Tag Archives: credit card

Google’s Chrome Web Store Spammed With Dodgy ‘Pirate’ Movie Links

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/googles-chrome-web-store-spammed-with-dodgy-pirate-movie-links-180527/

Launched in 2010, Google’s Chrome Store is the go-to place for people looking to pimp their Chrome browser.

Often referred to as apps and extensions, the programs offered by the platform run in Chrome and can perform a dazzling array of functions, from improving security and privacy, to streaming video or adding magnet links to torrent sites.

Also available on the Chrome Store are themes, which can be installed locally to change the appearance of the Chrome browser.

While there are certainly plenty to choose from, some additions to the store over the past couple of months are not what most people have come to expect from the add-on platform.

Free movies on Chrome’s Web Store?

As the image above suggests, unknown third parties appear to be exploiting the Chrome Store’s ‘theme’ section to offer visitors access to a wide range of pirate movies including Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Rampage.

When clicking through to the page offering Ready Player One, for example, users are presented with a theme that apparently allows them to watch the movie online in “Full HD Online 4k.”

Of course, the whole scheme is a dubious scam which eventually leads users to Vioos.co, a platform that tries very hard to give the impression of being a pirate streaming portal but actually provides nothing of use.

Nothing to see here

In fact, as soon as one clicks the play button on movies appearing on Vioos.co, visitors are re-directed to another site called Zumastar which asks people to “create a free account” to “access unlimited downloads & streaming.”

“With over 20 million titles, Zumastar is your number one entertainment resource. Join hundreds of thousands of satisfied members and enjoy the hottest movies,” the site promises.

With this kind of marketing, perhaps we should think about this offer for a second. Done. No thanks.

In extended testing, some visits to Vioos.co resulted in a redirection to EtnaMedia.net, a domain that was immediately blocked by MalwareBytes due to suspected fraud. However, after allowing the browser to make the connection, TF was presented with another apparent subscription site.

We didn’t follow through with a sign-up but further searches revealed upset former customers complaining of money being taken from their credit cards when they didn’t expect that to happen.

Quite how many people have signed up to Zumastar or EtnaMedia via this convoluted route from Google’s Chrome Store isn’t clear but a worrying number appear to have installed the ‘themes’ (if that’s what they are) offered on each ‘pirate movie’ page.

At the time of writing the ‘free Watch Rampage Online Full Movie’ ‘theme’ has 2,196 users, the “Watch Avengers Infinity War Full Movie” variant has 974, the ‘Watch Ready Player One 2018 Full HD’ page has 1,031, and the ‘Watch Black Panther Online Free 123putlocker’ ‘theme’ has more than 1,800. Clearly, a worrying number of people will click and install just about anything.

We haven’t tested the supposed themes to see what they do but it’s a cast-iron guarantee that they don’t offer the movies displayed and there’s always a chance they’ll do something awful. As a rule of thumb, it’s nearly always wise to steer clear of anything with “full movie” in the title, they can rarely be trusted.

Finally, those hoping to get some guidance on quality from the reviews on the Chrome Store will be bitterly disappointed.

Garbage reviews, probably left by the scammers

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

Police Forces Around Europe Hit Pirate IPTV Operation

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-forces-around-europe-hit-pirate-iptv-operation-180519/

Once upon a time, torrent and web streaming sites were regularly in the headlines while being targeted by the authorities. With the rise of set-top box streaming, actions against pirate IPTV operations are more regularly making the news.

In an operation coordinated by the public prosecutor’s office in Rome, 150 officers of the Provincial Command of the Guardia di Finanza (GdF) this week targeted what appears to be a fairly large unauthorized IPTV provider.

Under the banner Operation Spinoff, in Italy, more than 50 searches were carried out in 20 provinces of 11 regions. Five people were arrested. Elsewhere in Europe – in Switzerland, Germany and Spain – the Polizei Basel-Landschaft, the Kriminal Polizei and the Policia Nacional coordinated to execute warrants.

A small selection of the service on offer

“Through technical and ‘in-the-field’ investigations and the meticulous reconstruction of financial flows, carried out mainly through prepaid credit cards or payment web platforms, investigators have reconstructed the activity of a pyramid-like criminal structure dedicated to the illegal decryption and diffusion of pay-per-view television content through the Internet,” the GdF said in a statement.

Italian authorities report that the core of the IPTV operation were its sources of original content and channels. These were located in a range of diverse locations such as companies, commercial premises, garages and even private homes. Inside each location was equipment to receive, decrypt and capture signals from broadcasters including Sky TV.

Italian police examine hardware

These signals were collected together to form a package of channels which were then transmitted via the Internet and sold to the public in the form of an IPTV subscription. Packages were reportedly priced between 15 and 20 euros per month.

It’s estimated that between the 49 individuals said to be involved in the operation, around one million euros was generated. All are suspected of copyright infringement and money laundering offenses. Of the five Italian citizens reported to be at the core of the operations, four were taken into custody and one placed under house arrest.

Reports identify the suspects as: ‘AS’, born 1979 and residing in Lorrach, Germany. ‘RM’, born 1987 and living in Sarno, Italy. ‘LD’, born 1996 and also living in Sarno, Italy. ‘GP’, born 1990, living in Pordenone, Italy. And ‘SM’, born 1981 and living in Zagarolo, Italy.

More hardware

Players at all levels of the business are under investigation, from the sources who decrypted the signals to the sellers and re-sellers of the content to end users. Also under the microscope are people said to have laundered the operation’s money through credit cards and payment platforms.

The GdF describes the pirate IPTV operation in serious terms, noting that it aimed to set up a “parallel distribution company able to provide services that are entirely analogous to lawful companies, from checks on the feasibility of installing the service to maintaining adequate standards and technical assistance to customers.”

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

Airline Ticket Fraud

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/airline_ticket_.html

New research: “Leaving on a jet plane: the trade in fraudulently obtained airline tickets:”

Abstract: Every day, hundreds of people fly on airline tickets that have been obtained fraudulently. This crime script analysis provides an overview of the trade in these tickets, drawing on interviews with industry and law enforcement, and an analysis of an online blackmarket. Tickets are purchased by complicit travellers or resellers from the online blackmarket. Victim travellers obtain tickets from fake travel agencies or malicious insiders. Compromised credit cards used to be the main method to purchase tickets illegitimately. However, as fraud detection systems improved, offenders displaced to other methods, including compromised loyalty point accounts, phishing, and compromised business accounts. In addition to complicit and victim travellers, fraudulently obtained tickets are used for transporting mules, and for trafficking and smuggling. This research details current prevention approaches, and identifies additional interventions, aimed at the act, the actor, and the marketplace.

Blog post.

Cryptocurrency Security Challenges

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cryptocurrency-security-challenges/

Physical coins representing cyrptocurrencies

Most likely you’ve read the tantalizing stories of big gains from investing in cryptocurrencies. Someone who invested $1,000 into bitcoins five years ago would have over $85,000 in value now. Alternatively, someone who invested in bitcoins three months ago would have seen their investment lose 20% in value. Beyond the big price fluctuations, currency holders are possibly exposed to fraud, bad business practices, and even risk losing their holdings altogether if they are careless in keeping track of the all-important currency keys.

It’s certain that beyond the rewards and risks, cryptocurrencies are here to stay. We can’t ignore how they are changing the game for how money is handled between people and businesses.

Some Advantages of Cryptocurrency

  • Cryptocurrency is accessible to anyone.
  • Decentralization means the network operates on a user-to-user (or peer-to-peer) basis.
  • Transactions can completed for a fraction of the expense and time required to complete traditional asset transfers.
  • Transactions are digital and cannot be counterfeited or reversed arbitrarily by the sender, as with credit card charge-backs.
  • There aren’t usually transaction fees for cryptocurrency exchanges.
  • Cryptocurrency allows the cryptocurrency holder to send exactly what information is needed and no more to the merchant or recipient, even permitting anonymous transactions (for good or bad).
  • Cryptocurrency operates at the universal level and hence makes transactions easier internationally.
  • There is no other electronic cash system in which your account isn’t owned by someone else.

On top of all that, blockchain, the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies, is already being applied to a variety of business needs and itself becoming a hot sector of the tech economy. Blockchain is bringing traceability and cost-effectiveness to supply-chain management — which also improves quality assurance in areas such as food, reducing errors and improving accounting accuracy, smart contracts that can be automatically validated, signed and enforced through a blockchain construct, the possibility of secure, online voting, and many others.

Like any new, booming marketing there are risks involved in these new currencies. Anyone venturing into this domain needs to have their eyes wide open. While the opportunities for making money are real, there are even more ways to lose money.

We’re going to cover two primary approaches to staying safe and avoiding fraud and loss when dealing with cryptocurrencies. The first is to thoroughly vet any person or company you’re dealing with to judge whether they are ethical and likely to succeed in their business segment. The second is keeping your critical cryptocurrency keys safe, which we’ll deal with in this and a subsequent post.

Caveat Emptor — Buyer Beware

The short history of cryptocurrency has already seen the demise of a number of companies that claimed to manage, mine, trade, or otherwise help their customers profit from cryptocurrency. Mt. Gox, GAW Miners, and OneCoin are just three of the many companies that disappeared with their users’ money. This is the traditional equivalent of your bank going out of business and zeroing out your checking account in the process.

That doesn’t happen with banks because of regulatory oversight. But with cryptocurrency, you need to take the time to investigate any company you use to manage or trade your currencies. How long have they been around? Who are their investors? Are they affiliated with any reputable financial institutions? What is the record of their founders and executive management? These are all important questions to consider when evaluating a company in this new space.

Would you give the keys to your house to a service or person you didn’t thoroughly know and trust? Some companies that enable you to buy and sell currencies online will routinely hold your currency keys, which gives them the ability to do anything they want with your holdings, including selling them and pocketing the proceeds if they wish.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever allow a company to keep your currency keys in escrow. It simply means that you better know with whom you’re doing business and if they’re trustworthy enough to be given that responsibility.

Keys To the Cryptocurrency Kingdom — Public and Private

If you’re an owner of cryptocurrency, you know how this all works. If you’re not, bear with me for a minute while I bring everyone up to speed.

Cryptocurrency has no physical manifestation, such as bills or coins. It exists purely as a computer record. And unlike currencies maintained by governments, such as the U.S. dollar, there is no central authority regulating its distribution and value. Cryptocurrencies use a technology called blockchain, which is a decentralized way of keeping track of transactions. There are many copies of a given blockchain, so no single central authority is needed to validate its authenticity or accuracy.

The validity of each cryptocurrency is determined by a blockchain. A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called “blocks”, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Blockchains by design are inherently resistant to modification of the data. They perform as an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable, permanent way. A blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority. On a scaled network, this level of collusion is impossible — making blockchain networks effectively immutable and trustworthy.

Blockchain process

The other element common to all cryptocurrencies is their use of public and private keys, which are stored in the currency’s wallet. A cryptocurrency wallet stores the public and private “keys” or “addresses” that can be used to receive or spend the cryptocurrency. With the private key, it is possible to write in the public ledger (blockchain), effectively spending the associated cryptocurrency. With the public key, it is possible for others to send currency to the wallet.

What is a cryptocurrency address?

Cryptocurrency “coins” can be lost if the owner loses the private keys needed to spend the currency they own. It’s as if the owner had lost a bank account number and had no way to verify their identity to the bank, or if they lost the U.S. dollars they had in their wallet. The assets are gone and unusable.

The Cryptocurrency Wallet

Given the importance of these keys, and lack of recourse if they are lost, it’s obviously very important to keep track of your keys.

If you’re being careful in choosing reputable exchanges, app developers, and other services with whom to trust your cryptocurrency, you’ve made a good start in keeping your investment secure. But if you’re careless in managing the keys to your bitcoins, ether, Litecoin, or other cryptocurrency, you might as well leave your money on a cafe tabletop and walk away.

What Are the Differences Between Hot and Cold Wallets?

Just like other numbers you might wish to keep track of — credit cards, account numbers, phone numbers, passphrases — cryptocurrency keys can be stored in a variety of ways. Those who use their currencies for day-to-day purchases most likely will want them handy in a smartphone app, hardware key, or debit card that can be used for purchases. These are called “hot” wallets. Some experts advise keeping the balances in these devices and apps to a minimal amount to avoid hacking or data loss. We typically don’t walk around with thousands of dollars in U.S. currency in our old-style wallets, so this is really a continuation of the same approach to managing spending money.

Bread mobile app screenshot

A “hot” wallet, the Bread mobile app

Some investors with large balances keep their keys in “cold” wallets, or “cold storage,” i.e. a device or location that is not connected online. If funds are needed for purchases, they can be transferred to a more easily used payment medium. Cold wallets can be hardware devices, USB drives, or even paper copies of your keys.

Trezor hardware wallet

A “cold” wallet, the Trezor hardware wallet

Ledger Nano S hardware wallet

A “cold” wallet, the Ledger Nano S

Bitcoin paper wallet

A “cold” Bitcoin paper wallet

Wallets are suited to holding one or more specific cryptocurrencies, and some people have multiple wallets for different currencies and different purposes.

A paper wallet is nothing other than a printed record of your public and private keys. Some prefer their records to be completely disconnected from the internet, and a piece of paper serves that need. Just like writing down an account password on paper, however, it’s essential to keep the paper secure to avoid giving someone the ability to freely access your funds.

How to Keep your Keys, and Cryptocurrency Secure

In a post this coming Thursday, Securing Your Cryptocurrency, we’ll discuss the best strategies for backing up your cryptocurrency so that your currencies don’t become part of the millions that have been lost. We’ll cover the common (and uncommon) approaches to backing up hot wallets, cold wallets, and using paper and metal solutions to keeping your keys safe.

In the meantime, please tell us of your experiences with cryptocurrencies — good and bad — and how you’ve dealt with the issue of cryptocurrency security.

The post Cryptocurrency Security Challenges appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What John Oliver gets wrong about Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2018/03/what-john-oliver-gets-wrong-about.html

John Oliver covered bitcoin/cryptocurrencies last night. I thought I’d describe a bunch of things he gets wrong.

How Bitcoin works

Nowhere in the show does it describe what Bitcoin is and how it works.
Discussions should always start with Satoshi Nakamoto’s original paper. The thing Satoshi points out is that there is an important cost to normal transactions, namely, the entire legal system designed to protect you against fraud, such as the way you can reverse the transactions on your credit card if it gets stolen. The point of Bitcoin is that there is no way to reverse a charge. A transaction is done via cryptography: to transfer money to me, you decrypt it with your secret key and encrypt it with mine, handing ownership over to me with no third party involved that can reverse the transaction, and essentially no overhead.
All the rest of the stuff, like the decentralized blockchain and mining, is all about making that work.
Bitcoin crazies forget about the original genesis of Bitcoin. For example, they talk about adding features to stop fraud, reversing transactions, and having a central authority that manages that. This misses the point, because the existing electronic banking system already does that, and does a better job at it than cryptocurrencies ever can. If you want to mock cryptocurrencies, talk about the “DAO”, which did exactly that — and collapsed in a big fraudulent scheme where insiders made money and outsiders didn’t.
Sticking to Satoshi’s original ideas are a lot better than trying to repeat how the crazy fringe activists define Bitcoin.

How does any money have value?

Oliver’s answer is currencies have value because people agree that they have value, like how they agree a Beanie Baby is worth $15,000.
This is wrong. A better way of asking the question why the value of money changes. The dollar has been losing roughly 2% of its value each year for decades. This is called “inflation”, as the dollar loses value, it takes more dollars to buy things, which means the price of things (in dollars) goes up, and employers have to pay us more dollars so that we can buy the same amount of things.
The reason the value of the dollar changes is largely because the Federal Reserve manages the supply of dollars, using the same law of Supply and Demand. As you know, if a supply decreases (like oil), then the price goes up, or if the supply of something increases, the price goes down. The Fed manages money the same way: when prices rise (the dollar is worth less), the Fed reduces the supply of dollars, causing it to be worth more. Conversely, if prices fall (or don’t rise fast enough), the Fed increases supply, so that the dollar is worth less.
The reason money follows the law of Supply and Demand is because people use money, they consume it like they do other goods and services, like gasoline, tax preparation, food, dance lessons, and so forth. It’s not like a fine art painting, a stamp collection or a Beanie Baby — money is a product. It’s just that people have a hard time thinking of it as a consumer product since, in their experience, money is what they use to buy consumer products. But it’s a symmetric operation: when you buy gasoline with dollars, you are actually selling dollars in exchange for gasoline. That you call one side in this transaction “money” and the other “goods” is purely arbitrary, you call gasoline money and dollars the good that is being bought and sold for gasoline.
The reason dollars is a product is because trying to use gasoline as money is a pain in the neck. Storing it and exchanging it is difficult. Goods like this do become money, such as famously how prisons often use cigarettes as a medium of exchange, even for non-smokers, but it has to be a good that is fungible, storable, and easily exchanged. Dollars are the most fungible, the most storable, and the easiest exchanged, so has the most value as “money”. Sure, the mechanic can fix the farmers car for three chickens instead, but most of the time, both parties in the transaction would rather exchange the same value using dollars than chickens.
So the value of dollars is not like the value of Beanie Babies, which people might buy for $15,000, which changes purely on the whims of investors. Instead, a dollar is like gasoline, which obey the law of Supply and Demand.
This brings us back to the question of where Bitcoin gets its value. While Bitcoin is indeed used like dollars to buy things, that’s only a tiny use of the currency, so therefore it’s value isn’t determined by Supply and Demand. Instead, the value of Bitcoin is a lot like Beanie Babies, obeying the laws of investments. So in this respect, Oliver is right about where the value of Bitcoin comes, but wrong about where the value of dollars comes from.

Why Bitcoin conference didn’t take Bitcoin

John Oliver points out the irony of a Bitcoin conference that stopped accepting payments in Bitcoin for tickets.
The biggest reason for this is because Bitcoin has become so popular that transaction fees have gone up. Instead of being proof of failure, it’s proof of popularity. What John Oliver is saying is the old joke that nobody goes to that popular restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded and you can’t get a reservation.
Moreover, the point of Bitcoin is not to replace everyday currencies for everyday transactions. If you read Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper, it’s only goal is to replace certain types of transactions, like purely electronic transactions where electronic goods and services are being exchanged. Where real-life goods/services are being exchanged, existing currencies work just fine. It’s only the crazy activists who claim Bitcoin will eventually replace real world currencies — the saner people see it co-existing with real-world currencies, each with a different value to consumers.

Turning a McNugget back into a chicken

John Oliver uses the metaphor of turning a that while you can process a chicken into McNuggets, you can’t reverse the process. It’s a funny metaphor.
But it’s not clear what the heck this metaphor is trying explain. That’s not a metaphor for the blockchain, but a metaphor for a “cryptographic hash”, where each block is a chicken, and the McNugget is the signature for the block (well, the block plus the signature of the last block, forming a chain).
Even then that metaphor as problems. The McNugget produced from each chicken must be unique to that chicken, for the metaphor to accurately describe a cryptographic hash. You can therefore identify the original chicken simply by looking at the McNugget. A slight change in the original chicken, like losing a feather, results in a completely different McNugget. Thus, nuggets can be used to tell if the original chicken has changed.
This then leads to the key property of the blockchain, it is unalterable. You can’t go back and change any of the blocks of data, because the fingerprints, the nuggets, will also change, and break the nugget chain.
The point is that while John Oliver is laughing at a silly metaphor to explain the blockchain becuase he totally misses the point of the metaphor.
Oliver rightly says “don’t worry if you don’t understand it — most people don’t”, but that includes the big companies that John Oliver name. Some companies do get it, and are producing reasonable things (like JP Morgan, by all accounts), but some don’t. IBM and other big consultancies are charging companies millions of dollars to consult with them on block chain products where nobody involved, the customer or the consultancy, actually understand any of it. That doesn’t stop them from happily charging customers on one side and happily spending money on the other.
Thus, rather than Oliver explaining the problem, he’s just being part of the problem. His explanation of blockchain left you dumber than before.

ICO’s

John Oliver mocks the Brave ICO ($35 million in 30 seconds), claiming it’s all driven by YouTube personalities and people who aren’t looking at the fundamentals.
And while this is true, most ICOs are bunk, the  Brave ICO actually had a business model behind it. Brave is a Chrome-like web-browser whose distinguishing feature is that it protects your privacy from advertisers. If you don’t use Brave or a browser with an ad block extension, you have no idea how bad things are for you. However, this presents a problem for websites that fund themselves via advertisements, which is most of them, because visitors no longer see ads. Brave has a fix for this. Most people wouldn’t mind supporting the websites they visit often, like the New York Times. That’s where the Brave ICO “token” comes in: it’s not simply stock in Brave, but a token for micropayments to websites. Users buy tokens, then use them for micropayments to websites like New York Times. The New York Times then sells the tokens back to the market for dollars. The buying and selling of tokens happens without a centralized middleman.
This is still all speculative, of course, and it remains to be seen how successful Brave will be, but it’s a serious effort. It has well respected VC behind the company, a well-respected founder (despite the fact he invented JavaScript), and well-respected employees. It’s not a scam, it’s a legitimate venture.

How to you make money from Bitcoin?

The last part of the show is dedicated to describing all the scam out there, advising people to be careful, and to be “responsible”. This is garbage.
It’s like my simple two step process to making lots of money via Bitcoin: (1) buy when the price is low, and (2) sell when the price is high. My advice is correct, of course, but useless. Same as “be careful” and “invest responsibly”.
The truth about investing in cryptocurrencies is “don’t”. The only responsible way to invest is to buy low-overhead market index funds and hold for retirement. No, you won’t get super rich doing this, but anything other than this is irresponsible gambling.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, because everyone is telling you the opposite. The entire channel CNBC is devoted to day traders, who buy and sell stocks at a high rate based on the same principle as a ponzi scheme, basing their judgment not on the fundamentals (like long term dividends) but animal spirits of whatever stock is hot or cold at the moment. This is the same reason people buy or sell Bitcoin, not because they can describe the fundamental value, but because they believe in a bigger fool down the road who will buy it for even more.
For things like Bitcoin, the trick to making money is to have bought it over 7 years ago when it was essentially worthless, except to nerds who were into that sort of thing. It’s the same tick to making a lot of money in Magic: The Gathering trading cards, which nerds bought decades ago which are worth a ton of money now. Or, to have bought Apple stock back in 2009 when the iPhone was new, when nerds could understand the potential of real Internet access and apps that Wall Street could not.
That was my strategy: be a nerd, who gets into things. I’ve made a good amount of money on all these things because as a nerd, I was into Magic: The Gathering, Bitcoin, and the iPhone before anybody else was, and bought in at the point where these things were essentially valueless.
At this point with cryptocurrencies, with the non-nerds now flooding the market, there little chance of making it rich. The lottery is probably a better bet. Instead, if you want to make money, become a nerd, obsess about a thing, understand a thing when its new, and cash out once the rest of the market figures it out. That might be Brave, for example, but buy into it because you’ve spent the last year studying the browser advertisement ecosystem, the market’s willingness to pay for content, and how their Basic Attention Token delivers value to websites — not because you want in on the ICO craze.

Conclusion

John Oliver spends 25 minutes explaining Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies, and the Blockchain to you. Sure, it’s funny, but it leaves you worse off than when it started. It admits they “simplify” the explanation, but they simplified it so much to the point where they removed all useful information.

Tech wishes for 2018

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2018/02/18/tech-wishes-for-2018/

Anonymous asks, via money:

What would you like to see happen in tech in 2018?

(answer can be technical, social, political, combination, whatever)

Hmm.

Less of this

I’m not really qualified to speak in depth about either of these things, but let me put my foot in my mouth anyway:

The Blockchain™

Bitcoin was a neat idea. No, really! Decentralization is cool. Overhauling our terrible financial infrastructure is cool. Hash functions are cool.

Unfortunately, it seems to have devolved into mostly a get-rich-quick scheme for nerds, and by nearly any measure it’s turning into a spectacular catastrophe. Its “success” is measured in how much a bitcoin is worth in US dollars, which is pretty close to an admission from its own investors that its only value is in converting back to “real” money — all while that same “success” is making it less useful as a distinct currency.

Blah, blah, everyone already knows this.

What concerns me slightly more is the gold rush hype cycle, which is putting cryptocurrency and “blockchain” in the news and lending it all legitimacy. People have raked in millions of dollars on ICOs of novel coins I’ve never heard mentioned again. (Note: again, that value is measured in dollars.) Most likely, none of the investors will see any return whatsoever on that money. They can’t, really, unless a coin actually takes off as a currency, and that seems at odds with speculative investing since everyone either wants to hoard or ditch their coins. When the coins have no value themselves, the money can only come from other investors, and eventually the hype winds down and you run out of other investors.

I fear this will hurt a lot of people before it’s over, so I’d like for it to be over as soon as possible.


That said, the hype itself has gotten way out of hand too. First it was the obsession with “blockchain” like it’s a revolutionary technology, but hey, Git is a fucking blockchain. The novel part is the way it handles distributed consensus (which in Git is basically left for you to figure out), and that’s uniquely important to currency because you want to be pretty sure that money doesn’t get duplicated or lost when moved around.

But now we have startups trying to use blockchains for website backends and file storage and who knows what else? Why? What advantage does this have? When you say “blockchain”, I hear “single Git repository” — so when you say “email on the blockchain”, I have an aneurysm.

Bitcoin seems to have sparked imagination in large part because it’s decentralized, but I’d argue it’s actually a pretty bad example of a decentralized network, since people keep forking it. The ability to fork is a feature, sure, but the trouble here is that the Bitcoin family has no notion of federation — there is one canonical Bitcoin ledger and it has no notion of communication with any other. That’s what you want for currency, not necessarily other applications. (Bitcoin also incentivizes frivolous forking by giving the creator an initial pile of coins to keep and sell.)

And federation is much more interesting than decentralization! Federation gives us email and the web. Federation means I can set up my own instance with my own rules and still be able to meaningfully communicate with the rest of the network. Federation has some amount of tolerance for changes to the protocol, so such changes are more flexible and rely more heavily on consensus.

Federation is fantastic, and it feels like a massive tragedy that this rekindled interest in decentralization is mostly focused on peer-to-peer networks, which do little to address our current problems with centralized platforms.

And hey, you know what else is federated? Banks.

AI

Again, the tech is cool and all, but the marketing hype is getting way out of hand.

Maybe what I really want from 2018 is less marketing?

For one, I’ve seen a huge uptick in uncritically referring to any software that creates or classifies creative work as “AI”. Can we… can we not. It’s not AI. Yes, yes, nerds, I don’t care about the hair-splitting about the nature of intelligence — you know that when we hear “AI” we think of a human-like self-aware intelligence. But we’re applying it to stuff like a weird dog generator. Or to whatever neural network a website threw into production this week.

And this is dangerously misleading — we already had massive tech companies scapegoating The Algorithm™ for the poor behavior of their software, and now we’re talking about those algorithms as though they were self-aware, untouchable, untameable, unknowable entities of pure chaos whose decisions we are arbitrarily bound to. Ancient, powerful gods who exist just outside human comprehension or law.

It’s weird to see this stuff appear in consumer products so quickly, too. It feels quick, anyway. The latest iPhone can unlock via facial recognition, right? I’m sure a lot of effort was put into ensuring that the same person’s face would always be recognized… but how confident are we that other faces won’t be recognized? I admit I don’t follow all this super closely, so I may be imagining a non-problem, but I do know that humans are remarkably bad at checking for negative cases.

Hell, take the recurring problem of major platforms like Twitter and YouTube classifying anything mentioning “bisexual” as pornographic — because the word is also used as a porn genre, and someone threw a list of porn terms into a filter without thinking too hard about it. That’s just a word list, a fairly simple thing that any human can review; but suddenly we’re confident in opaque networks of inferred details?

I don’t know. “Traditional” classification and generation are much more comforting, since they’re a set of fairly abstract rules that can be examined and followed. Machine learning, as I understand it, is less about rules and much more about pattern-matching; it’s built out of the fingerprints of the stuff it’s trained on. Surely that’s just begging for tons of edge cases. They’re practically made of edge cases.


I’m reminded of a point I saw made a few days ago on Twitter, something I’d never thought about but should have. TurnItIn is a service for universities that checks whether students’ papers match any others, in order to detect cheating. But this is a paid service, one that fundamentally hinges on its corpus: a large collection of existing student papers. So students pay money to attend school, where they’re required to let their work be given to a third-party company, which then profits off of it? What kind of a goofy business model is this?

And my thoughts turn to machine learning, which is fundamentally different from an algorithm you can simply copy from a paper, because it’s all about the training data. And to get good results, you need a lot of training data. Where is that all coming from? How many for-profit companies are setting a neural network loose on the web — on millions of people’s work — and then turning around and selling the result as a product?

This is really a question of how intellectual property works in the internet era, and it continues our proud decades-long tradition of just kinda doing whatever we want without thinking about it too much. Nothing if not consistent.

More of this

A bit tougher, since computers are pretty alright now and everything continues to chug along. Maybe we should just quit while we’re ahead. There’s some real pie-in-the-sky stuff that would be nice, but it certainly won’t happen within a year, and may never happen except in some horrific Algorithmic™ form designed by people that don’t know anything about the problem space and only works 60% of the time but is treated as though it were bulletproof.

Federation

The giants are getting more giant. Maybe too giant? Granted, it could be much worse than Google and Amazon — it could be Apple!

Amazon has its own delivery service and brick-and-mortar stores now, as well as providing the plumbing for vast amounts of the web. They’re not doing anything particularly outrageous, but they kind of loom.

Ad company Google just put ad blocking in its majority-share browser — albeit for the ambiguously-noble goal of only blocking obnoxious ads so that people will be less inclined to install a blanket ad blocker.

Twitter is kind of a nightmare but no one wants to leave. I keep trying to use Mastodon as well, but I always forget about it after a day, whoops.

Facebook sounds like a total nightmare but no one wants to leave that either, because normies don’t use anything else, which is itself direly concerning.

IRC is rapidly bleeding mindshare to Slack and Discord, both of which are far better at the things IRC sadly never tried to do and absolutely terrible at the exact things IRC excels at.

The problem is the same as ever: there’s no incentive to interoperate. There’s no fundamental technical reason why Twitter and Tumblr and MySpace and Facebook can’t intermingle their posts; they just don’t, because why would they bother? It’s extra work that makes it easier for people to not use your ecosystem.

I don’t know what can be done about that, except that hope for a really big player to decide to play nice out of the kindness of their heart. The really big federated success stories — say, the web — mostly won out because they came along first. At this point, how does a federated social network take over? I don’t know.

Social progress

I… don’t really have a solid grasp on what’s happening in tech socially at the moment. I’ve drifted a bit away from the industry part, which is where that all tends to come up. I have the vague sense that things are improving, but that might just be because the Rust community is the one I hear the most about, and it puts a lot of effort into being inclusive and welcoming.

So… more projects should be like Rust? Do whatever Rust is doing? And not so much what Linus is doing.

Open source funding

I haven’t heard this brought up much lately, but it would still be nice to see. The Bay Area runs on open source and is raking in zillions of dollars on its back; pump some of that cash back into the ecosystem, somehow.

I’ve seen a couple open source projects on Patreon, which is fantastic, but feels like a very small solution given how much money is flowing through the commercial tech industry.

Ad blocking

Nice. Fuck ads.

One might wonder where the money to host a website comes from, then? I don’t know. Maybe we should loop this in with the above thing and find a more informal way to pay people for the stuff they make when we find it useful, without the financial and cognitive overhead of A Transaction or Giving Someone My Damn Credit Card Number. You know, something like Bitco— ah, fuck.

Year of the Linux Desktop

I don’t know. What are we working on at the moment? Wayland? Do Wayland, I guess. Oh, and hi-DPI, which I hear sucks. And please fix my sound drivers so PulseAudio stops blaming them when it fucks up.

Backblaze and GDPR

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/gdpr-compliance/

GDPR General Data Protection Regulation

Over the next few months the noise over GDPR will finally reach a crescendo. For the uninitiated, “GDPR” stands for “General Data Protection Regulation” and it goes into effect on May 25th of this year. GDPR is designed to protect how personal information of EU (European Union) citizens is collected, stored, and shared. The regulation should also improve transparency as to how personal information is managed by a business or organization.

Backblaze fully expects to be GDPR compliant when May 25th rolls around and we thought we’d share our experience along the way. We’ll start with this post as an introduction to GDPR. In future posts, we’ll dive into some of the details of the process we went through in meeting the GDPR objectives.

GDPR: A Two Way Street

To ensure we are GDPR compliant, Backblaze has assembled a dedicated internal team, engaged outside counsel in the United Kingdom, and consulted with other tech companies on best practices. While it is a sizable effort on our part, we view this as a waypoint in our ongoing effort to secure and protect our customers’ data and to be transparent in how we work as a company.

In addition to the effort we are putting into complying with the regulation, we think it is important to underscore and promote the idea that data privacy and security is a two-way street. We can spend millions of dollars on protecting the security of our systems, but we can’t stop a bad actor from finding and using your account credentials left on a note stuck to your monitor. We can give our customers tools like two factor authentication and private encryption keys, but it is the partnership with our customers that is the most powerful protection. The same thing goes for your digital privacy — we’ll do our best to protect your information, but we will need your help to do so.

Why GDPR is Important

At the center of GDPR is the protection of Personally Identifiable Information or “PII.” The definition for PII is information that can be used stand-alone or in concert with other information to identify a specific person. This includes obvious data like: name, address, and phone number, less obvious data like email address and IP address, and other data such as a credit card number, and unique identifiers that can be decoded back to the person.

How Will GDPR Affect You as an Individual

If you are a citizen in the EU, GDPR is designed to protect your private information from being used or shared without your permission. Technically, this only applies when your data is collected, processed, stored or shared outside of the EU, but it’s a good practice to hold all of your service providers to the same standard. For example, when you are deciding to sign up with a service, you should be able to quickly access and understand what personal information is being collected, why it is being collected, and what the business can do with that information. These terms are typically found in “Terms and Conditions” and “Privacy Policy” documents, or perhaps in a written contract you signed before starting to use a given service or product.

Even if you are not a citizen of the EU, GDPR will still affect you. Why? Because nearly every company you deal with, especially online, will have customers that live in the EU. It makes little sense for Backblaze, or any other service provider or vendor, to create a separate set of rules for just EU citizens. In practice, protection of private information should be more accountable and transparent with GDPR.

How Will GDPR Affect You as a Backblaze Customer

Over the coming months Backblaze customers will see changes to our current “Terms and Conditions,” “Privacy Policy,” and to our Backblaze services. While the changes to the Backblaze services are expected to be minimal, the “terms and privacy” documents will change significantly. The changes will include among other things the addition of a group of model clauses and related materials. These clauses will be generally consistent across all GDPR compliant vendors and are meant to be easily understood so that a customer can easily determine how their PII is being collected and used.

Common GDPR Questions:

Here are a few of the more common questions we have heard regarding GDPR.

  1. GDPR will only affect citizens in the EU.
    Answer: The changes that are being made by companies such as Backblaze to comply with GDPR will almost certainly apply to customers from all countries. And that’s a good thing. The protections afforded to EU citizens by GDPR are something all users of our service should benefit from.
  2. After May 25, 2018, a citizen of the EU will not be allowed to use any applications or services that store data outside of the EU.
    Answer: False, no one will stop you as an EU citizen from using the internet-based service you choose. But, you should make sure you know where your data is being collected, processed, and stored. If any of those activities occur outside the EU, make sure the company is following the GDPR guidelines.
  3. My business only has a few EU citizens as customers, so I don’t need to care about GDPR?
    Answer: False, even if you have just one EU citizen as a customer, and you capture, process or store data their PII outside of the EU, you need to comply with GDPR.
  4. Companies can be fined millions of dollars for not complying with GDPR.
    Answer:
    True, but: the regulation allows for companies to be fined up to $4 Million dollars or 20% of global revenue (whichever is greater) if they don’t comply with GDPR. In practice, the feeling is that such fines will be reserved (at least initially) for egregious violators that ignore or merely give “lip-service” to GDPR.
  5. You’ll be able to tell a company is GDPR compliant because they have a “GDPR Certified” badge on their website.
    Answer: There is no official GDPR certification or an official GDPR certification program. Companies that comply with GDPR are expected to follow the articles in the regulation and it should be clear from the outside looking in that they have followed the regulations. For example, their “Terms and Conditions,” and “Privacy Policy” should clearly spell out how and why they collect, use, and share your information. At some point a real GDPR certification program may be adopted, but not yet.

For all the hoopla about GDPR, the regulation is reasonably well thought out and addresses a very important issue — people’s privacy online. Creating a best practices document, or in this case a regulation, that companies such as Backblaze can follow is a good idea. The document isn’t perfect, and over the coming years we expect there to be changes. One thing we hope for is that the countries within the EU continue to stand behind one regulation and not fragment the document into multiple versions, each applying to themselves. We believe that having multiple different GDPR versions for different EU countries would lead to less protection overall of EU citizens.

In summary, GDPR changes are coming over the next few months. Backblaze has our internal staff and our EU-based legal council working diligently to ensure that we will be GDPR compliant by May 25th. We believe that GDPR will have a positive effect in enhancing the protection of personally identifiable information for not only EU citizens, but all of our Backblaze customers.

The post Backblaze and GDPR appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Can Consumers’ Online Data Be Protected?

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/02/can_consumers_o.html

Everything online is hackable. This is true for Equifax’s data and the federal Office of Personal Management’s data, which was hacked in 2015. If information is on a computer connected to the Internet, it is vulnerable.

But just because everything is hackable doesn’t mean everything will be hacked. The difference between the two is complex, and filled with defensive technologies, security best practices, consumer awareness, the motivation and skill of the hacker and the desirability of the data. The risks will be different if an attacker is a criminal who just wants credit card details ­ and doesn’t care where he gets them from ­ or the Chinese military looking for specific data from a specific place.

The proper question isn’t whether it’s possible to protect consumer data, but whether a particular site protects our data well enough for the benefits provided by that site. And here, again, there are complications.

In most cases, it’s impossible for consumers to make informed decisions about whether their data is protected. We have no idea what sorts of security measures Google uses to protect our highly intimate Web search data or our personal e-mails. We have no idea what sorts of security measures Facebook uses to protect our posts and conversations.

We have a feeling that these big companies do better than smaller ones. But we’re also surprised when a lone individual publishes personal data hacked from the infidelity site AshleyMadison.com, or when the North Korean government does the same with personal information in Sony’s network.

Think about all the companies collecting personal data about you ­ the websites you visit, your smartphone and its apps, your Internet-connected car — and how little you know about their security practices. Even worse, credit bureaus and data brokers like Equifax collect your personal information without your knowledge or consent.

So while it might be possible for companies to do a better job of protecting our data, you as a consumer are in no position to demand such protection.

Government policy is the missing ingredient. We need standards and a method for enforcement. We need liabilities and the ability to sue companies that poorly secure our data. The biggest reason companies don’t protect our data online is that it’s cheaper not to. Government policy is how we change that.

This essay appeared as half of a point/counterpoint with Priscilla Regan, in a CQ Researcher report titled “Privacy and the Internet.”

People Pay Pennies For Netflix, Spotify, HBO, Xbox Live & More

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/people-pay-pennies-for-netflix-spotify-hbo-xbox-live-more-180106/

Gaining free access to copyrighted material is not a difficult task in today’s online world. Movies, TV shows, music, games, and eBooks are all just a few clicks away, either using torrent, streaming, or direct download services.

Over the years, however, the growth of piracy has been at least somewhat slowed due to the advent of official services. Where there was once a content vacuum, official platforms such as Netflix, Spotify, HBO, TIDAL, Steam, and others, are helping users to find the content they want.

While most services present reasonable value, subscribing to them all would be a massive strain on even the most expansive of budgets. But what if there was a way to access every single one of them, for just a few dollars a year – in total? Believe it or not, such services exist and have done for some time.

Described as ‘Account Generators’, these platforms grant members with access to dozens of premium services, without having to pay anything like the headline price. The main ones often major on access to a Netflix subscription as a base, with access to other services thrown in on top.

How much a year?

The screenshot above shows one ‘generator’ service as it appeared this week. On the far right is a Netflix offer for $2.99 per year or $4.99 for a lifetime ‘private’ account (more on that later). That is of course ridiculously cheap.

On the near left is the ‘All Access’ plan, which offers access to Netflix plus another 69 online services for just $6.99 per month or $16.99 per year. The range of services available is impressive, to say the least.

Movies and TV Shows: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Now, Crunchyroll, DIRECTV/Now, Stream TV Live, CBS All Access, Funimation, Slingbox, Xfinity.

On the sports front: BT Sports, Fubo.tv, F1 Access, MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, NFL Game Pass, UFC Fight Pass, WWE Network.

For music, access is provided to Spotify, Deezer, Napster, Pandora, Saavn, SoundCloud, and TIDAL.

A small selection of the services available

How these services gain access to all of these accounts is shrouded in a level of secrecy but there’s little doubt that while some are obtained legitimately (perhaps through free trials or other account sharing), the roots of others are fairly questionable.

For example, when these services talk about ‘shared and ‘private’ Netflix accounts, the former often appear set up for someone else, with individual user accounts in other people’s names and suggestions for what to watch next already in place. In other words, these are live accounts already being paid for by someone, to which these services somehow gain access.

Indeed, there are notices on account generator platforms warning people not to mess with account passwords or payment details, since that could alert the original user or cause an account to get shut down for other reasons.

“Origin brings you great PC and Mac games. Play the latest RPGs, Shooters, Sim games, and more. These accounts are private (1 per person), however you MUST NOT change passwords,” one warning reads.

Since Origin has just come up, it’s probably a suitable juncture to mention the games services on offer. In addition to EA’s offering, one can gain access to Xbox Live, ESL Gaming, Good Old Games, League of Legends, Minecraft Premium, Steam (game keys) and Uplay.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Need a BitDefender key? No problem. Access to Creative Market? You got it. Want to do some online learning? Queue up for Chegg, CourseHero, Lynda, Mathway, Udemy, and more. There’s even free access to NYTimes Premium. As the image below shows, thousands of accounts are added all the time.

Thousands of accounts, all the time…

While these generator platforms are undoubtedly popular with people on a budget, almost everything about them feels wrong. Staring into someone’s private Netflix account, with what appear to be family names, is unsettling. Looking at their private email addresses and credit card details feels flat-out criminal.

Quite how these services are able to prosper isn’t clear but perhaps the big question is why the platforms whose accounts are being offered haven’t noticed some kind of pattern by now. Maybe they have, but it’s probably a pretty difficult task to sweep up the mess without a lot of false positives, not to mention the risks of ensnaring those who pay for their accounts officially.

The video below, from late 2016, gives a decent overview of how an account generator platform works. Even for many hardcore pirates, especially those who demand privacy and respect the same for others, parts of the viewing will be uncomfortable.

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

AWS Architecture Monthly for Kindle

Post Syndicated from Jamey Tisdale original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/aws-architecture-monthly-for-kindle/

We recently launched AWS Architecture Monthly, a new subscription service on Kindle that will push a selection of the best content around cloud architecture from AWS, with a few pointers to other content you might also enjoy.

From building a simple website to crafting an AI-based chat bot, the choices of technologies and the best practices in how to apply them are constantly evolving. Our goal is to supply you each month with a broad selection of the best new tech content from AWS — from deep-dive tutorials to industry-trend articles.

With your free subscription, you can look forward to fresh content delivered directly to your Kindledevice or Kindle app including:
– Technical whitepapers
– Reference architectures
– New solutions and implementation guides
– Training and certification opportunities
– Industry trends

The January issue is now live. This month includes:
– AWS Architecture Blog: Glenn Gore’s Take on re:Invent 2017 (Chief Architect for AWS)
– AWS Reference Architectures: Java Microservices Deployed on EC2 Container Service; Node.js Microservices Deployed on EC2 Container Service
– AWS Training & Certification: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
– Sample Code: aws-serverless-express
– Technical Whitepaper: Serverless Architectures with AWS Lambda – Overview and Best Practices

At this time, Architecture Monthly annual subscriptions are only available in the France (new), US, UK, and Germany. As more countries become available, we’ll update you here on the blog. For Amazon.com countries not listed above, we are offering single-issue downloads — also accessible from our landing page. The content is the same as in the subscription but requires individual-issue downloads.

FAQ
I have to submit my credit card information for a free subscription?
While you do have to submit your card information at this time (as you would for a free book in the Kindle store), it won’t be charged. This will remain a free, annual subscription and includes all 10 issues for the year.

Why isn’t the subscription available everywhere?
As new countries get added to Kindle Newsstand, we’ll ensure we add them for Architecture Monthly. This month we added France but anticipate it will take some time for the new service to move into additional markets.

What countries are included in the Amazon.com list where the issues can be downloaded?
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Gibraltar, Guernsey, India, Ireland, Isle of Man, Japan, Jersey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Vatican City

Internet Users Warned Over Fake 20th Century Fox Piracy ‘Fines’

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/internet-users-warned-over-fake-20th-century-fox-piracy-fines-171220/

Most people who obtain and share large quantities of material online understand that comes with risk, possibly in the form of an ISP-forwarded warning, a letter demanding cash, or even a visit from the police.

While the latter only happens in the rarest of circumstances, warnings are relatively commonplace, especially in the United States where companies like Rightscorp pump them out in their thousands. Letters demanding cash payment, sent by so-called copyright trolls, are less prevalent but these days most people understand the concept of a piracy ‘fine’.

With this level of understanding in the mainstream there are opportunities for scammers, who have periodically tried to extract payments from Internet users who have done nothing wrong. This is currently the case in Germany, where a consumer group is warning of a wave of piracy ‘fines’ being sent out to completely innocent victims.

The emails, which claim to be sent on behalf of 20th Century Fox, allege the recipient has infringed copyright on streaming portal Kinox.to. For this apparent transgression, they demand a payment of more than 375 euros but the whole thing is an elaborate scam.

The 20th Century Fox ‘piracy’ scam

Unlike some fairly primitive previous efforts, however, these emails are actually quite clever.

Citing a genuine ruling from the European Court of Justice which found that streaming content is illegal inside the EU, the cash demand offers up personal information of the user, such as IP addresses, browser, and operating system.

However, instead of obtaining these via an external piracy monitoring system and subsequent court order (as happens with BitTorrent cases), the data is pulled from the user’s machine when a third-party link is clicked.

As highlighted by Tarnkappe, who first noticed the warning, there are other elements to the cash demands that point to an elaborate scam.

Perhaps the biggest tell of all is the complete absence of precise details of the alleged infringement, such as the title of the content supposedly obtained along with a time and date. These are common features of all genuine settlement demands so any that fail to mention content should be treated with caution.

“Do not pay. It is rip off. Report to the police,” the local consumer group warns.

Interestingly, warning recipients are advised by the scammers to pay their ‘fine’ directly to a bank account in the United Kingdom. Hopefully it will have been shut down by now but it’s worth mentioning that people should avoid direct bank transfers with anyone they don’t trust.

If any payment must be made, credit cards are a much safer option but in the case of wannabe trolls, they’re best ignored until they appear with proper proof backed up by credible legal documentation. Even then, people should consider putting up a fight, if they’re being unfairly treated.

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

Bitcoin: In Crypto We Trust

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

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

The wrong “trust”

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

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

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

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

The wrong inspiration

Wu claims:

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

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

In crypto we trust

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

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

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

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

We don’t trust the code

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bubble

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

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

This is a poor analogy, for three reasons.

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

How AWS Managed Microsoft AD Helps to Simplify the Deployment and Improve the Security of Active Directory–Integrated .NET Applications

Post Syndicated from Peter Pereira original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-aws-managed-microsoft-ad-helps-to-simplify-the-deployment-and-improve-the-security-of-active-directory-integrated-net-applications/

Companies using .NET applications to access sensitive user information, such as employee salary, Social Security Number, and credit card information, need an easy and secure way to manage access for users and applications.

For example, let’s say that your company has a .NET payroll application. You want your Human Resources (HR) team to manage and update the payroll data for all the employees in your company. You also want your employees to be able to see their own payroll information in the application. To meet these requirements in a user-friendly and secure way, you want to manage access to the .NET application by using your existing Microsoft Active Directory identities. This enables you to provide users with single sign-on (SSO) access to the .NET application and to manage permissions using Active Directory groups. You also want the .NET application to authenticate itself to access the database, and to limit access to the data in the database based on the identity of the application user.

Microsoft Active Directory supports these requirements through group Managed Service Accounts (gMSAs) and Kerberos constrained delegation (KCD). AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory, also known as AWS Managed Microsoft AD, enables you to manage gMSAs and KCD through your administrative account, helping you to migrate and develop .NET applications that need these native Active Directory features.

In this blog post, I give an overview of how to use AWS Managed Microsoft AD to manage gMSAs and KCD and demonstrate how you can configure a gMSA and KCD in six steps for a .NET application:

  1. Create your AWS Managed Microsoft AD.
  2. Create your Amazon RDS for SQL Server database.
  3. Create a gMSA for your .NET application.
  4. Deploy your .NET application.
  5. Configure your .NET application to use the gMSA.
  6. Configure KCD for your .NET application.

Solution overview

The following diagram shows the components of a .NET application that uses Amazon RDS for SQL Server with a gMSA and KCD. The diagram also illustrates authentication and access and is numbered to show the six key steps required to use a gMSA and KCD. To deploy this solution, the AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory must be in the same Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) as RDS for SQL Server. For this example, my company name is Example Corp., and my directory uses the domain name, example.com.

Diagram showing the components of a .NET application that uses Amazon RDS for SQL Server with a gMSA and KCD

Deploy the solution

The following six steps (numbered to correlate with the preceding diagram) walk you through configuring and using a gMSA and KCD.

1. Create your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory

Using the Directory Service console, create your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory in your Amazon VPC. In my example, my domain name is example.com.

Image of creating an AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory in an Amazon VPC

2. Create your Amazon RDS for SQL Server database

Using the RDS console, create your Amazon RDS for SQL Server database instance in the same Amazon VPC where your directory is running, and enable Windows Authentication. To enable Windows Authentication, select your directory in the Microsoft SQL Server Windows Authentication section in the Configure Advanced Settings step of the database creation workflow (see the following screenshot).

In my example, I create my Amazon RDS for SQL Server db-example database, and enable Windows Authentication to allow my db-example database to authenticate against my example.com directory.

Screenshot of configuring advanced settings

3. Create a gMSA for your .NET application

Now that you have deployed your directory, database, and application, you can create a gMSA for your .NET application.

To perform the next steps, you must install the Active Directory administration tools on a Windows server that is joined to your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory domain. If you do not have a Windows server joined to your directory domain, you can deploy a new Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server instance and join it to your directory domain.

To create a gMSA for your .NET application:

  1. Log on to the instance on which you installed the Active Directory administration tools by using a user that is a member of the Admins security group or the Managed Service Accounts Admins security group in your organizational unit (OU). For my example, I use the Admin user in the example OU.

Screenshot of logging on to the instance on which you installed the Active Directory administration tools

  1. Identify which .NET application servers (hosts) will run your .NET application. Create a new security group in your OU and add your .NET application servers as members of this new group. This allows a group of application servers to use a single gMSA, instead of creating one gMSA for each server. In my example, I create a group, App_server_grp, in my example OU. I also add Appserver1, which is my .NET application server computer name, as a member of this new group.

Screenshot of creating a new security group

  1. Create a gMSA in your directory by running Windows PowerShell from the Start menu. The basic syntax to create the gMSA at the Windows PowerShell command prompt follows.
    PS C:\Users\admin> New-ADServiceAccount -name [gMSAname] -DNSHostName [domainname] -PrincipalsAllowedToRetrieveManagedPassword [AppServersSecurityGroup] -TrustedForDelegation $truedn <Enter>

    In my example, the gMSAname is gMSAexample, the DNSHostName is example.com, and the PrincipalsAllowedToRetrieveManagedPassword is the recently created security group, App_server_grp.

    PS C:\Users\admin> New-ADServiceAccount -name gMSAexample -DNSHostName example.com -PrincipalsAllowedToRetrieveManagedPassword App_server_grp -TrustedForDelegation $truedn <Enter>

    To confirm you created the gMSA, you can run the Get-ADServiceAccount command from the PowerShell command prompt.

    PS C:\Users\admin> Get-ADServiceAccount gMSAexample <Enter>
    
    DistinguishedName : CN=gMSAexample,CN=Managed Service Accounts,DC=example,DC=com
    Enabled           : True
    Name              : gMSAexample
    ObjectClass       : msDS-GroupManagedServiceAccount
    ObjectGUID        : 24d8b68d-36d5-4dc3-b0a9-edbbb5dc8a5b
    SamAccountName    : gMSAexample$
    SID               : S-1-5-21-2100421304-991410377-951759617-1603
    UserPrincipalName :

    You also can confirm you created the gMSA by opening the Active Directory Users and Computers utility located in your Administrative Tools folder, expand the domain (example.com in my case), and expand the Managed Service Accounts folder.
    Screenshot of confirming the creation of the gMSA

4. Deploy your .NET application

Deploy your .NET application on IIS on Amazon EC2 for Windows Server instances. For this step, I assume you are the application’s expert and already know how to deploy it. Make sure that all of your instances are joined to your directory.

5. Configure your .NET application to use the gMSA

You can configure your .NET application to use the gMSA to enforce strong password security policy and ensure password rotation of your service account. This helps to improve the security and simplify the management of your .NET application. Configure your .NET application in two steps:

  1. Grant to gMSA the required permissions to run your .NET application in the respective application folders. This is a critical step because when you change the application pool identity account to use gMSA, downtime can occur if the gMSA does not have the application’s required permissions. Therefore, make sure you first test the configurations in your development and test environments.
  2. Configure your application pool identity on IIS to use the gMSA as the service account. When you configure a gMSA as the service account, you include the $ at the end of the gMSA name. You do not need to provide a password because AWS Managed Microsoft AD automatically creates and rotates the password. In my example, my service account is gMSAexample$, as shown in the following screenshot.

Screenshot of configuring application pool identity

You have completed all the steps to use gMSA to create and rotate your .NET application service account password! Now, you will configure KCD for your .NET application.

6. Configure KCD for your .NET application

You now are ready to allow your .NET application to have access to other services by using the user identity’s permissions instead of the application service account’s permissions. Note that KCD and gMSA are independent features, which means you do not have to create a gMSA to use KCD. For this example, I am using both features to show how you can use them together. To configure a regular service account such as a user or local built-in account, see the Kerberos constrained delegation with ASP.NET blog post on MSDN.

In my example, my goal is to delegate to the gMSAexample account the ability to enforce the user’s permissions to my db-example SQL Server database, instead of the gMSAexample account’s permissions. For this, I have to update the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo gMSA attribute. The value for this attribute is the service principal name (SPN) of the service instance that you are targeting, which in this case is the db-example Amazon RDS for SQL Server database.

The SPN format for the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo attribute is a combination of the service class, the Kerberos authentication endpoint, and the port number. The Amazon RDS for SQL Server Kerberos authentication endpoint format is [database_name].[domain_name]. The value for my msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo attribute is MSSQLSvc/db-example.example.com:1433, where MSSQLSvc and 1433 are the SQL Server Database service class and port number standards, respectively.

Follow these steps to perform the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo gMSA attribute configuration:

  1. Log on to your Active Directory management instance with a user identity that is a member of the Kerberos Delegation Admins security group. In this case, I will use admin.
  2. Open the Active Directory Users and Groups utility located in your Administrative Tools folder, choose View, and then choose Advanced Features.
  3. Expand your domain name (example.com in this example), and then choose the Managed Service Accounts security group. Right-click the gMSA account for the application pool you want to enable for Kerberos delegation, choose Properties, and choose the Attribute Editor tab.
  4. Search for the msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo attribute on the Attribute Editor tab and choose Edit.
  5. Enter the MSSQLSvc/db-example.example.com:1433 value and choose Add.
    Screenshot of entering the value of the multi-valued string
  6. Choose OK and Apply, and your KCD configuration is complete.

Congratulations! At this point, your application is using a gMSA rather than an embedded static user identity and password, and the application is able to access SQL Server using the identity of the application user. The gMSA eliminates the need for you to rotate the application’s password manually, and it allows you to better scope permissions for the application. When you use KCD, you can enforce access to your database consistently based on user identities at the database level, which prevents improper access that might otherwise occur because of an application error.

Summary

In this blog post, I demonstrated how to simplify the deployment and improve the security of your .NET application by using a group Managed Service Account and Kerberos constrained delegation with your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory. I also outlined the main steps to get your .NET environment up and running on a managed Active Directory and SQL Server infrastructure. This approach will make it easier for you to build new .NET applications in the AWS Cloud or migrate existing ones in a more secure way.

For additional information about using group Managed Service Accounts and Kerberos constrained delegation with your AWS Managed Microsoft AD directory, see the AWS Directory Service documentation.

To learn more about AWS Directory Service, see the AWS Directory Service home page. If you have questions about this post or its solution, start a new thread on the Directory Service forum.

– Peter

Community Profile: Matthew Timmons-Brown

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/community-profile-matthew-timmons-brown/

This column is from The MagPi issue 57. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

“I first set up my YouTube channel because I noticed a massive lack of video tutorials for the Raspberry Pi,” explains Matthew Timmons-Brown, known to many as The Raspberry Pi Guy. At 18 years old, the Cambridge-based student has more than 60 000 subscribers to his channel, making his account the most successful Raspberry Pi–specific YouTube account to date.

Matthew Timmons-Brown

Matt gives a talk at the Raspberry Pi 5th Birthday weekend event

The Raspberry Pi Guy

If you’ve attended a Raspberry Pi event, there’s a good chance you’ve already met Matt. And if not, you’ll have no doubt come across one or more of his tutorials and builds online. On more than one occasion, his work has featured on the Raspberry Pi blog, with his yearly Raspberry Pi roundup videos being a staple of the birthday celebrations.

Matthew Timmons-Brown

With his website, Matt aimed to collect together “the many strands of The Raspberry Pi Guy” into one, neat, cohesive resource — and it works. From newcomers to the credit card-sized computer to hardened Pi veterans, The Raspberry Pi Guy offers aid and inspiration for many. Looking for a review of the Raspberry Pi Zero W? He’s filmed one. Looking for a step-by-step guide to building a Pi-powered Amazon Alexa? No problem, there’s one of those too.

Make your Raspberry Pi artificially intelligent! – Amazon Alexa Personal Assistant Tutorial

Artificial Intelligence. A hefty topic that has dominated the field since computers were first conceived. What if I told you that you could put an artificial intelligence service on your own $30 computer?! That’s right! In this tutorial I will show you how to create your own artificially intelligent personal assistant, using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition and information service!

Raspberry Pi electric skateboard

Last summer, Matt introduced the world to his Raspberry Pi-controlled electric skateboard, soon finding himself plastered over local press as well as the BBC and tech sites like Adafruit and geek.com. And there’s no question as to why the build was so popular. With YouTubers such as Casey Neistat increasing the demand for electric skateboards on a near-daily basis, the call for a cheaper, home-brew version has quickly grown.

DIY 30KM/H ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD – RASPBERRY PI/WIIMOTE POWERED

Over the summer, I made my own electric skateboard using a £4 Raspberry Pi Zero. Controlled with a Nintendo Wiimote, capable of going 30km/h, and with a range of over 10km, this project has been pretty darn fun. In this video, you see me racing around Cambridge and I explain the ins and outs of this project.

Using a Raspberry Pi Zero, a Nintendo Wii Remote, and a little help from members of the Cambridge Makespace community, Matt built a board capable of reaching 30km/h, with a battery range of 10km per charge. Alongside Neistat, Matt attributes the project inspiration to Australian student Tim Maier, whose build we previously covered in The MagPi.

Matthew Timmons-Brown and Eben Upton standing in a car park looking at a smartphone

LiDAR

Despite the success and the fun of the electric skateboard (including convincing Raspberry Pi Trading CEO Eben Upton to have a go for local television news coverage), the project Matt is most proud of is his wireless LiDAR system for theoretical use on the Mars rovers.

Matthew Timmons-Brown's LiDAR project for scanning terrains with lasers

Using a tablet app to define the angles, Matt’s A Level coursework LiDAR build scans the surrounding area, returning the results to the touchscreen, where they can be manipulated by the user. With his passion for the cosmos and the International Space Station, it’s no wonder that this is Matt’s proudest build.

Built for his A Level Computer Science coursework, the build demonstrates Matt’s passion for space and physics. Used as a means of surveying terrain, LiDAR uses laser light to measure distance, allowing users to create 3D-scanned, high-resolution maps of a specific area. It is a perfect technology for exploring unknown worlds.

Matthew Timmons-Brown and two other young people at a reception in the Houses of Parliament

Matt was invited to St James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament as part of the Raspberry Pi community celebrations in 2016

Joining the community

In a recent interview at Hills Road Sixth Form College, where he is studying mathematics, further mathematics, physics, and computer science, Matt revealed where his love of electronics and computer science started. “I originally became interested in computer science in 2012, when I read a tiny magazine article about a computer that I would be able to buy with pocket money. This was a pretty exciting thing for a 12-year-old! Your own computer… for less than £30?!” He went on to explain how it became his mission to learn all he could on the subject and how, months later, his YouTube channel came to life, cementing him firmly into the Raspberry Pi community

The post Community Profile: Matthew Timmons-Brown appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Me on the Equifax Breach

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/me_on_the_equif.html

Testimony and Statement for the Record of Bruce Schneier
Fellow and Lecturer, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School

Hearing on “Securing Consumers’ Credit Data in the Age of Digital Commerce”

Before the

Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection
Committee on Energy and Commerce
United States House of Representatives

1 November 2017
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Mister Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today concerning the security of credit data. My name is Bruce Schneier, and I am a security technologist. For over 30 years I have studied the technologies of security and privacy. I have authored 13 books on these subjects, including Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World (Norton, 2015). My popular newsletter CryptoGram and my blog Schneier on Security are read by over 250,000 people.

Additionally, I am a Fellow and Lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government –where I teach Internet security policy — and a Fellow at the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. I am a board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, AccessNow, and the Tor Project; and an advisory board member of Electronic Privacy Information Center and VerifiedVoting.org. I am also a special advisor to IBM Security and the Chief Technology Officer of IBM Resilient.

I am here representing none of those organizations, and speak only for myself based on my own expertise and experience.

I have eleven main points:

1. The Equifax breach was a serious security breach that puts millions of Americans at risk.

Equifax reported that 145.5 million US customers, about 44% of the population, were impacted by the breach. (That’s the original 143 million plus the additional 2.5 million disclosed a month later.) The attackers got access to full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.

This is exactly the sort of information criminals can use to impersonate victims to banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, cell phone companies and other businesses vulnerable to fraud. As a result, all 143 million US victims are at greater risk of identity theft, and will remain at risk for years to come. And those who suffer identify theft will have problems for months, if not years, as they work to clean up their name and credit rating.

2. Equifax was solely at fault.

This was not a sophisticated attack. The security breach was a result of a vulnerability in the software for their websites: a program called Apache Struts. The particular vulnerability was fixed by Apache in a security patch that was made available on March 6, 2017. This was not a minor vulnerability; the computer press at the time called it “critical.” Within days, it was being used by attackers to break into web servers. Equifax was notified by Apache, US CERT, and the Department of Homeland Security about the vulnerability, and was provided instructions to make the fix.

Two months later, Equifax had still failed to patch its systems. It eventually got around to it on July 29. The attackers used the vulnerability to access the company’s databases and steal consumer information on May 13, over two months after Equifax should have patched the vulnerability.

The company’s incident response after the breach was similarly damaging. It waited nearly six weeks before informing victims that their personal information had been stolen and they were at increased risk of identity theft. Equifax opened a website to help aid customers, but the poor security around that — the site was at a domain separate from the Equifax domain — invited fraudulent imitators and even more damage to victims. At one point, the official Equifax communications even directed people to that fraudulent site.

This is not the first time Equifax failed to take computer security seriously. It confessed to another data leak in January 2017. In May 2016, one of its websites was hacked, resulting in 430,000 people having their personal information stolen. Also in 2016, a security researcher found and reported a basic security vulnerability in its main website. And in 2014, the company reported yet another security breach of consumer information. There are more.

3. There are thousands of data brokers with similarly intimate information, similarly at risk.

Equifax is more than a credit reporting agency. It’s a data broker. It collects information about all of us, analyzes it all, and then sells those insights. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about us — almost all of them companies you’ve never heard of and have no business relationship with.

The breadth and depth of information that data brokers have is astonishing. Data brokers collect and store billions of data elements covering nearly every US consumer. Just one of the data brokers studied holds information on more than 1.4 billion consumer transactions and 700 billion data elements, and another adds more than 3 billion new data points to its database each month.

These brokers collect demographic information: names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, gender, age, marital status, presence and ages of children in household, education level, profession, income level, political affiliation, cars driven, and information about homes and other property. They collect lists of things we’ve purchased, when we’ve purchased them, and how we paid for them. They keep track of deaths, divorces, and diseases in our families. They collect everything about what we do on the Internet.

4. These data brokers deliberately hide their actions, and make it difficult for consumers to learn about or control their data.

If there were a dozen people who stood behind us and took notes of everything we purchased, read, searched for, or said, we would be alarmed at the privacy invasion. But because these companies operate in secret, inside our browsers and financial transactions, we don’t see them and we don’t know they’re there.

Regarding Equifax, few consumers have any idea what the company knows about them, who they sell personal data to or why. If anyone knows about them at all, it’s about their business as a credit bureau, not their business as a data broker. Their website lists 57 different offerings for business: products for industries like automotive, education, health care, insurance, and restaurants.

In general, options to “opt-out” don’t work with data brokers. It’s a confusing process, and doesn’t result in your data being deleted. Data brokers will still collect data about consumers who opt out. It will still be in those companies’ databases, and will still be vulnerable. It just don’t be included individually when they sell data to their customers.

5. The existing regulatory structure is inadequate.

Right now, there is no way for consumers to protect themselves. Their data has been harvested and analyzed by these companies without their knowledge or consent. They cannot improve the security of their personal data, and have no control over how vulnerable it is. They only learn about data breaches when the companies announce them — which can be months after the breaches occur — and at that point the onus is on them to obtain credit monitoring services or credit freezes. And even those only protect consumers from some of the harms, and only those suffered after Equifax admitted to the breach.

Right now, the press is reporting “dozens” of lawsuits against Equifax from shareholders, consumers, and banks. Massachusetts has sued Equifax for violating state consumer protection and privacy laws. Other states may follow suit.

If any of these plaintiffs win in the court, it will be a rare victory for victims of privacy breaches against the companies that have our personal information. Current law is too narrowly focused on people who have suffered financial losses directly traceable to a specific breach. Proving this is difficult. If you are the victim of identity theft in the next month, is it because of Equifax or does the blame belong to another of the thousands of companies who have your personal data? As long as one can’t prove it one way or the other, data brokers remain blameless and liability free.

Additionally, much of this market in our personal data falls outside the protections of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. And in order for the Federal Trade Commission to levy a fine against Equifax, it needs to have a consent order and then a subsequent violation. Any fines will be limited to credit information, which is a small portion of the enormous amount of information these companies know about us. In reality, this is not an effective enforcement regime.

Although the FTC is investigating Equifax, it is unclear if it has a viable case.

6. The market cannot fix this because we are not the customers of data brokers.

The customers of these companies are people and organizations who want to buy information: banks looking to lend you money, landlords deciding whether to rent you an apartment, employers deciding whether to hire you, companies trying to figure out whether you’d be a profitable customer — everyone who wants to sell you something, even governments.

Markets work because buyers choose from a choice of sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. None of us are Equifax’s customers. None of us are the customers of any of these data brokers. We can’t refuse to do business with the companies. We can’t remove our data from their databases. With few limited exceptions, we can’t even see what data these companies have about us or correct any mistakes.

We are the product that these companies sell to their customers: those who want to use our personal information to understand us, categorize us, make decisions about us, and persuade us.

Worse, the financial markets reward bad security. Given the choice between increasing their cybersecurity budget by 5%, or saving that money and taking the chance, a rational CEO chooses to save the money. Wall Street rewards those whose balance sheets look good, not those who are secure. And if senior management gets unlucky and the a public breach happens, they end up okay. Equifax’s CEO didn’t get his $5.2 million severance pay, but he did keep his $18.4 million pension. Any company that spends more on security than absolutely necessary is immediately penalized by shareholders when its profits decrease.

Even the negative PR that Equifax is currently suffering will fade. Unless we expect data brokers to put public interest ahead of profits, the security of this industry will never improve without government regulation.

7. We need effective regulation of data brokers.

In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that Congress require data brokers be more transparent and give consumers more control over their personal information. That report contains good suggestions on how to regulate this industry.

First, Congress should help plaintiffs in data breach cases by authorizing and funding empirical research on the harm individuals receive from these breaches.

Specifically, Congress should move forward legislative proposals that establish a nationwide “credit freeze” — which is better described as changing the default for disclosure from opt-out to opt-in — and free lifetime credit monitoring services. By this I do not mean giving customers free credit-freeze options, a proposal by Senators Warren and Schatz, but that the default should be a credit freeze.

The credit card industry routinely notifies consumers when there are suspicious charges. It is obvious that credit reporting agencies should have a similar obligation to notify consumers when there is suspicious activity concerning their credit report.

On the technology side, more could be done to limit the amount of personal data companies are allowed to collect. Increasingly, privacy safeguards impose “data minimization” requirements to ensure that only the data that is actually needed is collected. On the other hand, Congress should not create a new national identifier to replace the Social Security Numbers. That would make the system of identification even more brittle. Better is to reduce dependence on systems of identification and to create contextual identification where necessary.

Finally, Congress needs to give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to set minimum security standards for data brokers and to give consumers more control over their personal information. This is essential as long as consumers are these companies’ products and not their customers.

8. Resist complaints from the industry that this is “too hard.”

The credit bureaus and data brokers, and their lobbyists and trade-association representatives, will claim that many of these measures are too hard. They’re not telling you the truth.

Take one example: credit freezes. This is an effective security measure that protects consumers, but the process of getting one and of temporarily unfreezing credit is made deliberately onerous by the credit bureaus. Why isn’t there a smartphone app that alerts me when someone wants to access my credit rating, and lets me freeze and unfreeze my credit at the touch of the screen? Too hard? Today, you can have an app on your phone that does something similar if you try to log into a computer network, or if someone tries to use your credit card at a physical location different from where you are.

Moreover, any credit bureau or data broker operating in Europe is already obligated to follow the more rigorous EU privacy laws. The EU General Data Protection Regulation will come into force, requiring even more security and privacy controls for companies collecting storing the personal data of EU citizens. Those companies have already demonstrated that they can comply with those more stringent regulations.

Credit bureaus, and data brokers in general, are deliberately not implementing these 21st-century security solutions, because they want their services to be as easy and useful as possible for their actual customers: those who are buying your information. Similarly, companies that use this personal information to open accounts are not implementing more stringent security because they want their services to be as easy-to-use and convenient as possible.

9. This has foreign trade implications.

The Canadian Broadcast Corporation reported that 100,000 Canadians had their data stolen in the Equifax breach. The British Broadcasting Corporation originally reported that 400,000 UK consumers were affected; Equifax has since revised that to 15.2 million.

Many American Internet companies have significant numbers of European users and customers, and rely on negotiated safe harbor agreements to legally collect and store personal data of EU citizens.

The European Union is in the middle of a massive regulatory shift in its privacy laws, and those agreements are coming under renewed scrutiny. Breaches such as Equifax give these European regulators a powerful argument that US privacy regulations are inadequate to protect their citizens’ data, and that they should require that data to remain in Europe. This could significantly harm American Internet companies.

10. This has national security implications.

Although it is still unknown who compromised the Equifax database, it could easily have been a foreign adversary that routinely attacks the servers of US companies and US federal agencies with the goal of exploiting security vulnerabilities and obtaining personal data.

When the Fair Credit Reporting Act was passed in 1970, the concern was that the credit bureaus might misuse our data. That is still a concern, but the world has changed since then. Credit bureaus and data brokers have far more intimate data about all of us. And it is valuable not only to companies wanting to advertise to us, but foreign governments as well. In 2015, the Chinese breached the database of the Office of Personal Management and stole the detailed security clearance information of 21 million Americans. North Korea routinely engages in cybercrime as way to fund its other activities. In a world where foreign governments use cyber capabilities to attack US assets, requiring data brokers to limit collection of personal data, securely store the data they collect, and delete data about consumers when it is no longer needed is a matter of national security.

11. We need to do something about it.

Yes, this breach is a huge black eye and a temporary stock dip for Equifax — this month. Soon, another company will have suffered a massive data breach and few will remember Equifax’s problem. Does anyone remember last year when Yahoo admitted that it exposed personal information of a billion users in 2013 and another half billion in 2014?

Unless Congress acts to protect consumer information in the digital age, these breaches will continue.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify today. I will be pleased to answer your questions.

Top 10 Torrent Site TorrentDownloads Blocked By Chrome and Firefox

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/top-10-torrent-site-torrentdownloads-blocked-by-chrome-and-firefox-171107/

While the popularity of torrent sites isn’t as strong as it used to be, dozens of millions of people use them on a daily basis.

Content availability is rich and the majority of the main movie, TV show, game and software releases appear on them within minutes, offering speedy and convenient downloads. Nevertheless, things don’t always go as smoothly as people might like.

Over the past couple of days that became evident to visitors of TorrentDownloads, one of the Internet’s most popular torrent sites.

TorrentDownloads – usually a reliable and tidy platform

Instead of viewing the rather comprehensive torrent index that made the Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Site lists in 2016 and 2017, visitors receive a warning.

“Attackers on torrentdownloads.me may trick you into doing something dangerous like installing software or revealing your personal information (for example, passwords, phone numbers or credit cards),” Chrome users are warned.

“Google Safe Browsing recently detected phishing on torrentdownloads.me. Phishing sites pretend to be other websites to trick you.”

Chrome warning

People using Firefox also receive a similar warning.

“This web page at torrentdownloads.me has been reported as a deceptive site and has been blocked based on your security preferences,” the browser warns.

“Deceptive sites are designed to trick you into doing something dangerous, like installing software, or revealing your personal information, like passwords, phone numbers or credit cards.”

A deeper check on Google’s malware advisory service echoes the same information, noting that the site contains “harmful content” that may “trick visitors into sharing personal info or downloading software.” Checks carried out with MalwareBytes reveal that service blocking the domain too.

TorrentFreak spoke with the operator of TorrentDownloads who told us that the warnings had been triggered by a rogue advertiser which was immediately removed from the site.

“We have already requested a review with Google Webmaster after we removed an old affiliates advertiser and changed the links on the site,” he explained.

“In Google Webmaster they state that the request will be processed within 72 Hours, so I think it will be reviewed today when 72 hours are completed.”

This statement suggests that the site itself wasn’t the direct culprit, but ads hosted elsewhere. That being said, these kinds of warnings look very scary to visitors and sites have to take responsibility, so completely expelling the bad player from the platform was the correct choice. Nevertheless, people shouldn’t be too surprised at the appearance of suspect ads.

Many top torrent sites have suffered from similar warnings, including The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, which are often a product of anti-piracy efforts from the entertainment industries.

In the past, torrent and streaming sites could display ads from top-tier providers with few problems. However, in recent years, the so-called “follow the money” anti-piracy tactic has forced the majority away from pirate sites, meaning they now have to do business with ad networks that may not always be as tidy as one might hope.

While these warnings are the very last thing the sites in question want (they’re hardly good for increasing visitor numbers), they’re a gift to entertainment industry groups.

At the same time as the industries are forcing decent ads away, these alerts provide a great opportunity to warn users about the potential problems left behind as a result. A loose analogy might be deliberately cutting off beer supply to an unlicensed bar then warning people not to go there because the homebrew sucks. It some cases it can be true, but it’s a problem only being exacerbated by industry tactics.

It’s worth noting that no warnings are received by visitors to TorrentDownloads using Android devices, meaning that desktop users were probably the only people at risk. In any event, it’s expected that the warnings will disappear during the next day, so the immediate problems will be over. As far as TF is informed, the offending ads were removed days ago.

That appears to be backed up by checks carried out on a number of other malware scanning services. Norton, Opera, SiteAdvisor, Spamhaus, Yandex and ESET all declare the site to be clean.

Technical Chrome and Firefox users who are familiar with these types of warnings can take steps (Chrome, FF) to bypass the blocks, if they really must.

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