Tag Archives: DMCA

DMCA Takedowns Try to Delist Dozens of Adult Homepages from Google

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/dmca-takedowns-try-to-delist-dozens-of-adult-homepages-from-google-190608/

Google receives millions of notices requesting the removal of allegedly-infringing links from its search results every month.

The load is truly huge, as is the flood of pirated content the DMCA notices attempt to address. It’s a huge task on all sides, so it’s not a surprise some dubious takedowns slip through the net. Over the past couple of weeks, more than usual appear to have done just that.

Without going into too much detail and annoying the purists, hentai can loosely be defined as adult-focused comics and cartoons. Hailing from Japan, hentai has a huge following worldwide and, of course, is widely pirated.

Several companies and organizations attempt to take infringing content down but this week a new one stepped up to cause waves across hundreds of sites.

It isn’t clear who is behind ‘Copyright Legal Services INC’ (CLS). A specific Google search yields nothing and its takedown notices offer no additional information either. However, several of its DMCA notices indicate that the original works it tries to protect can be bought from DLSite.com, a platform operated by Japan’s EYSIS, Inc.

At first view, the notices filed by CLS seem unremarkable. They list original works and then allegedly-infringing URLs. However, what these notices then try to do is purge from Google entire adult-site homepages, full sections, plus pages that clearly aren’t infringing.

Due to their inherent NSFW nature, we won’t quote them directly here but anyone interested can click the links provided.

For instance, this notice attempts to remove ‘xhamster.com/hd’ and the ‘subbed’ and ‘english’ tag archives on YouPorn.com.. Many other sites are listed too, with the notice even trying to take down their contact pages. Around two dozen homepages are among the 331 targeted URLs.

Another notice targets 198 URLs, six of them site homepages. In common with the other notices, some have been removed from Google search, others have not. It’s hard to make a clear determination but Google seems to delist some smaller sites while giving sites like YouPorn and xHamster a pass.

The list of notices goes on, and on, and on, and on, with the same general theme of some accurate reports, many massively overbroad ones, and notices that nearly always target some sites’ homepages, some of which were acted upon by Google.

A site operator affected by the wave of takedowns sent TorrentFreak a list of the homepages that were requested for removal from Google. They numbered 294, which is a lot by any measurement.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that also need to be highlighted.

While it’s impractical to check them all, a cursory view of a few dozen domain URLs shows that most of the sites are probably infringing someone’s copyrights, so these types of notices (when accurate) shouldn’t come as a surprise.

It’s also possible that some of the sites carried the content in question on their homepages when the notices were sent to Google. However, given the volume of sites and the limited range of content, it seems likely this would be the exception and not the rule.

The operator of one site – Gelbooru.com – which had its homepage delisted from Google despite containing no infringing content, told TorrentFreak that complaining to Google proved fruitless.

Homepage delisted

“Thanks for reaching out to us,” Google responded.

“At this time, Google has decided not to take action. We encourage you to review https://library.educause.edu/topics/policy-and-law/digital-millennium-copyright-act-dmca for more information about the DMCA. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel.”

The full list of notices referenced above can be found here but may require registration to view in detail, as reported here.

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‘Netflix’ Flags Netflix.com As a Pirate Site, Or Does It?

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/netflix-flags-netflix-com-as-a-pirate-site-or-does-it-190602/

Netflix, like many other rightsholders, keeps a close eye on pirate sites.

The company has its own in-house anti-piracy team and also works with third-party companies, to issue takedown requests.

Over the past two years, the streaming giant has sent more than five million of these to Google alone. Many of them ask the search engine to remove links to pirate sites, but this week our eye was drawn to a more unusual request.

The notice in question was sent by the anti-piracy outfit Marketly, on behalf of Netflix, and identifies 250 URLs which presumably link to pirated copies of the movie “Triple Frontier.” However, on closer inspection, many of the reported links are not infringing at all.

The most obvious mistake is that the notice reports Netflix’s own listing of “Triple Frontier” as a pirate copy, requesting Google to remove it from its search index.

Google spotted the mistake and didn’t comply. However, that’s not the only error. The same takedown request also includes a variety of links to other legitimate websites. This article from The Wrap about Netflix’s streaming numbers for example, which mentions Triple Frontier, but isn’t piracy related.

The same is true for several other reported URLs. This includes a Hollywood Reporter story, this top ten list from Variety, this article from The Daily Dot, a Business Insider report, and IMDb’s news page for Triple Frontier. We could go on and on.

These findings could easily be used to once again argue that automated DMCA takedown processes are highly inaccurate. After all, if Google wasn’t sharp enough to spot these errors, legitimate content would have disappeared from the search results.

However, since we have seen our fair share of imposters over the past year, we’re not sure that this notice was sent by Marketly at all, or if Netflix has anything to do with it.

Marketly indeed works for Netflix and the streaming service does own the distribution rights to Triple Frontier. However, neither company is known for its negligence when it comes to these types of takedown efforts, although Marketly took down one of our tweets recently.

Upon closer inspection, our doubts started to grow. For one, the Marketly that sent this takedown requests has a separate listing in Google’s transparency report.

In addition, there have been other Marketly imposters recently. For example, Google has flagged this copycat as being fraudulent.

We’re more than happy and are inclined to chalk this clearly erroneous notice up as another scam attempt. Likely in an effort of a pirate site to punish competitors, as we’ve seen before.

However, that doesn’t make this less of a problem. In fact, if scammers continue to make claims like this, it will likely lead to overbroad takedowns. And with millions of URLs being submitted per day, Google will have a hard time catching them all.

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Hundreds of Thousands of ‘Pirate’ Sites Disappear Following Takedown Notices

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hundreds-of-thousands-of-pirate-sites-disappear-following-takedown-notices/

Takedown notices are a vital tool for copyright holders who want to make sure that infringing copies of their work are not widely distributed.

Every week millions of these requests are sent to hosting platforms, as well as third-party services, such as search engines. 

Quite a few of the major players, including Twitter, Google, and Bing, publish these requests online. However, due to the massive volume, it’s hard for casual observers to spot any trends in the data. 

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Boston University aim to add some context with an elaborate study covering a broad database of takedown requests. Their results are now bundled in a paper titled: “Who Watches the Watchmen: Exploring Complaints on the Web.”

The research covers all takedown requests that were made available through the Lumen Database in 2017. The majority of these were sent to Google, with Bing, Twitter, and Periscope as runners-up. In total, more than one billion reported URLs were analyzed.

Most takedown requests or ‘web complaints’ were copyright-related, 98.6% to be precise. This means that other notices, such as defamation reports, court orders, and Government requests, make up a tiny minority. 

The researchers report that the complaints were submitted by 38,523 unique senders, covering 1.05 billion URLs.  While that’s a massive number, most reported links are filed by a very small group of senders. 

“We find that the distribution of notices is highly skewed towards a few extremely active senders. The top 10% of notice senders report over 1 billion URLs, in stark contrast to just 550K by the bottom 90%,” the researchers write.

Not surprisingly, the list of top senders is entirely made up of anti-piracy groups and trade organizations. In 2017, the top senders were Rivendell, Aiplex, and the UK music group BPI. 

On the domain side, the results are skewed as well. The top 1% of all reported domain names were targeted in 63% of all complaints. In other words, a small number of sites are responsible for the vast majority of all takedown notices. 

These and other figures provide more insight into the various takedown characteristics. What we were most surprised about, however, are the researchers’ findings regarding the availability of the reported domain names. 

The researchers carried out periodic checks on the domains and URLs to verify if the websites are still active. This revealed that a few weeks after the first takedown notices were filed, 22% of the reported domains were inactive, returning an NXDOMAIN response.

“Many domain names are soon taken offline and 22% of the URLs are inaccessible within just 4 weeks of us observing the complaints. Hence, it is clear that we shed light on a highly dynamic environment from the perspective of domain operators too,” the article reads.

With a total dataset of more than a billion domain names, this suggests that hundreds or thousands of sites simply disappeared. Whether the takedown requests have anything to do with this is unclear though, as many site owners may not even be aware of them.

The disappearing domain names mostly use more exotic TLDs, with .LOL being the most popular, followed by .LINK, .BID, .SPACE, and .WIN. The vast majority of these (97%) have an Alexa rank lower than one million, which means that they only have a few visitors per day. 

It’s not clear why these domains disappear and the authors of the article stress that follow-up research is required to find out more. It would not be a surprise, however, if many of these are related to spam or scams that rely on temporary search engine traffic. 

Finally, the article also observed worrying activity carried out by copyright holders. For example, some use seemingly fabricated URLs, as we have highlighted in the past, while others send hundreds of duplicate notices. 

All in all the research should help to provide a better understanding of how takedown requests impact various stakeholders. This type of transparency is essential to improve procedures for the senders, but also to prevent abuse.

“Transparency is critical and, as a society, it is important to know how and why information is filtered. This is particularly the case as we have found that these mechanisms might not be always used wisely,” the researchers conclude. 

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“Confidential” HDMI Specifications Docs Hit With DMCA Takedown

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/confidential-hdmi-standards-docs-hit-with-dmca-takedown-190511/

Credit: Pixabay

HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) is today’s standard for transferring digital video and audio between compatible devices.

The standard variant comes as a male connector (plug) or female connector (socket). Chances are that most people will have many of these scattered around their homes, with TVs, monitors, set-top boxes, video games consoles, and dozens of other video-capable devices utilizing the interface.

It’s no surprise then that the list of companies that have adopted the HDMI standard for their products is huge, with founders including Maxell, Panasonic, Sanyo, Philips, and Sony leading the way.

Since its inception back in 2002, many versions of HDMI have been developed, each utilizing the same basic connector but with added features. While new functions aren’t available to users of pre-update hardware, the entire system is backward compatible.

These updates (which are given version numbers such as HDMI 1.0 (2002) right up to the latest HDMI 2.1 (2017)) are described in technical specifications documents. However, according to the HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc., the licensing agent for the HDMI product, these documents are not only copyrighted but also contain secret information.

Github user ‘Glenwing’ has been archiving these documents for the last few years in his personal “Display Industry Standards Archive” but was recently hit with a DMCA takedown notice after HDMI Licensing Administrator filed a complaint against him.

GitHub itself published details of the DMCA complaint which claims copyright over the documents and further states that they aren’t for public consumption.

“HDMI Licensing Administrator, Inc. is the licensing Agent to the founders of the HDMI® Digital Interface. It has been brought to our attention that user Glenwing is publicly making confidential copyrighted content available on your hub without authorization,” the notice reads.

Since we’ve seen these documents available freely online before, we contacted Glenwing to find out what the problem was.

He told us that HDMI specification version 1.3a is available for public download from the HDMI website but considering copies of the other specifications can be found online elsewhere, he didn’t think there would be an issue putting them in one place.

“I just assumed it was something considered unimportant to them, considering there have been other hosted copies of ‘confidential’ HDMI versions that were widely linked, easily locatable by simply Googling ‘HDMI 1.4 pdf’ etc,” he explains.

“These documents have even been linked as a source on the HDMI Wikipedia page. You can’t get any more visible than that, and those copies remained online for years. But now that I’ve been revisiting my original sources I downloaded from, they’re mostly dead links. It seems HDMI Licensing may have started to clean house all over the web, not just targeting my page specifically.”

Glenwing confirmed that all copies of the specifications he uploaded to Github were just obtained from various sources on the Internet, such as Wikipedia citations or simple Google searches.

He’s clearly just a tech enthusiast with a great interest in the topic, who would like to share his knowledge with others. There’s certainly no malicious intent.

“I never really intended these documents for distribution anyway, and if I could hide the Github page from Google results with a robots.txt file or something, I would,” he says.

“I upload them primarily for my own reference, to have every version in one place, so that when I write guides trying to educate people about the capabilities of HDMI, DisplayPort, how to correctly calculate video bandwidth, how these standards have changed over time, etc., I can link these documents as sources.”

Interestingly, this takedown wasn’t the first received by Glenwing. He initially received a notice just a few days earlier from the Consumer Technology Association (of which HDMI Licensing Administrator is a member) which targeted half a dozen CTA standards documents.

“Six copyrighted CTA standards are posted in their entirety here:
https://glenwing.github.io/docs/,” the notice from CTA reads. “[T]he works are not licensed under an open source license…the best solution is removal,” it adds.

So are these documents sensitive too? Glenwing believes not.

“This notice I actually received first, and it was a bit puzzling at the time; I had six CTA documents, which are all different revisions of the same (public) standard, CTA-861 [A DTV Profile for Uncompressed High Speed Digital Interfaces]. The three latest revisions (G, F, and E) are available for free download from the CTA website, the older revisions are not, likely because they are simply outdated, not because anyone considers them secret information,” he says.

“It’s fairly common for standards organizations to only host the latest versions, and whenever a new revision is released, older versions often become difficult to find. That was sort of the point of my page, to preserve every version I could find for historical purposes.”

In the absence of his own archive on Github, Glenwing then began to link directly to pages on the Consumer Technology Association site that host the documents and offer them for download. Functionally, access to the documents should have been the same. Or at least that was the plan.

As this piece was being put together, CTA removed the copies of its own standards from its own website, leaving dead links in their place. It now appears that they can only be accessed via the CTA Store, albeit for the knockdown price of $0.00, following a registration process.

Bizarrely, there are other sources for the documents, such as this site which offers to sell one of the publicly available documents for a mere $278. People shouldn’t have to pay a penny of course, as per a May 2018 press release from the CTA which declared free document access to all….

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Lumen Database Restricts Access to DMCA Notices But Plans to Expand

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/lumen-database-restricts-access-to-dmca-notices-plans-to-expand-190510/

With millions of takedown notices hitting Internet platforms and hosts every single week, content can often go inexplicably missing from sites and search engine indexes.

Thanks to projects like Google’s Transparency report, however, much-needed light can be shone on this murky area.

Users of Google’s service can see almost every detail of a copyright claim but when it comes to accurate research, it’s necessary to visit the Lumen Database, a research project that hosts millions of notices submitted by some of the biggest Internet companies.

The resource has become an essential tool for researchers and reporters interested in the cease-and-desist landscape. However, new changes at the resource will mean that the majority of users will now have less initial access to data.

In a nutshell, takedown notices presented in Lumen’s database will no longer list the precise URLs targeted by copyright holders. Instead, as the image below illustrates, the notices only list how many URLs were targeted at specific domains.

Lighter on detail

As is clear from the above, Lumen has removed the specific URL details, which are absolutely crucial if one is to even begin researching the effects of a particular takedown notice. However, on every redacted notice is a hyperlink which presents a system through which it is possible to get an unredacted copy.

Regular users wanting to properly research a notice now have to enter their email address to receive a single-use link to view it in full.

TorrentFreak learned that changes would be made to the system a few months ago after we discovered a development version of the platform. On a personal level, we were initially concerned at the restrictions since it is not uncommon for us to view dozens of takedown notices in preparation for a single article.

However, it now transpires that researchers and journalists will be able to obtain a special login to the Lumen Database that its operators hope will provide an experience that’s largely unchanged. That means we’ll continue to bring news on interesting takedowns and report on various trends.

That being said, the bigger question is why Lumen has taken this decision. Lumen project manager Adam Holland informs TorrentFreak that it’s all about expanding and improving the service.

“Lumen wants to remain a vibrant and valuable feature of the landscape with respect to research, journalism, and public awareness around takedown requests. We believe that we have been successful at doing this over the years and that some great work has come out of, or been predicated on, our data,” Holland says.

“But we also feel that it’s both possible and necessary for Lumen to continue to grow and improve. One obvious way in which to do so is to expand the number and type of notices we receive, as well as the range of institutions from which we receive them. We’ve heard from some companies that although they’d like to share notices with us, for a variety of idiosyncratic reasons, they don’t feel that they can do so under the current Lumen schema.”

Sensitivity over the amount of information made available by Lumen under default settings will also play an important role as the platform expands. Holland says that DMCA complaints will form just part of the project moving forward, with other forms of takedown notices from all over the world augmenting the database.

“We wish to be conscious of the concerns of those sending this broader variety of notices,” he says.

As readers will probably recall, the Lumen project has previously been subjected to criticism by copyright holders. We asked Holland if this had played a part in the decision to redact notices for more casual users of the resource, who some allege may have used it to obtain links to infringing content.

“Our traffic metrics simply don’t bear out any suggestion that the database is a viable tool for those seeking access to infringing or unauthorized content. But, we have always endeavored to strike a balance,” he explains.

“We think that the new framework allows the research community to stay informed while in no way compromising research done with the database. It also — importantly — reduces the significant workload associated with database maintenance, which will free up Lumen staff to do more productive things.”

We put it to Holland that there will probably be some members of the public who won’t enjoy jumping through additional hoops to gain full access to notices. However, he says that Lumen doesn’t really have a good sense from its traffic volumes how many people use the resource for specific reasons.

But while reduced access will probably be disappointing to some, there are those who see this development as a double-edged sword.

TorrentFreak spoke with a representative from an anti-piracy company who told us that less visibility for URLs will be welcomed by his clients.

“As a DMCA agent for copyright owners, I can say that Lumen and its predecessor Chilling Effects have long been seen as making a mockery of Google’s takedown procedure – why delist search results if those same results are all still listed in a notice linked at the bottom of the page?” he said.

“But I appreciate that the DMCA process can be and has been easily abused, so it’s important to have some kind of ability to check on potential censorship and/or erroneous takedowns.

“So while my clients will surely welcome a change that makes it trickier to access infringing material, I share the concerns of those who may feel that this places obstacles in the way of legitimate research and accountability.”

Finally, it’s worth noting the large effort expended by the Lumen team to keep the project going. The platform is currently receiving up to 70,000 notices per day (mostly filed under the DMCA) with many requiring redactions to preserve privacy.

These can be handled automatically but Holland explains that manual redactions take place frequently, with a single notice potentially taking 20 minutes or more to process.

Lumen kindly provided a list of companies and institutions that contribute (or have contributed) to the database. Any parties interesting in joining this group are invited to contact the project.

Automattic/Wordpress

Counterfeit Technology

Google

The Internet Archive

Kickstarter

Medium

Periscope

PGPSMedia [not currently sending]

Proxy.sh

Reddit [not currently sending]

Stack Exchange

Stripe [not currently sending]

Tucows

Tuebl [not currently sending]

Twitter

UC Berkeley – Infosec and policy

UC Berkeley – California Digital Library

UC Berkeley -Open Computing Facility

Vimeo

Wikia

Wikipedia/Wikimedia

YouTube

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GoDaddy to Suspend ‘Pirate’ Domain Following Music Industry Complaints

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/godaddy-to-suspend-pirate-domain-following-music-industry-complaints-180601/

Most piracy-focused sites online conduct their business with minimal interference from outside parties. In many cases, a heap of DMCA notices filed with Google represents the most visible irritant.

Others, particularly those with large audiences, can find themselves on the end of a web blockade. Mostly court-ordered, blocking measures restrict the ability of Internet users to visit a site due to ISPs restricting traffic.

In some regions, where copyright holders have the means to do so, they choose to tackle a site’s infrastructure instead, which could mean complaints to webhosts or other service providers. At times, this has included domain registries, who are asked to disable domains on copyright grounds.

This is exactly what has happened to Fox-MusicaGratis.com, a Spanish-language music piracy site that incurred the wrath of IFPI member UNIMPRO – the Peruvian Union of Phonographic Producers.

Pirate music, suspended domain

In a process that’s becoming more common in the region, UNIMPRO initially filed a complaint with the Copyright Commission (Comisión de Derecho de Autor (CDA)) which conducted an investigation into the platform’s activities.

“The CDA considered, among other things, the irreparable damage that would have been caused to the legitimate rights owners, taking into account the large number of users who could potentially have visited said website, which was making available endless musical recordings for commercial purposes, without authorization of the holders of rights,” a statement from CDA reads.

The administrative process was carried out locally with the involvement of the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and the Protection of Intellectual Property (Indecopi), an autonomous public body tasked with handling anti-competitive behavior, unfair competition, and intellectual property matters.

Indecopi HQ

The matter was decided in favor of the rightsholders and a subsequent ruling included an instruction for US-based domain name registry GoDaddy to suspend Fox-MusicaGratis.com. According to the copyright protection entity, GoDaddy agreed to comply, to prevent further infringement.

This latest action involving a music piracy site registered with GoDaddy follows on the heels of a similar enforcement process back in March.

Mp3Juices-Download-Free.com, Melodiavip.net, Foxmusica.site and Fulltono.me were all music sites offering MP3 content without copyright holders’ permission. They too were the subject of an UNIMPRO complaint which resulted in orders for GoDaddy to suspend their domains.

In the cases of all five websites, GoDaddy was given the chance to appeal but there is no indication that the company has done so. GoDaddy did not respond to a request for comment.

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

Roku Displays FBI Anti-Piracy Warning to Legitimate YouTube & Netflix Users

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/roku-displays-fbi-anti-piracy-warning-to-legitimate-youtube-netflix-users-180516/

In 2018, dealing with copyright infringement claims is a daily issue for many content platforms. The law in many regions demands swift attention and in order to appease copyright holders, most platforms are happy to oblige.

While it’s not unusual for ‘pirate’ content and services to suddenly disappear in response to a DMCA or similar notice, the same is rarely true for entire legitimate services.

But that’s what appeared to happen on the Roku platform during the night, when YouTube, Netflix and other channels disappeared only to be replaced with an ominous anti-piracy warning.

As the embedded tweet shows, the message caused confusion among Roku users who were only using their devices to access legal content. Messages replacing Netflix and YouTube seemed to have caused the greatest number of complaints but many other services were affected.

FoxSportsGo, FandangoNow, and India-focused YuppTV and Hotstar were also blacked out. As were the yoga and transformational videos specialists over at Gaia, the horror buffs at ChillerFlix, and UK TV service BritBox.

But while users scratched their heads, with some misguidedly blaming Roku for not being diligent enough against piracy, Roku took to Twitter to reveal that rather than anti-piracy complaints against the channels in question, a technical hitch was to blame.

However, a subsequent statement to CNET suggested that while blacking out Netflix and YouTube might have been accidental, Roku appears to have been taking anti-piracy action against another channel or channels at the time, with the measures inadvertently spilling over to innocent parties.

“We use that warning when we detect content that has violated copyright,” Roku said in a statement.

“Some channels in our Channel Store displayed that message and became inaccessible after Roku implemented a targeted anti-piracy measure on the platform.”

The precise nature of the action taken by Roku is unknown but it’s clear that copyright infringement is currently a hot topic for the platform.

Roku is currently fighting legal action in Mexico which ordered its products off the shelves following complaints that its platform is used by pirates. That led to an FBI warning being shown for what was believed to be the first time against the XTV and other channels last year.

This March, Roku took action against the popular USTVNow channel following what was described as a “third party” copyright infringement complaint. Just a couple of weeks later, Roku followed up by removing the controversial cCloud channel.

With Roku currently fighting to have sales reinstated in Mexico against a backdrop of claims that up to 40% of its users are pirates, it’s unlikely that Roku is suddenly going to go soft on piracy, so more channel outages can be expected in the future.

In the meantime, the scary FBI warnings of last evening are beginning to fade away (for legitimate channels at least) after the company issued advice on how to fix the problem.

“The recent outage which affected some channels has been resolved. Go to Settings > System > System update > Check now for a software update. Some channels may require you to log in again. Thank you for your patience,” the company wrote in an update.

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Reddit Repeat Infringer Policy Shuts Down Megalinks Piracy Sub

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/reddit-repeat-infringer-policy-shuts-down-megalinks-piracy-sub-180430/

Without doubt, Reddit is one of the most popular sites on the entire Internet. At the time of writing it’s the fourth most visited site in the US with 330 million users per month generating 14 billion screenviews.

The core of the site’s success is its communities. Known as ‘sub-Reddits’ or just ‘subs’, there are currently 138,000 of them dedicated to every single subject you can think of and tens of thousands you’d never considered.

Even though they’re technically forbidden, a small but significant number are dedicated to piracy, offering links to copyright-infringing content hosted elsewhere. One of the most popular is /r/megalinks, which is dedicated to listing infringing content (mainly movies and TV shows) uploaded to file-hosting site Mega.

Considering its activities, Megalinks has managed to stay online longer than most people imagined but following an intervention from Reddit, the content indexing sub has stopped accepting new submissions, which will effectively shut it down.

In an announcement Sunday, the sub’s moderators explained that following a direct warning from Reddit’s administrators, the decision had been taken to move on.

“As most of you know by now, we’ve had to deal with a lot of DMCA takedowns over the last 6 months. Everyone knew this day would come, eventually, and its finally here,” they wrote.

“We received a formal warning from Reddit’s administration 2 days ago, and have decided to restrict new submissions for the safety of the subreddit.”

The message from Reddit’s operators makes it absolutely clear that Reddit isn’t the platform to host what amounts to a piracy links forum.

“This is an official warning from Reddit that we are receiving too many copyright infringement notices about material posted to your community. We will be required to ban this community if you can’t adequately address the problem,” the warning reads.

Noting that Redditors aren’t allowed to post content that infringes copyrights, the administrators say they are required by law to handle DMCA notices and that in cases where infringement happens on multiple occasions, that needs to be handled in a more aggressive manner.

“The law also requires us to issue bans in cases of repeat infringement. Sometimes a repeat infringement problem is limited to just one user and we ban just that person. Other times the problem pervades a whole community and we ban the community,” the admins continue.

“This is our formal warning about repeat infringement in this community. Over the past three months we’ve had to remove material from the community in response to copyright notices 60 times. That’s an unusually high number taking into account the community’s size.

The warning suggests ways to keep infringing content down but in a sub dedicated to piracy, they’re all completely irrelevant. It also suggests removing old posts to ensure that Reddit doesn’t keep getting notices, but that would mean deleting pretty much everything. Backups exist but a simple file is a poor substitute for a community.

So, with Reddit warning that without change the sub will be banned, the moderators of /r/megalinks have decided to move on to a new home. Reportedly hosted ‘offshore’, their new forum already has more than 9,800 members and is likely to grow quickly as the word spreads.

A month ago, the /r/megaporn sub-Reddit suffered a similar fate following a warning from Reddit’s admins. It successfully launched a new external forum which is why the Megalinks crew decided on the same model.

“[A]fter seeing how /r/megaporn approached the same situation, we had started working on an offshore forum a week ago in anticipation of the ban. This allows us to work however we want, without having to deal with Reddit’s policies and administration,” the team explain.

Ever since the BMG v Cox case went bad ways for the ISP in 2015, repeat infringer policies have become a very hot topic in the US. That Reddit is now drawing a line in the sand over a relatively small number of complaints (at least compared to other similar platforms) is clear notice that Reddit and blatant piracy won’t be allowed to walk hand in hand.

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

How Many Piracy Warnings Would Get You to Stop?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/how-many-piracy-warnings-would-get-you-to-stop-180422/

For the past several years, copyright holders in the US and Europe have been trying to reach out to file-sharers in an effort to change their habits.

Whether via high-profile publicity lawsuits or a simple email, it’s hoped that by letting people know they aren’t anonymous, they’ll stop pirating and buy more content instead.

Traditionally, most ISPs haven’t been that keen on passing infringement notices on. However, the BMG v Cox lawsuit seems to have made a big difference, with a growing number of ISPs now visibly warning their users that they operate a repeat infringer policy.

But perhaps the big question is how seriously users take these warnings because – let’s face it – that’s the entire point of their existence.

There can be little doubt that a few recipients will be scurrying away at the slightest hint of trouble, intimidated by the mere suggestion that they’re being watched.

Indeed, a father in the UK – who received a warning last year as part of the Get it Right From a Genuine Site campaign – confidently and forcefully assured TF that there would be no more illegal file-sharing taking place on his ten-year-old son’s computer again – ever.

In France, where the HADOPI anti-piracy scheme received much publicity, people receiving an initial notice are most unlikely to receive additional ones in future. A December 2017 report indicated that of nine million first warning notices sent to alleged pirates since 2012, ‘just’ 800,000 received a follow-up warning on top.

The suggestion is that people either stop their piracy after getting a notice or two, or choose to “go dark” instead, using streaming sites for example or perhaps torrenting behind a decent VPN.

But for some people, the message simply doesn’t sink in early on.

A post on Reddit this week by a TWC Spectrum customer revealed that despite a wealth of readily available information (including masses in the specialist subreddit where the post was made), even several warnings fail to have an effect.

“Was just hit with my 5th copyright violation. They halted my internet and all,” the self-confessed pirate wrote.

There are at least three important things to note from this opening sentence.

Firstly, the first four warnings did nothing to change the user’s piracy habits. Secondly, Spectrum presumably had enough at five warnings and kicked in a repeat-infringer suspension, presumably to avoid the same fate as Cox in the BMG case. Third, the account suspension seems to have changed the game.

Notably, rather than some huge blockbuster movie, that fifth warning came due to something rather less prominent.

“Thought I could sneak in a random episode of Rosanne. The new one that aired LOL. That fast. Under 24 hours I got shut off. Which makes me feel like [ISPs] do monitor your traffic and its not just the people sending them notices,” the post read.

Again, some interesting points here.

Any content can be monitored by rightsholders but if it’s popular in the US then a warning delivered via an ISP seems to be more likely than elsewhere. However, the misconception that the monitoring is done by ISPs persists, despite that not being the case.

ISPs do not monitor users’ file-sharing activity, anti-piracy companies do. They can grab an IP address the second someone enters a torrent swarm, or even connects to a tracker. It happens in an instant, at a time of their choosing. Quickly jumping in and out of a torrent is no guarantee and the fallacy of not getting caught due to a failure to seed is just that – a fallacy.

But perhaps the most important thing is that after five warnings and a disconnection, the Reddit user decided to take action. Sadly for the people behind Rosanne, it’s not exactly the reaction they’d have hoped for.

“I do not want to push it but I am curious to what happens 6th time, and if I would even be safe behind a VPN,” he wrote.

“Just want to learn how to use a VPN and Sonarr and have a guilt free stress free torrent watching.”

Of course, there was no shortage of advice.

“If you have gotten 5 notices, you really should of learnt [sic] how to use a VPN before now,” one poster noted, perhaps inevitably.

But curiously, or perhaps obviously given the number of previous warnings, the fifth warning didn’t come as a surprise to the user.

“I knew they were going to hit me for it. I just didn’t think a 195mb file would do it. They were getting me for Disney movies in the past,” he added.

So how do you grab the attention of a persistent infringer like this? Five warnings and a suspension apparently. But clearly, not even that is a guarantee of success. Perhaps this is why most ‘strike’ schemes tend to give up on people who can’t be rehabilitated.

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

The DMCA and its Chilling Effects on Research

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/the_dmca_and_it.html

The Center for Democracy and Technology has a good summary of the current state of the DMCA’s chilling effects on security research.

To underline the nature of chilling effects on hacking and security research, CDT has worked to describe how tinkerers, hackers, and security researchers of all types both contribute to a baseline level of security in our digital environment and, in turn, are shaped themselves by this environment, most notably when things they do upset others and result in threats, potential lawsuits, and prosecution. We’ve published two reports (sponsored by the Hewlett Foundation and MacArthur Foundation) about needed reforms to the law and the myriad of ways that security research directly improves people’s lives. To get a more complete picture, we wanted to talk to security researchers themselves and gauge the forces that shape their work; essentially, we wanted to “take the pulse” of the security research community.

Today, we are releasing a third report in service of this effort: “Taking the Pulse of Hacking: A Risk Basis for Security Research.” We report findings after having interviewed a set of 20 security researchers and hackers — half academic and half non-academic — about what considerations they take into account when starting new projects or engaging in new work, as well as to what extent they or their colleagues have faced threats in the past that chilled their work. The results in our report show that a wide variety of constraints shape the work they do, from technical constraints to ethical boundaries to legal concerns, including the DMCA and especially the CFAA.

Note: I am a signatory on the letter supporting unrestricted security research.

Security and the Internet of Things

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/02/security_and_th.html

Last year, on October 21, your digital video recorder ­- or at least a DVR like yours ­- knocked Twitter off the internet. Someone used your DVR, along with millions of insecure webcams, routers, and other connected devices, to launch an attack that started a chain reaction, resulting in Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, and many sites going off the internet. You probably didn’t realize that your DVR had that kind of power. But it does.

All computers are hackable. This has as much to do with the computer market as it does with the technologies. We prefer our software full of features and inexpensive, at the expense of security and reliability. That your computer can affect the security of Twitter is a market failure. The industry is filled with market failures that, until now, have been largely ignorable. As computers continue to permeate our homes, cars, businesses, these market failures will no longer be tolerable. Our only solution will be regulation, and that regulation will be foisted on us by a government desperate to “do something” in the face of disaster.

In this article I want to outline the problems, both technical and political, and point to some regulatory solutions. Regulation might be a dirty word in today’s political climate, but security is the exception to our small-government bias. And as the threats posed by computers become greater and more catastrophic, regulation will be inevitable. So now’s the time to start thinking about it.

We also need to reverse the trend to connect everything to the internet. And if we risk harm and even death, we need to think twice about what we connect and what we deliberately leave uncomputerized.

If we get this wrong, the computer industry will look like the pharmaceutical industry, or the aircraft industry. But if we get this right, we can maintain the innovative environment of the internet that has given us so much.

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We no longer have things with computers embedded in them. We have computers with things attached to them.

Your modern refrigerator is a computer that keeps things cold. Your oven, similarly, is a computer that makes things hot. An ATM is a computer with money inside. Your car is no longer a mechanical device with some computers inside; it’s a computer with four wheels and an engine. Actually, it’s a distributed system of over 100 computers with four wheels and an engine. And, of course, your phones became full-power general-purpose computers in 2007, when the iPhone was introduced.

We wear computers: fitness trackers and computer-enabled medical devices ­- and, of course, we carry our smartphones everywhere. Our homes have smart thermostats, smart appliances, smart door locks, even smart light bulbs. At work, many of those same smart devices are networked together with CCTV cameras, sensors that detect customer movements, and everything else. Cities are starting to embed smart sensors in roads, streetlights, and sidewalk squares, also smart energy grids and smart transportation networks. A nuclear power plant is really just a computer that produces electricity, and ­- like everything else we’ve just listed -­ it’s on the internet.

The internet is no longer a web that we connect to. Instead, it’s a computerized, networked, and interconnected world that we live in. This is the future, and what we’re calling the Internet of Things.

Broadly speaking, the Internet of Things has three parts. There are the sensors that collect data about us and our environment: smart thermostats, street and highway sensors, and those ubiquitous smartphones with their motion sensors and GPS location receivers. Then there are the “smarts” that figure out what the data means and what to do about it. This includes all the computer processors on these devices and ­- increasingly ­- in the cloud, as well as the memory that stores all of this information. And finally, there are the actuators that affect our environment. The point of a smart thermostat isn’t to record the temperature; it’s to control the furnace and the air conditioner. Driverless cars collect data about the road and the environment to steer themselves safely to their destinations.

You can think of the sensors as the eyes and ears of the internet. You can think of the actuators as the hands and feet of the internet. And you can think of the stuff in the middle as the brain. We are building an internet that senses, thinks, and acts.

This is the classic definition of a robot. We’re building a world-size robot, and we don’t even realize it.

To be sure, it’s not a robot in the classical sense. We think of robots as discrete autonomous entities, with sensors, brain, and actuators all together in a metal shell. The world-size robot is distributed. It doesn’t have a singular body, and parts of it are controlled in different ways by different people. It doesn’t have a central brain, and it has nothing even remotely resembling a consciousness. It doesn’t have a single goal or focus. It’s not even something we deliberately designed. It’s something we have inadvertently built out of the everyday objects we live with and take for granted. It is the extension of our computers and networks into the real world.

This world-size robot is actually more than the Internet of Things. It’s a combination of several decades-old computing trends: mobile computing, cloud computing, always-on computing, huge databases of personal information, the Internet of Things ­- or, more precisely, cyber-physical systems ­- autonomy, and artificial intelligence. And while it’s still not very smart, it’ll get smarter. It’ll get more powerful and more capable through all the interconnections we’re building.

It’ll also get much more dangerous.

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Computer security has been around for almost as long as computers have been. And while it’s true that security wasn’t part of the design of the original internet, it’s something we have been trying to achieve since its beginning.

I have been working in computer security for over 30 years: first in cryptography, then more generally in computer and network security, and now in general security technology. I have watched computers become ubiquitous, and have seen firsthand the problems ­- and solutions ­- of securing these complex machines and systems. I’m telling you all this because what used to be a specialized area of expertise now affects everything. Computer security is now everything security. There’s one critical difference, though: The threats have become greater.

Traditionally, computer security is divided into three categories: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. For the most part, our security concerns have largely centered around confidentiality. We’re concerned about our data and who has access to it ­- the world of privacy and surveillance, of data theft and misuse.

But threats come in many forms. Availability threats: computer viruses that delete our data, or ransomware that encrypts our data and demands payment for the unlock key. Integrity threats: hackers who can manipulate data entries can do things ranging from changing grades in a class to changing the amount of money in bank accounts. Some of these threats are pretty bad. Hospitals have paid tens of thousands of dollars to criminals whose ransomware encrypted critical medical files. JPMorgan Chase spends half a billion on cybersecurity a year.

Today, the integrity and availability threats are much worse than the confidentiality threats. Once computers start affecting the world in a direct and physical manner, there are real risks to life and property. There is a fundamental difference between crashing your computer and losing your spreadsheet data, and crashing your pacemaker and losing your life. This isn’t hyperbole; recently researchers found serious security vulnerabilities in St. Jude Medical’s implantable heart devices. Give the internet hands and feet, and it will have the ability to punch and kick.

Take a concrete example: modern cars, those computers on wheels. The steering wheel no longer turns the axles, nor does the accelerator pedal change the speed. Every move you make in a car is processed by a computer, which does the actual controlling. A central computer controls the dashboard. There’s another in the radio. The engine has 20 or so computers. These are all networked, and increasingly autonomous.

Now, let’s start listing the security threats. We don’t want car navigation systems to be used for mass surveillance, or the microphone for mass eavesdropping. We might want it to be used to determine a car’s location in the event of a 911 call, and possibly to collect information about highway congestion. We don’t want people to hack their own cars to bypass emissions-control limitations. We don’t want manufacturers or dealers to be able to do that, either, as Volkswagen did for years. We can imagine wanting to give police the ability to remotely and safely disable a moving car; that would make high-speed chases a thing of the past. But we definitely don’t want hackers to be able to do that. We definitely don’t want them disabling the brakes in every car without warning, at speed. As we make the transition from driver-controlled cars to cars with various driver-assist capabilities to fully driverless cars, we don’t want any of those critical components subverted. We don’t want someone to be able to accidentally crash your car, let alone do it on purpose. And equally, we don’t want them to be able to manipulate the navigation software to change your route, or the door-lock controls to prevent you from opening the door. I could go on.

That’s a lot of different security requirements, and the effects of getting them wrong range from illegal surveillance to extortion by ransomware to mass death.

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Our computers and smartphones are as secure as they are because companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google spend a lot of time testing their code before it’s released, and quickly patch vulnerabilities when they’re discovered. Those companies can support large, dedicated teams because those companies make a huge amount of money, either directly or indirectly, from their software ­ and, in part, compete on its security. Unfortunately, this isn’t true of embedded systems like digital video recorders or home routers. Those systems are sold at a much lower margin, and are often built by offshore third parties. The companies involved simply don’t have the expertise to make them secure.

At a recent hacker conference, a security researcher analyzed 30 home routers and was able to break into half of them, including some of the most popular and common brands. The denial-of-service attacks that forced popular websites like Reddit and Twitter off the internet last October were enabled by vulnerabilities in devices like webcams and digital video recorders. In August, two security researchers demonstrated a ransomware attack on a smart thermostat.

Even worse, most of these devices don’t have any way to be patched. Companies like Microsoft and Apple continuously deliver security patches to your computers. Some home routers are technically patchable, but in a complicated way that only an expert would attempt. And the only way for you to update the firmware in your hackable DVR is to throw it away and buy a new one.

The market can’t fix this because neither the buyer nor the seller cares. The owners of the webcams and DVRs used in the denial-of-service attacks don’t care. Their devices were cheap to buy, they still work, and they don’t know any of the victims of the attacks. The sellers of those devices don’t care: They’re now selling newer and better models, and the original buyers only cared about price and features. There is no market solution, because the insecurity is what economists call an externality: It’s an effect of the purchasing decision that affects other people. Think of it kind of like invisible pollution.

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Security is an arms race between attacker and defender. Technology perturbs that arms race by changing the balance between attacker and defender. Understanding how this arms race has unfolded on the internet is essential to understanding why the world-size robot we’re building is so insecure, and how we might secure it. To that end, I have five truisms, born from what we’ve already learned about computer and internet security. They will soon affect the security arms race everywhere.

Truism No. 1: On the internet, attack is easier than defense.

There are many reasons for this, but the most important is the complexity of these systems. More complexity means more people involved, more parts, more interactions, more mistakes in the design and development process, more of everything where hidden insecurities can be found. Computer-security experts like to speak about the attack surface of a system: all the possible points an attacker might target and that must be secured. A complex system means a large attack surface. The defender has to secure the entire attack surface. The attacker just has to find one vulnerability ­- one unsecured avenue for attack -­ and gets to choose how and when to attack. It’s simply not a fair battle.

There are other, more general, reasons why attack is easier than defense. Attackers have a natural agility that defenders often lack. They don’t have to worry about laws, and often not about morals or ethics. They don’t have a bureaucracy to contend with, and can more quickly make use of technical innovations. Attackers also have a first-mover advantage. As a society, we’re generally terrible at proactive security; we rarely take preventive security measures until an attack actually happens. So more advantages go to the attacker.

Truism No. 2: Most software is poorly written and insecure.

If complexity isn’t enough, we compound the problem by producing lousy software. Well-written software, like the kind found in airplane avionics, is both expensive and time-consuming to produce. We don’t want that. For the most part, poorly written software has been good enough. We’d all rather live with buggy software than pay the prices good software would require. We don’t mind if our games crash regularly, or our business applications act weird once in a while. Because software has been largely benign, it hasn’t mattered. This has permeated the industry at all levels. At universities, we don’t teach how to code well. Companies don’t reward quality code in the same way they reward fast and cheap. And we consumers don’t demand it.

But poorly written software is riddled with bugs, sometimes as many as one per 1,000 lines of code. Some of them are inherent in the complexity of the software, but most are programming mistakes. Not all bugs are vulnerabilities, but some are.

Truism No. 3: Connecting everything to each other via the internet will expose new vulnerabilities.

The more we network things together, the more vulnerabilities on one thing will affect other things. On October 21, vulnerabilities in a wide variety of embedded devices were all harnessed together to create what hackers call a botnet. This botnet was used to launch a distributed denial-of-service attack against a company called Dyn. Dyn provided a critical internet function for many major internet sites. So when Dyn went down, so did all those popular websites.

These chains of vulnerabilities are everywhere. In 2012, journalist Mat Honan suffered a massive personal hack because of one of them. A vulnerability in his Amazon account allowed hackers to get into his Apple account, which allowed them to get into his Gmail account. And in 2013, the Target Corporation was hacked by someone stealing credentials from its HVAC contractor.

Vulnerabilities like these are particularly hard to fix, because no one system might actually be at fault. It might be the insecure interaction of two individually secure systems.

Truism No. 4: Everybody has to stop the best attackers in the world.

One of the most powerful properties of the internet is that it allows things to scale. This is true for our ability to access data or control systems or do any of the cool things we use the internet for, but it’s also true for attacks. In general, fewer attackers can do more damage because of better technology. It’s not just that these modern attackers are more efficient, it’s that the internet allows attacks to scale to a degree impossible without computers and networks.

This is fundamentally different from what we’re used to. When securing my home against burglars, I am only worried about the burglars who live close enough to my home to consider robbing me. The internet is different. When I think about the security of my network, I have to be concerned about the best attacker possible, because he’s the one who’s going to create the attack tool that everyone else will use. The attacker that discovered the vulnerability used to attack Dyn released the code to the world, and within a week there were a dozen attack tools using it.

Truism No. 5: Laws inhibit security research.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a terrible law that fails at its purpose of preventing widespread piracy of movies and music. To make matters worse, it contains a provision that has critical side effects. According to the law, it is a crime to bypass security mechanisms that protect copyrighted work, even if that bypassing would otherwise be legal. Since all software can be copyrighted, it is arguably illegal to do security research on these devices and to publish the result.

Although the exact contours of the law are arguable, many companies are using this provision of the DMCA to threaten researchers who expose vulnerabilities in their embedded systems. This instills fear in researchers, and has a chilling effect on research, which means two things: (1) Vendors of these devices are more likely to leave them insecure, because no one will notice and they won’t be penalized in the market, and (2) security engineers don’t learn how to do security better.
Unfortunately, companies generally like the DMCA. The provisions against reverse-engineering spare them the embarrassment of having their shoddy security exposed. It also allows them to build proprietary systems that lock out competition. (This is an important one. Right now, your toaster cannot force you to only buy a particular brand of bread. But because of this law and an embedded computer, your Keurig coffee maker can force you to buy a particular brand of coffee.)

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In general, there are two basic paradigms of security. We can either try to secure something well the first time, or we can make our security agile. The first paradigm comes from the world of dangerous things: from planes, medical devices, buildings. It’s the paradigm that gives us secure design and secure engineering, security testing and certifications, professional licensing, detailed preplanning and complex government approvals, and long times-to-market. It’s security for a world where getting it right is paramount because getting it wrong means people dying.

The second paradigm comes from the fast-moving and heretofore largely benign world of software. In this paradigm, we have rapid prototyping, on-the-fly updates, and continual improvement. In this paradigm, new vulnerabilities are discovered all the time and security disasters regularly happen. Here, we stress survivability, recoverability, mitigation, adaptability, and muddling through. This is security for a world where getting it wrong is okay, as long as you can respond fast enough.

These two worlds are colliding. They’re colliding in our cars -­ literally -­ in our medical devices, our building control systems, our traffic control systems, and our voting machines. And although these paradigms are wildly different and largely incompatible, we need to figure out how to make them work together.

So far, we haven’t done very well. We still largely rely on the first paradigm for the dangerous computers in cars, airplanes, and medical devices. As a result, there are medical systems that can’t have security patches installed because that would invalidate their government approval. In 2015, Chrysler recalled 1.4 million cars to fix a software vulnerability. In September 2016, Tesla remotely sent a security patch to all of its Model S cars overnight. Tesla sure sounds like it’s doing things right, but what vulnerabilities does this remote patch feature open up?

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Until now we’ve largely left computer security to the market. Because the computer and network products we buy and use are so lousy, an enormous after-market industry in computer security has emerged. Governments, companies, and people buy the security they think they need to secure themselves. We’ve muddled through well enough, but the market failures inherent in trying to secure this world-size robot will soon become too big to ignore.

Markets alone can’t solve our security problems. Markets are motivated by profit and short-term goals at the expense of society. They can’t solve collective-action problems. They won’t be able to deal with economic externalities, like the vulnerabilities in DVRs that resulted in Twitter going offline. And we need a counterbalancing force to corporate power.

This all points to policy. While the details of any computer-security system are technical, getting the technologies broadly deployed is a problem that spans law, economics, psychology, and sociology. And getting the policy right is just as important as getting the technology right because, for internet security to work, law and technology have to work together. This is probably the most important lesson of Edward Snowden’s NSA disclosures. We already knew that technology can subvert law. Snowden demonstrated that law can also subvert technology. Both fail unless each work. It’s not enough to just let technology do its thing.

Any policy changes to secure this world-size robot will mean significant government regulation. I know it’s a sullied concept in today’s world, but I don’t see any other possible solution. It’s going to be especially difficult on the internet, where its permissionless nature is one of the best things about it and the underpinning of its most world-changing innovations. But I don’t see how that can continue when the internet can affect the world in a direct and physical manner.

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I have a proposal: a new government regulatory agency. Before dismissing it out of hand, please hear me out.

We have a practical problem when it comes to internet regulation. There’s no government structure to tackle this at a systemic level. Instead, there’s a fundamental mismatch between the way government works and the way this technology works that makes dealing with this problem impossible at the moment.

Government operates in silos. In the U.S., the FAA regulates aircraft. The NHTSA regulates cars. The FDA regulates medical devices. The FCC regulates communications devices. The FTC protects consumers in the face of “unfair” or “deceptive” trade practices. Even worse, who regulates data can depend on how it is used. If data is used to influence a voter, it’s the Federal Election Commission’s jurisdiction. If that same data is used to influence a consumer, it’s the FTC’s. Use those same technologies in a school, and the Department of Education is now in charge. Robotics will have its own set of problems, and no one is sure how that is going to be regulated. Each agency has a different approach and different rules. They have no expertise in these new issues, and they are not quick to expand their authority for all sorts of reasons.

Compare that with the internet. The internet is a freewheeling system of integrated objects and networks. It grows horizontally, demolishing old technological barriers so that people and systems that never previously communicated now can. Already, apps on a smartphone can log health information, control your energy use, and communicate with your car. That’s a set of functions that crosses jurisdictions of at least four different government agencies, and it’s only going to get worse.

Our world-size robot needs to be viewed as a single entity with millions of components interacting with each other. Any solutions here need to be holistic. They need to work everywhere, for everything. Whether we’re talking about cars, drones, or phones, they’re all computers.

This has lots of precedent. Many new technologies have led to the formation of new government regulatory agencies. Trains did, cars did, airplanes did. Radio led to the formation of the Federal Radio Commission, which became the FCC. Nuclear power led to the formation of the Atomic Energy Commission, which eventually became the Department of Energy. The reasons were the same in every case. New technologies need new expertise because they bring with them new challenges. Governments need a single agency to house that new expertise, because its applications cut across several preexisting agencies. It’s less that the new agency needs to regulate -­ although that’s often a big part of it -­ and more that governments recognize the importance of the new technologies.

The internet has famously eschewed formal regulation, instead adopting a multi-stakeholder model of academics, businesses, governments, and other interested parties. My hope is that we can keep the best of this approach in any regulatory agency, looking more at the new U.S. Digital Service or the 18F office inside the General Services Administration. Both of those organizations are dedicated to providing digital government services, and both have collected significant expertise by bringing people in from outside of government, and both have learned how to work closely with existing agencies. Any internet regulatory agency will similarly need to engage in a high level of collaborate regulation -­ both a challenge and an opportunity.

I don’t think any of us can predict the totality of the regulations we need to ensure the safety of this world, but here’s a few. We need government to ensure companies follow good security practices: testing, patching, secure defaults -­ and we need to be able to hold companies liable when they fail to do these things. We need government to mandate strong personal data protections, and limitations on data collection and use. We need to ensure that responsible security research is legal and well-funded. We need to enforce transparency in design, some sort of code escrow in case a company goes out of business, and interoperability between devices of different manufacturers, to counterbalance the monopolistic effects of interconnected technologies. Individuals need the right to take their data with them. And internet-enabled devices should retain some minimal functionality if disconnected from the internet

I’m not the only one talking about this. I’ve seen proposals for a National Institutes of Health analog for cybersecurity. University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo has proposed a Federal Robotics Commission. I think it needs to be broader: maybe a Department of Technology Policy.

Of course there will be problems. There’s a lack of expertise in these issues inside government. There’s a lack of willingness in government to do the hard regulatory work. Industry is worried about any new bureaucracy: both that it will stifle innovation by regulating too much and that it will be captured by industry and regulate too little. A domestic regulatory agency will have to deal with the fundamentally international nature of the problem.

But government is the entity we use to solve problems like this. Governments have the scope, scale, and balance of interests to address the problems. It’s the institution we’ve built to adjudicate competing social interests and internalize market externalities. Left to their own devices, the market simply can’t. That we’re currently in the middle of an era of low government trust, where many of us can’t imagine government doing anything positive in an area like this, is to our detriment.

Here’s the thing: Governments will get involved, regardless. The risks are too great, and the stakes are too high. Government already regulates dangerous physical systems like cars and medical devices. And nothing motivates the U.S. government like fear. Remember 2001? A nominally small-government Republican president created the Office of Homeland Security 11 days after the terrorist attacks: a rushed and ill-thought-out decision that we’ve been trying to fix for over a decade. A fatal disaster will similarly spur our government into action, and it’s unlikely to be well-considered and thoughtful action. Our choice isn’t between government involvement and no government involvement. Our choice is between smarter government involvement and stupider government involvement. We have to start thinking about this now. Regulations are necessary, important, and complex; and they’re coming. We can’t afford to ignore these issues until it’s too late.

We also need to start disconnecting systems. If we cannot secure complex systems to the level required by their real-world capabilities, then we must not build a world where everything is computerized and interconnected.

There are other models. We can enable local communications only. We can set limits on collected and stored data. We can deliberately design systems that don’t interoperate with each other. We can deliberately fetter devices, reversing the current trend of turning everything into a general-purpose computer. And, most important, we can move toward less centralization and more distributed systems, which is how the internet was first envisioned.

This might be a heresy in today’s race to network everything, but large, centralized systems are not inevitable. The technical elites are pushing us in that direction, but they really don’t have any good supporting arguments other than the profits of their ever-growing multinational corporations.

But this will change. It will change not only because of security concerns, it will also change because of political concerns. We’re starting to chafe under the worldview of everything producing data about us and what we do, and that data being available to both governments and corporations. Surveillance capitalism won’t be the business model of the internet forever. We need to change the fabric of the internet so that evil governments don’t have the tools to create a horrific totalitarian state. And while good laws and regulations in Western democracies are a great second line of defense, they can’t be our only line of defense.

My guess is that we will soon reach a high-water mark of computerization and connectivity, and that afterward we will make conscious decisions about what and how we decide to interconnect. But we’re still in the honeymoon phase of connectivity. Governments and corporations are punch-drunk on our data, and the rush to connect everything is driven by an even greater desire for power and market share. One of the presentations released by Edward Snowden contained the NSA mantra: “Collect it all.” A similar mantra for the internet today might be: “Connect it all.”

The inevitable backlash will not be driven by the market. It will be deliberate policy decisions that put the safety and welfare of society above individual corporations and industries. It will be deliberate policy decisions that prioritize the security of our systems over the demands of the FBI to weaken them in order to make their law-enforcement jobs easier. It’ll be hard policy for many to swallow, but our safety will depend on it.

**********

The scenarios I’ve outlined, both the technological and economic trends that are causing them and the political changes we need to make to start to fix them, come from my years of working in internet-security technology and policy. All of this is informed by an understanding of both technology and policy. That turns out to be critical, and there aren’t enough people who understand both.

This brings me to my final plea: We need more public-interest technologists.

Over the past couple of decades, we’ve seen examples of getting internet-security policy badly wrong. I’m thinking of the FBI’s “going dark” debate about its insistence that computer devices be designed to facilitate government access, the “vulnerability equities process” about when the government should disclose and fix a vulnerability versus when it should use it to attack other systems, the debacle over paperless touch-screen voting machines, and the DMCA that I discussed above. If you watched any of these policy debates unfold, you saw policy-makers and technologists talking past each other.

Our world-size robot will exacerbate these problems. The historical divide between Washington and Silicon Valley -­ the mistrust of governments by tech companies and the mistrust of tech companies by governments ­- is dangerous.

We have to fix this. Getting IoT security right depends on the two sides working together and, even more important, having people who are experts in each working on both. We need technologists to get involved in policy, and we need policy-makers to get involved in technology. We need people who are experts in making both technology and technological policy. We need technologists on congressional staffs, inside federal agencies, working for NGOs, and as part of the press. We need to create a viable career path for public-interest technologists, much as there already is one for public-interest attorneys. We need courses, and degree programs in colleges, for people interested in careers in public-interest technology. We need fellowships in organizations that need these people. We need technology companies to offer sabbaticals for technologists wanting to go down this path. We need an entire ecosystem that supports people bridging the gap between technology and law. We need a viable career path that ensures that even though people in this field won’t make as much as they would in a high-tech start-up, they will have viable careers. The security of our computerized and networked future ­ meaning the security of ourselves, families, homes, businesses, and communities ­ depends on it.

This plea is bigger than security, actually. Pretty much all of the major policy debates of this century will have a major technological component. Whether it’s weapons of mass destruction, robots drastically affecting employment, climate change, food safety, or the increasing ubiquity of ever-shrinking drones, understanding the policy means understanding the technology. Our society desperately needs technologists working on the policy. The alternative is bad policy.

**********

The world-size robot is less designed than created. It’s coming without any forethought or architecting or planning; most of us are completely unaware of what we’re building. In fact, I am not convinced we can actually design any of this. When we try to design complex sociotechnical systems like this, we are regularly surprised by their emergent properties. The best we can do is observe and channel these properties as best we can.

Market thinking sometimes makes us lose sight of the human choices and autonomy at stake. Before we get controlled ­ or killed ­ by the world-size robot, we need to rebuild confidence in our collective governance institutions. Law and policy may not seem as cool as digital tech, but they’re also places of critical innovation. They’re where we collectively bring about the world we want to live in.

While I might sound like a Cassandra, I’m actually optimistic about our future. Our society has tackled bigger problems than this one. It takes work and it’s not easy, but we eventually find our way clear to make the hard choices necessary to solve our real problems.

The world-size robot we’re building can only be managed responsibly if we start making real choices about the interconnected world we live in. Yes, we need security systems as robust as the threat landscape. But we also need laws that effectively regulate these dangerous technologies. And, more generally, we need to make moral, ethical, and political decisions on how those systems should work. Until now, we’ve largely left the internet alone. We gave programmers a special right to code cyberspace as they saw fit. This was okay because cyberspace was separate and relatively unimportant: That is, it didn’t matter. Now that that’s changed, we can no longer give programmers and the companies they work for this power. Those moral, ethical, and political decisions need, somehow, to be made by everybody. We need to link people with the same zeal that we are currently linking machines. “Connect it all” must be countered with “connect us all.”

This essay previously appeared in New York Magazine.

Research into IoT Security Is Finally Legal

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/11/research_into_i.html

For years, the DMCA has been used to stifle legitimate research into the security of embedded systems. Finally, the research exemption to the DMCA is in effect (for two years, but we can hope it’ll be extended forever).

Notes on that StJude/MuddyWatters/MedSec thing

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2016/08/notes-on-that-stjudemuddywattersmedsec.html

I thought I’d write up some notes on the StJude/MedSec/MuddyWaters affair. Some references: [1] [2] [3] [4].

The story so far

tl;dr: hackers drop 0day on medical device company hoping to profit by shorting their stock

St Jude Medical (STJ) is one of the largest providers of pacemakers (aka. cardiac devices) in the country, around ~$2.5 billion in revenue, which accounts for about half their business. They provide “smart” pacemakers with an on-board computer that talks via radio-waves to a nearby monitor that records the functioning of the device (and health data). That monitor, “[email protected]“, then talks back up to St Jude (via phone lines, 3G cell phone, or wifi). Pretty much all pacemakers work that way (my father’s does, although his is from a different vendor).

MedSec is a bunch of cybersecurity researchers (white-hat hackers) who have been investigating medical devices. In theory, their primary business is to sell their services to medical device companies, to help companies secure their devices. Their CEO is Justine Bone, a long-time white-hat hacker. Despite Muddy Waters garbling the research, there’s no reason to doubt that there’s quality research underlying all this.

Muddy Waters is an investment company known for investigating companies, finding problems like accounting fraud, and profiting by shorting the stock of misbehaving companies.

Apparently, MedSec did a survey of many pacemaker manufacturers, chose the one with the most cybersecurity problems, and went to Muddy Waters with their findings, asking for a share of the profits Muddy Waters got from shorting the stock.

Muddy Waters published their findings in [1] above. St Jude published their response in [2] above. They are both highly dishonest. I point that out because people want to discuss the ethics of using 0day to short stock when we should talk about the ethics of lying.

“Why you should sell the stock” [finance issues]

In this section, I try to briefly summarize Muddy Water’s argument why St Jude’s stock will drop. I’m not an expert in this area (though I do a bunch of investment), but they do seem flimsy to me.
Muddy Water’s argument is that these pacemakers are half of St Jude’s business, and that fixing them will first require recalling them all, then take another 2 year to fix, during which time they can’t be selling pacemakers. Much of the Muddy Waters paper is taken up explaining this, citing similar medical cases, and so on.
If at all true, and if the cybersecurity claims hold up, then yes, this would be good reason to short the stock. However, I suspect they aren’t true — and they are simply trying to scare people about long-term consequences allowing Muddy Waters to profit in the short term.
@selenakyle on Twitter suggests this interest document [4] about market-solutions to vuln-disclosure, if you are interested in this angle of things.
Update from @lippard: Abbot Labs agreed in April to buy St Jude at $85 a share (when St Jude’s stock was $60/share). Presumable, for this Muddy Waters attack on St Jude’s stock price to profit from anything more than a really short term stock drop (like dumping their short position today), Muddy Waters would have believe this effort will cause Abbot Labs to walk away from the deal. Normally, there are penalties for doing so, but material things like massive vulnerabilities in a product should allow Abbot Labs to walk away without penalties.

The 0day being dropped

Well, they didn’t actually drop 0day as such, just claims that 0day exists — that it’s been “demonstrated”. Reading through their document a few times, I’ve created a list of the 0day they found, to the granularity that one would expect from CVE numbers (CVE is group within the Department of Homeland security that assigns standard reference numbers to discovered vulnerabilities).

The first two, which can kill somebody, are the salient ones. The others are more normal cybersecurity issues, and may be of concern because they can leak HIPAA-protected info.

CVE-2016-xxxx: Pacemaker can be crashed, leading to death
Within a reasonable distance (under 50 feet) over several hours, pounding the pacemaker with malformed packets (either from an SDR or a hacked version of the [email protected] monitor), the pacemaker can crash. Sometimes such crashes will brick the device, other times put it into a state that may kill the patient by zapping the heart too quickly.

CVE-2016-xxxx: Pacemaker power can be drained, leading to death
Within a reasonable distance (under 50 feet) over several days, the pacemaker’s power can slowly be drained at the rate of 3% per hour. While the user will receive a warning from their [email protected] monitoring device that the battery is getting low, it’s possible the battery may be fully depleted before they can get to a doctor for a replacement. A non-functioning pacemaker may lead to death.

CVE-2016-xxxx: Pacemaker uses unauthenticated/unencrypted RF protocol
The above two items are possible because there is no encryption nor authentication in the wireless protocol, allowing any evildoer access to the pacemaker device or the monitoring device.

CVE-2016-xxxx: [email protected] contained hard-coded credentials and SSH keys
The password to connect to the St Jude network is the same for all device, and thus easily reverse engineered.

CVE-2016-xxxx: local proximity wand not required
It’s unclear in the report, but it seems that most other products require a wand in local promixity (inches) in order to enable communication with the pacemaker. This seems like a requirement — otherwise, even with authentication, remote RF would be able to drain the device in the person’s chest.

So these are, as far as I can tell, the explicit bugs they outline. Unfortunately, none are described in detail. I don’t see enough detail for any of these to actually be assigned a CVE number. I’m being generous here, trying to describe them as such, giving them the benefit of the doubt, there’s enough weasel language in there that makes me doubt all of them. Though, if the first two prove not to be reproducible, then there will be a great defamation case, so I presume those two are true.

The movie/TV plot scenarios

So if you wanted to use this as a realistic TV/movie plot, here are two of them.
#1 You (the executive of the acquiring company) are meeting with the CEO and executives of a smaller company you want to buy. It’s a family concern, and the CEO really doesn’t want to sell. But you know his/her children want to sell. Therefore, during the meeting, you pull out your notebook and an SDR device and put it on the conference room table. You start running the exploit to crash that CEO’s pacemaker. It crashes, the CEO grabs his/her chest, who gets carted off the hospital. The children continue negotiations, selling off their company.
#2 You are a hacker in Russia going after a target. After many phishing attempts, you finally break into the home desktop computer. From that computer, you branch out and connect to the [email protected] devices through the hard-coded password. You then run an exploit from the device, using that device’s own radio, to slowly drain the battery from the pacemaker, day after day, while the target sleeps. You patch the software so it no longer warns the user that the battery is getting low. The battery dies, and a few days later while the victim is digging a ditch, s/he falls over dead from heart failure.

The Muddy Water’s document is crap

There are many ethical issues, but the first should be dishonesty and spin of the Muddy Waters research report.

The report is clearly designed to scare other investors to drop St Jude stock price in the short term so that Muddy Waters can profit. It’s not designed to withstand long term scrutiny. It’s full of misleading details and outright lies.

For example, it keeps stressing how shockingly bad the security vulnerabilities are, such as saying:

We find STJ Cardiac Devices’ vulnerabilities orders of magnitude more worrying than the medical device hacks that have been publicly discussed in the past. 

This is factually untrue. St Jude problems are no worse than the 2013 issue where doctors disable the RF capabilities of Dick Cheney’s pacemaker in response to disclosures. They are no worse than that insulin pump hack. Bad cybersecurity is the norm for medical devices. St Jude may be among the worst, but not by an order-of-magnitude.

The term “orders of magnitude” is math, by the way, and means “at least 100 times worse”. As an expert, I claim these problems are not even one order of magnitude (10 times worse). I challenge MedSec’s experts to stand behind the claim that these vulnerabilities are at least 100 times worse than other public medical device hacks.

In many places, the language is wishy-washy. Consider this quote:

Despite having no background in cybersecurity, Muddy Waters has been able to replicate in-house key exploits that help to enable these attacks

The semantic content of this is nil. It says they weren’t able to replicate the attacks themselves. They don’t have sufficient background in cybersecurity to understand what they replicated.

Such language is pervasive throughout the document, things that aren’t technically lies, but which aren’t true, either.

Also pervasive throughout the document, repeatedly interjected for no reason in the middle of text, are statements like this, repeatedly stressing why you should sell the stock:

Regardless, we have little doubt that STJ is about to enter a period of protracted litigation over these products. Should these trials reach verdicts, we expect the courts will hold that STJ has been grossly negligent in its product design. (We estimate awards could total $6.4 billion.15)

I point this out because Muddy Waters obviously doesn’t feel the content of the document stands on its own, so that you can make this conclusion yourself. It instead feels the need to repeat this message over and over on every page.

Muddy Waters violation of Kerckhoff’s Principle

One of the most important principles of cyber security is Kerckhoff’s Principle, that more openness is better. Or, phrased another way, that trying to achieve security through obscurity is bad.

The Muddy Water’s document attempts to violate this principle. Besides the the individual vulnerabilities, it makes the claim that St Jude cybersecurity is inherently bad because it’s open. it uses off-the-shelf chips, standard software (line Linux), and standard protocols. St Jude does nothing to hide or obfuscate these things.

Everyone in cybersecurity would agree this is good. Muddy Waters claims this is bad.

For example, some of their quotes:

One competitor went as far as developing a highly proprietary embedded OS, which is quite costly and rarely seen

In contrast, the other manufacturers have proprietary RF chips developed specifically for their protocols

Again, as the cybersecurity experts in this case, I challenge MedSec to publicly defend Muddy Waters in these claims.

Medical device manufacturers should do the opposite of what Muddy Waters claims. I’ll explain why.

Either your system is secure or it isn’t. If it’s secure, then making the details public won’t hurt you. If it’s insecure, then making the details obscure won’t help you: hackers are far more adept at reverse engineering than you can possibly understand. Making things obscure, though, does stop helpful hackers (i.e. cybersecurity consultants you hire) from making your system secure, since it’s hard figuring out the details.

Said another way: your adversaries (such as me) hate seeing open systems that are obviously secure. We love seeing obscure systems, because we know you couldn’t possibly have validated their security.

The point is this: Muddy Waters is trying to profit from the public’s misconception about cybersecurity, namely that obscurity is good. The actual principle is that obscurity is bad.

St Jude’s response was no better

In response to the Muddy Water’s document, St Jude published this document [2]. It’s equally full of lies — the sort that may deserve a share holder lawsuit. (I see lawsuits galore over this). It says the following:

We have examined the allegations made by Capital and MedSec on August 25, 2016 regarding the safety and security of our pacemakers and defibrillators, and while we would have preferred the opportunity to review a detailed account of the information, based on available information, we conclude that the report is false and misleading.

If that’s true, if they can prove this in court, then that will mean they could win millions in a defamation lawsuit against Muddy Waters, and millions more for stock manipulation.

But it’s almost certainly not true. Without authentication/encryption, then the fact that hackers can crash/drain a pacemaker is pretty obvious, especially since (as claimed by Muddy Waters), they’ve successfully done it. Specifically, the picture on page 17 of the 34 page Muddy Waters document is a smoking gun of a pacemaker misbehaving.

The rest of their document contains weasel-word denials that may be technically true, but which have no meaning.

St. Jude Medical stands behind the security and safety of our devices as confirmed by independent third parties and supported through our regulatory submissions. 

Our software has been evaluated and assessed by several independent organizations and researchers including Deloitte and Optiv.

In 2015, we successfully completed an upgrade to the ISO 27001:2013 certification.

These are all myths of the cybersecurity industry. Conformance with security standards, such as ISO 27001:2013, has absolutely zero bearing on whether you are secure. Having some consultants/white-hat claim your product is secure doesn’t mean other white-hat hackers won’t find an insecurity.

Indeed, having been assessed by Deloitte is a good indicator that something is wrong. It’s not that they are incompetent (they’ve got some smart people working for them), but ultimately the way the security market works is that you demand of such auditors that the find reasons to believe your product is secure, not that they keep hunting until something is found that is insecure. It’s why outsiders, like MedSec, are better, because they strive to find why your product is insecure. The bigger the enemy, the more resources they’ll put into finding a problem.

It’s like after you get a hair cut, your enemies and your friends will have different opinions on your new look. Enemies are more honest.

The most obvious lie from the St Jude response is the following:

The report claimed that the battery could be depleted at a 50-foot range. This is not possible since once the device is implanted into a patient, wireless communication has an approximate 7-foot range. This brings into question the entire testing methodology that has been used as the basis for the Muddy Waters Capital and MedSec report.

That’s not how wireless works. With directional antennas and amplifiers, 7-feet easily becomes 50-feet or more. Even without that, something designed for reliable operation at 7-feet often works less reliably at 50-feet. There’s no cutoff at 7-feet within which it will work, outside of which it won’t.

That St Jude deliberately lies here brings into question their entire rebuttal. (see what I did there?)

ETHICS EHTICS ETHICS

First let’s discuss the ethics of lying, using weasel words, and being deliberately misleading. Both St Jude and Muddy Waters do this, and it’s ethically wrong. I point this out to uninterested readers who want to get at that other ethical issue. Clear violations of ethics we all agree interest nobody — but they ought to. We should be lambasting Muddy Waters for their clear ethical violations, not the unclear one.

So let’s get to the ethical issue everyone wants to discuss:

Is it ethical to profit from shorting stock while dropping 0day.

Let’s discuss some of the issues.

There’s no insider trading. Some people wonder if there are insider trading issues. There aren’t. While it’s true that Muddy Waters knew some secrets that nobody else knew, as long as they weren’t insider secrets, it’s not insider trading. In other words, only insiders know about a key customer contract won or lost recently. But, vulnerabilities researched by outsiders is still outside the company.

Watching a CEO walk into the building of a competitor is still outsider knowledge — you can trade on the likely merger, even though insider employees cannot.

Dropping 0day might kill/harm people. That may be true, but that’s never an ethical reason to not drop it. That’s because it’s not this one event in isolation. If companies knew ethical researchers would never drop an 0day, then they’d never patch it. It’s like the government’s warrantless surveillance of American citizens: the courts won’t let us challenge it, because we can’t prove it exists, and we can’t prove it exists, because the courts allow it to be kept secret, because revealing the surveillance would harm national intelligence. That harm may happen shouldn’t stop the right thing from happening.

In other words, in the long run, dropping this 0day doesn’t necessarily harm people — and thus profiting on it is not an ethical issue. We need incentives to find vulns. This moves the debate from an ethical one to more of a factual debate about the long-term/short-term risk from vuln disclosure.

As MedSec points out, St Jude has already proven itself an untrustworthy consumer of vulnerability disclosures. When that happens, the dropping 0day is ethically permissible for “responsible disclosure”. Indeed, that St Jude then lied about it in their response ex post facto justifies the dropping of the 0day.

No 0day was actually dropped here. In this case, what was dropped was claims of 0day. This may be good or bad, depending on your arguments. It’s good that the vendor will have some extra time to fix the problems before hackers can start exploiting them. It’s bad because we can’t properly evaluate the true impact of the 0day unless we get more detail — allowing Muddy Waters to exaggerate and mislead people in order to move the stock more than is warranted.

In other words, the lack of actual 0day here is the problem — actual 0day would’ve been better.

This 0day is not necessarily harmful. Okay, it is harmful, but it requires close proximity. It’s not as if the hacker can reach out from across the world and kill everyone (barring my movie-plot section above). If you are within 50 feet of somebody, it’s easier shooting, stabbing, or poisoning them.

Shorting on bad news is common. Before we address the issue whether this is unethical for cybersecurity researchers, we should first address the ethics for anybody doing this. Muddy Waters already does this by investigating companies for fraudulent accounting practice, then shorting the stock while revealing the fraud.

Yes, it’s bad that Muddy Waters profits on the misfortunes of others, but it’s others who are doing fraud — who deserve it. [Snide capitalism trigger warning] To claim this is unethical means you are a typical socialist who believe the State should defend companies, even those who do illegal thing, in order to stop illegitimate/windfall profits. Supporting the ethics of this means you are a capitalist, who believe companies should succeed or fail on their own merits — which means bad companies need to fail, and investors in those companies should lose money.

Yes, this is bad for cybersec research. There is constant tension between cybersecurity researchers doing “responsible” (sic) research and companies lobbying congress to pass laws against it. We see this recently how Detroit lobbied for DMCA (copyright) rules to bar security research, and how the DMCA regulators gave us an exemption. MedSec’s action means now all medical devices manufacturers will now lobby congress for rules to stop MedSec — and the rest of us security researchers. The lack of public research means medical devices will continue to be flawed, which is worse for everyone.

Personally, I don’t care about this argument. How others might respond badly to my actions is not an ethical constraint on my actions. It’s like speech: that others may be triggered into lobbying for anti-speech laws is still not constraint on what ethics allow me to say.

There were no lies or betrayal in the research. For me, “ethics” is usually a problem of lying, cheating, theft, and betrayal. As long as these things don’t happen, then it’s ethically okay. If MedSec had been hired by St Jude, had promised to keep things private, and then later disclosed them, then we’d have an ethical problem. Or consider this: frequently clients ask me to lie or omit things in pentest reports. It’s an ethical quagmire. The quick answer, by the way, is “can you make that request in writing?”. The long answer is “no”. It’s ethically permissible to omit minor things or do minor rewording, but not when it impinges on my credibility.

A life is worth about $10-million. Most people agree that “you can’t put value on a human life”, and that those who do are evil. The opposite is true. Should we spend more on airplane safety, breast cancer research, or the military budget to fight ISIS. Each can be measured in the number of lives saved. Should we spend more on breast cancer research, which affects people in their 30s, or solving heart disease, which affects people’s in their 70s? All these decisions means putting value on human life, and sometimes putting different value on human life. Whether you think it’s ethical, it’s the way the world works.

Thus, we can measure this disclosure of 0day in terms of potential value of life lost, vs. potential value of life saved.

Is this market manipulation? This is more of a legal question than an ethical one, but people are discussing it. If the data is true, then it’s not “manipulation” — only if it’s false. As documented in this post, there’s good reason to doubt the complete truth of what Muddy Waters claims. I suspect it’ll cost Muddy Waters more in legal fees in the long run than they could possibly hope to gain in the short run. I recommend investment companies stick to areas of their own expertise (accounting fraud) instead of branching out into things like cyber where they really don’t grasp things.

This is again bad for security research. Frankly, we aren’t a trusted community, because we claim the “sky is falling” too often, and are proven wrong. As this is proven to be market manipulation, as the stock recovers back to its former level, and the scary stories of mass product recalls fail to emerge, we’ll be blamed yet again for being wrong. That hurts are credibility.

On the other the other hand, if any of the scary things Muddy Waters claims actually come to pass, then maybe people will start heading our warnings.

Ethics conclusion: I’m a die-hard troll, so therefore I’m going to vigorously defend the idea of shorting stock while dropping 0day. (Most of you appear to think it’s unethical — I therefore must disagree with you).  But I’m also a capitalist. This case creates an incentive to drop harmful 0days — but it creates an even greater incentive for device manufacturers not to have 0days to begin with. Thus, despite being a dishonest troll, I do sincerely support the ethics of this.

Conclusion

The two 0days are about crashing the device (killing the patient sooner) or draining the battery (killin them later). Both attacks require hours (if not days) in close proximity to the target. If you can get into the local network (such as through phishing), you might be able to hack the [email protected] monitor, which is in close proximity to the target for hours every night.

Muddy Waters thinks the security problems are severe enough that it’ll destroy St Jude’s $2.5 billion pacemaker business. The argument is flimsy. St Jude’s retort is equally flimsy.

My prediction: a year from now we’ll see little change in St Jude’s pacemaker business earners, while there may be some one time costs cleaning some stuff up. This will stop the shenanigans of future 0day+shorting, even when it’s valid, because nobody will believe researchers.

More on the Vulnerabilities Equities Process

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/08/more_on_the_vul.html

The Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation has released a policy paper on the vulnerabilities equities process: “Bugs in the System: A Primer on the Software Vulnerability Ecosystem and its Policy Implications.”

Their policy recommendations:

  • Minimize participation in the vulnerability black market.
  • Establish strong, clear procedures for disclosure when it discovers and acquires vulnerability.
  • Establish rules for government hacking.
  • Support bug bounty programs.
  • Reform the DMCA and CFAA so they encourage responsible vulnerability disclosure.

It’s a good document, and worth reading.

EFF Lawsuit Takes on DMCA Section 1201: Research and Technology Restrictions Violate the First Amendment

Post Syndicated from jake original http://lwn.net/Articles/695118/rss

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has announced that it is suing the US government over provisions in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The suit has been filed on behalf of Andrew “bunnie” Huang, who has a blog post describing the reasons behind the suit. The EFF also explained why these DMCA provisions should be ruled unconstitutional:
These provisions—contained in Section 1201 of the DMCA—make it unlawful for people to get around the software that restricts access to lawfully-purchased copyrighted material, such as films, songs, and the computer code that controls vehicles, devices, and appliances. This ban applies even where people want to make noninfringing fair uses of the materials they are accessing.

Ostensibly enacted to fight music and movie piracy, Section 1201 has long served to restrict people’s ability to access, use, and even speak out about copyrighted materials—including the software that is increasingly embedded in everyday things. The law imposes a legal cloud over our rights to tinker with or repair the devices we own, to convert videos so that they can play on multiple platforms, remix a video, or conduct independent security research that would reveal dangerous security flaws in our computers, cars, and medical devices. It criminalizes the creation of tools to let people access and use those materials.”

GitHub’s 2015 Transparency Report

Post Syndicated from ris original http://lwn.net/Articles/692959/rss

GitHub has published
its 2015 transparency report. “This 2015 report details the types of
requests we receive for user accounts, user content, information about our
users, and other such information, and how we process those
requests. Transparency and trust are essential to GitHub and to the open
source community, and giving you access to information about these requests
can protect you, protect us, and help you feel safe as you work on
GitHub.
” The report notes that a significant number of requests for
removal of content are notices submitted under the Digital Millennium
Copyright Act, or the DMCA.

Conservancy’s Year In Review 2015

Post Syndicated from Bradley M. Kuhn original http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2015/12/18/conservancy-yir.html

If you’ve noticed my blog a little silent the past few weeks, I’ve been
spending my blogging time in December writing blogs on Conservancy’s site
for Conservancy’s 2015:
Year in Review series
.

So far, these are the ones that were posted:

Karen Sandler Speaks about IRS Charity Issues
Bradley M. Kuhn Speaks About Future of Copyleft
Bradley and Karen Speak at FOSDEM 2015
Conservancy Wins DMCA Exception for Smart TVs

Generally speaking, if you want to keep up with my work, you probably
should subscribe not only to my blog but also to Conservancy’s. I tend to
crosspost the more personal pieces, but if something is purely a
Conservancy matter and doesn’t relate to usual things I write about here, I
don’t crosspost.

The Internet of Incompatible Things

Post Syndicated from Matthew Garrett original http://mjg59.dreamwidth.org/37522.html

I have an Amazon Echo. I also have a LIFX Smart Bulb. The Echo can integrate with Philips Hue devices, letting you control your lights by voice. It has no integration with LIFX. Worse, the Echo developer program is fairly limited – while the device’s built in code supports communicating with devices on your local network, the third party developer interface only allows you to make calls to remote sites[1]. It seemed like I was going to have to put up with either controlling my bedroom light by phone or actually getting out of bed to hit the switch.Then I found this article describing the implementation of a bridge between the Echo and Belkin Wemo switches, cunningly called Fauxmo. The Echo already supports controlling Wemo switches, and the code in question simply implements enough of the Wemo API to convince the Echo that there’s a bunch of Wemo switches on your network. When the Echo sends a command to them asking them to turn on or off, the code executes an arbitrary callback that integrates with whatever API you want.This seemed like a good starting point. There’s a free implementation of the LIFX bulb API called Lazylights, and with a quick bit of hacking I could use the Echo to turn my bulb on or off. But the Echo’s Hue support also allows dimming of lights, and that seemed like a nice feature to have. Tcpdump showed that asking the Echo to look for Hue devices resulted in similar UPnP discovery requests to it looking for Wemo devices, so extending the Fauxmo code seemed plausible. I signed up for the Philips developer program and then discovered that the terms and conditions explicitly forbade using any information on their site to implement any kind of Hue-compatible endpoint. So that was out. Thankfully enough people have written their own Hue code at various points that I could figure out enough of the protocol by searching Github instead, and now I have a branch of Fauxmo that supports searching for LIFX bulbs and presenting them as Hues[2].Running this on a machine on my local network is enough to keep the Echo happy, and I can now dim my bedroom light in addition to turning it on or off. But it demonstrates a somewhat awkward situation. Right now vendors have no real incentive to offer any kind of compatibility with each other. Instead they’re all trying to define their own ecosystems with their own incompatible protocols with the aim of forcing users to continue buying from them. Worse, they attempt to restrict developers from implementing any kind of compatibility layers. The inevitable outcome is going to be either stacks of discarded devices speaking abandoned protocols or a cottage industry of developers writing bridge code and trying to avoid DMCA takedowns.The dystopian future we’re heading towards isn’t Gibsonian giant megacorporations engaging in physical warfare, it’s one where buying a new toaster means replacing all your lightbulbs or discovering that the code making your home alarm system work is now considered a copyright infringement. Is there a market where I can invest in IP lawyers?[1] It also requires an additional phrase at the beginning of a request to indicate which third party app you want your query to go to, so it’s much more clumsy to make those requests compared to using a built-in app.[2] I only have one bulb, so as yet I haven’t added any support for groups.comment count unavailable comments