Tag Archives: recon

How to Manage Amazon GuardDuty Security Findings Across Multiple Accounts

Post Syndicated from Tom Stickle original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-manage-amazon-guardduty-security-findings-across-multiple-accounts/

Introduced at AWS re:Invent 2017, Amazon GuardDuty is a managed threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious or unauthorized behavior to help you protect your AWS accounts and workloads. In an AWS Blog post, Jeff Barr shows you how to enable GuardDuty to monitor your AWS resources continuously. That blog post shows how to get started with a single GuardDuty account and provides an overview of the features of the service. Your security team, though, will probably want to use GuardDuty to monitor a group of AWS accounts continuously.

In this post, I demonstrate how to use GuardDuty to monitor a group of AWS accounts and have their findings routed to another AWS account—the master account—that is owned by a security team. The method I demonstrate in this post is especially useful if your security team is responsible for monitoring a group of AWS accounts over which it does not have direct access—known as member accounts. In this solution, I simplify the work needed to enable GuardDuty in member accounts and configure findings by simplifying the process, which I do by enabling GuardDuty in the master account and inviting member accounts.

Enable GuardDuty in a master account and invite member accounts

To get started, you must enable GuardDuty in the master account, which will receive GuardDuty findings. The master account should be managed by your security team, and it will display the findings from all member accounts. The master account can be reverted later by removing any member accounts you add to it. Adding member accounts is a two-way handshake mechanism to ensure that administrators from both the master and member accounts formally agree to establish the relationship.

To enable GuardDuty in the master account and add member accounts:

  1. Navigate to the GuardDuty console.
  2. In the navigation pane, choose Accounts.
    Screenshot of the Accounts choice in the navigation pane
  1. To designate this account as the GuardDuty master account, start adding member accounts:
    • You can add individual accounts by choosing Add Account, or you can add a list of accounts by choosing Upload List (.csv).
  1. Now, add the account ID and email address of the member account, and choose Add. (If you are uploading a list of accounts, choose Browse, choose the .csv file with the member accounts [one email address and account ID per line], and choose Add accounts.)
    Screenshot of adding an account

For security reasons, AWS checks to make sure each account ID is valid and that you’ve entered each member account’s email address that was used to create the account. If a member account’s account ID and email address do not match, GuardDuty does not send an invitation.
Screenshot showing the Status of Invite

  1. After you add all the member accounts you want to add, you will see them listed in the Member accounts table with a Status of Invite. You don’t have to individually invite each account—you can choose a group of accounts and when you choose to invite one account in the group, all accounts are invited.
  2. When you choose Invite for each member account:
    1. AWS checks to make sure the account ID is valid and the email address provided is the email address of the member account.
    2. AWS sends an email to the member account email address with a link to the GuardDuty console, where the member account owner can accept the invitation. You can add a customized message from your security team. Account owners who receive the invitation must sign in to their AWS account to accept the invitation. The service also sends an invitation through the AWS Personal Health Dashboard in case the member email address is not monitored. This invitation appears in the member account under the AWS Personal Health Dashboard alert bell on the AWS Management Console.
    3. A pending-invitation indicator is shown on the GuardDuty console of the member account, as shown in the following screenshot.
      Screenshot showing the pending-invitation indicator

When the invitation is sent by email, it is sent to the account owner of the GuardDuty member account.
Screenshot of the invitation sent by email

The account owner can click the link in the email invitation or the AWS Personal Health Dashboard message, or the account owner can sign in to their account and navigate to the GuardDuty console. In all cases, the member account displays the pending invitation in the member account’s GuardDuty console with instructions for accepting the invitation. The GuardDuty console walks the account owner through accepting the invitation, including enabling GuardDuty if it is not already enabled.

If you prefer to work in the AWS CLI, you can enable GuardDuty and accept the invitation. To do this, call CreateDetector to enable GuardDuty, and then call AcceptInvitation, which serves the same purpose as accepting the invitation in the GuardDuty console.

  1. After the member account owner accepts the invitation, the Status in the master account is changed to Monitored. The status helps you track the status of each AWS account that you invite.
    Screenshot showing the Status change to Monitored

You have enabled GuardDuty on the member account, and all findings will be forwarded to the master account. You can now monitor the findings about GuardDuty member accounts from the GuardDuty console in the master account.

The member account owner can see GuardDuty findings by default and can control all aspects of the experience in the member account with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) permissions. Users with the appropriate permissions can end the multi-account relationship at any time by toggling the Accept button on the Accounts page. Note that ending the relationship changes the Status of the account to Resigned and also triggers a security finding on the side of the master account so that the security team knows the member account is no longer linked to the master account.

Working with GuardDuty findings

Most security teams have ticketing systems, chat operations, security information event management (SIEM) systems, or other security automation systems to which they would like to push GuardDuty findings. For this purpose, GuardDuty sends all findings as JSON-based messages through Amazon CloudWatch Events, a scalable service to which you can subscribe and to which AWS services can stream system events. To access these events, navigate to the CloudWatch Events console and create a rule that subscribes to the GuardDuty-related findings. You then can assign a target such as Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose that can place the findings in a number of services such as Amazon S3. The following screenshot is of the CloudWatch Events console, where I have a rule that pulls all events from GuardDuty and pushes them to a preconfigured AWS Lambda function.

Screenshot of a CloudWatch Events rule

The following example is a subset of GuardDuty findings that includes relevant context and information about the nature of a threat that was detected. In this example, the instanceId, i-00bb62b69b7004a4c, is performing Secure Shell (SSH) brute-force attacks against IP address 172.16.0.28. From a Lambda function, you can access any of the following fields such as the title of the finding and its description, and send those directly to your ticketing system.

Example GuardDuty findings

You can use other AWS services to build custom analytics and visualizations of your security findings. For example, you can connect Kinesis Data Firehose to CloudWatch Events and write events to an S3 bucket in a standard format, which can be encrypted with AWS Key Management Service and then compressed. You also can use Amazon QuickSight to build ad hoc dashboards by using AWS Glue and Amazon Athena. Similarly, you can place the data from Kinesis Data Firehose in Amazon Elasticsearch Service, with which you can use tools such as Kibana to build your own visualizations and dashboards.

Like most other AWS services, GuardDuty is a regional service. This means that when you enable GuardDuty in an AWS Region, all findings are generated and delivered in that region. If you are regulated by a compliance regime, this is often an important requirement to ensure that security findings remain in a specific jurisdiction. Because customers have let us know they would prefer to be able to enable GuardDuty globally and have all findings aggregated in one place, we intend to give the choice of regional or global isolation as we evolve this new service.

Summary

In this blog post, I have demonstrated how to use GuardDuty to monitor a group of GuardDuty member accounts and aggregate security findings in a central master GuardDuty account. You can use this solution whether or not you have direct control over the member accounts.

If you have comments about this blog post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about using GuardDuty, start a thread in the GuardDuty forum or contact AWS Support.

-Tom

Managing AWS Lambda Function Concurrency

Post Syndicated from Chris Munns original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/managing-aws-lambda-function-concurrency/

One of the key benefits of serverless applications is the ease in which they can scale to meet traffic demands or requests, with little to no need for capacity planning. In AWS Lambda, which is the core of the serverless platform at AWS, the unit of scale is a concurrent execution. This refers to the number of executions of your function code that are happening at any given time.

Thinking about concurrent executions as a unit of scale is a fairly unique concept. In this post, I dive deeper into this and talk about how you can make use of per function concurrency limits in Lambda.

Understanding concurrency in Lambda

Instead of diving right into the guts of how Lambda works, here’s an appetizing analogy: a magical pizza.
Yes, a magical pizza!

This magical pizza has some unique properties:

  • It has a fixed maximum number of slices, such as 8.
  • Slices automatically re-appear after they are consumed.
  • When you take a slice from the pizza, it does not re-appear until it has been completely consumed.
  • One person can take multiple slices at a time.
  • You can easily ask to have the number of slices increased, but they remain fixed at any point in time otherwise.

Now that the magical pizza’s properties are defined, here’s a hypothetical situation of some friends sharing this pizza.

Shawn, Kate, Daniela, Chuck, Ian and Avleen get together every Friday to share a pizza and catch up on their week. As there is just six of them, they can easily all enjoy a slice of pizza at a time. As they finish each slice, it re-appears in the pizza pan and they can take another slice again. Given the magical properties of their pizza, they can continue to eat all they want, but with two very important constraints:

  • If any of them take too many slices at once, the others may not get as much as they want.
  • If they take too many slices, they might also eat too much and get sick.

One particular week, some of the friends are hungrier than the rest, taking two slices at a time instead of just one. If more than two of them try to take two pieces at a time, this can cause contention for pizza slices. Some of them would wait hungry for the slices to re-appear. They could ask for a pizza with more slices, but then run the same risk again later if more hungry friends join than planned for.

What can they do?

If the friends agreed to accept a limit for the maximum number of slices they each eat concurrently, both of these issues are avoided. Some could have a maximum of 2 of the 8 slices, or other concurrency limits that were more or less. Just so long as they kept it at or under eight total slices to be eaten at one time. This would keep any from going hungry or eating too much. The six friends can happily enjoy their magical pizza without worry!

Concurrency in Lambda

Concurrency in Lambda actually works similarly to the magical pizza model. Each AWS Account has an overall AccountLimit value that is fixed at any point in time, but can be easily increased as needed, just like the count of slices in the pizza. As of May 2017, the default limit is 1000 “slices” of concurrency per AWS Region.

Also like the magical pizza, each concurrency “slice” can only be consumed individually one at a time. After consumption, it becomes available to be consumed again. Services invoking Lambda functions can consume multiple slices of concurrency at the same time, just like the group of friends can take multiple slices of the pizza.

Let’s take our example of the six friends and bring it back to AWS services that commonly invoke Lambda:

  • Amazon S3
  • Amazon Kinesis
  • Amazon DynamoDB
  • Amazon Cognito

In a single account with the default concurrency limit of 1000 concurrent executions, any of these four services could invoke enough functions to consume the entire limit or some part of it. Just like with the pizza example, there is the possibility for two issues to pop up:

  • One or more of these services could invoke enough functions to consume a majority of the available concurrency capacity. This could cause others to be starved for it, causing failed invocations.
  • A service could consume too much concurrent capacity and cause a downstream service or database to be overwhelmed, which could cause failed executions.

For Lambda functions that are launched in a VPC, you have the potential to consume the available IP addresses in a subnet or the maximum number of elastic network interfaces to which your account has access. For more information, see Configuring a Lambda Function to Access Resources in an Amazon VPC. For information about elastic network interface limits, see Network Interfaces section in the Amazon VPC Limits topic.

One way to solve both of these problems is applying a concurrency limit to the Lambda functions in an account.

Configuring per function concurrency limits

You can now set a concurrency limit on individual Lambda functions in an account. The concurrency limit that you set reserves a portion of your account level concurrency for a given function. All of your functions’ concurrent executions count against this account-level limit by default.

If you set a concurrency limit for a specific function, then that function’s concurrency limit allocation is deducted from the shared pool and assigned to that specific function. AWS also reserves 100 units of concurrency for all functions that don’t have a specified concurrency limit set. This helps to make sure that future functions have capacity to be consumed.

Going back to the example of the consuming services, you could set throttles for the functions as follows:

Amazon S3 function = 350
Amazon Kinesis function = 200
Amazon DynamoDB function = 200
Amazon Cognito function = 150
Total = 900

With the 100 reserved for all non-concurrency reserved functions, this totals the account limit of 1000.

Here’s how this works. To start, create a basic Lambda function that is invoked via Amazon API Gateway. This Lambda function returns a single “Hello World” statement with an added sleep time between 2 and 5 seconds. The sleep time simulates an API providing some sort of capability that can take a varied amount of time. The goal here is to show how an API that is underloaded can reach its concurrency limit, and what happens when it does.
To create the example function

  1. Open the Lambda console.
  2. Choose Create Function.
  3. For Author from scratch, enter the following values:
    1. For Name, enter a value (such as concurrencyBlog01).
    2. For Runtime, choose Python 3.6.
    3. For Role, choose Create new role from template and enter a name aligned with this function, such as concurrencyBlogRole.
  4. Choose Create function.
  5. The function is created with some basic example code. Replace that code with the following:

import time
from random import randint
seconds = randint(2, 5)

def lambda_handler(event, context):
time.sleep(seconds)
return {"statusCode": 200,
"body": ("Hello world, slept " + str(seconds) + " seconds"),
"headers":
{
"Access-Control-Allow-Headers": "Content-Type,X-Amz-Date,Authorization,X-Api-Key,X-Amz-Security-Token",
"Access-Control-Allow-Methods": "GET,OPTIONS",
}}

  1. Under Basic settings, set Timeout to 10 seconds. While this function should only ever take up to 5-6 seconds (with the 5-second max sleep), this gives you a little bit of room if it takes longer.

  1. Choose Save at the top right.

At this point, your function is configured for this example. Test it and confirm this in the console:

  1. Choose Test.
  2. Enter a name (it doesn’t matter for this example).
  3. Choose Create.
  4. In the console, choose Test again.
  5. You should see output similar to the following:

Now configure API Gateway so that you have an HTTPS endpoint to test against.

  1. In the Lambda console, choose Configuration.
  2. Under Triggers, choose API Gateway.
  3. Open the API Gateway icon now shown as attached to your Lambda function:

  1. Under Configure triggers, leave the default values for API Name and Deployment stage. For Security, choose Open.
  2. Choose Add, Save.

API Gateway is now configured to invoke Lambda at the Invoke URL shown under its configuration. You can take this URL and test it in any browser or command line, using tools such as “curl”:


$ curl https://ofixul557l.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/prod/concurrencyBlog01
Hello world, slept 2 seconds

Throwing load at the function

Now start throwing some load against your API Gateway + Lambda function combo. Right now, your function is only limited by the total amount of concurrency available in an account. For this example account, you might have 850 unreserved concurrency out of a full account limit of 1000 due to having configured a few concurrency limits already (also the 100 concurrency saved for all functions without configured limits). You can find all of this information on the main Dashboard page of the Lambda console:

For generating load in this example, use an open source tool called “hey” (https://github.com/rakyll/hey), which works similarly to ApacheBench (ab). You test from an Amazon EC2 instance running the default Amazon Linux AMI from the EC2 console. For more help with configuring an EC2 instance, follow the steps in the Launch Instance Wizard.

After the EC2 instance is running, SSH into the host and run the following:


sudo yum install go
go get -u github.com/rakyll/hey

“hey” is easy to use. For these tests, specify a total number of tests (5,000) and a concurrency of 50 against the API Gateway URL as follows(replace the URL here with your own):


$ ./go/bin/hey -n 5000 -c 50 https://ofixul557l.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/prod/concurrencyBlog01

The output from “hey” tells you interesting bits of information:


$ ./go/bin/hey -n 5000 -c 50 https://ofixul557l.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/prod/concurrencyBlog01

Summary:
Total: 381.9978 secs
Slowest: 9.4765 secs
Fastest: 0.0438 secs
Average: 3.2153 secs
Requests/sec: 13.0891
Total data: 140024 bytes
Size/request: 28 bytes

Response time histogram:
0.044 [1] |
0.987 [2] |
1.930 [0] |
2.874 [1803] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
3.817 [1518] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
4.760 [719] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
5.703 [917] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
6.647 [13] |
7.590 [14] |
8.533 [9] |
9.477 [4] |

Latency distribution:
10% in 2.0224 secs
25% in 2.0267 secs
50% in 3.0251 secs
75% in 4.0269 secs
90% in 5.0279 secs
95% in 5.0414 secs
99% in 5.1871 secs

Details (average, fastest, slowest):
DNS+dialup: 0.0003 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0332 secs
DNS-lookup: 0.0000 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0046 secs
req write: 0.0000 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0005 secs
resp wait: 3.2149 secs, 0.0438 secs, 9.4472 secs
resp read: 0.0000 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0004 secs

Status code distribution:
[200] 4997 responses
[502] 3 responses

You can see a helpful histogram and latency distribution. Remember that this Lambda function has a random sleep period in it and so isn’t entirely representational of a real-life workload. Those three 502s warrant digging deeper, but could be due to Lambda cold-start timing and the “second” variable being the maximum of 5, causing the Lambda functions to time out. AWS X-Ray and the Amazon CloudWatch logs generated by both API Gateway and Lambda could help you troubleshoot this.

Configuring a concurrency reservation

Now that you’ve established that you can generate this load against the function, I show you how to limit it and protect a backend resource from being overloaded by all of these requests.

  1. In the console, choose Configure.
  2. Under Concurrency, for Reserve concurrency, enter 25.

  1. Click on Save in the top right corner.

You could also set this with the AWS CLI using the Lambda put-function-concurrency command or see your current concurrency configuration via Lambda get-function. Here’s an example command:


$ aws lambda get-function --function-name concurrencyBlog01 --output json --query Concurrency
{
"ReservedConcurrentExecutions": 25
}

Either way, you’ve set the Concurrency Reservation to 25 for this function. This acts as both a limit and a reservation in terms of making sure that you can execute 25 concurrent functions at all times. Going above this results in the throttling of the Lambda function. Depending on the invoking service, throttling can result in a number of different outcomes, as shown in the documentation on Throttling Behavior. This change has also reduced your unreserved account concurrency for other functions by 25.

Rerun the same load generation as before and see what happens. Previously, you tested at 50 concurrency, which worked just fine. By limiting the Lambda functions to 25 concurrency, you should see rate limiting kick in. Run the same test again:


$ ./go/bin/hey -n 5000 -c 50 https://ofixul557l.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/prod/concurrencyBlog01

While this test runs, refresh the Monitoring tab on your function detail page. You see the following warning message:

This is great! It means that your throttle is working as configured and you are now protecting your downstream resources from too much load from your Lambda function.

Here is the output from a new “hey” command:


$ ./go/bin/hey -n 5000 -c 50 https://ofixul557l.execute-api.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/prod/concurrencyBlog01
Summary:
Total: 379.9922 secs
Slowest: 7.1486 secs
Fastest: 0.0102 secs
Average: 1.1897 secs
Requests/sec: 13.1582
Total data: 164608 bytes
Size/request: 32 bytes

Response time histogram:
0.010 [1] |
0.724 [3075] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
1.438 [0] |
2.152 [811] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
2.866 [11] |
3.579 [566] |∎∎∎∎∎∎∎
4.293 [214] |∎∎∎
5.007 [1] |
5.721 [315] |∎∎∎∎
6.435 [4] |
7.149 [2] |

Latency distribution:
10% in 0.0130 secs
25% in 0.0147 secs
50% in 0.0205 secs
75% in 2.0344 secs
90% in 4.0229 secs
95% in 5.0248 secs
99% in 5.0629 secs

Details (average, fastest, slowest):
DNS+dialup: 0.0004 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0537 secs
DNS-lookup: 0.0002 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0184 secs
req write: 0.0000 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0016 secs
resp wait: 1.1892 secs, 0.0101 secs, 7.1038 secs
resp read: 0.0000 secs, 0.0000 secs, 0.0005 secs

Status code distribution:
[502] 3076 responses
[200] 1924 responses

This looks fairly different from the last load test run. A large percentage of these requests failed fast due to the concurrency throttle failing them (those with the 0.724 seconds line). The timing shown here in the histogram represents the entire time it took to get a response between the EC2 instance and API Gateway calling Lambda and being rejected. It’s also important to note that this example was configured with an edge-optimized endpoint in API Gateway. You see under Status code distribution that 3076 of the 5000 requests failed with a 502, showing that the backend service from API Gateway and Lambda failed the request.

Other uses

Managing function concurrency can be useful in a few other ways beyond just limiting the impact on downstream services and providing a reservation of concurrency capacity. Here are two other uses:

  • Emergency kill switch
  • Cost controls

Emergency kill switch

On occasion, due to issues with applications I’ve managed in the past, I’ve had a need to disable a certain function or capability of an application. By setting the concurrency reservation and limit of a Lambda function to zero, you can do just that.

With the reservation set to zero every invocation of a Lambda function results in being throttled. You could then work on the related parts of the infrastructure or application that aren’t working, and then reconfigure the concurrency limit to allow invocations again.

Cost controls

While I mentioned how you might want to use concurrency limits to control the downstream impact to services or databases that your Lambda function might call, another resource that you might be cautious about is money. Setting the concurrency throttle is another way to help control costs during development and testing of your application.

You might want to prevent against a function performing a recursive action too quickly or a development workload generating too high of a concurrency. You might also want to protect development resources connected to this function from generating too much cost, such as APIs that your Lambda function calls.

Conclusion

Concurrent executions as a unit of scale are a fairly unique characteristic about Lambda functions. Placing limits on how many concurrency “slices” that your function can consume can prevent a single function from consuming all of the available concurrency in an account. Limits can also prevent a function from overwhelming a backend resource that isn’t as scalable.

Unlike monolithic applications or even microservices where there are mixed capabilities in a single service, Lambda functions encourage a sort of “nano-service” of small business logic directly related to the integration model connected to the function. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and configure your concurrency limits today!

Libertarians are against net neutrality

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/12/libertarians-are-against-net-neutrality.html

This post claims to be by a libertarian in support of net neutrality. As a libertarian, I need to debunk this. “Net neutrality” is a case of one-hand clapping, you rarely hear the competing side, and thus, that side may sound attractive. This post is about the other side, from a libertarian point of view.

That post just repeats the common, and wrong, left-wing talking points. I mean, there might be a libertarian case for some broadband regulation, but this isn’t it.

This thing they call “net neutrality” is just left-wing politics masquerading as some sort of principle. It’s no different than how people claim to be “pro-choice”, yet demand forced vaccinations. Or, it’s no different than how people claim to believe in “traditional marriage” even while they are on their third “traditional marriage”.

Properly defined, “net neutrality” means no discrimination of network traffic. But nobody wants that. A classic example is how most internet connections have faster download speeds than uploads. This discriminates against upload traffic, harming innovation in upload-centric applications like DropBox’s cloud backup or BitTorrent’s peer-to-peer file transfer. Yet activists never mention this, or other types of network traffic discrimination, because they no more care about “net neutrality” than Trump or Gingrich care about “traditional marriage”.

Instead, when people say “net neutrality”, they mean “government regulation”. It’s the same old debate between who is the best steward of consumer interest: the free-market or government.

Specifically, in the current debate, they are referring to the Obama-era FCC “Open Internet” order and reclassification of broadband under “Title II” so they can regulate it. Trump’s FCC is putting broadband back to “Title I”, which means the FCC can’t regulate most of its “Open Internet” order.

Don’t be tricked into thinking the “Open Internet” order is anything but intensely politically. The premise behind the order is the Democrat’s firm believe that it’s government who created the Internet, and all innovation, advances, and investment ultimately come from the government. It sees ISPs as inherently deceitful entities who will only serve their own interests, at the expense of consumers, unless the FCC protects consumers.

It says so right in the order itself. It starts with the premise that broadband ISPs are evil, using illegitimate “tactics” to hurt consumers, and continues with similar language throughout the order.

A good contrast to this can be seen in Tim Wu’s non-political original paper in 2003 that coined the term “net neutrality”. Whereas the FCC sees broadband ISPs as enemies of consumers, Wu saw them as allies. His concern was not that ISPs would do evil things, but that they would do stupid things, such as favoring short-term interests over long-term innovation (such as having faster downloads than uploads).

The political depravity of the FCC’s order can be seen in this comment from one of the commissioners who voted for those rules:

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants to increase the minimum broadband standards far past the new 25Mbps download threshold, up to 100Mbps. “We invented the internet. We can do audacious things if we set big goals, and I think our new threshold, frankly, should be 100Mbps. I think anything short of that shortchanges our children, our future, and our new digital economy,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said.

This is indistinguishable from communist rhetoric that credits the Party for everything, as this booklet from North Korea will explain to you.

But what about monopolies? After all, while the free-market may work when there’s competition, it breaks down where there are fewer competitors, oligopolies, and monopolies.

There is some truth to this, in individual cities, there’s often only only a single credible high-speed broadband provider. But this isn’t the issue at stake here. The FCC isn’t proposing light-handed regulation to keep monopolies in check, but heavy-handed regulation that regulates every last decision.

Advocates of FCC regulation keep pointing how broadband monopolies can exploit their renting-seeking positions in order to screw the customer. They keep coming up with ever more bizarre and unlikely scenarios what monopoly power grants the ISPs.

But the never mention the most simplest: that broadband monopolies can just charge customers more money. They imagine instead that these companies will pursue a string of outrageous, evil, and less profitable behaviors to exploit their monopoly position.

The FCC’s reclassification of broadband under Title II gives it full power to regulate ISPs as utilities, including setting prices. The FCC has stepped back from this, promising it won’t go so far as to set prices, that it’s only regulating these evil conspiracy theories. This is kind of bizarre: either broadband ISPs are evilly exploiting their monopoly power or they aren’t. Why stop at regulating only half the evil?

The answer is that the claim “monopoly” power is a deception. It starts with overstating how many monopolies there are to begin with. When it issued its 2015 “Open Internet” order the FCC simultaneously redefined what they meant by “broadband”, upping the speed from 5-mbps to 25-mbps. That’s because while most consumers have multiple choices at 5-mbps, fewer consumers have multiple choices at 25-mbps. It’s a dirty political trick to convince you there is more of a problem than there is.

In any case, their rules still apply to the slower broadband providers, and equally apply to the mobile (cell phone) providers. The US has four mobile phone providers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) and plenty of competition between them. That it’s monopolistic power that the FCC cares about here is a lie. As their Open Internet order clearly shows, the fundamental principle that animates the document is that all corporations, monopolies or not, are treacherous and must be regulated.

“But corporations are indeed evil”, people argue, “see here’s a list of evil things they have done in the past!”

No, those things weren’t evil. They were done because they benefited the customers, not as some sort of secret rent seeking behavior.

For example, one of the more common “net neutrality abuses” that people mention is AT&T’s blocking of FaceTime. I’ve debunked this elsewhere on this blog, but the summary is this: there was no network blocking involved (not a “net neutrality” issue), and the FCC analyzed it and decided it was in the best interests of the consumer. It’s disingenuous to claim it’s an evil that justifies FCC actions when the FCC itself declared it not evil and took no action. It’s disingenuous to cite the “net neutrality” principle that all network traffic must be treated when, in fact, the network did treat all the traffic equally.

Another frequently cited abuse is Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent.Comcast did this because Netflix users were complaining. Like all streaming video, Netflix backs off to slower speed (and poorer quality) when it experiences congestion. BitTorrent, uniquely among applications, never backs off. As most applications become slower and slower, BitTorrent just speeds up, consuming all available bandwidth. This is especially problematic when there’s limited upload bandwidth available. Thus, Comcast throttled BitTorrent during prime time TV viewing hours when the network was already overloaded by Netflix and other streams. BitTorrent users wouldn’t mind this throttling, because it often took days to download a big file anyway.

When the FCC took action, Comcast stopped the throttling and imposed bandwidth caps instead. This was a worse solution for everyone. It penalized heavy Netflix viewers, and prevented BitTorrent users from large downloads. Even though BitTorrent users were seen as the victims of this throttling, they’d vastly prefer the throttling over the bandwidth caps.

In both the FaceTime and BitTorrent cases, the issue was “network management”. AT&T had no competing video calling service, Comcast had no competing download service. They were only reacting to the fact their networks were overloaded, and did appropriate things to solve the problem.

Mobile carriers still struggle with the “network management” issue. While their networks are fast, they are still of low capacity, and quickly degrade under heavy use. They are looking for tricks in order to reduce usage while giving consumers maximum utility.

The biggest concern is video. It’s problematic because it’s designed to consume as much bandwidth as it can, throttling itself only when it experiences congestion. This is what you probably want when watching Netflix at the highest possible quality, but it’s bad when confronted with mobile bandwidth caps.

With small mobile devices, you don’t want as much quality anyway. You want the video degraded to lower quality, and lower bandwidth, all the time.

That’s the reasoning behind T-Mobile’s offerings. They offer an unlimited video plan in conjunction with the biggest video providers (Netflix, YouTube, etc.). The catch is that when congestion occurs, they’ll throttle it to lower quality. In other words, they give their bandwidth to all the other phones in your area first, then give you as much of the leftover bandwidth as you want for video.

While it sounds like T-Mobile is doing something evil, “zero-rating” certain video providers and degrading video quality, the FCC allows this, because they recognize it’s in the customer interest.

Mobile providers especially have great interest in more innovation in this area, in order to conserve precious bandwidth, but they are finding it costly. They can’t just innovate, but must ask the FCC permission first. And with the new heavy handed FCC rules, they’ve become hostile to this innovation. This attitude is highlighted by the statement from the “Open Internet” order:

And consumers must be protected, for example from mobile commercial practices masquerading as “reasonable network management.”

This is a clear declaration that free-market doesn’t work and won’t correct abuses, and that that mobile companies are treacherous and will do evil things without FCC oversight.

Conclusion

Ignoring the rhetoric for the moment, the debate comes down to simple left-wing authoritarianism and libertarian principles. The Obama administration created a regulatory regime under clear Democrat principles, and the Trump administration is rolling it back to more free-market principles. There is no principle at stake here, certainly nothing to do with a technical definition of “net neutrality”.

The 2015 “Open Internet” order is not about “treating network traffic neutrally”, because it doesn’t do that. Instead, it’s purely a left-wing document that claims corporations cannot be trusted, must be regulated, and that innovation and prosperity comes from the regulators and not the free market.

It’s not about monopolistic power. The primary targets of regulation are the mobile broadband providers, where there is plenty of competition, and who have the most “network management” issues. Even if it were just about wired broadband (like Comcast), it’s still ignoring the primary ways monopolies profit (raising prices) and instead focuses on bizarre and unlikely ways of rent seeking.

If you are a libertarian who nonetheless believes in this “net neutrality” slogan, you’ve got to do better than mindlessly repeating the arguments of the left-wing. The term itself, “net neutrality”, is just a slogan, varying from person to person, from moment to moment. You have to be more specific. If you truly believe in the “net neutrality” technical principle that all traffic should be treated equally, then you’ll want a rewrite of the “Open Internet” order.

In the end, while libertarians may still support some form of broadband regulation, it’s impossible to reconcile libertarianism with the 2015 “Open Internet”, or the vague things people mean by the slogan “net neutrality”.

Glenn’s Take on re:Invent 2017 – Part 3

Post Syndicated from Glenn Gore original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/glenns-take-on-reinvent-2017-part-3/

Glenn Gore here, Chief Architect for AWS. I was in Las Vegas last week — with 43K others — for re:Invent 2017. I checked in to the Architecture blog here and here with my take on what was interesting about some of the bigger announcements from a cloud-architecture perspective.

In the excitement of so many new services being launched, we sometimes overlook feature updates that, while perhaps not as exciting as Amazon DeepLens, have significant impact on how you architect and develop solutions on AWS.

Amazon DynamoDB is used by more than 100,000 customers around the world, handling over a trillion requests every day. From the start, DynamoDB has offered high availability by natively spanning multiple Availability Zones within an AWS Region. As more customers started building and deploying truly-global applications, there was a need to replicate a DynamoDB table to multiple AWS Regions, allowing for read/write operations to occur in any region where the table was replicated. This update is important for providing a globally-consistent view of information — as users may transition from one region to another — or for providing additional levels of availability, allowing for failover between AWS Regions without loss of information.

There are some interesting concurrency-design aspects you need to be aware of and ensure you can handle correctly. For example, we support the “last writer wins” reconciliation where eventual consistency is being used and an application updates the same item in different AWS Regions at the same time. If you require strongly-consistent read/writes then you must perform all of your read/writes in the same AWS Region. The details behind this can be found in the DynamoDB documentation. Providing a globally-distributed, replicated DynamoDB table simplifies many different use cases and allows for the logic of replication, which may have been pushed up into the application layers to be simplified back down into the data layer.

The other big update for DynamoDB is that you can now back up your DynamoDB table on demand with no impact to performance. One of the features I really like is that when you trigger a backup, it is available instantly, regardless of the size of the table. Behind the scenes, we use snapshots and change logs to ensure a consistent backup. While backup is instant, restoring the table could take some time depending on its size and ranges — from minutes to hours for very large tables.

This feature is super important for those of you who work in regulated industries that often have strict requirements around data retention and backups of data, which sometimes limited the use of DynamoDB or required complex workarounds to implement some sort of backup feature in the past. This often incurred significant, additional costs due to increased read transactions on their DynamoDB tables.

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) was our first-released AWS service over 11 years ago, and it proved the simplicity and scalability of true API-driven architectures in the cloud. Today, Amazon S3 stores trillions of objects, with transactional requests per second reaching into the millions! Dealing with data as objects opened up an incredibly diverse array of use cases ranging from libraries of static images, game binary downloads, and application log data, to massive data lakes used for big data analytics and business intelligence. With Amazon S3, when you accessed your data in an object, you effectively had to write/read the object as a whole or use the range feature to retrieve a part of the object — if possible — in your individual use case.

Now, with Amazon S3 Select, an SQL-like query language is used that can work with delimited text and JSON files, as well as work with GZIP compressed files. We don’t support encryption during the preview of Amazon S3 Select.

Amazon S3 Select provides two major benefits:

  • Faster access
  • Lower running costs

Serverless Lambda functions, where every millisecond matters when you are being charged, will benefit greatly from Amazon S3 Select as data retrieval and processing of your Lambda function will experience significant speedups and cost reductions. For example, we have seen 2x speed improvement and 80% cost reduction with the Serverless MapReduce code.

Other AWS services such as Amazon Athena, Amazon Redshift, and Amazon EMR will support Amazon S3 Select as well as partner offerings including Cloudera and Hortonworks. If you are using Amazon Glacier for longer-term data archival, you will be able to use Amazon Glacier Select to retrieve a subset of your content from within Amazon Glacier.

As the volume of data that can be stored within Amazon S3 and Amazon Glacier continues to scale on a daily basis, we will continue to innovate and develop improved and optimized services that will allow you to work with these magnificently-large data sets while reducing your costs (retrieval and processing). I believe this will also allow you to simplify the transformation and storage of incoming data into Amazon S3 in basic, semi-structured formats as a single copy vs. some of the duplication and reformatting of data sometimes required to do upfront optimizations for downstream processing. Amazon S3 Select largely removes the need for this upfront optimization and instead allows you to store data once and process it based on your individual Amazon S3 Select query per application or transaction need.

Thanks for reading!

Glenn contemplating why CSV format is still relevant in 2017 (Italy).

AWS Cloud9 – Cloud Developer Environments

Post Syndicated from Randall Hunt original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-cloud9-cloud-developer-environments/

One of the first things you learn when you start programming is that, just like any craftsperson, your tools matter. Notepad.exe isn’t going to cut it. A powerful editor and testing pipeline supercharge your productivity. I still remember learning to use Vim for the first time and being able to zip around systems and complex programs. Do you remember how hard it was to setup all your compilers and dependencies on a new machine? How many cycles have you wasted matching versions, tinkering with configs, and then writing documentation to onboard a new developer to a project?

Today we’re launching AWS Cloud9, an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for writing, running, and debugging code, all from your web browser. Cloud9 comes prepackaged with essential tools for many popular programming languages (Javascript, Python, PHP, etc.) so you don’t have to tinker with installing various compilers and toolchains. Cloud9 also provides a seamless experience for working with serverless applications allowing you to quickly switch between local and remote testing or debugging. Based on the popular open source Ace Editor and c9.io IDE (which we acquired last year), AWS Cloud9 is designed to make collaborative cloud development easy with extremely powerful pair programming features. There are more features than I could ever cover in this post but to give a quick breakdown I’ll break the IDE into 3 components: The editor, the AWS integrations, and the collaboration.

Editing


The Ace Editor at the core of Cloud9 is what lets you write code quickly, easily, and beautifully. It follows a UNIX philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well: writing code.

It has all the typical IDE features you would expect: live syntax checking, auto-indent, auto-completion, code folding, split panes, version control integration, multiple cursors and selections, and it also has a few unique features I want to highlight. First of all, it’s fast, even for large (100000+ line) files. There’s no lag or other issues while typing. It has over two dozen themes built-in (solarized!) and you can bring all of your favorite themes from Sublime Text or TextMate as well. It has built-in support for 40+ language modes and customizable run configurations for your projects. Most importantly though, it has Vim mode (or emacs if your fingers work that way). It also has a keybinding editor that allows you to bend the editor to your will.

The editor supports powerful keyboard navigation and commands (similar to Sublime Text or vim plugins like ctrlp). On a Mac, with ⌘+P you can open any file in your environment with fuzzy search. With ⌘+. you can open up the command pane which allows you to do invoke any of the editor commands by typing the name. It also helpfully displays the keybindings for a command in the pane, for instance to open to a terminal you can press ⌥+T. Oh, did I mention there’s a terminal? It ships with the AWS CLI preconfigured for access to your resources.

The environment also comes with pre-installed debugging tools for many popular languages – but you’re not limited to what’s already installed. It’s easy to add in new programs and define new run configurations.

The editor is just one, admittedly important, component in an IDE though. I want to show you some other compelling features.

AWS Integrations

The AWS Cloud9 IDE is the first IDE I’ve used that is truly “cloud native”. The service is provided at no additional charge, and you only charged for the underlying compute and storage resources. When you create an environment you’re prompted for either: an instance type and an auto-hibernate time, or SSH access to a machine of your choice.

If you’re running in AWS the auto-hibernate feature will stop your instance shortly after you stop using your IDE. This can be a huge cost savings over running a more permanent developer desktop. You can also launch it within a VPC to give it secure access to your development resources. If you want to run Cloud9 outside of AWS, or on an existing instance, you can provide SSH access to the service which it will use to create an environment on the external machine. Your environment is provisioned with automatic and secure access to your AWS account so you don’t have to worry about copying credentials around. Let me say that again: you can run this anywhere.

Serverless Development with AWS Cloud9

I spend a lot of time on Twitch developing serverless applications. I have hundreds of lambda functions and APIs deployed. Cloud9 makes working with every single one of these functions delightful. Let me show you how it works.


If you look in the top right side of the editor you’ll see an AWS Resources tab. Opening this you can see all of the lambda functions in your region (you can see functions in other regions by adjusting your region preferences in the AWS preference pane).

You can import these remote functions to your local workspace just by double-clicking them. This allows you to edit, test, and debug your serverless applications all locally. You can create new applications and functions easily as well. If you click the Lambda icon in the top right of the pane you’ll be prompted to create a new lambda function and Cloud9 will automatically create a Serverless Application Model template for you as well. The IDE ships with support for the popular SAM local tool pre-installed. This is what I use in most of my local testing and serverless development. Since you have a terminal, it’s easy to install additional tools and use other serverless frameworks.

 

Launching an Environment from AWS CodeStar

With AWS CodeStar you can easily provision an end-to-end continuous delivery toolchain for development on AWS. Codestar provides a unified experience for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications using AWS CodeCommit, CodeBuild, CodePipeline, and CodeDeploy suite of services. Now, with a few simple clicks you can provision a Cloud9 environment to develop your application. Your environment will be pre-configured with the code for your CodeStar application already checked out and git credentials already configured.

You can easily share this environment with your coworkers which leads me to another extremely useful set of features.

Collaboration

One of the many things that sets AWS Cloud9 apart from other editors are the rich collaboration tools. You can invite an IAM user to your environment with a few clicks.

You can see what files they’re working on, where their cursors are, and even share a terminal. The chat features is useful as well.

Things to Know

  • There are no additional charges for this service beyond the underlying compute and storage.
  • c9.io continues to run for existing users. You can continue to use all the features of c9.io and add new team members if you have a team account. In the future, we will provide tools for easy migration of your c9.io workspaces to AWS Cloud9.
  • AWS Cloud9 is available in the US West (Oregon), US East (Ohio), US East (N.Virginia), EU (Ireland), and Asia Pacific (Singapore) regions.

I can’t wait to see what you build with AWS Cloud9!

Randall

NSA "Red Disk" Data Leak

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/nsa_red_disk_da.html

ZDNet is reporting about another data leak, this one from US Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), which is also within to the NSA.

The disk image, when unpacked and loaded, is a snapshot of a hard drive dating back to May 2013 from a Linux-based server that forms part of a cloud-based intelligence sharing system, known as Red Disk. The project, developed by INSCOM’s Futures Directorate, was slated to complement the Army’s so-called distributed common ground system (DCGS), a legacy platform for processing and sharing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information.

[…]

Red Disk was envisioned as a highly customizable cloud system that could meet the demands of large, complex military operations. The hope was that Red Disk could provide a consistent picture from the Pentagon to deployed soldiers in the Afghan battlefield, including satellite images and video feeds from drones trained on terrorists and enemy fighters, according to a Foreign Policy report.

[…]

Red Disk was a modular, customizable, and scalable system for sharing intelligence across the battlefield, like electronic intercepts, drone footage and satellite imagery, and classified reports, for troops to access with laptops and tablets on the battlefield. Marking files found in several directories imply the disk is “top secret,” and restricted from being shared to foreign intelligence partners.

A couple of points. One, this isn’t particularly sensitive. It’s an intelligence distribution system under development. It’s not raw intelligence. Two, this doesn’t seem to be classified data. Even the article hedges, using the unofficial term of “highly sensitive.” Three, it doesn’t seem that Chris Vickery, the researcher that discovered the data, has published it.

Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at security firm UpGuard, found the data and informed the government of the breach in October. The storage server was subsequently secured, though its owner remains unknown.

This doesn’t feel like a big deal to me.

Slashdot thread.

A Thanksgiving Carol: How Those Smart Engineers at Twitter Screwed Me

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/a-thanksgiving-carol-how-those-smart.html

Thanksgiving Holiday is a time for family and cheer. Well, a time for family. It’s the holiday where we ask our doctor relatives to look at that weird skin growth, and for our geek relatives to fix our computers. This tale is of such computer support, and how the “smart” engineers at Twitter have ruined this for life.

My mom is smart, but not a good computer user. I get my enthusiasm for science and math from my mother, and she has no problem understanding the science of computers. She keeps up when I explain Bitcoin. But she has difficulty using computers. She has this emotional, irrational belief that computers are out to get her.

This makes helping her difficult. Every problem is described in terms of what the computer did to her, not what she did to her computer. It’s the computer that needs to be fixed, instead of the user. When I showed her the “haveibeenpwned.com” website (part of my tips for securing computers), it showed her Tumblr password had been hacked. She swore she never created a Tumblr account — that somebody or something must have done it for her. Except, I was there five years ago and watched her create it.

Another example is how GMail is deleting her emails for no reason, corrupting them, and changing the spelling of her words. She emails the way an impatient teenager texts — all of us in the family know the misspellings are not GMail’s fault. But I can’t help her with this because she keeps her GMail inbox clean, deleting all her messages, leaving no evidence behind. She has only a vague description of the problem that I can’t make sense of.

This last March, I tried something to resolve this. I configured her GMail to send a copy of all incoming messages to a new, duplicate account on my own email server. With evidence in hand, I would then be able solve what’s going on with her GMail. I’d be able to show her which steps she took, which buttons she clicked on, and what caused the weirdness she’s seeing.

Today, while the family was in a state of turkey-induced torpor, my mom brought up a problem with Twitter. She doesn’t use Twitter, she doesn’t have an account, but they keep sending tweets to her phone, about topics like Denzel Washington. And she said something about “peaches” I didn’t understand.

This is how the problem descriptions always start, chaotic, with mutually exclusive possibilities. If you don’t use Twitter, you don’t have the Twitter app installed, so how are you getting Tweets? Over much gnashing of teeth, it comes out that she’s getting emails from Twitter, not tweets, about Denzel Washington — to someone named “Peaches Graham”. Naturally, she can only describe these emails, because she’s already deleted them.

“Ah ha!”, I think. I’ve got the evidence! I’ll just log onto my duplicate email server, and grab the copies to prove to her it was something she did.

I find she is indeed receiving such emails, called “Moments”, about topics trending on Twitter. They are signed with “DKIM”, proving they are legitimate rather than from a hacker or spammer. The only way that can happen is if my mother signed up for Twitter, despite her protestations that she didn’t.

I look further back and find that there were also confirmation messages involved. Back in August, she got a typical Twitter account signup message. I am now seeing a little bit more of the story unfold with this “Peaches Graham” name on the account. It wasn’t my mother who initially signed up for Twitter, but Peaches, who misspelled the email address. It’s one of the reasons why the confirmation process exists, to make sure you spelled your email address correctly.

It’s now obvious my mom accidentally clicked on the [Confirm] button. I don’t have any proof she did, but it’s the only reasonable explanation. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gotten the “Moments” messages. My mom disputed this, emphatically insisting she never clicked on the emails.

It’s at this point that I made a great mistake, saying:

“This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Twitter has very smart engineers. What’s the chance they made the mistake here, or…”.

I recognized condescension of words as they came out of my mouth, but dug myself deeper with:

“…or that the user made the error?”

This was wrong to say even if I were right. I have no excuse. I mean, maybe I could argue that it’s really her fault, for not raising me right, but no, this is only on me.

Regardless of what caused the Twitter emails, the problem needs to be fixed. The solution is to take control of the Twitter account by using the password reset feature. I went to the Twitter login page, clicked on “Lost Password”, got the password reset message, and reset the password. I then reconfigured the account to never send anything to my mom again.

But when I logged in I got an error saying the account had not yet been confirmed. I paused. The family dog eyed me in wise silence. My mom hadn’t clicked on the [Confirm] button — the proof was right there. Moreover, it hadn’t been confirmed for a long time, since the account was created in 2011.

I interrogated my mother some more. It appears that this has been going on for years. She’s just been deleting the emails without opening them, both the “Confirmations” and the “Moments”. She made it clear she does it this way because her son (that would be me) instructs her to never open emails she knows are bad. That’s how she could be so certain she never clicked on the [Confirm] button — she never even opens the emails to see the contents.

My mom is a prolific email user. In the last eight months, I’ve received over 10,000 emails in the duplicate mailbox on my server. That’s a lot. She’s technically retired, but she volunteers for several charities, goes to community college classes, and is joining an anti-Trump protest group. She has a daily routine for triaging and processing all the emails that flow through her inbox.

So here’s the thing, and there’s no getting around it: my mom was right, on all particulars. She had done nothing, the computer had done it to her. It’s Twitter who is at fault, having continued to resend that confirmation email every couple months for six years. When Twitter added their controversial “Moments” feature a couple years back, somehow they turned on Notifications for accounts that technically didn’t fully exist yet.

Being right this time means she might be right the next time the computer does something to her without her touching anything. My attempts at making computers seem rational has failed. That they are driven by untrustworthy spirits is now a reasonable alternative.

Those “smart” engineers at Twitter screwed me. Continuing to send confirmation emails for six years is stupid. Sending Notifications to unconfirmed accounts is stupid. Yes, I know at the bottom of the message it gives a “Not my account” selection that she could have clicked on, but it’s small and easily missed. In any case, my mom never saw that option, because she’s been deleting the messages without opening them — for six years.

Twitter can fix their problem, but it’s not going to help mine. Forever more, I’ll be unable to convince my mom that the majority of her problems are because of user error, and not because the computer people are out to get her.

Game of Thrones Leaks “Carried Out By Former Iranian Military Hacker”

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/game-of-thrones-leaks-carried-out-by-former-iranian-military-hacker-171122/

Late July it was reported that hackers had stolen proprietary information from media giant HBO.

The haul was said to include confidential details of the then-unreleased fourth episode of the latest Game of Thrones season, plus episodes of Ballers, Barry, Insecure, and Room 104.

“Hi to all mankind,” an email sent to reporters read. “The greatest leak of cyber space era is happening. What’s its name? Oh I forget to tell. Its HBO and Game of Thrones……!!!!!!”

In follow-up correspondence, the hackers claimed to have penetrated HBO’s internal network, gaining access to emails, technical platforms, and other confidential information.

Image released by the hackers

Soon after, HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler confirmed a breach at his company, telling employees that there had been a “cyber incident” in which information and programming had been taken.

“Any intrusion of this nature is obviously disruptive, unsettling, and disturbing for all of us. I can assure you that senior leadership and our extraordinary technology team, along with outside experts, are working round the clock to protect our collective interests,” he said.

During mid-August, problems persisted, with unreleased shows hitting the Internet. HBO appeared rattled by the ongoing incident, refusing to comment to the media on every new development. Now, however, it appears the tide is turning on HBO’s foe.

In a statement last evening, Joon H. Kim, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division of the FBI, announced the unsealing of an indictment charging a 29-year-old man with offenses carried out against HBO.

“Behzad Mesri, an Iranian national who had previously hacked computer systems for the Iranian military, allegedly infiltrated HBO’s systems, stole proprietary data, including scripts and plot summaries for unaired episodes of Game of Thrones, and then sought to extort HBO of $6 million in Bitcoins,” Kim said.

“Mesri now stands charged with federal crimes, and although not arrested today, he will forever have to look over his shoulder until he is made to face justice. American ingenuity and creativity is to be cultivated and celebrated — not hacked, stolen, and held for ransom. For hackers who test our resolve in protecting our intellectual property — even those hiding behind keyboards in countries far away — eventually, winter will come.”

According to the Department of Justice, Mesri honed his computer skills working for the Iranian military, conducting cyber attacks against enemy military systems, nuclear software, and Israeli infrastructure. He was also a member of the Turk Black Hat hacking team which defaced hundreds of websites with the online pseudonym “Skote Vahshat”.

The indictment states that Mesri began his campaign against HBO during May 2017, when he conducted “online reconnaissance” of HBO’s networks and employees. Between May and July, he then compromised a number of HBO employee user accounts and used them to access the company’s data and TV shows, copying them to his own machines.

After allegedly obtaining around 1.5 terabytes of HBO’s data, Mesri then began to extort HBO, warning that unless a ransom of $5.5 million wasn’t paid in Bitcoin, the leaking would begin. When the amount wasn’t paid, three days later Mesri told HBO that the amount had now risen to $6m and as an additional punishment, data could be wiped from HBO’s servers.

Subsequently, on or around July 30 and continuing through August 2017, Mesri allegedly carried through with his threats, leaking information and TV shows online and promoting them via emails to members of the press.

As a result of the above, Mesri is charged with one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, one count of computer hacking (five years), three counts of threatening to impair the confidentiality of information (five years each), and one count of interstate transmission of an extortionate communication (two years). No copyright infringement offenses are mentioned in the indictment.

The big question now is whether the US will ever get their hands on Mesri. The answer to that, at least through any official channels, seems to be a resounding no. There is no extradition treaty between the US and Iran meaning that if Mesri stays put, he’s likely to remain a free man.

Wanted

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

Now You Can Use AWS Shield Advanced to Help Protect Your Amazon EC2 Instances and Network Load Balancers

Post Syndicated from Ritwik Manan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/now-you-can-use-aws-shield-advanced-to-protect-your-amazon-ec2-instances-and-network-load-balancers/

AWS Shield image

Starting today, AWS Shield Advanced can help protect your Amazon EC2 instances and Network Load Balancers against infrastructure-layer Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Enable AWS Shield Advanced on an AWS Elastic IP address and attach the address to an internet-facing EC2 instance or Network Load Balancer. AWS Shield Advanced automatically detects the type of AWS resource behind the Elastic IP address and mitigates DDoS attacks.

AWS Shield Advanced also ensures that all your Amazon VPC network access control lists (ACLs) are automatically executed on AWS Shield at the edge of the AWS network, giving you access to additional bandwidth and scrubbing capacity as well as mitigating large volumetric DDoS attacks. You also can customize additional mitigations on AWS Shield by engaging the AWS DDoS Response Team, which can preconfigure the mitigations or respond to incidents as they happen. For every incident detected by AWS Shield Advanced, you also get near-real-time visibility via Amazon CloudWatch metrics and details about the incident, such as the geographic origin and source IP address of the attack.

AWS Shield Advanced for Elastic IP addresses extends the coverage of DDoS cost protection, which safeguards against scaling charges as a result of a DDoS attack. DDoS cost protection now allows you to request service credits for Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, and your EC2 instance hours in the event that these increase as the result of a DDoS attack.

Get started protecting EC2 instances and Network Load Balancers

To get started:

  1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console and navigate to the AWS WAF and AWS Shield console.
  2. Activate AWS Shield Advanced by choosing Activate AWS Shield Advanced and accepting the terms.
  3. Navigate to Protected Resources through the navigation pane.
  4. Choose the Elastic IP addresses that you want to protect (these can point to EC2 instances or Network Load Balancers).

If AWS Shield Advanced detects a DDoS attack, you can get details about the attack by checking CloudWatch, or the Incidents tab on the AWS WAF and AWS Shield console. To learn more about this new feature and AWS Shield Advanced, see the AWS Shield home page.

If you have comments or questions about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below, start a new thread in the AWS Shield forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Ritwik

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 1

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-1/

Most malware tries to compromise your systems by using a known vulnerability that the maker of the operating system has already patched. To help prevent malware from affecting your systems, two security best practices are to apply all operating system patches to your systems and actively monitor your systems for missing patches. In case you do need to recover from a malware attack, you should make regular backups of your data.

In today’s blog post (Part 1 of a two-part post), I show how to keep your Amazon EC2 instances that run Microsoft Windows up to date with the latest security patches by using Amazon EC2 Systems Manager. Tomorrow in Part 2, I show how to take regular snapshots of your data by using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

What you should know first

To follow along with the solution in this post, you need one or more EC2 instances. You may use existing instances or create new instances. For the blog post, I assume this is an EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 instance installed from the Amazon Machine Images (AMIs). If you are not familiar with how to launch an EC2 instance, see Launching an Instance. I also assume you launched or will launch your instance in a private subnet. A private subnet is not directly accessible via the internet, and access to it requires either a VPN connection to your on-premises network or a jump host in a public subnet (a subnet with access to the internet). You must make sure that the EC2 instance can connect to the internet using a network address translation (NAT) instance or NAT gateway to communicate with Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector. The following diagram shows how you should structure your Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). You should also be familiar with Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Later on, you will assign tasks to a maintenance window to patch your instances with Systems Manager. To do this, the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) user you are using for this post must have the iam:PassRole permission. This permission allows this IAM user to assign tasks to pass their own IAM permissions to the AWS service. In this example, when you assign a task to a maintenance window, IAM passes your credentials to Systems Manager. This safeguard ensures that the user cannot use the creation of tasks to elevate their IAM privileges because their own IAM privileges limit which tasks they can run against an EC2 instance. You should also authorize your IAM user to use EC2, Amazon Inspector, Amazon CloudWatch, and Systems Manager. You can achieve this by attaching the following AWS managed policies to the IAM user you are using for this example: AmazonInspectorFullAccess, AmazonEC2FullAccess, and AmazonSSMFullAccess.

Architectural overview

The following diagram illustrates the components of this solution’s architecture.

Diagram showing the components of this solution's architecture

For this blog post, Microsoft Windows EC2 is Amazon EC2 for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 instances with attached Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes, which are running in your VPC. These instances may be standalone Windows instances running your Windows workloads, or you may have joined them to an Active Directory domain controller. For instances joined to a domain, you can be using Active Directory running on an EC2 for Windows instance, or you can use AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory.

Amazon EC2 Systems Manager is a scalable tool for remote management of your EC2 instances. You will use the Systems Manager Run Command to install the Amazon Inspector agent. The agent enables EC2 instances to communicate with the Amazon Inspector service and run assessments, which I explain in detail later in this blog post. You also will create a Systems Manager association to keep your EC2 instances up to date with the latest security patches.

You can use the EBS Snapshot Scheduler to schedule automated snapshots at regular intervals. You will use it to set up regular snapshots of your Amazon EBS volumes. EBS Snapshot Scheduler is a prebuilt solution by AWS that you will deploy in your AWS account. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store. Snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost.

You will use Amazon Inspector to run security assessments on your EC2 for Windows Server instance. In this post, I show how to assess if your EC2 for Windows Server instance is vulnerable to any of the more than 50,000 CVEs registered with Amazon Inspector.

In today’s and tomorrow’s posts, I show you how to:

  1. Launch an EC2 instance with an IAM role, Amazon EBS volume, and tags that Systems Manager and Amazon Inspector will use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.
  3. Take EBS snapshots by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  4. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

Step 1: Launch an EC2 instance

In this section, I show you how to launch your EC2 instances so that you can use Systems Manager with the instances and use instance tags with EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots. This requires three things:

  • Create an IAM role for Systems Manager before launching your EC2 instance.
  • Launch your EC2 instance with Amazon EBS and the IAM role for Systems Manager.
  • Add tags to instances so that you can automate policies for which instances you take snapshots of and when.

Create an IAM role for Systems Manager

Before launching your EC2 instance, I recommend that you first create an IAM role for Systems Manager, which you will use to update the EC2 instance you will launch. AWS already provides a preconfigured policy that you can use for your new role, and it is called AmazonEC2RoleforSSM.

  1. Sign in to the IAM console and choose Roles in the navigation pane. Choose Create new role.
    Screenshot of choosing "Create role"
  2. In the role-creation workflow, choose AWS service > EC2 > EC2 to create a role for an EC2 instance.
    Screenshot of creating a role for an EC2 instance
  3. Choose the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy to attach it to the new role you are creating.
    Screenshot of attaching the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy to the new role you are creating
  4. Give the role a meaningful name (I chose EC2SSM) and description, and choose Create role.
    Screenshot of giving the role a name and description

Launch your EC2 instance

To follow along, you need an EC2 instance that is running Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 and that has an Amazon EBS volume attached. You can use any existing instance you may have or create a new instance.

When launching your new EC2 instance, be sure that:

  • The operating system is Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • You attach at least one Amazon EBS volume to the EC2 instance.
  • You attach the newly created IAM role (EC2SSM).
  • The EC2 instance can connect to the internet through a network address translation (NAT) gateway or a NAT instance.
  • You create the tags shown in the following screenshot (you will use them later).

If you are using an already launched EC2 instance, you can attach the newly created role as described in Easily Replace or Attach an IAM Role to an Existing EC2 Instance by Using the EC2 Console.

Add tags

The final step of configuring your EC2 instances is to add tags. You will use these tags to configure Systems Manager in Step 2 of this blog post and to configure Amazon Inspector in Part 2. For this example, I add a tag key, Patch Group, and set the value to Windows Servers. I could have other groups of EC2 instances that I treat differently by having the same tag key but a different tag value. For example, I might have a collection of other servers with the Patch Group tag key with a value of IAS Servers.

Screenshot of adding tags

Note: You must wait a few minutes until the EC2 instance becomes available before you can proceed to the next section.

At this point, you now have at least one EC2 instance you can use to configure Systems Manager, use EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and use Amazon Inspector.

Note: If you have a large number of EC2 instances to tag, you may want to use the EC2 CreateTags API rather than manually apply tags to each instance.

Step 2: Configure Systems Manager

In this section, I show you how to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches to your EC2 instances, and how to manage patch compliance.

To start, I will provide some background information about Systems Manager. Then, I will cover how to:

  • Create the Systems Manager IAM role so that Systems Manager is able to perform patch operations.
  • Associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your instance to define which patches Systems Manager should apply.
  • Define a maintenance window to make sure Systems Manager patches your instance when you tell it to.
  • Monitor patch compliance to verify the patch state of your instances.

Systems Manager is a collection of capabilities that helps you automate management tasks for AWS-hosted instances on EC2 and your on-premises servers. In this post, I use Systems Manager for two purposes: to run remote commands and apply operating system patches. To learn about the full capabilities of Systems Manager, see What Is Amazon EC2 Systems Manager?

Patch management is an important measure to prevent malware from infecting your systems. Most malware attacks look for vulnerabilities that are publicly known and in most cases are already patched by the maker of the operating system. These publicly known vulnerabilities are well documented and therefore easier for an attacker to exploit than having to discover a new vulnerability.

Patches for these new vulnerabilities are available through Systems Manager within hours after Microsoft releases them. There are two prerequisites to use Systems Manager to apply operating system patches. First, you must attach the IAM role you created in the previous section, EC2SSM, to your EC2 instance. Second, you must install the Systems Manager agent on your EC2 instance. If you have used a recent Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 AMI published by AWS, Amazon has already installed the Systems Manager agent on your EC2 instance. You can confirm this by logging in to an EC2 instance and looking for Amazon SSM Agent under Programs and Features in Windows. To install the Systems Manager agent on an instance that does not have the agent preinstalled or if you want to use the Systems Manager agent on your on-premises servers, see the documentation about installing the Systems Manager agent. If you forgot to attach the newly created role when launching your EC2 instance or if you want to attach the role to already running EC2 instances, see Attach an AWS IAM Role to an Existing Amazon EC2 Instance by Using the AWS CLI or use the AWS Management Console.

To make sure your EC2 instance receives operating system patches from Systems Manager, you will use the default patch baseline provided and maintained by AWS, and you will define a maintenance window so that you control when your EC2 instances should receive patches. For the maintenance window to be able to run any tasks, you also must create a new role for Systems Manager. This role is a different kind of role than the one you created earlier: Systems Manager will use this role instead of EC2. Earlier we created the EC2SSM role with the AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy, which allowed the Systems Manager agent on our instance to communicate with the Systems Manager service. Here we need a new role with the policy AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole to make sure the Systems Manager service is able to execute commands on our instance.

Create the Systems Manager IAM role

To create the new IAM role for Systems Manager, follow the same procedure as in the previous section, but in Step 3, choose the AmazonSSMMaintenanceWindowRole policy instead of the previously selected AmazonEC2RoleforSSM policy.

Screenshot of creating the new IAM role for Systems Manager

Finish the wizard and give your new role a recognizable name. For example, I named my role MaintenanceWindowRole.

Screenshot of finishing the wizard and giving your new role a recognizable name

By default, only EC2 instances can assume this new role. You must update the trust policy to enable Systems Manager to assume this role.

To update the trust policy associated with this new role:

  1. Navigate to the IAM console and choose Roles in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose MaintenanceWindowRole and choose the Trust relationships tab. Then choose Edit trust relationship.
  3. Update the policy document by copying the following policy and pasting it in the Policy Document box. As you can see, I have added the ssm.amazonaws.com service to the list of allowed Principals that can assume this role. Choose Update Trust Policy.
    {
       "Version":"2012-10-17",
       "Statement":[
          {
             "Sid":"",
             "Effect":"Allow",
             "Principal":{
                "Service":[
                   "ec2.amazonaws.com",
                   "ssm.amazonaws.com"
               ]
             },
             "Action":"sts:AssumeRole"
          }
       ]
    }

Associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your instance

Next, you are going to associate a Systems Manager patch baseline with your EC2 instance. A patch baseline defines which patches Systems Manager should apply. You will use the default patch baseline that AWS manages and maintains. Before you can associate the patch baseline with your instance, though, you must determine if Systems Manager recognizes your EC2 instance.

Navigate to the EC2 console, scroll down to Systems Manager Shared Resources in the navigation pane, and choose Managed Instances. Your new EC2 instance should be available there. If your instance is missing from the list, verify the following:

  1. Go to the EC2 console and verify your instance is running.
  2. Select your instance and confirm you attached the Systems Manager IAM role, EC2SSM.
  3. Make sure that you deployed a NAT gateway in your public subnet to ensure your VPC reflects the diagram at the start of this post so that the Systems Manager agent can connect to the Systems Manager internet endpoint.
  4. Check the Systems Manager Agent logs for any errors.

Now that you have confirmed that Systems Manager can manage your EC2 instance, it is time to associate the AWS maintained patch baseline with your EC2 instance:

  1. Choose Patch Baselines under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console.
  2. Choose the default patch baseline as highlighted in the following screenshot, and choose Modify Patch Groups in the Actions drop-down.
    Screenshot of choosing Modify Patch Groups in the Actions drop-down
  3. In the Patch group box, enter the same value you entered under the Patch Group tag of your EC2 instance in “Step 1: Configure your EC2 instance.” In this example, the value I enter is Windows Servers. Choose the check mark icon next to the patch group and choose Close.Screenshot of modifying the patch group

Define a maintenance window

Now that you have successfully set up a role and have associated a patch baseline with your EC2 instance, you will define a maintenance window so that you can control when your EC2 instances should receive patches. By creating multiple maintenance windows and assigning them to different patch groups, you can make sure your EC2 instances do not all reboot at the same time. The Patch Group resource tag you defined earlier will determine to which patch group an instance belongs.

To define a maintenance window:

  1. Navigate to the EC2 console, scroll down to Systems Manager Shared Resources in the navigation pane, and choose Maintenance Windows. Choose Create a Maintenance Window.
    Screenshot of starting to create a maintenance window in the Systems Manager console
  2. Select the Cron schedule builder to define the schedule for the maintenance window. In the example in the following screenshot, the maintenance window will start every Saturday at 10:00 P.M. UTC.
  3. To specify when your maintenance window will end, specify the duration. In this example, the four-hour maintenance window will end on the following Sunday morning at 2:00 A.M. UTC (in other words, four hours after it started).
  4. Systems manager completes all tasks that are in process, even if the maintenance window ends. In my example, I am choosing to prevent new tasks from starting within one hour of the end of my maintenance window because I estimated my patch operations might take longer than one hour to complete. Confirm the creation of the maintenance window by choosing Create maintenance window.
    Screenshot of completing all boxes in the maintenance window creation process
  5. After creating the maintenance window, you must register the EC2 instance to the maintenance window so that Systems Manager knows which EC2 instance it should patch in this maintenance window. To do so, choose Register new targets on the Targets tab of your newly created maintenance window. You can register your targets by using the same Patch Group tag you used before to associate the EC2 instance with the AWS-provided patch baseline.
    Screenshot of registering new targets
  6. Assign a task to the maintenance window that will install the operating system patches on your EC2 instance:
    1. Open Maintenance Windows in the EC2 console, select your previously created maintenance window, choose the Tasks tab, and choose Register run command task from the Register new task drop-down.
    2. Choose the AWS-RunPatchBaseline document from the list of available documents.
    3. For Parameters:
      1. For Role, choose the role you created previously (called MaintenanceWindowRole).
      2. For Execute on, specify how many EC2 instances Systems Manager should patch at the same time. If you have a large number of EC2 instances and want to patch all EC2 instances within the defined time, make sure this number is not too low. For example, if you have 1,000 EC2 instances, a maintenance window of 4 hours, and 2 hours’ time for patching, make this number at least 500.
      3. For Stop after, specify after how many errors Systems Manager should stop.
      4. For Operation, choose Install to make sure to install the patches.
        Screenshot of stipulating maintenance window parameters

Now, you must wait for the maintenance window to run at least once according to the schedule you defined earlier. Note that if you don’t want to wait, you can adjust the schedule to run sooner by choosing Edit maintenance window on the Maintenance Windows page of Systems Manager. If your maintenance window has expired, you can check the status of any maintenance tasks Systems Manager has performed on the Maintenance Windows page of Systems Manager and select your maintenance window.

Screenshot of the maintenance window successfully created

Monitor patch compliance

You also can see the overall patch compliance of all EC2 instances that are part of defined patch groups by choosing Patch Compliance under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. You can filter by Patch Group to see how many EC2 instances within the selected patch group are up to date, how many EC2 instances are missing updates, and how many EC2 instances are in an error state.

Screenshot of monitoring patch compliance

In this section, you have set everything up for patch management on your instance. Now you know how to patch your EC2 instance in a controlled manner and how to check if your EC2 instance is compliant with the patch baseline you have defined. Of course, I recommend that you apply these steps to all EC2 instances you manage.

Summary

In Part 1 of this blog post, I have shown how to configure EC2 instances for use with Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also have shown how to use Systems Manager to keep your Microsoft Windows–based EC2 instances up to date. In Part 2 of this blog post tomorrow, I will show how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any CVEs.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, start a new thread on the EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

Backing Up the Modern Enterprise with Backblaze for Business

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/endpoint-backup-solutions/

Endpoint backup diagram

Organizations of all types and sizes need reliable and secure backup. Whether they have as few as 3 or as many as 300,000 computer users, an organization’s computer data is a valuable business asset that needs to be protected.

Modern organizations are changing how they work and where they work, which brings new challenges to making sure that company’s data assets are not only available, but secure. Larger organizations have IT departments that are prepared to address these needs, but often times in smaller and newer organizations the challenge falls upon office management who might not be as prepared or knowledgeable to face a work environment undergoing dramatic changes.

Whether small or large, local or world-wide, for-profit or non-profit, organizations need a backup strategy and solution that matches the new ways of working in the enterprise.

The Enterprise Has Changed, and So Has Data Use

More and more, organizations are working in the cloud. These days organizations can operate just fine without their own file servers, database servers, mail servers, or other IT infrastructure that used to be standard for all but the smallest organization.

The reality is that for most organizations, though, it’s a hybrid work environment, with a combination of cloud-based and PC and Macintosh-based applications. Legacy apps aren’t going away any time soon. They will be with us for a while, with their accompanying data scattered amongst all the desktops, laptops and other endpoints in corporate headquarters, home offices, hotel rooms, and airport waiting areas.

In addition, the modern workforce likely combines regular full-time employees, remote workers, contractors, and sometimes interns, volunteers, and other temporary workers who also use company IT assets.

The Modern Enterprise Brings New Challenges for IT

These changes in how enterprises work present a problem for anyone tasked with making sure that data — no matter who uses it or where it lives — is adequately backed-up. Cloud-based applications, when properly used and managed, can be adequately backed up, provided that users are connected to the internet and data transfers occur regularly — which is not always the case. But what about the data on the laptops, desktops, and devices used by remote employees, contractors, or just employees whose work keeps them on the road?

The organization’s backup solution must address all the needs of the modern organization or enterprise using both cloud and PC and Mac-based applications, and not be constrained by employee or computer location.

A Ten-Point Checklist for the Modern Enterprise for Backing Up

What should the modern enterprise look for when evaluating a backup solution?

1) Easy to deploy to workers’ computers

Whether installed by the computer user or an IT person locally or remotely, the backup solution must be easy to implement quickly with minimal demands on the user or administrator.

2) Fast and unobtrusive client software

Backups should happen in the background by efficient (native) PC and Macintosh software clients that don’t consume valuable processing power or take memory away from applications the user needs.

3) Easy to configure

The backup solutions must be easy to configure for both the user and the IT professional. Ease-of-use means less time to deploy, configure, and manage.

4) Defaults to backing up all valuable data

By default, the solution backs up commonly used files and folders or directories, including desktops. Some backup solutions are difficult and intimidating because they require that the user chose what needs to be backed up, often missing files and folders/directories that contain valuable data.

5) Works automatically in the background

Backups should happen automatically, no matter where the computer is located. The computer user, especially the remote or mobile one, shouldn’t be required to attach cables or drives, or remember to initiate backups. A working solution backs up automatically without requiring action by the user or IT administrator.

6) Data restores are fast and easy

Whether it’s a single file, directory, or an entire system that must be restored, a user or IT sysadmin needs to be able to restore backed up data as quickly as possible. In cases of large restores to remote locations, the ability to send a restore via physical media is a must.

7) No limitations on data

Throttling, caps, and data limits complicate backups and require guesses about how much storage space will be needed.

8) Safe & Secure

Organizations require that their data is secure during all phases of initial upload, storage, and restore.

9) Easy-to-manage

The backup solution needs to provide a clear and simple web management interface for all functions. Designing for ease-of-use leads to efficiency in management and operation.

10) Affordable and transparent pricing

Backup costs should be predictable, understandable, and without surprises.

Two Scenarios for the Modern Enterprise

Enterprises exist in many forms and types, but wanting to meet the above requirements is common across all of them. Below, we take a look at two common scenarios showing how enterprises face these challenges. Three case studies are available that provide more information about how Backblaze customers have succeeded in these environments.

Enterprise Profile 1

The needs of a smaller enterprise differ from those of larger, established organizations. This organization likely doesn’t have anyone who is devoted full-time to IT. The job of on-boarding new employees and getting them set up with a computer likely falls upon an executive assistant or office manager. This person might give new employees a checklist with the software and account information and lets users handle setting up the computer themselves.

Organizations in this profile need solutions that are easy to install and require little to no configuration. Backblaze, by default, backs up all user data, which lets the organization be secure in knowing all the data will be backed up to the cloud — including files left on the desktop. Combined with Backblaze’s unlimited data policy, organizations have a truly “set it and forget it” platform.

Customizing Groups To Meet Teams’ Needs

The Groups feature of Backblaze for Business allows an organization to decide whether an individual client’s computer will be Unmanaged (backups and restores under the control of the worker), or Managed, in which an administrator can monitor the status and frequency of backups and handle restores should they become necessary. One group for the entire organization might be adequate at this stage, but the organization has the option to add additional groups as it grows and needs more flexibility and control.

The organization, of course, has the choice of managing and monitoring users using Groups. With Backblaze’s Groups, organizations can set user-based access rules, which allows the administrator to create restores for lost files or entire computers on an employee’s behalf, to centralize billing for all client computers in the organization, and to redeploy a recovered computer or new computer with the backed up data.

Restores

In this scenario, the decision has been made to let each user manage her own backups, including restores, if necessary, of individual files or entire systems. If a restore of a file or system is needed, the restore process is easy enough for the user to handle it by herself.

Case Study 1

Read about how PagerDuty uses Backblaze for Business in a mixed enterprise of cloud and desktop/laptop applications.

PagerDuty Case Study

In a common approach, the employee can retrieve an accidentally deleted file or an earlier version of a document on her own. The Backblaze for Business interface is easy to navigate and was designed with feedback from thousands of customers over the course of a decade.

In the event of a lost, damaged, or stolen laptop,  administrators of Managed Groups can  initiate the restore, which could be in the form of a download of a restore ZIP file from the web management console, or the overnight shipment of a USB drive directly to the organization or user.

Enterprise Profile 2

This profile is for an organization with a full-time IT staff. When a new worker joins the team, the IT staff is tasked with configuring the computer and delivering it to the new employee.

Backblaze for Business Groups

Case Study 2

Global charitable organization charity: water uses Backblaze for Business to back up workers’ and volunteers’ laptops as they travel to developing countries in their efforts to provide clean and safe drinking water.

charity: water Case Study

This organization can take advantage of additional capabilities in Groups. A Managed Group makes sense in an organization with a geographically dispersed work force as it lets IT ensure that workers’ data is being regularly backed up no matter where they are. Billing can be company-wide or assigned to individual departments or geographical locations. The organization has the choice of how to divide the organization into Groups (location, function, subsidiary, etc.) and whether the Group should be Managed or Unmanaged. Using Managed Groups might be suitable for most of the organization, but there are exceptions in which sensitive data might dictate using an Unmanaged Group, such as could be the case with HR, the executive team, or finance.

Deployment

By Invitation Email, Link, or Domain

Backblaze for Business allows a number of options for deploying the client software to workers’ computers. Client installation is fast and easy on both Windows and Macintosh, so sending email invitations to users or automatically enrolling users by domain or invitation link, is a common approach.

By Remote Deployment

IT might choose to remotely and silently deploy Backblaze for Business across specific Groups or the entire organization. An administrator can silently deploy the Backblaze backup client via the command-line, or use common RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) tools such as Jamf and Munki.

Restores

Case Study 3

Read about how Bright Bear Technology Solutions, an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP), uses the Groups feature of Backblaze for Business to manage customer backups and restores, deploy Backblaze licenses to their customers, and centralize billing for all their client-based backup services.

Bright Bear Case Study

Some organizations are better equipped to manage or assist workers when restores become necessary. Individual users will be pleased to discover they can roll-back files to an earlier version if they wish, but IT will likely manage any complete system restore that involves reconfiguring a computer after a repair or requisitioning an entirely new system when needed.

This organization might chose to retain a client’s entire computer backup for archival purposes, using Backblaze B2 as the cloud storage solution. This is another advantage of having a cloud storage provider that combines both endpoint backup and cloud object storage among its services.

The Next Step: Server Backup & Data Archiving with B2 Cloud Storage

As organizations grow, they have increased needs for cloud storage beyond Macintosh and PC data backup. Backblaze’s object cloud storage, Backblaze B2, provides low-cost storage and archiving of records, media, and server data that can grow with the organization’s size and needs.

B2 Cloud Storage is available through the same Backblaze management console as Backblaze Computer Backup. This means that Admins have one console for billing, monitoring, deployment, and role provisioning. B2 is priced at 1/4 the cost of Amazon S3, or $0.005 per month per gigabyte (which equals $5/month per terabyte).

Why Modern Enterprises Chose Backblaze

Backblaze for Business

Businesses and organizations select Backblaze for Business for backup because Backblaze is designed to meet the needs of the modern enterprise. Backblaze customers are part of a a platform that has a 10+ year track record of innovation and over 400 petabytes of customer data already under management.

Backblaze’s backup model is proven through head-to-head comparisons to back up data that other backup solutions overlook in their default configurations — including valuable files that are needed after an accidental deletion, theft, or computer failure.

Backblaze is the only enterprise-level backup company that provides TOTP (Time-based One-time Password) via both SMS and Authentication app to all accounts at no incremental charge. At just $50/year/computer, Backblaze is affordable for any size of enterprise.

Modern Enterprises can Meet The Challenge of The Changing Data Environment

With the right backup solution and strategy, the modern enterprise will be prepared to ensure that its data is protected from accident, disaster, or theft, whether its data is in one office or dispersed among many locations, and remote and mobile employees.

Backblaze for Business is an affordable solution that enables organizations to meet the evolving data demands facing the modern enterprise.

The post Backing Up the Modern Enterprise with Backblaze for Business appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The Pirate Bay is Hard to Find on Google in Some Countries

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/pirate-bay-hard-find-google-countries-171027/

Search engine results are something on which any Internet user should be able to rely. After entering a search term, we generally expect the most relevant results to appear at the top, which seems like a fair assumption.

That being said, all searches aren’t equal, even when the same parameters are entered into the same company’s product. Case in point: Google Search and The Pirate Bay.

We’ve known for years that due to entertainment industry pressure, Google has been demoting pirate sites in its search results. That’s perhaps understandable when trying to deter a user from finding specific content via a Google search but should that affect a search about the site itself?

If one types the term The Pirate Bay into Google, there is no reason for the site iin question not to appear at the top of the list. After all, it’s the most informative result for one of the world’s most popular sites. However, tests carried out by TF show that some Google search variants coupled with certain countries’ IP addresses produce dramatically different results.

In all tests we began with an incognito Chrome browser window, to ensure no previous behavior affected our results. We then commenced testing searches for The Pirate Bay, with the UK up first. We know that Google has been under pressure to demote pirate sites in the country, so it wasn’t a surprise to find a relatively poor result.

Using a UK-based IP address to access Google.co.uk, we had to click through to the fifth page of results to find the entry for thepiratebay.org, the site’s main domain.

Google.co.uk, accessed via a UK IP address

However, when we carried out exactly the same test on Google.co.uk but after substituting our UK IP address for one located in the United States, a very different result was achieved. As can be seen in the image below, thepiratebay.org now appears as the very top result, as it should.

Google.co.uk, accessed via a US IP address

Given the above, there’s the suggestion that Google only penalizes users of Google.co.uk searching for The Pirate Bay, if they’re using a UK-based IP address. So we switched things around a little bit to try and find out.

Testing Google.com with a US-based IP address, thepiratebay.org appeared as the top result, as expected. Then, when accessing Google.com with a UK-based IP address, thepiratebay.org was relegated to the sixth page of Google results, which wasn’t a surprise.

Thus far, one could be forgiven for thinking that having a UK-based IP address is the poisoned chalice here. So, with that in mind, we switched over to the Netherlands for some testing there.

Using a Netherlands-based IP address on Google.nl, thepiratebay.org appears as the first result. But, to our surprise, deploying a UK IP address on the same service returns exactly the same position, i.e right at the very top. The same was true for searches carried out on Google.ca (Canada). No matter what IP addresses were used, thepiratebay.org appeared at the top of results.

Of course, The Pirate Bay has been blocked in the UK for some time, so people may have switched away from searching directly for The Pirate Bay towards other proxy services, for example. However, that doesn’t change the indisputable fact that a search for The Pirate Bay should list the site as the first result – because that’s what people are looking for.

But if people think that only UK-based searchers are getting a raw deal, then they should reconsider.

Over in India, using an Indian IP address to access Google.co.in, thepiratebay.org doesn’t appear until page 8. Somewhat unexpectedly, doing a similar search on the same Google variant using a UK IP address actually improved matters, with thepiratebay.org appearing more readily on page 6.

A lowly page 8 for Indian searchers of The Pirate Bay

But in terms of results, there are other countries doing even worse. Tests carried out on Google.fr (France) reveal that thepiratebay.org doesn’t appear until page 12, a result matched identically by Google.ru (Russia), no matter which source IP addresses were used.

To be clear, it’s not like Google doesn’t understand the significance of the site in these low-ranking regions or that searchers aren’t interested. Although it doesn’t place the actual site until a dozen pages down the road, Google is very happy to list dozens of proxies in the first sets of results, including some fake ‘Pirate Bay’ sites that Google itself flags up as unsafe due to malware.

Overall, it’s hard to find much consistency but it’s reasonable to presume that at least to some extent, searches for The Pirate Bay are being manipulated, depending on where you live and which search variant people use. For English speakers, Canada seems a good variant for now. But that could change at any moment.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

Enabling Two-Factor Authentication For Your Web Application

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/enabling-two-factor-authentication-web-application/

It’s almost always a good idea to support two-factor authentication (2FA), especially for back-office systems. 2FA comes in many different forms, some of which include SMS, TOTP, or even hardware tokens.

Enabling them requires a similar flow:

  • The user goes to their profile page (skip this if you want to force 2fa upon registration)
  • Clicks “Enable two-factor authentication”
  • Enters some data to enable the particular 2FA method (phone number, TOTP verification code, etc.)
  • Next time they login, in addition to the username and password, the login form requests the 2nd factor (verification code) and sends that along with the credentials

I will focus on Google Authenticator, which uses a TOTP (Time-based one-time password) for generating a sequence of verification codes. The ideas is that the server and the client application share a secret key. Based on that key and on the current time, both come up with the same code. Of course, clocks are not perfectly synced, so there’s a window of a few codes that the server accepts as valid.

How to implement that with Java (on the server)? Using the GoogleAuth library. The flow is as follows:

  • The user goes to their profile page
  • Clicks “Enable two-factor authentication”
  • The server generates a secret key, stores it as part of the user profile and returns a URL to a QR code
  • The user scans the QR code with their Google Authenticator app thus creating a new profile in the app
  • The user enters the verification code shown the app in a field that has appeared together with the QR code and clicks “confirm”
  • The server marks the 2FA as enabled in the user profile
  • If the user doesn’t scan the code or doesn’t verify the process, the user profile will contain just a orphaned secret key, but won’t be marked as enabled
  • There should be an option to later disable the 2FA from their user profile page

The most important bit from theoretical point of view here is the sharing of the secret key. The crypto is symmetric, so both sides (the authenticator app and the server) have the same key. It is shared via a QR code that the user scans. If an attacker has control on the user’s machine at that point, the secret can be leaked and thus the 2FA – abused by the attacker as well. But that’s not in the threat model – in other words, if the attacker has access to the user’s machine, the damage is already done anyway.

Upon login, the flow is as follows:

  • The user enters username and password and clicks “Login”
  • Using an AJAX request the page asks the server whether this email has 2FA enabled
  • If 2FA is not enabled, just submit the username & password form
  • If 2FA is enabled, the login form is not submitted, but instead an additional field is shown to let the user input the verification code from the authenticator app
  • After the user enters the code and presses login, the form can be submitted. Either using the same login button, or a new “verify” button, or the verification input + button could be an entirely new screen (hiding the username/password inputs).
  • The server then checks again if the user has 2FA enabled and if yes, verifies the verification code. If it matches, login is successful. If not, login fails and the user is allowed to reenter the credentials and the verification code. Note here that you can have different responses depending on whether username/password are wrong or in case the code is wrong. You can also attempt to login prior to even showing the verification code input. That way is arguably better, because that way you don’t reveal to a potential attacker that the user uses 2FA.

While I’m speaking of username and password, that can apply to any other authentication method. After you get a success confirmation from an OAuth / OpenID Connect / SAML provider, or after you can a token from SecureLogin, you can request the second factor (code).

In code, the above processes look as follows (using Spring MVC; I’ve merged the controller and service layer for brevity. You can replace the @AuthenticatedPrincipal bit with your way of supplying the currently logged in user details to the controllers). Assuming the methods are in controller mapped to “/user/”:

@RequestMapping(value = "/init2fa", method = RequestMethod.POST)
@ResponseBody
public String initTwoFactorAuth(@AuthenticationPrincipal LoginAuthenticationToken token) {
    User user = getLoggedInUser(token);
    GoogleAuthenticatorKey googleAuthenticatorKey = googleAuthenticator.createCredentials();
    user.setTwoFactorAuthKey(googleAuthenticatorKey.getKey());
    dao.update(user);
    return GoogleAuthenticatorQRGenerator.getOtpAuthURL(GOOGLE_AUTH_ISSUER, email, googleAuthenticatorKey);
}

@RequestMapping(value = "/confirm2fa", method = RequestMethod.POST)
@ResponseBody
public boolean confirmTwoFactorAuth(@AuthenticationPrincipal LoginAuthenticationToken token, @RequestParam("code") int code) {
    User user = getLoggedInUser(token);
    boolean result = googleAuthenticator.authorize(user.getTwoFactorAuthKey(), code);
    user.setTwoFactorAuthEnabled(result);
    dao.update(user);
    return result;
}

@RequestMapping(value = "/disable2fa", method = RequestMethod.GET)
@ResponseBody
public void disableTwoFactorAuth(@AuthenticationPrincipal LoginAuthenticationToken token) {
    User user = getLoggedInUser(token);
    user.setTwoFactorAuthKey(null);
    user.setTwoFactorAuthEnabled(false);
    dao.update(user);
}

@RequestMapping(value = "/requires2fa", method = RequestMethod.POST)
@ResponseBody
public boolean login(@RequestParam("email") String email) {
    // TODO consider verifying the password here in order not to reveal that a given user uses 2FA
    return userService.getUserDetailsByEmail(email).isTwoFactorAuthEnabled();
}

On the client side it’s simple AJAX requests to the above methods (sidenote: I kind of feel the term AJAX is no longer trendy, but I don’t know how to call them. Async? Background? Javascript?).

$("#two-fa-init").click(function() {
    $.post("/user/init2fa", function(qrImage) {
	$("#two-fa-verification").show();
	$("#two-fa-qr").prepend($('<img>',{id:'qr',src:qrImage}));
	$("#two-fa-init").hide();
    });
});

$("#two-fa-confirm").click(function() {
    var verificationCode = $("#verificationCode").val().replace(/ /g,'')
    $.post("/user/confirm2fa?code=" + verificationCode, function() {
       $("#two-fa-verification").hide();
       $("#two-fa-qr").hide();
       $.notify("Successfully enabled two-factor authentication", "success");
       $("#two-fa-message").html("Successfully enabled");
    });
});

$("#two-fa-disable").click(function() {
    $.post("/user/disable2fa", function(qrImage) {
       window.location.reload();
    });
});

The login form code depends very much on the existing login form you are using, but the point is to call the /requires2fa with the email (and password) to check if 2FA is enabled and then show a verification code input.

Overall, the implementation if two-factor authentication is simple and I’d recommend it for most systems, where security is more important than simplicity of the user experience.

The post Enabling Two-Factor Authentication For Your Web Application appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Backing Up Linux to Backblaze B2 with Duplicity and Restic

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backing-linux-backblaze-b2-duplicity-restic/

Linux users have a variety of options for handling data backup. The choices range from free and open-source programs to paid commercial tools, and include applications that are purely command-line based (CLI) and others that have a graphical interface (GUI), or both.

If you take a look at our Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage Integrations page, you will see a number of offerings that enable you to back up your Linux desktops and servers to Backblaze B2. These include CloudBerry, Duplicity, Duplicacy, 45 Drives, GoodSync, HashBackup, QNAP, Restic, and Rclone, plus other choices for NAS and hybrid uses.

In this post, we’ll discuss two popular command line and open-source programs: one older, Duplicity, and a new player, Restic.

Old School vs. New School

We’re highlighting Duplicity and Restic today because they exemplify two different philosophical approaches to data backup: “Old School” (Duplicity) vs “New School” (Restic).

Old School (Duplicity)

In the old school model, data is written sequentially to the storage medium. Once a section of data is recorded, new data is written starting where that section of data ends. It’s not possible to go back and change the data that’s already been written.

This old-school model has long been associated with the use of magnetic tape, a prime example of which is the LTO (Linear Tape-Open) standard. In this “write once” model, files are always appended to the end of the tape. If a file is modified and overwritten or removed from the volume, the associated tape blocks used are not freed up: they are simply marked as unavailable, and the used volume capacity is not recovered. Data is deleted and capacity recovered only if the whole tape is reformatted. As a Linux/Unix user, you undoubtedly are familiar with the TAR archive format, which is an acronym for Tape ARchive. TAR has been around since 1979 and was originally developed to write data to sequential I/O devices with no file system of their own.

It is from the use of tape that we get the full backup/incremental backup approach to backups. A backup sequence beings with a full backup of data. Each incremental backup contains what’s been changed since the last full backup until the next full backup is made and the process starts over, filling more and more tape or whatever medium is being used.

This is the model used by Duplicity: full and incremental backups. Duplicity backs up files by producing encrypted, digitally signed, versioned, TAR-format volumes and uploading them to a remote location, including Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. Released under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL), Duplicity is free software.

With Duplicity, the first archive is a complete (full) backup, and subsequent (incremental) backups only add differences from the latest full or incremental backup. Chains consisting of a full backup and a series of incremental backups can be recovered to the point in time that any of the incremental steps were taken. If any of the incremental backups are missing, then reconstructing a complete and current backup is much more difficult and sometimes impossible.

Duplicity is available under many Unix-like operating systems (such as Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X) and ships with many popular Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Debian, and Fedora. It also can be used with Windows under Cygwin.

We recently published a KB article on How to configure Backblaze B2 with Duplicity on Linux that demonstrates how to set up Duplicity with B2 and back up and restore a directory from Linux.

New School (Restic)

With the arrival of non-sequential storage medium, such as disk drives, and new ideas such as deduplication, comes the new school approach, which is used by Restic. Data can be written and changed anywhere on the storage medium. This efficiency comes largely through the use of deduplication. Deduplication is a process that eliminates redundant copies of data and reduces storage overhead. Data deduplication techniques ensure that only one unique instance of data is retained on storage media, greatly increasing storage efficiency and flexibility.

Restic is a recently available multi-platform command line backup software program that is designed to be fast, efficient, and secure. Restic supports a variety of backends for storing backups, including a local server, SFTP server, HTTP Rest server, and a number of cloud storage providers, including Backblaze B2.

Files are uploaded to a B2 bucket as deduplicated, encrypted chunks. Each time a backup runs, only changed data is backed up. On each backup run, a snapshot is created enabling restores to a specific date or time.

Restic assumes that the storage location for repository is shared, so it always encrypts the backed up data. This is in addition to any encryption and security from the storage provider.

Restic is open source and free software and licensed under the BSD 2-Clause License and actively developed on GitHub.

There’s a lot more you can do with Restic, including adding tags, mounting a repository locally, and scripting. To learn more, you can review the documentation at https://restic.readthedocs.io.

Coincidentally with this blog post, we published a KB article, How to configure Backblaze B2 with Restic on Linux, in which we show how to set up Restic for use with B2 and how to back up and restore a home directory from Linux to B2.

Which is Right for You?

While Duplicity is a popular, widely-available, and useful program, many users of cloud storage solutions such as B2 are moving to new-school solutions like Restic that take better advantage of the non-sequential access capabilities and speed of modern storage media used by cloud storage providers.

Tell us how you’re backing up Linux

Please let us know in the comments what you’re using for Linux backups, and if you have experience using Duplicity, Restic, or other backup software with Backblaze B2.

The post Backing Up Linux to Backblaze B2 with Duplicity and Restic appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

JavaScript got better while I wasn’t looking

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/10/07/javascript-got-better-while-i-wasnt-looking/

IndustrialRobot has generously donated in order to inquire:

In the last few years there seems to have been a lot of activity with adding emojis to Unicode. Has there been an equal effort to add ‘real’ languages/glyph systems/etc?

And as always, if you don’t have anything to say on that topic, feel free to choose your own. :p

Yes.

I mean, each release of Unicode lists major new additions right at the top — Unicode 10, Unicode 9, Unicode 8, etc. They also keep fastidious notes, so you can also dig into how and why these new scripts came from, by reading e.g. the proposal for the addition of Zanabazar Square. I don’t think I have much to add here; I’m not a real linguist, I only play one on TV.

So with that out of the way, here’s something completely different!

A brief history of JavaScript

JavaScript was created in seven days, about eight thousand years ago. It was pretty rough, and it stayed rough for most of its life. But that was fine, because no one used it for anything besides having a trail of sparkles follow your mouse on their Xanga profile.

Then people discovered you could actually do a handful of useful things with JavaScript, and it saw a sharp uptick in usage. Alas, it stayed pretty rough. So we came up with polyfills and jQuerys and all kinds of miscellaneous things that tried to smooth over the rough parts, to varying degrees of success.

And… that’s it. That’s pretty much how things stayed for a while.


I have complicated feelings about JavaScript. I don’t hate it… but I certainly don’t enjoy it, either. It has some pretty neat ideas, like prototypical inheritance and “everything is a value”, but it buries them under a pile of annoying quirks and a woefully inadequate standard library. The DOM APIs don’t make things much better — they seem to be designed as though the target language were Java, rarely taking advantage of any interesting JavaScript features. And the places where the APIs overlap with the language are a hilarious mess: I have to check documentation every single time I use any API that returns a set of things, because there are at least three totally different conventions for handling that and I can’t keep them straight.

The funny thing is that I’ve been fairly happy to work with Lua, even though it shares most of the same obvious quirks as JavaScript. Both languages are weakly typed; both treat nonexistent variables and keys as simply false values, rather than errors; both have a single data structure that doubles as both a list and a map; both use 64-bit floating-point as their only numeric type (though Lua added integers very recently); both lack a standard object model; both have very tiny standard libraries. Hell, Lua doesn’t even have exceptions, not really — you have to fake them in much the same style as Perl.

And yet none of this bothers me nearly as much in Lua. The differences between the languages are very subtle, but combined they make a huge impact.

  • Lua has separate operators for addition and concatenation, so + is never ambiguous. It also has printf-style string formatting in the standard library.

  • Lua’s method calls are syntactic sugar: foo:bar() just means foo.bar(foo). Lua doesn’t even have a special this or self value; the invocant just becomes the first argument. In contrast, JavaScript invokes some hand-waved magic to set its contextual this variable, which has led to no end of confusion.

  • Lua has an iteration protocol, as well as built-in iterators for dealing with list-style or map-style data. JavaScript has a special dedicated Array type and clumsy built-in iteration syntax.

  • Lua has operator overloading and (surprisingly flexible) module importing.

  • Lua allows the keys of a map to be any value (though non-scalars are always compared by identity). JavaScript implicitly converts keys to strings — and since there’s no operator overloading, there’s no way to natively fix this.

These are fairly minor differences, in the grand scheme of language design. And almost every feature in Lua is implemented in a ridiculously simple way; in fact the entire language is described in complete detail in a single web page. So writing JavaScript is always frustrating for me: the language is so close to being much more ergonomic, and yet, it isn’t.

Or, so I thought. As it turns out, while I’ve been off doing other stuff for a few years, browser vendors have been implementing all this pie-in-the-sky stuff from “ES5” and “ES6”, whatever those are. People even upgrade their browsers now. Lo and behold, the last time I went to write JavaScript, I found out that a number of papercuts had actually been solved, and the solutions were sufficiently widely available that I could actually use them in web code.

The weird thing is that I do hear a lot about JavaScript, but the feature I’ve seen raved the most about by far is probably… built-in types for working with arrays of bytes? That’s cool and all, but not exactly the most pressing concern for me.

Anyway, if you also haven’t been keeping tabs on the world of JavaScript, here are some things we missed.

let

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 44, Chrome 41, IE 11, Safari 10

I’m pretty sure I first saw let over a decade ago. Firefox has supported it for ages, but you actually had to opt in by specifying JavaScript version 1.7. Remember JavaScript versions? You know, from back in the days when people actually suggested you write stuff like this:

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<SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript1.2" TYPE="text/javascript">

Yikes.

Anyway, so, let declares a variable — but scoped to the immediately containing block, unlike var, which scopes to the innermost function. The trouble with var was that it was very easy to make misleading:

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// foo exists here
while (true) {
    var foo = ...;
    ...
}
// foo exists here too

If you reused the same temporary variable name in a different block, or if you expected to be shadowing an outer foo, or if you were trying to do something with creating closures in a loop, this would cause you some trouble.

But no more, because let actually scopes the way it looks like it should, the way variable declarations do in C and friends. As an added bonus, if you refer to a variable declared with let outside of where it’s valid, you’ll get a ReferenceError instead of a silent undefined value. Hooray!

There’s one other interesting quirk to let that I can’t find explicitly documented. Consider:

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let closures = [];
for (let i = 0; i < 4; i++) {
    closures.push(function() { console.log(i); });
}
for (let j = 0; j < closures.length; j++) {
    closures[j]();
}

If this code had used var i, then it would print 4 four times, because the function-scoped var i means each closure is sharing the same i, whose final value is 4. With let, the output is 0 1 2 3, as you might expect, because each run through the loop gets its own i.

But wait, hang on.

The semantics of a C-style for are that the first expression is only evaluated once, at the very beginning. So there’s only one let i. In fact, it makes no sense for each run through the loop to have a distinct i, because the whole idea of the loop is to modify i each time with i++.

I assume this is simply a special case, since it’s what everyone expects. We expect it so much that I can’t find anyone pointing out that the usual explanation for why it works makes no sense. It has the interesting side effect that for no longer de-sugars perfectly to a while, since this will print all 4s:

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closures = [];
let i = 0;
while (i < 4) {
    closures.push(function() { console.log(i); });
    i++;
}
for (let j = 0; j < closures.length; j++) {
    closures[j]();
}

This isn’t a problem — I’m glad let works this way! — it just stands out to me as interesting. Lua doesn’t need a special case here, since it uses an iterator protocol that produces values rather than mutating a visible state variable, so there’s no problem with having the loop variable be truly distinct on each run through the loop.

Classes

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 45, Chrome 42, Safari 9, Edge 13

Prototypical inheritance is pretty cool. The way JavaScript presents it is a little bit opaque, unfortunately, which seems to confuse a lot of people. JavaScript gives you enough functionality to make it work, and even makes it sound like a first-class feature with a property outright called prototype… but to actually use it, you have to do a bunch of weird stuff that doesn’t much look like constructing an object or type.

The funny thing is, people with almost any background get along with Python just fine, and Python uses prototypical inheritance! Nobody ever seems to notice this, because Python tucks it neatly behind a class block that works enough like a Java-style class. (Python also handles inheritance without using the prototype, so it’s a little different… but I digress. Maybe in another post.)

The point is, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with how JavaScript handles objects; the ergonomics are just terrible.

Lo! They finally added a class keyword. Or, rather, they finally made the class keyword do something; it’s been reserved this entire time.

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class Vector {
    constructor(x, y) {
        this.x = x;
        this.y = y;
    }

    get magnitude() {
        return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);
    }

    dot(other) {
        return this.x * other.x + this.y * other.y;
    }
}

This is all just sugar for existing features: creating a Vector function to act as the constructor, assigning a function to Vector.prototype.dot, and whatever it is you do to make a property. (Oh, there are properties. I’ll get to that in a bit.)

The class block can be used as an expression, with or without a name. It also supports prototypical inheritance with an extends clause and has a super pseudo-value for superclass calls.

It’s a little weird that the inside of the class block has its own special syntax, with function omitted and whatnot, but honestly you’d have a hard time making a class block without special syntax.

One severe omission here is that you can’t declare values inside the block, i.e. you can’t just drop a bar = 3; in there if you want all your objects to share a default attribute. The workaround is to just do this.bar = 3; inside the constructor, but I find that unsatisfying, since it defeats half the point of using prototypes.

Properties

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 4, Chrome 5, IE 9, Safari 5.1

JavaScript historically didn’t have a way to intercept attribute access, which is a travesty. And by “intercept attribute access”, I mean that you couldn’t design a value foo such that evaluating foo.bar runs some code you wrote.

Exciting news: now it does. Or, rather, you can intercept specific attributes, like in the class example above. The above magnitude definition is equivalent to:

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Object.defineProperty(Vector.prototype, 'magnitude', {
    configurable: true,
    enumerable: true,
    get: function() {
        return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);
    },
});

Beautiful.

And what even are these configurable and enumerable things? It seems that every single key on every single object now has its own set of three Boolean twiddles:

  • configurable means the property itself can be reconfigured with another call to Object.defineProperty.
  • enumerable means the property appears in for..in or Object.keys().
  • writable means the property value can be changed, which only applies to properties with real values rather than accessor functions.

The incredibly wild thing is that for properties defined by Object.defineProperty, configurable and enumerable default to false, meaning that by default accessor properties are immutable and invisible. Super weird.

Nice to have, though. And luckily, it turns out the same syntax as in class also works in object literals.

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Vector.prototype = {
    get magnitude() {
        return Math.sqrt(this.x * this.x + this.y * this.y);
    },
    ...
};

Alas, I’m not aware of a way to intercept arbitrary attribute access.

Another feature along the same lines is Object.seal(), which marks all of an object’s properties as non-configurable and prevents any new properties from being added to the object. The object is still mutable, but its “shape” can’t be changed. And of course you can just make the object completely immutable if you want, via setting all its properties non-writable, or just using Object.freeze().

I have mixed feelings about the ability to irrevocably change something about a dynamic runtime. It would certainly solve some gripes of former Haskell-minded colleagues, and I don’t have any compelling argument against it, but it feels like it violates some unwritten contract about dynamic languages — surely any structural change made by user code should also be able to be undone by user code?

Slurpy arguments

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 15, Chrome 47, Edge 12, Safari 10

Officially this feature is called “rest parameters”, but that’s a terrible name, no one cares about “arguments” vs “parameters”, and “slurpy” is a good word. Bless you, Perl.

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function foo(a, b, ...args) {
    // ...
}

Now you can call foo with as many arguments as you want, and every argument after the second will be collected in args as a regular array.

You can also do the reverse with the spread operator:

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let args = [];
args.push(1);
args.push(2);
args.push(3);
foo(...args);

It even works in array literals, even multiple times:

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let args2 = [...args, ...args];
console.log(args2);  // [1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3]

Apparently there’s also a proposal for allowing the same thing with objects inside object literals.

Default arguments

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 15, Chrome 49, Edge 14, Safari 10

Yes, arguments can have defaults now. It’s more like Sass than Python — default expressions are evaluated once per call, and later default expressions can refer to earlier arguments. I don’t know how I feel about that but whatever.

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function foo(n = 1, m = n + 1, list = []) {
    ...
}

Also, unlike Python, you can have an argument with a default and follow it with an argument without a default, since the default default (!) is and always has been defined as undefined. Er, let me just write it out.

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function bar(a = 5, b) {
    ...
}

Arrow functions

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 22, Chrome 45, Edge 12, Safari 10

Perhaps the most humble improvement is the arrow function. It’s a slightly shorter way to write an anonymous function.

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(a, b, c) => { ... }
a => { ... }
() => { ... }

An arrow function does not set this or some other magical values, so you can safely use an arrow function as a quick closure inside a method without having to rebind this. Hooray!

Otherwise, arrow functions act pretty much like regular functions; you can even use all the features of regular function signatures.

Arrow functions are particularly nice in combination with all the combinator-style array functions that were added a while ago, like Array.forEach.

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[7, 8, 9].forEach(value => {
    console.log(value);
});

Symbol

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 36, Chrome 38, Edge 12, Safari 9

This isn’t quite what I’d call an exciting feature, but it’s necessary for explaining the next one. It’s actually… extremely weird.

symbol is a new kind of primitive (like number and string), not an object (like, er, Number and String). A symbol is created with Symbol('foo'). No, not new Symbol('foo'); that throws a TypeError, for, uh, some reason.

The only point of a symbol is as a unique key. You see, symbols have one very special property: they can be used as object keys, and will not be stringified. Remember, only strings can be keys in JavaScript — even the indices of an array are, semantically speaking, still strings. Symbols are a new exception to this rule.

Also, like other objects, two symbols don’t compare equal to each other: Symbol('foo') != Symbol('foo').

The result is that symbols solve one of the problems that plauges most object systems, something I’ve talked about before: interfaces. Since an interface might be implemented by any arbitrary type, and any arbitrary type might want to implement any number of arbitrary interfaces, all the method names on an interface are effectively part of a single global namespace.

I think I need to take a moment to justify that. If you have IFoo and IBar, both with a method called method, and you want to implement both on the same type… you have a problem. Because most object systems consider “interface” to mean “I have a method called method, with no way to say which interface’s method you mean. This is a hard problem to avoid, because IFoo and IBar might not even come from the same library. Occasionally languages offer a clumsy way to “rename” one method or the other, but the most common approach seems to be for interface designers to avoid names that sound “too common”. You end up with redundant mouthfuls like IFoo.foo_method.

This incredibly sucks, and the only languages I’m aware of that avoid the problem are the ML family and Rust. In Rust, you define all the methods for a particular trait (interface) in a separate block, away from the type’s “own” methods. It’s pretty slick. You can still do obj.method(), and as long as there’s only one method among all the available traits, you’ll get that one. If not, there’s syntax for explicitly saying which trait you mean, which I can’t remember because I’ve never had to use it.

Symbols are JavaScript’s answer to this problem. If you want to define some interface, you can name its methods with symbols, which are guaranteed to be unique. You just have to make sure you keep the symbol around somewhere accessible so other people can actually use it. (Or… not?)

The interesting thing is that JavaScript now has several of its own symbols built in, allowing user objects to implement features that were previously reserved for built-in types. For example, you can use the Symbol.hasInstance symbol — which is simply where the language is storing an existing symbol and is not the same as Symbol('hasInstance')! — to override instanceof:

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// oh my god don't do this though
class EvenNumber {
    static [Symbol.hasInstance](obj) {
        return obj % 2 == 0;
    }
}
console.log(2 instanceof EvenNumber);  // true
console.log(3 instanceof EvenNumber);  // false

Oh, and those brackets around Symbol.hasInstance are a sort of reverse-quoting — they indicate an expression to use where the language would normally expect a literal identifier. I think they work as object keys, too, and maybe some other places.

The equivalent in Python is to implement a method called __instancecheck__, a name which is not special in any way except that Python has reserved all method names of the form __foo__. That’s great for Python, but doesn’t really help user code. JavaScript has actually outclassed (ho ho) Python here.

Of course, obj[BobNamespace.some_method]() is not the prettiest way to call an interface method, so it’s not perfect. I imagine this would be best implemented in user code by exposing a polymorphic function, similar to how Python’s len(obj) pretty much just calls obj.__len__().

I only bring this up because it’s the plumbing behind one of the most incredible things in JavaScript that I didn’t even know about until I started writing this post. I’m so excited oh my gosh. Are you ready? It’s:

Iteration protocol

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 27, Chrome 39, Safari 10; still experimental in Edge

Yes! Amazing! JavaScript has first-class support for iteration! I can’t even believe this.

It works pretty much how you’d expect, or at least, how I’d expect. You give your object a method called Symbol.iterator, and that returns an iterator.

What’s an iterator? It’s an object with a next() method that returns the next value and whether the iterator is exhausted.

Wait, wait, wait a second. Hang on. The method is called next? Really? You didn’t go for Symbol.next? Python 2 did exactly the same thing, then realized its mistake and changed it to __next__ in Python 3. Why did you do this?

Well, anyway. My go-to test of an iterator protocol is how hard it is to write an equivalent to Python’s enumerate(), which takes a list and iterates over its values and their indices. In Python it looks like this:

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for i, value in enumerate(['one', 'two', 'three']):
    print(i, value)
# 0 one
# 1 two
# 2 three

It’s super nice to have, and I’m always amazed when languages with “strong” “support” for iteration don’t have it. Like, C# doesn’t. So if you want to iterate over a list but also need indices, you need to fall back to a C-style for loop. And if you want to iterate over a lazy or arbitrary iterable but also need indices, you need to track it yourself with a counter. Ridiculous.

Here’s my attempt at building it in JavaScript.

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function enumerate(iterable) {
    // Return a new iter*able* object with a Symbol.iterator method that
    // returns an iterator.
    return {
        [Symbol.iterator]: function() {
            let iterator = iterable[Symbol.iterator]();
            let i = 0;

            return {
                next: function() {
                    let nextval = iterator.next();
                    if (! nextval.done) {
                        nextval.value = [i, nextval.value];
                        i++;
                    }
                    return nextval;
                },
            };
        },
    };
}
for (let [i, value] of enumerate(['one', 'two', 'three'])) {
    console.log(i, value);
}
// 0 one
// 1 two
// 2 three

Incidentally, for..of (which iterates over a sequence, unlike for..in which iterates over keys — obviously) is finally supported in Edge 12. Hallelujah.

Oh, and let [i, value] is destructuring assignment, which is also a thing now and works with objects as well. You can even use the splat operator with it! Like Python! (And you can use it in function signatures! Like Python! Wait, no, Python decided that was terrible and removed it in 3…)

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let [x, y, ...others] = ['apple', 'orange', 'cherry', 'banana'];

It’s a Halloween miracle. 🎃

Generators

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 26, Chrome 39, Edge 13, Safari 10

That’s right, JavaScript has goddamn generators now. It’s basically just copying Python and adding a lot of superfluous punctuation everywhere. Not that I’m complaining.

Also, generators are themselves iterable, so I’m going to cut to the chase and rewrite my enumerate() with a generator.

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function enumerate(iterable) {
    return {
        [Symbol.iterator]: function*() {
            let i = 0;
            for (let value of iterable) {
                yield [i, value];
                i++;
            }
        },
    };
}
for (let [i, value] of enumerate(['one', 'two', 'three'])) {
    console.log(i, value);
}
// 0 one
// 1 two
// 2 three

Amazing. function* is a pretty strange choice of syntax, but whatever? I guess it also lets them make yield only act as a keyword inside a generator, for ultimate backwards compatibility.

JavaScript generators support everything Python generators do: yield* yields every item from a subsequence, like Python’s yield from; generators can return final values; you can pass values back into the generator if you iterate it by hand. No, really, I wasn’t kidding, it’s basically just copying Python. It’s great. You could now built asyncio in JavaScript!

In fact, they did that! JavaScript now has async and await. An async function returns a Promise, which is also a built-in type now. Amazing.

Sets and maps

MDN docs for MapMDN docs for Set — supported in Firefox 13, Chrome 38, IE 11, Safari 7.1

I did not save the best for last. This is much less exciting than generators. But still exciting.

The only data structure in JavaScript is the object, a map where the strings are keys. (Or now, also symbols, I guess.) That means you can’t readily use custom values as keys, nor simulate a set of arbitrary objects. And you have to worry about people mucking with Object.prototype, yikes.

But now, there’s Map and Set! Wow.

Unfortunately, because JavaScript, Map couldn’t use the indexing operators without losing the ability to have methods, so you have to use a boring old method-based API. But Map has convenient methods that plain objects don’t, like entries() to iterate over pairs of keys and values. In fact, you can use a map with for..of to get key/value pairs. So that’s nice.

Perhaps more interesting, there’s also now a WeakMap and WeakSet, where the keys are weak references. I don’t think JavaScript had any way to do weak references before this, so that’s pretty slick. There’s no obvious way to hold a weak value, but I guess you could substitute a WeakSet with only one item.

Template literals

MDN docs — supported in Firefox 34, Chrome 41, Edge 12, Safari 9

Template literals are JavaScript’s answer to string interpolation, which has historically been a huge pain in the ass because it doesn’t even have string formatting in the standard library.

They’re just strings delimited by backticks instead of quotes. They can span multiple lines and contain expressions.

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console.log(`one plus
two is ${1 + 2}`);

Someone decided it would be a good idea to allow nesting more sets of backticks inside a ${} expression, so, good luck to syntax highlighters.

However, someone also had the most incredible idea ever, which was to add syntax allowing user code to do the interpolation — so you can do custom escaping, when absolutely necessary, which is virtually never, because “escaping” means you’re building a structured format by slopping strings together willy-nilly instead of using some API that works with the structure.

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// OF COURSE, YOU SHOULDN'T BE DOING THIS ANYWAY; YOU SHOULD BUILD HTML WITH
// THE DOM API AND USE .textContent FOR LITERAL TEXT.  BUT AS AN EXAMPLE:
function html(literals, ...values) {
    let ret = [];
    literals.forEach((literal, i) => {
        if (i > 0) {
            // Is there seriously still not a built-in function for doing this?
            // Well, probably because you SHOULDN'T BE DOING IT
            ret.push(values[i - 1]
                .replace(/&/g, '&amp;')
                .replace(/</g, '&lt;')
                .replace(/>/g, '&gt;')
                .replace(/"/g, '&quot;')
                .replace(/'/g, '&apos;'));
        }
        ret.push(literal);
    });
    return ret.join('');
}
let username = 'Bob<script>';
let result = html`<b>Hello, ${username}!</b>`;
console.log(result);
// <b>Hello, Bob&lt;script&gt;!</b>

It’s a shame this feature is in JavaScript, the language where you are least likely to need it.

Trailing commas

Remember how you couldn’t do this for ages, because ass-old IE considered it a syntax error and would reject the entire script?

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{
    a: 'one',
    b: 'two',
    c: 'three',  // <- THIS GUY RIGHT HERE
}

Well now it’s part of the goddamn spec and if there’s anything in this post you can rely on, it’s this. In fact you can use AS MANY GODDAMN TRAILING COMMAS AS YOU WANT. But only in arrays.

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[1, 2, 3,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,]

Apparently that has the bizarre side effect of reserving extra space at the end of the array, without putting values there.

And more, probably

Like strict mode, which makes a few silent “errors” be actual errors, forces you to declare variables (no implicit globals!), and forbids the completely bozotic with block.

Or String.trim(), which trims whitespace off of strings.

Or… Math.sign()? That’s new? Seriously? Well, okay.

Or the Proxy type, which lets you customize indexing and assignment and calling. Oh. I guess that is possible, though this is a pretty weird way to do it; why not just use symbol-named methods?

You can write Unicode escapes for astral plane characters in strings (or identifiers!), as \u{XXXXXXXX}.

There’s a const now? I extremely don’t care, just name it in all caps and don’t reassign it, come on.

There’s also a mountain of other minor things, which you can peruse at your leisure via MDN or the ECMAScript compatibility tables (note the links at the top, too).

That’s all I’ve got. I still wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of JavaScript, but it’s definitely making an effort to clean up some goofy inconsistencies and solve common problems. I think I could even write some without yelling on Twitter about it now.

On the other hand, if you’re still stuck supporting IE 10 for some reason… well, er, my condolences.

Adafruit’s read-only Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/adafruits-read-only/

For passive projects such as point-of-sale displays, video loopers, and your upcoming Halloween builds, Adafruit have come up with a read-only solution for powering down your Raspberry Pi without endangering your SD card.

Adafruit read-only raspberry pi

Pulling the plug

At home, at a coding club, or at a Jam, you rarely need to pull the plug on your Raspberry Pi without going through the correct shutdown procedure. To ensure a long life for your SD card and its contents, you should always turn off you Pi by selecting the shutdown option from the menu. This way the Pi saves any temporary files to the card before relinquishing power.

Dramatic reconstruction

By pulling the plug while your OS is still running, you might corrupt these files, which could result in the Pi failing to boot up again. The only fix? Wipe the SD card clean and start over, waving goodbye to all files you didn’t back up.

Passive projects

But what if it’s not as easy as selecting shutdown, because your Raspberry Pi is embedded deep inside the belly of a project? Maybe you’ve hot-glued your Zero W into a pumpkin which is now screwed to the roof of your porch, or your store has a bank of Pi-powered monitors playing ads and the power is set to shut off every evening. Without the ability to shut down your Pi via the menu, you risk the SD card’s contents every time you power down your project.

Read-only

Just in time of the plethora of Halloween projects we’re looking forward to this month, the clever folk at Adafruit have designed a solution for this issue. They’ve shared a script which forces the Raspberry Pi to run in read-only mode, so that powering it down via a plug pull will not corrupt the SD card.

But how?

The script makes the Pi save temporary files to the RAM instead of the SD card. Of course, this means that no files or new software can be written to the card. However, if that’s not necessary for your Pi project, you might be happy to make the trade-off. Note that you can only use Adafruit’s script on Raspbian Lite.

Find more about the read-only Raspberry Pi solution, including the script and optional GPIO-halt utility, on the Adafruit Learn page. And be aware that making your Pi read-only is irreversible, so be sure to back up the contents of your SD card before you implement the script.

Halloween!

It’s October, and we’re now allowed to get excited about Halloween and all of the wonderful projects you plan on making for the big night.

Adafruit read-only raspberry pi

Adafruit’s animated snake eyes

We’ll be covering some of our favourite spooky build on social media throughout the month — make sure to share yours with us, either in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or G+.

The post Adafruit’s read-only Raspberry Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Six Strikes Piracy Scheme May Be Dead But Those Warnings Keep on Coming

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/six-strikes-piracy-scheme-may-be-dead-but-those-warnings-keep-on-coming-171001/

After at least 15 years of Internet pirates being monitored by copyright holders, one might think that the message would’ve sunk in by now. For many, it definitely hasn’t.

Bottom line: when people use P2P networks and protocols (such as BitTorrent) to share files including movies and music, copyright holders are often right there, taking notes about what is going on, perhaps in preparation for further action.

That can take a couple of forms, including suing users or, more probably, firing off a warning notice to their Internet service providers. Those notices are a little like a speeding ticket, telling the subscriber off for sharing copyrighted material but letting them off the hook if they promise to be good in future.

In 2013, the warning notice process in the US was formalized into what was known as the Copyright Alert System, a program through which most Internet users could receive at least six piracy warning notices without having any serious action taken against them. In January 2017, without having made much visible progress, it was shut down.

In some corners of the web there are still users under the impression that since the “six strikes” scheme has been shut down, all of a sudden US Internet users can forget about receiving a warning notice. In reality, the complete opposite is true.

While it’s impossible to put figures on how many notices get sent out (ISPs are reluctant to share the data), monitoring of various piracy-focused sites and forums indicates that plenty of notices are still being sent to ISPs, who are cheerfully sending them on to subscribers.

Also, over the past couple of months, there appears to have been an uptick in subscribers seeking advice after receiving warnings. Many report basic notices but there seems to be a bit of a trend of Internet connections being suspended or otherwise interrupted, apparently as a result of an infringement notice being received.

“So, over the weekend my internet got interrupted by my ISP (internet service provider) stating that someone on my network has violated some copyright laws. I had to complete a survey and they brought back the internet to me,” one subscriber wrote a few weeks ago. He added that his (unnamed) ISP advised him that seven warnings would get his account disconnected.

Another user, who named his ISP as Comcast, reported receiving a notice after downloading a game using BitTorrent. He was warned that the alleged infringement “may result in the suspension or termination of your Service account” but what remains unclear is how many warnings people can receive before this happens.

For example, a separate report from another Comcast user stated that one night of careless torrenting led to his mother receiving 40 copyright infringement notices the next day. He didn’t state which company the notices came from but 40 is clearly a lot in such a short space of time. That being said and as far as the report went, it didn’t lead to a suspension.

Of course, it’s possible that Comcast doesn’t take action if a single company sends many notices relating to the same content in a small time frame (Rightscorp is known to do this) but the risk is still there. Verizon, it seems, can suspend accounts quite easily.

“So lately I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with pirating because I get blasted with a webpage telling me my internet is disconnected and that I need to delete the file to reconnect, with the latest one having me actually call Verizon to reconnect,” a subscriber to the service reported earlier this month.

A few days ago, a Time Warner Cable customer reported having to take action after receiving his third warning notice from the ISP.

“So I’ve gotten three notices and after the third one I just went online to my computer and TWC had this page up that told me to stop downloading illegally and I had to click an ‘acknowledge’ button at the bottom of the page to be able to continue to use my internet,” he said.

Also posting this week, another subscriber of an unnamed ISP revealed he’d been disconnected twice in the past year. His comments raise a few questions that keep on coming up in these conversations.

“The first time [I was disconnected] was about a year ago and the next was a few weeks ago. When it happened I was downloading some fairly new movies so I was wondering if they monitor these new movie releases since they are more popular. Also are they monitoring what I am doing since I have been caught?” he asked.

While there is plenty of evidence to suggest that old content is also monitored, there’s little doubt that the fresher the content, the more likely it is to be monitored by copyright holders. If people are downloading a brand new movie, they should expect it to be monitored by someone, somewhere.

The second point, about whether risk increases after being caught already, is an interesting one, for a number of reasons.

Following the BMG v Cox Communication case, there is now a big emphasis on ISPs’ responsibility towards dealing with subscribers who are alleged to be repeat infringers. Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp was deeply involved in that case and the company has a patent for detecting repeat infringers.

It’s becoming clear that the company actively targets such people in order to assist copyright holders (which now includes the RIAA) in strategic litigation against ISPs, such as Grande Communications, who are claimed to be going soft on repeat infringers.

Overall, however, there’s no evidence that “getting caught” once increases the chances of being caught again, but subscribers should be aware that the Cox case changed the position on the ground. If anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, it now seems that ISPs are tightening the leash on suspected pirates and are more likely to suspend or disconnect them in the face of repeated complaints.

The final question asked by the subscriber who was disconnected twice is a common one among people receiving notices.

“What can I do to continue what we all love doing?” he asked.

Time and time again, on sites like Reddit and other platforms attracting sharers, the response is the same.

“Get a paid VPN. I’m amazed you kept torrenting without protection after having your internet shut off, especially when downloading recent movies,” one such response reads.

Nevertheless, this still fails to help some people fully understand the notices they receive, leaving them worried about what might happen after receiving one. However, the answer is nearly always straightforward.

If the notice says “stop sharing content X”, then recipients should do so, period. And, if the notice doesn’t mention specific legal action, then it’s almost certain that no action is underway. They are called warning notices for a reason.

Also, notice recipients should consider the part where their ISP assures them that their details haven’t been shared with third parties. That is the truth and will remain that way unless subscribers keep ignoring notices. Then there’s a slim chance that a rightsholder will step in to make a noise via a lawyer. At that point, people shouldn’t say they haven’t been warned.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

‘Daily Stormer’ Termination Haunts Cloudflare in Online Piracy Case

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/daily-stormer-termination-haunts-cloudflare-in-online-piracy-case-170929/

Last month Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince decided to terminate the account of controversial neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer.

“I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet,” he announced.

While the decision is understandable from an emotional point of view, it’s quite a statement to make as the CEO of one of the largest Internet infrastructure companies. Not least because it goes directly against what many saw as Cloudflare’s core values.

For years on end, Cloudflare has been asked to remove terrorist propaganda, pirate sites, and other controversial content. Each time, Cloudflare replied that it doesn’t take action without a court order. No exceptions.

In addition, Cloudflare repeatedly stressed that it was impossible for them to remove a website from the Internet, at least not permanently. It would only require a simple DNS reconfiguration to get it back up and running.

While the Daily Stormer case has nothing to do with piracy or copyright infringement, it’s now being brought up as important evidence in an ongoing piracy liability case. Adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan views Prince as a “key witness” in the case and wants to depose Cloudflare’s CEO to find out more about his decision.

“Mr. Prince’s statement to the public that Cloudflare kicked neo-Nazis off the internet stand in sharp contrast to Cloudflare’s testimony in this case, where it claims it is powerless to remove content from the Internet,” ALS Scan writes.

The above is part of a recent submission where both parties argue over whether Prince can be deposed or not. Cloudflare wants to prevent this from happening and claims it’s unnecessary, but the adult publisher disagrees.

“By his own admissions, Mr. Prince’s decision to terminate certain users’ accounts was ‘arbitrary,’ the result of him waking up ‘in a bad mood,’ and a decision he made unilaterally as ‘CEO of a major Internet infrastructure corporation’.

“Mr. Prince has made it clear that he is the one who determines the circumstances under which Cloudflare will terminate a user’s account,” ALS Scan adds.

For its part, Cloudflare says that the CEO’s deposition is not needed. This is backed up by a declaration where Prince emphasizes that he has no unique knowledge on the company’s DMCA and repeat infringer policies, issues that directly relate to the case at hand.

“I have no unique personal knowledge regarding Cloudflare’s DMCA policy and procedure, including its repeat infringer policies, or Cloudflare’s published Terms of Service,” Prince informs the court

Prince’s declaration

The adult publisher, however, harps on the fact that the CEO arbitrarily decided to remove one site from the service, while requiring court orders in other instances. They quote from a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article he wrote and highlight the ‘kick off the internet’ claim, which contradicts earlier statements.

Cloudflare’s lawyers contend that the WSJ article in question was meant to kick off a conversation and shouldn’t be taken literally.

“The WSJ Article was intended as an intellectual exercise to start a conversation regarding censorship and free speech on the internet. The WSJ Article had nothing to do with copyright infringement issues or Cloudflare’s DMCA policy and procedure.

“When Mr. Prince stated in the WSJ Article that ‘[he] helped kick a group of neo-Nazis off the internet last week,’ his comments were intended to illustrate a point – not to be taken literally,” Cloudflare’s legal team adds.

The deposition of Trey Guinn, a technical employee at Cloudflare, confirms that the company doesn’t have the power to cut a site off the Internet. It further suggests that the entire removal of Daily Stormer was in essence a provocation to start a conversation around freedom of speech.

From Guinn’s deposition

Still, since the lawsuit in question revolves around terminating customers, ALS Scan wants to depose Price to find out exactly when clients are terminated, and why he decided to go beyond Couldflare’s usual policy.

“No other employee can testify to Mr. Prince’s decision-making process when it comes to terminating a user’s access. No other employee can offer an explanation as to why The Daily Stormer’s account was terminated while repeat infringers’ accounts are allowed to remain.

“In a case where Mr. Prince’s personal judgment appears to govern even over Cloudflare’s own policies and procedures, Cloudflare cannot meet its heavy burden of demonstrating why he should not be deposed,” ALS Scan’s lawyers add.

To be continued.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

UK Copyright Trolls Cite Hopeless Case to Make People Pay Up

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/uk-copyright-trolls-cite-hopeless-case-to-make-people-pay-up-170916/

Our coverage of Golden Eye International dates back more than five years. Much like similar companies in the copyright troll niche, the outfit monitors BitTorrent swarms, collects IP addresses, and then heads off to court to obtain alleged pirates’ identities.

From there it sends letters threatening legal action, unless recipients pay a ‘fine’ of hundreds of pounds to settle an alleged porn piracy case. While some people pay up, others refuse to do so on the basis they are innocent, the ISP bill payer, or simply to have their day in court. Needless to say, a full-on court battle on the merits is never on the agenda.

Having gone quiet for an extended period of time, it was assumed that Golden Eye had outrun its usefulness as a ‘fine’ collection outfit. Just lately, however, there are signs that the company is having another go at reviving old cases against people who previously refused to pay.

A post on Slyck forums, which runs a support thread for people targeted by trolls, reveals the strategy.

“I dealt with these Monkeys last year. I spent 5 weeks practically arguing with them. They claim they have to prove it based on the balance of probability’s [sic]. I argue that they actually have to prove it was me,” ‘Matt’ wrote in August.

“It wasn’t me, and despite giving them reasonable doubt it wasn’t me. (I’m Gay… why would I be downloading straight porn?) They still persuaded it, trying to dismiss anything that cast any doubt on their claim. The emails finished how I figured they would…. They were going to send court documentation. It never arrived.”

After months of silence, at the end of August this year ‘Matt’ says GoldenEye got in touch again, suggesting that a conclusion to another copyright case might encourage him to cough up. He says that Golden Eye contacted him saying that someone settled out of court with TCYK, another copyright troll, for £1,000.

“My thoughts…Idiots and doubt it,” ‘Matt’ said. “Honestly, I almost cried I thought I had got rid of these trolls and they are back for round two.”

This wasn’t an isolated case. Another recipient of a Golden Eye threat also revealed getting contacted by the company, also with fresh pressure to pay.

“You may be interested to know that a solicitor, acting on behalf of Robert Kemble in a claim similar to ours but brought by TCYK LLC, entered into an agreement to settle the court case by paying £1,000,” Golden Eye told the individual.

“In view of the agreement reached in the Kemble case, we would invite you to reconsider your position as to whether you would like to reach settlement with us. We would point out, that, despite the terms of settlement in the Kemble case, we remain prepared to stand by our original offer of settlement with you, that is payment of £500.00.”

After last corresponding with the Golden Eye in January after repeated denials, new contact from the company would be worrying for anyone. It certainly affected this person negatively.

“I am now at a loss and don’t know what more I can do. I do not want to settle this, but also I cannot afford a solicitor. Any further advice would be gratefully appreciated as [i’m] now having panic attacks,” the person wrote.

After citing the Robert Kemble case, one might think that Golden Eye would be good enough to explain the full situation. They didn’t – so let’s help them a little bit in that respect, to help their targets make an informed decision.

Robert Kemble was a customer of Sky Broadband. TCYK, in conjunction with UK-based Hatton and Berkeley, sent a letter to Kemble in July 2015 asking him to pay a ‘fine’ for alleged Internet piracy of the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep, way back in April 2013.

So far, so ordinary – but here’s the big deal.

Unlike the people being re-targeted by Golden Eye this time around, Kemble admitted in writing that infringement had been going on via his account.

In a response, Kemble told TCYK that he was shocked to receive their letter but after speaking to people in his household, had discovered that a child had been downloading films. He didn’t say that the Redford film was among them but he apologized to the companies all the same. Clearly, that wasn’t going to be enough.

In August 2015, TCYK wrote back to Kemble, effectively holding him responsible for other people’s actions while demanding a settlement of £600 to be paid to third-party company, Ranger Bay Limited.

“The child who is responsible for the infringement should sign the undertakings in our letter to you. Please when replying specify clearly on the undertakings the child’s full name and age,” the company later wrote. Nice.

What took place next was a round of letter tennis between Kemble’s solicitor and those acting for TCYK, with the latter insisting that Kemble had already admitted infringement (or authorizing the same) and demanding around £2000 to settle the case at this later stage.

With no settlement forthcoming, TCYK demanded £5,000 in the small claims court.

“The Defendant has admitted that his internet address has been used to infringe the Claimant’s copyright whereby, through the Defendant’s licencees’ use of the Defendant’s internet address, he acquired the Work and then communicated the Work in a digital form via the internet to the public without the license or consent of the Claimant,” the TCYK claim form reads.

TorrentFreak understands that the court process that followed didn’t center on the merits of the infringement case, but procedural matters over how the case was handled. On this front, Kemble failed in his efforts to have the case – which was heard almost a year ago – decided in his favor.

Now, according to Golden Eye at least, Kemble has settled with TCYK for £1000, which is just £300 more than their final pre-court offer. Hardly sounds like good value for money.

The main point, though, is that this case wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near a court if Kemble hadn’t admitted liability of sorts in the early stages. This is a freak case in all respects and has no bearing on anyone’s individual case, especially those who haven’t admitted liability.

So, for people getting re-hounded by Golden Eye now, remember the Golden Rule. If you’re innocent, by all means tell them, and stick to your guns. But, at your peril tell them anything else on top, or risk having it used against you.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

MetalKettle Addon Repository Vulnerable After GitHub ‘Takeover’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/metalkettle-after-github-takeover-170915/

A few weeks ago MetalKettle, one of the most famous Kodi addon developers of recent times, decided to call it quits.

Worried about potential legal risks, he saw no other option than to halt all development of third-party Kodi addons.

Soon after this announcement, the developer proceeded to remove the GitHub account which was used to distribute his addons. However, he didn’t realize that this might not have been the best decision.

As it turns out, GitHub allows outsiders to re-register names of deleted accounts. While this might not be a problem in most cases, it can be disastrous when the accounts are connected to Kodi add-ons that are constantly pinging for new updates.

In essence, it means that the person who registered the Github account can load content onto the boxes of people who still have the MetalKettle repo installed. Quite a dangerous prospect, something MetalKettle realizes as well.

“Someone has re-registered metalkettle on github. So in theory could pollute any devices with the repo still installed,” he warned on Twitter.

“Warning : if any users have a metalkettle repo installed on their systems or within a build – please delete ASAP,” he added.

MetalKettle warning

It’s not clear what the intentions of the new MetalKettle user are on GitHub, if he or she has any at all. But, people should be very cautious and probably remove it from their systems.

The real MetalKettle, meanwhile, alerted TVAddons to the situation and they have placed the repository on their Indigo blacklist of banned software. This effectively disables the repository on devices with Indigo installed.

GitHub on their turn may want to reconsider their removal policy. Perhaps it’s smarter to not make old usernames available for registration, at least not for a while, as it’s clearly a vulnerability.

This is also shown by another Kodi repo controversy that appeared earlier today. Another GitHub account that was reportedly deleted earlier, resurfaced today pushing a new version of the Exodus addon and other sources.

According to some, the GitHub account is operated by the original Exodus developers and perfectly safe, but others warn that the name was reregistered in bad faith.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.