Tag Archives: mitigation

Kernel 4.17 released

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/756373/rss

Linus has released the 4.17 kernel, which
will indeed be called “4.17”.
No, I didn’t call it 5.0, even though all the git object count
numerology was in place for that. It will happen in the not _too_
distant future, and I’m told all the release scripts on kernel.org are
ready for it, but I didn’t feel there was any real reason for it.

Headline features in this release include
improved load estimation in the CPU
BPF tracepoints
lazytime support in the XFS filesystem,
full in-kernel TLS protocol support,
histogram triggers for tracing,
mitigations for the latest Spectre variants,
and, of course, the removal of support for eight unloved processor

Details on a New PGP Vulnerability

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

A new PGP vulnerability was announced today. Basically, the vulnerability makes use of the fact that modern e-mail programs allow for embedded HTML objects. Essentially, if an attacker can intercept and modify a message in transit, he can insert code that sends the plaintext in a URL to a remote website. Very clever.

The EFAIL attacks exploit vulnerabilities in the OpenPGP and S/MIME standards to reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails. In a nutshell, EFAIL abuses active content of HTML emails, for example externally loaded images or styles, to exfiltrate plaintext through requested URLs. To create these exfiltration channels, the attacker first needs access to the encrypted emails, for example, by eavesdropping on network traffic, compromising email accounts, email servers, backup systems or client computers. The emails could even have been collected years ago.

The attacker changes an encrypted email in a particular way and sends this changed encrypted email to the victim. The victim’s email client decrypts the email and loads any external content, thus exfiltrating the plaintext to the attacker.

A few initial comments:

1. Being able to intercept and modify e-mails in transit is the sort of thing the NSA can do, but is hard for the average hacker. That being said, there are circumstances where someone can modify e-mails. I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of this attack, but that is a consideration.

2. The vulnerability isn’t with PGP or S/MIME itself, but in the way they interact with modern e-mail programs. You can see this in the two suggested short-term mitigations: “No decryption in the e-mail client,” and “disable HTML rendering.”

3. I’ve been getting some weird press calls from reporters wanting to know if this demonstrates that e-mail encryption is impossible. No, this just demonstrates that programmers are human and vulnerabilities are inevitable. PGP almost certainly has fewer bugs than your average piece of software, but it’s not bug free.

3. Why is anyone using encrypted e-mail anymore, anyway? Reliably and easily encrypting e-mail is an insurmountably hard problem for reasons having nothing to do with today’s announcement. If you need to communicate securely, use Signal. If having Signal on your phone will arouse suspicion, use WhatsApp.

I’ll post other commentaries and analyses as I find them.

EDITED TO ADD (5/14): News articles.

Slashdot thread.

What’s new in HiveMQ 3.4

Post Syndicated from The HiveMQ Team original https://www.hivemq.com/whats-new-in-hivemq-3-4

We are pleased to announce the release of HiveMQ 3.4. This version of HiveMQ is the most resilient and advanced version of HiveMQ ever. The main focus in this release was directed towards addressing the needs for the most ambitious MQTT deployments in the world for maximum performance and resilience for millions of concurrent MQTT clients. Of course, deployments of all sizes can profit from the improvements in the latest and greatest HiveMQ.

This version is a drop-in replacement for HiveMQ 3.3 and of course supports rolling upgrades with zero-downtime.

HiveMQ 3.4 brings many features that your users, administrators and plugin developers are going to love. These are the highlights:


New HiveMQ 3.4 features at a glance


HiveMQ 3.4 brings various improvements in terms of scalability, availability, resilience and observability for the cluster mechanism. Many of the new features remain under the hood, but several additions stand out:

Cluster Overload Protection

The new version has a first-of-its-kind Cluster Overload Protection. The whole cluster is able to spot MQTT clients that cause overload on nodes or the cluster as a whole and protects itself from the overload. This mechanism also protects the deployment from cascading failures due to slow or failing underlying hardware (as sometimes seen on cloud providers). This feature is enabled by default and you can learn more about the mechanism in our documentation.

Dynamic Replicates

HiveMQ’s sophisticated cluster mechanism is able to scale in a linear fashion due to extremely efficient and true data distribution mechanics based on a configured replication factor. The most important aspect of every cluster is availability, which is achieved by having eventual consistency functions in place for edge cases. The 3.4 version adds dynamic replicates to the cluster so even the most challenging edge cases involving network splits don’t lead to the sacrifice of consistency for the most important MQTT operations.

Node Stress Level Metrics

All MQTT cluster nodes are now aware of their own stress level and the stress levels of other cluster members. While all stress mitigation is handled internally by HiveMQ, experienced operators may want to monitor the individual node’s stress level (e.g with Grafana) in order to start investigating what caused the increase of load.


Operators worldwide love the HiveMQ WebUI introduced with HiveMQ 3.3. We gathered all the fantastic feedback from our users and polished the WebUI, so it’s even more useful for day-to-day broker operations and remote debugging of MQTT clients. The most important changes and additions are:

Trace Recording Download

The unique Trace Recordings functionality is without doubt a lifesaver when the behavior of individual MQTT clients needs further investigation as all interactions with the broker can be traced — at runtime and at scale! Huge production deployments may accumulate multiple gigabytes of trace recordings. HiveMQ now offers a convenient way to collect all trace recordings from all nodes, zips them and allows the download via a simple button on the WebUI. Remote debugging was never easier!

Additional Client Detail Information in WebUI

The mission of the HiveMQ WebUI is to provide easy insights to the whole production MQTT cluster for operators and administrators. Individual MQTT client investigations are a piece of cake, as all available information about clients can be viewed in detail. We further added the ability to view the restrictions a concrete client has:

  • Maximum Inflight Queue Size
  • Client Offline Queue Messages Size
  • Client Offline Message Drop Strategy

Session Invalidation

MQTT persistent sessions are one of the outstanding features of the MQTT protocol specification. Sessions which do not expire but are never reused unnecessarily consume disk space and memory. Administrators can now invalidate individual session directly in the HiveMQ WebUI for client sessions, which can be deleted safely. HiveMQ 3.4 will take care and release the resources on all cluster nodes after a session was invalidated

Web UI Polishing

Most texts on the WebUI were revisited and are now clearer and crisper. The help texts also received a major overhaul and should now be more, well, helpful. In addition, many small improvements were added, which are most of the time invisible but are here to help when you need them most. For example, the WebUI now displays a warning if cluster nodes with old versions are in the cluster (which may happen if a rolling upgrade was not finished properly)

Plugin System

One of the most popular features of HiveMQ is the extensive Plugin System, which virtually enables the integration of HiveMQ to any system and allows hooking into all aspects of the MQTT lifecycle. We listened to the feedback and are pleased to announce many improvements, big and small, for the Plugin System:

Client Session Time-to-live for individual clients

HiveMQ 3.3 offered a global configuration for setting the Time-To-Live for MQTT sessions. With the advent of HiveMQ 3.4, users can now programmatically set Time-To-Live values for individual MQTT clients and can discard a MQTT session immediately.

Individual Inflight Queues

While the Inflight Queue configuration is typically sufficient in the HiveMQ default configuration, there are some use cases that require the adjustment of this configuration. It’s now possible to change the Inflight Queue size for individual clients via the Plugin System.

Plugin Service Overload Protection

The HiveMQ Plugin System is a power-user tool and it’s possible to do unbelievably useful modifications as well as putting major stress on the system as a whole if the programmer is not careful. In order to protect the HiveMQ instances from accidental overload, a Plugin Service Overload Protection can be configured. This rate limits the Plugin Service usage and gives feedback to the application programmer in case the rate limit is exceeded. This feature is disabled by default but we strongly recommend updating your plugins to profit from this feature.

Session Attribute Store putIfNewer

This is one of the small bits you almost never need but when you do, you’re ecstatic for being able to use it. The Session Attribute Store now offers methods to put values, if the values you want to put are newer or fresher than the values already written. This is extremely useful, if multiple cluster nodes want to write to the Session Attribute Store simultaneously, as this guarantees that outdated values can no longer overwrite newer values.

Disconnection Timestamp for OnDisconnectCallback

As the OnDisconnectCallback is executed asynchronously, the client might already be gone when the callback is executed. It’s now easy to obtain the exact timestamp when a MQTT client disconnected, even if the callback is executed later on. This feature might be very interesting for many plugin developers in conjunction with the Session Attribute Store putIfNewer functionality.


We ❤️ Operators and we strive to provide all the tools needed for operating and administrating a MQTT broker cluster at scale in any environment. A key strategy for successful operations of any system is monitoring. We added some interesting new metrics you might find useful.

System Metrics

In addition to JVM Metrics, HiveMQ now also gathers Operating System Metrics for Linux Systems. So HiveMQ is able to see for itself how the operating system views the process, including native memory, the real CPU usage, and open file usage. These metrics are particularly useful, if you don’t have a monitoring agent for Linux systems setup. All metrics can be found here.

Client Disconnection Metrics

The reality of many MQTT scenarios is that not all clients are able to disconnect gracefully by sending MQTT DISCONNECT messages. HiveMQ now also exposes metrics about clients that disconnected by closing the TCP connection instead of sending a DISCONNECT packet first. This is especially useful for monitoring, if you regularly deal with clients that don’t have a stable connection to the MQTT brokers.


JMX enabled by default

JMX, the Java Monitoring Extension, is now enabled by default. Many HiveMQ operators use Application Performance Monitoring tools, which are able to hook into the metrics via JMX or use plain JMX for on-the-fly debugging. While we recommend to use official off-the-shelf plugins for monitoring, it’s now easier than ever to just use JMX if other solutions are not available to you.

Other notable improvements

The 3.4 release of HiveMQ is full of hidden gems and improvements. While it would be too much to highlight all small improvements, these notable changes stand out and contribute to the best HiveMQ release ever.

Topic Level Distribution Configuration

Our recommendation for all huge deployments with millions of devices is: Start with separate topic prefixes by bringing the dynamic topic parts directly to the beginning. The reality is that many customers have topics that are constructed like the following: “devices/{deviceId}/status”. So what happens is that all topics in this example start with a common prefix, “devices”, which is the first topic level. Unfortunately the first topic level doesn’t include a dynamic topic part. In order to guarantee the best scalability of the cluster and the best performance of the topic tree, customers can now configure how many topic levels are used for distribution. In the example outlined here, a topic level distribution of 2 would be perfect and guarantees the best scalability.

Mass disconnect performance improvements

Mass disconnections of MQTT clients can happen. This might be the case when e.g. a load balancer in front of the MQTT broker cluster drops the connections or if a mobile carrier experiences connectivity problems. Prior to HiveMQ 3.4, mass disconnect events caused stress on the cluster. Mass disconnect events are now massively optimized and even tens of millions of connection losses at the same time won’t bring the cluster into stress situations.


Replication Performance Improvements

Due to the distributed nature of a HiveMQ, data needs to be replicated across the cluster in certain events, e.g. when cluster topology changes occur. There are various internal improvements in HiveMQ version 3.4, which increase the replication performance significantly. Our engineers put special love into the replication of Queued Messages, which is now faster than ever, even for multiple millions of Queued Messages that need to be transferred across the cluster.

Updated Native SSL Libraries

The Native SSL Integration of HiveMQ was updated to the newest BoringSSL version. This results in better performance and increased security. In case you’re using SSL and you are not yet using the native SSL integration, we strongly recommend to give it a try, more than 40% performance improvement can be observed for most deployments.


Improvements for Java 9

While Java 9 was already supported for older HiveMQ versions, HiveMQ 3.4 has full-blown Java 9 support. The minimum Java version still remains Java 7, although we strongly recommend to use Java 8 or newer for the best performance of HiveMQ.

[$] The impact of page-table isolation on I/O performance

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/752587/rss

Ever since kernel page-table isolation
was introduced as a mitigation for
the Meltdown CPU vulnerability, users have worried about how it affects the
performance of their systems. Most of that concern has been directed
toward its impact on computing performance, but I/O performance also
matters. At the 2018 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management
Summit, Ming Lei presented some preliminary work he has done to try to
quantify how severely PTI affects block I/O operations.

Pirate Site-Blocking? Music Biz Wants App Blocking Too

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-site-blocking-music-biz-wants-app-blocking-too-180415/

In some way, shape or form, Internet piracy has always been carried out through some kind of application. Whether that’s a peer-to-peer client utilizing BitTorrent or eD2K, or a Usenet or FTP tool taking things back to their roots, software has always played a crucial role.

Of course, the nature of the Internet beast means that software usage is unavoidable but in recent years piracy has swung more towards the regular web browser, meaning that sites and services offering pirated content are largely easy to locate, identify and block, if authorities so choose.

As revealed this week by the MPA, thousands of platforms around the world are now targeted for blocking, with 1,800 sites and 5,300 domains blocked in Europe alone.

However, as the Kodi phenomenon has shown, web-based content doesn’t always have to be accessed via a standard web browser. Clever but potentially illegal addons and third-party apps are able to scrape web-based resources and present links to content on a wide range of devices, from mobile phones and tablets to set-top boxes.

While it’s still possible to block the resources upon which these addons rely, the scattered nature of the content makes the process much more difficult. One can’t simply block a whole platform because a few movies are illegally hosted there and even Google has found itself hosting thousands of infringing titles, a situation that’s ruthlessly exploited by addon and app developers alike.

Needless to say, the situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment has spent the last year (1,2,3) targeting many people involved in the addon and app scene, hoping they’ll take their tools and run, rather than further develop a rapidly evolving piracy ecosystem.

Over in Russia, a country that will happily block hundreds or millions of IP addresses if it suits them, the topic of infringing apps was raised this week. It happened during the International Strategic Forum on Intellectual Property, a gathering of 500 experts from more than 30 countries. There were strong calls for yet more tools and measures to deal with films and music being made available via ‘pirate’ apps.

The forum heard that in response to widespread website blocking, people behind pirate sites have begun creating applications for mobile devices to achieve the same ends – the provision of illegal content. This, key players in the music industry say, means that the law needs to be further tightened to tackle the rising threat.

“Consumption of content is now going into the mobile sector and due to this we plan to prevent mass migration of ‘pirates’ to the mobile sector,” said Leonid Agronov, general director of the National Federation of the Music Industry.

The same concerns were echoed by Alexander Blinov, CEO of Warner Music Russia. According to TASS, the powerful industry player said that while recent revenues had been positively affected by site-blocking, it’s now time to start taking more action against apps.

“I agree with all speakers that we can not stop at what has been achieved so far. The music industry has a fight against illegal content in mobile applications on the agenda,” Blinov said.

And if Blinov is to be believed, music in Russia is doing particularly well at the moment. Attributing successes to efforts by parliament, the Ministry of Communications, and copyright holders, Blinov said the local music market has doubled in the past two years.

“We are now in the top three fastest growing markets in the world, behind only China and South Korea,” Blinov said.

While some apps can work in the same manner as a basic web interface, others rely on more complex mechanisms, ‘scraping’ content from diverse sources that can be easily and readily changed if mitigation measures kick in. It will be very interesting to see how Russia deals with this threat and whether it will opt for highly technical solutions or the nuclear options demonstrated recently.

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

The Digital Security Exchange Is Live

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

Last year I wrote about the Digital Security Exchange. The project is live:

The DSX works to strengthen the digital resilience of U.S. civil society groups by improving their understanding and mitigation of online threats.

We do this by pairing civil society and social sector organizations with credible and trustworthy digital security experts and trainers who can help them keep their data and networks safe from exposure, exploitation, and attack. We are committed to working with community-based organizations, legal and journalistic organizations, civil rights advocates, local and national organizers, and public and high-profile figures who are working to advance social, racial, political, and economic justice in our communities and our world.

If you are either an organization who needs help, or an expert who can provide help, visit their website.

Note: I am on their advisory committee.

The 4.16 kernel is out

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

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

Hijacking Computers for Cryptocurrency Mining

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/03/hijacking_compu.html

Interesting paper “A first look at browser-based cryptojacking“:

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the recent trend towards in-browser mining of cryptocurrencies; in particular, the mining of Monero through Coinhive and similar code-bases. In this model, a user visiting a website will download a JavaScript code that executes client-side in her browser, mines a cryptocurrency, typically without her consent or knowledge, and pays out the seigniorage to the website. Websites may consciously employ this as an alternative or to supplement advertisement revenue, may offer premium content in exchange for mining, or may be unwittingly serving the code as a result of a breach (in which case the seigniorage is collected by the attacker). The cryptocurrency Monero is preferred seemingly for its unfriendliness to large-scale ASIC mining that would drive browser-based efforts out of the market, as well as for its purported privacy features. In this paper, we survey this landscape, conduct some measurements to establish its prevalence and profitability, outline an ethical framework for considering whether it should be classified as an attack or business opportunity, and make suggestions for the detection, mitigation and/or prevention of browser-based mining for non-consenting users.

LLVM 6.0.0 released

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/748863/rss

Version 6.0.0 of the LLVM compiler suite is out.
This release is the result of the community’s work over the past six
months, including: retpoline Spectre variant 2 mitigation,
significantly improved CodeView debug info for Windows, GlobalISel by
default for AArch64 at -O0, improved scheduling on several x86
micro-architectures, Clang defaults to -std=gnu++14 instead of
-std=gnu++98, support for some upcoming C++2a features, improved
optimizations, new compiler warnings, many bug fixes, and more.

New DDoS Reflection-Attack Variant

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/03/new_ddos_reflec.html

This is worrisome:

DDoS vandals have long intensified their attacks by sending a small number of specially designed data packets to publicly available services. The services then unwittingly respond by sending a much larger number of unwanted packets to a target. The best known vectors for these DDoS amplification attacks are poorly secured domain name system resolution servers, which magnify volumes by as much as 50 fold, and network time protocol, which increases volumes by about 58 times.

On Tuesday, researchers reported attackers are abusing a previously obscure method that delivers attacks 51,000 times their original size, making it by far the biggest amplification method ever used in the wild. The vector this time is memcached, a database caching system for speeding up websites and networks. Over the past week, attackers have started abusing it to deliver DDoSes with volumes of 500 gigabits per second and bigger, DDoS mitigation service Arbor Networks reported in a blog post.

Cloudflare blog post. BoingBoing post.

EDITED TO ADD (3/9): Brian Krebs covered this.

Getting product security engineering right

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2018/02/getting-product-security-engineering.html

Product security is an interesting animal: it is a uniquely cross-disciplinary endeavor that spans policy, consulting,
process automation, in-depth software engineering, and cutting-edge vulnerability research. And in contrast to many
other specializations in our field of expertise – say, incident response or network security – we have virtually no
time-tested and coherent frameworks for setting it up within a company of any size.

In my previous post, I shared some thoughts
on nurturing technical organizations and cultivating the right kind of leadership within. Today, I figured it would
be fitting to follow up with several notes on what I learned about structuring product security work – and about actually
making the effort count.

The “comfort zone” trap

For security engineers, knowing your limits is a sought-after quality: there is nothing more dangerous than a security
expert who goes off script and starts dispensing authoritatively-sounding but bogus advice on a topic they know very
little about. But that same quality can be destructive when it prevents us from growing beyond our most familiar role: that of
a critic who pokes holes in other people’s designs.

The role of a resident security critic lends itself all too easily to a sense of supremacy: the mistaken
belief that our cognitive skills exceed the capabilities of the engineers and product managers who come to us for help
– and that the cool bugs we file are the ultimate proof of our special gift. We start taking pride in the mere act
of breaking somebody else’s software – and then write scathing but ineffectual critiques addressed to executives,
demanding that they either put a stop to a project or sign off on a risk. And hey, in the latter case, they better
brace for our triumphant “I told you so” at some later date.

Of course, escalations of this type have their place, but they need to be a very rare sight; when practiced routinely, they are a telltale
sign of a dysfunctional team. We might be failing to think up viable alternatives that are in tune with business or engineering needs; we might
be very unpersuasive, failing to communicate with other rational people in a language they understand; or it might be that our tolerance for risk
is badly out of whack with the rest of the company. Whatever the cause, I’ve seen high-level escalations where the security team
spoke of valiant efforts to resist inexplicably awful design decisions or data sharing setups; and where product leads in turn talked about
pressing business needs randomly blocked by obstinate security folks. Sometimes, simply having them compare their notes would be enough to arrive
at a technical solution – such as sharing a less sensitive subset of the data at hand.

To be effective, any product security program must be rooted in a partnership with the rest of the company, focused on helping them get stuff done
while eliminating or reducing security risks. To combat the toxic us-versus-them mentality, I found it helpful to have some team members with
software engineering backgrounds, even if it’s the ownership of a small open-source project or so. This can broaden our horizons, helping us see
that we all make the same mistakes – and that not every solution that sounds good on paper is usable once we code it up.

Getting off the treadmill

All security programs involve a good chunk of operational work. For product security, this can be a combination of product launch reviews, design consulting requests, incoming bug reports, or compliance-driven assessments of some sort. And curiously, such reactive work also has the property of gradually expanding to consume all the available resources on a team: next year is bound to bring even more review requests, even more regulatory hurdles, and even more incoming bugs to triage and fix.

Being more tractable, such routine tasks are also more readily enshrined in SDLs, SLAs, and all kinds of other official documents that are often mistaken for a mission statement that justifies the existence of our teams. Soon, instead of explaining to a developer why they should fix a particular problem right away, we end up pointing them to page 17 in our severity classification guideline, which defines that “severity 2” vulnerabilities need to be resolved within a month. Meanwhile, another policy may be telling them that they need to run a fuzzer or a web application scanner for a particular number of CPU-hours – no matter whether it makes sense or whether the job is set up right.

To run a product security program that scales sublinearly, stays abreast of future threats, and doesn’t erect bureaucratic speed bumps just for the sake of it, we need to recognize this inherent tendency for operational work to take over – and we need to reign it in. No matter what the last year’s policy says, we usually don’t need to be doing security reviews with a particular cadence or to a particular depth; if we need to scale them back 10% to staff a two-quarter project that fixes an important API and squashes an entire class of bugs, it’s a short-term risk we should feel empowered to take.

As noted in my earlier post, I find contingency planning to be a valuable tool in this regard: why not ask ourselves how the team would cope if the workload went up another 30%, but bad financial results precluded any team growth? It’s actually fun to think about such hypotheticals ahead of the time – and hey, if the ideas sound good, why not try them out today?

Living for a cause

It can be difficult to understand if our security efforts are structured and prioritized right; when faced with such uncertainty, it is natural to stick to the safe fundamentals – investing most of our resources into the very same things that everybody else in our industry appears to be focusing on today.

I think it’s important to combat this mindset – and if so, we might as well tackle it head on. Rather than focusing on tactical objectives and policy documents, try to write down a concise mission statement explaining why you are a team in the first place, what specific business outcomes you are aiming for, how do you prioritize it, and how you want it all to change in a year or two. It should be a fluid narrative that reads right and that everybody on your team can take pride in; my favorite way of starting the conversation is telling folks that we could always have a new VP tomorrow – and that the VP’s first order of business could be asking, “why do you have so many people here and how do I know they are doing the right thing?”. It’s a playful but realistic framing device that motivates people to get it done.

In general, a comprehensive product security program should probably start with the assumption that no matter how many resources we have at our disposal, we will never be able to stay in the loop on everything that’s happening across the company – and even if we did, we’re not going to be able to catch every single bug. It follows that one of our top priorities for the team should be making sure that bugs don’t happen very often; a scalable way of getting there is equipping engineers with intuitive and usable tools that make it easy to perform common tasks without having to worry about security at all. Examples include standardized, managed containers for production jobs; safe-by-default APIs, such as strict contextual autoescaping for XSS or type safety for SQL; security-conscious style guidelines; or plug-and-play libraries that take care of common crypto or ACL enforcement tasks.

Of course, not all problems can be addressed on framework level, and not every engineer will always reach for the right tools. Because of this, the next principle that I found to be worth focusing on is containment and mitigation: making sure that bugs are difficult to exploit when they happen, or that the damage is kept in check. The solutions in this space can range from low-level enhancements (say, hardened allocators or seccomp-bpf sandboxes) to client-facing features such as browser origin isolation or Content Security Policy.

The usual consulting, review, and outreach tasks are an important facet of a product security program, but probably shouldn’t be the sole focus of your team. It’s also best to avoid undue emphasis on vulnerability showmanship: while valuable in some contexts, it creates a hypercompetitive environment that may be hostile to less experienced team members – not to mention, squashing individual bugs offers very limited value if the same issue is likely to be reintroduced into the codebase the next day. I like to think of security reviews as a teaching opportunity instead: it’s a way to raise awareness, form partnerships with engineers, and help them develop lasting habits that reduce the incidence of bugs. Metrics to understand the impact of your work are important, too; if your engagements are seen mostly as a yet another layer of red tape, product teams will stop reaching out to you for advice.

The other tenet of a healthy product security effort requires us to recognize at a scale and given enough time, every defense mechanism is bound to fail – and so, we need ways to prevent bugs from turning into incidents. The efforts in this space may range from developing product-specific signals for the incident response and monitoring teams; to offering meaningful vulnerability reward programs and nourishing a healthy and respectful relationship with the research community; to organizing regular offensive exercises in hopes of spotting bugs before anybody else does.

Oh, one final note: an important feature of a healthy security program is the existence of multiple feedback loops that help you spot problems without the need to micromanage the organization and without being deathly afraid of taking chances. For example, the data coming from bug bounty programs, if analyzed correctly, offers a wonderful way to alert you to systemic problems in your codebase – and later on, to measure the impact of any remediation and hardening work.

The Challenges of Opening a Data Center — Part 1

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/choosing-data-center/

Backblaze storage pod in new data center

This is part one of a series. The second part will be posted later this week. Use the Join button above to receive notification of future posts in this series.

Though most of us have never set foot inside of a data center, as citizens of a data-driven world we nonetheless depend on the services that data centers provide almost as much as we depend on a reliable water supply, the electrical grid, and the highway system. Every time we send a tweet, post to Facebook, check our bank balance or credit score, watch a YouTube video, or back up a computer to the cloud we are interacting with a data center.

In this series, The Challenges of Opening a Data Center, we’ll talk in general terms about the factors that an organization needs to consider when opening a data center and the challenges that must be met in the process. Many of the factors to consider will be similar for opening a private data center or seeking space in a public data center, but we’ll assume for the sake of this discussion that our needs are more modest than requiring a data center dedicated solely to our own use (i.e. we’re not Google, Facebook, or China Telecom).

Data center technology and management are changing rapidly, with new approaches to design and operation appearing every year. This means we won’t be able to cover everything happening in the world of data centers in our series, however, we hope our brief overview proves useful.

What is a Data Center?

A data center is the structure that houses a large group of networked computer servers typically used by businesses, governments, and organizations for the remote storage, processing, or distribution of large amounts of data.

While many organizations will have computing services in the same location as their offices that support their day-to-day operations, a data center is a structure dedicated to 24/7 large-scale data processing and handling.

Depending on how you define the term, there are anywhere from a half million data centers in the world to many millions. While it’s possible to say that an organization’s on-site servers and data storage can be called a data center, in this discussion we are using the term data center to refer to facilities that are expressly dedicated to housing computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. The facility might be a private center, which is owned or leased by one tenant only, or a shared data center that offers what are called “colocation services,” and rents space, services, and equipment to multiple tenants in the center.

A large, modern data center operates around the clock, placing a priority on providing secure and uninterrrupted service, and generally includes redundant or backup power systems or supplies, redundant data communication connections, environmental controls, fire suppression systems, and numerous security devices. Such a center is an industrial-scale operation often using as much electricity as a small town.

Types of Data Centers

There are a number of ways to classify data centers according to how they will be used, whether they are owned or used by one or multiple organizations, whether and how they fit into a topology of other data centers; which technologies and management approaches they use for computing, storage, cooling, power, and operations; and increasingly visible these days: how green they are.

Data centers can be loosely classified into three types according to who owns them and who uses them.

Exclusive Data Centers are facilities wholly built, maintained, operated and managed by the business for the optimal operation of its IT equipment. Some of these centers are well-known companies such as Facebook, Google, or Microsoft, while others are less public-facing big telecoms, insurance companies, or other service providers.

Managed Hosting Providers are data centers managed by a third party on behalf of a business. The business does not own data center or space within it. Rather, the business rents IT equipment and infrastructure it needs instead of investing in the outright purchase of what it needs.

Colocation Data Centers are usually large facilities built to accommodate multiple businesses within the center. The business rents its own space within the data center and subsequently fills the space with its IT equipment, or possibly uses equipment provided by the data center operator.

Backblaze, for example, doesn’t own its own data centers but colocates in data centers owned by others. As Backblaze’s storage needs grow, Backblaze increases the space it uses within a given data center and/or expands to other data centers in the same or different geographic areas.

Availability is Key

When designing or selecting a data center, an organization needs to decide what level of availability is required for its services. The type of business or service it provides likely will dictate this. Any organization that provides real-time and/or critical data services will need the highest level of availability and redundancy, as well as the ability to rapidly failover (transfer operation to another center) when and if required. Some organizations require multiple data centers not just to handle the computer or storage capacity they use, but to provide alternate locations for operation if something should happen temporarily or permanently to one or more of their centers.

Organizations operating data centers that can’t afford any downtime at all will typically operate data centers that have a mirrored site that can take over if something happens to the first site, or they operate a second site in parallel to the first one. These data center topologies are called Active/Passive, and Active/Active, respectively. Should disaster or an outage occur, disaster mode would dictate immediately moving all of the primary data center’s processing to the second data center.

While some data center topologies are spread throughout a single country or continent, others extend around the world. Practically, data transmission speeds put a cap on centers that can be operated in parallel with the appearance of simultaneous operation. Linking two data centers located apart from each other — say no more than 60 miles to limit data latency issues — together with dark fiber (leased fiber optic cable) could enable both data centers to be operated as if they were in the same location, reducing staffing requirements yet providing immediate failover to the secondary data center if needed.

This redundancy of facilities and ensured availability is of paramount importance to those needing uninterrupted data center services.

Active/Passive Data Centers

Active/Active Data Centers

LEED Certification

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) for the design, construction, and operation of green buildings. Facilities can achieve ratings of certified, silver, gold, or platinum based on criteria within six categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design.

Green certification has become increasingly important in data center design and operation as data centers require great amounts of electricity and often cooling water to operate. Green technologies can reduce costs for data center operation, as well as make the arrival of data centers more amenable to environmentally-conscious communities.

The ACT, Inc. data center in Iowa City, Iowa was the first data center in the U.S. to receive LEED-Platinum certification, the highest level available.

ACT Data Center exterior

ACT Data Center exterior

ACT Data Center interior

ACT Data Center interior

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Data Center

There are numerous factors to consider when deciding to build or to occupy space in a data center. Aspects such as proximity to available power grids, telecommunications infrastructure, networking services, transportation lines, and emergency services can affect costs, risk, security and other factors that need to be taken into consideration.

The size of the data center will be dictated by the business requirements of the owner or tenant. A data center can occupy one room of a building, one or more floors, or an entire building. Most of the equipment is often in the form of servers mounted in 19 inch rack cabinets, which are usually placed in single rows forming corridors (so-called aisles) between them. This allows staff access to the front and rear of each cabinet. Servers differ greatly in size from 1U servers (i.e. one “U” or “RU” rack unit measuring 44.50 millimeters or 1.75 inches), to Backblaze’s Storage Pod design that fits a 4U chassis, to large freestanding storage silos that occupy many square feet of floor space.


Location will be one of the biggest factors to consider when selecting a data center and encompasses many other factors that should be taken into account, such as geological risks, neighboring uses, and even local flight paths. Access to suitable available power at a suitable price point is often the most critical factor and the longest lead time item, followed by broadband service availability.

With more and more data centers available providing varied levels of service and cost, the choices increase each year. Data center brokers can be employed to find a data center, just as one might use a broker for home or other commercial real estate.

Websites listing available colocation space, such as upstack.io, or entire data centers for sale or lease, are widely used. A common practice is for a customer to publish its data center requirements, and the vendors compete to provide the most attractive bid in a reverse auction.

Business and Customer Proximity

The center’s closeness to a business or organization may or may not be a factor in the site selection. The organization might wish to be close enough to manage the center or supervise the on-site staff from a nearby business location. The location of customers might be a factor, especially if data transmission speeds and latency are important, or the business or customers have regulatory, political, tax, or other considerations that dictate areas suitable or not suitable for the storage and processing of data.


Local climate is a major factor in data center design because the climatic conditions dictate what cooling technologies should be deployed. In turn this impacts uptime and the costs associated with cooling, which can total as much as 50% or more of a center’s power costs. The topology and the cost of managing a data center in a warm, humid climate will vary greatly from managing one in a cool, dry climate. Nevertheless, data centers are located in both extremely cold regions and extremely hot ones, with innovative approaches used in both extremes to maintain desired temperatures within the center.

Geographic Stability and Extreme Weather Events

A major obvious factor in locating a data center is the stability of the actual site as regards weather, seismic activity, and the likelihood of weather events such as hurricanes, as well as fire or flooding.

Backblaze’s Sacramento data center describes its location as one of the most stable geographic locations in California, outside fault zones and floodplains.

Sacramento Data Center

Sometimes the location of the center comes first and the facility is hardened to withstand anticipated threats, such as Equinix’s NAP of the Americas data center in Miami, one of the largest single-building data centers on the planet (six stories and 750,000 square feet), which is built 32 feet above sea level and designed to withstand category 5 hurricane winds.

Equinix Data Center in Miami

Equinix “NAP of the Americas” Data Center in Miami

Most data centers don’t have the extreme protection or history of the Bahnhof data center, which is located inside the ultra-secure former nuclear bunker Pionen, in Stockholm, Sweden. It is buried 100 feet below ground inside the White Mountains and secured behind 15.7 in. thick metal doors. It prides itself on its self-described “Bond villain” ambiance.

Bahnhof Data Center under White Mountain in Stockholm

Usually, the data center owner or tenant will want to take into account the balance between cost and risk in the selection of a location. The Ideal quadrant below is obviously favored when making this compromise.

Cost vs Risk in selecting a data center

Cost = Construction/lease, power, bandwidth, cooling, labor, taxes
Risk = Environmental (seismic, weather, water, fire), political, economic

Risk mitigation also plays a strong role in pricing. The extent to which providers must implement special building techniques and operating technologies to protect the facility will affect price. When selecting a data center, organizations must make note of the data center’s certification level on the basis of regulatory requirements in the industry. These certifications can ensure that an organization is meeting necessary compliance requirements.


Electrical power usually represents the largest cost in a data center. The cost a service provider pays for power will be affected by the source of the power, the regulatory environment, the facility size and the rate concessions, if any, offered by the utility. At higher level tiers, battery, generator, and redundant power grids are a required part of the picture.

Fault tolerance and power redundancy are absolutely necessary to maintain uninterrupted data center operation. Parallel redundancy is a safeguard to ensure that an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system is in place to provide electrical power if necessary. The UPS system can be based on batteries, saved kinetic energy, or some type of generator using diesel or another fuel. The center will operate on the UPS system with another UPS system acting as a backup power generator. If a power outage occurs, the additional UPS system power generator is available.

Many data centers require the use of independent power grids, with service provided by different utility companies or services, to prevent against loss of electrical service no matter what the cause. Some data centers have intentionally located themselves near national borders so that they can obtain redundant power from not just separate grids, but from separate geopolitical sources.

Higher redundancy levels required by a company will of invariably lead to higher prices. If one requires high availability backed by a service-level agreement (SLA), one can expect to pay more than another company with less demanding redundancy requirements.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of The Challenges of Opening a Data Center

That’s it for part 1 of this post. In subsequent posts, we’ll take a look at some other factors to consider when moving into a data center such as network bandwidth, cooling, and security. We’ll take a look at what is involved in moving into a new data center (including stories from Backblaze’s experiences). We’ll also investigate what it takes to keep a data center running, and some of the new technologies and trends affecting data center design and use. You can discover all posts on our blog tagged with “Data Center” by following the link https://www.backblaze.com/blog/tag/data-center/.

The second part of this series on The Challenges of Opening a Data Center will be posted later this week. Use the Join button above to receive notification of future posts in this series.

The post The Challenges of Opening a Data Center — Part 1 appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

New Spectre/Meltdown Variants

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

Researchers have discovered new variants of Spectre and Meltdown. The software mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown seem to block these variants, although the eventual CPU fixes will have to be expanded to account for these new attacks.

[$] Meltdown and Spectre mitigations — a February update

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/746551/rss

The initial panic over the Meltdown and Spectre processor vulnerabilities
has faded, and work on mitigations in the kernel has slowed since our mid-January report. That work has not
stopped, though. Fully equipping the kernel to protect systems from these
vulnerabilities is a task that may well require years. Read on for an
update on the current status of that work.

The 4.15 kernel is out

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/744875/rss

Linus has released the 4.15 kernel.
After a release cycle that was unusual in so many (bad) ways, this
last week was really pleasant. Quiet and small, and no last-minute
panics, just small fixes for various issues. I never got a feeling
that I’d need to extend things by yet another week, and 4.15 looks
fine to me.

Some of the more significant features in this release include:
the long-awaited CPU controller for the
version-2 control-group interface,
significant live-patching improvements,
initial support for the RISC-V architecture,
support for AMD’s secure encrypted virtualization feature, and
the MAP_SYNC mechanism for working
with nonvolatile memory.
This release also, of course, includes mitigations for the Meltdown and Spectre variant-2
though, as Linus points out in the announcement, the
work of dealing with these issues is not yet done.

On that Spectre mitigations discussion

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/745111/rss

By now, almost everybody has probably seen the press coverage of Linus Torvalds’s remarks about one of the
patches addressing Spectre variant 2. Less noted, but much more
informative, is David Woodhouse’s response
on why those patches are the way they are. “That’s why my initial
idea, as implemented in this RFC patchset, was to stick with IBRS on
Skylake, and use retpoline everywhere else. I’ll give you ‘garbage
patches’, but they weren’t being ‘just mindlessly sent around’. If we’re
going to drop IBRS support and accept the caveats, then let’s do it as a
conscious decision having seen what it would look like, not just drop it
quietly because poor Davey is too scared that Linus might shout at him

[$] Meltdown/Spectre mitigation for 4.15 and beyond

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/744287/rss

While some aspects of the kernel’s defenses against the Meltdown and
Spectre vulnerabilities were more-or-less in place when the problems were
disclosed on January 3, others were less fully formed. Additionally,
many of the mitigations (especially for the two Spectre variants) had not
been seen in public prior to the disclosure, meaning that there was a lot
of scope for discussion once they came out. Many of those discussions are
slowing down, and the kernel’s initial response has mostly come into
focus. The 4.15 kernel will include a broad set of mitigations, while some
others will have to wait for later; read on
for details on where things stand.

Spectre & Meltdown Checker – Vulnerability Mitigation Tool For Linux

Post Syndicated from Darknet original https://www.darknet.org.uk/2018/01/spectre-meltdown-checker-vulnerability-mitigation-tool-linux/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=darknetfeed

Spectre & Meltdown Checker – Vulnerability Mitigation Tool For Linux

Spectre & Meltdown Checker is a simple shell script to tell if your Linux installation is vulnerable against the 3 “speculative execution” CVEs that were made public early 2018.

Without options, it’ll inspect you currently running kernel. You can also specify a kernel image on the command line, if you’d like to inspect a kernel you’re not running.

The script will do its best to detect mitigations, including backported non-vanilla patches, regardless of the advertised kernel version number.

Read the rest of Spectre & Meltdown Checker – Vulnerability Mitigation Tool For Linux now! Only available at Darknet.