Tag Archives: hollywood

Police Arrest Suspected Member of TheDarkOverlord Hacking Group

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/police-arrest-suspected-member-of-the-dark-overlord-hacking-group-180517/

In April 2017, the first episode of the brand new season of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was uploaded to The Pirate Bay, months ahead of its official release date.

The leak was the work of a hacking entity calling itself TheDarkOverlord (TDO). One of its members had contacted TorrentFreak months earlier claiming that the content was in its hands but until the public upload, nothing could be confirmed.

TDO told us it had obtained the episodes after hacking the systems of Hollywood-based Larson Studios, an ADR (additional dialogue recorded) studio, back in 2016. TDO had attempted to blackmail the company into paying a bitcoin ransom but when it wasn’t forthcoming, TDO pressed the nuclear button.

Netflix responded by issuing a wave of takedown notices but soon TDO moved onto a new target. In June 2017, TDO followed up on an earlier threat to leak content owned by ABC.

But while TDO was perhaps best known for its video-leaking exploits, the group’s core ‘business’ was hacking what many perceived to be softer targets. TDO ruthlessly slurped confidential data from weakly protected computer systems at medical facilities, private practices, and businesses large and small.

In each case, the group demanded ransoms in exchange for silence and leaked sensitive data to the public if none were paid. With dozens of known targets, TDO found itself at the center of an international investigation, led by the FBI. That now appears to have borne some fruit, with the arrest of an individual in Serbia.

Serbian police say that members of its Ministry of Internal Affairs, Criminal Police Directorate (UCC), in coordination with the Special Prosecution for High-Tech Crime, have taken action against a suspected member of TheDarkOverlord group.

Police say they tracked down a Belgrade resident, who was arrested and taken into custody. Identified only by the initials “S.S”, police say the individual was born in 1980 but have released no further personal details. A search of his apartment and other locations led to the seizure of items of digital equipment.

“According to the order of the Special Prosecutor’s Office for High-Tech Crime, criminal charges will be brought against him because of the suspicion that he committed the criminal offense of unauthorized access to a protected computer, computer networks and electronic processing, and the criminal offense of extortion,” a police statement reads.

In earlier correspondence with TF, the TDO member always gave the impression of working as part of a team but we only had a single contact point which appeared to be the same person. However, Serbian authorities say the larger investigation is aimed at uncovering “a large number of people” who operate under the banner of “TheDarkOverlord”.

Since June 2016, the group is said to have targeted at least 50 victims while demanding bitcoin ransoms to avoid disclosure of their content. Serbian authorities say that on the basis of available data, TDO received payments of more than $275,000.

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

YouTube Won’t Put Up With Blatant Piracy Tutorials Forever

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/youtube-wont-put-up-with-blatant-piracy-tutorials-forever-180506/

Once upon a time, Internet users’ voices would be heard in limited circles, on platforms such as Usenet or other niche platforms.

Then, with the rise of forum platforms such as phpBB in 2000 and Invision Power Board in 2002, thriving communities could gather in public to discuss endless specialist topics, including file-sharing of course.

When dedicated piracy forums began to gain traction, it was pretty much a free-for-all. People discussed obtaining free content absolutely openly. Nothing was taboo and no one considered that there would be any repercussions. As such, moderation was limited to keeping troublemakers in check.

As the years progressed and lawsuits against both sites and services became more commonplace, most sites that weren’t actually serving illegal content began to consider their positions. Run by hobbyists, most didn’t want the hassle of a multi-million dollar lawsuit, so links to pirate content began to diminish and the more overt piracy tutorials began to disappear underground.

Those that remained in plain sight became much more considered. Tutorials on how to pirate specific Hollywood blockbusters were no longer needed, a plain general tutorial would suffice. And, as communities matured and took time to understand the implications of their actions, those without political motivations realized that drawing attention to potential criminality was neither required nor necessary.

Then YouTube and social media happened and almost overnight, no one was in charge and anyone could say whatever they liked.

In this new reality, there were no irritating moderator-type figures removing links to this and that, and nobody warning people against breaking rules that suddenly didn’t exist anymore. In essence, previously tight-knit and street-wise file-sharing and piracy communities not only became fragmented, but also chaotic.

This meant that anyone could become a leader and in some cases, this was the utopia that many had hoped for. Not only couldn’t the record labels or Hollywood tell people what to do anymore, discussion site operators couldn’t either. For those who didn’t abuse the power and for those who knew no better, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air. But, like all good things, it was unlikely to last forever.

Where most file-sharing of yesterday was carried out by hobbyist enthusiasts, many of today’s pirates are far more casual. They’re just as thirsty for content, but they don’t want to spend hours hunting for it. They want it all on a plate, at the flick of a switch, delivered to their TV with a minimum of hassle.

With online discussions increasingly seen as laborious and old-fashioned, many mainstream pirates have turned to easy-to-consume videos. In support of their Kodi media player habits, YouTube has become the educational platform of choice for millions.

As a result, there is now a long line of self-declared Kodi piracy specialists scooping up millions of views on YouTube. Their videos – which in many cases are thinly veiled advertisements for third party addons, Kodi ‘builds’, illegal IPTV services, and obscure Android APKs – are now the main way for a new generation to obtain direct advice on pirating.

Many of the videos are incredibly blatant, like the past 15 years of litigation never happened. All the lessons learned by the phpBB board operators of yesteryear, of how to achieve their goals of sharing information without getting shut down, have been long forgotten. In their place, a barrage of daily videos designed to generate clicks and affiliate revenue, no matter what the cost, no matter what the risk.

It’s pretty clear that these videos are at least partly responsible for the phenomenal uptick in Kodi and Android-based piracy over the past few years. In that respect, many lovers of free content will be eternally grateful for the service they’ve provided. But like many piracy movements over the years, people shouldn’t get too attached to them, at least in their current form.

Thanks to the devil-may-care approach of many influential YouTubers, it won’t be long before a whole new set of moderators begin flexing their muscles. While your average phpBB moderator could be reasoned with in order to get a second chance, a determined and largely faceless YouTube will eject offenders without so much as a clear explanation.

When this happens (and it’s only a question of time given the growing blatancy of many tutorials) YouTubers will not only lose their voices but their revenue streams too. While YouTube’s partner programs bring in some welcome cash, the profitable affiliate schemes touted on these channels for external products will also be under threat.

Perhaps the most surprising thing in this drama-waiting-to-happen is that many of the most popular YouTubers can hardly be considered young and naive. While some are of more tender years, most – with their undoubted skill, knowledge and work ethic – should know better for their 30 or 40 years on this planet. Yet not only do they make their names public, they feature their faces heavily in their videos too.

Still, it’s likely that it will take some big YouTube accounts to fall before YouTubers respond by shaving the sharp edges off their blatant promotion of illegal activity. And there’s little doubt that those advertising products (which is most of them) will have to do so sooner rather than later.

Just this week, YouTube made it clear that it won’t tolerate people making money from the promotion of illegal activities.

“YouTube creators may include paid endorsements as part of their content only if the product or service they are endorsing complies with our advertising policies,” YouTube told the BBC.

“We will be working with creators going forward so they better understand that in video promotions [they] must not promote dishonest activity.”

That being said, like many other players in the piracy and file-sharing space over the past 18 years, YouTubers will eventually begin to learn that not only can the smart survive, they can flourish too.

Sure, there will be people out there who’ll protest that free speech allows citizens to express themselves in a manner of their choosing. But try PM’ing that to YouTube in response to a strike, and see how that fares.

When they say you’re done, the road back is a long one.

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

Pirate IPTV Blocking Case is No Slam Dunk Says Federal Court Judge

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-iptv-blocking-case-is-no-slam-dunk-says-federal-court-judge-180502/

Last year, Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) applied for a blocking injunction against several unauthorized IPTV services.

Under the Copyright Act, the broadcaster asked the Federal Court to order ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

Unlike torrent site and streaming portal blocks granted earlier, it soon became clear that this case would present unique difficulties. TVB not only wants Internet locations (URLs, domains, IP addresses) related to the technical operation of the services blocked, but also hosting services akin to Google Play and Apple’s App Store that host the app.

Furthermore, it is far from clear whether China-focused live programming is eligible for copyright protection in Australia. If China had been a party to the 1961 Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations, it would receive protection. As it stands, it does not.

That causes complications in respect of Section 115a of the Copyright Act which allows rightsholders to apply for an injunction to have “overseas online locations” blocked if they facilitate access to copyrighted content. Furthermore, the section requires that the “primary purpose” of the location is to infringe copyrights recognized in Australia. If it does not, then there’s no blocking option available.

“If most of what is occurring here is a reproduction of broadcasts that are not protected by copyright, then the primary purpose is not to facilitate copyright infringement,” Justice Nicholas said in April.

This morning TVB returned to Federal Court for a scheduled hearing. The ISPs were a no-show again, leaving the broadcaster’s legal team to battle it out with Justice Nicholas alone. According to details published by ComputerWorld, he isn’t making it easy for the overseas company.

The Judge put it to TVB that “the purpose of this system [the set-top boxes] is to make available a broadcast that’s not copyright protected in this country, in this country,” he said.

“If 10 per cent of the content was infringing content, how could you say the primary purpose is infringing copyright?” the Judge asked.

But despite the Judge’s reservations, TVB believes that the pirate IPTV services clearly infringe its rights, since alongside live programming, the devices also reproduce TVB movies which do receive protection in Australia. However, the company is also getting creative in an effort to sidestep the ‘live TV’ conundrum.

TVB counsel Julian Cooke told the Court that live TVB broadcasts are first reproduced on foreign servers from where they are communicated to set-top devices in Australia with a delay of between one and four minutes. This is a common feature of all pirate IPTV services which potentially calls into question the nature of the ‘live’ broadcasts. The same servers also carry recorded content too, he argued.

“Because the way the system is set up, it compounds itself … in a number of instances, a particular domain name, which we refer to as the portal target domain name, allows a communication path not just to live TV, but it’s also the communication path to other applications such as replay and video on demand,” Cooke said, as quoted by ZDNet.

Cooke told the Court that he wasn’t sure whether the threshold for “primary purpose” was set at 50% of infringing content but noted that the majority of the content available through the boxes is infringing and the nature of the servers is even more pronounced.

“It compounds the submission that the primary purpose of the online location which is the facilitating server is to facilitate the infringement of copyright using that communication path,” he said.

As TF predicted in our earlier coverage, TVB today got creative by highlighting other content that it does receive copyright protection for in Australia. Previously in the UK, the Premier League successfully stated that it owns copyright in the logos presented in a live broadcast.

This morning, Cooke told the court that TVB “literary works” – scripts used on news shows and subtitling services – receive copyright protection in Australia so urged the Court to consider the full package.

“If one had concerns about live TV, one shouldn’t based on the analysis we’ve done … if one adds that live TV infringements together with video on demand together with replay, there could be no doubt that the primary purpose of the online locations is to infringe copyright,” he said.

Due to the apparent complexity of the case, Justice Nicholas reserved his decision, telling TVB that his ruling could take a couple of months after receiving his “close attention.”

Last week, Village Roadshow and several major Hollywood studios won a blocking injunction against a different pirate IPTV service. HD Subs Plus delivers around 600 live premium channels plus hundreds of movies on demand, but the service will now be blocked by ISPs across Australia.

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

Aussie Federal Court Orders ISPs to Block Pirate IPTV Service

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/aussie-federal-court-orders-isps-to-block-pirate-iptv-service-180427/

After successful applying for ISP blocks against dozens of traditional torrent and streaming portals, Village Roadshow and a coalition of movie studios switched tack last year.

With the threat of pirate subscription IPTV services looming large, Roadshow, Disney, Universal, Warner Bros, Twentieth Century Fox, and Paramount targeted HDSubs+ (also known as PressPlayPlus), a fairly well-known service that provides hundreds of otherwise premium live channels, movies, and sports for a relatively small monthly fee.

The injunction, which was filed last October, targets Australia’s largest ISPs including Telstra, Optus, TPG, and Vocus, plus subsidiaries.

Unlike blocking injunctions targeting regular sites, the studios sought to have several elements of HD Subs+ infrastructure rendered inaccessible, so that its sales platform, EPG (electronic program guide), software (such as an Android and set-top box app), updates, and sundry other services would fail to operate in Australia.

After a six month wait, the Federal Court granted the application earlier today, compelling Australia’s ISPs to block “16 online locations” associated with the HD Subs+ service, rendering its TV services inaccessible Down Under.

“Each respondent must, within 15 business days of service of these orders, take reasonable steps to disable access to the target online locations,” said Justice Nicholas, as quoted by ZDNet.

A small selection of channels in the HDSubs+ package

The ISPs were given flexibility in how to implement the ban, with the Judge noting that DNS blocking, IP address blocking or rerouting, URL blocking, or “any alternative technical means for disabling access”, would be acceptable.

The rightsholders are required to pay a fee of AU$50 fee for each domain they want to block but Village Roadshow says it doesn’t mind doing so, since blocking is in “public interest”. Continuing a pattern established last year, none of the ISPs showed up to the judgment.

A similar IPTV blocking application was filed by Hong Kong-based broadcaster Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB) last year.

TVB wants ISPs including Telstra, Optus, Vocus, and TPG plus their subsidiaries to block access to seven Android-based services named as A1, BlueTV, EVPAD, FunTV, MoonBox, Unblock, and hTV5.

The application was previously heard alongside the HD Subs+ case but will now be handled separately following complications. In April it was revealed that TVB not only wants to block Internet locations related to the technical operation of the service, but also hosting sites that fulfill a role similar to that of Google Play or Apple’s App Store.

TVB wants to have these app marketplaces blocked by Australian ISPs, which would not only render the illicit apps inaccessible to the public but all of the non-infringing ones too.

Justice Nicholas will now have to decide whether the “primary purpose” of these marketplaces is to infringe or facilitate the infringement of TVB’s copyrights. However, there is also a question of whether China-focused live programming has copyright status in Australia. An additional hearing is scheduled for May 2 for these matters to be addressed.

Also on Friday, Foxtel filed yet another blocking application targeting “15 online locations” involving 27 domain names connected to traditional BitTorrent and streaming services.

According to ComputerWorld the injunction targets the same set of ISPs but this time around, Foxtel is trying to save on costs.

The company doesn’t want to have expert witnesses present in court, doesn’t want to stage live demos of websites, and would like to rely on videos and screenshots instead. Foxtel also says that if the ISPs agree, it won’t serve its evidence on them as it has done previously.

The company asked Justice Nicholas to deal with the injunction application “on paper” but he declined, setting a hearing for June 18 but accepting screenshots and videos as evidence.

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

MPAA Chief Says Fighting Piracy Remains “Top Priority”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-chief-says-fighting-piracy-remains-top-priority-180425/

After several high-profile years at the helm of the movie industry’s most powerful lobbying group, last year saw the departure of Chris Dodd from the role of Chairman and CEO at the MPAA.

The former Senator, who earned more than $3.5m a year championing the causes of the major Hollywood studios since 2011, was immediately replaced by another political heavyweight.

Charles Rivkin, who took up his new role September 5, 2017, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs in the Obama administration. With an underperforming domestic box office year behind him fortunately overshadowed by massive successes globally, this week he spoke before US movie exhibitors for the first time at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

“Globally, we hit a record high of $40.6 billion at the box office. Domestically, our $11.1 billion box office was slightly down from the 2016 record. But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade,” Rivkin said.

“But it exactly matched the previous high from 2015. And it was the second highest total in the past decade.”

Rivkin, who spent time as President and CEO of The Jim Henson Company, told those in attendance that he shares a deep passion for the movie industry and looks forward optimistically to the future, a future in which content is secured from those who intend on sharing it for free.

“Making sure our creative works are valued and protected is one of the most important things we can do to keep that industry heartbeat strong. At the Henson Company, and WildBrain, I learned just how much intellectual property affects everyone. Our entire business model depended on our ability to license Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and the Muppets and distribute them across the globe,” Rivkin said.

“I understand, on a visceral level, how important copyright is to any creative business and in particular our country’s small and medium enterprises – which are the backbone of the American economy. As Chairman and CEO of the MPAA, I guarantee you that fighting piracy in all forms remains our top priority.”

That tackling piracy is high on the MPAA’s agenda won’t comes as a surprise but at least in terms of the numbers of headlines plastered over the media, high-profile anti-piracy action has been somewhat lacking in recent years.

With lawsuits against torrent sites seemingly a thing of the past and a faltering Megaupload case that will conclude who-knows-when, the MPAA has taken a broader view, seeking partnerships with sometimes rival content creators and distributors, each with a shared desire to curtail illicit media.

“One of the ways that we’re already doing that is through the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – or ACE as we call it,” Rivkin said.

“This is a coalition of 30 leading global content creators, including the MPAA’s six member studios as well as Netflix, and Amazon. We work together as a powerful team to ensure our stories are seen as they were intended to be, and that their creators are rewarded for their hard work.”

Announced in June 2017, ACE has become a united anti-piracy powerhouse for a huge range of entertainment industry groups, encompassing the likes of CBS, HBO, BBC, Sky, Bell Canada, CBS, Hulu, Lionsgate, Foxtel and Village Roadshow, to name a few.

The coalition was announced by former MPAA Chief Chris Dodd and now, with serious financial input from all companies involved, appears to be picking its fights carefully, focusing on the growing problem of streaming piracy centered around misuse of Kodi and similar platforms.

From threatening relatively small-time producers and distributors of third-party addons and builds (1,2,3), ACE is also attempting to make its mark among the profiteers.

The group now has several lawsuits underway in the United States against people selling piracy-enabled IPTV boxes including Tickbox, Dragon Box, and during the last week, Set TV.

With these important cases pending, Rivkin offered assurances that his organization remains committed to anti-piracy enforcement and he thanked exhibitors for their efforts to prevent people quickly running away with copies of the latest releases.

“I am grateful to all of you for recognizing what is at stake, and for working with us to protect creativity, such as fighting the use of illegal camcorders in theaters,” he said.

“Protecting our creativity isn’t only a fundamental right. It’s an economic necessity, for us and all creative economies. Film and television are among the most valuable – and most impactful – exports we have.

Thus far at least, Rivkin has a noticeably less aggressive tone on piracy than his predecessor Chris Dodd but it’s unlikely that will be mistaken for weakness among pirates, nor should it. The MPAA isn’t known for going soft on pirates and it certainly won’t be changing course anytime soon.

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

Graphical fidelity is ruining video games

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2016/06/22/graphical-fidelity-is-ruining-video-games/

I’m almost 30, so I have to start practicing being crotchety.

Okay, maybe not all video games, but something curious has definitely happened here. Please bear with me for a moment.

Discovering Doom

Surprise! This is about Doom again.

Last month, I sat down and played through the first episode of Doom 1 for the first time. Yep, the first time. I’ve mentioned before that I was introduced to Doom a bit late, and mostly via Doom 2. I’m familiar with a decent bit of Doom 1, but I’d never gotten around to actually playing through any of it.

I might be almost unique in playing Doom 1 for the first time decades after it came out, while already being familiar with the series overall. I didn’t experience Doom 1 only in contrast to modern games, but in contrast to later games using the same engine.

It was very interesting to experience Romero’s design sense in one big chunk, rather than sprinkled around as it is in Doom 2. Come to think of it, Doom 1’s first episode is the only contiguous block of official Doom maps to have any serious consistency: it sticks to a single dominant theme and expands gradually in complexity as you play through it. Episodes 2 and 3, as well of most of Doom 2, are dominated by Sandy Petersen’s more haphazard and bizarre style. Episode 4 and Final Doom, if you care to count them, are effectively just map packs.

It was also painfully obvious just how new this kind of game was. I’ve heard Romero stress the importance of contrast in floor height (among other things) so many times, and yet Doom 1 is almost comically flat. There’s the occasional lift or staircase, sure, but the spaces generally feel like they’re focused around a single floor height with the occasional variation. Remember, floor height was a new thing — id had just finished making Wolfenstein 3D, where the floor and ceiling were completely flat and untextured.

The game was also clearly designed for people who had never played this kind of game. There was much more ammo than I could possibly carry; I left multiple shell boxes behind on every map. The levels were almost comically easy, even on UV, and I’m not particularly good at shooters. It was a very stark contrast to when I played partway through The Plutonia Experiment a few years ago and had to rely heavily on quicksaving.

Seeing Doom 1 from a Doom 2 perspective got me thinking about how design sensibilities in shooters have morphed over time. And then I realized something: I haven’t enjoyed an FPS since Quake 2.

Or… hang on. That’s not true. I enjoy Splatoon (except when I lose). I loved the Metroid Prime series. I played Team Fortress 2 for quite a while.

On the other hand, I found Half-Life 2 a little boring, I lost interest in Doom 3 before even reaching Hell, and I bailed on Quake 4 right around the extremely hammy spoiler plot thing. I loved Fallout, but I couldn’t stand Fallout 3. Uncharted is pretty to watch, but looks incredibly tedious to play. I never cared about Halo. I don’t understand the appeal of Counterstrike or Call of Duty.

If I made a collage of screenshots of these two sets of games, you’d probably spot the pattern pretty quickly. It seems I can’t stand games with realistic graphics.

I have a theory about this.

The rise of realism

Quake introduced the world to “true” 3D — an environment made out of arbitrary shapes, not just floors and walls. (I’m sure there were other true-3D games before it, but I challenge you to name one off the top of your head.)

Before Quake, games couldn’t even simulate a two-story building, which ruled out most realistic architecture. Walls that slid sideways were virtually unique to Hexen (and, for some reason, the much earlier Wolfenstein 3D). So level designers built slightly more abstract spaces instead. Consider this iconic room from the very beginning of Doom’s E1M1.

What is this room? This is supposed to be a base of some kind, but who would build this room just to store a single armored vest? Up a flight of stairs, on a dedicated platform, and framed by glowing pillars? This is completely ridiculous.

But nobody thinks like that, and even the people who do, don’t really care too much. It’s a room with a clear design idea and a clear gameplay purpose: to house the green armor. It doesn’t matter that this would never be a real part of a base. The game exists in its own universe, and it establishes early on that these are the rules of that universe. Sometimes a fancy room exists just to give the player a thing.

At the same time, the room still resembles a base. I can take for granted, in the back of my head, that someone deliberately placed this armor here for storage. It’s off the critical path, too, so it doesn’t quit feel like it was left specifically for me to pick up. The world is designed for the player, but it doesn’t feel that way — the environment implies, however vaguely, that other stuff is going on here.


Fast forward twenty years. Graphics and physics technology have vastly improved, to the point that we can now roughly approximate a realistic aesthetic in real-time. A great many games thus strive to do exactly that.

And that… seems like a shame. The better a game emulates reality, the less of a style it has. I can’t even tell Call of Duty and Battlefield apart.

That’s fine, though, right? It’s just an aesthetic thing. It doesn’t really affect the game.

It totally affects the game

Everything looks the same

Realism” generally means “ludicrous amounts of detail” — even moreso if the environments are already partially-destroyed, which is a fairly common trope I’ll be touching on a lot here.

When everything is highly-detailed, screenshots may look very good, but gameplay suffers because the player can no longer tell what’s important. The tendency for everything to have a thick coating of sepia certainly doesn’t help.

Look at that Call of Duty screenshot again. What in this screenshot is actually important? What here matters to you as a player? As far as I can tell, the only critical objects are:

  • Your current weapon

That’s it. The rocks and grass and billboards and vehicles and Hollywood sign might look very nice (by which I mean, “look like those things look”), but they aren’t important to the game at all. This might as well be a completely empty hallway.

To be fair, I haven’t played the game, so for all I know there’s a compelling reason to collect traffic cones. Otherwise, this screenshot is 100% noise. Everything in it serves only to emphasize that you’re in a realistic environment.

Don’t get me wrong, setting the scene is important, but something has been missed here. Detail catches the eye, and this screenshot is nothing but detail. None of it is relevant. If there were ammo lying around, would you even be able to find it?

Ah, but then, modern realistic games either do away with ammo pickups entirely or make them glow so you can tell they’re there. You know, for the realism.

(Speaking of glowing: something I always found ridiculous was how utterly bland the imp fireballs look in Doom 3 and 4. We have these amazing lighting engines, and the best we can do for a fireball is a solid pale orange circle? How do modern fireballs look less interesting than a Doom 1 fireball sprite?)

Even Fallout 2 bugged me a little with this; the world was full of shelves and containers, but it seemed almost all of them were completely empty. Fallout 1 had tons of loot waiting to be swiped from shelves, but someone must’ve decided that was a little silly and cut down on it in Fallout 2. So then, what’s the point of having so many shelves? They encourage the player to explore, then offer no reward whatsoever most of the time.

Environments are boring and static

Fallout 3 went right off the rails, filling the world with tons of (gray) detail, none of which I could interact with. I was barely finished with the first settlement before I gave up on the game because of how empty it felt. Everywhere was detailed as though it were equally important, but most of it was static decorations. From what I’ve seen, Fallout 4 is even worse.

Our graphical capabilities have improved much faster than our ability to actually simulate all the junk we’re putting on the screen. Hey, there’s a car! Can I get in it? Can I drive it? No, I can only bump into an awkwardly-shaped collision box drawn around it. So what’s the point of having a car, an object that — in the real world — I’m accustomed to being able to use?

And yet… a game that has nothing to do with driving a car doesn’t need you to be able to drive a car. Games are games, not perfect simulations of reality. They have rules, a goal, and a set of things the player is able to do. There’s no reason to make the player able to do everything if it has no bearing on what the game’s about.

This puts “realistic” games in an awkward position. How do they solve it?

One good example that comes to mind is Portal, which was rendered realistically, but managed to develop a style from the limited palette it used in the actual play areas. It didn’t matter that you couldn’t interact with the world in any way other than portaling walls and lifting cubes, because for the vast majority of the game, you only encountered walls and cubes! Even the “behind the scenes” parts at the end were mostly architecture, not objects, and I’m not particularly bothered that I can’t interact with a large rusty pipe.

The standouts were the handful of offices you managed to finagle your way into, which were of course full of files and computers and other desktop detritus. Everything in an office is — necessarily! — something a human can meaningfully interact with, but the most you can do in Portal is drop a coffee cup on the floor. It’s all the more infuriating if you consider that the plot might have been explained by the information in those files or on those computers. Portal 2 was in fact a little worse about this, as you spent much more time outside of the controlled test areas.

I think Left 4 Dead may have also avoided this problem by forcing the players to be moving constantly — you don’t notice that you can’t get in a car if you’re running for your life. The only time the players can really rest is in a safe house, which are generally full of objects the players can pick up and use.

Progression feels linear and prescripted

Ah, but the main draw of Portal is one of my favorite properties of games: you could manipulate the environment itself. It’s the whole point of the game, even. And it seems to be conspicuously missing from many modern “realistic” games, partly because real environments are just static, but also in large part because… of the graphics!

Rendering a very complex scene is hard, so modern map formats do a whole lot of computing stuff ahead of time. (For similar reasons, albeit more primitive ones, vanilla Doom can’t move walls sideways.) Having any of the environment actually move or change is thus harder, so it tends to be reserved for fancy cutscenes when you press the button that lets you progress. And because grandiose environmental changes aren’t very realistic, that button often just opens a door or blows something up.

It feels hamfisted, like someone carefully set it all up just for me. Obviously someone did, but the last thing I want is to be reminded of that. I’m reminded very strongly of Half-Life 2, which felt like one very long corridor punctuated by the occasional overt physics puzzle. Contrast with Doom, where there are buttons all over the place and they just do things without drawing any particular attention to the results. Mystery switches are sometimes a problem, but for better or worse, Doom’s switches always feel like something I’m doing to the game, rather than the game waiting for me to come along so it can do some preordained song and dance.

I miss switches. Real switches, not touchscreens. Big chunky switches that take up half a wall.

It’s not just the switches, though. Several of Romero’s maps from episode 1 are shaped like a “horseshoe”, which more or less means that you can see the exit from the beginning (across some open plaza). More importantly, the enemies at the exit can see you, and will be shooting at you for much of the level.

That gives you choices, even within the limited vocabulary of Doom. Do you risk wasting ammo trying to take them out from a distance, or do you just dodge their shots all throughout the level? It’s up to you! You get to decide how to play the game, naturally, without choosing from a How Do You Want To Play The Game menu. Hell, Doom has entire speedrun categories focused around combat — Tyson for only using the fist and pistol, pacifist for never attacking a monster at all.

You don’t see a lot of that any more. Rendering an entire large area in a polygon-obsessed game is, of course, probably not going to happen — whereas the Doom engine can handle it just fine. I’ll also hazard a guess and say that having too much enemy AI going at once and/or rendering too many highly-detailed enemies at once is too intensive. Or perhaps balancing and testing multiple paths is too complicated.

Or it might be the same tendency I see in modding scenes: the instinct to obsessively control the player’s experience, to come up with a perfectly-crafted gameplay concept and then force the player to go through it exactly as it was conceived. Even Doom 4, from what I can see, has a shocking amount of “oh no the doors are locked, kill all the monsters to unlock them!” nonsense. Why do you feel the need to force the player to shoot the monsters? Isn’t that the whole point of the game? Either the player wants to do it and the railroading is pointless, or the player doesn’t want to do it and you’re making the game actively worse for them!

Something that struck me in Doom’s E1M7 was that, at a certain point, you run back across half the level and there are just straggler monsters all over the place. They all came out of closets when you picked up something, of course, but they also milled around while waiting for you to find them. They weren’t carefully scripted to teleport around you in a fixed pattern when you showed up; they were allowed to behave however they want, following the rules of the game.

Whatever the cause, something has been lost. The entire point of games is that they’re an interactive medium — the player has some input, too.

Exploration is discouraged

I haven’t played through too many recent single-player shooters, but I get the feeling that branching paths (true nonlinearity) and sprawling secrets have become less popular too. I’ve seen a good few people specifically praise Doom 4 for having them, so I assume the status quo is to… not.

That’s particularly sad off the back of Doom episode 1, which has sprawling secrets that often feel like an entire hidden part of the base. In several levels, merely getting outside qualifies as a secret. There are secrets within secrets. There are locked doors inside secrets. It’s great.

And these are real secrets, not three hidden coins in a level and you need to find so many of them to unlock more levels. The rewards are heaps of resources, not a fixed list of easter eggs to collect. Sometimes they’re not telegraphed at all; sometimes you need to do something strange to open them. Doom has a secret you open by walking up to one of two pillars with a heart on it. Doom 2 has a secret you open by run-jumping onto a light fixture, and another you open by “using” a torch and shooting some eyes in the wall.

I miss these, too. Finding one can be a serious advantage, and you can feel genuinely clever for figuring them out, yet at the same time you’re not permanently missing out on anything if you don’t find them all.

I can imagine why these might not be so common any more. If decorating an area is expensive and complicated, you’re not going to want to build large areas off the critical path. In Doom, though, you can make a little closet containing a powerup in about twenty seconds.

More crucially, many of the Doom secrets require the player to notice a detail that’s out of place — and that’s much easier to set up in a simple world like Doom. In a realistic world where every square inch is filled with clutter, how could anyone possibly notice a detail out of place? How can a designer lay any subtle hints at all, when even the core gameplay elements have to glow for anyone to pick them out from background noise?

This might be the biggest drawback to extreme detail: it ultimately teaches the player to ignore the detail, because very little of it is ever worth exploring. After running into enough invisible walls, you’re going to give up on straying from the beaten path.

We wind up with a world where players are trained to look for whatever glows, and completely ignore everything else. At which point… why are we even bothering?

There are no surprises

Realistic” graphics mean a “realistic” world, and let’s face it, the real world can be a little dull. That’s why we invented video games, right?

Doom has a very clear design vocabulary. Here are some demons. They throw stuff at you; don’t get hit by it. Here are some guns, which you can all hold at once, because those are the rules. Also here’s a glowing floating sphere that gives you a lot of health.

What is a megasphere, anyway? Does it matter? It’s a thing in the game with very clearly-defined rules. It’s good; pick it up.

You can’t do that in a “realistic” game. (Or maybe you can, but we seem to be trying to avoid it.) You can’t just pick up a pair of stereoscopic glasses to inexplicably get night vision for 30 seconds; you need to have some night-vision goggles with batteries and it’s a whole thing. You can’t pick up health kits that heal you; you have to be wearing regenerative power armor and pick up energy cells. Even Doom 4 seems to be uncomfortable leaving brightly flashing keycards lying around — instead you retrieve them from the corpses of people wearing correspondingly-colored armor.

Everything needs an explanation, which vastly reduces the chances of finding anything too surprising or new.

I’m told that Call of Duty is the most popular vidya among the millenials, so I went to look at its weapons:

  • Gun
  • Fast gun
  • Long gun
  • Different gun

How exciting! If you click through each of those gun categories, you can even see the list of unintelligible gun model numbers, which are exactly what gets me excited about a game.

I wonder if those model numbers are real or not. I’m not sure which would be worse.

Get off my lawn

So my problem is that striving for realism is incredibly boring and counter-productive. I don’t even understand the appeal; if I wanted reality, I could look out my window.

Realism” actively sabotages games. I can judge Doom or Mario or Metroid or whatever as independent universes with their own rules, because that’s what they are. A game that’s trying to mirror reality, I can only compare to reality — and it’ll be a very pale imitation.

It comes down to internal consistency. Doom and Team Fortress 2 and Portal and Splatoon and whatever else are pretty upfront about what they’re offering: you have a gun, you can shoot it, also you can run around and maybe press some buttons if you’re lucky. That’s exactly what you get. It’s right there on the box, even.

Then I load Fallout 3, and it tries to look like the real world, and it does a big song and dance asking me for my stats “in-world”, and it tries to imply I can roam this world and do anything I want and forge my own destiny. Then I get into the game, and it turns out I can pretty much just shoot, pick from dialogue trees, and make the occasional hamfisted moral choice. The gameplay doesn’t live up to what the environment tried to promise. The controls don’t even live up to what the environment tried to promise.

The great irony is that “realism” is harshly limiting, even as it grows ever more expensive and elaborate. I’m reminded of the Fat Man in Fallout 3, the gun that launches “mini nukes”. If that weapon had been in Fallout 1 or 2, I probably wouldn’t think twice about it. But in the attempted “realistic” world of Fallout 3, I have to judge it as though it were trying to be a real thing — because it is! — and that makes it sound completely ridiculous.

(It may sound like I’m picking on Fallout 3 a lot here, but to its credit, it actually had enough stuff going on that it stands out to me. I barely remember anything about Doom 3 or Quake 4, and when I think of Half-Life 2 I mostly imagine indistinct crumbling hallways or a grungy river that never ends.)

I’ve never felt this way about series that ignored realism and went for their own art style. Pikmin 3 looks very nice, but I never once felt that I ought to be able to do anything other than direct Pikmin around. Metroid Prime looks great too and has some “realistic” touches, but it still has a very distinct aesthetic, and it manages to do everything important with a relatively small vocabulary — even plentiful secrets.

I just don’t understand the game industry (and game culture)’s fanatical obsession with realistic graphics. They make games worse. It’s entirely possible to have an art style other than “get a lot of unpaid interns to model photos of rocks”, even for a mind-numbingly bland army man simulator. Please feel free to experiment a little more. I would love to see more weird and abstract worlds that follow their own rules and drag you down the rabbit hole with them.

Ransomware Visits Backblaze

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/cryptowall-ransomware-recovery/

Ransomware
“Elli” from our accounting department was trying to go home. Traffic was starting to build and a 45-minute trip home would become a 90-minute trip shortly. Her Windows 10 PC chimed: she had an email. “Last one,” she uttered as she quickly opened the message. It appeared to be a voicemail file from a caller at Quickbooks, our accounting software. “What do they want?” She double-clicked on the attached file and her PC was “toast”, she just didn’t know it yet.
Instead of a voicemail from Quickbooks, what Elli had unwittingly done was unleash a ransomware infection on her system. While she finished up packing her stuff to go home, one by one the data files on her PC were being encrypted making them unreadable to her or to anyone else.
When she glanced back at her computer she noticed something odd: the background picture, the one of her daughters, was gone. It was replaced by a generic image of a field of flowers. Weird. She opened up a folder she kept on her desktop. Here’s what she expected to see:
Clean PC
Here’s what she actually saw:
Infected PC
She couldn’t comprehend what she was seeing. Who could? She called over to our CTO, Brian, to have him take a look at this weirdness. He grabbed the keyboard and started typing. In between the expletives he asked her what she had done on the computer recently. She pointed to the email open in the corner of the screen. Brian asked if she opened the attachment. As she nodded yes, Brian pulled the network cable from the PC, then shut off the Wi-Fi switch, disconnected her external drive, and turned off her computer. “Your PC,” he said, “is infected with ransomware.”
We removed Elli’s infected drive put it in a sandbox where we were able to let it finish its “work”. Once the process was done we accessed the system and besides folder after folder of unintelligible files there were “help” files, put there by the ransomware once as it processed the files in a given folder. Here’s one of them:
Cryptowall Ransomware “Help” Message
cryptowall ransomware help file
Ransomware
Ransomware is malware that infects your computer, encrypts some or all of your data, and then holds it hostage until you pay a ransom to get your files decrypted. Last year we looked at Cryptowall, a form of ransomware. In that blog post we looked at the history and future of ransomware and predicted, sadly, we’d see more attacks. Here are a few recent examples:

Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital: Paid $17,000, “It was the easy choice. I wouldn’t say it was the right choice.”
Community of Christ Church in Hillsboro: Paid $570, “…the only thing we could do was to pay the ransom.”
Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia: The security company Trend Micro has labeled the recent attacks a Global Threat as ransomware has invaded these regions with a vengeance.
Mac Computers: Ransomware has now made its way to Apple’s Macintosh, with the first known infection being reported this past week. In this case, it took a fair amount of skullduggery to get past the Apple security protocols. At the center of the attack was a software vendor that was hacked and their software infected with ransomware. The infected software was then available to be downloaded by unsuspecting Mac computer users.

Elli gets her data back
Elli did not pay the ransom. Instead she recovered her data files from her Backblaze backup. Her last backup was just before she downloaded the ZIP file that contained the ransomware, so it was easy to recover all her data and get up and running.
Different versions of ransomware can make the data recovery process a bit more challenging, for example:

Some ransomware attacks have been known to delay their start, instead waiting a period of time or until a specific date before unleashing the downloaded malware and starting the encryption process. In that case you’ll need to be able to roll back the clock on your backup to a date before the infection so you can recover your files.
Other ransomware attacks will attempt to also encrypt connected accessible drives, including for example your local backup drive. For this reason following the 3-2-1 backup strategy of having both an onsite and offsite backup of your data is the best prevention against data loss if ransomware strikes.

Social engineering
All of this could have been avoided had Elli not been fooled by the email and downloaded the file. As is often the case with ransomware attacks, the miscreants used social engineering to get past Elli’s defenses. Social engineering can be defined as the “psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.” In Elli’s case there were several tricks:

The “to address” on the email contained Elli’s full name.
It is normal for our office to get emails with attachments from the voicemail system.
It is normal for our office to get messages from Quickbooks.

It’s hard to know if Elli was just one of millions of people who received this email or as is more likely, Elli was the victim of a targeted attack. Such targeted attacks, also known as spear phishing, require that the sender learn about the target so that email message appears more authentic. For most of us finding the information needed to create a credible socially engineered email is as easy as perusing the company web site and then doing a little research on social sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and so on.
Lessons learned by “Elli”
It is easy to blame Elli for letting her system get infected with ransomware, but there were multiple failures here. She was using a browser to access her cloud-based email. The email system didn’t block the email that contained the malware. Neither the browser nor the email system she was using caught the fact that the attached ZIP file contained an executable file as she was able to download the file without incident. Finally, the anti-virus software on her PC didn’t detect anything when she downloaded and then unzipped the malware file. No pop-ups, no notifications, nothing; she was on her own and in a moment of weakness she made a mistake. As embarrassing as it is, she let us tell her story so maybe someone else won’t make the same mistake. Thanks Elli.
Epilogue
Some of you may be wondering about the data we store for our customers. The systems and networks of our business operations and our production operations are independent, with separate access and credentials for each. While having an employee’s computer compromised by ransomware was horribly inconvenient for the employee, Backblaze’s core systems were never at risk.
The post Ransomware Visits Backblaze appeared first on Backblaze Blog | The Life of a Cloud Backup Company.

Can the Apple code be misused? (Partly Retracted)

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2016/03/can-apple-code-be-misused.html

Dan Guido (@DGuido), who knows more about iOS than I do, wants me to retract this post. I’m willing to retract it based solely on his word, but he won’t give me any details as to what specifically he objects to. I’m an expert in reverse-engineering and software development, but I admit there may be something to specific to iOS (such as how it encrypts firmware) that I may not know.This post will respond to the tweet by Orin Kerr:Tech help: What are the best responses to DOJ claims in new Apple/FBI brief re whether code could be misused? Thks. pic.twitter.com/V08EcV9Rev— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) March 11, 2016The government is right that the software must be signed by Apple and made to only work on Farook’s phone, but the situation is more complicated than that.The basic flaw in this picture is jailbreaks. This is a process of finding some hack that gets around Apple’s “signing” security layer. Jailbreaks are popular in the user community, especially China, when people want to run software not approved by Apple. When the government says “intact security”, it means “non-jailbroken”.Each new version of iOS requires the discovery of some new hack to enable jailbreaking. Hacking teams compete to see who can ship a new jailbreak to users, and other companies sell jailbreaks to intelligence agencies. Once jailbroken, the signing is bypassed, as is the second technique of locking the software specifically to Farook’s phone.Details are more complicated than this. The issue isn’t that jailbreaks will allow this software to run. Instead, the issue is that jailbreaks can reverse-engineer this software to grab its secrets, and then use those secrets on other phones.A more important flaw in this reasoning is the creation of the source code itself. This is the human readable form of the code written by the Apple engineers. This will later be compiled into “binary code” then signed. It’s at the source code stage that Apple is most in danger of losing secrets.Let’s assume that Apple is infiltrated by spies from the NSA and the Chinese. Some secrets can still be kept, such as the signing keys for the software. Other secrets cannot be kept, such as source code. It’s likely the NSA and/or Chinese have stolen Apple’s source code multiple times. Indeed, most of the source is public anyway (the Darwin operating system, Webkit, etc.). It’s not something Apple is too concerned about — as long as the source doesn’t get published.When Apple writes this specific tool for the FBI, it’ll be very hard to keep that source out of the hands of such spies. It’s possible to keep it secret, but only through burdonsome heroic efforts on Apple’s part that certainly weren’t part of its initial estimate.More important than the source code, though, are the ideas. Code is expressive speech that communicates ideas. Even when engineers forget the details of source code, they can still retain these ideas. Years later, they can recall those ideas and use them. I give a real example of this in my previous post on expressiveness of code. Apple cannot contain these ideas. The engineers in question, after building the code, can immediately quit Apple and got to to work for Chinese jailbreak companies or American defense contractors for twice the salary. And it’s completely legal.It’s like a Hollywood failed movie project. In the end, they decide not to move forward with the project, shutting it down. The employees then go off to different companies, taking those ideas with them, using them in unrelated movie projects. That’s the story told in the award-winning documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which ties that production to other unrelated movies, like Alien, Star Wars, and Terminator.Orin goes onto ask:@ErrataRob Given that it only takes a few days to write the source code, isn’t that pretty much true now?— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) March 11, 2016It will likely take more than a few days to write the code. The FBI misrepresents the task as consisting of only a few lines of code. But Apple estimates a much larger project. Though to be fair, some of that is testing, packaging, and documentation unrelated to the amount of code written.The task will likely require different skills from multiple engineers, rather than being the output of a single engineer. That’s because it’s possible no single engineer has all the necessary skills. However, all the engineers involved will still walk away with the entire picture, able to recreate the work on their own when working for the Chinese or Booz-Allen.In the end, it’s not a huge secret that Apple will be losing. For the most part, the “backdoor” already exists, the only question is how best to exploit it. It’s likely something the jailbreak community can figure out for themselves. But at the same time, Apple does have a point that there is the fundamental burden that producing this software will slightly (though not catastrophically) weaken the security of their existing phones.

Can the Apple code be misused? (Partly Retracted)

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2016/03/can-apple-code-be-misused.html

Dan Guido (@DGuido), who knows more about iOS than I do, wants me to retract this post. I’m willing to retract it based solely on his word, but he won’t give me any details as to what specifically he objects to. I’m an expert in reverse-engineering and software development, but I admit there may be something to specific to iOS (such as how it encrypts firmware) that I may not know.This post will respond to the tweet by Orin Kerr:Tech help: What are the best responses to DOJ claims in new Apple/FBI brief re whether code could be misused? Thks. pic.twitter.com/V08EcV9Rev— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) March 11, 2016The government is right that the software must be signed by Apple and made to only work on Farook’s phone, but the situation is more complicated than that.The basic flaw in this picture is jailbreaks. This is a process of finding some hack that gets around Apple’s “signing” security layer. Jailbreaks are popular in the user community, especially China, when people want to run software not approved by Apple. When the government says “intact security”, it means “non-jailbroken”.Each new version of iOS requires the discovery of some new hack to enable jailbreaking. Hacking teams compete to see who can ship a new jailbreak to users, and other companies sell jailbreaks to intelligence agencies. Once jailbroken, the signing is bypassed, as is the second technique of locking the software specifically to Farook’s phone.Details are more complicated than this. The issue isn’t that jailbreaks will allow this software to run. Instead, the issue is that jailbreaks can reverse-engineer this software to grab its secrets, and then use those secrets on other phones.A more important flaw in this reasoning is the creation of the source code itself. This is the human readable form of the code written by the Apple engineers. This will later be compiled into “binary code” then signed. It’s at the source code stage that Apple is most in danger of losing secrets.Let’s assume that Apple is infiltrated by spies from the NSA and the Chinese. Some secrets can still be kept, such as the signing keys for the software. Other secrets cannot be kept, such as source code. It’s likely the NSA and/or Chinese have stolen Apple’s source code multiple times. Indeed, most of the source is public anyway (the Darwin operating system, Webkit, etc.). It’s not something Apple is too concerned about — as long as the source doesn’t get published.When Apple writes this specific tool for the FBI, it’ll be very hard to keep that source out of the hands of such spies. It’s possible to keep it secret, but only through burdonsome heroic efforts on Apple’s part that certainly weren’t part of its initial estimate.More important than the source code, though, are the ideas. Code is expressive speech that communicates ideas. Even when engineers forget the details of source code, they can still retain these ideas. Years later, they can recall those ideas and use them. I give a real example of this in my previous post on expressiveness of code. Apple cannot contain these ideas. The engineers in question, after building the code, can immediately quit Apple and got to to work for Chinese jailbreak companies or American defense contractors for twice the salary. And it’s completely legal.It’s like a Hollywood failed movie project. In the end, they decide not to move forward with the project, shutting it down. The employees then go off to different companies, taking those ideas with them, using them in unrelated movie projects. That’s the story told in the award-winning documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which ties that production to other unrelated movies, like Alien, Star Wars, and Terminator.Orin goes onto ask:@ErrataRob Given that it only takes a few days to write the source code, isn’t that pretty much true now?— Orin Kerr (@OrinKerr) March 11, 2016It will likely take more than a few days to write the code. The FBI misrepresents the task as consisting of only a few lines of code. But Apple estimates a much larger project. Though to be fair, some of that is testing, packaging, and documentation unrelated to the amount of code written.The task will likely require different skills from multiple engineers, rather than being the output of a single engineer. That’s because it’s possible no single engineer has all the necessary skills. However, all the engineers involved will still walk away with the entire picture, able to recreate the work on their own when working for the Chinese or Booz-Allen.In the end, it’s not a huge secret that Apple will be losing. For the most part, the “backdoor” already exists, the only question is how best to exploit it. It’s likely something the jailbreak community can figure out for themselves. But at the same time, Apple does have a point that there is the fundamental burden that producing this software will slightly (though not catastrophically) weaken the security of their existing phones.

Poland vs the United States: suburban sprawl

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2015/06/poland-vs-united-states-suburban-sprawl.html

This is the eighth article in a short series about Poland, Europe, and the United States. To explore the entire series, start here.

If you live in any other western country, your perception of the United States is bound to be profoundly influenced by Hollywood. You may think you’re immune to it, but you are not: sure, you can sneer at the ridiculous plot holes or the gratuitous patriotism in American blockbusters – but the establishing shots of high-rise cityscapes of Manhattan or Los Angeles will be seared into your mind. These images will color your expectations and your understanding of the country in more ways than you may expect.

Because of this phenomenon, urban dwellers from Europe who come to visit the US may be in for a surprise: the country will probably feel a lot more rural than they would have thought. They will get to marvel the grand cities and the iconic skyscrapers; but chances are, this scenery will quickly morph not into the familiar urban jungle of massive apartment blocks seen throughout much of Europe, but into the endless suburban sprawl of single-family homes and strip malls.

For most Americans, this vast, low-density suburban landscape is the backdrop of their everyday lives. Take San Francisco: just 800,000 people live in the city proper. The San Francisco Bay Area, the home to 8 million residents and the location of the largest and most influential tech hub in the world, is nothing more than an enormous stretch of greenery peppered with detached homes, unassuming two-story office buildings, and roadside car dealerships. Heck, even New York City, by far the largest urban conglomeration in America, is just a blip on the radar compared to the colossal suburban sprawl that engulfs the region – stretching all the way from Massachusetts to Washington D.C.

The raw numbers paint a similar picture: in Poland, the average population density is around 125 people per square kilometer; in the more densely populated Germany, the figure is closer to 220. In comparison, with fewer than 35 people per km2, the United States comes out looking like a barren wasteland. The country has many expanses of untouched wilderness – and quite a few rural regions where the residents get by without as little as a postal address, a nearby fire station, a police department, or a hospital.

Awareness of the predominantly suburban and rural character of much of the US is vital to understanding some the national stereotypes that may seem bizarre or archaic to urban-dwelling Europeans. It certainly helps explain the limited availability of public transportation, or the residents’ love for rifles and gas-guzzling pickup trucks. The survivalist “prepper” culture, focused on self-sufficiency in the face of disaster, is another cultural phenomenon that although seemingly odd, is not just pure lunacy; in the past few decades, millions of Americans had to evacuate or dig in in response to hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or floods.

The stark difference between urban and rural living can also make it easier to grasp some of the ideological clashes between the big-city liberal progressives and the traditionally conservative dwellers of the so-called “flyover states”. Sometimes, the conservatives are simply on the wrong side of history; but on some other occasions, the city-raised politicians, scholars, and journalists are too eager to paint the whole nation with the same brush. Take something as trivial as car efficiency standards: they will rub you one way if you take subway to the office and drive your compact car to the grocery store; and another if you ever needed to haul firewood or construction materials on the back of your Ford F-150.

For the next article in the series, click here.

Poland vs the United States: suburban sprawl

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2015/06/poland-vs-united-states-suburban-sprawl.html

This is the eighth article in a short series about Poland, Europe, and the United States. To explore the entire series, start here.

If you live in any other western country, your perception of the United States is bound to be profoundly influenced by Hollywood. You may think you’re immune to it, but you are not: sure, you can sneer at the ridiculous plot holes or the gratuitous patriotism in American blockbusters – but the establishing shots of high-rise cityscapes of Manhattan or Los Angeles will be seared into your mind. These images will color your expectations and your understanding of the country in more ways than you may expect.

Because of this phenomenon, urban dwellers from Europe who come to visit the US may be in for a surprise: the country will probably feel a lot more rural than they would have thought. They will get to marvel the grand cities and the iconic skyscrapers; but chances are, this scenery will quickly morph not into the familiar urban jungle of massive apartment blocks seen throughout much of Europe, but into the endless suburban sprawl of single-family homes and strip malls.

For most Americans, this vast, low-density suburban landscape is the backdrop of their everyday lives. Take San Francisco: just 800,000 people live in the city proper. The San Francisco Bay Area, the home to 8 million residents and the location of the largest and most influential tech hub in the world, is nothing more than an enormous stretch of greenery peppered with detached homes, unassuming two-story office buildings, and roadside car dealerships. Heck, even New York City, by far the largest urban conglomeration in America, is just a blip on the radar compared to the colossal suburban sprawl that engulfs the region – stretching all the way from Massachusetts to Washington D.C.

The raw numbers paint a similar picture: in Poland, the average population density is around 125 people per square kilometer; in the more densely populated Germany, the figure is closer to 220. In comparison, with fewer than 35 people per km2, the United States comes out looking like a barren wasteland. The country has many expanses of untouched wilderness – and quite a few rural regions where the residents get by without as little as a postal address, a nearby fire station, a police department, or a hospital.

Awareness of the predominantly suburban and rural character of much of the US is vital to understanding some the national stereotypes that may seem bizarre or archaic to urban-dwelling Europeans. It certainly helps explain the limited availability of public transportation, or the residents’ love for rifles and gas-guzzling pickup trucks. The survivalist “prepper” culture, focused on self-sufficiency in the face of disaster, is another cultural phenomenon that although seemingly odd, is not just pure lunacy; in the past few decades, millions of Americans had to evacuate or dig in in response to hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or floods.

The stark difference between urban and rural living can also make it easier to grasp some of the ideological clashes between the big-city liberal progressives and the traditionally conservative dwellers of the so-called “flyover states”. Sometimes, the conservatives are simply on the wrong side of history; but on some other occasions, the city-raised politicians, scholars, and journalists are too eager to paint the whole nation with the same brush. Take something as trivial as car efficiency standards: they will rub you one way if you take subway to the office and drive your compact car to the grocery store; and another if you ever needed to haul firewood or construction materials on the back of your Ford F-150.

For the next article in the series, click here.

IQ in the Movies

Post Syndicated from Lennart Poettering original http://0pointer.net/blog/iq-in-the-movies.html

The (original) IQ Light is featured in the stylish and funny Hollywood movie Lucky Number Slevin:

Lucky Number Slevin Still

Related to this, don’t miss this small but beautiful gallery of a mobile built entirely from (mexican style) IQ lights of various sizes. I hope to post better quality pictures of the same mobile shortly:

IQ Gallery

Oh, and I am finally back in .de after my trip to .au and
linux.conf.au 2007/FOMS 2007. I hope to post a
recap of the conferences and their outcome for PulseAudio and Avahi shortly.

Thanks to the impressing work of Silvia Pfeiffer and the LCA video team there’s now a video of my PulseAudio presentation at LCA available online. (Ogg Theora, Java Cortado). Don’t miss it!

IQ in the Movies

Post Syndicated from Lennart Poettering original http://0pointer.net/blog/iq-in-the-movies.html

The (original) IQ Light is featured in the stylish and funny Hollywood movie Lucky Number Slevin:

Lucky Number Slevin Still

Related to this, don’t miss this small but beautiful gallery of a mobile built entirely from (mexican style) IQ lights of various sizes. I hope to post better quality pictures of the same mobile shortly:

IQ Gallery

Oh, and I am finally back in .de after my trip to .au and
linux.conf.au 2007/FOMS 2007. I hope to post a
recap of the conferences and their outcome for PulseAudio and Avahi shortly.

Thanks to the impressing work of Silvia Pfeiffer and the LCA video team there’s now a video of my PulseAudio presentation at LCA available online. (Ogg Theora, Java Cortado). Don’t miss it!