Arsenal! It just goes to show, you get what you pay for. My box is now where it should have been all along – in the bin.”

A man called Rich told us that he’d also heard good things about Kodi Boxes but was really upset after being completely misled by the person who sold him one.

“I used to be a subscriber to Sky’s top package, including those fifty channels nobody watches but they force you to have. I also forked out for all their boxing PPVs that come on at stupid o’clock in the morning, and bought several blu-ray discs each time I got paid. All in all I must’ve spent £140 a month.

“So, when a bloke down the pub who I’ve never met before told me that I could legally get the same stuff for free using a Kodi Box, I immediately believed him. I mean, what reasonable bloke wouldn’t? He had just one left as well, how lucky was that?”

But it didn’t take long for Rich’s enthusiasm to wane. The thought of owning a potential incendiary device filled with content provided by a Russian crime syndicate and funded by Columbian drug barons was too much.

“I watched a couple of films on it without my house burning down, but then I started reading horror stories in the paper about these boxes shoving drinks adverts in our kids’ faces,” he told us.

“Enough was enough. After being lied to by the seller the thought of my kids demanding toys and beer for Christmas was just too much, it just wasn’t worth the risk. So I went straight back to giving Sky over a grand a year and life’s never been better.”

Kodi Box user Peter told us that he could really relate to warnings published in the papers this week that set-top box users had been hit with popups demanding their bank details.

“I was hoping to watch the big fight last weekend but it only came on for a few minutes and then suddenly went off,” he explained. “Then a notice appeared telling me to ring a number with my credit card details. Well, I’d heard about these ransomware attacks and I wasn’t going to fall for that old trick.

“However, imagine my surprise when I realized that I’d accidentally put on my official satellite box instead of Kodi, and the message was actually from my pay-per-view provider. Just goes to show, everybody wants your money these days, and these crooks can rope you in for years, and make it really hard to cancel.”

Another chap called James told us that he never considered getting a Kodi Box until he saw an article in a UK tabloid explaining how Kodi Boxes pose a risk for families with children.

“The article quoted some anti-piracy company. They said that parents don’t realize that Kodi Boxes allow easy access to hardcore pornography. And it’s true, I had no idea,” James said.

“But I live alone, so I wasted no time buying one off eBay. I’m watching it in the shed with a fire extinguisher in the other hand, just to be safe.”

But while James clearly has his hands full, our last user is much less satisfied.

Sue told us that she was assured her Kodi box was a miracle device with endless uses. However, after its addons recently stopped working she decided to test the claim by sliding the failing unit under the leg of a wobbly table. It soon became clear the hardware had been massively oversold.

“They say these boxes can do anything but mine clearly wasn’t fit for purpose. It was way too thick so when I put it under the leg, the table sat at a really steep angle. If anything, it was more unstable than it was before.

“I dread to think what could’ve happened if I’d put a pot of boiling oil on it next to the baby. No wonder health and safety are up in arms.”

Tune in next week when we reveal how Kodi Boxes can cause unsightly hair growth and unwanted pregnancies.

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

NonPetya: no evidence it was a "smokescreen"

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/nonpetya-no-evidence-it-was-smokescreen.html

Many well-regarded experts claim that the not-Petya ransomware wasn’t “ransomware” at all, but a “wiper” whose goal was to destroy files, without any intent at letting victims recover their files. I want to point out that there is no real evidence of this.

Certainly, things look suspicious. For one thing, it certainly targeted the Ukraine. For another thing, it made several mistakes that prevent them from ever decrypting drives. Their email account was shutdown, and it corrupts the boot sector.

But these things aren’t evidence, they are problems. They are things needing explanation, not things that support our preferred conspiracy theory.

The simplest, Occam’s Razor explanation explanation is that they were simple mistakes. Such mistakes are common among ransomware. We think of virus writers as professional software developers who thoroughly test their code. Decades of evidence show the opposite, that such software is of poor quality with shockingly bad bugs.

It’s true that effectively, nPetya is a wiper. Matthieu Suiche‏ does a great job describing one flaw that prevents it working. @hasherezade does a great job explaining another flaw.  But best explanation isn’t that this is intentional. Even if these bugs didn’t exist, it’d still be a wiper if the perpetrators simply ignored the decryption requests. They need not intentionally make the decryption fail.

Thus, the simpler explanation is that it’s simply a bug. Ransomware authors test the bits they care about, and test less well the bits they don’t. It’s quite plausible to believe that just before shipping the code, they’d add a few extra features, and forget to regression test the entire suite. I mean, I do that all the time with my code.

Some have pointed to the sophistication of the code as proof that such simple errors are unlikely. This isn’t true. While it’s more sophisticated than WannaCry, it’s about average for the current state-of-the-art for ransomware in general. What people think of, such the Petya base, or using PsExec to spread throughout a Windows domain, is already at least a year old.

Indeed, the use of PsExec itself is a bit clumsy, when the code for doing the same thing is already public. It’s just a few calls to basic Windows networking APIs. A sophisticated virus would do this itself, rather than clumsily use PsExec.

Infamy doesn’t mean skill. People keep making the mistake that the more widespread something is in the news, the more skill, the more of a “conspiracy” there must be behind it. This is not true. Virus/worm writers often do newsworthy things by accident. Indeed, the history of worms, starting with the Morris Worm, has been things running out of control more than the author’s expectations.

What makes nPetya newsworthy isn’t the EternalBlue exploit or the wiper feature. Instead, the creators got lucky with MeDoc. The software is used by every major organization in the Ukraine, and at the same time, their website was horribly insecure — laughably insecure. Furthermore, it’s autoupdate feature didn’t check cryptographic signatures. No hacker can plan for this level of widespread incompetence — it’s just extreme luck.

Thus, the effect of bumbling around is something that hit the Ukraine pretty hard, but it’s not necessarily the intent of the creators. It’s like how the Slammer worm hit South Korea pretty hard, or how the Witty worm hit the DoD pretty hard. These things look “targeted”, especially to the victims, but it was by pure chance (provably so, in the case of Witty).

Certainly, MeDoc was targeted. But then, targeting a single organization is the norm for ransomware. They have to do it that way, giving each target a different Bitcoin address for payment. That it then spread to the entire Ukraine, and further, is the sort of thing that typically surprises worm writers.

Finally, there’s little reason to believe that there needs to be a “smokescreen”. Russian hackers are targeting the Ukraine all the time. Whether Russian hackers are to blame for “ransomware” vs. “wiper” makes little difference.

Conclusion

We know that Russian hackers are constantly targeting the Ukraine. Therefore, the theory that this was nPetya’s goal all along, to destroy Ukraines computers, is a good one.

Yet, there’s no actual “evidence” of this. nPetya’s issues are just as easily explained by normal software bugs. The smokescreen isn’t needed. The boot record bug isn’t needed. The single email address that was shutdown isn’t significant, since half of all ransomware uses the same technique.

The experts who disagree with me are really smart/experienced people who you should generally trust. It’s just that I can’t see their evidence.

Update: I wrote another blogpost about “survivorship bias“, refuting the claim by many experts talking about the sophistication of the spreading feature.


Update: comment asks “why is there no Internet spreading code?”. The answer is “I don’t know”, but unanswerable questions aren’t evidence of a conspiracy. “What aren’t there any stars in the background?” isn’t proof the moon landings are fake, such because you can’t answer the question. One guess is that you never want ransomware to spread that far, until you’ve figured out how to get payment from so many people.

A kindly lesson for you non-techies about encryption

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/a-kindly-lesson-for-you-non-techies.html

The following tweets need to be debunked:

The answer to John Schindler’s question is:

every expert in cryptography doesn’t know this

Oh, sure, you can find fringe wacko who also knows crypto that agrees with you but all the sane members of the security community will not.

Telegram is not trustworthy because it’s partially closed-source. We can’t see how it works. We don’t know if they’ve made accidental mistakes that can be hacked. We don’t know if they’ve been bribed by the NSA or Russia to put backdoors in their program. In contrast, PGP and Signal are open-source. We can read exactly what the software does. Indeed, thousands of people have been reviewing their software looking for mistakes and backdoors. Being open-source doesn’t automatically make software better, but it does make hiding secret backdoors much harder.

Telegram is not trustworthy because we aren’t certain the crypto is done properly. Signal, and especially PGP, are done properly.

The thing about encryption is that when done properly, it works. Neither the NSA nor the Russians can break properly encrypted content. There’s no such thing as “military grade” encryption that is better than consumer grade. There’s only encryption that nobody can hack vs. encryption that your neighbor’s teenage kid can easily hack. Those scenes in TV/movies about breaking encryption is as realistic as sound in space: good for dramatic presentation, but not how things work in the real world.

In particular, end-to-end encryption works. Sure, in the past, such apps only encrypted as far as the server, so whoever ran the server could read your messages. Modern chat apps, though, are end-to-end: the servers have absolutely no ability to decrypt what’s on them, unless they can get the decryption keys from the phones. But some tasks, like encrypted messages to a group of people, can be hard to do properly.

Thus, in contrast to what John Schindler says, while we techies have doubts about Telegram, we don’t have doubts about Russia authorities having access to Signal and PGP messages.

Snowden hatred has become the anti-vax of crypto. Sure, there’s no particular reason to trust Snowden — people should really stop treating him as some sort of privacy-Jesus. But there’s no particular reason to distrust him, either. His bland statements on crypto are indistinguishable from any other crypto-enthusiast statements. If he’s a Russian pawn, then so too is the bulk of the crypto community.

With all this said, using Signal doesn’t make you perfectly safe. The person you are chatting with could be a secret agent — especially in group chat. There could be cameras/microphones in the room where you are using the app. The Russians can also hack into your phone, and likewise eavesdrop on everything you do with the phone, regardless of which app you use. And they probably have hacked specific people’s phones. On the other hand, if the NSA or Russians were widely hacking phones, we’d detect that this was happening. We haven’t.

Signal is therefore not a guarantee of safety, because nothing is, and if your life depends on it, you can’t trust any simple advice like “use Signal”. But, for the bulk of us, it’s pretty damn secure, and I trust neither the Russians nor the NSA are reading my Signal or PGP messages.

At first blush, this @20committee tweet appears to be non-experts opining on things outside their expertise. But in reality, it’s just obtuse partisanship, where truth and expertise doesn’t matter. Nothing you or I say can change some people’s minds on this matter, no matter how much our expertise gives weight to our words. This post is instead for bystanders, who don’t know enough to judge whether these crazy statements have merit.


Bonus:

So let’s talk about “every crypto expert“. It’s, of course, impossible to speak for every crypto expert. It’s like saying how the consensus among climate scientists is that mankind is warming the globe, while at the same time, ignoring the wide spread disagreement on how much warming that is.

The same is true here. You’ll get a widespread different set of responses from experts about the above tweet. Some, for example, will stress my point at the bottom that hacking the endpoint (the phone) breaks all the apps, and thus justify the above tweet from that point of view. Others will point out that all software has bugs, and it’s quite possible that Signal has some unknown bug that the Russians are exploiting.

So I’m not attempting to speak for what all experts might say here in the general case and what long lecture they can opine about. I am, though, pointing out the basics that virtually everyone agrees on, the consensus of open-source and working crypto.

Sync vs. Backup vs. Storage

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/sync-vs-backup-vs-storage/

Cloud Sync vs. Cloud Backup vs. Cloud Storage

Google Drive recently announced their new Backup and Sync feature for Google Drive, which allows users to select folders on their computer that they want to back up to their Google Drive account (note: these files count against your Google Drive storage limit). Whenever new backup services are announced, we get a lot of questions so I thought we should take a minute to review the differences in cloud based services.

What is the Cloud? Sync Vs Backup Vs Storage

There is still a lot of confusion in the space about what exactly the “cloud” is and how different services interact with it. When folks use a syncing and sharing service like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive or any of the others, they often assume those are acting as a cloud backup solution as well. Adding to the confusion, cloud storage services are often the backend for backup and sync services as well as standalone services. To help sort this out, we’ll define some of the terms below as they apply to a traditional computer set-up with a bunch of apps and data.

Cloud Sync (ex. Dropbox, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive) – these services sync folders on your computer to folders on other machines or to the cloud – allowing users to work from a folder or directory across devices. Typically these services have tiered pricing, meaning you pay for the amount of data you store with the service. If there is data loss, sometimes these services even have a rollback feature, of course only files that are in the synced folders are available to be recovered.

Cloud Backup (ex. Backblaze Cloud Backup, Mozy, Carbonite) – these services work in the background automatically. The user does not need to take any action like setting up specific folders. Backup services typically back up any new or changed data on your computer to another location. Before the cloud took off, that location was primarily a CD or an external hard drive – but as cloud storage became more readily available it became the most popular storage medium. Typically these services have fixed pricing, and if there is a system crash or data loss, all backed up data is available for restore. In addition, these services have rollback features in case there is data loss / accidental file deletion.

Cloud Storage (ex. Backblaze B2, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure) – these services are where many online backup and syncing and sharing services store data. Cloud storage providers typically serve as the endpoint for data storage. These services typically provide APIs, CLIs, and access points for individuals and developers to tie in their cloud storage offerings directly. These services are priced “per GB” meaning you pay for the amount of storage that you use. Since these services are designed for high-availability and durability, data can live solely on these services – though we still recommend having multiple copies of your data, just in case.

What Should You Use?

Backblaze strongly believes in a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (e.g. an external hard drive in addition to your computer’s local drive), and at least 1 copy offsite. The best setup is data on your computer, a copy on a hard drive that lives somewhere not inside your computer, and another copy with a cloud backup provider. Backblaze Cloud Backup is a great compliment to other services, like Time Machine, Dropbox, and even the free-tiers of cloud storage services.

What is The Difference Between Cloud Sync and Backup?

Let’s take a look at some sync setups that we see fairly frequently.

Example 1) Users have one folder on their computer that is designated for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or one of the other syncing/sharing services. Users save or place data into those directories when they want them to appear on other devices. Often these users are using the free-tier of those syncing and sharing services and only have a few GB of data uploaded in them.

Example 2) Users are paying for extended storage for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc… and use those folders as the “Documents” folder – essentially working out of those directories. Files in that folder are available across devices, however, files outside of that folder (e.g. living on the computer’s desktop or anywhere else) are not synced or stored by the service.

What both examples are missing however is the backup of photos, movies, videos, and the rest of the data on their computer. That’s where cloud backup providers excel, by automatically backing up user data with little or no set-up, and no need for the dragging-and-dropping of files. Backblaze actually scans your hard drive to find all the data, regardless of where it might be hiding. The results are, all the user’s data is kept in the Backblaze cloud and the portion of the data that is synced is also kept in that provider’s cloud – giving the user another layer of redundancy. Best of all, Backblaze will actually back up your Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, and OneDrive folders.

Data Recovery

The most important feature to think about is how easy it is to get your data back from all of these services. With sync and share services, retrieving a lot of data, especially if you are in a high-data tier, can be cumbersome and take awhile. Generally, the sync and share services only allow customers to download files over the Internet. If you are trying to download more than a couple gigabytes of data, the process can take time and can be fraught with errors.

With cloud storage services, you can usually only retrieve data over the Internet as well, and you pay for both the storage and the egress of the data, so retrieving a large amount of data can be both expensive and time consuming.

Cloud backup services will enable you to download files over the internet too and can also suffer from long download times. At Backblaze we never want our customers to feel like we’re holding their data hostage, which is why we have a lot of restore options, including our Restore Return Refund policy, which allows people to restore their data via a USB Hard Drive, and then return that drive to us for a refund. Cloud sync providers do not provide this capability.

One popular data recovery use case we’ve seen when a person has a lot of data to restore is to download just the files that are needed immediately, and then order a USB Hard Drive restore for the remaining files that are not as time sensitive. The user gets all their files back in a few days, and their network is spared the download charges.

The bottom line is that all of these services have merit for different use-cases. Have questions about which is best for you? Sound off in the comments below!

The post Sync vs. Backup vs. Storage appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Estefannie’s GPS-Controlled GoPro Photo Taker

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/estefannie-gopro-selfie/

Are you tired of having to take selfies physically? Do you only use your GoPro for the occasional beach vacation? Are you maybe even wondering what to do with the load of velcro you bought on a whim? Then we have good news for you: Estefannie‘s back to help you out with her Personal Automated GPS-Controlled Portable Photo Taker…PAGCPPT for short…or pagsssspt, if you like.

RASPBERRY PI + GPS CONTROLLED PHOTO TAKER

Hey World! Do you like vacation pictures but don’t like taking them? Make your own Personal Automated GPS Controlled Portable Photo Taker! The code, components, and instructions are in my Hackster.io account: https://www.hackster.io/estefanniegg/automated-gps-controlled-photo-taker-3fc84c For this build, I decided to put together a backpack to take pictures of me when I am close to places that like.

The Personal Automated GPS-Controlled Portable Photo Taker

Try saying that five times in a row.

Go on. I’ll wait.

Using a Raspberry Pi 3, a GPS module, a power pack, and a GoPro plus GoPro Stick, Estefannie created the PAGCPPT as a means of automatically taking selfies at pre-specified tourist attractions across London.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi GPS GoPro Camera

There’s pie in my backpack too…but it’s a bit messy

With velcro and hot glue, she secured the tech in place on (and inside) a backpack. Then it was simply a case of programming her set up to take pictures while she walked around the city.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi GPS GoPro Camera

Making the GoPro…go

Estefannie made use of a GoPro API library to connect her GoPro to the Raspberry Pi via WiFi. With the help of this library, she wrote a Python script that made the GoPro take a photograph whenever her GPS module placed her within a ten-metre radius of a pre-selected landmark such as Tower Bridge, Abbey Road, or Platform 9 3/4.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi GPS GoPro Camera

“Accio selfie.”

The full script, as well as details regarding the components she used for the project, can be found on her hackster.io page here.

Estefannie Explains it All

You’ll have noticed that we’ve covered Estefannie once or twice before on the Raspberry Pi blog. We love project videos that convey a sense of ‘Oh hey, I can totally build one of those!’, and hers always tick that box. They are imaginative, interesting, quirky, and to be totally honest with you, I’ve been waiting for this particular video since she hinted at it on her visit to Pi Towers in May. I got the inside scoop, yo!

What’s better than taking pictures? Not taking pictures. But STILL having pictures. I made a personal automated GPS controlled Portable Photo Taker ⚡ NEW VIDEO ALERT⚡ Link in bio.

1,351 Likes, 70 Comments – Estefannie Explains It All (@estefanniegg) on Instagram: “What’s better than taking pictures? Not taking pictures. But STILL having pictures. I made a…”

Make sure to follow her on YouTube and Instagram for more maker content and random shenanigans. And if you have your own maker social media channel, YouTube account, blog, etc, this is your chance to share it for the world to see in the comments below!

The post Estefannie’s GPS-Controlled GoPro Photo Taker appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Teaching tech

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/06/10/teaching-tech/

A sponsored post from Manishearth:

I would kinda like to hear about any thoughts you have on technical teaching or technical writing. Pedagogy is something I care about. But I don’t know how much you do, so feel free to ignore this suggestion 🙂

Good news: I care enough that I’m trying to write a sorta-kinda-teaching book!

Ironically, one of the biggest problems I’ve had with writing the introduction to that book is that I keep accidentally rambling on for pages about problems and difficulties with teaching technical subjects. So maybe this is a good chance to get it out of my system.

Phaser

I recently tried out a new thing. It was Phaser, but this isn’t a dig on them in particular, just a convenient example fresh in my mind. If anything, they’re better than most.

As you can see from Phaser’s website, it appears to have tons of documentation. Two of the six headings are “LEARN” and “EXAMPLES”, which seems very promising. And indeed, Phaser offers:

  • Several getting-started walkthroughs
  • Possibly hundreds of examples
  • A news feed that regularly links to third-party tutorials
  • Thorough API docs

Perfect. Beautiful. Surely, a dream.

Well, almost.

The examples are all microscopic, usually focused around a single tiny feature — many of them could be explained just as well with one line of code. There are a few example games, but they’re short aimless demos. None of them are complete games, and there’s no showcase either. Games sometimes pop up in the news feed, but most of them don’t include source code, so they’re not useful for learning from.

Likewise, the API docs are just API docs, leading to the sorts of problems you might imagine. For example, in a few places there’s a mention of a preUpdate stage that (naturally) happens before update. You might rightfully wonder what kinds of things happen in preUpdate — and more importantly, what should you put there, and why?

Let’s check the API docs for Phaser.Group.preUpdate:

The core preUpdate – as called by World.

Okay, that didn’t help too much, but let’s check what Phaser.World has to say:

The core preUpdate – as called by World.

Ah. Hm. It turns out World is a subclass of Group and inherits this method — and thus its unaltered docstring — from Group.

I did eventually find some brief docs attached to Phaser.Stage (but only by grepping the source code). It mentions what the framework uses preUpdate for, but not why, and not when I might want to use it too.


The trouble here is that there’s no narrative documentation — nothing explaining how the library is put together and how I’m supposed to use it. I get handed some brief primers and a massive reference, but nothing in between. It’s like buying an O’Reilly book and finding out it only has one chapter followed by a 500-page glossary.

API docs are great if you know specifically what you’re looking for, but they don’t explain the best way to approach higher-level problems, and they don’t offer much guidance on how to mesh nicely with the design of a framework or big library. Phaser does a decent chunk of stuff for you, off in the background somewhere, so it gives the strong impression that it expects you to build around it in a particular way… but it never tells you what that way is.

Tutorials

Ah, but this is what tutorials are for, right?

I confess I recoil whenever I hear the word “tutorial”. It conjures an image of a uniquely useless sort of post, which goes something like this:

  1. Look at this cool thing I made! I’ll teach you how to do it too.

  2. Press all of these buttons in this order. Here’s a screenshot, which looks nothing like what you have, because I’ve customized the hell out of everything.

  3. You did it!

The author is often less than forthcoming about why they made any of the decisions they did, where you might want to try something else, or what might go wrong (and how to fix it).

And this is to be expected! Writing out any of that stuff requires far more extensive knowledge than you need just to do the thing in the first place, and you need to do a good bit of introspection to sort out something coherent to say.

In other words, teaching is hard. It’s a skill, and it takes practice, and most people blogging are not experts at it. Including me!


With Phaser, I noticed that several of the third-party tutorials I tried to look at were 404s — sometimes less than a year after they were linked on the site. Pretty major downside to relying on the community for teaching resources.

But I also notice that… um…

Okay, look. I really am not trying to rag on this author. I’m not. They tried to share their knowledge with the world, and that’s a good thing, something worthy of praise. I’m glad they did it! I hope it helps someone.

But for the sake of example, here is the most recent entry in Phaser’s list of community tutorials. I have to link it, because it’s such a perfect example. Consider:

  • The post itself is a bulleted list of explanation followed by a single contiguous 250 lines of source code. (Not that there’s anything wrong with bulleted lists, mind you.) That code contains zero comments and zero blank lines.

  • This is only part two in what I think is a series aimed at beginners, yet the title and much of the prose focus on object pooling, a performance hack that’s easy to add later and that’s almost certainly unnecessary for a game this simple. There is no explanation of why this is done; the prose only says you’ll understand why it’s critical once you add a lot more game objects.

  • It turns out I only have two things to say here so I don’t know why I made this a bulleted list.

In short, it’s not really a guided explanation; it’s “look what I did”.

And that’s fine, and it can still be interesting. I’m not sure English is even this person’s first language, so I’m hardly going to criticize them for not writing a novel about platforming.

The trouble is that I doubt a beginner would walk away from this feeling very enlightened. They might be closer to having the game they wanted, so there’s still value in it, but it feels closer to having someone else do it for them. And an awful lot of tutorials I’ve seen — particularly of the “post on some blog” form (which I’m aware is the genre of thing I’m writing right now) — look similar.

This isn’t some huge social problem; it’s just people writing on their blog and contributing to the corpus of written knowledge. It does become a bit stickier when a large project relies on these community tutorials as its main set of teaching aids.


Again, I’m not ragging on Phaser here. I had a slightly frustrating experience with it, coming in knowing what I wanted but unable to find a description of the semantics anywhere, but I do sympathize. Teaching is hard, writing documentation is hard, and programmers would usually rather program than do either of those things. For free projects that run on volunteer work, and in an industry where anything other than programming is a little undervalued, getting good docs written can be tricky.

(Then again, Phaser sells books and plugins, so maybe they could hire a documentation writer. Or maybe the whole point is for you to buy the books?)

Some pretty good docs

Python has pretty good documentation. It introduces the language with a tutorial, then documents everything else in both a library and language reference.

This sounds an awful lot like Phaser’s setup, but there’s some considerable depth in the Python docs. The tutorial is highly narrative and walks through quite a few corners of the language, stopping to mention common pitfalls and possible use cases. I clicked an arbitrary heading and found a pleasant, informative read that somehow avoids being bewilderingly dense.

The API docs also take on a narrative tone — even something as humble as the collections module offers numerous examples, use cases, patterns, recipes, and hints of interesting ways you might extend the existing types.

I’m being a little vague and hand-wavey here, but it’s hard to give specific examples without just quoting two pages of Python documentation. Hopefully you can see right away what I mean if you just take a look at them. They’re good docs, Bront.

I’ve likewise always enjoyed the SQLAlchemy documentation, which follows much the same structure as the main Python documentation. SQLAlchemy is a database abstraction layer plus ORM, so it can do a lot of subtly intertwined stuff, and the complexity of the docs reflects this. Figuring out how to do very advanced things correctly, in particular, can be challenging. But for the most part it does a very thorough job of introducing you to a large library with a particular philosophy and how to best work alongside it.

I softly contrast this with, say, the Perl documentation.

It’s gotten better since I first learned Perl, but Perl’s docs are still a bit of a strange beast. They exist as a flat collection of manpage-like documents with terse names like perlootut. The documentation is certainly thorough, but much of it has a strange… allocation of detail.

For example, perllol — the explanation of how to make a list of lists, which somehow merits its own separate documentation — offers no fewer than nine similar variations of the same code for reading a file into a nested lists of words on each line. Where Python offers examples for a variety of different problems, Perl shows you a lot of subtly different ways to do the same basic thing.

A similar problem is that Perl’s docs sometimes offer far too much context; consider the references tutorial, which starts by explaining that references are a powerful “new” feature in Perl 5 (first released in 1994). It then explains why you might want to nest data structures… from a Perl 4 perspective, thus explaining why Perl 5 is so much better.

Some stuff I’ve tried

I don’t claim to be a great teacher. I like to talk about stuff I find interesting, and I try to do it in ways that are accessible to people who aren’t lugging around the mountain of context I already have. This being just some blog, it’s hard to tell how well that works, but I do my best.

I also know that I learn best when I can understand what’s going on, rather than just seeing surface-level cause and effect. Of course, with complex subjects, it’s hard to develop an understanding before you’ve seen the cause and effect a few times, so there’s a balancing act between showing examples and trying to provide an explanation. Too many concrete examples feel like rote memorization; too much abstract theory feels disconnected from anything tangible.

The attempt I’m most pleased with is probably my post on Perlin noise. It covers a fairly specific subject, which made it much easier. It builds up one step at a time from scratch, with visualizations at every point. It offers some interpretations of what’s going on. It clearly explains some possible extensions to the idea, but distinguishes those from the core concept.

It is a little math-heavy, I grant you, but that was hard to avoid with a fundamentally mathematical topic. I had to be economical with the background information, so I let the math be a little dense in places.

But the best part about it by far is that I learned a lot about Perlin noise in the process of writing it. In several places I realized I couldn’t explain what was going on in a satisfying way, so I had to dig deeper into it before I could write about it. Perhaps there’s a good guideline hidden in there: don’t try to teach as much as you know?

I’m also fairly happy with my series on making Doom maps, though they meander into tangents a little more often. It’s hard to talk about something like Doom without meandering, since it’s a convoluted ecosystem that’s grown organically over the course of 24 years and has at least three ways of doing anything.


And finally there’s the book I’m trying to write, which is sort of about game development.

One of my biggest grievances with game development teaching in particular is how often it leaves out important touches. Very few guides will tell you how to make a title screen or menu, how to handle death, how to get a Mario-style variable jump height. They’ll show you how to build a clearly unfinished demo game, then leave you to your own devices.

I realized that the only reliable way to show how to build a game is to build a real game, then write about it. So the book is laid out as a narrative of how I wrote my first few games, complete with stumbling blocks and dead ends and tiny bits of polish.

I have no idea how well this will work, or whether recapping my own mistakes will be interesting or distracting for a beginner, but it ought to be an interesting experiment.

An Open Letter To Microsoft: A 64-bit OS is Better Than a 32-bit OS

Post Syndicated from Brian Wilson original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/64-bit-os-vs-32-bit-os/

Windows 32 Bit vs. 64 Bit

Editor’s Note: Our co-founder & CTO, Brian Wilson, was working on a few minor performance enhancements and bug fixes (Inherit Backup State is a lot faster now). We got a version of this note from him late one night and thought it was worth sharing.

There are a few absolutes in life – death, taxes, and that a 64-bit OS is better than a 32-bit OS. Moving over to a 64-bit OS allows your laptop to run BOTH the old compatible 32-bit processes and also the new 64-bit processes. In other words, there is zero downside (and there are gigantic upsides).

32-Bit vs. 64-Bit

The main gigantic upside of a 64-bit process is the ability to support more than 2 GBytes of RAM (pedantic people will say “4 GBytes”… but there are technicalities I don’t want to get into here). Since only 1.6% of Backblaze customers have 2 GBytes or less of RAM, the other 98.4% desperately need 64-bit support, period, end of story. And remember, there is no downside.

Because there is zero downside, the first time it could, Apple shipped with 64-bit OS support. Apple did not give customers the option of “turning off all 64-bit programs.” Apple first shipped 64-bit support in OS X 10.6 Tiger in 2009 (which also had 32-bit support, so there was zero downside to the decision).

This was so successful that Apple shipped all future Operating Systems configured to support both 64-bit and 32-bit processes. All of them. Customers no longer had an option to turn off 64-bit support.

As a result, less than 2/10ths of 1% of Backblaze Mac customers are running a computer that is so old that it can only run 32-bit programs. Despite those microscopic numbers we still loyally support this segment of our customers by providing a 32-bit only version of Backblaze’s backup client.

Apple vs. Microsoft

But let’s contrast the Apple approach with that of Microsoft. Microsoft offers a 64-bit OS in Windows 10 that runs all 64-bit and all 32-bit programs. This is a valid choice of an Operating System. The problem is Microsoft ALSO gives customers the option to install 32-bit Windows 10 which will not run 64-bit programs. That’s crazy.

Another advantage of the 64-bit version of Windows is security. There are a variety of security features such as ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) that work best in 64-bits. The 32-bit version is inherently less secure.

By choosing 32-bit Windows 10 a customer is literally choosing a lower performance, LOWER SECURITY, Operating System that is artificially hobbled to not run all software.

When one of our customers running 32-bit Windows 10 contacts Backblaze support, it is almost always a customer that did not realize the choice they were making when they installed 32-bit Windows 10. They did not have the information to understand what they are giving up. For example, we have seen customers that have purchased 8 GB of RAM, yet they had installed 32-bit Windows 10. Simply by their OS “choice”, they disabled about 3/4ths of the RAM that they paid for!

Let’s put some numbers around it: Approximately 4.3% of Backblaze customers with Windows machines are running a 32-bit version of Windows compared with just 2/10ths of 1% of our Apple customers. The Apple customers did not choose incorrectly, they just have not upgraded their operating system in the last 9 years. If we assume the same rate of “legitimate older computers not upgraded yet” for Microsoft users that means 4.1% of the Microsoft users made a fairly large mistake when they choose their Microsoft Operating System version.

Now some people would blame the customer because after all they made the OS selection. Microsoft offers the correct choice, which is 64-bit Windows 10. In fact, 95.7% of Backblaze customers running Windows made the correct choice. My issue is that Microsoft shouldn’t offer the 32-bit version at all.

And again, for the fifth time, you will not lose any 32-bit capabilities as the 64-bit operating system runs BOTH 32-bit applications and 64-bit applications. You only lose capabilities if you choose the 32-bit only Operating System.

This is how bad it is -> When Microsoft released Windows Vista in 2007 it was 64-bit and also ran all 32-bit programs flawlessly. So at that time I was baffled why Microsoft ALSO released Windows Vista in 32-bit only mode – a version that refused to run any 64-bit binaries. Then, again in Windows 7, they did the same thing and I thought I was losing my mind. And again with Windows 8! By Windows 10, I realized Microsoft may never stop doing this. No matter how much damage they cause, no matter what happens.

You might be asking -> why do I care? Why does Brian want Microsoft to stop shipping an Operating System that is likely only chosen by mistake? My problem is this: Backblaze, like any good technology vendor, wants to be easy to use and friendly. In this case, that means we need to quietly, invisibly, continue to support BOTH the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions of every Microsoft OS they release. And we’ll probably need to do this for at least 5 years AFTER Microsoft officially retires the 32-bit only version of their operating system.

Supporting both versions is complicated. The more data our customers have, the more momentarily RAM intensive some functions (like inheriting backup state) can be. The more data you have the bigger the problem. Backblaze customers who accidentally chose to disable 64-bit operations are then going to have problems. It means we have to explain to some customers that their operating system is the root cause of many performance issues in their technical lives. This is never a pleasant conversation.

I know this will probably fall on deaf ears, but Microsoft, for the sake of your customers and third party application developers like Backblaze, please stop shipping Operating Systems that disable 64-bit support. It is causing all of us a bunch of headaches we do not need.

The post An Open Letter To Microsoft: A 64-bit OS is Better Than a 32-bit OS appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

How The Intercept Outed Reality Winner

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/how-intercept-outed-reality-winner.html

Today, The Intercept released documents on election tampering from an NSA leaker. Later, the arrest warrant request for an NSA contractor named “Reality Winner” was published, showing how they tracked her down because she had printed out the documents and sent them to The Intercept. The document posted by the Intercept isn’t the original PDF file, but a PDF containing the pictures of the printed version that was then later scanned in.

As the warrant says, she confessed while interviewed by the FBI. Had she not confessed, the documents still contained enough evidence to convict her: the printed document was digitally watermarked.

The problem is that most new printers print nearly invisibly yellow dots that track down exactly when and where documents, any document, is printed. Because the NSA logs all printing jobs on its printers, it can use this to match up precisely who printed the document.

In this post, I show how.

You can download the document from the original article here. You can then open it in a PDF viewer, such as the normal “Preview” app on macOS. Zoom into some whitespace on the document, and take a screenshot of this. On macOS, hit [Command-Shift-3] to take a screenshot of a window. There are yellow dots in this image, but you can barely see them, especially if your screen is dirty.

We need to highlight the yellow dots. Open the screenshot in an image editor, such as the “Paintbrush” program built into macOS. Now use the option to “Invert Colors” in the image, to get something like this. You should see a roughly rectangular pattern checkerboard in the whitespace.

It’s upside down, so we need to rotate it 180 degrees, or flip-horizontal and flip-vertical:

Now we go to the EFF page and manually click on the pattern so that their tool can decode the meaning:

This produces the following result:

The document leaked by the Intercept was from a printer with model number 54, serial number 29535218. The document was printed on May 9, 2017 at 6:20. The NSA almost certainly has a record of who used the printer at that time.

The situation is similar to how Vice outed the location of John McAfee, by publishing JPEG photographs of him with the EXIF GPS coordinates still hidden in the file. Or it’s how PDFs are often redacted by adding a black bar on top of image, leaving the underlying contents still in the file for people to read, such as in this NYTime accident with a Snowden document. Or how opening a Microsoft Office document, then accidentally saving it, leaves fingerprints identifying you behind, as repeatedly happened with the Wikileaks election leaks. These sorts of failures are common with leaks. To fix this yellow-dot problem, use a black-and-white printer, black-and-white scanner, or convert to black-and-white with an image editor.

Copiers/printers have two features put in there by the government to be evil to you. The first is that scanners/copiers (when using scanner feature) recognize a barely visible pattern on currency, so that they can’t be used to counterfeit money, as shown on this $20 below:

The second is that when they print things out, they includes these invisible dots, so documents can be tracked. In other words, those dots on bills prevent them from being scanned in, and the dots produced by printers help the government track what was printed out.

Yes, this code the government forces into our printers is a violation of our 3rd Amendment rights.


While I was writing up this post, these tweets appeared first:


Comments:
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14494818

Some non-lessons from WannaCry

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/some-non-lessons-from-wannacry.html

This piece by Bruce Schneier needs debunking. I thought I’d list the things wrong with it.

The NSA 0day debate

Schneier’s description of the problem is deceptive:

When the US government discovers a vulnerability in a piece of software, however, it decides between two competing equities. It can keep it secret and use it offensively, to gather foreign intelligence, help execute search warrants, or deliver malware. Or it can alert the software vendor and see that the vulnerability is patched, protecting the country — and, for that matter, the world — from similar attacks by foreign governments and cybercriminals. It’s an either-or choice.

The government doesn’t “discover” vulnerabilities accidentally. Instead, when the NSA has a need for something specific, it acquires the 0day, either through internal research or (more often) buying from independent researchers.

The value of something is what you are willing to pay for it. If the NSA comes across a vulnerability accidentally, then the value to them is nearly zero. Obviously such vulns should be disclosed and fixed. Conversely, if the NSA is willing to pay $1 million to acquire a specific vuln for imminent use against a target, the offensive value is much greater than the fix value.

What Schneier is doing is deliberately confusing the two, combing the policy for accidentally found vulns with deliberately acquired vulns.

The above paragraph should read instead:

When the government discovers a vulnerability accidentally, it then decides to alert the software vendor to get it patched. When the government decides it needs as vuln for a specific offensive use, it acquires one that meets its needs, uses it, and keeps it secret. After spending so much money acquiring an offensive vuln, it would obviously be stupid to change this decision and not use it offensively.

Hoarding vulns

Schneier also says the NSA is “hoarding” vulns. The word has a couple inaccurate connotations.
One connotation is that the NSA is putting them on a heap inside a vault, not using them. The opposite is true: the NSA only acquires vulns it for which it has an active need. It uses pretty much all the vulns it acquires. That can be seen in the ShadowBroker dump, all the vulns listed are extremely useful to attackers, especially ETERNALBLUE. Efficiency is important to the NSA. Your efficiency is your basis for promotion. There are other people who make their careers finding waste in the NSA. If you are hoarding vulns and not using them, you’ll quickly get ejected from the NSA.
Another connotation is that the NSA is somehow keeping the vulns away from vendors. That’s like saying I’m hoarding naked selfies of myself. Yes, technically I’m keeping them away from you, but it’s not like they ever belong to you in the first place. The same is true the NSA. Had it never acquired the ETERNALBLUE 0day, it never would’ve been researched, never found.

The VEP

Schneier describes the “Vulnerability Equities Process” or “VEP”, a process that is supposed to manage the vulnerabilities the government gets.

There’s no evidence the VEP process has ever been used, at least not with 0days acquired by the NSA. The VEP allows exceptions for important vulns, and all the NSA vulns are important, so all are excepted from the process. Since the NSA is in charge of the VEP, of course, this is at the sole discretion of the NSA. Thus, the entire point of the VEP process goes away.

Moreover, it can’t work in many cases. The vulns acquired by the NSA often come with clauses that mean they can’t be shared.

New classes of vulns

One reason sellers forbid 0days from being shared is because they use new classes of vulnerabilities, such that sharing one 0day will effectively ruin a whole set of vulnerabilities. Schneier poo-poos this because he doesn’t see new classes of vulns in the ShadowBroker set.
This is wrong for two reasons. The first is that the ShadowBroker 0days are incomplete. There’s no iOS exploits, for example, and we know that iOS is a big target of the NSA.
Secondly, I’m not sure we’ve sufficiently analyzed the ShadowBroker exploits yet to realize there may be a new class of vuln. It’s easy to miss the fact that a single bug we see in the dump may actually be a whole new class of vulnerability. In the past, it’s often been the case that a new class was named only after finding many examples.
In any case, Schneier misses the point denying new classes of vulns exist. He should instead use the point to prove the value of disclosure, that instead of playing wack-a-mole fixing bugs one at a time, vendors would be able to fix whole classes of bugs at once.

Rediscovery

Schneier cites two studies that looked at how often vulnerabilities get rediscovered. In other words, he’s trying to measure the likelihood that some other government will find the bug and use it against us.
These studies are weak, scarcely better than anecdotal evidence. Schneier’s own study seems almost unrelated to the problem, and the Rand’s study cannot be replicated, as it relies upon private data. Also, there is little differentiation between important bugs (like SMB/MSRPC exploits and full-chain iOS exploits) and lesser bugs.
Whether from the Rand study or from anecdotes, we have good reason to believe that the longer an 0day exists, the less likely it’ll be rediscovered. Schneier argues that vulns should only be used for 6 months before being disclosed to a vendor. Anecdotes suggest otherwise, that if it hasn’t been rediscovered in the first year, it likely won’t ever be.
The Rand study was overwhelmingly clear on the issue that 0days are dramatically more likely to become obsolete than be rediscovered. The latest update to iOS will break an 0day, rather than somebody else rediscovering it. Win10 adoption will break older SMB exploits faster than rediscovery.
In any case, this post is about ETERNALBLUE specifically. What we learned from this specific bug is that it was used for at least 5 year without anybody else rediscovering it (before it was leaked). Chances are good it never would’ve been rediscovered, just made obsolete by Win10.

Notification is notification

All disclosure has the potential of leading to worms like WannaCry. The Conficker worm of 2008, for example, was written after Microsoft patched the underlying vulnerability.
Thus, had the NSA disclosed the bug in the normal way, chances are good it still would’ve been used for worming ransomware.
Yes, WannaCry had a head-start because ShadowBrokers published a working exploit, but this doesn’t appear to have made a difference. The Blaster worm (the first worm to compromise millions of computers) took roughly the same amount of time to create, and almost no details were made public about the vulnerability, other than the fact it was patched. (I know from personal experience — we used diff to find what changed in the patch in order to reverse engineer the 0day).
In other words, the damage the NSA is responsible for isn’t really the damage that came after it was patched — that was likely to happen anyway, as it does with normal vuln disclosure. Instead, the only damage the NSA can truly be held responsible for is the damage ahead of time, such as the months (years?) the ShadowBrokers possessed the exploits before they were patched.

Disclosed doesn’t mean fixed

One thing we’ve learned from 30 years of disclosure is that vendors ignore bugs.
We’ve gotten to the state where a few big companies like Microsoft and Apple will actually fix bugs, but the vast majority of vendors won’t. Even Microsoft and Apple have been known to sit on tricky bugs for over a year before fixing them.
And the only reason Microsoft and Apple have gotten to this state is because we, the community, bullied them into it. When we disclose bugs to them, we give them a deadline when we make the bug public, whether or not its been fixed.
The same goes for the NSA. If they quietly disclose bugs to vendors, in general, they won’t be fixed unless the NSA also makes the bug public within a certain time frame. Either Schneier has to argue that the NSA should do such public full-disclosures, or argue that disclosures won’t always lead to fixes.

Replacement SMB/MSRPC

The ETERNALBLUE vuln is so valuable to the NSA that it’s almost certainly seeking a replacement.
Again, I’m trying to debunk the impression Schneier tries to form that somehow the NSA stumbled upon ETERNALBLUE by accident to begin with. The opposite is true: remote exploits for the SMB (port 445) or MSRPC (port 135) services are some of the most valuable vulns, and the NSA will work hard to acquire them.

That it was leaked

The only issue here is that the 0day leaked. If the NSA can’t keep it’s weaponized toys secret, then maybe it shouldn’t have them.
Instead of processing this new piece of information, which is important, Schneier takes this opportunity to just re-hash the old inaccurate and deceptive VEP debate.

Conclusion

Except for a tiny number of people working for the NSA, none of us really know what’s going on with 0days inside government. Schneier’s comments seem more off-base than most. Like all activists, he deliberately uses language to deceive rather than explain (like “discover” instead of “acquire”). Like all activists, he seems obsessed with the VEP, even though as far as anybody can tell, it’s not used for NSA acquired vulns. He deliberate ignores things he should be an expert in, such as how all patches/disclosures sometimes lead to worms/exploits, and how not all disclosure leads to fixes.

[$] The “rare write” mechanism

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/724319/rss

One of the ways to harden the kernel is by tightening permissions on memory
to write-protect as much run-time data as possible. This means the
kernel makes some data structures read-only to prevent malicious or
accidental corruption. However, inevitably, most data structures need
read/write access at some point. Because of this, a blanket read-only
policy for these
structures wouldn’t work. Therefore, we need a mechanism that keeps
sensitive data structures read-only when “at rest”, but allows writes when
the need arises.