Tag Archives: jail

Hong Kong Customs Arrest Pirate Streaming Device Vendors

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hong-kong-customs-arrest-pirate-streaming-device-vendors-180529/

As Internet-capable set-top boxes pour into homes across all populated continents, authorities seem almost powerless to come up with a significant response to the growing threat.

In standard form these devices, which are often Android-based, are entirely legal. However, when configured with specialist software they become piracy powerhouses providing access to all content imaginable, often at copyright holders’ expense.

A large proportion of these devices come from Asia, China in particular, but it’s relatively rare to hear of enforcement action in that part of the world. That changed this week with an announcement from Hong Kong customs detailing a series of raids in the areas of Sham Shui Po and Wan Chai.

After conducting an in-depth investigation with the assistance of copyright holders, on May 25 and 26 Customs and Excise officers launched Operation Trojan Horse, carrying out a series of raids on four premises selling suspected piracy-configured set-top boxes.

During the operation, officers arrested seven men and one woman aged between 18 and 45. Four of them were shop owners and the other four were salespeople. Around 354 suspected ‘pirate’ boxes were seized with an estimated market value of HK$320,000 (US$40,700).

“In the past few months, the department has stepped up inspections of hotspots for TV set-top boxes,” a statement from authorities reads.

“We have discovered that some shops have sold suspected illegal set-top boxes that bypass the copyright protection measures imposed by copyright holders of pay television programs allowing people to watch pay television programs for free.”

Some of the devices seized by Hong Kong Customs

During a press conference yesterday, a representative from the Customs Copyright and Trademark Investigations (Action) Division said that in the run up to the World Cup in 2018, measures against copyright infringement will be strengthened both on and online.

The announcement was welcomed by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia’s (CASBAA) Coalition Against Piracy, which is back by industry heavyweights including Disney, Fox, HBO Asia, NBCUniversal, Premier League, Turner Asia-Pacific, A&E Networks, Astro, BBC Worldwide, National Basketball Association, TV5MONDE, Viacom International, and others.

“We commend the great work of Hong Kong Customs in clamping down on syndicates who profit from the sale of Illicit Streaming Devices,” said General Manager Neil Gane.

“The prevalence of ISDs in Hong Kong and across South East Asia is staggering. The criminals who sell ISDs, as well as those who operate the ISD networks and pirate websites, are profiting from the hard work of talented creators, seriously damaging the legitimate content ecosystem as well as exposing consumers to dangerous malware.”

Malware warnings are very prevalent these days but it’s not something the majority of set-top box owners have a problem with. Indeed, a study carried by Sycamore Research found that pirates aren’t easily deterred by such warnings.

Nevertheless, there are definite risks for individuals selling devices when they’re configured for piracy.

Recent cases, particularly in the UK, have shown that hefty jail sentences can hit offenders while over in the United States (1,2,3), lawsuits filed by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) have the potential to end in unfavorable rulings for multiple defendants.

Although rarely reported, offenders in Hong Kong also face stiff sentences for this kind of infringement including large fines and custodial sentences of up to four years.

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

Fully-Loaded Kodi Box Sellers Receive Hefty Jail Sentences

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/fully-loaded-kodi-box-sellers-receive-hefty-jail-sentences-180524/

While users of older peer-to-peer based file-sharing systems have to work relatively hard to obtain content, users of the Kodi media player have things an awful lot easier.

As standard, Kodi is perfectly legal. However, when augmented with third-party add-ons it becomes a media discovery powerhouse, providing most of the content anyone could desire. A system like this can be set up by the user but for many, buying a so-called “fully-loaded” box from a seller is the easier option.

As a result, hundreds – probably thousands – of cottage industries have sprung up to service this hungry market in the UK, with regular people making a business out of setting up and selling such devices. Until three years ago, that’s what Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber of Colwyn Bay, Wales, found themselves doing.

According to reports in local media, Jarman was arrested in January 2015 when police were called to a disturbance at Jarman and Forber’s home. A large number of devices were spotted and an investigation was launched by Trading Standards officers. The pair were later arrested and charged with fraud offenses.

While 37-year-old Jarman pleaded guilty, 36-year-old Forber initially denied the charges and was due to stand trial. However, she later changed her mind and like Jarman, pleaded guilty to participating in a fraudulent business. Forber also pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property by shifting cash from the scheme through various bank accounts.

The pair attended a sentencing hearing before Judge Niclas Parry at Caernarfon Crown Court yesterday. According to local reporter Eryl Crump, the Court heard that the couple had run their business for about two years, selling around 1,000 fully-loaded Kodi-enabled devices for £100 each via social media.

According to David Birrell for the prosecution, the operation wasn’t particularly sophisticated but it involved Forber programming the devices as well as handling customer service. Forber claimed she was forced into the scheme by Jarman but that claim was rejected by the prosecution.

Between February 2013 and January 2015 the pair banked £105,000 from the business, money that was transferred between bank accounts in an effort to launder the takings.

Reporting from Court via Twitter, Crump said that Jarman’s defense lawyer accepted that a prison sentence was inevitable for his client but asked for the most lenient sentence possible.

Forber’s lawyer pointed out she had no previous convictions. The mother-of-two broke up with Jarman following her arrest and is now back in work and studying at college.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Niclas Parry described the offenses as a “relatively sophisticated fraud” carried out over a significant period. He jailed Jarman for 21 months and Forber for 16 months, suspended for two years. She must also carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

The pair will also face a Proceeds of Crime investigation which could see them paying large sums to the state, should any assets be recoverable.

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

Infamous ‘Kodi Box’ Case Sees Man Pay Back Just £1 to the State

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/infamous-kodi-box-case-sees-man-pay-back-just-1-to-the-state-180507/

In 2015, Middlesbrough-based shopkeeper Brian ‘Tomo’ Thompson shot into the headlines after being raided by police and Trading Standards in the UK.

Thompson had been selling “fully-loaded” piracy-configured Kodi boxes from his shop but didn’t think he’d done anything wrong.

“All I want to know is whether I am doing anything illegal. I know it’s a gray area but I want it in black and white,” he said.

Thompson started out with a particularly brave tone. He insisted he’d take the case to Crown Court and even to the European Court. His mission was show what was legal and what wasn’t, he said.

Very quickly, Thompson’s case took on great importance, with observers everywhere reporting on a potential David versus Goliath copyright battle for the ages. But Thompson’s case wasn’t straightforward.

The shopkeeper wasn’t charged with basic “making available” under the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Acts that would have found him guilty under the earlier BREIN v Filmspeler case. Instead, he stood accused of two offenses under section 296ZB of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, which deals with devices and services designed to “circumvent technological measures”.

In the end it was all moot. After entering his official ‘not guilty’ plea, last year Thompson suddenly changed his tune. He accepted the prosecution’s version of events, throwing himself at the mercy of the court with a guilty plea.

In October 2017, Teeside Crown Court heard that Thompson cost Sky around £200,000 in lost subscriptions while the shopkeeper made around £38,500 from selling the devices. But despite the fairly big numbers, Judge Peter Armstrong decided to go reasonably light on the 55-year-old, handing him an 18-month prison term, suspended for two years.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that in all the circumstances an immediate custodial sentence is not called for. But as a warning to others in future, they may not be so lucky,” the Judge said.

But things wouldn’t end there for Thompson.

In the UK, people who make money or obtain assets from criminal activity can be forced to pay back their profits, which are then confiscated by the state under the Proceeds of Crime Act (pdf). Almost anything can be taken, from straight cash to cars, jewellery and houses.

However, it appears that whatever cash Thompson earned from Kodi Box activities has long since gone.

During a Proceeds of Crime hearing reported on by Gazette Live, the Court heard that Thompson has no assets whatsoever so any confiscation order would have to be a small one.

In the end, Judge Simon Hickey decided that Thompson should forfeit a single pound, an amount that could increase if the businessman got lucky moving forward.

“If anything changes in the future, for instance if you win the lottery, it might come back,” the Judge said.

With that seeming particularly unlikely, perhaps this will be the end for Thompson. Considering the gravity and importance placed on his case, zero jail time and just a £1 to pay back will probably be acceptable to the 55-year-old and also a lesson to the authorities, who have gotten very little out of this expensive case.

Who knows, perhaps they might sum up the outcome using the same eight-letter word that Thompson can be seen half-covering in this photograph.

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

The 4.16 kernel is out

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/750693/rss

Linus has released the 4.16 kernel, as
expected. “We had a number of fixes and cleanups elsewhere, but none
of it made me go ‘uhhuh, better let this soak for another week’
“.
Some of the headline changes in this release include initial support for
the Jailhouse
hypervisor, the usercopy whitelisting
hardening patches, some improvements to the deadline scheduler and, of
course, a lot of Meltdown and Spectre mitigation work.

Weekly roundup: Potpourri 2

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/dev/2018/01/23/weekly-roundup-potpourri-2/

  • blog: I wrote a birthday post, as is tradition. I finally finished writing Game Night 2, a full month after we actually played those games.

  • art: I put together an art improvement chart for last year, after skipping doing it in July, tut tut. Kind of a weird rollercoaster!

    I worked a teeny bit on two one-off comics I guess but they aren’t reeeally getting anywhere fast. Comics are hard.

    I made a banner for Strawberry Jam 2 which I think came out fantastically!

  • games: I launched Strawberry Jam 2, a month-long February game jam about making horny games. I will probably be making a horny game for it.

  • idchoppers: I took another crack at dilation. Some meager progress, maybe. I think I’m now porting bad academic C++ to Rust to get the algorithm I want, and I can’t help but wonder if I could just make up something of my own faster than this.

  • fox flux: I did a bunch of brainstorming and consolidated a bunch of notes from like four different places, which feels like work but also feels like it doesn’t actually move the project forward.

  • anise!!: Ah, yes, this fell a bit by the wayside. Some map work, some attempts at a 3D effect for a particular thing without much luck (though I found a workaround in the last couple days).

  • computers: I relieved myself of some 200 browser tabs, which feels fantastic, though I’ve since opened like 80 more. Alas. I also tried to put together a firejail profile for running mystery games from the internet, and I got like 90% of the way there, but it turns out there’s basically no way to stop an X application from reading all keyboard input.

    (Yes, I know about that, and I tried it. Yes, that too.)

I’ve got a small pile of little projects that are vaguely urgent, so as much as I’d love to bash my head against idchoppers for a solid week, I’m gonna try to focus on getting a couple half-done things full-done. And maybe try to find time for art regularly so I don’t fall out of practice? Huff puff.

Каталуния отново каза “Да”

Post Syndicated from Йовко Ламбрев original https://yovko.net/catalonia-si/

Каталуния отново каза

Партиите, подкрепящи независимостта на Каталуния, запазиха подкрепата на избирателите си, въпреки всички противодействия срещу тях. Двете формации от бившата коалиция „Заедно за Да“ (ERC и JxC) печелят общо 66 депутатски места или с 4 повече от 2015 г., когато заложиха на коалиционния формат. Техният по-малък партньор в досегашното управление CUP губи 6 от десетте си места, но със спечелените 4 общият сбор на трите партии, които застанаха зад процеса за независимост и провъзгласиха Република Каталуния, става 70 – с две по-малко от тези, на които разчиташе досегашното управление, суспендирано от Мадрид след задействане на чл.155 от Конституцията на Испания. Но в каталунския парламент за абсолютно мнозинство са нужни 68 депутата, тъй като всички мандати са 135.

Този резултат на извънредните избори вчера има още по-голяма тежест и заради невижданата досега рекордна активност от 82% гласували. При това след безобразното насилие, което насъсканата испанска жандармерия упражни върху каталунците на 1 октомври, арестите на граждански активисти и политици, част от които още не са освободени, с кандидат и лидер на една от партиите в затвора, досегашен вицепремиер и бивш член на Европейския парламент Ориол Жункерас, друг кандидат и лидер на друга партия в изгнание и досегашен премиер Карлес Пудждемон, огромна медийна машина, която бе впрегната в пропаганда и манипулации и няколко пъти удари дъното на журналистическия морал и етика, сваляне на сайтове, медийно затъмнение по много неудобни теми, суспендирано самоуправление и военни заплахи от Мадрид.

Мариано Рахой не можеше да загуби по-звучно тези избори, които сам си свика. Народната му партия (Partido Popular) губи 8 от 11-те си депутатски места и с останалите три, които запазва, ще бъде най-малката в каталунския парламент. Шамарът за поне седемгодишното неглижиране на проблема и съзнателното му ескалиране е напълно заслужен!

[![](https://yovko.net/content/images/2017/12/Screen-Shot-2017-12-22-at-15.18.06.png)](https://yovko.net/content/images/2017/12/Screen-Shot-2017-12-22-at-15.18.06.png)
Източник: Politico.eu – Charts: How Catalonia voted – (https://goo.gl/sqbpve)

Партия Гражданите (Ciudadanos), която успя да се превъплати в основния изразител на настроенията на антииндепендистите, формално печели изборите, но с едва 37 депутати и с малкото възможни опции за коалиция шансовете им да успеят да съставят кабинет са от минимални до никакви, дори и за правителство на малцинството.

We had our hands tied behind our back, with our political leaders in jail and exile, forbidden to use even the color yellow and WE STILL WIN. Imagine how much better we would’ve done if we had been at full strength. #Catalonia

— Liz Castro (@lizcastro) December 21, 2017

Лиз е писателка и моя позната, американка, която живее в Барселона, доскоро член на секретариата на Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) – гражданската организация, която се роди от уличните демонстрации през 2010 г., и от 2011 г. е ключов фактор в каталунското движение за независимост. Днес всъщност в друг свой туит тя изказа есенцията за причината да не се допусне референдум на всяка цена и тя е, че “днес е ясно какъв винаги е бил големият проблем – референдумът за независимост може да бъде спечелен и при най-лошите условия”.

Какво следва? Развръзката очевидно няма как да намерим в резултатите от тези избори, които реално препотвърждават разпределението на силите в сходна пропорция на ситуацията от предишните такива през 2015 г. Ситуацията (и пропорцията) се повтаря от 2012 г. насам, но докато тогава активността беше 67%, през 2015 г. – 74%, сега вече 82% от хората с право на глас са политически ангажирани да заемат позиция. Което при всички случаи е позитивно, защото е знак за жив демократичен процес и за чувствителност, която не може да бъде заметена под килима, независимо какво е удобно на Мадрид или Брюксел.

Рахой разчиташе, че ескалацията на конфликта ще втвърди електората му, защото независимо че българските медии удобно пропускат да наричат националистически неговите изблици, защото са резервирали думичката само за привържениците на Пудждемон и Жункерас – те са именно такива. Народната партия от умерено дясно-консервативна се връща все повече към злокобните си корени на крайнодесния национализъм и колкото по-рано в Европа си отворим очите за това, ще е по-безопасно за всички. Рахой е онзи типаж политици, които не могат да губят. Не притежава и особен интелект или въображение. Сега, притиснат до ъгъла, може да бъде още по-опасен, особено ако ЕС продължава със стратегията на широко затворените очи.

За Юнкер, Таяни, Туск и компания ще е трудно да не признаят толкова ангажиран вот и да продължават да неглижират авторитета на каталунски лидери, които хората подкрепят дори и в затвора или в изгнание. Да пазят Рахой вече ще е с цената на собствената им репутация. Митовете, че бягството на Пудждемон зад граница е разколебало поддръжниците му или явяването на левицата на Жункерас (ERC) отделно от дясно-либералната коалиция JxC ще свие подкрепата за тях рухнаха звучно. Както и цяла купчина други легенди, съшити с бели конци…

Все още единственият рационален изход от кризата е постижим чрез преговори и дипломация – най-добре с явна посредническа роля на Европа/ЕС.

P.S. Германия най-накрая понатисна Рахой

Каталуния отново каза “Да”

Post Syndicated from Йовко Ламбрев original https://yovko.net/catalonia-si/

Каталуния отново каза

Партиите, подкрепящи независимостта на Каталуния, запазиха подкрепата на избирателите си, въпреки всички противодействия срещу тях. Двете формации от бившата коалиция „Заедно за Да“ (ERC и JxC) печелят общо 66 депутатски места или с 4 повече от 2015 г., когато заложиха на коалиционния формат. Техният по-малък партньор в досегашното управление CUP губи 6 от десетте си места, но със спечелените 4 общият сбор на трите партии, които застанаха зад процеса за независимост и провъзгласиха Република Каталуния, става 70 – с две по-малко от тези, на които разчиташе досегашното управление, суспендирано от Мадрид след задействане на чл.155 от Конституцията на Испания. Но в каталунския парламент за абсолютно мнозинство са нужни 68 депутата, тъй като всички мандати са 135.

Този резултат на извънредните избори вчера има още по-голяма тежест и заради невижданата досега рекордна активност от 82% гласували. При това след безобразното насилие, което насъсканата испанска жандармерия упражни върху каталунците на 1 октомври, арестите на граждански активисти и политици, част от които още не са освободени, с кандидат и лидер на една от партиите в затвора, досегашен вицепремиер и бивш член на Европейския парламент Ориол Жункерас, друг кандидат и лидер на друга партия в изгнание и досегашен премиер Карлес Пудждемон, огромна медийна машина, която бе впрегната в пропаганда и манипулации и няколко пъти удари дъното на журналистическия морал и етика, сваляне на сайтове, медийно затъмнение по много неудобни теми, суспендирано самоуправление и военни заплахи от Мадрид.

Мариано Рахой не можеше да загуби по-звучно тези избори, които сам си свика. Народната му партия (Partido Popular) губи 8 от 11-те си депутатски места и с останалите три, които запазва, ще бъде най-малката в каталунския парламент. Шамарът за поне седемгодишното неглижиране на проблема и съзнателното му ескалиране е напълно заслужен!

[![](https://yovko.net/content/images/2017/12/Screen-Shot-2017-12-22-at-15.18.06.png)](https://yovko.net/content/images/2017/12/Screen-Shot-2017-12-22-at-15.18.06.png)
Източник: Politico.eu – Charts: How Catalonia voted – (https://goo.gl/sqbpve)

Партия Гражданите (Ciudadanos), която успя да се превъплати в основния изразител на настроенията на антииндепендистите, формално печели изборите, но с едва 37 депутати и с малкото възможни опции за коалиция шансовете им да успеят да съставят кабинет са от минимални до никакви, дори и за правителство на малцинството.

We had our hands tied behind our back, with our political leaders in jail and exile, forbidden to use even the color yellow and WE STILL WIN. Imagine how much better we would’ve done if we had been at full strength. #Catalonia

— Liz Castro (@lizcastro) December 21, 2017

Лиз е писателка и моя позната, американка, която живее в Барселона, доскоро член на секретариата на Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) – гражданската организация, която се роди от уличните демонстрации през 2010 г., и от 2011 г. е ключов фактор в каталунското движение за независимост. Днес всъщност в друг свой туит тя изказа есенцията за причината да не се допусне референдум на всяка цена и тя е, че “днес е ясно какъв винаги е бил големият проблем – референдумът за независимост може да бъде спечелен и при най-лошите условия”.

Какво следва? Развръзката очевидно няма как да намерим в резултатите от тези избори, които реално препотвърждават разпределението на силите в сходна пропорция на ситуацията от предишните такива през 2015 г. Ситуацията (и пропорцията) се повтаря от 2012 г. насам, но докато тогава активността беше 67%, през 2015 г. – 74%, сега вече 82% от хората с право на глас са политически ангажирани да заемат позиция. Което при всички случаи е позитивно, защото е знак за жив демократичен процес и за чувствителност, която не може да бъде заметена под килима, независимо какво е удобно на Мадрид или Брюксел.

Рахой разчиташе, че ескалацията на конфликта ще втвърди електората му, защото независимо че българските медии удобно пропускат да наричат националистически неговите изблици, защото са резервирали думичката само за привържениците на Пудждемон и Жункерас – те са именно такива. Народната партия от умерено дясно-консервативна се връща все повече към злокобните си корени на крайнодесния национализъм и колкото по-рано в Европа си отворим очите за това, ще е по-безопасно за всички. Рахой е онзи типаж политици, които не могат да губят. Не притежава и особен интелект или въображение. Сега, притиснат до ъгъла, може да бъде още по-опасен, особено ако ЕС продължава със стратегията на широко затворените очи.

За Юнкер, Таяни, Туск и компания ще е трудно да не признаят толкова ангажиран вот и да продължават да неглижират авторитета на каталунски лидери, които хората подкрепят дори и в затвора или в изгнание. Да пазят Рахой вече ще е с цената на собствената им репутация. Митовете, че бягството на Пудждемон зад граница е разколебало поддръжниците му или явяването на левицата на Жункерас (ERC) отделно от дясно-либералната коалиция JxC ще свие подкрепата за тях рухнаха звучно. Както и цяла купчина други легенди, съшити с бели конци…

Все още единственият рационален изход от кризата е постижим чрез преговори и дипломация – най-добре с явна посредническа роля на Европа/ЕС.

P.S. Германия най-накрая понатисна Рахой

Каталуния отново каза „Да“

Post Syndicated from Йовко Ламбрев original https://yovko.net/catalonia-si/

Партиите, подкрепящи независимостта на Каталуния, запазиха подкрепата на избирателите си, въпреки всички противодействия срещу тях. Двете формации от бившата коалиция „Заедно за Да“ (ERC и JxC) печелят общо 66 депутатски места или с 4 повече от 2015 г., когато заложиха на коалиционния формат. Техният по-малък партньор в досегашното управление CUP губи 6 от десетте си места, но със спечелените 4 общият сбор на трите партии, които застанаха зад процеса за независимост и провъзгласиха Република Каталуния, става 70 – с две по-малко от тези, на които разчиташе досегашното управление, суспендирано от Мадрид след задействане на чл.155 от Конституцията на Испания. Но в каталунския парламент за абсолютно мнозинство са нужни 68 депутата, тъй като всички мандати са 135.

Този резултат на извънредните избори вчера има още по-голяма тежест и заради невижданата досега рекордна активност от 82% гласували. При това след безобразното насилие, което насъсканата испанска жандармерия упражни върху каталунците на 1 октомври, арестите на граждански активисти и политици, част от които още не са освободени, с кандидат и лидер на една от партиите в затвора, досегашен вицепремиер и бивш член на Европейския парламент Ориол Жункерас, друг кандидат и лидер на друга партия в изгнание и досегашен премиер Карлес Пудждемон, огромна медийна машина, която бе впрегната в пропаганда и манипулации и няколко пъти удари дъното на журналистическия морал и етика, сваляне на сайтове, медийно затъмнение по много неудобни теми, суспендирано самоуправление и военни заплахи от Мадрид.

Мариано Рахой не можеше да загуби по-звучно тези избори, които сам си свика. Народната му партия (Partido Popular) губи 8 от 11-те си депутатски места и с останалите три, които запазва, ще бъде най-малката в каталунския парламент. Шамарът за поне седемгодишното неглижиране на проблема и съзнателното му ескалиране е напълно заслужен!

Източник: Politico.eu – Charts: How Catalonia voted – (https://goo.gl/sqbpve)

Партия Гражданите (Ciudadanos), която успя да се превъплати в основния изразител на настроенията на антииндепендистите, формално печели изборите, но с едва 37 депутати и с малкото възможни опции за коалиция шансовете им да успеят да съставят кабинет са от минимални до никакви, дори и за правителство на малцинството.

Лиз е писателка и моя позната, американка, която живее в Барселона, доскоро член на секретариата на Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC) – гражданската организация, която се роди от уличните демонстрации през 2010 г., и от 2011 г. е ключов фактор в каталунското движение за независимост. Днес всъщност в друг свой туит тя изказа есенцията за причината да не се допусне референдум на всяка цена и тя е, че “днес е ясно какъв винаги е бил големият проблем – референдумът за независимост може да бъде спечелен и при най-лошите условия”.

Какво следва? Развръзката очевидно няма как да намерим в резултатите от тези избори, които реално препотвърждават разпределението на силите в сходна пропорция на ситуацията от предишните такива през 2015 г. Ситуацията (и пропорцията) се повтаря от 2012 г. насам, но докато тогава активността беше 67%, през 2015 г. – 74%, сега вече 82% от хората с право на глас са политически ангажирани да заемат позиция. Което при всички случаи е позитивно, защото е знак за жив демократичен процес и за чувствителност, която не може да бъде заметена под килима, независимо какво е удобно на Мадрид или Брюксел.

Рахой разчиташе, че ескалацията на конфликта ще втвърди електората му, защото независимо че българските медии удобно пропускат да наричат националистически неговите изблици, защото са резервирали думичката само за привържениците на Пудждемон и Жункерас – те са именно такива. Народната партия от умерено дясно-консервативна се връща все повече към злокобните си корени на крайнодесния национализъм и колкото по-рано в Европа си отворим очите за това, ще е по-безопасно за всички. Рахой е онзи типаж политици, които не могат да губят. Не притежава и особен интелект или въображение. Сега, притиснат до ъгъла, може да бъде още по-опасен, особено ако ЕС продължава със стратегията на широко затворените очи.

За Юнкер, Таяни, Туск и компания ще е трудно да не признаят толкова ангажиран вот и да продължават да неглижират авторитета на каталунски лидери, които хората подкрепят дори и в затвора или в изгнание. Да пазят Рахой вече ще е с цената на собствената им репутация. Митовете, че бягството на Пудждемон зад граница е разколебало поддръжниците му или явяването на левицата на Жункерас (ERC) отделно от дясно-либералната коалиция JxC ще свие подкрепата за тях рухнаха звучно. Както и цяла купчина други легенди, съшити с бели конци…

Все още единственият рационален изход от кризата е постижим чрез преговори и дипломация – най-добре с явна посредническа роля на Европа/ЕС.

P.S. Германия най-накрая понатисна Рахой

Parrot 3.10 is out

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/741777/rss

Parrot 3.10, the latest version of the security oriented GNU/Linux
distribution, has been released. “The first big news is the introduction of a full firejail+apparmor sandboxing system to proactively protect the OS by isolating its components with the combination of different tecniques. The first experiments were already introduced in Parrot 3.9 with the inclusion of firejail, but we took almost a month of hard work to make it even better with the improvement of many profiles, the introduction of the apparmor support and enough time to make all the tests.

The deal with Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-deal-with-bitcoin.html

♪ Used to have a little now I have a lot
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block
          chain ♪

For all that has been written about Bitcoin and its ilk, it is curious that the focus is almost solely what the cryptocurrencies are supposed to be. Technologists wax lyrical about the potential for blockchains to change almost every aspect of our lives. Libertarians and paleoconservatives ache for the return to “sound money” that can’t be conjured up at the whim of a bureaucrat. Mainstream economists wag their fingers, proclaiming that a proper currency can’t be deflationary, that it must maintain a particular velocity, or that the government must be able to nip crises of confidence in the bud. And so on.

Much of this may be true, but the proponents of cryptocurrencies should recognize that an appeal to consequences is not a guarantee of good results. The critics, on the other hand, would be best served to remember that they are drawing far-reaching conclusions about the effects of modern monetary policies based on a very short and tumultuous period in history.

In this post, my goal is to ditch most of the dogma, talk a bit about the origins of money – and then see how “crypto” fits the bill.

1. The prehistory of currencies

The emergence of money is usually explained in a very straightforward way. You know the story: a farmer raised a pig, a cobbler made a shoe. The cobbler needed to feed his family while the farmer wanted to keep his feet warm – and so they met to exchange the goods on mutually beneficial terms. But as the tale goes, the barter system had a fatal flaw: sometimes, a farmer wanted a cooking pot, a potter wanted a knife, and a blacksmith wanted a pair of pants. To facilitate increasingly complex, multi-step exchanges without requiring dozens of people to meet face to face, we came up with an abstract way to represent value – a shiny coin guaranteed to be accepted by every tradesman.

It is a nice parable, but it probably isn’t very true. It seems far more plausible that early societies relied on the concept of debt long before the advent of currencies: an informal tally or a formal ledger would be used to keep track of who owes what to whom. The concept of debt, closely associated with one’s trustworthiness and standing in the community, would have enabled a wide range of economic activities: debts could be paid back over time, transferred, renegotiated, or forgotten – all without having to engage in spot barter or to mint a single coin. In fact, such non-monetary, trust-based, reciprocal economies are still common in closely-knit communities: among families, neighbors, coworkers, or friends.

In such a setting, primitive currencies probably emerged simply as a consequence of having a system of prices: a cow being worth a particular number of chickens, a chicken being worth a particular number of beaver pelts, and so forth. Formalizing such relationships by settling on a single, widely-known unit of account – say, one chicken – would make it more convenient to transfer, combine, or split debts; or to settle them in alternative goods.

Contrary to popular belief, for communal ledgers, the unit of account probably did not have to be particularly desirable, durable, or easy to carry; it was simply an accounting tool. And indeed, we sometimes run into fairly unusual units of account even in modern times: for example, cigarettes can be the basis of a bustling prison economy even when most inmates don’t smoke and there are not that many packs to go around.

2. The age of commodity money

In the end, the development of coinage might have had relatively little to do with communal trade – and far more with the desire to exchange goods with strangers. When dealing with a unfamiliar or hostile tribe, the concept of a chicken-denominated ledger does not hold up: the other side might be disinclined to honor its obligations – and get away with it, too. To settle such problematic trades, we needed a “spot” medium of exchange that would be easy to carry and authenticate, had a well-defined value, and a near-universal appeal. Throughout much of the recorded history, precious metals – predominantly gold and silver – proved to fit the bill.

In the most basic sense, such commodities could be seen as a tool to reconcile debts across societal boundaries, without necessarily replacing any local units of account. An obligation, denominated in some local currency, would be created on buyer’s side in order to procure the metal for the trade. The proceeds of the completed transaction would in turn allow the seller to settle their own local obligations that arose from having to source the traded goods. In other words, our wondrous chicken-denominated ledgers could coexist peacefully with gold – and when commodity coinage finally took hold, it’s likely that in everyday trade, precious metals served more as a useful abstraction than a precise store of value. A “silver chicken” of sorts.

Still, the emergence of commodity money had one interesting side effect: it decoupled the unit of debt – a “claim on the society”, in a sense – from any moral judgment about its origin. A piece of silver would buy the same amount of food, whether earned through hard labor or won in a drunken bet. This disconnect remains a central theme in many of the debates about social justice and unfairly earned wealth.

3. The State enters the game

If there is one advantage of chicken ledgers over precious metals, it’s that all chickens look and cluck roughly the same – something that can’t be said of every nugget of silver or gold. To cope with this problem, we needed to shape raw commodities into pieces of a more predictable shape and weight; a trusted party could then stamp them with a mark to indicate the value and the quality of the coin.

At first, the task of standardizing coinage rested with private parties – but the responsibility was soon assumed by the State. The advantages of this transition seemed clear: a single, widely-accepted and easily-recognizable currency could be now used to settle virtually all private and official debts.

Alas, in what deserves the dubious distinction of being one of the earliest examples of monetary tomfoolery, some States succumbed to the temptation of fiddling with the coinage to accomplish anything from feeding the poor to waging wars. In particular, it would be common to stamp coins with the same face value but a progressively lower content of silver and gold. Perhaps surprisingly, the strategy worked remarkably well; at least in the times of peace, most people cared about the value stamped on the coin, not its precise composition or weight.

And so, over time, representative money was born: sooner or later, most States opted to mint coins from nearly-worthless metals, or print banknotes on paper and cloth. This radically new currency was accompanied with a simple pledge: the State offered to redeem it at any time for its nominal value in gold.

Of course, the promise was largely illusory: the State did not have enough gold to honor all the promises it had made. Still, as long as people had faith in their rulers and the redemption requests stayed low, the fundamental mechanics of this new representative currency remained roughly the same as before – and in some ways, were an improvement in that they lessened the insatiable demand for a rare commodity. Just as importantly, the new money still enabled international trade – using the underlying gold exchange rate as a reference point.

4. Fractional reserve banking and fiat money

For much of the recorded history, banking was an exceptionally dull affair, not much different from running a communal chicken
ledger of the old. But then, something truly marvelous happened in the 17th century: around that time, many European countries have witnessed
the emergence of fractional-reserve banks.

These private ventures operated according to a simple scheme: they accepted people’s coin
for safekeeping, promising to pay a premium on every deposit made. To meet these obligations and to make a profit, the banks then
used the pooled deposits to make high-interest loans to other folks. The financiers figured out that under normal circumstances
and when operating at a sufficient scale, they needed only a very modest reserve – well under 10% of all deposited money – to be
able to service the usual volume and size of withdrawals requested by their customers. The rest could be loaned out.

The very curious consequence of fractional-reserve banking was that it pulled new money out of thin air.
The funds were simultaneously accounted for in the statements shown to the depositor, evidently available for withdrawal or
transfer at any time; and given to third-party borrowers, who could spend them on just about anything. Heck, the borrowers could
deposit the proceeds in another bank, creating even more money along the way! Whatever they did, the sum of all funds in the monetary
system now appeared much higher than the value of all coins and banknotes issued by the government – let alone the amount of gold
sitting in any vault.

Of course, no new money was being created in any physical sense: all that banks were doing was engaging in a bit of creative accounting – the sort of which would probably land you in jail if you attempted it today in any other comparably vital field of enterprise. If too many depositors were to ask for their money back, or if too many loans were to go bad, the banking system would fold. Fortunes would evaporate in a puff of accounting smoke, and with the disappearance of vast quantities of quasi-fictitious (“broad”) money, the wealth of the entire nation would shrink.

In the early 20th century, the world kept witnessing just that; a series of bank runs and economic contractions forced the governments around the globe to act. At that stage, outlawing fractional-reserve banking was no longer politically or economically tenable; a simpler alternative was to let go of gold and move to fiat money – a currency implemented as an abstract social construct, with no predefined connection to the physical realm. A new breed of economists saw the role of the government not in trying to peg the value of money to an inflexible commodity, but in manipulating its supply to smooth out economic hiccups or to stimulate growth.

(Contrary to popular beliefs, such manipulation is usually not done by printing new banknotes; more sophisticated methods, such as lowering reserve requirements for bank deposits or enticing banks to invest its deposits into government-issued securities, are the preferred route.)

The obvious peril of fiat money is that in the long haul, its value is determined strictly by people’s willingness to accept a piece of paper in exchange for their trouble; that willingness, in turn, is conditioned solely on their belief that the same piece of paper would buy them something nice a week, a month, or a year from now. It follows that a simple crisis of confidence could make a currency nearly worthless overnight. A prolonged period of hyperinflation and subsequent austerity in Germany and Austria was one of the precipitating factors that led to World War II. In more recent times, dramatic episodes of hyperinflation plagued the fiat currencies of Israel (1984), Mexico (1988), Poland (1990), Yugoslavia (1994), Bulgaria (1996), Turkey (2002), Zimbabwe (2009), Venezuela (2016), and several other nations around the globe.

For the United States, the switch to fiat money came relatively late, in 1971. To stop the dollar from plunging like a rock, the Nixon administration employed a clever trick: they ordered the freeze of wages and prices for the 90 days that immediately followed the move. People went on about their lives and paid the usual for eggs or milk – and by the time the freeze ended, they were accustomed to the idea that the “new”, free-floating dollar is worth about the same as the old, gold-backed one. A robust economy and favorable geopolitics did the rest, and so far, the American adventure with fiat currency has been rather uneventful – perhaps except for the fact that the price of gold itself skyrocketed from $35 per troy ounce in 1971 to $850 in 1980 (or, from $210 to $2,500 in today’s dollars).

Well, one thing did change: now better positioned to freely tamper with the supply of money, the regulators in accord with the bankers adopted a policy of creating it at a rate that slightly outstripped the organic growth in economic activity. They did this to induce a small, steady degree of inflation, believing that doing so would discourage people from hoarding cash and force them to reinvest it for the betterment of the society. Some critics like to point out that such a policy functions as a “backdoor” tax on savings that happens to align with the regulators’ less noble interests; still, either way: in the US and most other developed nations, the purchasing power of any money kept under a mattress will drop at a rate of somewhere between 2 to 10% a year.

5. So what’s up with Bitcoin?

Well… countless tomes have been written about the nature and the optimal characteristics of government-issued fiat currencies. Some heterodox economists, notably including Murray Rothbard, have also explored the topic of privately-issued, decentralized, commodity-backed currencies. But Bitcoin is a wholly different animal.

In essence, BTC is a global, decentralized fiat currency: it has no (recoverable) intrinsic value, no central authority to issue it or define its exchange rate, and it has no anchoring to any historical reference point – a combination that until recently seemed nonsensical and escaped any serious scrutiny. It does the unthinkable by employing three clever tricks:

  1. It allows anyone to create new coins, but only by solving brute-force computational challenges that get more difficult as the time goes by,

  2. It prevents unauthorized transfer of coins by employing public key cryptography to sign off transactions, with only the authorized holder of a coin knowing the correct key,

  3. It prevents double-spending by using a distributed public ledger (“blockchain”), recording the chain of custody for coins in a tamper-proof way.

The blockchain is often described as the most important feature of Bitcoin, but in some ways, its importance is overstated. The idea of a currency that does not rely on a centralized transaction clearinghouse is what helped propel the platform into the limelight – mostly because of its novelty and the perception that it is less vulnerable to government meddling (although the government is still free to track down, tax, fine, or arrest any participants). On the flip side, the everyday mechanics of BTC would not be fundamentally different if all the transactions had to go through Bitcoin Bank, LLC.

A more striking feature of the new currency is the incentive structure surrounding the creation of new coins. The underlying design democratized the creation of new coins early on: all you had to do is leave your computer running for a while to acquire a number of tokens. The tokens had no practical value, but obtaining them involved no substantial expense or risk. Just as importantly, because the difficulty of the puzzles would only increase over time, the hope was that if Bitcoin caught on, latecomers would find it easier to purchase BTC on a secondary market than mine their own – paying with a more established currency at a mutually beneficial exchange rate.

The persistent publicity surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies did the rest – and today, with the growing scarcity of coins and the rapidly increasing demand, the price of a single token hovers somewhere south of $15,000.

6. So… is it bad money?

Predicting is hard – especially the future. In some sense, a coin that represents a cryptographic proof of wasted CPU cycles is no better or worse than a currency that relies on cotton decorated with pictures of dead presidents. It is true that Bitcoin suffers from many implementation problems – long transaction processing times, high fees, frequent security breaches of major exchanges – but in principle, such problems can be overcome.

That said, currencies live and die by the lasting willingness of others to accept them in exchange for services or goods – and in that sense, the jury is still out. The use of Bitcoin to settle bona fide purchases is negligible, both in absolute terms and in function of the overall volume of transactions. In fact, because of the technical challenges and limited practical utility, some companies that embraced the currency early on are now backing out.

When the value of an asset is derived almost entirely from its appeal as an ever-appreciating investment vehicle, the situation has all the telltale signs of a speculative bubble. But that does not prove that the asset is destined to collapse, or that a collapse would be its end. Still, the built-in deflationary mechanism of Bitcoin – the increasing difficulty of producing new coins – is probably both a blessing and a curse.

It’s going to go one way or the other; and when it’s all said and done, we’re going to celebrate the people who made the right guess. Because future is actually pretty darn easy to predict — in retrospect.

NetNeutrality vs. limiting FaceTime

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-limiting-facetime.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in regards to NetNeutrality. In this post, I debunk the fourth item. In previous posts [1] [2] I debunk other items.

But here’s the thing: the FCC allowed these restrictions, despite the FCC’s “Open Internet” order forbidding such things. In other words, despite the graphic’s claims it “happened without net neutrality rules”, the opposite is true, it happened with net neutrality rules.

The FCC explains why they allowed it in their own case study on the matter. The short version is this: AT&T’s network couldn’t handle the traffic, so it was appropriate to restrict it until some time in the future (the LTE rollout) until it could. The issue wasn’t that AT&T was restricting FaceTime in favor of its own video-calling service (it didn’t have one), but it was instead an issue of “bandwidth management”.
When Apple released FaceTime, they themselves restricted it’s use to WiFi, preventing its use on cell phone networks. That’s because Apple recognized mobile networks couldn’t handle it.
When Apple flipped the switch and allowed it’s use on mobile networks, because mobile networks had gotten faster, they clearly said “carrier restrictions may apply”. In other words, it said “carriers may restrict FaceTime with our blessing if they can’t handle the load”.
When Tim Wu wrote his paper defining “NetNeutrality” in 2003, he anticipated just this scenario. He wrote:

“The goal of bandwidth management is, at a general level, aligned with network neutrality.”

He doesn’t give “bandwidth management” a completely free pass. He mentions the issue frequently in his paper with a less favorable description, such as here:

Similarly, while managing bandwidth is a laudable goal, its achievement through restricting certain application types is an unfortunate solution. The result is obviously a selective disadvantage for certain application markets. The less restrictive means is, as above, the technological management of bandwidth. Application-restrictions should, at best, be a stopgap solution to the problem of competing bandwidth demands. 

And that’s what AT&T’s FaceTime limiting was: an unfortunate stopgap solution until LTE was more fully deployed, which is fully allowed under Tim Wu’s principle of NetNeutrality.

So the ACLU’s claim above is fully debunked: such things did happen even with NetNeutrality rules in place, and should happen.

Finally, and this is probably the most important part, AT&T didn’t block it in the network. Instead, they blocked the app on the phone. If you jailbroke your phone, you could use FaceTime as you wished. Thus, it’s not a “network” neutrality issue because no blocking happened in the network.

"Responsible encryption" fallacies

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

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

The importance of law enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where law enforcement can’t go

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim in the encryption debate:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balance between privacy and public safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But it’s not conclusive”

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

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

Terrorists and child molesters

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

Definition of “backdoor”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple is morally weak

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

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

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

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

A better phrasing would have been:

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

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

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

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

They are willing to be vile

Rosenstein makes this argument:

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

Let me translate this for you:

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

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

Constitutional Rights

Rosenstein says:

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

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

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

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

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

Obliged to speak the truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

ROI is not a cybersecurity concept

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nazis, are bad

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/08/13/nazis-are-bad/

Anonymous asks:

Could you talk about something related to the management/moderation and growth of online communities? IOW your thoughts on online community management, if any.

I think you’ve tweeted about this stuff in the past so I suspect you have thoughts on this, but if not, again, feel free to just blog about … anything 🙂

Oh, I think I have some stuff to say about community management, in light of recent events. None of it hasn’t already been said elsewhere, but I have to get this out.

Hopefully the content warning is implicit in the title.


I am frustrated.

I’ve gone on before about a particularly bothersome phenomenon that hurts a lot of small online communities: often, people are willing to tolerate the misery of others in a community, but then get up in arms when someone pushes back. Someone makes a lot of off-hand, off-color comments about women? Uses a lot of dog-whistle terms? Eh, they’re not bothering anyone, or at least not bothering me. Someone else gets tired of it and tells them to knock it off? Whoa there! Now we have the appearance of conflict, which is unacceptable, and people will turn on the person who’s pissed off — even though they’ve been at the butt end of an invisible conflict for who knows how long. The appearance of peace is paramount, even if it means a large chunk of the population is quietly miserable.

Okay, so now, imagine that on a vastly larger scale, and also those annoying people who know how to skirt the rules are Nazis.


The label “Nazi” gets thrown around a lot lately, probably far too easily. But when I see a group of people doing the Hitler salute, waving large Nazi flags, wearing Nazi armbands styled after the SS, well… if the shoe fits, right? I suppose they might have flown across the country to join a torch-bearing mob ironically, but if so, the joke is going way over my head. (Was the murder ironic, too?) Maybe they’re not Nazis in the sense that the original party doesn’t exist any more, but for ease of writing, let’s refer to “someone who espouses Nazi ideology and deliberately bears a number of Nazi symbols” as, well, “a Nazi”.

This isn’t a new thing, either; I’ve stumbled upon any number of Twitter accounts that are decorated in Nazi regalia. I suppose the trouble arises when perfectly innocent members of the alt-right get unfairly labelled as Nazis.

But hang on; this march was called “Unite the Right” and was intended to bring together various far right sub-groups. So what does their choice of aesthetic say about those sub-groups? I haven’t heard, say, alt-right coiner Richard Spencer denounce the use of Nazi symbology — extra notable since he was fucking there and apparently didn’t care to discourage it.


And so begins the rule-skirting. “Nazi” is definitely overused, but even using it to describe white supremacists who make not-so-subtle nods to Hitler is likely to earn you some sarcastic derailment. A Nazi? Oh, so is everyone you don’t like and who wants to establish a white ethno state a Nazi?

Calling someone a Nazi — or even a white supremacist — is an attack, you see. Merely expressing the desire that people of color not exist is perfectly peaceful, but identifying the sentiment for what it is causes visible discord, which is unacceptable.

These clowns even know this sort of thing and strategize around it. Or, try, at least. Maybe it wasn’t that successful this weekend — though flicking through Charlottesville headlines now, they seem to be relatively tame in how they refer to the ralliers.

I’m reminded of a group of furries — the alt-furries — who have been espousing white supremacy and wearing red armbands with a white circle containing a black… pawprint. Ah, yes, that’s completely different.


So, what to do about this?

Ignore them” is a popular option, often espoused to bullied children by parents who have never been bullied, shortly before they resume complaining about passive-aggressive office politics. The trouble with ignoring them is that, just like in smaller communitiest, they have a tendency to fester. They take over large chunks of influential Internet surface area like 4chan and Reddit; they help get an inept buffoon elected; and then they start to have torch-bearing rallies and run people over with cars.

4chan illustrates a kind of corollary here. Anyone who’s steeped in Internet Culture™ is surely familiar with 4chan; I was never a regular visitor, but it had enough influence that I was still aware of it and some of its culture. It was always thick with irony, which grew into a sort of ironic detachment — perhaps one of the major sources of the recurring online trope that having feelings is bad — which proceeded into ironic racism.

And now the ironic racism is indistinguishable from actual racism, as tends to be the case. Do they “actually” “mean it”, or are they just trying to get a rise out of people? What the hell is unironic racism if not trying to get a rise out of people? What difference is there to onlookers, especially as they move to become increasingly involved with politics?

It’s just a joke” and “it was just a thoughtless comment” are exceptionally common defenses made by people desperate to preserve the illusion of harmony, but the strain of overt white supremacy currently running rampant through the US was built on those excuses.


The other favored option is to debate them, to defeat their ideas with better ideas.

Well, hang on. What are their ideas, again? I hear they were chanting stuff like “go back to Africa” and “fuck you, faggots”. Given that this was an overtly political rally (and again, the Nazi fucking regalia), I don’t think it’s a far cry to describe their ideas as “let’s get rid of black people and queer folks”.

This is an underlying proposition: that white supremacy is inherently violent. After all, if the alt-right seized total political power, what would they do with it? If I asked the same question of Democrats or Republicans, I’d imagine answers like “universal health care” or “screw over poor people”. But people whose primary goal is to have a country full of only white folks? What are they going to do, politely ask everyone else to leave? They’re invoking the memory of people who committed genocide and also tried to take over the fucking world. They are outright saying, these are the people we look up to, this is who we think had a great idea.

How, precisely, does one defeat these ideas with rational debate?

Because the underlying core philosophy beneath all this is: “it would be good for me if everything were about me”. And that’s true! (Well, it probably wouldn’t work out how they imagine in practice, but it’s true enough.) Consider that slavery is probably fantastic if you’re the one with the slaves; the issue is that it’s reprehensible, not that the very notion contains some kind of 101-level logical fallacy. That’s probably why we had a fucking war over it instead of hashing it out over brunch.

…except we did hash it out over brunch once, and the result was that slavery was still allowed but slaves only counted as 60% of a person for the sake of counting how much political power states got. So that’s how rational debate worked out. I’m sure the slaves were thrilled with that progress.


That really only leaves pushing back, which raises the question of how to push back.

And, I don’t know. Pushing back is much harder in spaces you don’t control, spaces you’re already struggling to justify your own presence in. For most people, that’s most spaces. It’s made all the harder by that tendency to preserve illusory peace; even the tamest request that someone knock off some odious behavior can be met by pushback, even by third parties.

At the same time, I’m aware that white supremacists prey on disillusioned young white dudes who feel like they don’t fit in, who were promised the world and inherited kind of a mess. Does criticism drive them further away? The alt-right also opposes “political correctness”, i.e. “not being a fucking asshole”.

God knows we all suck at this kind of behavior correction, even within our own in-groups. Fandoms have become almost ridiculously vicious as platforms like Twitter and Tumblr amplify individual anger to deafening levels. It probably doesn’t help that we’re all just exhausted, that every new fuck-up feels like it bears the same weight as the last hundred combined.

This is the part where I admit I don’t know anything about people and don’t have any easy answers. Surprise!


The other alternative is, well, punching Nazis.

That meme kind of haunts me. It raises really fucking complicated questions about when violence is acceptable, in a culture that’s completely incapable of answering them.

America’s relationship to violence is so bizarre and two-faced as to be almost incomprehensible. We worship it. We have the biggest military in the world by an almost comical margin. It’s fairly mainstream to own deadly weapons for the express stated purpose of armed revolution against the government, should that become necessary, where “necessary” is left ominously undefined. Our movies are about explosions and beating up bad guys; our video games are about explosions and shooting bad guys. We fantasize about solving foreign policy problems by nuking someone — hell, our talking heads are currently in polite discussion about whether we should nuke North Korea and annihilate up to twenty-five million people, as punishment for daring to have the bomb that only we’re allowed to have.

But… violence is bad.

That’s about as far as the other side of the coin gets. It’s bad. We condemn it in the strongest possible terms. Also, guess who we bombed today?

I observe that the one time Nazis were a serious threat, America was happy to let them try to take over the world until their allies finally showed up on our back porch.

Maybe I don’t understand what “violence” means. In a quest to find out why people are talking about “leftist violence” lately, I found a National Review article from May that twice suggests blocking traffic is a form of violence. Anarchists have smashed some windows and set a couple fires at protests this year — and, hey, please knock that crap off? — which is called violence against, I guess, Starbucks. Black Lives Matter could be throwing a birthday party and Twitter would still be abuzz with people calling them thugs.

Meanwhile, there’s a trend of murderers with increasingly overt links to the alt-right, and everyone is still handling them with kid gloves. First it was murders by people repeating their talking points; now it’s the culmination of a torches-and-pitchforks mob. (Ah, sorry, not pitchforks; assault rifles.) And we still get this incredibly bizarre both-sides-ism, a White House that refers to the people who didn’t murder anyone as “just as violent if not more so“.


Should you punch Nazis? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m extremely dissatisfied with discourse that’s extremely alarmed by hypothetical punches — far more mundane than what you’d see after a sporting event — but treats a push for ethnic cleansing as a mere difference of opinion.

The equivalent to a punch in an online space is probably banning, which is almost laughable in comparison. It doesn’t cause physical harm, but it is a use of concrete force. Doesn’t pose quite the same moral quandary, though.

Somewhere in the middle is the currently popular pastime of doxxing (doxxxxxxing) people spotted at the rally in an attempt to get them fired or whatever. Frankly, that skeeves me out, though apparently not enough that I’m directly chastizing anyone for it.


We aren’t really equipped, as a society, to deal with memetic threats. We aren’t even equipped to determine what they are. We had a fucking world war over this, and now people are outright saying “hey I’m like those people we went and killed a lot in that world war” and we give them interviews and compliment their fashion sense.

A looming question is always, what if they then do it to you? What if people try to get you fired, to punch you for your beliefs?

I think about that a lot, and then I remember that it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being gay in half the country. (Courts are currently wrangling whether Title VII forbids this, but with the current administration, I’m not optimistic.) I know people who’ve been fired for coming out as trans. I doubt I’d have to look very far to find someone who’s been punched for either reason.

And these aren’t even beliefs; they’re just properties of a person. You can stop being a white supremacist, one of those people yelling “fuck you, faggots”.

So I have to recuse myself from this asinine question, because I can’t fairly judge the risk of retaliation when it already happens to people I care about.

Meanwhile, if a white supremacist does get punched, I absolutely still want my tax dollars to pay for their universal healthcare.


The same wrinkle comes up with free speech, which is paramount.

The ACLU reminds us that the First Amendment “protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech”. I think they’ve forgotten that that’s a side effect, not the goal. No one sat down and suggested that protecting vile speech was some kind of noble cause, yet that’s how we seem to be treating it.

The point was to avoid a situation where the government is arbitrarily deciding what qualifies as vile, hateful, and ignorant, and was using that power to eliminate ideas distasteful to politicians. You know, like, hypothetically, if they interrogated and jailed a bunch of people for supporting the wrong economic system. Or convicted someone under the Espionage Act for opposing the draft. (Hey, that’s where the “shouting fire in a crowded theater” line comes from.)

But these are ideas that are already in the government. Bannon, a man who was chair of a news organization he himself called “the platform for the alt-right”, has the President’s ear! How much more mainstream can you get?

So again I’m having a little trouble balancing “we need to defend the free speech of white supremacists or risk losing it for everyone” against “we fairly recently were ferreting out communists and the lingering public perception is that communists are scary, not that the government is”.


This isn’t to say that freedom of speech is bad, only that the way we talk about it has become fanatical to the point of absurdity. We love it so much that we turn around and try to apply it to corporations, to platforms, to communities, to interpersonal relationships.

Look at 4chan. It’s completely public and anonymous; you only get banned for putting the functioning of the site itself in jeopardy. Nothing is stopping a larger group of people from joining its politics board and tilting sentiment the other way — except that the current population is so odious that no one wants to be around them. Everyone else has evaporated away, as tends to happen.

Free speech is great for a government, to prevent quashing politics that threaten the status quo (except it’s a joke and they’ll do it anyway). People can’t very readily just bail when the government doesn’t like them, anyway. It’s also nice to keep in mind to some degree for ubiquitous platforms. But the smaller you go, the easier it is for people to evaporate away, and the faster pure free speech will turn the place to crap. You’ll be left only with people who care about nothing.


At the very least, it seems clear that the goal of white supremacists is some form of destabilization, of disruption to the fabric of a community for purely selfish purposes. And those are the kinds of people you want to get rid of as quickly as possible.

Usually this is hard, because they act just nicely enough to create some plausible deniability. But damn, if someone is outright telling you they love Hitler, maybe skip the principled hand-wringing and eject them.

systemd for Administrators, Part VI

Post Syndicated from Lennart Poettering original http://0pointer.net/blog/projects/changing-roots.html

Here’s another installment of
my
ongoing
series
on
systemd for Administrators:

Changing Roots

As administrator or developer sooner or later you’ll ecounter chroot()
environments
. The chroot() system call simply shifts what
a process and all its children consider the root directory /, thus
limiting what the process can see of the file hierarchy to a subtree
of it. Primarily chroot() environments have two uses:

  1. For security purposes: In this use a specific isolated daemon is
    chroot()ed into a private subdirectory, so that when exploited the
    attacker can see only the subdirectory instead of the full OS
    hierarchy: he is trapped inside the chroot() jail.
  2. To set up and control a debugging, testing, building, installation
    or recovery image of an OS: For this a whole guest operating
    system hierarchy is mounted or bootstraped into a subdirectory of the
    host OS, and then a shell (or some other application) is started
    inside it, with this subdirectory turned into its /. To the shell it
    appears as if it was running inside a system that can differ greatly
    from the host OS. For example, it might run a different distribution
    or even a different architecture (Example: host x86_64, guest
    i386). The full hierarchy of the host OS it cannot see.

On a classic System-V-based operating system it is relatively easy
to use chroot() environments. For example, to start a specific daemon
for test or other reasons inside a chroot()-based guest OS tree, mount
/proc, /sys and a few other API file systems into
the tree, and then use chroot(1) to enter the chroot, and
finally run the SysV init script via /sbin/service from
inside the chroot.

On a systemd-based OS things are not that easy anymore. One of the
big advantages of systemd is that all daemons are guaranteed to be
invoked in a completely clean and independent context which is in no
way related to the context of the user asking for the service to be
started. While in sysvinit-based systems a large part of the execution
context (like resource limits, environment variables and suchlike) is
inherited from the user shell invoking the init skript, in systemd the
user just notifies the init daemon, and the init daemon will then fork
off the daemon in a sane, well-defined and pristine execution context
and no inheritance of the user context parameters takes place. While
this is a formidable feature it actually breaks traditional approaches
to invoke a service inside a chroot() environment: since the actual
daemon is always spawned off PID 1 and thus inherits the chroot()
settings from it, it is irrelevant whether the client which asked for
the daemon to start is chroot()ed or not. On top of that, since
systemd actually places its local communications sockets in
/run/systemd a process in a chroot() environment will not even
be able to talk to the init system (which however is probably a good thing, and the
daring can work around this of course by making use of bind
mounts.)

This of course opens the question how to use chroot()s properly in
a systemd environment. And here’s what we came up with for you, which
hopefully answers this question thoroughly and comprehensively:

Let’s cover the first usecase first: locking a daemon into a
chroot() jail for security purposes. To begin with, chroot() as a
security tool is actually quite dubious, since chroot() is not a
one-way street. It is relatively easy to escape a chroot()
environment, as even the
man page points out
. Only in combination with a few other
techniques it can be made somewhat secure. Due to that it usually
requires specific support in the applications to chroot() themselves
in a tamper-proof way. On top of that it usually requires a deep
understanding of the chroot()ed service to set up the chroot()
environment properly, for example to know which directories to bind mount from
the host tree, in order to make available all communication channels
in the chroot() the service actually needs. Putting this together,
chroot()ing software for security purposes is almost always done best
in the C code of the daemon itself. The developer knows best (or at
least should know best) how to properly secure down the
chroot(), and what the minimal set of files, file systems and
directories is the daemon will need inside the chroot(). These days a
number of daemons are capable of doing this, unfortunately however of
those running by default on a normal Fedora installation only two are
doing this: Avahi and
RealtimeKit. Both apparently written by the same really smart
dude. Chapeau! 😉 (Verify this easily by running ls -l
/proc/*/root
on your system.)

That all said, systemd of course does offer you a way to chroot()
specific daemons and manage them like any other with the usual
tools. This is supported via the RootDirectory= option in
systemd service files. Here’s an example:

[Unit]
Description=A chroot()ed Service

[Service]
RootDirectory=/srv/chroot/foobar
ExecStartPre=/usr/local/bin/setup-foobar-chroot.sh
ExecStart=/usr/bin/foobard
RootDirectoryStartOnly=yes

In this example, RootDirectory= configures where to
chroot() to before invoking the daemon binary specified with
ExecStart=. Note that the path specified in
ExecStart= needs to refer to the binary inside the chroot(),
it is not a path to the binary in the host tree (i.e. in this example
the binary executed is seen as
/srv/chroot/foobar/usr/bin/foobard from the host OS). Before
the daemon is started a shell script setup-foobar-chroot.sh
is invoked, whose purpose it is to set up the chroot environment as
necessary, i.e. mount /proc and similar file systems into it,
depending on what the service might need. With the
RootDirectoryStartOnly= switch we ensure that only the daemon
as specified in ExecStart= is chrooted, but not the
ExecStartPre= script which needs to have access to the full
OS hierarchy so that it can bind mount directories from there. (For
more information on these switches see the respective man
pages.)
If you place a unit file like this in
/etc/systemd/system/foobar.service you can start your
chroot()ed service by typing systemctl start
foobar.service
. You may then introspect it with systemctl
status foobar.service
. It is accessible to the administrator like
any other service, the fact that it is chroot()ed does — unlike on
SysV — not alter how your monitoring and control tools interact with
it.

Newer Linux kernels support file system namespaces. These are
similar to chroot() but a lot more powerful, and they do not
suffer by the same security problems as chroot(). systemd
exposes a subset of what you can do with file system namespaces right
in the unit files themselves. Often these are a useful and simpler
alternative to setting up full chroot() environment in a
subdirectory. With the switches ReadOnlyDirectories= and
InaccessibleDirectories= you may setup a file system
namespace jail for your service. Initially, it will be identical to
your host OS’ file system namespace. By listing directories in these
directives you may then mark certain directories or mount points of
the host OS as read-only or even completely inaccessible to the
daemon. Example:

[Unit]
Description=A Service With No Access to /home

[Service]
ExecStart=/usr/bin/foobard
InaccessibleDirectories=/home

This service will have access to the entire file system tree of the
host OS with one exception: /home will not be visible to it, thus
protecting the user’s data from potential exploiters. (See the
man page for details on these options.
)

File system namespaces are in fact a better replacement for
chroot()s in many many ways. Eventually Avahi and RealtimeKit
should probably be updated to make use of namespaces replacing
chroot()s.

So much about the security usecase. Now, let’s look at the other
use case: setting up and controlling OS images for debugging, testing,
building, installing or recovering.

chroot() environments are relatively simple things: they only
virtualize the file system hierarchy. By chroot()ing into a
subdirectory a process still has complete access to all system calls,
can kill all processes and shares about everything else with the host
it is running on. To run an OS (or a small part of an OS) inside a
chroot() is hence a dangerous affair: the isolation between host and
guest is limited to the file system, everything else can be freely
accessed from inside the chroot(). For example, if you upgrade a
distribution inside a chroot(), and the package scripts send a SIGTERM
to PID 1 to trigger a reexecution of the init system, this will
actually take place in the host OS! On top of that, SysV shared
memory, abstract namespace sockets and other IPC primitives are shared
between host and guest. While a completely secure isolation for
testing, debugging, building, installing or recovering an OS is
probably not necessary, a basic isolation to avoid accidental
modifications of the host OS from inside the chroot() environment is
desirable: you never know what code package scripts execute which
might interfere with the host OS.

To deal with chroot() setups for this use systemd offers you a
couple of features:

First of all, systemctl detects when it is run in a
chroot. If so, most of its operations will become NOPs, with the
exception of systemctl enable and systemctl
disable
. If a package installation script hence calls these two
commands, services will be enabled in the guest OS. However, should a
package installation script include a command like systemctl
restart
as part of the package upgrade process this will have no
effect at all when run in a chroot() environment.

More importantly however systemd comes out-of-the-box with the systemd-nspawn
tool which acts as chroot(1) on steroids: it makes use of file system
and PID namespaces to boot a simple lightweight container on a file
system tree. It can be used almost like chroot(1), except that the
isolation from the host OS is much more complete, a lot more secure
and even easier to use. In fact, systemd-nspawn is capable of
booting a complete systemd or sysvinit OS in container with a single
command. Since it virtualizes PIDs, the init system in the container
can act as PID 1 and thus do its job as normal. In contrast to
chroot(1) this tool will implicitly mount /proc,
/sys for you.

Here’s an example how in three commands you can boot a Debian OS on
your Fedora machine inside an nspawn container:

# yum install debootstrap
# debootstrap --arch=amd64 unstable debian-tree/
# systemd-nspawn -D debian-tree/

This will bootstrap the OS directory tree and then simply invoke a
shell in it. If you want to boot a full system in the container, use a
command like this:

# systemd-nspawn -D debian-tree/ /sbin/init

And after a quick bootup you should have a shell prompt, inside a
complete OS, booted in your container. The container will not be able
to see any of the processes outside of it. It will share the network
configuration, but not be able to modify it. (Expect a couple of
EPERMs during boot for that, which however should not be
fatal). Directories like /sys and /proc/sys are
available in the container, but mounted read-only in order to avoid
that the container can modify kernel or hardware configuration. Note
however that this protects the host OS only from accidental
changes of its parameters. A process in the container can manually
remount the file systems read-writeable and then change whatever it
wants to change.

So, what’s so great about systemd-nspawn again?

  1. It’s really easy to use. No need to manually mount /proc
    and /sys into your chroot() environment. The tool will do it
    for you and the kernel automatically cleans it up when the container
    terminates.
  2. The isolation is much more complete, protecting the host OS from
    accidental changes from inside the container.
  3. It’s so good that you can actually boot a full OS in the
    container, not just a single lonesome shell.
  4. It’s actually tiny and installed everywhere where systemd is
    installed. No complicated installation or setup.

systemd itself has been modified to work very well in such a
container. For example, when shutting down and detecting that it is
run in a container, it just calls exit(), instead of reboot() as last
step.

Note that systemd-nspawn is not a full container
solution. If you need that LXC is the better choice for
you. It uses the same underlying kernel technology but offers a lot
more, including network virtualization. If you so will,
systemd-nspawn is the GNOME 3 of container solutions:
slick and trivially easy to use — but with few configuration
options. LXC OTOH is more like KDE: more configuration options than lines of
code. I wrote systemd-nspawn specifically to cover testing,
debugging, building, installing, recovering. That’s what you should use
it for and what it is really good at, and where it is a much much nicer
alternative to chroot(1).

So, let’s get this finished, this was already long enough. Here’s what to take home from
this little blog story:

  1. Secure chroot()s are best done natively in the C sources of your program.
  2. ReadOnlyDirectories=, InaccessibleDirectories=
    might be suitable alternatives to a full chroot() environment.
  3. RootDirectory= is your friend if you want to chroot() a specific service.
  4. systemd-nspawn is made of awesome.
  5. chroot()s are lame, file system namespaces are totally l33t.

All of this is readily available on your Fedora 15 system.

And that’s it for today. See you again for the next installment.