Tag Archives: china

US Senators Ask Apple Why VPN Apps Were Removed in China

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/us-senators-ask-apple-why-vpn-apps-were-removed-in-china-171020/

As part of what is now clearly a crackdown on Great Firewall-evading tools and services, during the summer Chinese government pressure reached technology giant Apple.

On or around July 29, Apple removed many of the most-used VPN applications from its Chinese app store. In a short email from the company, VPN providers were informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

Now, in a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, US senators Ted Cruz and Patrick Leahy express concern at the move by Apple, noting that if reports of the software removals are true, the company could be assisting China’s restrictive approach to the Internet.

“VPNs allow users to access the uncensored Internet in China and other countries that restrict Internet freedom. If these reports are true, we are concerned that Apple may be enabling the Chines government’s censorship and surveillance of the Internet.”

Describing China as a country with “an abysmal human rights record, including with respect to the rights of free expression and free access to information, both online and offline”, the senators cite Reporters Without Borders who previously labeled the country as “the enemy of the Internet”.

While senators Cruz and Leahy go on to praise Apple for its contribution to the spread of information, they criticize the company for going along with the wishes of the Chinese government as it seeks to suppress knowledge and communication.

“While Apple’s many contributions to the global exchange of information are admirable, removing VPN apps that allow individuals in China to evade the Great Firewall and access the Internet privately does not enable people in China to ‘speak up’,” the senators write.

“To the contrary, if Apple complies with such demands from the Chinese government it inhibits free expression for users across China, particularly in light of the Cyberspace Administration of China’s new regulations targeting online anonymity.”

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had indeed launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate in China. And the aggression against VPNs and their providers didn’t stop there.

In September, a Chinese man who sold Great Firewall-evading VPN software via a website was sentenced to nine months in prison by a Chinese court. Just weeks later, a software developer who set up a VPN for his own use but later sold access to the service was arrested and detained for three days.

This emerging pattern is clearly a concern for the senators who are now demanding that Tim Cook responds to ten questions (pdf), including whether Apple raised concerns about China’s VPN removal demands and details of how many apps were removed from its store. The senators also want to see copies of any pro-free speech statements Apple has made in China.

Whether the letter will make any difference on the ground in China remains to be seen, but the public involvement of the senators and technology giant Apple is certain to thrust censorship and privacy further into the public eye.

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

‘Pirate’ EBook Site Refuses Point Blank to Cooperate With BREIN

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-ebook-site-refuses-point-blank-to-cooperate-with-brein-171015/

Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is probably best known for its legal action against The Pirate Bay but the outfit also tackles many other forms of piracy.

A prime example is the case it pursued against a seller of fully-loaded Kodi boxes in the Netherlands. The subsequent landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice will reverberate around Europe for years to come.

Behind the scenes, however, BREIN persistently tries to take much smaller operations offline, and not without success. Earlier this year it revealed it had taken down 231 illegal sites and services includes 84 linking sites, 63 streaming portals, and 34 torrent sites. Some of these shut down completely and others were forced to leave their hosting providers.

Much of this work flies under the radar but some current action, against an eBook site, is now being thrust into the public eye.

For more than five years, EBoek.info (eBook) has serviced Internet users looking to obtain comic books in Dutch. The site informs TorrentFreak it provides a legitimate service, targeted at people who have purchased a hard copy but also want their comics in digital format.

“EBoek.info is a site about comic books in the Dutch language. Besides some general information about the books, people who have legally obtained a hard copy of the books can find a link to an NZB file which enables them to download a digital version of the books they already have,” site representative ‘Zala’ says.

For those out of the loop, NZB files are a bit like Usenet’s version of .torrent files. They contain no copyrighted content themselves but do provide software clients with information on where to find specific content, so it can be downloaded to a user’s machine.

“BREIN claims that this is illegal as it is impossible for us to verify if our visitor is telling the truth [about having purchased a copy],” Zala reveals.

Speaking with TorrentFreak, BREIN chief Tim Kuik says there’s no question that offering downloads like this is illegal.

“It is plain and simple: the site makes links to unauthorized digital copies available to the general public and therefore is infringing copyright. It is distribution of the content without authorization of the rights holder,” Kuik says.

“The unauthorized copies are not private copies. The private copy exception does not apply to this kind of distribution. The private copy has not been made by the owner of the book himself for his own use. Someone else made the digital copy and is making it available to anyone who wants to download it provided he makes the unverified claim that he has a legal copy. This harms the normal exploitation of the
content.”

Zala says that BREIN has been trying to take his site offline for many years but more recently, the platform has utilized the services of Cloudflare, partly as a form of shield. As readers may be aware, a site behind Cloudflare has its originating IP addresses hidden from the public, not to mention BREIN, who values that kind of information. According to the operator, however, BREIN managed to obtain the information from the CDN provider.

“BREIN has tried for years to take our site offline. Recently, however, Cloudflare was so friendly to give them our IP address,” Zala notes.

A text copy of an email reportedly sent by BREIN to EBoek’s web host and seen by TF appears to confirm that Cloudflare handed over the information as suggested. Among other things, the email has BREIN informing the host that “The IP we got back from Cloudflare is XXX.XXX.XX.33.”

This means that BREIN was able to place direct pressure on EBoek.info’s web host, so only time will tell if that bears any fruit for the anti-piracy group. In the meantime, however, EBoek has decided to go public over its battle with BREIN.

“We have received a request from Stichting BREIN via our hosting provider to take EBoek.info offline,” the site informed its users yesterday.

Interestingly, it also appears that BREIN doesn’t appreciate that the operators of EBoek have failed to make their identities publicly known on their platform.

“The site operates anonymously which also is unlawful. Consumer protection requires that the owner/operator of a site identifies himself,” Kuik says.

According to EBoek, the anti-piracy outfit told the site’s web host that as a “commercial online service”, EBoek is required under EU law to display its “correct and complete business information” including names, addresses, and other information. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the site doesn’t want to play ball.

“In my opinion, you are confusing us with Facebook. They are a foreign commercial company with a European branch in Ireland, and therefore are subject to Irish legislation,” Zala says in an open letter to BREIN.

“Eboek.info, on the other hand, is a foreign hobby club with no commercial purpose, whose administrators have no connection with any country in the European Union. As administrators, we follow the laws of our country of residence which do not oblige us to disclose our identity through our website.

“The fact that Eboek is visible in the Netherlands does not just mean that we are going to adapt to Dutch rules, just as we don’t adapt the site to the rules of Saudi Arabia or China or wherever we are available.”

In a further snub to the anti-piracy group, EBoek says that all visitors to the site have to communicate with its operators via its guestbook, which is publicly visible.

“We see no reason to make an exception for Stichting BREIN,” the site notes.

What makes the situation more complex is that EBoek isn’t refusing dialog completely. The site says it doesn’t want to talk to BREIN but will speak to BREIN’s customers – the publishers of the comic books in question – noting that to date no complaints from publishers have ever been received.

While the parties argue about lines of communication, BREIN insists that following this year’s European Court of Justice decision in the GS Media case, a link to a known infringing work represents copyright infringement. In this case, an NZB file – which links to a location on Usenet – would generally fit the bill.

But despite focusing on the Dutch market, the operators of EBoek say the ruling doesn’t apply to them as they’re outside of the ECJ’s jurisdiction and aren’t commercially motivated. Refusing point blank to take their site offline, EBoek’s operators say that BREIN can do its worst, nothing will have much effect.

“[W]hat’s the worst thing that can happen? That our web host hands [BREIN] our address and IP data. In that case, it will turn out that…we are actually far away,” Zala says.

“[In the case the site goes offline], we’ll just put a backup on another server and, in this case, won’t make use of the ‘services’ of Cloudflare, the provider that apparently put BREIN on the right track.”

The question of jurisdiction is indeed an interesting one, particularly given BREIN’s focus in the Netherlands. But Kuik is clear – it is the area where the content is made available that matters.

“The law of the country where the content is made available applies. In this case the EU and amongst others the Netherlands,” Kuik concludes.

To be continued…..

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

"Responsible encryption" fallacies

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/10/responsible-encryption-fallacies.html

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave a speech recently calling for “Responsible Encryption” (aka. “Crypto Backdoors”). It’s full of dangerous ideas that need to be debunked.

The importance of law enforcement

The first third of the speech talks about the importance of law enforcement, as if it’s the only thing standing between us and chaos. It cites the 2016 Mirai attacks as an example of the chaos that will only get worse without stricter law enforcement.

But the Mira case demonstrated the opposite, how law enforcement is not needed. They made no arrests in the case. A year later, they still haven’t a clue who did it.

Conversely, we technologists have fixed the major infrastructure issues. Specifically, those affected by the DNS outage have moved to multiple DNS providers, including a high-capacity DNS provider like Google and Amazon who can handle such large attacks easily.

In other words, we the people fixed the major Mirai problem, and law-enforcement didn’t.

Moreover, instead being a solution to cyber threats, law enforcement has become a threat itself. The DNC didn’t have the FBI investigate the attacks from Russia likely because they didn’t want the FBI reading all their files, finding wrongdoing by the DNC. It’s not that they did anything actually wrong, but it’s more like that famous quote from Richelieu “Give me six words written by the most honest of men and I’ll find something to hang him by”. Give all your internal emails over to the FBI and I’m certain they’ll find something to hang you by, if they want.
Or consider the case of Andrew Auernheimer. He found AT&T’s website made public user accounts of the first iPad, so he copied some down and posted them to a news site. AT&T had denied the problem, so making the problem public was the only way to force them to fix it. Such access to the website was legal, because AT&T had made the data public. However, prosecutors disagreed. In order to protect the powerful, they twisted and perverted the law to put Auernheimer in jail.

It’s not that law enforcement is bad, it’s that it’s not the unalloyed good Rosenstein imagines. When law enforcement becomes the thing Rosenstein describes, it means we live in a police state.

Where law enforcement can’t go

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim in the encryption debate:

Our society has never had a system where evidence of criminal wrongdoing was totally impervious to detection

Of course our society has places “impervious to detection”, protected by both legal and natural barriers.

An example of a legal barrier is how spouses can’t be forced to testify against each other. This barrier is impervious.

A better example, though, is how so much of government, intelligence, the military, and law enforcement itself is impervious. If prosecutors could gather evidence everywhere, then why isn’t Rosenstein prosecuting those guilty of CIA torture?

Oh, you say, government is a special exception. If that were the case, then why did Rosenstein dedicate a precious third of his speech discussing the “rule of law” and how it applies to everyone, “protecting people from abuse by the government”. It obviously doesn’t, there’s one rule of government and a different rule for the people, and the rule for government means there’s lots of places law enforcement can’t go to gather evidence.

Likewise, the crypto backdoor Rosenstein is demanding for citizens doesn’t apply to the President, Congress, the NSA, the Army, or Rosenstein himself.

Then there are the natural barriers. The police can’t read your mind. They can only get the evidence that is there, like partial fingerprints, which are far less reliable than full fingerprints. They can’t go backwards in time.

I mention this because encryption is a natural barrier. It’s their job to overcome this barrier if they can, to crack crypto and so forth. It’s not our job to do it for them.

It’s like the camera that increasingly comes with TVs for video conferencing, or the microphone on Alexa-style devices that are always recording. This suddenly creates evidence that the police want our help in gathering, such as having the camera turned on all the time, recording to disk, in case the police later gets a warrant, to peer backward in time what happened in our living rooms. The “nothing is impervious” argument applies here as well. And it’s equally bogus here. By not helping police by not recording our activities, we aren’t somehow breaking some long standing tradit

And this is the scary part. It’s not that we are breaking some ancient tradition that there’s no place the police can’t go (with a warrant). Instead, crypto backdoors breaking the tradition that never before have I been forced to help them eavesdrop on me, even before I’m a suspect, even before any crime has been committed. Sure, laws like CALEA force the phone companies to help the police against wrongdoers — but here Rosenstein is insisting I help the police against myself.

Balance between privacy and public safety

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim that encryption upsets the balance between privacy/safety:

Warrant-proof encryption defeats the constitutional balance by elevating privacy above public safety.

This is laughable, because technology has swung the balance alarmingly in favor of law enforcement. Far from “Going Dark” as his side claims, the problem we are confronted with is “Going Light”, where the police state monitors our every action.

You are surrounded by recording devices. If you walk down the street in town, outdoor surveillance cameras feed police facial recognition systems. If you drive, automated license plate readers can track your route. If you make a phone call or use a credit card, the police get a record of the transaction. If you stay in a hotel, they demand your ID, for law enforcement purposes.

And that’s their stuff, which is nothing compared to your stuff. You are never far from a recording device you own, such as your mobile phone, TV, Alexa/Siri/OkGoogle device, laptop. Modern cars from the last few years increasingly have always-on cell connections and data recorders that record your every action (and location).

Even if you hike out into the country, when you get back, the FBI can subpoena your GPS device to track down your hidden weapon’s cache, or grab the photos from your camera.

And this is all offline. So much of what we do is now online. Of the photographs you own, fewer than 1% are printed out, the rest are on your computer or backed up to the cloud.

Your phone is also a GPS recorder of your exact position all the time, which if the government wins the Carpenter case, they police can grab without a warrant. Tagging all citizens with a recording device of their position is not “balance” but the premise for a novel more dystopic than 1984.

If suspected of a crime, which would you rather the police searched? Your person, houses, papers, and physical effects? Or your mobile phone, computer, email, and online/cloud accounts?

The balance of privacy and safety has swung so far in favor of law enforcement that rather than debating whether they should have crypto backdoors, we should be debating how to add more privacy protections.

“But it’s not conclusive”

Rosenstein defends the “going light” (“Golden Age of Surveillance”) by pointing out it’s not always enough for conviction. Nothing gives a conviction better than a person’s own words admitting to the crime that were captured by surveillance. This other data, while copious, often fails to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
This is nonsense. Police got along well enough before the digital age, before such widespread messaging. They solved terrorist and child abduction cases just fine in the 1980s. Sure, somebody’s GPS location isn’t by itself enough — until you go there and find all the buried bodies, which leads to a conviction. “Going dark” imagines that somehow, the evidence they’ve been gathering for centuries is going away. It isn’t. It’s still here, and matches up with even more digital evidence.
Conversely, a person’s own words are not as conclusive as you think. There’s always missing context. We quickly get back to the Richelieu “six words” problem, where captured communications are twisted to convict people, with defense lawyers trying to untwist them.

Rosenstein’s claim may be true, that a lot of criminals will go free because the other electronic data isn’t convincing enough. But I’d need to see that claim backed up with hard studies, not thrown out for emotional impact.

Terrorists and child molesters

You can always tell the lack of seriousness of law enforcement when they bring up terrorists and child molesters.
To be fair, sometimes we do need to talk about terrorists. There are things unique to terrorism where me may need to give government explicit powers to address those unique concerns. For example, the NSA buys mobile phone 0day exploits in order to hack terrorist leaders in tribal areas. This is a good thing.
But when terrorists use encryption the same way everyone else does, then it’s not a unique reason to sacrifice our freedoms to give the police extra powers. Either it’s a good idea for all crimes or no crimes — there’s nothing particular about terrorism that makes it an exceptional crime. Dead people are dead. Any rational view of the problem relegates terrorism to be a minor problem. More citizens have died since September 8, 2001 from their own furniture than from terrorism. According to studies, the hot water from the tap is more of a threat to you than terrorists.
Yes, government should do what they can to protect us from terrorists, but no, it’s not so bad of a threat that requires the imposition of a military/police state. When people use terrorism to justify their actions, it’s because they trying to form a military/police state.
A similar argument works with child porn. Here’s the thing: the pervs aren’t exchanging child porn using the services Rosenstein wants to backdoor, like Apple’s Facetime or Facebook’s WhatsApp. Instead, they are exchanging child porn using custom services they build themselves.
Again, I’m (mostly) on the side of the FBI. I support their idea of buying 0day exploits in order to hack the web browsers of visitors to the secret “PlayPen” site. This is something that’s narrow to this problem and doesn’t endanger the innocent. On the other hand, their calls for crypto backdoors endangers the innocent while doing effectively nothing to address child porn.
Terrorists and child molesters are a clichéd, non-serious excuse to appeal to our emotions to give up our rights. We should not give in to such emotions.

Definition of “backdoor”

Rosenstein claims that we shouldn’t call backdoors “backdoors”:

No one calls any of those functions [like key recovery] a “back door.”  In fact, those capabilities are marketed and sought out by many users.

He’s partly right in that we rarely refer to PGP’s key escrow feature as a “backdoor”.

But that’s because the term “backdoor” refers less to how it’s done and more to who is doing it. If I set up a recovery password with Apple, I’m the one doing it to myself, so we don’t call it a backdoor. If it’s the police, spies, hackers, or criminals, then we call it a “backdoor” — even it’s identical technology.

Wikipedia uses the key escrow feature of the 1990s Clipper Chip as a prime example of what everyone means by “backdoor“. By “no one”, Rosenstein is including Wikipedia, which is obviously incorrect.

Though in truth, it’s not going to be the same technology. The needs of law enforcement are different than my personal key escrow/backup needs. In particular, there are unsolvable problems, such as a backdoor that works for the “legitimate” law enforcement in the United States but not for the “illegitimate” police states like Russia and China.

I feel for Rosenstein, because the term “backdoor” does have a pejorative connotation, which can be considered unfair. But that’s like saying the word “murder” is a pejorative term for killing people, or “torture” is a pejorative term for torture. The bad connotation exists because we don’t like government surveillance. I mean, honestly calling this feature “government surveillance feature” is likewise pejorative, and likewise exactly what it is that we are talking about.

Providers

Rosenstein focuses his arguments on “providers”, like Snapchat or Apple. But this isn’t the question.

The question is whether a “provider” like Telegram, a Russian company beyond US law, provides this feature. Or, by extension, whether individuals should be free to install whatever software they want, regardless of provider.

Telegram is a Russian company that provides end-to-end encryption. Anybody can download their software in order to communicate so that American law enforcement can’t eavesdrop. They aren’t going to put in a backdoor for the U.S. If we succeed in putting backdoors in Apple and WhatsApp, all this means is that criminals are going to install Telegram.

If the, for some reason, the US is able to convince all such providers (including Telegram) to install a backdoor, then it still doesn’t solve the problem, as uses can just build their own end-to-end encryption app that has no provider. It’s like email: some use the major providers like GMail, others setup their own email server.

Ultimately, this means that any law mandating “crypto backdoors” is going to target users not providers. Rosenstein tries to make a comparison with what plain-old telephone companies have to do under old laws like CALEA, but that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, for such rules to have any effect, they have to punish users for what they install, not providers.

This continues the argument I made above. Government backdoors is not something that forces Internet services to eavesdrop on us — it forces us to help the government spy on ourselves.
Rosenstein tries to address this by pointing out that it’s still a win if major providers like Apple and Facetime are forced to add backdoors, because they are the most popular, and some terrorists/criminals won’t move to alternate platforms. This is false. People with good intentions, who are unfairly targeted by a police state, the ones where police abuse is rampant, are the ones who use the backdoored products. Those with bad intentions, who know they are guilty, will move to the safe products. Indeed, Telegram is already popular among terrorists because they believe American services are already all backdoored. 
Rosenstein is essentially demanding the innocent get backdoored while the guilty don’t. This seems backwards. This is backwards.

Apple is morally weak

The reason I’m writing this post is because Rosenstein makes a few claims that cannot be ignored. One of them is how he describes Apple’s response to government insistence on weakening encryption doing the opposite, strengthening encryption. He reasons this happens because:

Of course they [Apple] do. They are in the business of selling products and making money. 

We [the DoJ] use a different measure of success. We are in the business of preventing crime and saving lives. 

He swells in importance. His condescending tone ennobles himself while debasing others. But this isn’t how things work. He’s not some white knight above the peasantry, protecting us. He’s a beat cop, a civil servant, who serves us.

A better phrasing would have been:

They are in the business of giving customers what they want.

We are in the business of giving voters what they want.

Both sides are doing the same, giving people what they want. Yes, voters want safety, but they also want privacy. Rosenstein imagines that he’s free to ignore our demands for privacy as long has he’s fulfilling his duty to protect us. He has explicitly rejected what people want, “we use a different measure of success”. He imagines it’s his job to tell us where the balance between privacy and safety lies. That’s not his job, that’s our job. We, the people (and our representatives), make that decision, and it’s his job is to do what he’s told. His measure of success is how well he fulfills our wishes, not how well he satisfies his imagined criteria.

That’s why those of us on this side of the debate doubt the good intentions of those like Rosenstein. He criticizes Apple for wanting to protect our rights/freedoms, and declare they measure success differently.

They are willing to be vile

Rosenstein makes this argument:

Companies are willing to make accommodations when required by the government. Recent media reports suggest that a major American technology company developed a tool to suppress online posts in certain geographic areas in order to embrace a foreign government’s censorship policies. 

Let me translate this for you:

Companies are willing to acquiesce to vile requests made by police-states. Therefore, they should acquiesce to our vile police-state requests.

It’s Rosenstein who is admitting here is that his requests are those of a police-state.

Constitutional Rights

Rosenstein says:

There is no constitutional right to sell warrant-proof encryption.

Maybe. It’s something the courts will have to decide. There are many 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Amendment issues here.
The reason we have the Bill of Rights is because of the abuses of the British Government. For example, they quartered troops in our homes, as a way of punishing us, and as a way of forcing us to help in our own oppression. The troops weren’t there to defend us against the French, but to defend us against ourselves, to shoot us if we got out of line.

And that’s what crypto backdoors do. We are forced to be agents of our own oppression. The principles enumerated by Rosenstein apply to a wide range of even additional surveillance. With little change to his speech, it can equally argue why the constant TV video surveillance from 1984 should be made law.

Let’s go back and look at Apple. It is not some base company exploiting consumers for profit. Apple doesn’t have guns, they cannot make people buy their product. If Apple doesn’t provide customers what they want, then customers vote with their feet, and go buy an Android phone. Apple isn’t providing encryption/security in order to make a profit — it’s giving customers what they want in order to stay in business.
Conversely, if we citizens don’t like what the government does, tough luck, they’ve got the guns to enforce their edicts. We can’t easily vote with our feet and walk to another country. A “democracy” is far less democratic than capitalism. Apple is a minority, selling phones to 45% of the population, and that’s fine, the minority get the phones they want. In a Democracy, where citizens vote on the issue, those 45% are screwed, as the 55% impose their will unwanted onto the remainder.

That’s why we have the Bill of Rights, to protect the 49% against abuse by the 51%. Regardless whether the Supreme Court agrees the current Constitution, it is the sort right that might exist regardless of what the Constitution says. 

Obliged to speak the truth

Here is the another part of his speech that I feel cannot be ignored. We have to discuss this:

Those of us who swear to protect the rule of law have a different motivation.  We are obliged to speak the truth.

The truth is that “going dark” threatens to disable law enforcement and enable criminals and terrorists to operate with impunity.

This is not true. Sure, he’s obliged to say the absolute truth, in court. He’s also obliged to be truthful in general about facts in his personal life, such as not lying on his tax return (the sort of thing that can get lawyers disbarred).

But he’s not obliged to tell his spouse his honest opinion whether that new outfit makes them look fat. Likewise, Rosenstein knows his opinion on public policy doesn’t fall into this category. He can say with impunity that either global warming doesn’t exist, or that it’ll cause a biblical deluge within 5 years. Both are factually untrue, but it’s not going to get him fired.

And this particular claim is also exaggerated bunk. While everyone agrees encryption makes law enforcement’s job harder than with backdoors, nobody honestly believes it can “disable” law enforcement. While everyone agrees that encryption helps terrorists, nobody believes it can enable them to act with “impunity”.

I feel bad here. It’s a terrible thing to question your opponent’s character this way. But Rosenstein made this unavoidable when he clearly, with no ambiguity, put his integrity as Deputy Attorney General on the line behind the statement that “going dark threatens to disable law enforcement and enable criminals and terrorists to operate with impunity”. I feel it’s a bald face lie, but you don’t need to take my word for it. Read his own words yourself and judge his integrity.

Conclusion

Rosenstein’s speech includes repeated references to ideas like “oath”, “honor”, and “duty”. It reminds me of Col. Jessup’s speech in the movie “A Few Good Men”.

If you’ll recall, it was rousing speech, “you want me on that wall” and “you use words like honor as a punchline”. Of course, since he was violating his oath and sending two privates to death row in order to avoid being held accountable, it was Jessup himself who was crapping on the concepts of “honor”, “oath”, and “duty”.

And so is Rosenstein. He imagines himself on that wall, doing albeit terrible things, justified by his duty to protect citizens. He imagines that it’s he who is honorable, while the rest of us not, even has he utters bald faced lies to further his own power and authority.

We activists oppose crypto backdoors not because we lack honor, or because we are criminals, or because we support terrorists and child molesters. It’s because we value privacy and government officials who get corrupted by power. It’s not that we fear Trump becoming a dictator, it’s that we fear bureaucrats at Rosenstein’s level becoming drunk on authority — which Rosenstein demonstrably has. His speech is a long train of corrupt ideas pursuing the same object of despotism — a despotism we oppose.

In other words, we oppose crypto backdoors because it’s not a tool of law enforcement, but a tool of despotism.

‘China Should Crack Down on Pirate Streaming Box Distributors’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/china-should-crack-down-on-pirate-streaming-box-distributors-171001/

The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) has informed the U.S. Government that China must step up its game to better protect the interests of copyright holders.

The US Trade Representative is reviewing whether China has done enough to comply with its WTO obligations, but IIPA members including RIAA and MPAA believe there is still work to be done.

One of the areas to which the Chinese Government should pay more attention is enforcement. Although a lot of progress has been made in recent years, especially in combating music piracy, new threats have emerged.

One of the areas highlighted by IIPA is the streaming box ecosystem, aptly dubbed as “piracy 3.0” by the Motion Picture Association. This appeals to a new breed of pirates who rely on set-top boxes which are filled with pirate add-ons.

Industry groups often refer to these boxes as Illicit Streaming Devices (ISDs) and they see China as a major hub through which these are shipped around the world.

“ISDs are media boxes, set-top boxes or other devices that allow users, through the use of piracy apps, to stream, download, or otherwise access unauthorized content from the Internet,” IIPA writes.

“These devices have emerged as a significant means through which pirated motion picture and television content is accessed on televisions in homes in China as well as elsewhere in Asia and increasingly around the world. China is a hub for the manufacture of these devices.”

Although the hardware and media players are perfectly legal, things get problematic when they’re loaded with pirate add-ons and promoted as tools to facilitate copyright infringement.

IIPA states that the Chinese Government should do more to stop these devices from being sold. Cracking down on the main distribution points would be a good start, they say.

“However it is done, the Chinese government must increase enforcement efforts, including cracking down on piracy apps and on device retailers and/or distributors who preload the devices with apps that facilitate infringement.

“Moreover, because China is the main source of this problem spreading across Asia, the Chinese government should take immediate actions against key distribution points for devices that are being used illegally,” IIPA adds.

In addition to pirate boxes, the industry groups also want China to beef up its enforcement against online journal piracy, pirate apps, unauthorized camcording, and unlicensed streaming platforms.

IIPA intends to explain the above and several other shortcomings in detail during a hearing in Washington, DC, next Wednesday. The group has submitted an overview of its testimony to the Trade Representative, which is available here (pdf).

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

In the Works – AWS Region in the Middle East

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/in-the-works-aws-region-in-the-middle-east/

Last year we launched new AWS Regions in Canada, India, Korea, the UK, and the United States, and announced that new regions are coming to China, France, Hong Kong, Sweden, and a second GovCloud Region in the US throughout 2017 and 2018.

Middle East Region by Early 2019
Today, I am happy to announce that we will be opening an AWS Region in the Middle East by early 2019. The new Region will be based in Bahrain, will be comprised of three Availability Zones at launch, and will give AWS customers and partners the ability to run their workloads and store their data in the Middle East.

AWS customers are already making use of 44 Availability Zones across 16 geographic regions. Today’s announcement brings the total number of global regions (operational and in the works) up to 22.

UAE Edge Location in 2018
We also plan to open an edge location in the UAE in the first quarter of 2018. This will bring Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, AWS Shield, and AWS WAF to the region, adding to our existing set of 78 points of presence world-wide.

These announcements add to our continued investment in the Middle East. Earlier this year we announced the opening of AWS offices in Dubai, UAE and Manama, Bahrain. Prior to this we have supported the growth of technology education in the region with AWS Educate and have supported the growth of new businesses through AWS Activate for many years.

The addition of AWS infrastructure in the Middle East will help countries across the region to innovate, grow their economies, and pursue their vision plans (Saudi Vision 2030, UAE Vision 2021, Bahrain Vision 2030, and so forth).

Talk to Us
As always, we are looking forward to serving new and existing customers in the Middle East and working with partners across the region. Of course, the new Region will also be open to existing AWS customers who would like to serve users in the Middle East.

To learn more about the AWS Middle East Region feel free to contact our team at [email protected] .

If you are interested in joining the team and would like to learn more about AWS positions in the Middle East, take a look at the Amazon Jobs site.

Jeff;

Another Chinese Developer Arrested For Selling VPN Access

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/another-chinese-developer-arrested-for-selling-vpn-access-170920/

Early 2017, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that due to Internet technologies and services expanding in a “disorderly” fashion, regulation would be needed to restore order.

Announcing measures to strengthen network information security management, the government said it would begin a “nationwide Internet network access services clean-up.”

Months later, it became evident that authorities were taking an even more aggressive stance towards Virtual Private Networks, since these allow citizens to evade the so-called Great Firewall of China. The government said that in future, operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications license would constitute an offense.

Now, according to local news reports, a citizen who apparently failed to heed the government’s warnings has fallen foul of the new rules.

The Nanjinger reports that a software developer, named as Mr. Zhao from Nanjing, was arrested August 21 for contravening the new laws on VPN licensing.

Zhao reportedly told authorities he’d initially set up the VPN for his own use in order to access content hosted abroad, which presumably involved circumventing China’s firewall. However, once he recognized there was a demand, the developer decided to let others use the service for a small fee.

The prices he asked were indeed small – just $1.50 per month or around $18 for two years’ service. Based on reported total revenues of just $164 for the entire business, it’s possible he had around 100 customers, or indeed far fewer.

What will happen to the man isn’t clear but he’ll be keen to avoid the fate of Deng Jiewei, who previously ran a small website through which he’d sold around $2,100 worth of VPN software.

Early September it was reported that the 26-year-old had been sentenced to nine months in prison for offering tools that enable people to “visit foreign websites that cannot be accessed via a domestic (mainland) IP address.”

These cases are part of an emerging pattern in China centered around the supply and sale of VPN products and services. Back in July, Apple began banning VPN applications from its iOS store in China. The company reported that the apps contained content that is illegal locally, thereby violating the company’s policies.

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

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;

 

Chinese Man Jailed For Nine Months For Selling VPN Software

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/chinese-man-jailed-for-nine-months-for-selling-vpn-software-170904/

Back in January, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced that due to Internet technologies and services expanding in a “disorderly” fashion, regulation would be needed to restore order.

The government said that it would take measures to “strengthen network information security management” and would embark on a “nationwide Internet network access services clean-up.”

One of the initial targets was reported as censorship-busting VPNs, which allow citizens to evade the so-called Great Firewall of China. Operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications business license would constitute an offense, the government said.

The news was met with hostility, with media and citizens alike bemoaning Chinese censorship. Then early July, a further report suggested that the government would go a step further by ordering ISPs to block VPNs altogether. This elicited an immediate response from local authorities, who quickly denied the reports, blaming “foreign media” for false reporting.

But it was clear something was amiss in China. Later that month, it was revealed that Apple had banned VPN software and services from its app store.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed developers.

With an effort clearly underway to target VPNs, news today from China suggests that the government is indeed determined to tackle the anti-censorship threat presented by such tools. According to local media, Chinese man Deng Mouwei who ran a small website through which he sold VPN software, has been sentenced to prison.

The 26-year-old, from the city of Dongguan in the Guangdong province, was first arrested in October 2016 after setting up a website to sell VPNs. Just two products were on offer but this was enough to spring authorities into action.

A prosecution notice, published by Chinese publication Whatsonweibo, reveals the university educated man was arrested “on suspicion of providing tools for illegal control of a computer information system.”

It’s alleged that the man used several phrases to market the VPNs including “VPN over the wall” and “Shadow shuttle cloud”. The business wasn’t particularly profitable though, generating just 13957 yuan ($2,133) since October 2015.

“The court held that the defendant Deng Mouwei disregarded state law, by providing tools specifically for the invasion and illegal control of computer information systems procedures,” the Guandong Province’s First People’s Court said in its ruling, handed down earlier this year but only just made public.

“The circumstances are serious and the behavior violated the ‘Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China Article 285.”

Article 285 – don’t interfere with the state

“The facts of the crime are clear, the evidence is true and sufficient. In accordance with the provisions of Article 172 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, the defendant shall be sentenced according to law.”

Under Chinese law, Article 172 references stolen goods, noting that people who “conceal or act as distributors” shall be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment, or fined, depending on circumstances. Where VPNs fit into that isn’t clear, but things didn’t end well for the defendant.

For offering tools that enable people to “visit foreign websites that can not be accessed via a domestic (mainland) IP address,” Deng Mouwei received a nine-month prison sentence.

News of the sentencing appeared on Chinese social media over the weekend, prompting fear and confusion among local users. While many struggled to see the sense of the prosecution, some expressed fear that people who even use VPN software to evade China’s Great Firewall could be subjected to prosecution in the future.

Whatever the outcome, it’s now abundantly clear that China is the midst of a VPN crackdown across the board and is serious about stamping out efforts to bypass its censorship. With the Internet’s ability to treat censorship as damage and route round it, it’s a battle that won’t be easily won.

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

Piracy ‘Disaster’ Strikes The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/piracy-disaster-strikes-the-hitmans-bodyguard-170829/

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is an action comedy movie featuring Hollywood stars Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds.

While this hasn’t been a great summer at the box office, the makers of the film can’t complain as they’ve taken the top spot two weeks in a row. While this is reason for a small celebration, the fun didn’t last for long.

A few days ago several high-quality copies of the film started to appear on various pirate sites. While movie leaks happen every day, it’s very unusual that it happens just a few days after the theatrical release. In several countries including Australia, China, and Germany, it hasn’t even premiered yet.

Many pirates appear to be genuinely surprised by the early release as well, based on various comments. “August 18 was the premiere, how did you do this magic?” one downloader writes.

“OK, this was nothing short of perfection. 8 days post theatrical release… perfect 1080p clarity… no hardcoded subs… English translation AND full English subs… 5.1 audio. Does it get any better?” another commenter added.

The pirated copies of the movie are tagged as a “Web-DL” which means that they were ripped from an online streaming service. While the source is not revealed anywhere, the movie is currently available on Netflix in Japan, which makes it a likely candidate.

Screenshot of the leak

While the public often call for a simultaneous theatrical and Internet release, the current leak shows that this might come with a significant risk.

It’s clear that The Hitman’s Bodyguard production company Millennium Films is going to be outraged. The company has taken an aggressive stance against piracy in recent years. Among other things, it demanded automated cash settlements from alleged BitTorrent pirates and is also linked to various ‘copyright troll’ lawsuits.

Whether downloaders of The Hitman’s Bodyguard will be pursued as well has yet to be seen. For now, there is still plenty of interest from pirates. The movie was the most downloaded title on BitTorrent last week and is still doing well.

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

MPAA Wins Movie Piracy Case in China After Failed Anti-Piracy Deal

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-wins-movie-piracy-case-in-china-after-failed-anti-piracy-deal-170822/

As one of China’s top 10 Internet companies, Xunlei is a massive operation with hundreds of millions of monthly users.

Among other file-sharing ventures, Xunlei operates ‘Thunder’, the world’s most popular torrent client. This and other almost inevitable copyright-related issues put the company on the radar of the MPAA.

With Xunlei pursuing an IPO in the United States in 2014, relationships with the MPAA began to thaw, resulting in the breakthrough signing of a Content Protection Agreement (CPA) requiring Xunlei to protect MPAA studio content including movies and TV shows.

But in October 2014, with things clearly not going to plan, the MPAA reported Xunlei to the U.S. government, complaining of rampant piracy on the service. In January 2015, the MPAA stepped up a gear and sued Xunlei for copyright infringement.

“For too long we have witnessed valuable creative content being taken and monetized without the permission of the copyright owner. That has to stop and stop now,” said MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis.

Now, more than two-and-a-half years later, the case has come to a close. Yesterday, the Shenzhen Nanshan District People’s Court found Xunlei Networking Technologies Co. guilty of copyright infringement.

The Court found that Xunlei made 28 movie titles (belonging to companies including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Disney and Warner Bros.) available to the public via its platforms without proper authorization, “in serious violation” of the movie group’s rights.

Xunlei was ordered to cease-and-desist and told to pay compensation of 1.4 million yuan ($210,368) plus the MPA’s litigation costs of $24,400. In its original complaint, the MPA demanded a public apology from Xunlei but it’s unclear whether that forms part of the ruling. The outcome was welcomed by the MPA.

“We are heartened that the court in Shenzhen has found in favor of strong copyright,” said MPAA Asia-Pacific chief Mike Ellis.

“The legitimate Chinese film and television industry has worked hard to provide audiences with a wide range of legal options for their audio-visual entertainment — a marketplace that has flourished because of the rights afforded to copyright owners under the law.”

How the MPAA and Xunlei move ahead from here is unclear. This case has taken more than two-and-a-half years to come to a conclusion so further litigation seems somewhat unlikely, if not unwieldy. Then there’s the question of the anti-piracy agreement signed in 2014 and whether that is still on the table.

As previously revealed, the agreement not only compelled Xunlei to use pre-emptive content filtering technology but also required the platform to terminate the accounts of people who attempt to infringe copyright in any way.

“[The] filter will identify each and every instance of a user attempting to infringe a studio work, by uploading or downloading,” an internal MPAA document revealed.

All that being said, the document also contained advice for the MPAA not to sue Xunlei, so at this point anything could happen.

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

Cloudflare Kicking ‘Daily Stormer’ is Bad News For Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/cloudflare-kicking-daily-stormer-is-bad-news-for-pirate-sites-170817/

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet.”

Those are the words of Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince, who decided to terminate the account of controversial Neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

Bam. Gone. At least for a while.

Although many people are happy to see the site go offline, the decision is not without consequence. It goes directly against what many saw as the core values of the company.

For years on end, Cloudflare has been asked to remove terrorist propaganda, pirate sites, and other possibly unacceptable content. Each time, Cloudflare replied that it doesn’t take action without a court order. No exceptions.

“Even if it were able to, Cloudfare does not monitor, evaluate, judge or store content appearing on a third party website,” the company wrote just a few weeks ago, in its whitepaper on intermediary liability.

“We’re the plumbers of the internet. We make the pipes work but it’s not right for us to inspect what is or isn’t going through the pipes,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince himself said not too long ago.

“If companies like ours or ISPs start censoring there would be an uproar. It would lead us down a path of internet censors and controls akin to a country like China,” he added.

The same arguments were repeated in different contexts, over and over.

This strong position was also one of the reasons why Cloudflare was dragged into various copyright infringement court cases. In these cases, the company repeatedly stressed that removing a site from Cloudflare’s service would not make infringing content disappear.

Pirate sites would just require a simple DNS reconfiguration to continue their operation, after all.

“[T]here are no measures of any kind that CloudFlare could take to prevent this alleged infringement, because the termination of CloudFlare’s CDN services would have no impact on the existence and ability of these allegedly infringing websites to continue to operate,” it said.

That comment looks rather misplaced now that the CEO of the same company has decided to “kick” a website “off the Internet” after an emotional, but deliberate, decision.

Taking a page from Cloudflare’s (old) playbook we’re not going to make any judgments here. Just search Twitter or any social media site and you’ll see plenty of opinions, both for and against the company’s actions.

We do have a prediction though. During the months and years to come, Cloudflare is likely to be dragged into many more copyright lawsuits, and when they are, their counterparts are going to bring up Cloudflare’s voluntary decision to kick a website off the Internet.

Unless Cloudflare suddenly decides to pull all pirate sites from its service tomorrow, of course.

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

Approved Reseller programme launch PLUS more Pi Zero resellers

Post Syndicated from Mike Buffham original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/approved-reseller/

Ever since the launch of the first Raspberry Pi back in 2012, one thing that has been critical to us is to make our products easy to buy in as many countries as possible.

Buying a Raspberry Pi is certainly much simpler nowadays than it was when we were just starting out. Nevertheless, we want to go even further, and so today we are introducing an Approved Reseller programme. With this programme, we aim to recognise those resellers that represent Raspberry Pi products well, and make purchasing them easy for their customers.

The Raspberry Pi Approved Reseller programme

We’re launching the programme in eleven countries today: the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece and South Africa. Over the next few weeks, you will see us expand it to at least 50 countries.

We will link to the Approved Resellers’ websites directly from our Products page via the “Buy now” button. For customers who want to buy for business applications we have also added a “Buy for business” button. After clicking it, you will be able to select your country from a drop down menu. Doing so will link you directly to the local websites of our two licensed partners, Premier Farnell and Electrocomponents.

Our newest Raspberry Pi Zero resellers

On top of this we are also adding 6 new Raspberry Pi Zero resellers, giving 13 countries direct access to the Raspberry Pi Zero for the first time. We are particularly excited that these countries include Brazil and India, since they both have proved difficult to supply in the past.

The full list of new resellers is:

Hong Kong and China

Brazil

Raspberry Pi Brazil

India

Raspberry Pi India

Czech Republic and Slovakia

Raspberry Pi Czech Republic and Slovakia

Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Raspberry Pi Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Bosnia

Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary

Raspberry Pi Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary

Mexico

Raspberry Pi Mexico

The post Approved Reseller programme launch PLUS more Pi Zero resellers appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

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

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

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

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

Shared Passwords

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

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

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

Tools: HaveIBeenPwned.com

PIN encrypted PDFs

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

Tools: Hashcat, John the Ripper

SQL and other injection

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

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

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

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

Buffer overflows

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

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

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

SendMail DEBUG command (historical)

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

More: Wikipedia on Morris Worm

Email Attachments/Links

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

Default and backdoor passwords

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

Masscan and background radiation of the Internet

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

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

Tools: masscan, firewalls

Packet-sniffing, sidejacking

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

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

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

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

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

Tools: Wireshark, dsniff

Stuxnet LNK vulnerability

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

Social Engineering and Tech Support [* * *]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blue-boxes (historical) [*]

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

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

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

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

Thumb drives in parking lots [*]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Googling [*]

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

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

URL editing [*]

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

http://www.example.com/documents?id=138493

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

http://www.example.com/documents?id=138494

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

DDoS, spoofing, and amplification [*]

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

More: Wikipedia on DDoS, Wikipedia on Spoofing

Conclusion

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

Time-lapse Visualizes Game of Thrones Piracy Around The Globe

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/time-lapse-visualizes-game-of-thrones-piracy-around-the-globe-17-730/

Game of Thrones has been the most pirated TV-show online for years, and this isn’t expected to change anytime soon.

While most of today’s piracy takes place through streaming services, BitTorrent traffic remains significant as well. The show’s episodes are generally downloaded millions of times each, by people from all over the world.

In recent years there have been several attempts to quantify this piracy bonanza. While MILLIONS of downloads make for a good headline, there are some other trends worth looking at as well.

TorrentFreak spoke to Abigail De Kosnik, an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Together with computer scientist and artist Benjamin De Kosnik, she runs the BitTorrent-oriented research project “alpha60.”

The goal of alpha60 is to quantify and map BitTorrent activity around various media titles, to make this “shadow economy” visible to media scholars and the general public. Over the past two weeks, they’ve taken a close look at Game of Thrones downloads.

Their tracking software collected swarm data from 72 torrents that were released shortly after the first episode premiered. Before being anonymized, the collected IP-addresses were first translated to geographical locations, to reveal various traffic patterns.

The results, summarized in a white paper, reveal that during the first five days, alpha60 registered an estimated 1.77 million downloads. Of particular interest is the five-day time-lapse of the worldwide swarm activity.

Five-day Game of Thrones piracy timelapse

The time-lapse shows that download patterns vary depending on the time of the day. There is a lot of activity in Asia, but cities such as Athens, Toronto, and Sao Paulo also pop up regularly.

When looking at the absolute numbers, Seoul comes out on top as the Game of Thrones download capital of the world, followed by Athens, São Paulo, Guangzhou, Mumbai, and Bangalore.

Perhaps more interesting is the view of the number of downloads relative to the population, or the “over-pirating” cities, as alpha60 calls them. Here, Dallas comes out on top, before Brisbane, Chicago, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Seattle, and Perth.

Of course, VPNs may skew the results somewhat, but overall the data should give a pretty accurate impression of the download traffic around the globe.

Below are the complete top tens of most active cities, both in absolute numbers and relative to the population. Further insights and additional information is available in the full whitepaper, which can be accessed here.

Note: The download totals reported by alpha60 are significantly lower than the MUSO figures that came out last week. Alpha60 stresses, however, that their methods and data are accurate. MUSO, for its part, has made some dubious claims in the past.

Most downloads (absolute)

1 Seoul, Rep. of Korea
2 Athens, Greece
3 São Paulo, Brazil
4 Guangzhou, China
5 Mumbai, India
6 Bangalore, India
7 Shanghai, China
8 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
9 Delhi, India
10 Beijing, China

Most downloads (relative)

1 Dallas, USA
2 Brisbane, Australia
3 Chicago, USA
4 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
5 Seattle, USA
6 Perth, Australia
7 Phoenix, USA
8 Toronto, Canada
9 Athens, Greece
10 Guangzhou, China

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

Apple Bans VPNs From App Store in China

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/apple-bans-vpns-from-app-store-in-china-170729/

Apple is known to have a rigorous app-review policy.

Over the past several years, dozens of apps have been rejected from the App Store because they mention the word BitTorrent, for example.

The mere association with piracy is good enough to warrant a ban. This policy is now expanding to the privacy-sphere as well, at least in China.

It is no secret that the Chinese Government is preventing users from accessing certain sites and services. The so-called ‘Great Firewall’ works reasonably well, but can be circumvented through VPN services and other encryption tools.

These tools are a thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, which are now receiving help from Apple to limit their availability.

Over the past few hours, Apple has removed many of the most-used VPN applications from the Chinese app store. In a short email, VPN providers are informed that VPN applications are considered illegal in China.

“We are writing to notify you that your application will be removed from the China App Store because it includes content that is illegal in China, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines,” Apple informed the affected VPNs.

Apple’s email to VPN providers

VPN providers and users are complaining bitterly about the rigorous action. However, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Over the past few months there have been various signals that the Chinese Government would crack down on non-authorized VPN providers.

In January, a notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said that the government had launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

This essentially means that all VPN services have to be pre-approved by the Government if they want to operate there.

Earlier this month Bloomberg broke the news that China’s Government had ordered telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to VPNs. The Chinese Government denied that this was the case, but it’s clear that these services remain a high-profile target.

Thanks to Apple, China’s Government no longer has to worry about iOS users having easy access to the most popular VPN applications. Those users who search the local app store for “VPN” still see plenty of results, but, ironically, many of these applications are fake.

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

China Says It Will “Severely Strike” Websites Involved in Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/china-says-it-will-severely-strike-websites-involved-in-piracy-170729/

When it comes to the protection of intellectual property, China is often viewed as one of the world’s leading scofflaws. Everything is copied in the country, from designer watches to cars. Not even major landmarks can escape the replica treatment.

In more recent times, however, there have been signs that China might be at least warming to the idea that IP protection should be given more priority.

For example, every few months authorities announce a new crackdown on Internet piracy, such as the “Jian Wang 2016” program which shuttered 290 piracy websites in the final six months of last year.

Maintaining the same naming convention, this week China’s National Copyright Administration revealed the new “Jian Wang 2017” anti-piracy program. During a meeting in Beijing attended by other state bodies, copyright groups, rights organizations, and representatives from the news media, the administration detailed its latest plans.

The anti-piracy program will focus on protecting the copyrights of the film, television, and news industries in China. Infringing websites, e-commerce and cloud storage services, social networks, plus mobile Internet applications will all be put under the spotlight, with authorities investigating and prosecuting major cases.

The program, which will run for the next four months, has a mission to improve compliance in three key areas.

The first aims to assist the film and TV industries by cracking down on ‘pirate’ websites, the unlawful use of file-sharing software, plus “forum communities and other channels that supply infringing film and television works.”

Also on the cards is a blitz against users of the hugely popular social media and instant messaging app, WeChat.

Released in 2011, WeChat now has more than 930 million users, some of which use the platform to republish news articles without permission from creators. Chinese authorities want to reduce this activity, noting that too many articles are stripped from their sources and reproduced on personal blogs and similar platforms.

The second area for attention is the booming market for pirate apps. Chinese authorities say that cracked app stores and the software they provide are contributing to a huge rise in the unlawful spread of films, TV shows, music, news and other literature. Set-top boxes that utilize such apps will also be targeted in the crackdown.

Finally, there will be a “strengthening of copyright supervision” on large-scale e-commerce platforms that supply audio and video products, eBooks, and other publications. Cloud storage platforms will also be subjected to additional scrutiny, as these are often used to share copyright works without permission.

What kind of effect the program will have on overall copyrighted content availability will remain to be seen, but if previous patterns are maintained, the National Copyright Administration should reveal the results of its blitz in December.

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

Ethereum, Proof-of-Stake… and the consequences

Post Syndicated from Григор original http://www.gatchev.info/blog/?p=2070

For those who aren’t cryptocurrency-savvy: Ethereum is a cryptocurrency project, based around the coin Ether. It has the support of many big banks, big hedge funds and some states (Russia, China etc). Among the cryptocurrencies, it is second only to Bitcoin – and might even overtake it with the time. (Especially if Bitcoin doesn’t finally move and fix some of its problems.)

Ethereum offers some abilities that few other cryptocurrencies do. The most important one is the support for “smart projects” – kind of electronic contracts that can easily be executed and enforced with little to no human participation. This post however is dedicated to another of its traits – the Proof of Stake.

To work and exist, every cryptocurrency depends on some proof. Most of them use Proof-of-Work scheme. In it, one has to put some work – eg. calculating checksums – behind its participation in the network and its decision, and receive newly generated coins for it. This however results in huge amount of work done only to prove that, well, you can do it and deserve to be in and receive some of the newly squeezed juice.

As of August 2017, Ethereum uses this scheme too. However, they plan to switch to a Proof-of-Stake algorithm named Casper. In it, you prove yourself not by doing work, but by proving to own Ether. As this requires practically no work, it is much more technically effective than the Proof-of-Work schemes.

Technically, Caspar is an amazing design. I congratulate the Ethereum team for it. However, economically its usage appears to have an important weakness. It is described below.

—-

A polarized system

With Casper, the Ether generated by the Ethereum network and the decision power in it are distributed to these who already own Ether. As a consequence, most of both go to those who own most Ether. (There might be attempts to limit that, but these are easily defeatable. For example, limiting the amount distributed to an address can be circumvented by a Sybil attack.)

Such a distribution will create with the time a financial ecosystem where most money and vote are held by a small minority of the participants. The big majority will have little to no of both – it will summarily hold less money and vote than the minority of “haves”. Giving the speed with which the cryptocurrency systems evolve, it is realistic to expect this development in ten, maybe even in five or less years after introducing Casper.

The “middle class”

Economists love to repeat how important is to have a strong middle class. Why, and how that translates to the situation in a cryptocurrency-based financial system?

In systemic terms, “middle class” denotes in a financial system the set of entities that control each a noticeable but not very big amount of resources.

Game theory shows that in a financial system, entities with different clout usually have different interests. These interests usually reflect the amount of resources they control. Entities with little to no resources tend to have interests opposing to these with biggest resources – especially in systems where the total amount of resources changes slowly and the economics is close to a zero-sum game. (For example, in most cryptocurrency systems.) The “middle class” entities interests are in most aspects in the middle.

For an economics to work, there must be a balance of interests that creates incentive for all of its members to participate. In financial systems, where “haves” interests are mostly opposing to “have-nots” interests, creating such a balance depends on the presence and influence of a “middle class”. Its interests are usually the closest to a compromise that satisfies all, and its influence is the key to achieving that compromise within the system.

If the system state is not acceptable for all entities, these who do not accept it eventually leave. (Usually their participation is required for the system survival, so this brings the system down.) If these entities cannot leave the system, they ultimately reject its rules and try to change it by force. If that is impossible too, they usually resort to denying the system what makes them useful for it, thus decreasing its competitiveness to other systems.

The most reliable way to have acceptable compromise enforced in a system is to have in it a “middle class” that summarily controls more resources than any other segment of entities, preferably at least 51% of the system resources. (This assumes that the “middle class” is able and willing to protect their interests. If some of these entities are controlled into defending someone else’s interests – eg. botnets in computer networks, manipulated voters during elections, etc – these numbers apply to the non-controlled among them.)

A system that doesn’t have a non-controlled “middle class” that controls a decisive amount of resources, usually does not have an influential set of interests that are an acceptable compromise between the interests poles. For this reason, it can be called a polarized system.

The limitation on development

In a polarized system, the incentive for development is minimized. (Development is potentially disruptive, and the majority of the financial abilities and the decision power there has only to lose from a disruption. When factoring in the expected profits from development, the situation always becomes a zero-sum game.) The system becomes static (thus cementing the zero-sum game situation in it) and is under threat of being overtaken by a competing financial system. When that happens, it is usually destroyed together with all stakes in it.

Also, almost any initiative in such a financial system is bound to turn into a cartel, oligopoly or monopoly, due to the small number of participants with resources to start and support an initiative. That effectively destroys its markets, contributing to the weakness of the system and limiting further its ability to develop.

Another problem that stems from this is that the incentive during an interaction to violate the rules and to push the contragent into a loss is greater than the incentive to compete by giving a better offer. This in turn removes the incentive to increase productivity, which is a key incentive for development.)

Yet another problem of the concentration of most resources into few entities is the increased gain from attacking one of them and appropriating their resources, and thus the incentive to do it. Since good defensive capabilities are usually an excellent offense base, this pulls the “haves” into an “arms race”, redirecting more and more of their resources into defense. This also leaves the development outside the arms race increasingly resource-strapped. (The “arms race” itself generates development, but the race situation prevents that into trickling into “non-military” applications.)

These are only a part of the constraints on development in a polarized system. Listing all of them will make a long read.

Trickle-up and trickle-down

In theory, every economical system involves two processes: trickle-down and trickle-up. So, any concentration of resources on the top should be decreased by an automatically increased trickle-down. However, a better understanding how these processes work shows that this logic is faulty.

Any financial exchange in a system consists of two parts. One of them covers the actual production cost of whatever resource is being exchanged against the finances. The other part is the profit of the entity that obtains the finances. From the viewpoint of that entity, the first part vs. the resource given is zero-sum – its incentive to participate in this exchange is the second part, the profit. That second part is effectively the trickle in the system, as it is the only resource really gained.

The direction and the size of the trickle ultimately depends on the balance of many factors, some of them random, others constant. On the long run, it is the constant factors that determine the size and the direction of the trickle sum.

The most important constant factor is the benefit of scale (BOS). It dictates that the bigger entities are able to pull the balance to their side more strongly than the smaller ones. Some miss that chance, but others use it. It makes the trickle-up stronger than the trickle-down. In a system where the transaction outcome is close to a zero-sum game, this concentrates all resources at the top with a speed depending on the financial interactions volume per an unit of time.

(Actually the formula is a bit more complex. All dynamic entities – eg. living organisms, active companies etc – have an “existence maintenance” expense, which they cannot avoid. However, the amount of resources in a system above the summary existence maintenance follows the simple rule above. And these are the only resources that are available for investing in anything, eg. development.)

In the real-life systems the BOS power is limited. There are many different random factors that compete with and influence one another, some of them outweighing BOS. Also, in every moment some factors lose importance and / or cease to exist, while others appear and / or gain importance. The complexity of this system makes any attempt by an entity or entities pool to take control over it hard and slow. This gives the other entities time and ways to react and try to block the takeover attempt. Also, the real-life systems have many built-in constraints against scale-based takeovers – anti-trust laws, separation of the government powers, enforced financial trickle-down through taxes on the rich and benefits for the poor, etc. All these together manage to prevent most takeover attempts, or to limit them into only a segment of the system.

How a Proof-of-Stake based cryptocurrency fares at these?

A POS-based cryptocurrency financial system has no constraints against scale-based takeovers. It has only one kind of clout – the amount of resources controlled by an entity. This kind of clout is built in it, has all the importance in it and cannot lose that or disappear. It has no other types of resources, and has no slowing due to complexity. It is not segmented – who has these resources has it all. There are no built-in constraints against scale-based takeovers, or mechanisms to strengthen resource trickle-down. In short, it is the ideal ground for creating a polarized financial system.

So, it would be only logical to expect that a Proof-of-Stake based Ether financial system will suffer by the problems a polarized system presents. Despite all of its technical ingenuity, its longer-term financial usability is limited, and the participation in it may be dangerous to any entity smaller than eg. a big bank, a big hedge fund or a big authoritarian state.

All fixes for this problem I could think of by now would be easily beaten by simple attacks. I am not sure if it is possible to have a reliable solution to it at all.

Do smart contracts and secondary tokens change this?

Unhappily, no. Smart contracts are based on having Ether, and need Ether to exist and act. Thus, they are bound to the financial situation of the Ether financial system, and are influenced by it. The bigger is the scope of the smart contract, the bigger is its dependence on the Ether situation.

Due to this, smart contracts of meaningful size will find themselves hampered and maybe even endangered by a polarization in the financial system powered by POS-based Ethereum. It is technically possible to migrate these contracts to a competing underlying system, but it won’t be easy – probably even when the competing system is technically a clone of Ethereum, like Ethereum Classic. The migration cost might exceed the migration benefits at any given stage of the contract project development, even if the total migration benefits are far larger than this cost.

Eventually this problem might become public knowledge and most projects in need of a smart contract might start avoiding Ethereum. This will lead to decreased interest in participation in the Ethereum ecosystem, to a loss of market cap, and eventually maybe even to the demise of this technically great project.

Other dangers

There is a danger that the “haves” minority in a polarized system might start actively investing resources in creating other systems that suffer from the same problem (as they benefit from it), or in modifying existing systems in this direction. This might decrease the potential for development globally. As some of the backers of Ethereum are entities with enormous clout worldwide, that negative influence on the global system might be significant.

Use CloudFormation StackSets to Provision Resources Across Multiple AWS Accounts and Regions

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/use-cloudformation-stacksets-to-provision-resources-across-multiple-aws-accounts-and-regions/

AWS CloudFormation helps AWS customers implement an Infrastructure as Code model. Instead of setting up their environments and applications by hand, they build a template and use it to create all of the necessary resources, collectively known as a CloudFormation stack. This model removes opportunities for manual error, increases efficiency, and ensures consistent configurations over time.

Today I would like to tell you about a new feature that makes CloudFormation even more useful. This feature is designed to help you to address the challenges that you face when you use Infrastructure as Code in situations that include multiple AWS accounts and/or AWS Regions. As a quick review:

Accounts – As I have told you in the past, many organizations use a multitude of AWS accounts, often using AWS Organizations to arrange the accounts into a hierarchy and to group them into Organizational Units, or OUs (read AWS Organizations – Policy-Based Management for Multiple AWS Accounts to learn more). Our customers use multiple accounts for business units, applications, and developers. They often create separate accounts for development, testing, staging, and production on a per-application basis.

Regions – Customers also make great use of the large (and ever-growing) set of AWS Regions. They build global applications that span two or more regions, implement sophisticated multi-region disaster recovery models, replicate S3, Aurora, PostgreSQL, and MySQL data in real time, and choose locations for storage and processing of sensitive data in accord with national and regional regulations.

This expansion into multiple accounts and regions comes with some new challenges with respect to governance and consistency. Our customers tell us that they want to make sure that each new account is set up in accord with their internal standards. Among other things, they want to set up IAM users and roles, VPCs and VPC subnets, security groups, Config Rules, logging, and AWS Lambda functions in a consistent and reliable way.

Introducing StackSet
In order to address these important customer needs, we are launching CloudFormation StackSet today. You can now define an AWS resource configuration in a CloudFormation template and then roll it out across multiple AWS accounts and/or Regions with a couple of clicks. You can use this to set up a baseline level of AWS functionality that addresses the cross-account and cross-region scenarios that I listed above. Once you have set this up, you can easily expand coverage to additional accounts and regions.

This feature always works on a cross-account basis. The master account owns one or more StackSets and controls deployment to one or more target accounts. The master account must include an assumable IAM role and the target accounts must delegate trust to this role. To learn how to do this, read Prerequisites in the StackSet Documentation.

Each StackSet references a CloudFormation template and contains lists of accounts and regions. All operations apply to the cross-product of the accounts and regions in the StackSet. If the StackSet references three accounts (A1, A2, and A3) and four regions (R1, R2, R3, and R4), there are twelve targets:

  • Region R1: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.
  • Region R2: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.
  • Region R3: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.
  • Region R4: Accounts A1, A2, and A3.

Deploying a template initiates creation of a CloudFormation stack in an account/region pair. Templates are deployed sequentially to regions (you control the order) to multiple accounts within the region (you control the amount of parallelism). You can also set an error threshold that will terminate deployments if stack creation fails.

You can use your existing CloudFormation templates (taking care to make sure that they are ready to work across accounts and regions), create new ones, or use one of our sample templates. We are launching with support for the AWS partition (all public regions except those in China), and expect to expand it to to the others before too long.

Using StackSets
You can create and deploy StackSets from the CloudFormation Console, via the CloudFormation APIs, or from the command line.

Using the Console, I start by clicking on Create StackSet. I can use my own template or one of the samples. I’ll use the last sample (Add config rule encrypted volumes):

I click on View template to learn more about the template and the rule:

I give my StackSet a name. The template that I selected accepts an optional parameter, and I can enter it at this time:

Next, I choose the accounts and regions. I can enter account numbers directly, reference an AWS organizational unit, or upload a list of account numbers:

I can set up the regions and control the deployment order:

I can also set the deployment options. Once I am done I click on Next to proceed:

I can add tags to my StackSet. They will be applied to the AWS resources created during the deployment:

The deployment begins, and I can track the status from the Console:

I can open up the Stacks section to see each stack. Initially, the status of each stack is OUTDATED, indicating that the template has yet to be deployed to the stack; this will change to CURRENT after a successful deployment. If a stack cannot be deleted, the status will change to INOPERABLE.

After my initial deployment, I can click on Manage StackSet to add additional accounts, regions, or both, to create additional stacks:

Now Available
This new feature is available now and you can start using it today at no extra charge (you pay only for the AWS resources created on your behalf).

Jeff;

PS – If you create some useful templates and would like to share them with other AWS users, please send a pull request to our AWS Labs GitHub repo.

‘Game of Thrones Season 7 Premiere Pirated 90 Million Times’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-season-7-premiere-pirated-90-million-times-170721/

Last Sunday, the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones aired in dozens of countries worldwide.

The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season as well.

Like every year, the torrent download figures quickly ran into the millions. However, little is known about the traffic that goes to streaming portals, which have outgrown traditional file-sharing sites in recent years.

One of the main problems is that it’s impossible for outsiders to know exactly how many visitors pirate streaming services get. Traffic data for these sites are not public, which makes it difficult to put an exact figure on the number of views one particular video has.

Piracy monitoring firm MUSO hasn’t shied away from this unexplored territory though and has now released some hard numbers.

According to MUSO, the premiere episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones has been pirated more than 90 million times in only three days. A massive number, which is largely driven by streaming traffic.

Exactly 77,913,032 pirate views came from streaming portals, while public torrent traffic sits in second place with 8,356,382 downloads. Another 4,949,298 downloads are linked to direct download sites, while the remaining 523,109 come from private torrents.

Why other platforms such as Usenet are not covered remains unexplained in the press release, but without these the total is already quite substantial, to say the least.

MUSO reports that most pirate traffic comes from the United States, with 15.1 million unauthorized downloads and streams. The United Kingdom follows in second place with 6.2 million, before Germany, India, and Indonesia, with between 4 and 5 million each.

Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO and Co-Founder, notes that the results may come as a surprise to some industry insiders, describing them as “huge.”

“There is no denying that these figures are huge, so they’re likely to raise more than a few eyebrows in the mainstream industry, but it’s in line with the sort of scale we see across piracy sites and should be looked at objectively.

“What we’re seeing here isn’t just P2P torrent downloads but unauthorized streams and every type of piracy around the premiere. This is the total audience picture, which is usually unreported,” Chatterley adds.

While there is no denying that the numbers are indeed huge, it would probably be better to view them as estimates. MUSO generally sources its data from SimilarWeb, which uses a sample of 200 million ‘devices’ to estimate website traffic. Website visits are then seen as “downloads,” and the sample data is extrapolated into the totals.

This also explains why other types of download traffic, such as Usenet, are not included at all. These are not web-based. Similarly, the data doesn’t appear to cover all countries. Game of Thrones piracy is very substantial in China, for example, but in its previous reports, MUSO didn’t exclude Chinese traffic.

Taking the caveats above into account, MUSO’s data could be a good estimate of the total (web) pirate traffic for the Game of Thrones premiere. This would suggest some pretty high piracy rates in some countries, but we’ve seen stranger things.

Note: TorrentFreak reached out to MUSO for further details on its methodology. The company confirmed that its data is based on traffic to 23,000 of the most-used piracy sites. The data is collected from over 200 million devices, located in over 200 countries. This appears to confirm that it is indeed SimilarWeb data.

Countries with the highest GoT piracy activity, according to MUSO:

United States of America: 15,075,951
United Kingdom: 6,252,903
Germany: 4,897,280
India: 4,335,331
Indonesia: 4,286,927
Philippines: 4,189,030
Canada: 3,182,851
France: 2,881,467
Turkey: 2,802,458
Vietnam: 2,436,149
Australia: 2,241,463
Russian Federation: 2,196,799
Netherlands: 1,881,718
Brazil: 1,796,759
Malaysia: 1,737,005

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

China Denies User VPN Crackdown, Blames False “Foreign Media” Reports

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/china-denies-user-vpn-crackdown-blames-false-foreign-media-reports-170713/

A notice published by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology in January said that the government had launched a 14-month campaign to crack down on local ‘unauthorized’ Internet platforms.

The idea is that all Internet services such as data centers, ISPs, CDNs, and VPNs, will eventually need pre-approval from the government to operate. Operating such a service without a corresponding telecommunications business license will constitute an offense.

After the news broke, a source with contacts at a high-level telecoms company in the region told TF that, in his opinion, user-based VPNs were not the target and that MPLS VPNs were. These types of VPN (pdf) allow businesses, including those in China, to connect their geographically separated business locations, such as those in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Indonesia, for example.

This week, however, Bloomberg broke the news that China’s Government had ordered telecommunications carriers to block individuals’ access to Virtual Private Networks. This, the publication said, would stop citizens from accessing the global Internet.

According to the report, the government ordered at least three state-run telecommunications firms, including China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, to stop people from using VPNs which allow people to circumvent censorship restrictions, otherwise known as the Great Firewall, by February next year.

Jake Parker, Beijing-based vice president of the US-China Business Council, agreed that the move “seems to impact individuals,” but last evening the Chinese authorities were attempting to pour cold water on the report.

In comments to China-based media outlet The Paper, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology denied issuing a notice to the telecoms companies requiring them to block user VPNs. It said that “foreign media reports” were inaccurate.

“Our subordinate Secretary did not issue the relevant notice, what foreign media reported was false,” the Ministry said.

The local media report then has the Ministry citing news that previously broke in January, detailing the new government measures that require cross-border enterprise-level VPN systems to be authorized and licensed.

“Foreign trade enterprises and multinational companies, due to office for personal use and other reasons, need to access cross-border networking,” the Ministry said, adding that licensing is available and won’t have a detrimental effect on normal operations.

Given this statement, the announcement in January, and the comments made to TF regarding the government targeting enterprise-level VPNs, it raises the question whether the term ‘VPN’ has perhaps been interpreted too widely, to include user-based services.

Nevertheless, in a follow-up report last evening, Bloomberg repeated its claims that Beijing had ordered state-run telecoms firms to stop people from using VPNs that route traffic overseas to avoid censorship.

“The clampdown will shutter one of the main ways in which people both local and foreign still manage to access the global, unfiltered web on a daily basis,” the report said.

Only time will tell how the landscape will pan out, but it’s safe to say that China would like a tighter hold on the web than it has now and that VPNs of all kinds will continue to undermine that control, unless something is done.

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