Tag Archives: patent

ISP Questions Impartiality of Judges in Copyright Troll Cases

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-questions-impartiality-of-judges-in-copyright-troll-cases-180602/

Following in the footsteps of similar operations around the world, two years ago the copyright trolling movement landed on Swedish shores.

The pattern was a familiar one, with trolls harvesting IP addresses from BitTorrent swarms and tracing them back to Internet service providers. Then, after presenting evidence to a judge, the trolls obtained orders that compelled ISPs to hand over their customers’ details. From there, the trolls demanded cash payments to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

It’s a controversial business model that rarely receives outside praise. Many ISPs have tried to slow down the flood but most eventually grow tired of battling to protect their customers. The same cannot be said of Swedish ISP Bahnhof.

The ISP, which is also a strong defender of privacy, has become known for fighting back against copyright trolls. Indeed, to thwart them at the very first step, the company deletes IP address logs after just 24 hours, which prevents its customers from being targeted.

Bahnhof says that the copyright business appeared “dirty and corrupt” right from the get go, so it now operates Utpressningskollen.se, a web portal where the ISP publishes data on Swedish legal cases in which copyright owners demand customer data from ISPs through the Patent and Market Courts.

Over the past two years, Bahnhof says it has documented 76 cases of which six are still ongoing, 11 have been waived and a majority 59 have been decided in favor of mainly movie companies. Bahnhof says that when it discovered that 59 out of the 76 cases benefited one party, it felt a need to investigate.

In a detailed report compiled by Bahnhof Communicator Carolina Lindahl and sent to TF, the ISP reveals that it examined the individual decision-makers in the cases before the Courts and found five judges with “questionable impartiality.”

“One of the judges, we can call them Judge 1, has closed 12 of the cases, of which two have been waived and the other 10 have benefitted the copyright owner, mostly movie companies,” Lindahl notes.

“Judge 1 apparently has written several articles in the magazine NIR – Nordiskt Immateriellt Rättsskydd (Nordic Intellectual Property Protection) – which is mainly supported by Svenska Föreningen för Upphovsrätt, the Swedish Association for Copyright (SFU).

“SFU is a member-financed group centered around copyright that publishes articles, hands out scholarships, arranges symposiums, etc. On their website they have a public calendar where Judge 1 appears regularly.”

Bahnhof says that the financiers of the SFU are Sveriges Television AB (Sweden’s national public TV broadcaster), Filmproducenternas Rättsförening (a legally-oriented association for filmproducers), BMG Chrysalis Scandinavia (a media giant) and Fackförbundet för Film och Mediabranschen (a union for the movie and media industry).

“This means that Judge 1 is involved in a copyright association sponsored by the film and media industry, while also judging in copyright cases with the film industry as one of the parties,” the ISP says.

Bahnhof’s also has criticism for Judge 2, who participated as an event speaker for the Swedish Association for Copyright, and Judge 3 who has written for the SFU-supported magazine NIR. According to Lindahl, Judge 4 worked for a bureau that is partly owned by a board member of SFU, who also defended media companies in a “high-profile” Swedish piracy case.

That leaves Judge 5, who handled 10 of the copyright troll cases documented by Bahnhof, waiving one and deciding the remaining nine in favor of a movie company plaintiff.

“Judge 5 has been questioned before and even been accused of bias while judging a high-profile piracy case almost ten years ago. The accusations of bias were motivated by the judge’s membership of SFU and the Swedish Association for Intellectual Property Rights (SFIR), an association with several important individuals of the Swedish copyright community as members, who all defend, represent, or sympathize with the media industry,” Lindahl says.

Bahnhof hasn’t named any of the judges nor has it provided additional details on the “high-profile” case. However, anyone who remembers the infamous trial of ‘The Pirate Bay Four’ a decade ago might recall complaints from the defense (1,2,3) that several judges involved in the case were members of pro-copyright groups.

While there were plenty of calls to consider them biased, in May 2010 the Supreme Court ruled otherwise, a fact Bahnhof recognizes.

“Judge 5 was never sentenced for bias by the court, but regardless of the court’s decision this is still a judge who shares values and has personal connections with [the media industry], and as if that weren’t enough, the judge has induced an additional financial aspect by participating in events paid for by said party,” Lindahl writes.

“The judge has parties and interest holders in their personal network, a private engagement in the subject and a financial connection to one party – textbook characteristics of bias which would make anyone suspicious.”

The decision-makers of the Patent and Market Court and their relations.

The ISP notes that all five judges have connections to the media industry in the cases they judge, which isn’t a great starting point for returning “objective and impartial” results. In its summary, however, the ISP is scathing of the overall system, one in which court cases “almost looked rigged” and appear to be decided in favor of the movie company even before reaching court.

In general, however, Bahnhof says that the processes show a lack of individual attention, such as the court blindly accepting questionable IP address evidence supplied by infamous anti-piracy outfit MaverickEye.

“The court never bothers to control the media company’s only evidence (lists generated by MaverickMonitor, which has proven to be an unreliable software), the court documents contain several typos of varying severity, and the same standard texts are reused in several different cases,” the ISP says.

“The court documents show a lack of care and control, something that can easily be taken advantage of by individuals with shady motives. The findings and discoveries of this investigation are strengthened by the pure numbers mentioned in the beginning which clearly show how one party almost always wins.

“If this is caused by bias, cheating, partiality, bribes, political agenda, conspiracy or pure coincidence we can’t say for sure, but the fact that this process has mainly generated money for the film industry, while citizens have been robbed of their personal integrity and legal certainty, indicates what forces lie behind this machinery,” Bahnhof’s Lindahl concludes.

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

Legal Blackmail: Zero Cases Brought Against Alleged Pirates in Sweden

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/legal-blackmail-zero-cases-brought-against-alleged-pirates-in-sweden-180525/

While several countries in Europe have wilted under sustained pressure from copyright trolls for more than ten years, Sweden managed to avoid their controversial attacks until fairly recently.

With Germany a decade-old pit of misery, with many hundreds of thousands of letters – by now probably millions – sent out to Internet users demanding cash, Sweden avoided the ranks of its European partners until two years ago

In September 2016 it was revealed that an organization calling itself Spridningskollen (Distribution Check) headed up by law firm Gothia Law, would begin targeting the public.

Its spokesperson described its letters as “speeding tickets” for pirates, in that they would only target the guilty. But there was a huge backlash and just a couple of months later Spridningskollen headed for the hills, without a single collection letter being sent out.

That was the calm before the storm.

In February 2017, Danish law firm Njord Law was found to be at the center of a new troll operation targeting the subscribers of several ISPs, including Telia, Tele2 and Bredbandsbolaget. Court documents revealed that thousands of IP addresses had been harvested by the law firm’s partners who were determined to link them with real-life people.

Indeed, in a single batch, Njord Law was granted permission from the court to obtain the identities of citizens behind 25,000 IP addresses, from whom it hoped to obtain cash settlements of around US$550. But it didn’t stop there.

Time and again the trolls headed back to court in an effort to reach more people although until now the true scale of their operations has been open to question. However, a new investigation carried out by SVT has revealed that the promised copyright troll invasion of Sweden is well underway with a huge level of momentum.

Data collated by the publication reveals that since 2017, the personal details behind more than 50,000 IP addresses have been handed over by Swedish Internet service providers to law firms representing copyright trolls and their partners. By the end of this year, Njord Law alone will have sent out 35,000 letters to Swede’s whose IP addresses have been flagged as allegedly infringing copyright.

Even if one is extremely conservative with the figures, the levels of cash involved are significant. Taking a settlement amount of just $300 per letter, very quickly the copyright trolls are looking at $15,000,000 in revenues. On the perimeter, assuming $550 will make a supposed lawsuit go away, we’re looking at a potential $27,500,000 in takings.

But of course, this dragnet approach doesn’t have the desired effect on all recipients.

In 2017, Njord Law said that only 60% of its letters received any kind of response, meaning that even fewer would be settling with the company. So what happens when the public ignores the threatening letters?

“Yes, we will [go to court],” said lawyer Jeppe Brogaard Clausen last year.

“We wish to resolve matters as much as possible through education and dialogue without the assistance of the court though. It is very expensive both for the rights holders and for plaintiffs if we go to court.”

But despite the tough-talking, SVT’s investigation has turned up an interesting fact. The nuclear option, of taking people to court and winning a case when they refuse to pay, has never happened.

After trawling records held by the Patent and Market Court and all those held by the District Courts dating back five years, SVT did not find a single case of a troll taking a citizen to court and winning a case. Furthermore, no law firm contacted by the publication could show that such a thing had happened.

“In Sweden, we have not yet taken someone to court, but we are planning to file for the right in 2018,” Emelie Svensson, lawyer at Njord Law, told SVT.

While a case may yet reach the courts, when it does it is guaranteed to be a cut-and-dried one. Letter recipients can often say things to damage their case, even when they’re only getting a letter due to their name being on the Internet bill. These are the people who find themselves under the most pressure to pay, whether they’re guilty or not.

“There is a risk of what is known in English as ‘legal blackmailing’,” says Mårten Schultz, professor of civil law at Stockholm University.

“With [the copyright holders’] legal and economic muscles, small citizens are scared into paying claims that they do not legally have to pay.”

It’s a position shared by Marianne Levine, Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University.

“One can only show that an IP address appears in some context, but there is no point in the evidence. Namely, that it is the subscriber who also downloaded illegitimate material,” she told SVT.

Njord Law, on the other hand, sees things differently.

“In Sweden, we have no legal case saying that you are not responsible for your IP address,” Emelie Svensson says.

Whether Njord Law will carry through with its threats will remain to be seen but there can be little doubt that while significant numbers of people keep paying up, this practice will continue and escalate. The trolls have come too far to give up now.

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

ISP Telenor Will Block The Pirate Bay in Sweden Without a Shot Fired

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/isp-telenor-will-block-the-pirate-bay-in-sweden-without-a-shot-fired-180520/

Back in 2014, Universal Music, Sony Music, Warner Music, Nordisk Film and the Swedish Film Industry filed a lawsuit against Bredbandsbolaget, one of Sweden’s largest ISPs.

The copyright holders asked the Stockholm District Court to order the ISP to block The Pirate Bay and streaming site Swefilmer, claiming that the provider knowingly facilitated access to the pirate platforms and assisted their pirating users.

Soon after the ISP fought back, refusing to block the sites in a determined response to the Court.

“Bredbandsbolaget’s role is to provide its subscribers with access to the Internet, thereby contributing to the free flow of information and the ability for people to reach each other and communicate,” the company said in a statement.

“Bredbandsbolaget does not block content or services based on individual organizations’ requests. There is no legal obligation for operators to block either The Pirate Bay or Swefilmer.”

In February 2015 the parties met in court, with Bredbandsbolaget arguing in favor of the “important principle” that ISPs should not be held responsible for content exchanged over the Internet, in the same way the postal service isn’t responsible for the contents of an envelope.

But with TV companies SVT, TV4 Group, MTG TV, SBS Discovery and C More teaming up with the IFPI alongside Paramount, Disney, Warner and Sony in the case, Bredbandsbolaget would need to pull out all the stops to obtain victory. The company worked hard and initially the news was good.

In November 2015, the Stockholm District Court decided that the copyright holders could not force Bredbandsbolaget to block the pirate sites, ruling that the ISP’s operations did not amount to participation in the copyright infringement offenses carried out by some of its ‘pirate’ subscribers.

However, the case subsequently went to appeal, with the brand new Patent and Market Court of Appeal hearing arguments. In February 2017 it handed down its decision, which overruled the earlier ruling of the District Court and ordered Bredbandsbolaget to implement “technical measures” to prevent its customers accessing the ‘pirate’ sites through a number of domain names and URLs.

With nowhere left to go, Bredbandsbolaget and owner Telenor were left hanging onto their original statement which vehemently opposed site-blocking.

“It is a dangerous path to go down, which forces Internet providers to monitor and evaluate content on the Internet and block websites with illegal content in order to avoid becoming accomplices,” they said.

In March 2017, Bredbandsbolaget blocked The Pirate Bay but said it would not give up the fight.

“We are now forced to contest any future blocking demands. It is the only way for us and other Internet operators to ensure that private players should not have the last word regarding the content that should be accessible on the Internet,” Bredbandsbolaget said.

While it’s not clear whether any additional blocking demands have been filed with the ISP, this week an announcement by Bredbandsbolaget parent company Telenor revealed an unexpected knock-on effect. Seemingly without a single shot being fired, The Pirate Bay will now be blocked by Telenor too.

The background lies in Telenor’s acquisition of Bredbandsbolaget back in 2005. Until this week the companies operated under separate brands but will now merge into one entity.

“Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget today take the final step on their joint trip and become the same company with the same name. As a result, Telenor becomes a comprehensive provider of broadband, TV and mobile communications,” the company said in a statement this week.

“Telenor Sweden and Bredbandsbolaget have shared both logo and organization for the last 13 years. Today, we take the last step in the relationship and consolidate the companies under the same name.”

Up until this final merger, 600,000 Bredbandsbolaget broadband customers were denied access to The Pirate Bay. Now it appears that Telenor’s 700,000 fiber and broadband customers will be affected too. The new single-brand company says it has decided to block the notorious torrent site across its entire network.

“We have not discontinued Bredbandsbolaget, but we have merged Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and become one,” the company said.

“When we share the same network, The Pirate Bay is blocked by both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget and there is nothing we plan to change in the future.”

TorrentFreak contacted the PR departments of both Telenor and Bredbandsbolaget requesting information on why a court order aimed at only the latter’s customers would now affect those of the former too, more than doubling the blockade’s reach. Neither company responded which leaves only speculation as to its motives.

On the one hand, the decision to voluntarily implement an expanded blockade could perhaps be viewed as a little unusual given how much time, effort and money has been invested in fighting web-blockades in Sweden.

On the other, the merger of the companies may present legal difficulties as far as the court order goes and it could certainly cause friction among the customer base of Telenor if some customers could access TPB, and others could not.

In any event, the legal basis for web-blocking on copyright infringement grounds was firmly established last year at the EU level, which means that Telenor would lose any future legal battle, should it decide to dig in its heels. On that basis alone, the decision to block all customers probably makes perfect commercial sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But things wouldn’t end there for Thompson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Deters People From Pirate Sites…Or Encourages Them to Start One?

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/video-deters-people-from-pirate-sites-or-encourages-them-to-start-one-180505/

There are almost as many anti-piracy strategies as there are techniques for downloading.

Litigation and education are probably the two most likely to be seen by the public, who are often directly targeted by the entertainment industries.

Over the years this has led to many campaigns, one of which famously stated that piracy is a crime while equating it to the physical theft of a car, a handbag, a television, or a regular movie DVD. It’s debatable whether these campaigns have made much difference but they have raised awareness and some of the responses have been hilarious.

While success remains hard to measure, it hasn’t stopped these PSAs from being made. The latest efforts come out of Sweden, where the country’s Patent and Registration Office (PRV) was commissioned by the government to increase public awareness of copyright and help change attitudes surrounding streaming and illegal downloading.

“The purpose is, among other things, to reduce the use of illegal streaming sites and make it easier and safer to find and choose legal options,” PRV says.

“Every year, criminal networks earn millions of dollars from illegal streaming. This money comes from advertising on illegal sites and is used for other criminal activities. The purpose of our film is to inform about this.”

The series of videos show pirates in their supposed natural habitats of beautiful mansions, packed with luxurious items such as indoor pools, fancy staircases, and stacks of money. For some reason (perhaps to depict anonymity, perhaps to suggest something more sinister) the pirates are all dressed in animal masks, such as this one enjoying his Dodge Viper.

The clear suggestion here is that people who visit pirate sites and stream unlicensed content are helping to pay for this guy’s bright green car. The same holds true for his indoor swimming pool, jet bike, and gold chains in the next clip.

While some might have a problem with pirates getting rich from their clicks, it can’t have escaped the targets of these videos that they too are benefiting from the scheme. Granted, hyena-man gets the pool and the Viper, but they get the latest movies. It seems unlikely that pirate streamers refused to watch the copy of Black Panther that leaked onto the web this week (a month before its retail release) on the basis that someone else was getting rich from it.

That being said, most people will probably balk at elements of the full PSA, which suggests that revenue from illegal streaming goes on to fuel other crimes, such as prescription drug offenses.

After reporting piracy cases for more than twelve years, no one at TF has ever seen evidence of this happening with any torrent or streaming site operators. Still, it makes good drama for the full video, embedded below.

“In the film we follow a fictional occupational criminal who gives us a tour of his beautiful villa. He proudly shows up his multi-criminal activity, which was made possible by means of advertising money from his illegal streaming services,” PRV explains.

The dark tone and creepy masks are bound to put some people off but one has to question the effect this kind of video could have on younger people. Do pirates really make mountains of money so huge that they can only be counted by machine? If they do, then it’s a lot less risky than almost any other crime that yields this claimed level of profit.

With that in mind, will this video deter the public or simply encourage people to get involved for some of that big money? We sent a link to the operator of a large pirate site for his considered opinion.

“WTF,” he responded.

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

Chiariglione: A crisis, the causes and a solution

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/745776/rss

Worth a read: this blog
posting from Leonardo Chiariglione
, the founder and chair of MPEG, on
how (in his view) the group is being destroyed by free codecs and patent trolls.
Good stories have an end, so the MPEG business model could not last
forever. Over the years proprietary and ‘royalty free’ products have
emerged but have not been able to dent the success of MPEG standards. More
importantly IP holders – often companies not interested in exploiting MPEG
standards, so called Non Practicing Entities (NPE) – have become more and
more aggressive in extracting value from their IP.

(Thanks to Paul Wise).

O’Callahan: The Fight For Patent-Unencumbered Media Codecs Is Nearly Won

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/743824/rss

Robert O’Callahan notes
an important development
in the fight for media codecs without patent
issues. “Apple joining the Alliance for Open Media is a really big
deal. Now all the most powerful tech companies — Google, Microsoft, Apple,
Mozilla, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, AMD, ARM, Nvidia — plus content providers
like Netflix and Hulu are on board. I guess there’s still no guarantee
Apple products will support AV1, but it would seem pointless for Apple to
join AOM if they’re not going to use it: apparently AOM membership obliges
Apple to provide a royalty-free license to any ‘essential patents’ it holds
for AV1 usage.

The Decision on Transparency

Post Syndicated from Gleb Budman original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/transparency-in-business/

Backblaze transparency

This post by Backblaze’s CEO and co-founder Gleb Budman is the seventh in a series about entrepreneurship. You can choose posts in the series from the list below:

  1. How Backblaze got Started: The Problem, The Solution, and the Stuff In-Between
  2. Building a Competitive Moat: Turning Challenges Into Advantages
  3. From Idea to Launch: Getting Your First Customers
  4. How to Get Your First 1,000 Customers
  5. Surviving Your First Year
  6. How to Compete with Giants
  7. The Decision on Transparency

Use the Join button above to receive notification of new posts in this series.

“Are you crazy?” “Why would you do that?!” “You shouldn’t share that!”

These are just a few of the common questions and comments we heard after posting some of the information we have shared over the years. So was it crazy? Misguided? Should you do it?

With that background I’d like to dig into the decision to become so transparent, from releasing stats on hard drive failures, to storage pod specs, to publishing our cloud storage costs, and open sourcing the Reed-Solomon code. What was the thought process behind becoming so transparent when most companies work so hard to hide their inner workings, especially information such as the Storage Pod specs that would normally be considered a proprietary advantage? Most importantly I’d like to explore the positives and negatives of being so transparent.

Sharing Intellectual Property

The first “transparency” that garnered a flurry of “why would you share that?!” came as a result of us deciding to open source our Storage Pod design: publishing the specs, parts, prices, and how to build it yourself. The Storage Pod was a key component of our infrastructure, gave us a cost (and thus competitive) advantage, took significant effort to develop, and had a fair bit of intellectual property: the “IP.”

The negatives of sharing this are obvious: it allows our competitors to use the design to reduce our cost advantage, and it gives away the IP, which could be patentable or have value as a trade secret.

The positives were certainly less obvious, and at the time we couldn’t have guessed how massive they would be.

We wrestled with the decision: prospective users and others online didn’t believe we could offer our service for such a low price, thinking that we would burn through some cash hoard and then go out of business. We wanted to reassure them, but how?

This is how our response evolved:

We’ve built a lower cost storage platform.
But why would anyone believe us?
Because, we’ve designed our own servers and they’re less expensive.
But why would anyone believe they were so low cost and efficient?
Because here’s how much they cost versus others.
But why would anyone believe they cost that little and still enabled us to efficiently store data?
Because here are all the components they’re made of, this is how to build them, and this is how they work.
Ok, you can’t argue with that.

Great — so that would reassure people. But should we do this? Is it worth it?

This was 2009, we were a tiny company of seven people working from our co-founder’s one-bedroom apartment. We decided that the risk of not having potential customers trust us was more impactful than the risk of our competitors possibly deciding to use our server architecture. The former might kill the company in short order; the latter might make it harder for us to compete in the future. Moreover, we figured that most competitors were established on their own platforms and were unlikely to switch to ours, even if it were better.

Takeaway: Build your brand today. There are no assurances you will make it to tomorrow if you can’t make people believe in you today.

A Sharing Success Story — The Backblaze Storage Pod

So with that, we decided to publish everything about the Storage Pod. As for deciding to actually open source it? That was a ‘thank you’ to the open source community upon whose shoulders we stood as we used software such as Linux, Tomcat, etc.

With eight years of hindsight, here’s what happened:

As best as I can tell, none of our direct competitors ever used our Storage Pod design, opting instead to continue paying more for commercial solutions.

  • Hundreds of press articles have been written about Backblaze as a direct result of sharing the Storage Pod design.
  • Millions of people have read press articles or our blog posts about the Storage Pods.
  • Backblaze was established as a storage tech thought leader, and a resource for those looking for information in the space.
  • Our blog became viewed as a resource, not a corporate mouthpiece.
  • Recruiting has been made easier through the awareness of Backblaze, the appreciation for us taking on challenging tech problems in interesting ways, and for our openness.
  • Sourcing for our Storage Pods has become easier because we can point potential vendors to our blog posts and say, “here’s what we need.”

And those are just the direct benefits for us. One of the things that warms my heart is that doing this has helped others:

  • Several companies have started selling servers based on our Storage Pod designs.
  • Netflix credits Backblaze with being the inspiration behind their CDN servers.
  • Many schools, labs, and others have shared that they’ve been able to do what they didn’t think was possible because using our Storage Pod designs provided lower-cost storage.
  • And I want to believe that in general we pushed forward the development of low-cost storage servers in the industry.

So overall, the decision on being transparent and sharing our Storage Pod designs was a clear win.

Takeaway: Never underestimate the value of goodwill. It can help build new markets that fuel your future growth and create new ecosystems.

Sharing An “Almost Acquisition”

Acquisition announcements are par for the course. No company, however, talks about the acquisition that fell through. If rumors appear in the press, the company’s response is always, “no comment.” But in 2010, when Backblaze was almost, but not acquired, we wrote about it in detail. Crazy?

The negatives of sharing this are slightly less obvious, but the two issues most people worried about were, 1) the fact that the company could be acquired would spook customers, and 2) the fact that it wasn’t would signal to potential acquirers that something was wrong.

So, why share this at all? No one was asking “did you almost get acquired?”

First, we had established a culture of transparency and this was a significant event that occurred for us, thus we defaulted to assuming we would share. Second, we learned that acquisitions fall through all the time, not just during the early fishing stage, but even after term sheets are signed, diligence is done, and all the paperwork is complete. I felt we had learned some things about the process that would be valuable to others that were going through it.

As it turned out, we received emails from startup founders saying they saved the post for the future, and from lawyers, VCs, and advisors saying they shared them with their portfolio companies. Among the most touching emails I received was from a founder who said that after an acquisition fell through she felt so alone that she became incredibly depressed, and that reading our post helped her see that this happens and that things could be OK after. Being transparent about almost getting acquired was worth it just to help that one founder.

And what about the concerns? As for spooking customers, maybe some were — but our sign-ups went up, not down, afterward. Any company can be acquired, and many of the world’s largest have been. That we were being both thoughtful about where to go with it, and open about it, I believe gave customers a sense that we would do the right thing if it happened. And as for signaling to potential acquirers? The ones I’ve spoken with all knew this happens regularly enough that it’s not a factor.

Takeaway: Being open and transparent is also a form of giving back to others.

Sharing Strategic Data

For years people have been desperate to know how reliable are hard drives. They could go to Amazon for individual reviews, but someone saying “this drive died for me” doesn’t provide statistical insight. Google published a study that showed annualized drive failure rates, but didn’t break down the results by manufacturer or model. Since Backblaze has deployed about 100,000 hard drives to store customer data, we have been able to collect a wealth of data on the reliability of the drives by make, model, and size. Was Backblaze the only one with this data? Of course not — Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and any other cloud-scale storage provider tracked it. Yet none would publish. Should Backblaze?

Again, starting with the main negatives: 1) sharing which drives we liked could increase demand for them, thus reducing availability or increasing prices, and 2) publishing the data might make the drive vendors unhappy with us, thereby making it difficult for us to buy drives.

But we felt that the largest drive purchasers (Amazon, Google, etc.) already had their own stats and would buy the drives they chose, and if individuals or smaller companies used our stats, they wouldn’t sufficiently move the overall market demand. Also, we hoped that the drive companies would see that we were being fair in our analysis and, if anything, would leverage our data to make drives even better.

Again, publishing the data resulted in tremendous value for Backblaze, with millions of people having read the analysis that we put out quarterly. Also, becoming known as the place to go for drive reliability information is a natural fit with being a backup and storage provider. In addition, in a twist from many people’s expectations, some of the drive companies actually started working closer with us, seeing that we could be a good source of data for them as feedback. We’ve also seen many individuals and companies make more data-based decisions on which drives to buy, and researchers have used the data for a variety of analyses.

traffic spike from hard drive reliability post

Backblaze blog analytics showing spike in readership after a hard drive stats post

Takeaway: Being open and transparent is rarely as risky as it seems.

Sharing Revenue (And Other Metrics)

Journalists always want to publish company revenue and other metrics, and private companies always shy away from sharing. For a long time we did, too. Then, we opened up about that, as well.

The negatives of sharing these numbers are: 1) external parties may otherwise perceive you’re doing better than you are, 2) if you share numbers often, you may show that growth has slowed or worse, 3) it gives your competitors info to compare their own business too.

We decided that, while some may have perceived we were bigger, our scale was plenty significant. Since we choose what we share and when, it’s up to us whether to disclose at any point. And if our competitors compare, what will they actually change that would affect us?

I did wait to share revenue until I felt I had the right person to write about it. At one point a journalist said she wouldn’t write about us unless I disclosed revenue. I suggested we had a lot to offer for the story, but didn’t want to share revenue yet. She refused to budge and I walked away from the article. Several year later, I reached out to a journalist who had covered Backblaze before and I felt understood our business and offered to share revenue with him. He wrote a deep-dive about the company, with revenue being one of the components of the story.

Sharing these metrics showed that we were at scale and running a real business, one with positive unit economics and margins, but not one where we were gouging customers.

Takeaway: Being open with the press about items typically not shared can be uncomfortable, but the press can amplify your story.

Should You Share?

For Backblaze, I believe the results of transparency have been staggering. However, it’s not for everyone. Apple has, clearly, been wildly successful taking secrecy to the extreme. In their case, early disclosure combined with the long cycle of hardware releases could significantly impact sales of current products.

“For Backblaze, I believe the results of transparency have been staggering.” — Gleb Budman

I will argue, however, that for most startups transparency wins. Most startups need to establish credibility and trust, build awareness and a fan base, show that they understand what their customers need and be useful to them, and show the soul and passion behind the company. Some startup companies try to buy these virtues with investor money, and sometimes amplifying your brand via paid marketing helps. But, authentic transparency can build awareness and trust not only less expensively, but more deeply than money can buy.

Backblaze was open from the beginning. With no outside investors, as founders we were able to express ourselves and make our decisions. And it’s easier to be a company that shares if you do it from the start, but for any company, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Ask about sharing: If something significant happens — good or bad — ask “should we share this?” If you made a tough decision, ask “should we share the thinking behind the decision and why it was tough?”
  2. Default to yes: It’s often scary to share, but look for the reasons to say ‘yes,’ not the reasons to say ‘no.’ That doesn’t mean you won’t sometimes decide not to, but make that the high bar.
  3. Minimize reviews: Press releases tend to be sanitized and boring because they’ve been endlessly wordsmithed by committee. Establish the few things you don’t want shared, but minimize the number of people that have to see anything else before it can go out. Teach, then trust.
  4. Engage: Sharing will result in comments on your blog, social, articles, etc. Reply to people’s questions and engage. It’ll make the readers more engaged and give you a better understanding of what they’re looking for.
  5. Accept mistakes: Things will become public that aren’t perfectly sanitized. Accept that and don’t punish people for oversharing.

Building a culture of a company that is open to sharing takes time, but continuous practice will build that, and over time the company will navigate its voice and approach to sharing.

The post The Decision on Transparency appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Concerning a Statement by the Conservancy (Software Freedom Law Center Blog)

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/738279/rss

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) has responded to a recent blog post from the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) regarding the SFC’s trademark. SFLC has asked the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to cancel the SFC trademark due to a likelihood of confusion between the two marks; SFC posted about the action on its blog. Now, SFLC is telling its side of the story: “At the end of September, SFLC notified the US Patent and Trademark Office that we have an actual confusion problem caused by the trademark ‘Software Freedom Conservancy,’ which is confusingly similar to our own pre-existing trademark. US trademark law is all about preventing confusion among sources and suppliers of goods and services in the market. Trademark law acts to provide remedies against situations that create likelihood of, as well as actual, confusion. When you are a trademark holder, if a recent mark junior to yours causes likelihood of or actual confusion, you have a right to inform the PTO that the mark has issued in error, because that’s not supposed to happen. This act of notifying the PTO of a subsequently-issued mark that is causing actual confusion is called a petition to cancel the trademark. That’s not some more aggressive choice that the holder has made; it is not an attack, let alone a ‘bizarre’ attack, on anybody. That’s the name of the process by which the trademark holder gets the most basic value of the trademark, which is the right to abate confusion caused by the PTO itself.

SFLC Files Bizarre Legal Action Against Its Former Client, Software Freedom Conservancy (Conservancy Blog)

Post Syndicated from jake original https://lwn.net/Articles/738046/rss

The Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) blog reveals a recent action taken by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) to try to cancel the trademark for SFC. On September 22, SFLC filed a complaint with the US Patent and Trademark Office asking that the trademark be canceled because there is a likelihood of confusion between the trademarks:
Registrant’s SOFTWARE FREEDOM CONSERVANCY Mark is confusingly similar to
Petitioner’s SOFTWARE FREEDOM LAW CENTER Mark.
” On November 2, SFC filed a response that lists the defenses it plans to use. From the blog post: “We are surprised and sad that our former attorneys, who kindly helped our organization start in our earliest days and later excitedly endorsed us when we moved from a volunteer organization to a staffed one, would seek to invalidate our trademark. Conservancy and SFLC are very different organizations and sometimes publicly disagree about detailed policy issues. Yet, both non-profits are charities organized to promote the public’s interest. Thus, we are especially disappointed that SFLC would waste the precious resources of both organizations in this frivolous action.

Facebook relicenses several projects

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/734644/rss

Facebook has announced
that the React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js projects will be moving to the
MIT license. This is, of course, a somewhat delayed reaction to the controversy over the “BSD+patent” license
previously applied to those projects. “This decision comes after
several weeks of disappointment and uncertainty for our community. Although
we still believe our BSD + Patents license provides some benefits to users
of our projects, we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this
community.

Red Hat’s new patent promise

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/734452/rss

Red Hat has announced an
update to its
patent promise
, wherein the company says it will not enforce its
patents against anybody who might be infringing them with open-source
software. The new version expands the promise to all software covered by
an OSI-approved license, including permissive licenses. The attached FAQ
notes that Red Hat now possesses
over 2,000 patents.

A printing GIF camera? Is that even a thing?

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/printing-gif-camera/

Abhishek Singh’s printing GIF camera uses two Raspberry Pis, the Model 3 and the Zero W, to take animated images and display them on an ejectable secondary screen.

Instagif – A DIY Camera that prints GIFs instantly

I built a camera that snaps a GIF and ejects a little cartridge so you can hold a moving photo in your hand! I’m calling it the “Instagif NextStep”.

The humble GIF

Created in 1987, Graphics Interchange Format files, better known as GIFs, have somewhat taken over the internet. And whether you pronounce it G-IF or J-IF, you’ve probably used at least one to express an emotion, animate images on your screen, or create small, movie-like memories of events.

In 2004, all patents on the humble GIF expired, which added to the increased usage of the file format. And by the early 2010s, sites such as giphy.com and phone-based GIF keyboards were introduced into our day-to-day lives.

A GIF from a scene in The Great Gatsby - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

Welcome to the age of the GIF

Polaroid cameras

Polaroid cameras have a somewhat older history. While the first documented instant camera came into existence in 1923, commercial iterations made their way to market in the 1940s, with Polaroid’s model 95 Land Camera.

In recent years, the instant camera has come back into fashion, with camera stores and high street fashion retailers alike stocking their shelves with pastel-coloured, affordable models. But nothing beats the iconic look of the Polaroid Spirit series, and the rainbow colour stripe that separates it from its competitors.

Polaroid Spirit Camera - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

Shake it like a Polaroid picture…

And if you’re one of our younger readers and find yourself wondering where else you’ve seen those stripes, you’re probably more familiar with previous versions of the Instagram logo, because, well…

Instagram Logo - Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

I’m sorry for the comment on the previous image. It was just too easy.

Abhishek Singh’s printing GIF camera

Abhishek labels his creation the Instagif NextStep, and cites his inspiration for the project as simply wanting to give it a go, and to see if he could hold a ‘moving photo’.

“What I love about these kinds of projects is that they involve a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines”, he explains at the start of his lengthy, highly GIFed and wonderfully detailed imugr tutorial. “Hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc. that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly. Ironically, this is also what I hate about these kinds of projects”

Care to see how the whole thing comes together? Well, in the true spirit of the project, Abhishek created this handy step-by-step GIF.

Piecing it together

I thought I’ll start off with the entire assembly and then break down the different elements. As you can see, everything is assembled from the base up in layers helping in easy assembly and quick disassembly for troubleshooting

The build comes in two parts – the main camera housing a Raspberry Pi 3 and Camera Module V2, and the ejectable cartridge fitted with Raspberry Pi Zero W and Adafruit PiTFT screen.

When the capture button is pressed, the camera takes 3 seconds’ worth of images and converts them into .gif format via a Python script. Once compressed and complete, the Pi 3 sends the file to the Zero W via a network connection. When it is satisfied that the Zero W has the image, the Pi 3 automatically ejects the ‘printed GIF’ cartridge, and the image is displayed.

A demonstration of how the GIF is displayed on the Raspberry Pi GIF Camera

For a full breakdown of code, 3D-printable files, and images, check out the full imgur post. You can see more of Abhishek’s work at his website here.

Create GIFs with a Raspberry Pi

Want to create GIFs with your Raspberry Pi? Of course you do. Who wouldn’t? So check out our free time-lapse animations resource. As with all our learning resources, the project is free for you to use at home and in your clubs or classrooms. And once you’ve mastered the art of Pi-based GIF creation, why not incorporate it into another project? Say, a motion-detecting security camera or an on-the-go tweeting GIF camera – the possibilities are endless.

And make sure you check out Abhishek’s other Raspberry Pi GIF project, Peeqo, who we covered previously in the blog. So cute. SO CUTE.

The post A printing GIF camera? Is that even a thing? appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Five Must-Watch Software Engineering Talks

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/five-must-watch-software-engineering-talks/

We’ve all watched dozens of talks online. And we probably don’t remember many of them. But some do stick in our heads and we eventually watch them again (and again) because we know they are good and we want to remember the things that were said there. So I decided to compile a small list of talks that I find very insightful, useful and that have, in a way, shaped my software engineering practice or expanded my understanding of the software world.

1. How To Design A Good API and Why it Matters by Joshua Bloch — this is a must-watch (well, obviously all are). And don’t skip it because “you are not writing APIs” — everyone is writing APIs. Maybe not used by hundreds of other developers, but used by at least several, and that’s a good enough reason. Having watched this talk I ended up buying and reading one of the few software books that I have actually read end-to-end — “Effective Java” (the talk uses Java as an example, but the principles aren’t limited to Java)

2. How to write clean, testable code by Miško Hevery. Maybe there are tons of talks about testing code, maybe Uncle Bob has a more popular one, but I found this one particularly practical and the the point — that writing testable code is a skill, and that testable code is good code. (By the way, the speaker then wrote AngularJS)

3. Back to basics: the mess we’ve made of our fundamental data types by Jon Skeet. The title says it all, and it’s nice to be reminded of how fragile even the basics of programming languages are.

4. The Danger of Software Patents by Richard Stallman. That goes a little bit away from writing software, but puts software in legal context — how do legislation loopholes affect code reuse and business practices related it. It’s a bit long, but I think worth it.

5. Does my ESB look big in this? by Martin Fowler and Jim Webber. It’s about bloated enterprise architecture and how to actually do enterprise architecture without complex and expensive middleware. (Unfortunately it’s not on YouTube, so no embedding).

Although this is not a “ranking”, I’d like to add a few honourable mentions: The famous “WAT” lightning talk, showing some quirks of ruby and javascript, “The future of programming” by Bret Victor, “You suck at Excel” by Joel Spolsky, which isn’t really about creating software, but it’s cool. And a tiny shameless plug with my “Common sense driven development talk”

I hope the compilation is useful and enlightening. Enjoy.

The post Five Must-Watch Software Engineering Talks appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

[$] Apache disallows the Facebook BSD+patent license

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/728178/rss

Software patents may not have brought about the free-software apocalypse
that some have feared over the years, but they remain a minefield for the
software industry as a whole. A small-scale example of this can be seen in
the recent decision by the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) to move a
license with patent-related terms to its “Category-X”
list
of licenses that cannot be used by ASF projects. A number of
projects will be scrambling to replace software dependencies on a short
timeline, all because Facebook wanted to clarify its patent-licensing
terms.

Goodbye To Bob Chassell

Post Syndicated from Bradley M. Kuhn original http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2017/07/03/Chassell.html

It’s fortunately more common now in Free Software communities today to
properly value contributions from non-developers. Historically, though,
contributions from developers were often overvalued and contributions from
others grossly undervalued. One person trailblazed as (likely) the
earliest non-developer contributor to software freedom. His name was
Robert J. Chassell — called Bob by his friends and colleagues. Over
the weekend, our community lost Bob after a long battle with a degenerative
illness.

I am one of the few of my generation in the Free Software community who
had the opportunity to know Bob. He was already semi-retired in the late
1990s when I first became involved with Free Software, but he enjoyed
giving talks about Free Software and occasionally worked the FSF booths at
events where I had begun to volunteer in 1997. He was the first person to
offer mentorship to me as I began the long road of becoming a professional
software freedom activist.

I regularly credit Bob as the first Executive Director of the FSF. While
he technically never held that title, he served as Treasurer for many years
and was the de-facto non-technical manager at the FSF for its first decade
of existence. One need only read
the earliest
issues of the GNU’s Bulletin
to see just a sampling of
the plethora of contributions that Bob made to the FSF and Free Software
generally.

Bob’s primary forte was as a writer and he came to Free Software as a
technical writer. Having focused his career on documenting software and how
it worked to help users make the most of it, software freedom — the
right to improve and modify not only the software, but its documentation as
well — was a moral belief that he held strongly. Bob was an early
member of the privileged group that now encompasses most people in
industrialized society: a non-developer who sees the value in computing and
the improvement it can bring to life. However, Bob’s realization that users
like him (and not just developers) faced detrimental impact from proprietary
software remains somewhat rare, even today. Thus, Bob died in a world where
he was still unique among non-developers: fighting for software freedom as an
essential right for all who use computers.

Bob coined a phrase that I still love to this day. He said once that the
job that we must do as activists was “preserve, protect and promote
software freedom”. Only a skilled writer such as he could come up
with such a perfectly concise alliteration that nevertheless rolls off the
tongue without stuttering. Today, I pulled up an email I sent to Bob in
November 2006 to tell him that (when Novell made their bizarre
software-freedom-unfriendly patent deal with Microsoft)
Novell
had coopted his language in their FAQ on the matter
. Bob wrote
back: I am not surprised. You can bet everything [we’ve ever come up
with] will be used against us.
Bob’s decade-old words are prolific
when I look at the cooption we now face daily in Free Software. I acutely
feel the loss of his insight and thoughtfulness.

One of the saddest facts about Bob’s illness is that his voice was quite
literally lost many years before we lost him entirely. His illness made it
nearly impossible for him to speak. In the late 1990s, I had the pleasure
of regularly hearing Bob’s voice, when I accompanied Bob to talks and
speeches at various conferences. That included the wonderful highlight of
his acceptance speech of GNU’s 2001 achievement award from the USENIX
Association. (I lament that no recordings of any of these talks seem to
be available anywhere.) Throughout the early 2000s, I
would speak to Bob on the telephone at least once a month; he would offer
his sage advice and mentorship in those early years of my professional
software freedom career. Losing his voice in our community has been a
slow-moving tragedy as his illness has progressed. This weekend, that
unique voice was lost to us forever.


I found out we lost Bob through the folks at the FSF, and I don’t at this
time have information about his family’s wishes regarding tributes to him.
I’ll update the post when/if I have them.

In the meantime, the best I can suggest is that anyone who would like to
posthumously get to know Bob please read (what I believe was) the favorite
book that he
wrote, An
Introduction to Programming in Emacs Lisp
. Bob was a huge
advocate of non-developers learning “a little bit” of
programming — just enough to make their lives easier when they used
computers. He used GNU Emacs from its earliest versions and I recall he
was absolutely giddy to discover new features, help document them, and
teach them to new users. I hope those of you that both already love and
use Emacs and those who don’t will take a moment to read what Bob had to
teach us about his favorite program.

Amazon Patents Measures to Prevent In-Store Comparison Shopping

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/06/amazon_patents_.html

Amazon has been issued a patent on security measures that prevents people from comparison shopping while in the store. It’s not a particularly sophisticated patent — it basically detects when you’re using the in-store Wi-Fi to visit a competitor’s site and then blocks access — but it is an indication of how retail has changed in recent years.

What’s interesting is that Amazon is on the other side of this arms race. As an on-line retailer, it wants people to walk into stores and then comparison shop on its site. Yes, I know it’s buying Whole Foods, but it’s still predominantly an online retailer. Maybe it patented this to prevent stores from implementing the technology.

It’s probably not nearly that strategic. It’s hard to build a business strategy around a security measure that can be defeated with cellular access.

AWS Hot Startups – February 2017

Post Syndicated from Ana Visneski original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-february-2017-2/

As we finish up the month of February, Tina Barr is back with some awesome startups.

-Ana


This month we are bringing you five innovative hot startups:

  • GumGum – Creating and popularizing the field of in-image advertising.
  • Jiobit – Smart tags to help parents keep track of kids.
  • Parsec – Offers flexibility in hardware and location for PC gamers.
  • Peloton – Revolutionizing indoor cycling and fitness classes at home.
  • Tendril – Reducing energy consumption for homeowners.

If you missed any of our January startups, make sure to check them out here.

GumGum (Santa Monica, CA)
GumGum logo1GumGum is best known for inventing and popularizing the field of in-image advertising. Founded in 2008 by Ophir Tanz, the company is on a mission to unlock the value held within the vast content produced daily via social media, editorials, and broadcasts in a variety of industries. GumGum powers campaigns across more than 2,000 premium publishers, which are seen by over 400 million users.

In-image advertising was pioneered by GumGum and has given companies a platform to deliver highly visible ads to a place where the consumer’s attention is already focused. Using image recognition technology, GumGum delivers targeted placements as contextual overlays on related pictures, as banners that fit on all screen sizes, or as In-Feed placements that blend seamlessly into the surrounding content. Using Visual Intelligence, GumGum can scour social media and broadcast TV for all images and videos related to a brand, allowing companies to gain a stronger understanding of their audience and how they are relating to that brand on social media.

GumGum relies on AWS for its Image Processing and Ad Serving operations. Using AWS infrastructure, GumGum currently processes 13 million requests per minute across the globe and generates 30 TB of new data every day. The company uses a suite of services including but not limited to Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon EMR, AWS Data Pipeline, and Amazon SNS. AWS edge locations allow GumGum to serve its customers in the US, Europe, Australia, and Japan and the company has plans to expand its infrastructure to Australia and APAC regions in the future.

For a look inside GumGum’s startup culture, check out their first Hackathon!

Jiobit (Chicago, IL)
Jiobit Team1
Jiobit was inspired by a real event that took place in a crowded Chicago park. A couple of summers ago, John Renaldi experienced every parent’s worst nightmare – he lost track of his then 6-year-old son in a public park for almost 30 minutes. John knew he wasn’t the only parent with this problem. After months of research, he determined that over 50% of parents have had a similar experience and an even greater percentage are actively looking for a way to prevent it.

Jiobit is the world’s smallest and longest lasting smart tag that helps parents keep track of their kids in every location – indoors and outdoors. The small device is kid-proof: lightweight, durable, and waterproof. It acts as a virtual “safety harness” as it uses a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Multiple Cellular Networks, GPS, and sensors to provide accurate locations in real-time. Jiobit can automatically learn routes and locations, and will send parents an alert if their child does not arrive at their destination on time. The talented team of experienced engineers, designers, marketers, and parents has over 150 patents and has shipped dozens of hardware and software products worldwide.

The Jiobit team is utilizing a number of AWS services in the development of their product. Security is critical to the overall product experience, and they are over-engineering security on both the hardware and software side with the help of AWS. Jiobit is also working towards being the first child monitoring device that will have implemented an Alexa Skill via the Amazon Echo device (see here for a demo!). The devices use AWS IoT to send and receive data from the Jio Cloud over the MQTT protocol. Once data is received, they use AWS Lambda to parse the received data and take appropriate actions, including storing relevant data using Amazon DynamoDB, and sending location data to Amazon Machine Learning processing jobs.

Visit the Jiobit blog for more information.

Parsec (New York, NY)
Parsec logo large1
Parsec operates under the notion that everyone should have access to the best computing in the world because access to technology creates endless opportunities. Founded in 2016 by Benjy Boxer and Chris Dickson, Parsec aims to eliminate the burden of hardware upgrades that users frequently experience by building the technology to make a computer in the cloud available anywhere, at any time. Today, they are using their technology to enable greater flexibility in the hardware and location that PC gamers choose to play their favorite games on. Check out this interview with Benjy and our Startups team for a look at how Parsec works.

Parsec built their first product to improve the gaming experience; gamers no longer have to purchase consoles or expensive PCs to access the entertainment they love. Their low latency video streaming and networking technologies allow gamers to remotely access their gaming rig and play on any Windows, Mac, Android, or Raspberry Pi device. With the global reach of AWS, Parsec is able to deliver cloud gaming to the median user in the US and Europe with less than 30 milliseconds of network latency.

Parsec users currently have two options available to start gaming with cloud resources. They can either set up their own machines with the Parsec AMI in their region or rely on Parsec to manage everything for a seamless experience. In either case, Parsec uses the g2.2xlarge EC2 instance type. Parsec is using Amazon Elastic Block Storage to store games, Amazon DynamoDB for scalability, and Amazon EC2 for its web servers and various APIs. They also deal with a high volume of logs and take advantage of the Amazon Elasticsearch Service to analyze the data.

Be sure to check out Parsec’s blog to keep up with the latest news.

Peloton (New York, NY)
Peloton image 3
The idea for Peloton was born in 2012 when John Foley, Founder and CEO, and his wife Jill started realizing the challenge of balancing work, raising young children, and keeping up with personal fitness. This is a common challenge people face – they want to work out, but there are a lot of obstacles that stand in their way. Peloton offers a solution that enables people to join indoor cycling and fitness classes anywhere, anytime.

Peloton has created a cutting-edge indoor bike that streams up to 14 hours of live classes daily and has over 4,000 on-demand classes. Users can access live classes from world-class instructors from the convenience of their home or gym. The bike tracks progress with in-depth ride metrics and allows people to compete in real-time with other users who have taken a specific ride. The live classes even feature top DJs that play current playlists to keep users motivated.

With an aggressive marketing campaign, which has included high-visibility TV advertising, Peloton made the decision to run its entire platform in the cloud. Most recently, they ran an ad during an NFL playoff game and their rate of requests per minute to their site increased from ~2k/min to ~32.2k/min within 60 seconds. As they continue to grow and diversify, they are utilizing services such as Amazon S3 for thousands of hours of archived on-demand video content, Amazon Redshift for data warehousing, and Application Load Balancer for intelligent request routing.

Learn more about Peloton’s engineering team here.

Tendril (Denver, CO)
Tendril logo1
Tendril was founded in 2004 with the goal of helping homeowners better manage and reduce their energy consumption. Today, electric and gas utilities use Tendril’s data analytics platform on more than 140 million homes to deliver a personalized energy experience for consumers around the world. Using the latest technology in decision science and analytics, Tendril can gain access to real-time, ever evolving data about energy consumers and their homes so they can improve customer acquisition, increase engagement, and orchestrate home energy experiences. In turn, Tendril helps its customers unlock the true value of energy interactions.

AWS helps Tendril run its services globally, while scaling capacity up and down as needed, and in real-time. This has been especially important in support of Tendril’s newest solution, Orchestrated Energy, a continuous demand management platform that calculates a home’s thermal mass, predicts consumer behavior, and integrates with smart thermostats and other connected home devices. This solution allows millions of consumers to create a personalized energy plan for their home based on their individual needs.

Tendril builds and maintains most of its infrastructure services with open sources tools running on Amazon EC2 instances, while also making use of AWS services such as Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon API Gateway, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, Amazon Simple Queue Service, and Amazon RDS for PostgreSQL.

Visit the Tendril Blog for more information!

— Tina Barr

The grsecurity “RAP” patch set

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/713808/rss

The grsecurity developers have announced the
first release of the “Reuse Attack Protector” (RAP) patch set, aimed at
preventing return-oriented programming and other attacks. “RAP is
our patent-pending and best-in-breed defense mechanism against code reuse
attacks. It is the result of years of research and development into Control
Flow Integrity (CFI) technologies by PaX. The version of RAP present in the
test patch released to the public today under the GPLv2 is now
feature-complete.

The command-line, for cybersec

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/01/the-command-line-for-cybersec.html

On Twitter I made the mistake of asking people about command-line basics for cybersec professionals. A got a lot of useful responses, which I summarize in this long (5k words) post. It’s mostly driven by the tools I use, with a bit of input from the tweets I got in response to my query.

bash

By command-line this document really means bash.

There are many types of command-line shells. Windows has two, ‘cmd.exe’ and ‘PowerShell’. Unix started with the Bourne shell ‘sh’, and there have been many variations of this over the years, ‘csh’, ‘ksh’, ‘zsh’, ‘tcsh’, etc. When GNU rewrote Unix user-mode software independently, they called their shell “Bourne Again Shell” or “bash” (queue “JSON Bourne” shell jokes here).

Bash is the default shell for Linux and macOS. It’s also available on Windows, as part of their special “Windows Subsystem for Linux”. The windows version of ‘bash’ has become my most used shell.

For Linux IoT devices, BusyBox is the most popular shell. It’s easy to clear, as it includes feature-reduced versions of popular commands.

man

‘Man’ is the command you should not run if you want help for a command.

Man pages are designed to drive away newbies. They are only useful if you already mostly an expert with the command you desire help on. Man pages list all possible features of a program, but do not highlight examples of the most common features, or the most common way to use the commands.

Take ‘sed’ as an example. It’s used most commonly to do a search-and-replace in files, like so:

$ sed ‘s/rob/dave/’ foo.txt

This usage is so common that many non-geeks know of it. Yet, if you type ‘man sed’ to figure out how to do a search and replace, you’ll get nearly incomprehensible gibberish, and no example of this most common usage.

I point this out because most guides on using the shell recommend ‘man’ pages to get help. This is wrong, it’ll just endlessly frustrate you. Instead, google the commands you need help on, or better yet, search StackExchange for answers.

You might try asking questions, like on Twitter or forum sites, but this requires a strategy. If you ask a basic question, self-important dickholes will respond by telling you to “rtfm” or “read the fucking manual”. A better strategy is to exploit their dickhole nature, such as saying “too bad command xxx cannot do yyy”. Helpful people will gladly explain why you are wrong, carefully explaining how xxx does yyy.

If you must use ‘man’, use the ‘apropos’ command to find the right man page. Sometimes multiple things in the system have the same or similar names, leading you to the wrong page.

apt-get install yum

Using the command-line means accessing that huge open-source ecosystem. Most of the things in this guide do no already exist on the system. You have to either compile them from source, or install via a package-manager. Linux distros ship with a small footprint, but have a massive database of precompiled software “packages” in the cloud somewhere. Use the “package manager” to install the software from the cloud.

On Debian-derived systems (like Ubuntu, Kali, Raspbian), type “apt-get install masscan” to install “masscan” (as an example). Use “apt-cache search scan” to find a bunch of scanners you might want to install.

On RedHat systems, use “yum” instead. On BSD, use the “ports” system, which you can also get working for macOS.

If no pre-compiled package exists for a program, then you’ll have to download the source code and compile it. There’s about an 80% chance this will work easy, following the instructions. There is a 20% chance you’ll experience “dependency hell”, for example, needing to install two mutually incompatible versions of Python.

Bash is a scripting language

Don’t forget that shells are really scripting languages. The bit that executes a single command is just a degenerate use of the scripting language. For example, you can do a traditional for loop like:

$ for i in $(seq 1 9); do echo $i; done

In this way, ‘bash’ is no different than any other scripting language, like Perl, Python, NodeJS, PHP CLI, etc. That’s why a lot of stuff on the system actually exists as short ‘bash’ programs, aka. shell scripts.

Few want to write bash scripts, but you are expected to be able to read them, either to tweek existing scripts on the system, or to read StackExchange help.

File system commands

The macOS “Finder” or Windows “File Explorer” are just graphical shells that help you find files, open, and save them. The first commands you learn are for the same functionality on the command-line: pwd, cd, ls, touch, rm, rmdir, mkdir, chmod, chown, find, ln, mount.

The command “rm –rf /” removes everything starting from the root directory. This will also follow mounted server directories, deleting files on the server. I point this out to give an appreciation of the raw power you have over the system from the command-line, and how easy you can disrupt things.

Of particular interest is the “mount” command. Desktop versions of Linux typically mount USB flash drives automatically, but on servers, you need to do it manually, e.g.:

$ mkdir ~/foobar
$ mount /dev/sdb ~/foobar

You’ll also use the ‘mount’ command to connect to file servers, using the “cifs” package if they are Windows file servers:

# apt-get install cifs-utils
# mkdir /mnt/vids
# mount -t cifs -o username=robert,password=foobar123  //192.168.1.11/videos /mnt/vids

Linux system commands

The next commands you’ll learn are about syadmin the Linux system: ps, top, who, history, last, df, du, kill, killall, lsof, lsmod, uname, id, shutdown, and so on.

The first thing hackers do when hacking into a system is run “uname” (to figure out what version of the OS is running) and “id” (to figure out which account they’ve acquired, like “root” or some other user).

The Linux system command I use most is “dmesg” (or ‘tail –f /var/log/dmesg’) which shows you the raw system messages. For example, when I plug in USB drives to a server, I look in ‘dmesg’ to find out which device was added so that I can mount it. I don’t know if this is the best way, it’s just the way I do it (servers don’t automount USB drives like desktops do).

Networking commands

The permanent state of the network (what gets configured on the next bootup) is configured in text files somewhere. But there are a wealth of commands you’ll use to view the current state of networking, make temporary changes, and diagnose problems.

The ‘ifconfig’ command has long been used to view the current TCP/IP configuration and make temporary changes. Learning how TCP/IP works means playing a lot with ‘ifconfig’. Use “ifconfig –a” for even more verbose information.

Use the “route” command to see if you are sending packets to the right router.

Use ‘arp’ command to make sure you can reach the local router.

Use ‘traceroute’ to make sure packets are following the correct route to their destination. You should learn the nifty trick it’s based on (TTLs). You should also play with the TCP, UDP, and ICMP options.

Use ‘ping’ to see if you can reach the target across the Internet. Usefully measures the latency in milliseconds, and congestion (via packet loss). For example, ping NetFlix throughout the day, and notice how the ping latency increases substantially during “prime time” viewing hours.

Use ‘dig’ to make sure DNS resolution is working right. (Some use ‘nslookup’ instead). Dig is useful because it’s the raw universal DNS tool – every time they add some new standard feature to DNS, they add that feature into ‘dig’ as well.

The ‘netstat –tualn’ command views the current TCP/IP connections and which ports are listening. I forget what the various options “tualn” mean, only it’s the output I always want to see, rather than the raw “netstat” command by itself.

You’ll want to use ‘ethtool –k’ to turn off checksum and segmentation offloading. These are features that break packet-captures sometimes.

There is this new fangled ‘ip’ system for Linux networking, replacing many of the above commands, but as an old timer, I haven’t looked into that.

Some other tools for diagnosing local network issues are ‘tcpdump’, ‘nmap’, and ‘netcat’. These are described in more detail below.

ssh

In general, you’ll remotely log into a system in order to use the command-line. We use ‘ssh’ for that. It uses a protocol similar to SSL in order to encrypt the connection. There are two ways to use ‘ssh’ to login, with a password or with a client-side certificate.

When using SSH with a password, you type “ssh [email protected]”. The remote system will then prompt you for a password for that account.

When using client-side certificates, use “ssh-keygen” to generate a key, then either copy the public-key of the client to the server manually, or use “ssh-copy-id” to copy it using the password method above.

How this works is basic application of public-key cryptography. When logging in with a password, you get a copy of the server’s public-key the first time you login, and if it ever changes, you get a nasty warning that somebody may be attempting a man in the middle attack.

$ ssh [email protected]
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
@    WARNING: REMOTE HOST IDENTIFICATION HAS CHANGED!     @
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
IT IS POSSIBLE THAT SOMEONE IS DOING SOMETHING NASTY!

When using client-side certificates, the server trusts your public-key. This is similar to how client-side certificates work in SSL VPNs.

You can use SSH for things other than loging into a remote shell. You can script ‘ssh’ to run commands remotely on a system in a local shell script. You can use ‘scp’ (SSH copy) to transfer files to and from a remote system. You can do tricks with SSH to create tunnels, which is popular way to bypass the restrictive rules of your local firewall nazi.

openssl

This is your general cryptography toolkit, doing everything from simple encryption, to public-key certificate signing, to establishing SSL connections.

It is extraordinarily user hostile, with terrible inconsistency among options. You can only figure out how to do things by looking up examples on the net, such as on StackExchange. There are competing SSL libraries with their own command-line tools, like GnuTLS and Mozilla NSS that you might find easier to use.

The fundamental use of the ‘openssl’ tool is to create public-keys, “certificate requests”, and creating self-signed certificates. All the web-site certificates I’ve ever obtained has been using the openssl command-line tool to create CSRs.

You should practice using the ‘openssl’ tool to encrypt files, sign files, and to check signatures.

You can use openssl just like PGP for encrypted emails/messages, but following the “S/MIME” standard rather than PGP standard. You might consider learning the ‘pgp’ command-line tools, or the open-source ‘gpg’ or ‘gpg2’ tools as well.

You should learn how to use the “openssl s_client” feature to establish SSL connections, as well as the “openssl s_server” feature to create an SSL proxy for a server that doesn’t otherwise support SSL.

Learning all the ways of using the ‘openssl’ tool to do useful things will go a long way in teaching somebody about crypto and cybersecurity. I can imagine an entire class consisting of nothing but learning ‘openssl’.

netcat (nc, socat, cyptocat, ncat)

A lot of Internet protocols are based on text. That means you can create a raw TCP connection to the service and interact with them using your keyboard. The classic tool for doing this is known as “netcat”, abbreviated “nc”. For example, connect to Google’s web server at port and type the HTTP HEAD command followed by a blank line (hit [return] twice):

$ nc www.google.com 80
HEAD / HTTP/1.0

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 01:53:28 GMT
Expires: -1
Cache-Control: private, max-age=0
Content-Type: text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1
P3P: CP=”This is not a P3P policy! See https://www.google.com/support/accounts/answer/151657?hl=en for more info.”
Server: gws
X-XSS-Protection: 1; mode=block
X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN
Set-Cookie: NID=95=o7GT1uJCWTPhaPAefs4CcqF7h7Yd7HEqPdAJncZfWfDSnNfliWuSj3XfS5GJXGt67-QJ9nc8xFsydZKufBHLj-K242C3_Vak9Uz1TmtZwT-1zVVBhP8limZI55uXHuPrejAxyTxSCgR6MQ; expires=Wed, 19-Jul-2017 01:53:28 GMT; path=/; domain=.google.com; HttpOnly
Accept-Ranges: none
Vary: Accept-Encoding

Another classic example is to connect to port 25 on a mail server to send email, spoofing the “MAIL FROM” address.

There are several versions of ‘netcat’ that work over SSL as well. My favorite is ‘ncat’, which comes with ‘nmap’, as it’s actively maintained. In theory, “openssl s_client” should also work this way.

nmap

At some point, you’ll need to port scan. The standard program for this is ‘nmap’, and it’s the best. The classic way of using it is something like:

# nmap –A scanme.nmap.org

The ‘-A’ option means to enable all the interesting features like OS detection, version detection, and basic scripts on the most common ports that a server might have open. It takes awhile to run. The “scanme.nmap.org” is a good site to practice on.

Nmap is more than just a port scanner. It has a rich scripting system for probing more deeply into a system than just a port, and to gather more information useful for attacks. The scripting system essentially contains some attacks, such as password guessing.

Scanning the Internet, finding services identified by ‘nmap’ scripts, and interacting with them with tools like ‘ncat’ will teach you a lot about how the Internet works.

BTW, if ‘nmap’ is too slow, using ‘masscan’ instead. It’s a lot faster, though has much more limited functionality.

Packet sniffing with tcpdump and tshark

All Internet traffic consists of packets going between IP addresses. You can capture those packets and view them using “packet sniffers”. The most important packet-sniffer is “Wireshark”, a GUI. For the command-line, there is ‘tcpdump’ and ‘tshark’.

You can run tcpdump on the command-line to watch packets go in/out of the local computer. This performs a quick “decode” of packets as they are captured. It’ll reverse-lookup IP addresses into DNS names, which means its buffers can overflow, dropping new packets while it’s waiting for DNS name responses for previous packets (which can be disabled with -n):

# tcpdump –p –i eth0

A common task is to create a round-robin set of files, saving the last 100 files of 1-gig each. Older files are overwritten. Thus, when an attack happens, you can stop capture, and go backward in times and view the contents of the network traffic using something like Wireshark:

# tcpdump –p -i eth0 -s65535 –C 1000 –W 100 –w cap

Instead of capturing everything, you’ll often set “BPF” filters to narrow down to traffic from a specific target, or a specific port.

The above examples use the –p option to capture traffic destined to the local computer. Sometimes you may want to look at all traffic going to other machines on the local network. You’ll need to figure out how to tap into wires, or setup “monitor” ports on switches for this to work.

A more advanced command-line program is ‘tshark’. It can apply much more complex filters. It can also be used to extract the values of specific fields and dump them to a text files.

Base64/hexdump/xxd/od

These are some rather trivial commands, but you should know them.

The ‘base64’ command encodes binary data in text. The text can then be passed around, such as in email messages. Base64 encoding is often automatic in the output from programs like openssl and PGP.

In many cases, you’ll need to view a hex dump of some binary data. There are many programs to do this, such as hexdump, xxd, od, and more.

grep

Grep searches for a pattern within a file. More important, it searches for a regular expression (regex) in a file. The fu of Unix is that a lot of stuff is stored in text files, and use grep for regex patterns in order to extra stuff stored in those files.

The power of this tool really depends on your mastery of regexes. You should master enough that you can understand StackExhange posts that explain almost what you want to do, and then tweek them to make them work.

Grep, by default, shows only the matching lines. In many cases, you only want the part that matches. To do that, use the –o option. (This is not available on all versions of grep).

You’ll probably want the better, “extended” regular expressions, so use the –E option.

You’ll often want “case-insensitive” options (matching both upper and lower case), so use the –i option.

For example, to extract all MAC address from a text file, you might do something like the following. This extracts all strings that are twelve hex digits.

$ grep –Eio ‘[0-9A-F]{12}’ foo.txt

Text processing

Grep is just the first of the various “text processing filters”. Other useful ones include ‘sed’, ‘cut’, ‘sort’, and ‘uniq’.

You’ll be an expert as piping output of one to the input of the next. You’ll use “sort | uniq” as god (Dennis Ritchie) intended and not the heresy of “sort –u”.

You might want to master ‘awk’. It’s a new programming language, but once you master it, it’ll be easier than other mechanisms.

You’ll end up using ‘wc’ (word-count) a lot. All it does is count the number of lines, words, characters in a file, but you’ll find yourself wanting to do this a lot.

csvkit and jq

You get data in CSV format and JSON format a lot. The tools ‘csvkit’ and ‘jq’ respectively help you deal with those tools, to convert these files into other formats, sticking the data in databases, and so forth.

It’ll be easier using these tools that understand these text formats to extract data than trying to write ‘awk’ command or ‘grep’ regexes.

strings

Most files are binary with a few readable ASCII strings. You use the program ‘strings’ to extract those strings.

This one simple trick sounds stupid, but it’s more powerful than you’d think. For example, I knew that a program probably contained a hard-coded password. I then blindly grabbed all the strings in the program’s binary file and sent them to a password cracker to see if they could decrypt something. And indeed, one of the 100,000 strings in the file worked, thus finding the hard-coded password.

tail -f

So ‘tail’ is just a standard Linux tool for looking at the end of files. If you want to keep checking the end of a live file that’s constantly growing, then use “tail –f”. It’ll sit there waiting for something new to be added to the end of the file, then print it out. I do this a lot, so I thought it’d be worth mentioning.

tar –xvfz, gzip, xz, 7z

In prehistorical times (like the 1980s), Unix was backed up to tape drives. The tar command could be used to combine a bunch of files into a single “archive” to be sent to the tape drive, hence “tape archive” or “tar”.

These days, a lot of stuff you download will be in tar format (ending in .tar). You’ll need to learn how to extract it:

$ tar –xvf something.tar

Nobody knows what the “xvf” options mean anymore, but these letters most be specified in that order. I’m joking here, but only a little: somebody did a survey once and found that virtually nobody know how to use ‘tar’ other than the canned formulas such as this.

Along with combining files into an archive you also need to compress them. In prehistoric Unix, the “compress” command would be used, which would replace a file with a compressed version ending in ‘.z’. This would found to be encumbered with patents, so everyone switched to ‘gzip’ instead, which replaces a file with a new one ending with ‘.gz’.

$ ls foo.txt*
foo.txt
$ gzip foo.txt
$ ls foo.txt*
foo.txt.gz

Combined with tar, you get files with either the “.tar.gz” extension, or simply “.tgz”. You can untar and uncompress at the same time:

$ tar –xvfz something .tar.gz

Gzip is always good enough, but nerds gonna nerd and want to compress with slightly better compression programs. They’ll have extensions like “.bz2”, “.7z”, “.xz”, and so on. There are a ton of them. Some of them are supported directly by the ‘tar’ program:

$ tar –xvfj something.tar.bz2

Then there is the “zip/unzip” program, which supports Windows .zip file format. To create compressed archives these days, I don’t bother with tar, but just use the ZIP format. For example, this will recursively descend a directory, adding all files to a ZIP file that can easily be extracted under Windows:

$ zip –r test.zip ./test/

dd

I should include this under the system tools at the top, but it’s interesting for a number of purposes. The usage is simply to copy one file to another, the in-file to the out-file.

$ dd if=foo.txt of=foo2.txt

But that’s not interesting. What interesting is using it to write to “devices”. The disk drives in your system also exist as raw devices under the /dev directory.

For example, if you want to create a boot USB drive for your Raspberry Pi:

# dd if=rpi-ubuntu.img of=/dev/sdb

Or, you might want to hard erase an entire hard drive by overwriting random data:

# dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sdc

Or, you might want to image a drive on the system, for later forensics, without stumbling on things like open files.

# dd if=/dev/sda of=/media/Lexar/infected.img

The ‘dd’ program has some additional options, like block size and so forth, that you’ll want to pay attention to.

screen and tmux

You log in remotely and start some long running tool. Unfortunately, if you log out, all the processes you started will be killed. If you want it to keep running, then you need a tool to do this.

I use ‘screen’. Before I start a long running port scan, I run the “screen” command. Then, I type [ctrl-a][ctrl-d] to disconnect from that screen, leaving it running in the background.

Then later, I type “screen –r” to reconnect to it. If there are more than one screen sessions, using ‘-r’ by itself will list them all. Use “-r pid” to reattach to the proper one. If you can’t, then use “-D pid” or “-D –RR pid” to forced the other session to detached from whoever is using it.

Tmux is an alternative to screen that many use. It’s cool for also having lots of terminal screens open at once.

curl and wget

Sometimes you want to download files from websites without opening a browser. The ‘curl’ and ‘wget’ programs do that easily. Wget is the traditional way of doing this, but curl is a bit more flexible. I use curl for everything these days, except mirroring a website, in which case I just do “wget –m website”.

The thing that makes ‘curl’ so powerful is that it’s really designed as a tool for poking and prodding all the various features of HTTP. That it’s also useful for downloading files is a happy coincidence. When playing with a target website, curl will allow you do lots of complex things, which you can then script via bash. For example, hackers often write their cross-site scripting/forgeries in bash scripts using curl.

node/php/python/perl/ruby/lua

As mentioned above, bash is its own programming language. But it’s weird, and annoying. So sometimes you want a real programming language. Here are some useful ones.

Yes, PHP is a language that runs in a web server for creating web pages. But if you know the language well, it’s also a fine command-line language for doing stuff.

Yes, JavaScript is a language that runs in the web browser. But if you know it well, it’s also a great language for doing stuff, especially with the “nodejs” version.

Then there are other good command line languages, like the Python, Ruby, Lua, and the venerable Perl.

What makes all these great is the large library support. Somebody has already written a library that nearly does what you want that can be made to work with a little bit of extra code of your own.

My general impression is that Python and NodeJS have the largest libraries likely to have what you want, but you should pick whichever language you like best, whichever makes you most productive. For me, that’s NodeJS, because of the great Visual Code IDE/debugger.

iptables, iptables-save

I shouldn’t include this in the list. Iptables isn’t a command-line tool as such. The tool is the built-in firewalling/NAT features within the Linux kernel. Iptables is just the command to configure it.

Firewalling is an important part of cybersecurity. Everyone should have some experience playing with a Linux system doing basic firewalling tasks: basic rules, NATting, and transparent proxying for mitm attacks.

Use ‘iptables-save’ in order to persistently save your changes.

MySQL

Similar to ‘iptables’, ‘mysql’ isn’t a tool in its own right, but a way of accessing a database maintained by another process on the system.

Filters acting on text files only goes so far. Sometimes you need to dump it into a database, and make queries on that database.

There is also the offensive skill needed to learn how targets store things in a database, and how attackers get the data.

Hackers often publish raw SQL data they’ve stolen in their hacks (like the Ashley-Madisan dump). Being able to stick those dumps into your own database is quite useful. Hint: disable transaction logging while importing mass data.

If you don’t like SQL, you might consider NoSQL tools like Elasticsearch, MongoDB, and Redis that can similarly be useful for arranging and searching data. You’ll probably have to learn some JSON tools for formatting the data.

Reverse engineering tools

A cybersecurity specialty is “reverse engineering”. Some want to reverse engineer the target software being hacked, to understand vulnerabilities. This is needed for commercial software and device firmware where the source code is hidden. Others use these tools to analyze viruses/malware.

The ‘file’ command uses heuristics to discover the type of a file.

There’s a whole skillset for analyzing PDF and Microsoft Office documents. I play with pdf-parser. There’s a long list at this website:
https://zeltser.com/analyzing-malicious-documents/

There’s a whole skillset for analyzing executables. Binwalk is especially useful for analyzing firmware images.

Qemu is useful is a useful virtual-machine. It can emulate full systems, such as an IoT device based on the MIPS processor. Like some other tools mentioned here, it’s more a full subsystem than a simple command-line tool.

On a live system, you can use ‘strace’ to view what system calls a process is making. Use ‘lsof’ to view which files and network connections a process is making.

Password crackers

A common cybersecurity specialty is “password cracking”. There’s two kinds: online and offline password crackers.

Typical online password crackers are ‘hydra’ and ‘medusa’. They can take files containing common passwords and attempt to log on to various protocols remotely, like HTTP, SMB, FTP, Telnet, and so on. I used ‘hydra’ recently in order to find the default/backdoor passwords to many IoT devices I’ve bought recently in my test lab.

Online password crackers must open TCP connections to the target, and try to logon. This limits their speed. They also may be stymied by systems that lock accounts, or introduce delays, after too many bad password attempts.

Typical offline password crackers are ‘hashcat’ and ‘jtr’ (John the Ripper). They work off of stolen encrypted passwords. They can attempt billions of passwords-per-second, because there’s no network interaction, nothing slowing them down.

Understanding offline password crackers means getting an appreciation for the exponential difficulty of the problem. A sufficiently long and complex encrypted password is uncrackable. Instead of brute-force attempts at all possible combinations, we must use tricks, like mutating the top million most common passwords.

I use hashcat because of the great GPU support, but John is also a great program.

WiFi hacking

A common specialty in cybersecurity is WiFi hacking. The difficulty in WiFi hacking is getting the right WiFi hardware that supports the features (monitor mode, packet injection), then the right drivers installed in your operating system. That’s why I use Kali rather than some generic Linux distribution, because it’s got the right drivers installed.

The ‘aircrack-ng’ suite is the best for doing basic hacking, such as packet injection. When the parents are letting the iPad babysit their kid with a loud movie at the otherwise quite coffeeshop, use ‘aircrack-ng’ to deauth the kid.

The ‘reaver’ tool is useful for hacking into sites that leave WPS wide open and misconfigured.

Remote exploitation

A common specialty in cybersecurity is pentesting.

Nmap, curl, and netcat (described above) above are useful tools for this.

Some useful DNS tools are ‘dig’ (described above), dnsrecon/dnsenum/fierce that try to enumerate and guess as many names as possible within a domain. These tools all have unique features, but also have a lot of overlap.

Nikto is a basic tool for probing for common vulnerabilities, out-of-date software, and so on. It’s not really a vulnerability scanner like Nessus used by defenders, but more of a tool for attack.

SQLmap is a popular tool for probing for SQL injection weaknesses.

Then there is ‘msfconsole’. It has some attack features. This is humor – it has all the attack features. Metasploit is the most popular tool for running remote attacks against targets, exploiting vulnerabilities.

Text editor

Finally, there is the decision of text editor. I use ‘vi’ variants. Others like ‘nano’ and variants. There’s no wrong answer as to which editor to use, unless that answer is ‘emacs’.

Conclusion

Obviously, not every cybersecurity professional will be familiar with every tool in this list. If you don’t do reverse-engineering, then you won’t use reverse-engineering tools.

On the other hand, regardless of your specialty, you need to know basic crypto concepts, so you should know something like the ‘openssl’ tool. You need to know basic networking, so things like ‘nmap’ and ‘tcpdump’. You need to be comfortable processing large dumps of data, manipulating it with any tool available. You shouldn’t be frightened by a little sysadmin work.

The above list is therefore a useful starting point for cybersecurity professionals. Of course, those new to the industry won’t have much familiarity with them. But it’s fair to say that I’ve used everything listed above at least once in the last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I spend a lot of time on StackExchange and Google searching the exact options I need, so I’m not an expert, but I am familiar with the basic use of all these things.