When the next pandemic strikes, we’ll be fighting it on two fronts. The first is the one you immediately think about: understanding the disease, researching a cure and inoculating the population. The second is new, and one you might not have thought much about: fighting the deluge of rumors, misinformation and flat-out lies that will appear on the internet.
The second battle will be like the Russian disinformation campaigns during the 2016 presidential election, only with the addition of a deadly health crisis and possibly without a malicious government actor. But while the two problems — misinformation affecting democracy and misinformation affecting public health — will have similar solutions, the latter is much less political. If we work to solve the pandemic disinformation problem, any solutions are likely to also be applicable to the democracy one.
Pandemics are part of our future. They might be like the 1968 Hong Kong flu, which killed a million people, or the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed over 40 million. Yes, modern medicine makes pandemics less likely and less deadly. But global travel and trade, increased population density, decreased wildlife habitats, and increased animal farming to satisfy a growing and more affluent population have made them more likely. Experts agree that it’s not a matter of if — it’s only a matter of when.
When the next pandemic strikes, accurate information will be just as important as effective treatments. We saw this in 2014, when the Nigerian government managed to contain a subcontinentwide Ebola epidemic to just 20 infections and eight fatalities. Part of that success was because of the ways officials communicated health information to all Nigerians, using government-sponsored videos, social media campaigns and international experts. Without that, the death toll in Lagos, a city of 21 million people, would have probably been greater than the 11,000 the rest of the continent experienced.
There’s every reason to expect misinformation to be rampant during a pandemic. In the early hours and days, information will be scant and rumors will abound. Most of us are not health professionals or scientists. We won’t be able to tell fact from fiction. Even worse, we’ll be scared. Our brains work differently when we are scared, and they latch on to whatever makes us feel safer — even if it’s not true.
Rumors and misinformation could easily overwhelm legitimate news channels, as people share tweets, images and videos. Much of it will be well-intentioned but wrong — like the misinformation spread by the anti-vaccination community today – but some of it may be malicious. In the 1980s, the KGB ran a sophisticated disinformation campaign – OperationInfektion – to spread the rumor that HIV/AIDS was a result of an American biological weapon gone awry. It’s reasonable to assume some group or country would deliberately spread intentional lies in an attempt to increase death and chaos.
It’s not just misinformation about which treatments work (and are safe), and which treatments don’t work (and are unsafe). Misinformation can affect society’s ability to deal with a pandemic at many different levels. Right now, Ebola relief efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being stymied by mistrust of health workers and government officials.
It doesn’t take much to imagine how this can lead to disaster. Jay Walker, curator of the TEDMED conferences, laid out some of the possibilities in a 2016 essay: people overwhelming and even looting pharmacies trying to get some drug that is irrelevant or nonexistent, people needlessly fleeing cities and leaving them paralyzed, health workers not showing up for work, truck drivers and other essential people being afraid to enter infected areas, official sites like CDC.gov being hacked and discredited. This kind of thing can magnify the health effects of a pandemic many times over, and in extreme cases could lead to a total societal collapse.
This is going to be something that government health organizations, medical professionals, social media companies and the traditional media are going to have to work out together. There isn’t any single solution; it will require many different interventions that will all need to work together. The interventions will look a lot like what we’re already talking about with regard to government-run and other information influence campaigns that target our democratic processes: methods of visibly identifying false stories, the identification and deletion of fake posts and accounts, ways to promote official and accurate news, and so on. At the scale these are needed, they will have to be done automatically and in real time.
Since the 2016 presidential election, we have been talking about propaganda campaigns, and about how social media amplifies fake news and allows damaging messages to spread easily. It’s a hard discussion to have in today’s hyperpolarized political climate. After any election, the winning side has every incentive to downplay the role of fake news.
But pandemics are different; there’s no political constituency in favor of people dying because of misinformation. Google doesn’t want the results of peoples’ well-intentioned searches to lead to fatalities. Facebook and Twitter don’t want people on their platforms sharing misinformation that will result in either individual or mass deaths. Focusing on pandemics gives us an apolitical way to collectively approach the general problem of misinformation and fake news. And any solutions for pandemics are likely to also be applicable to the more general – and more political – problems.
Pandemics are inevitable. Bioterror is already possible, and will only get easier as the requisite technologies become cheaper and more common. We’re experiencing the largest measles outbreak in 25 years thanks to the anti-vaccination movement, which has hijacked social media to amplify its messages; we seem unable to beat back the disinformation and pseudoscience surrounding the vaccine. Those same forces will dramatically increase death and social upheaval in the event of a pandemic.
Let the Russian propaganda attacks on the 2016 election serve as a wake-up call for this and other threats. We need to solve the problem of misinformation during pandemics together – governments and industries in collaboration with medical officials, all across the world – before there’s a crisis. And the solutions will also help us shore up our democracy in the process.
I just noticed this bit from the incredibly weird story of the Chinese woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago:
Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, who interviewed Zhang on the day of her arrest, testified at the hearing. He stated that when another agent put Zhang’s thumb drive into his computer, it immediately began to install files, a “very out-of-the-ordinary” event that he had never seen happen before during this kind of analysis. The agent had to immediately stop the analysis to halt any further corruption of his computer, Ivanovich testified. The analysis is ongoing but still inconclusive, he said.
This is what passes for forensics at the Secret Service? I expect better.
EDITED TO ADD (4/9): I know this post is peripherally related to Trump. I know some readers can’t help themselves from talking about broader issues surrounding Trump, Russia, and so on. Please do not comment to those posts. I will delete them as soon as I see them.
The 1Password password manager has just introduced “travel mode,” which allows you to delete your stored passwords when you’re in other countries or crossing borders:
Your vaults aren’t just hidden; they’re completely removed from your devices as long as Travel Mode is on. That includes every item and all your encryption keys. There are no traces left for anyone to find. So even if you’re asked to unlock 1Password by someone at the border, there’s no way for them to tell that Travel Mode is even enabled.
In 1Password Teams, Travel Mode is even cooler. If you’re a team administrator, you have total control over which secrets your employees can travel with. You can turn Travel Mode on and off for your team members, so you can ensure that company information stays safe at all times.
The way this works is important. If the scary border police demand that you unlock your 1Password vault, those passwords/keys are not there for the border police to find.
The only flaw — and this is minor — is that the system requires you to lie. When the scary border police ask you “do you have any other passwords?” or “have you enabled travel mode,” you can’t tell them the truth. In the US, lying to a federal office is a felony.
I previously described a system that doesn’t require you to lie. It’s more complicated to implement, though.
This is a great feature, and I’m happy to see it implemented.
A new webpage focused on data privacy in Argentina features FAQs, helpful links, and whitepapers that provide an overview of PDPL considerations, as well as our security assurance frameworks and international certifications, including ISO 27001, ISO 27017, and ISO 27018. You’ll also find details about our Information Request Report and the high bar of security at AWS data centers.
Additionally, we’ve released a new workbook that offers a detailed mapping as to how customers can operate securely under the Shared Responsibility Model while also aligning with Disposition No. 11/2006. The AWS Disposition 11/2006 Workbook can be downloaded from the Argentina Data Privacy page or directly from this link. Both resources are also available in Spanish from the Privacidad de los datos en Argentina page.
Want more AWS Security news? Follow us on Twitter.
We have seen a lot of discussion this past week about the role of Amazon Rekognition in facial recognition, surveillance, and civil liberties, and we wanted to share some thoughts.
Amazon Rekognition is a service we announced in 2016. It makes use of new technologies – such as deep learning – and puts them in the hands of developers in an easy-to-use, low-cost way. Since then, we have seen customers use the image and video analysis capabilities of Amazon Rekognition in ways that materially benefit both society (e.g. preventing human trafficking, inhibiting child exploitation, reuniting missing children with their families, and building educational apps for children), and organizations (enhancing security through multi-factor authentication, finding images more easily, or preventing package theft). Amazon Web Services (AWS) is not the only provider of services like these, and we remain excited about how image and video analysis can be a driver for good in the world, including in the public sector and law enforcement.
There have always been and will always be risks with new technology capabilities. Each organization choosing to employ technology must act responsibly or risk legal penalties and public condemnation. AWS takes its responsibilities seriously. But we believe it is the wrong approach to impose a ban on promising new technologies because they might be used by bad actors for nefarious purposes in the future. The world would be a very different place if we had restricted people from buying computers because it was possible to use that computer to do harm. The same can be said of thousands of technologies upon which we all rely each day. Through responsible use, the benefits have far outweighed the risks.
Customers are off to a great start with Amazon Rekognition; the evidence of the positive impact this new technology can provide is strong (and growing by the week), and we’re excited to continue to support our customers in its responsible use.
-Dr. Matt Wood, general manager of artificial intelligence at AWS
Today we are launching a new, session-based pricing option for QuickSight, along with additional region support and other important new features. Let’s take a look at each one:
Pay-per-Session Pricing Our customers are making great use of QuickSight and take full advantage of the power it gives them to connect to data sources, create reports, and and explore visualizations.
However, not everyone in an organization needs or wants such powerful authoring capabilities. Having access to curated data in dashboards and being able to interact with the data by drilling down, filtering, or slicing-and-dicing is more than adequate for their needs. Subscribing them to a monthly or annual plan can be seen as an unwarranted expense, so a lot of such casual users end up not having access to interactive data or BI.
In order to allow customers to provide all of their users with interactive dashboards and reports, the Enterprise Edition of Amazon QuickSight now allows Reader access to dashboards on a Pay-per-Session basis. QuickSight users are now classified as Admins, Authors, or Readers, with distinct capabilities and prices:
Authors have access to the full power of QuickSight; they can establish database connections, upload new data, create ad hoc visualizations, and publish dashboards, all for $9 per month (Standard Edition) or $18 per month (Enterprise Edition).
Readers can view dashboards, slice and dice data using drill downs, filters and on-screen controls, and download data in CSV format, all within the secure QuickSight environment. Readers pay $0.30 for 30 minutes of access, with a monthly maximum of $5 per reader.
Admins have all authoring capabilities, and can manage users and purchase SPICE capacity in the account. The QuickSight admin now has the ability to set the desired option (Author or Reader) when they invite members of their organization to use QuickSight. They can extend Reader invites to their entire user base without incurring any up-front or monthly costs, paying only for the actual usage.
A New Region QuickSight is now available in the Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Region:
The UI is in English, with a localized version in the works.
Hourly Data Refresh Enterprise Edition SPICE data sets can now be set to refresh as frequently as every hour. In the past, each data set could be refreshed up to 5 times a day. To learn more, read Refreshing Imported Data.
Access to Data in Private VPCs This feature was launched in preview form late last year, and is now available in production form to users of the Enterprise Edition. As I noted at the time, you can use it to implement secure, private communication with data sources that do not have public connectivity, including on-premises data in Teradata or SQL Server, accessed over an AWS Direct Connect link. To learn more, read Working with AWS VPC.
Parameters with On-Screen Controls QuickSight dashboards can now include parameters that are set using on-screen dropdown, text box, numeric slider or date picker controls. The default value for each parameter can be set based on the user name (QuickSight calls this a dynamic default). You could, for example, set an appropriate default based on each user’s office location, department, or sales territory. Here’s an example:
URL Actions for Linked Dashboards You can now connect your QuickSight dashboards to external applications by defining URL actions on visuals. The actions can include parameters, and become available in the Details menu for the visual. URL actions are defined like this:
You can use this feature to link QuickSight dashboards to third party applications (e.g. Salesforce) or to your own internal applications. Read Custom URL Actions to learn how to use this feature.
Dashboard Sharing You can now share QuickSight dashboards across every user in an account.
Larger SPICE Tables The per-data set limit for SPICE tables has been raised from 10 GB to 25 GB.
Upgrade to Enterprise Edition The QuickSight administrator can now upgrade an account from Standard Edition to Enterprise Edition with a click. This enables provisioning of Readers with pay-per-session pricing, private VPC access, row-level security for dashboards and data sets, and hourly refresh of data sets. Enterprise Edition pricing applies after the upgrade.
Available Now Everything I listed above is available now and you can start using it today!
“Most commonly we have unsolicited calls to potential victims in Australia, purporting to represent the people in authority in China and suggesting to intending victims here they have been involved in some sort of offence in China or elsewhere, for which they’re being held responsible,” Commander McLean said.
The scammers threaten the students with deportation from Australia or some kind of criminal punishment.
The victims are then coerced into providing their identification details or money to get out of the supposed trouble they’re in.
Commander McLean said there are also cases where the student is told they have to hide in a hotel room, provide compromising photos of themselves and cut off all contact.
This simulates a kidnapping.
“So having tricked the victims in Australia into providing the photographs, and money and documents and other things, they then present the information back to the unknowing families in China to suggest that their children who are abroad are in trouble,” Commander McLean said.
“So quite circular in a sense…very skilled, very cunning.”
Thanks to Greg Eppel, Sr. Solutions Architect, Microsoft Platform for this great blog that describes how to create a custom CodeBuild build environment for the .NET Framework. — AWS CodeBuild is a fully managed build service that compiles source code, runs tests, and produces software packages that are ready to deploy. CodeBuild provides curated build environments for programming languages and runtimes such as Android, Go, Java, Node.js, PHP, Python, Ruby, and Docker. CodeBuild now supports builds for the Microsoft Windows Server platform, including a prepackaged build environment for .NET Core on Windows. If your application uses the .NET Framework, you will need to use a custom Docker image to create a custom build environment that includes the Microsoft proprietary Framework Class Libraries. For information about why this step is required, see our FAQs. In this post, I’ll show you how to create a custom build environment for .NET Framework applications and walk you through the steps to configure CodeBuild to use this environment.
Build environments are Docker images that include a complete file system with everything required to build and test your project. To use a custom build environment in a CodeBuild project, you build a container image for your platform that contains your build tools, push it to a Docker container registry such as Amazon Elastic Container Registry (Amazon ECR), and reference it in the project configuration. When it builds your application, CodeBuild retrieves the Docker image from the container registry specified in the project configuration and uses the environment to compile your source code, run your tests, and package your application.
Run the following command in that directory. This process can take a while. It depends on the size of EC2 instance you launched. In my tests, a t2.2xlarge takes less than 30 minutes to build the image and produces an approximately 15 GB image.
docker build -t buildtools2017:latest -m 2GB .
Run the following command to test the container and start a command shell with all the developer environment variables:
docker run -it buildtools2017
Create a repository in the Amazon ECS console. For the repository name, type buildtools2017. Choose Next step and then complete the remaining steps.
Execute the following command to generate authentication details for our registry to the local Docker engine. Make sure you have permissions to the Amazon ECR registry before you execute the command.
aws ecr get-login
In the same command prompt window, copy and paste the following commands:
In the CodeCommit console, create a repository named DotNetFrameworkSampleApp. On the Configure email notifications page, choose Skip.
Clone a .NET Framework Docker sample application from GitHub. The repository includes a sample ASP.NET Framework that we’ll use to demonstrate our custom build environment.On the EC2 instance, open a command prompt and execute the following commands:
Navigate to the CodeCommit repository and confirm that the files you just pushed are there.
Step 4: Configure build spec
To build your .NET Framework application with CodeBuild you use a build spec, which is a collection of build commands and related settings, in YAML format, that AWS CodeBuild can use to run a build. You can include a build spec as part of the source code or you can define a build spec when you create a build project. In this example, I include a build spec as part of the source code.
In the root directory of your source directory, create a YAML file named buildspec.yml.
At this point, we have a Docker image with Visual Studio Build Tools installed and stored in the Amazon ECR registry. We also have a sample ASP.NET Framework application in a CodeCommit repository. Now we are going to set up CodeBuild to build the ASP.NET Framework application.
In the Amazon ECR console, choose the repository that was pushed earlier with the docker push command. On the Permissions tab, choose Add.
For Source Provider, choose AWS CodeCommit and then choose the called DotNetFrameworkSampleApp repository.
For Environment Image, choose Specify a Docker image.
For Environment type, choose Windows.
For Custom image type, choose Amazon ECR.
For Amazon ECR repository, choose the Docker image with the Visual Studio Build Tools installed, buildtools2017. Your configuration should look like the image below:
Choose Continue and then Save and Build to create your CodeBuild project and start your first build. You can monitor the status of the build in the console. You can also configure notifications that will notify subscribers whenever builds succeed, fail, go from one phase to another, or any combination of these events.
CodeBuild supports a number of platforms and languages out of the box. By using custom build environments, it can be extended to other runtimes. In this post, I showed you how to build a .NET Framework environment on a Windows container and demonstrated how to use it to build .NET Framework applications in CodeBuild.
We’re excited to see how customers extend and use CodeBuild to enable continuous integration and continuous delivery for their Windows applications. Feel free to share what you’ve learned extending CodeBuild for your own projects. Just leave questions or suggestions in the comments.
Abstract: The detection of faked identities is a major problem in security. Current memory-detection techniques cannot be used as they require prior knowledge of the respondent’s true identity. Here, we report a novel technique for detecting faked identities based on the use of unexpected questions that may be used to check the respondent identity without any prior autobiographical information. While truth-tellers respond automatically to unexpected questions, liars have to “build” and verify their responses. This lack of automaticity is reflected in the mouse movements used to record the responses as well as in the number of errors. Responses to unexpected questions are compared to responses to expected and control questions (i.e., questions to which a liar also must respond truthfully). Parameters that encode mouse movement were analyzed using machine learning classifiers and the results indicate that the mouse trajectories and errors on unexpected questions efficiently distinguish liars from truth-tellers. Furthermore, we showed that liars may be identified also when they are responding truthfully. Unexpected questions combined with the analysis of mouse movement may efficiently spot participants with faked identities without the need for any prior information on the examinee.
I’m in danger of contradicting myself, after previously pointing out that x86 machine code is a high-level language, but this article claiming C is a not a low level language is bunk. C certainly has some problems, but it’s still the closest language to assembly. This is obvious by the fact it’s still the fastest compiled language. What we see is a typical academic out of touch with the real world.
The author makes the (wrong) observation that we’ve been stuck emulating the PDP-11 for the past 40 years. C was written for the PDP-11, and since then CPUs have been designed to make C run faster. The author imagines a different world, such as where CPU designers instead target something like LISP as their preferred language, or Erlang. This misunderstands the state of the market. CPUs do indeed supports lots of different abstractions, and C has evolved to accommodate this.
The author criticizes things like “out-of-order” execution which has lead to the Spectre sidechannel vulnerabilities. Out-of-order execution is necessary to make C run faster. The author claims instead that those resources should be spent on having more slower CPUs, with more threads. This sacrifices single-threaded performance in exchange for a lot more threads executing in parallel. The author cites Sparc Tx CPUs as his ideal processor.
But here’s the thing, the Sparc Tx was a failure. To be fair, it’s mostly a failure because most of the time, people wanted to run old C code instead of new Erlang code. But it was still a failure at running Erlang.
Time after time, engineers keep finding that “out-of-order”, single-threaded performance is still the winner. A good example is ARM processors for both mobile phones and servers. All the theory points to in-order CPUs as being better, but all the products are out-of-order, because this theory is wrong. The custom ARM cores from Apple and Qualcomm used in most high-end phones are so deeply out-of-order they give Intel CPUs competition. The same is true on the server front with the latest Qualcomm Centriq and Cavium ThunderX2 processors, deeply out of order supporting more than 100 instructions in flight.
The Cavium is especially telling. Its ThunderX CPU had 48 simple cores which was replaced with the ThunderX2 having 32 complex, deeply out-of-order cores. The performance increase was massive, even on multithread-friendly workloads. Every competitor to Intel’s dominance in the server space has learned the lesson from Sparc Tx: many wimpy cores is a failure, you need fewer beefy cores. Yes, they don’t need to be as beefy as Intel’s processors, but they need to be close.
Even Intel’s “Xeon Phi” custom chip learned this lesson. This is their GPU-like chip, running 60 cores with 512-bit wide “vector” (sic) instructions, designed for supercomputer applications. Its first version was purely in-order. Its current version is slightly out-of-order. It supports four threads and focuses on basic number crunching, so in-order cores seems to be the right approach, but Intel found in this case that out-of-order processing still provided a benefit. Practice is different than theory.
As an academic, the author of the above article focuses on abstractions. The criticism of C is that it has the wrong abstractions which are hard to optimize, and that if we instead expressed things in the right abstractions, it would be easier to optimize.
This is an intellectually compelling argument, but so far bunk.
The reason is that while the theoretical base language has issues, everyone programs using extensions to the language, like “intrinsics” (C ‘functions’ that map to assembly instructions). Programmers write libraries using these intrinsics, which then the rest of the normal programmers use. In other words, if your criticism is that C is not itself low level enough, it still provides the best access to low level capabilities.
Given that C can access new functionality in CPUs, CPU designers add new paradigms, from SIMD to transaction processing. In other words, while in the 1980s CPUs were designed to optimize C (stacks, scaled pointers), these days CPUs are designed to optimize tasks regardless of language.
The author of that article criticizes the memory/cache hierarchy, claiming it has problems. Yes, it has problems, but only compared to how well it normally works. The author praises the many simple cores/threads idea as hiding memory latency with little caching, but misses the point that caches also dramatically increase memory bandwidth. Intel processors are optimized to read a whopping 256 bits every clock cycle from L1 cache. Main memory bandwidth is orders of magnitude slower.
The author goes onto criticize cache coherency as a problem. C uses it, but other languages like Erlang don’t need it. But that’s largely due to the problems each languages solves. Erlang solves the problem where a large number of threads work on largely independent tasks, needing to send only small messages to each other across threads. The problems C solves is when you need many threads working on a huge, common set of data.
For example, consider the “intrusion prevention system”. Any thread can process any incoming packet that corresponds to any region of memory. There’s no practical way of solving this problem without a huge coherent cache. It doesn’t matter which language or abstractions you use, it’s the fundamental constraint of the problem being solved. RDMA is an important concept that’s moved from supercomputer applications to the data center, such as with memcached. Again, we have the problem of huge quantities (terabytes worth) shared among threads rather than small quantities (kilobytes).
The fundamental issue the author of the the paper is ignoring is decreasing marginal returns. Moore’s Law has gifted us more transistors than we can usefully use. We can’t apply those additional registers to just one thing, because the useful returns we get diminish.
For example, Intel CPUs have two hardware threads per core. That’s because there are good returns by adding a single additional thread. However, the usefulness of adding a third or fourth thread decreases. That’s why many CPUs have only two threads, or sometimes four threads, but no CPU has 16 threads per core.
You can apply the same discussion to any aspect of the CPU, from register count, to SIMD width, to cache size, to out-of-order depth, and so on. Rather than focusing on one of these things and increasing it to the extreme, CPU designers make each a bit larger every process tick that adds more transistors to the chip.
The same applies to cores. It’s why the “more simpler cores” strategy fails, because more cores have their own decreasing marginal returns. Instead of adding cores tied to limited memory bandwidth, it’s better to add more cache. Such cache already increases the size of the cores, so at some point it’s more effective to add a few out-of-order features to each core rather than more cores. And so on.
The question isn’t whether we can change this paradigm and radically redesign CPUs to match some academic’s view of the perfect abstraction. Instead, the goal is to find new uses for those additional transistors. For example, “message passing” is a useful abstraction in languages like Go and Erlang that’s often more useful than sharing memory. It’s implemented with shared memory and atomic instructions, but I can’t help but think it couldn’t better be done with direct hardware support.
Of course, as soon as they do that, it’ll become an intrinsic in C, then added to languages like Go and Erlang.
One of the more useful features of masscan is the “–banners” check, which connects to the TCP port, sends some request, and gets a basic response back. However, since masscan has it’s own TCP stack, it’ll interfere with the operating system’s TCP stack if they are sharing the same IPv4 address. The operating system will reply with a RST packet before the TCP connection can be established.
The way to fix this is to use the built-in packet-filtering firewall to block those packets in the operating-system TCP/IP stack. The masscan program still sees everything before the packet-filter, but the operating system can’t see anything after the packet-filter.
Note that we are talking about the “packet-filter” firewall feature here. Remember that macOS, like most operating systems these days, has two separate firewalls: an application firewall and a packet-filter firewall. The application firewall is the one you see in System Settings labeled “Firewall”, and it controls things based upon the application’s identity rather than by which ports it uses. This is normally “on” by default. The packet-filter is normally “off” by default and is of little use to normal users.
Also note that macOS changed packet-filters around version 10.10.5 (“Yosemite”, October 2014). The older one is known as “ipfw“, which was the default firewall for FreeBSD (much of macOS is based on FreeBSD). The replacement is known as PF, which comes from OpenBSD. Whereas you used to use the old “ipfw” command on the command line, you now use the “pfctl” command, as well as the “/etc/pf.conf” configuration file.
What we need to filter is the source port of the packets that masscan will send, so that when replies are received, they won’t reach the operating-system stack, and just go to masscan instead. To do this, we need find a range of ports that won’t conflict with the operating system. Namely, when the operating system creates outgoing connections, it randomly chooses a source port within a certain range. We want to use masscan to use source ports in a different range.
To figure out the range macOS uses, we run the following command:
So this means I shouldn’t use source ports anywhere in the range 49152 to 65535. On my laptop, I’ve decided to use for masscan the ports 40000 to 41023. The range masscan uses must be a power of 2, so here I’m using 1024 (two to the tenth power).
To configure masscan, I can either type the parameter “–source-port 40000-41023” every time I run the program, or I can add the following line to /etc/masscan/masscan.conf. Remember that by default, masscan will look in that configuration file for any configuration parameters, so you don’t have to keep retyping them on the command line.
source-port = 40000-41023
Next, I need to add the following firewall rule to the bottom of /etc/pf.conf:
block in proto tcp from any to any port 40000 >< 41024
However, we aren’t done yet. By default, the packet-filter firewall is off on some versions of macOS. Therefore, every time you reboot your computer, you need to enable it. The simple way to do this is on the command line run:
Or, if that doesn’t work, try:
If the firewall is already running, then you’ll need to load the file explicitly (or reboot):
Thanks to Susan Ferrell, Senior Technical Writer, for a great blog post on how to use CodeCommit branch-level permissions. —-
AWS CodeCommit users have been asking for a way to restrict commits to some repository branches to just a few people. In this blog post, we’re going to show you how to do that by creating and applying a conditional policy, an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy that contains a context key.
Why would I do this?
When you create a branch in an AWS CodeCommit repository, the branch is available, by default, to all repository users. Here are some scenarios in which refining access might help you:
You maintain a branch in a repository for production-ready code, and you don’t want to allow changes to this branch except from a select group of people.
You want to limit the number of people who can make changes to the default branch in a repository.
You want to ensure that pull requests cannot be merged to a branch except by an approved group of developers.
We’ll show you how to create a policy in IAM that prevents users from pushing commits to and merging pull requests to a branch named master. You’ll attach that policy to one group or role in IAM, and then test how users in that group are affected when that policy is applied. We’ll explain how it works, so you can create custom policies for your repositories.
What you need to get started
You’ll need to sign in to AWS with sufficient permissions to:
Create and apply policies in IAM.
Create groups in IAM.
Add users to those groups.
Apply policies to those groups.
You can use existing IAM groups, but because you’re going to be changing permissions, you might want to first test this out on groups and users you’ve created specifically for this purpose.
You’ll need a repository in AWS CodeCommit with at least two branches: master and test-branch. For information about how to create repositories, see Create a Repository. For information about how to create branches, see Create a Branch. In this blog post, we’ve named the repository MyDemoRepo. You can use an existing repository with branches of another name, if you prefer.
Let’s get started!
Create two groups in IAM
We’re going to set up two groups in IAM: Developers and Senior_Developers. To start, both groups will have the same managed policy, AWSCodeCommitPowerUsers, applied. Users in each group will have exactly the same permissions to perform actions in IAM.
Figure 1: Two example groups in IAM, with distinct users but the same managed policy applied to each group
In the navigation pane, choose Groups, and then choose Create New Group.
In the Group Name box, type Developers, and then choose Next Step.
In the list of policies, select the check box for AWSCodeCommitPowerUsers, then choose Next Step.
Choose Create Group.
Now, follow these steps to create the Senior_Developers group and attach the AWSCodeCommitPowerUsers managed policy. You now have two empty groups with the same policy attached.
Create users in IAM
Next, add at least one unique user to each group. You can use existing IAM users, but because you’ll be affecting their access to AWS CodeCommit, you might want to create two users just for testing purposes. Let’s go ahead and create Arnav and Mary.
In the navigation pane, choose Users, and then choose Add user.
For the new user, type Arnav_Desai.
Choose Add another user, and then type Mary_Major.
Select the type of access (programmatic access, access to the AWS Management Console, or both). In this blog post, we’ll be testing everything from the console, but if you want to test AWS CodeCommit using the AWS CLI, make sure you include programmatic access and console access.
For Console password type, choose Custom password. Each user is assigned the password that you type in the box. Write these down so you don’t forget them. You’ll need to sign in to the console using each of these accounts.
Choose Next: Permissions.
On the Set permissions page, choose Add user to group. Add Arnav to the Developers group. Add Mary to the Senior_Developers group.
Choose Next: Review to see all of the choices you made up to this point. When you are ready to proceed, choose Create user.
Sign in as Arnav, and then follow these steps to go to the master branch and add a file. Then sign in as Mary and follow the same steps.
On the Dashboard page, from the list of repositories, choose MyDemoRepo.
In the Code view, choose the branch named master.
Choose Add file, and then choose Create file. Type some text or code in the editor.
Provide information to other users about who added this file to the repository and why.
In Author name, type the name of the user (Arnav or Mary).
In Email address, type an email address so that other repository users can contact you about this change.
In Commit message, type a brief description to help you remember why you added this file or any other details you might find helpful.
Type a name for the file.
Choose Commit file.
Now follow the same steps to add a file in a different branch. (In our example repository, that’s the branch named test-branch.) You should be able to add a file to both branches regardless of whether you’re signed in as Arnav or Mary.
Let’s change that.
Create a conditional policy in IAM
You’re going to create a policy in IAM that will deny API actions if certain conditions are met. We want to prevent users with this policy applied from updating a branch named master, but we don’t want to prevent them from viewing the branch, cloning the repository, or creating pull requests that will merge to that branch. For this reason, we want to pick and choose our APIs carefully. Looking at the Permissions Reference, the logical permissions for this are:
Now’s the time to think about what else you might want this policy to do. For example, because we don’t want users with this policy to make changes to this branch, we probably don’t want them to be able to delete it either, right? So let’s add one more permission:
The branch in which we want to deny these actions is master. The repository in which the branch resides is MyDemoRepo. We’re going to need more than just the repository name, though. We need the repository ARN. Fortunately, that’s easy to find. Just go to the AWS CodeCommit console, choose the repository, and choose Settings. The repository ARN is displayed on the General tab.
Now we’re ready to create a policy. 1. Open the IAM console at https://console.aws.amazon.com/iam/. Make sure you’re signed in with the account that has sufficient permissions to create policies, and not as Arnav or Mary. 2. In the navigation pane, choose Policies, and then choose Create policy. 3. Choose JSON, and then paste in the following:
You’ll notice a few things here. First, change the repository ARN to the ARN for your repository and include the repository name. Second, if you want to restrict access to a branch with a name different from our example, master, change that reference too.
Now let’s talk about this policy and what it does. You might be wondering why we’re using a Git reference (refs/heads) value instead of just the branch name. The answer lies in how Git references things, and how AWS CodeCommit, as a Git-based repository service, implements its APIs. A branch in Git is a simple pointer (reference) to the SHA-1 value of the head commit for that branch.
You might also be wondering about the second part of the condition, the nullification language. This is necessary because of the way git push and git-receive-pack work. Without going into too many technical details, when you attempt to push a change from a local repo to AWS CodeCommit, an initial reference call is made to AWS CodeCommit without any branch information. AWS CodeCommit evaluates that initial call to ensure that:
a) You’re authorized to make calls.
b) A repository exists with the name specified in the initial call. If you left that null out of the policy, users with that policy would be unable to complete any pushes from their local repos to the AWS CodeCommit remote repository at all, regardless of which branch they were trying to push their commits to.
Could you write a policy in such a way that the null is not required? Of course. IAM policy language is flexible. There’s an example of how to do this in the AWS CodeCommit User Guide, if you’re curious. But for the purposes of this blog post, let’s continue with this policy as written.
So what have we essentially said in this policy? We’ve asked IAM to deny the relevant CodeCommit permissions if the request is made to the resource MyDemoRepo and it meets the following condition: the reference is to refs/heads/master. Otherwise, the deny does not apply.
I’m sure you’re wondering if this policy has to be constrained to a specific repository resource like MyDemoRepo. After all, it would be awfully convenient if a single policy could apply to all branches in any repository in an AWS account, particularly since the default branch in any repository is initially the master branch. Good news! Simply replace the ARN with an *, and your policy will affect ALL branches named master in every AWS CodeCommit repository in your AWS account. Make sure that this is really what you want, though. We suggest you start by limiting the scope to just one repository, and then changing things when you’ve tested it and are happy with how it works.
When you’re sure you’ve modified the policy for your environment, choose Review policy to validate it. Give this policy a name, such as DenyChangesToMaster, provide a description of its purpose, and then choose Create policy.
Now that you have a policy, it’s time to apply and test it.
Apply the policy to a group
In theory, you could apply the policy you just created directly to any IAM user, but that really doesn’t scale well. You should apply this policy to a group, if you use IAM groups to manage users, or to a role, if your users assume a role when interacting with AWS resources.
In the IAM console, choose Groups, and then choose Developers.
On the Permissions tab, choose Attach Policy.
Choose DenyChangesToMaster, and then choose Attach policy.
Your groups now have a critical difference: users in the Developers group have an additional policy applied that restricts their actions in the master branch. In other words, Mary can continue to add files, push commits, and merge pull requests in the master branch, but Arnav cannot.
Figure 2: Two example groups in IAM, one with an additional policy applied that will prevent users in this group from making changes to the master branch
Test it out. Sign in as Arnav, and do the following:
On the Dashboard page, from the list of repositories, choose MyDemoRepo.
In the Code view, choose the branch named master.
Choose Add file, and then choose Create file, just as you did before. Provide some text, and then add the file name and your user information.
Choose Commit file.
This time you’ll see an error after choosing Commit file. It’s not a pretty message, but at the very end, you’ll see a telling phrase: “explicit deny”. That’s the policy in action. You, as Arnav, are explicitly denied PutFile, which prevents you from adding a file to the master branch. You’ll see similar results if you try other actions denied by that policy, such as deleting the master branch.
Stay signed in as Arnav, but this time add a file to test-branch. You should be able to add a file without seeing any errors. You can create a branch based on the master branch, add a file to it, and create a pull request that will merge to the master branch, all just as before. However, you cannot perform denied actions on that master branch.
Sign out as Arnav and sign in as Mary. You’ll see that as that IAM user, you can add and edit files in the master branch, merge pull requests to it, and even, although we don’t recommend this, delete it.
You can use conditional statements in policies in IAM to refine how users interact with your AWS CodeCommit repositories. This blog post showed how to use such a policy to prevent users from making changes to a branch named master. There are many other options. We hope this blog post will encourage you to experiment with AWS CodeCommit, IAM policies, and permissions. If you have any questions or suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) describes data processor and data controller roles, and some customers and AWS Partner Network (APN) partners are asking how this affects the long-established AWS Shared Responsibility Model. I wanted to take some time to help folks understand shared responsibilities for us and for our customers in context of the GDPR.
How does the AWS Shared Responsibility Model change under GDPR? The short answer – it doesn’t. AWS is responsible for securing the underlying infrastructure that supports the cloud and the services provided; while customers and APN partners, acting either as data controllers or data processors, are responsible for any personal data they put in the cloud. The shared responsibility model illustrates the various responsibilities of AWS and our customers and APN partners, and the same separation of responsibility applies under the GDPR.
AWS responsibilities as a data processor
The GDPR does introduce specific regulation and responsibilities regarding data controllers and processors. When any AWS customer uses our services to process personal data, the controller is usually the AWS customer (and sometimes it is the AWS customer’s customer). However, in all of these cases, AWS is always the data processor in relation to this activity. This is because the customer is directing the processing of data through its interaction with the AWS service controls, and AWS is only executing customer directions. As a data processor, AWS is responsible for protecting the global infrastructure that runs all of our services. Controllers using AWS maintain control over data hosted on this infrastructure, including the security configuration controls for handling end-user content and personal data. Protecting this infrastructure, is our number one priority, and we invest heavily in third-party auditors to test our security controls and make any issues they find available to our customer base through AWS Artifact. Our ISO 27018 report is a good example, as it tests security controls that focus on protection of personal data in particular.
AWS has an increased responsibility for our managed services. Examples of managed services include Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon RDS, Amazon Redshift, Amazon Elastic MapReduce, and Amazon WorkSpaces. These services provide the scalability and flexibility of cloud-based resources with less operational overhead because we handle basic security tasks like guest operating system (OS) and database patching, firewall configuration, and disaster recovery. For most managed services, you only configure logical access controls and protect account credentials, while maintaining control and responsibility of any personal data.
Customer and APN partner responsibilities as data controllers — and how AWS Services can help
Our customers can act as data controllers or data processors within their AWS environment. As a data controller, the services you use may determine how you configure those services to help meet your GDPR compliance needs. For example, AWS Services that are classified as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), such as Amazon EC2, Amazon VPC, and Amazon S3, are under your control and require you to perform all routine security configuration and management that would be necessary no matter where the servers were located. With Amazon EC2 instances, you are responsible for managing: guest OS (including updates and security patches), application software or utilities installed on the instances, and the configuration of the AWS-provided firewall (called a security group).
To help you realize data protection by design principles under the GDPR when using our infrastructure, we recommend you protect AWS account credentials and set up individual user accounts with Amazon Identity and Access Management (IAM) so that each user is only given the permissions necessary to fulfill their job duties. We also recommend using multi-factor authentication (MFA) with each account, requiring the use of SSL/TLS to communicate with AWS resources, setting up API/user activity logging with AWS CloudTrail, and using AWS encryption solutions, along with all default security controls within AWS Services. You can also use advanced managed security services, such as Amazon Macie, which assists in discovering and securing personal data stored in Amazon S3.
For more information, you can download the AWS Security Best Practices whitepaper or visit the AWS Security Resources or GDPR Center webpages. In addition to our solutions and services, AWS APN partners can provide hundreds of tools and features to help you meet your security objectives, ranging from network security and configuration management to access control and data encryption.
Earlier this spring, an excited group of STEM educators came together to participate in the first ever Raspberry Pi and Arduino workshop in Puerto Rico.
Their three-day digital making adventure was led by MakerTechPR’s José Rullán and Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Alex Martínez. They ran the event as part of the Robot Makers challenge organized by Yees! and sponsored by Puerto Rico’s Department of Economic Development and Trade to promote entrepreneurial skills within Puerto Rico’s education system.
Over 30 educators attended the workshop, which covered the use of the Raspberry Pi 3 as a computer and digital making resource. The educators received a kit consisting of a Raspberry Pi 3 with an Explorer HAT Pro and an Arduino Uno. At the end of the workshop, the educators were able to keep the kit as a demonstration unit for their classrooms. They were enthusiastic to learn new concepts and immerse themselves in the world of physical computing.
In their first session, the educators were introduced to the Raspberry Pi as an affordable technology for robotic clubs. In their second session, they explored physical computing and the coding languages needed to control the Explorer HAT Pro. They started off coding with Scratch, with which some educators had experience, and ended with controlling the GPIO pins with Python. In the final session, they learned how to develop applications using the powerful combination of Arduino and Raspberry Pi for robotics projects. This gave them a better understanding of how they could engage their students in physical computing.
“The Raspberry Pi ecosystem is the perfect solution in the classroom because to us it is very resourceful and accessible.” – Alex Martínez
Computer science and robotics courses are important for many schools and teachers in Puerto Rico. The simple idea of programming a microcontroller from a $35 computer increases the chances of more students having access to more technology to create things.
Puerto Rico’s education system has faced enormous challenges after Hurricane Maria, including economic collapse and the government’s closure of many schools due to the exodus of families from the island. By attending training like this workshop, educators in Puerto Rico are becoming more experienced in fields like robotics in particular, which are key for 21st-century skills and learning. This, in turn, can lead to more educational opportunities, and hopefully the reopening of more schools on the island.
“We find it imperative that our children be taught STEM disciplines and skills. Our goal is to continue this work of spreading digital making and computer science using the Raspberry Pi around Puerto Rico. We want our children to have the best education possible.” – Alex Martínez
After attending Picademy in 2016, Alex has integrated the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online resources into his classroom. He has also taught small workshops around the island and in the local Puerto Rican makerspace community. José is an electrical engineer, entrepreneur, educator and hobbyist who enjoys learning to use technology and sharing his knowledge through projects and challenges.
Spencer Ackerman has this interesting story about a guy assigned to crack down on unauthorized White House leaks. It’s necessarily light on technical details, so I thought I’d write up some guesses, either as a guide for future reporters asking questions, or for people who want to better know the risks when leak information.
It should come as no surprise that your work email and phone are already monitored. They can get every email you’ve sent or received, even if you’ve deleted it. They can get every text message you’ve sent or received, the metadata of every phone call sent or received, and so forth.
To a lesser extent, this also applies to your well-known personal phone and email accounts. Law enforcement can get the metadata (which includes text messages) for these things without a warrant. In the above story, the person doing the investigation wasn’t law enforcement, but I’m not sure that’s a significant barrier if they can pass things onto the Secret Service or something.
The danger here isn’t that you used these things to leak, it’s that you’ve used these things to converse with the reporter before you made the decision to leak. That’s what happened in the Reality Winner case: she communicated with The Intercept before she allegedly leaked a printed document to them via postal mail. While it wasn’t conclusive enough to convict her, the innocent emails certainly put the investigators on her trail.
The path to leaking often starts this way: innocent actions before the decision to leak was made that will come back to haunt the person afterwards. That includes emails. That also includes Google searches. That includes websites you visit (like this one). I’m not sure how to solve this, except that if you’ve been in contact with The Intercept, and then you decide to leak, send it to anybody but The Intercept.
By the way, the other thing that caught Reality Winner is the records they had of her accessing files and printing them on a printer. Depending where you work, they may have a record of every file you’ve accessed, every intranet page you visited. Because of the way printers put secret dots on documents, investigators know precisely which printer and time the document leaked to The Intercept was printed.
Photographs suffer the same problem: your camera and phone tag the photographs with GPS coordinates and time the photograph was taken, as well as information about the camera. This accidentally exposed John McAfee’s hiding location when Vice took pictures of him a few years ago. Some people leak by taking pictures of the screen — use a camera without GPS for this (meaning, a really old camera you bought from a pawnshop).
These examples should impress upon you the dangers of not understanding technology. As soon as you do something to evade surveillance you know about, you may get caught by surveillance you don’t know about.
If you nonetheless want to continue forward, the next step may be to get a “burner phone”. You can get an adequate Android “prepaid” phone for cash at the local Walmart, electronics store, or phone store.
There’s some problems with such phones, though. They can often be tracked back to the store that sold them, and the store will have security cameras that record you making the purchase. License plate readers and GPS tracking on your existing phone may also place you at that Walmart.
I don’t know how to resolve these problems. Perhaps the best is grow a beard and on the last day of your vacation, color your hair, take a long bike/metro ride (without your existing phone) to a store many miles away and pick up a phone, then shave and change your color back again. I don’t know — there’s a good chance any lame attempt you or I might think of has already been experienced by law enforcement, so they are likely ahead of you. Maybe ask your local drug dealer where they get their burner phones, and if they can sell you one. Of course, that just means when they get caught for drug dealing, they can reduce their sentence by giving up the middle class person who bought a phone from them.
Lastly, they may age out old security videos, so simply waiting six months before using the phone might work. That means prepaying for an entire year.
Note that I’m not going to link to examples of cheap burner phones on this page. Web browsers will sometimes prefetch some information from links in a webpage, so simply including links in this page can condemn you as having interest in burner phones. You are already in enough trouble for having visited this web page.
Burner phones have GPS. Newer the technology, like the latest Android LTE phones, have pretty accurate GPS that the police can query (without a warrant). If you take the phone home and turn it on, they’ll then be able to trace back the phone to your home. Carrying the phone around with you has the same problem, with the phone’s location correlating with your existing phone (which presumably you also carry) or credit card receipts. Rumors are that Petraeus was partly brought down by tracking locations where he used his credit card, namely, matching the hotel he was in with Internet address information.
Older phones that support 3G or even 2G have poorer GPS capabilities. They’ll still located you to the nearest cell tower, but not as accurately to your exact location.
A better strategy than a burner phone would be a burner laptop computer used with WiFi. You can get a cheap one for $200 at Amazon.com. My favorite are the 11 inch ones with a full sized keyboard and Windows 10. Better yet, get an older laptop for cash from a pawn shop.
You can install chat apps on this like “Signal Desktop”, “Wire Desktop”, or “WhatsApp” that will allow you to securely communicate. Or use “Discord”, which isn’t really encrypted, but it’s popular among gamers so therefore less likely to stand out. You can sit in a bar with free WiFi and a USB headset and talk to reporters without having a phone. If the reporter you want to leak to doesn’t have those apps (either on their own laptop or phone) then you don’t want to talk to them.
Needless to say, don’t cross the streams. Don’t log onto your normal accounts like Facebook. If you create fake Facebook accounts, don’t follow the same things. Better yet, configure your browser to discard all information (especially “cookies”) every time you log off, so you can’t be tracked. Install ad blockers, or use the “Brave” web browser, to remove even more trackers. A common trick among hackers is to change the “theme” to a red background, as a constant subliminal reminder that you using your dangerous computer, and never to do anything that identifies the real you.
Put tape over the camera. I’m not sure it’s a really big danger, but put tape over the camera. If they infect you enough to get your picture, they’ve also infected you enough to record any audio on your computer. Remember that proper encryption is end-to-end (they can’t eavesdrop in transit), but if they hack the ends (your laptop, or the reporter’s) they can still record the audio.
Note that when your burner laptop is in “sleep” mode, it can still be talking to the local wifi. Before taking it home, make sure it’s off. Go into the settings and configure it so that when the lid is closed, the computer is turned completely off.
It goes without saying: don’t use that burner laptop from home. Luckily, free wifi is everyone, so the local cafe, bar, or library can be used.
The next step is to also use a VPN or Tor to mask your Internet address. If there’s an active investigation into the reporter, they’ll get the metadata, the Internet address of the bar/cafe you are coming from. A good VPN provider or especially Tor will stop this. Remember that these providers increase latency, making phone calls a bit harder, but they are a lot safer.
Remember that Ross Ulbricht (owner of dark website market Silk Road) was caught in a library. They’d traced back his Internet address and grabbed his laptop out of his hands. Having it turn off (off off, not sleep off) when the lid is closed is one way to reduce this risk. Configuring your web browser to flush all cookies and passwords on restart is another. If they catch you in mid conversation with your secret contact, though, they’ll at least be able to hear your side of the conversation, and know who you are talking to.
The best measure, though it takes some learning, is “Tails live”. It’s a Linux distribution preconfigured with Tor and various secure chat apps that’ll boot from the USB or SD card. When you turn off the computer, nothing will be saved, so there will be no evidence saved to the disk for investigators to retrieve later.
While we are talking about Tor, it should be noted that many news organizations (NYTimes, Washington Post, The Intercept, etc.) support “SecureDrop” accessed only through Tor for receiving anonymous tips. Burner laptops you use from bars from Tails is the likely your most secure way of doing things.
The point of this post was not to provide a howto guide, but to discuss many of the technological issues involved. In a story about White House people investigating leaks, I’d like to see something in this technological direction. I’d like to know exactly how they were investigating leaks. Certainly, they were investigating all work computers, accounts, and phones. Where they also able to get to non-work computers, accounts, phones? Did they have law enforcement powers? What could they do about burner phones and laptops?
In any case, if you do want a howto guide, the discussion above should put some fear into you how easily you can inadvertently make a mistake.
Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose is the easiest way to capture and stream data into a data lake built on Amazon S3. This data can be anything—from AWS service logs like AWS CloudTrail log files, Amazon VPC Flow Logs, Application Load Balancer logs, and others. It can also be IoT events, game events, and much more. To efficiently query this data, a time-consuming ETL (extract, transform, and load) process is required to massage and convert the data to an optimal file format, which increases the time to insight. This situation is less than ideal, especially for real-time data that loses its value over time.
To solve this common challenge, Kinesis Data Firehose can now save data to Amazon S3 in Apache Parquet or Apache ORC format. These are optimized columnar formats that are highly recommended for best performance and cost-savings when querying data in S3. This feature directly benefits you if you use Amazon Athena, Amazon Redshift, AWS Glue, Amazon EMR, or any other big data tools that are available from the AWS Partner Network and through the open-source community.
Amazon Connect is a simple-to-use, cloud-based contact center service that makes it easy for any business to provide a great customer experience at a lower cost than common alternatives. Its open platform design enables easy integration with other systems. One of those systems is Amazon Kinesis—in particular, Kinesis Data Streams and Kinesis Data Firehose.
What’s really exciting is that you can now save events from Amazon Connect to S3 in Apache Parquet format. You can then perform analytics using Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum in real time, taking advantage of this key performance and cost optimization. Of course, Amazon Connect is only one example. This new capability opens the door for a great deal of opportunity, especially as organizations continue to build their data lakes.
Amazon Connect includes an array of analytics views in the Administrator dashboard. But you might want to run other types of analysis. In this post, I describe how to set up a data stream from Amazon Connect through Kinesis Data Streams and Kinesis Data Firehose and out to S3, and then perform analytics using Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum. I focus primarily on the Kinesis Data Firehose support for Parquet and its integration with the AWS Glue Data Catalog, Amazon Athena, and Amazon Redshift.
Here is how the solution is laid out:
The following sections walk you through each of these steps to set up the pipeline.
1. Define the schema
When Kinesis Data Firehose processes incoming events and converts the data to Parquet, it needs to know which schema to apply. The reason is that many times, incoming events contain all or some of the expected fields based on which values the producers are advertising. A typical process is to normalize the schema during a batch ETL job so that you end up with a consistent schema that can easily be understood and queried. Doing this introduces latency due to the nature of the batch process. To overcome this issue, Kinesis Data Firehose requires the schema to be defined in advance.
To see the available columns and structures, see Amazon Connect Agent Event Streams. For the purpose of simplicity, I opted to make all the columns of type String rather than create the nested structures. But you can definitely do that if you want.
The simplest way to define the schema is to create a table in the Amazon Athena console. Open the Athena console, and paste the following create table statement, substituting your own S3 bucket and prefix for where your event data will be stored. A Data Catalog database is a logical container that holds the different tables that you can create. The default database name shown here should already exist. If it doesn’t, you can create it or use another database that you’ve already created.
That’s all you have to do to prepare the schema for Kinesis Data Firehose.
2. Define the data streams
Next, you need to define the Kinesis data streams that will be used to stream the Amazon Connect events. Open the Kinesis Data Streams console and create two streams. You can configure them with only one shard each because you don’t have a lot of data right now.
3. Define the Kinesis Data Firehose delivery stream for Parquet
Let’s configure the Data Firehose delivery stream using the data stream as the source and Amazon S3 as the output. Start by opening the Kinesis Data Firehose console and creating a new data delivery stream. Give it a name, and associate it with the Kinesis data stream that you created in Step 2.
As shown in the following screenshot, enable Record format conversion (1) and choose Apache Parquet (2). As you can see, Apache ORC is also supported. Scroll down and provide the AWS Glue Data Catalog database name (3) and table names (4) that you created in Step 1. Choose Next.
To make things easier, the output S3 bucket and prefix fields are automatically populated using the values that you defined in the LOCATION parameter of the create table statement from Step 1. Pretty cool. Additionally, you have the option to save the raw events into another location as defined in the Source record S3 backup section. Don’t forget to add a trailing forward slash “ / “ so that Data Firehose creates the date partitions inside that prefix.
On the next page, in the S3 buffer conditions section, there is a note about configuring a large buffer size. The Parquet file format is highly efficient in how it stores and compresses data. Increasing the buffer size allows you to pack more rows into each output file, which is preferred and gives you the most benefit from Parquet.
Compression using Snappy is automatically enabled for both Parquet and ORC. You can modify the compression algorithm by using the Kinesis Data Firehose API and update the OutputFormatConfiguration.
Be sure to also enable Amazon CloudWatch Logs so that you can debug any issues that you might run into.
Lastly, finalize the creation of the Firehose delivery stream, and continue on to the next section.
4. Set up the Amazon Connect contact center
After setting up the Kinesis pipeline, you now need to set up a simple contact center in Amazon Connect. The Getting Started page provides clear instructions on how to set up your environment, acquire a phone number, and create an agent to accept calls.
After setting up the contact center, in the Amazon Connect console, choose your Instance Alias, and then choose Data Streaming. Under Agent Event, choose the Kinesis data stream that you created in Step 2, and then choose Save.
At this point, your pipeline is complete. Agent events from Amazon Connect are generated as agents go about their day. Events are sent via Kinesis Data Streams to Kinesis Data Firehose, which converts the event data from JSON to Parquet and stores it in S3. Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum can simply query the data without any additional work.
So let’s generate some data. Go back into the Administrator console for your Amazon Connect contact center, and create an agent to handle incoming calls. In this example, I creatively named mine Agent One. After it is created, Agent One can get to work and log into their console and set their availability to Available so that they are ready to receive calls.
To make the data a bit more interesting, I also created a second agent, Agent Two. I then made some incoming and outgoing calls and caused some failures to occur, so I now have enough data available to analyze.
5. Analyze the data with Athena
Let’s open the Athena console and run some queries. One thing you’ll notice is that when we created the schema for the dataset, we defined some of the fields as Strings even though in the documentation they were complex structures. The reason for doing that was simply to show some of the flexibility of Athena to be able to parse JSON data. However, you can define nested structures in your table schema so that Kinesis Data Firehose applies the appropriate schema to the Parquet file.
Let’s run the first query to see which agents have logged into the system.
The query might look complex, but it’s fairly straightforward:
WITH dataset AS (
from_iso8601_timestamp(eventtimestamp) AS event_ts,
-- CURRENT STATE
'$.agentstatus.name') AS current_status,
'$.agentstatus.starttimestamp')) AS current_starttimestamp,
'$.configuration.firstname') AS current_firstname,
'$.configuration.lastname') AS current_lastname,
'$.configuration.username') AS current_username,
'$.configuration.routingprofile.defaultoutboundqueue.name') AS current_outboundqueue,
'$.configuration.routingprofile.inboundqueues.name') as current_inboundqueue,
-- PREVIOUS STATE
'$.agentstatus.name') as prev_status,
'$.agentstatus.starttimestamp')) as prev_starttimestamp,
'$.configuration.firstname') as prev_firstname,
'$.configuration.lastname') as prev_lastname,
'$.configuration.username') as prev_username,
'$.configuration.routingprofile.defaultoutboundqueue.name') as current_outboundqueue,
'$.configuration.routingprofile.inboundqueues.name') as prev_inboundqueue
where eventtype <> 'HEART_BEAT'
current_status as status,
current_username as username,
WHERE eventtype = 'LOGIN' AND current_username <> ''
ORDER BY event_ts DESC
The query output looks something like this:
Here is another query that shows the sessions each of the agents engaged with. It tells us where they were incoming or outgoing, if they were completed, and where there were missed or failed calls.
WITH src AS (
json_extract_scalar(currentagentsnapshot, '$.configuration.username') as username,
cast(json_extract(currentagentsnapshot, '$.contacts') AS ARRAY(JSON)) as c,
cast(json_extract(previousagentsnapshot, '$.contacts') AS ARRAY(JSON)) as p
src2 AS (
FROM src CROSS JOIN UNNEST (c, p) AS contacts(c_item, p_item)
dataset AS (
json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.contactid') as c_contactid,
json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.channel') as c_channel,
json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.initiationmethod') as c_direction,
json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.queue.name') as c_queue,
json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.state') as c_state,
from_iso8601_timestamp(json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.statestarttimestamp')) as c_ts,
json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.contactid') as p_contactid,
json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.channel') as p_channel,
json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.initiationmethod') as p_direction,
json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.queue.name') as p_queue,
json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.state') as p_state,
from_iso8601_timestamp(json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.statestarttimestamp')) as p_ts
c_channel as channel,
c_direction as direction,
p_state as prev_state,
c_state as current_state,
c_ts as current_ts,
c_contactid as id
WHERE c_contactid = p_contactid
ORDER BY id DESC, current_ts ASC
The query output looks similar to the following:
6. Analyze the data with Amazon Redshift Spectrum
With Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you can query data directly in S3 using your existing Amazon Redshift data warehouse cluster. Because the data is already in Parquet format, Redshift Spectrum gets the same great benefits that Athena does.
Here is a simple query to show querying the same data from Amazon Redshift. Note that to do this, you need to first create an external schema in Amazon Redshift that points to the AWS Glue Data Catalog.
json_extract_path_text(currentagentsnapshot,'agentstatus','name') AS current_status,
json_extract_path_text(currentagentsnapshot, 'configuration','firstname') AS current_firstname,
json_extract_path_text(currentagentsnapshot, 'configuration','lastname') AS current_lastname,
'configuration','routingprofile','defaultoutboundqueue','name') AS current_outboundqueue,
The following shows the query output:
In this post, I showed you how to use Kinesis Data Firehose to ingest and convert data to columnar file format, enabling real-time analysis using Athena and Amazon Redshift. This great feature enables a level of optimization in both cost and performance that you need when storing and analyzing large amounts of data. This feature is equally important if you are investing in building data lakes on AWS.
Roy Hasson is a Global Business Development Manager for AWS Analytics. He works with customers around the globe to design solutions to meet their data processing, analytics and business intelligence needs. Roy is big Manchester United fan cheering his team on and hanging out with his family.
In an article we posted to Medium in February, we talked about how to determine the best time to engage your customers by using Amazon Pinpoint’s built-in session heat map. The session heat map allows you to find the times that your customers are most likely to use your app. In this post, we continued on the topic of best practices—specifically, how to appropriately test a campaign before going live.
In this post, we’ll talk about the old adage “practice makes perfect,” and how it applies to the campaigns you send using Amazon Pinpoint. Let’s take a scenario many of our customers encounter daily: creating a campaign to engage users by sending a push notification.
As you can see from the preceding screenshot, the segment we plan to target has nearly 1.7M recipients, which is a lot! Of course, before we got to this step, we already put several best practices into practice. For example, we determined the best time to engage our audience, scheduled the message based on recipients’ local time zones, performed A/B/N testing, measured lift using a hold-out group, and personalized the content for maximum effectiveness. Now that we’re ready to send the notification, we should test the message before we send it to all of the recipients in our segment. The reason for testing the message is pretty straightforward: we want to make sure every detail of the message is accurate before we send it to all 1,687,575 customers.
Fortunately, Amazon Pinpoint makes it easy to test your messages—in fact, you don’t even have to leave the campaign wizard in order to do so. In step 3 of the campaign wizard, below the message editor, there’s a button labelled Test campaign.
When you choose the Test campaign button, you have three options: you can send the test message to a segment of 100 endpoints or less, or to a set of specific endpoint IDs (up to 10), or to a set of specific device tokens (up to 10), as shown in the following image.
In our case, we’ve already created a segment of internal recipients who will test our message. On the Test Campaign window, under Send a test message to, we choose A segment. Then, in the drop-down menu, we select our test segment, and then choose Send test message.
Because we’re sending the test message to a segment, Amazon Pinpoint automatically creates a new campaign dedicated to this test. This process executes a test campaign, complete with message analytics, which allows you to perform end-to-end testing as if you sent the message to your production audience. To see the analytics for your test campaign, go to the Campaigns tab, and then choose the campaign (the name of the campaign contains the word “test”, followed by four random characters, followed by the name of the campaign).
After you complete a successful test, you’re ready to launch your campaign. As a final check, the Review & Launch screen includes a reminder that indicates whether or not you’ve tested the campaign, as shown in the following image.
There are several other ways you can use this feature. For example, you could use it for troubleshooting a campaign, or for iterating on existing campaigns. To learn more about testing campaigns, see the Amazon Pinpoint User Guide.
In our blog post on Tuesday, Cryptocurrency Security Challenges, we wrote about the two primary challenges faced by anyone interested in safely and profitably participating in the cryptocurrency economy: 1) make sure you’re dealing with reputable and ethical companies and services, and, 2) keep your cryptocurrency holdings safe and secure.
In this post, we’re going to focus on how to make sure you don’t lose any of your cryptocurrency holdings through accident, theft, or carelessness. You do that by backing up the keys needed to sell or trade your currencies.
$34 Billion in Lost Value
Of the 16.4 million bitcoins said to be in circulation in the middle of 2017, close to 3.8 million may have been lost because their owners no longer are able to claim their holdings. Based on today’s valuation, that could total as much as $34 billion dollars in lost value. And that’s just bitcoins. There are now over 1,500 different cryptocurrencies, and we don’t know how many of those have been misplaced or lost.
Now that some cryptocurrencies have reached (at least for now) staggering heights in value, it’s likely that owners will be more careful in keeping track of the keys needed to use their cryptocurrencies. For the ones already lost, however, the owners have been separated from their currencies just as surely as if they had thrown Benjamin Franklins and Grover Clevelands over the railing of a ship.
The Basics of Securing Your Cryptocurrencies
In our previous post, we reviewed how cryptocurrency keys work, and the common ways owners can keep track of them. A cryptocurrency owner needs two keys to use their currencies: a public key that can be shared with others is used to receive currency, and a private key that must be kept secure is used to spend or trade currency.
Many wallets and applications allow the user to require extra security to access them, such as a password, or iris, face, or thumb print scan. If one of these options is available in your wallets, take advantage of it. Beyond that, it’s essential to back up your wallet, either using the backup feature built into some applications and wallets, or manually backing up the data used by the wallet. When backing up, it’s a good idea to back up the entire wallet, as some wallets require additional private data to operate that might not be apparent.
No matter which backup method you use, it is important to back up often and have multiple backups, preferable in different locations. As with any valuable data, a 3-2-1 backup strategy is good to follow, which ensures that you’ll have a good backup copy if anything goes wrong with one or more copies of your data.
One more caveat, don’t reuse passwords. This applies to all of your accounts, but is especially important for something as critical as your finances. Don’t ever use the same password for more than one account. If security is breached on one of your accounts, someone could connect your name or ID with other accounts, and will attempt to use the password there, as well. Consider using a password manager such as LastPass or 1Password, which make creating and using complex and unique passwords easy no matter where you’re trying to sign in.
Approaches to Backing Up Your Cryptocurrency Keys
There are numerous ways to be sure your keys are backed up. Let’s take them one by one.
1. Automatic backups using a backup program
If you’re using a wallet program on your computer, for example, Bitcoin Core, it will store your keys, along with other information, in a file. For Bitcoin Core, that file is wallet.dat. Other currencies will use the same or a different file name and some give you the option to select a name for the wallet file.
To back up the wallet.dat or other wallet file, you might need to tell your backup program to explicitly back up that file. Users of Backblaze Backup don’t have to worry about configuring this, since by default, Backblaze Backup will back up all data files. You should determine where your particular cryptocurrency, wallet, or application stores your keys, and make sure the necessary file(s) are backed up if your backup program requires you to select which files are included in the backup.
Backblaze B2 is an option for those interested in low-cost and high security cloud storage of their cryptocurrency keys. Backblaze B2 supports 2-factor verification for account access, works with a number of apps that support automatic backups with encryption, error-recovery, and versioning, and offers an API and command-line interface (CLI), as well. The first 10GB of storage is free, which could be all one needs to store encrypted cryptocurrency keys.
2. Backing up by exporting keys to a file
Apps and wallets will let you export your keys from your app or wallet to a file. Once exported, your keys can be stored on a local drive, USB thumb drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud with any cloud storage or sync service you wish. Encrypting the file is strongly encouraged — more on that later. If you use 1Password or LastPass, or other secure notes program, you also could store your keys there.
3. Backing up by saving a mnemonic recovery seed
A mnemonic phrase, mnemonic recovery phrase, or mnemonic seed is a list of words that stores all the information needed to recover a cryptocurrency wallet. Many wallets will have the option to generate a mnemonic backup phrase, which can be written down on paper. If the user’s computer no longer works or their hard drive becomes corrupted, they can download the same wallet software again and use the mnemonic recovery phrase to restore their keys.
The phrase can be used by anyone to recover the keys, so it must be kept safe. Mnemonic phrases are an excellent way of backing up and storing cryptocurrency and so they are used by almost all wallets.
A mnemonic recovery seed is represented by a group of easy to remember words. For example:
The first four letters are enough to unambiguously identify the word.
Similar words are avoided (such as: build and built).
Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, Ethereum, and others use mnemonic seeds that are 12 to 24 words long. Other currencies might use different length seeds.
4. Physical backups — Paper, Metal
Some cryptocurrency holders believe that their backup, or even all their cryptocurrency account information, should be stored entirely separately from the internet to avoid any risk of their information being compromised through hacks, exploits, or leaks. This type of storage is called “cold storage.” One method of cold storage involves printing out the keys to a piece of paper and then erasing any record of the keys from all computer systems. The keys can be entered into a program from the paper when needed, or scanned from a QR code printed on the paper.
Printed public and private keys
Some who go to extremes suggest separating the mnemonic needed to access an account into individual pieces of paper and storing those pieces in different locations in the home or office, or even different geographical locations. Some say this is a bad idea since it could be possible to reconstruct the mnemonic from one or more pieces. How diligent you wish to be in protecting these codes is up to you.
Mnemonic recovery phrase booklet
There’s another option that could make you the envy of your friends. That’s the CryptoSteel wallet, which is a stainless steel metal case that comes with more than 250 stainless steel letter tiles engraved on each side. Codes and passwords are assembled manually from the supplied part-randomized set of tiles. Users are able to store up to 96 characters worth of confidential information. Cryptosteel claims to be fireproof, waterproof, and shock-proof.
Cryptosteel cold wallet
Of course, if you leave your Cryptosteel wallet in the pocket of a pair of ripped jeans that gets thrown out by the housekeeper, as happened to the character Russ Hanneman on the TV show Silicon Valley in last Sunday’s episode, then you’re out of luck. That fictional billionaire investor lost a USB drive with $300 million in cryptocoins. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to you.
Encryption & Security
Whether you store your keys on your computer, an external disk, a USB drive, DAS, NAS, or in the cloud, you want to make sure that no one else can use those keys. The best way to handle that is to encrypt the backup.
With Backblaze Backup for Windows and Macintosh, your backups are encrypted in transmission to the cloud and on the backup server. Users have the option to add an additional level of security by adding a Personal Encryption Key (PEK), which secures their private key. Your cryptocurrency backup files are secure in the cloud. Using our web or mobile interface, previous versions of files can be accessed, as well.
Our object storage cloud offering, Backblaze B2, can be used with a variety of applications for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. With B2, cryptocurrency users can choose whichever method of encryption they wish to use on their local computers and then upload their encrypted currency keys to the cloud. Depending on the client used, versioning and life-cycle rules can be applied to the stored files.
Other backup programs and systems provide some or all of these capabilities, as well. If you are backing up to a local drive, it is a good idea to encrypt the local backup, which is an option in some backup programs.
Some experts recommend using a different address for each cryptocurrency transaction. Since the address is not the same as your wallet, this means that you are not creating a new wallet, but simply using a new identifier for people sending you cryptocurrency. Creating a new address is usually as easy as clicking a button in the wallet.
One of the chief advantages of using a different address for each transaction is anonymity. Each time you use an address, you put more information into the public ledger (blockchain) about where the currency came from or where it went. That means that over time, using the same address repeatedly could mean that someone could map your relationships, transactions, and incoming funds. The more you use that address, the more information someone can learn about you. For more on this topic, refer to Address reuse.
Note that a downside of using a paper wallet with a single key pair (type-0 non-deterministic wallet) is that it has the vulnerabilities listed above. Each transaction using that paper wallet will add to the public record of transactions associated with that address. Newer wallets, i.e. “deterministic” or those using mnemonic code words support multiple addresses and are now recommended.
There are other approaches to keeping your cryptocurrency transaction secure. Here are a couple of them.
Multi-signature refers to requiring more than one key to authorize a transaction, much like requiring more than one key to open a safe. It is generally used to divide up responsibility for possession of cryptocurrency. Standard transactions could be called “single-signature transactions” because transfers require only one signature — from the owner of the private key associated with the currency address (public key). Some wallets and apps can be configured to require more than one signature, which means that a group of people, businesses, or other entities all must agree to trade in the cryptocurrencies.
Deep Cold Storage
Deep cold storage ensures the entire transaction process happens in an offline environment. There are typically three elements to deep cold storage.
First, the wallet and private key are generated offline, and the signing of transactions happens on a system not connected to the internet in any manner. This ensures it’s never exposed to a potentially compromised system or connection.
Second, details are secured with encryption to ensure that even if the wallet file ends up in the wrong hands, the information is protected.
Third, storage of the encrypted wallet file or paper wallet is generally at a location or facility that has restricted access, such as a safety deposit box at a bank.
Deep cold storage is used to safeguard a large individual cryptocurrency portfolio held for the long term, or for trustees holding cryptocurrency on behalf of others, and is possibly the safest method to ensure a crypto investment remains secure.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
You should always make sure that you are using the latest version of your app or wallet software, which includes important stability and security fixes. Installing updates for all other software on your computer or mobile device is also important to keep your wallet environment safer.
One Last Thing: Think About Your Testament
Your cryptocurrency funds can be lost forever if you don’t have a backup plan for your peers and family. If the location of your wallets or your passwords is not known by anyone when you are gone, there is no hope that your funds will ever be recovered. Taking a bit of time on these matters can make a huge difference.
To the Moon*
Are you comfortable with how you’re managing and backing up your cryptocurrency wallets and keys? Do you have a suggestion for keeping your cryptocurrencies safe that we missed above? Please let us know in the comments.
*To the Moon — Crypto slang for a currency that reaches an optimistic price projection.
Earlier this month, the Pentagon stopped selling phones made by the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei on military bases because they might be used to spy on their users.
It’s a legitimate fear, and perhaps a prudent action. But it’s just one instance of the much larger issue of securing our supply chains.
All of our computerized systems are deeply international, and we have no choice but to trust the companies and governments that touch those systems. And while we can ban a few specific products, services or companies, no country can isolate itself from potential foreign interference.
In this specific case, the Pentagon is concerned that the Chinese government demanded that ZTE and Huawei add “backdoors” to their phones that could be surreptitiously turned on by government spies or cause them to fail during some future political conflict. This tampering is possible because the software in these phones is incredibly complex. It’s relatively easy for programmers to hide these capabilities, and correspondingly difficult to detect them.
This isn’t the first time the United States has taken action against foreign software suspected to contain hidden features that can be used against us. Last December, President Trump signed into law a bill banning software from the Russian company Kaspersky from being used within the US government. In 2012, the focus was on Chinese-made Internet routers. Then, the House Intelligence Committee concluded: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”
Nor is the United States the only country worried about these threats. In 2014, China reportedly banned antivirus products from both Kaspersky and the US company Symantec, based on similar fears. In 2017, the Indian government identified 42 smartphone apps that China subverted. Back in 1997, the Israeli company Check Point was dogged by rumors that its government added backdoors into its products; other of that country’s tech companies have been suspected of the same thing. Even al-Qaeda was concerned; ten years ago, a sympathizer released the encryption software Mujahedeen Secrets, claimed to be free of Western influence and backdoors. If a country doesn’t trust another country, then it can’t trust that country’s computer products.
But this trust isn’t limited to the country where the company is based. We have to trust the country where the software is written — and the countries where all the components are manufactured. In 2016, researchers discovered that many different models of cheap Android phones were sending information back to China. The phones might be American-made, but the software was from China. In 2016, researchers demonstrated an even more devious technique, where a backdoor could be added at the computer chip level in the factory that made the chips without the knowledge of, and undetectable by, the engineers who designed the chips in the first place. Pretty much every US technology company manufactures its hardware in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.
We also have to trust the programmers. Today’s large software programs are written by teams of hundreds of programmers scattered around the globe. Backdoors, put there by we-have-no-idea-who, have been discovered in Juniper firewalls and D-Link routers, both of which are US companies. In 2003, someone almost slipped a very clever backdoor into Linux. Think of how many countries’ citizens are writing software for Apple or Microsoft or Google.
We can go even farther down the rabbit hole. We have to trust the distribution systems for our hardware and software. Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency installing backdoors into Cisco routers being shipped to the Syrian telephone company. There are fake apps in the Google Play store that eavesdrop on you. Russian hackers subverted the update mechanism of a popular brand of Ukrainian accounting software to spread the NotPetya malware.
I could go on. Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government. And just as Russia is penetrating the US power grid so they have that capability in the event of hostilities, many countries are almost certainly doing the same thing at the consumer level.
We don’t know whether the risk of Huawei and ZTE equipment is great enough to warrant the ban. We don’t know what classified intelligence the United States has, and what it implies. But we do know that this is just a minor fix for a much larger problem. It’s doubtful that this ban will have any real effect. Members of the military, and everyone else, can still buy the phones. They just can’t buy them on US military bases. And while the US might block the occasional merger or acquisition, or ban the occasional hardware or software product, we’re largely ignoring that larger issue. Solving it borders on somewhere between incredibly expensive and realistically impossible.
Perhaps someday, global norms and international treaties will render this sort of device-level tampering off-limits. But until then, all we can do is hope that this particular arms race doesn’t get too far out of control.
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