Tag Archives: russia

Epic Games Sues Man Over Bitcoin Mining Fortnite ‘Cheat’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/epic-games-sues-man-over-bitcoin-mining-fortnite-cheat-171019/

A few weeks ago, Epic Games released Fortnite’s free-to-play “Battle Royale” game mode for the PC and other platforms, generating massive interest among gamers.

The release also attracted attention from thousands of cheaters, many of whom were subsequently banned. In addition, Epic Games went a step further by taking several cheaters to court over copyright infringement.

This week the North Carolina-based game developer continued its a war against cheaters. In a new lawsuit, it targets two other cheaters who promoted their hacks through YouTube videos.

One of the defendants is a Swedish resident, Mr. Josefson. He created a cheat and promoted it in various videos, adding instructions on how to download and install it. In common with the previous defendants, he is being sued for copyright infringement.

The second cheater listed in the complaint, a Russian man named Mr. Yakovenko, is more unique. This man also promoted his Fortnite cheats through a series of YouTube videos, but they weren’t very effective.

When Epic downloaded the ‘cheat’ to see how it works, all they got was a Bitcoin miner.

“Epic downloaded the purported cheat from the links provided in Yakovenko’s YouTube videos. While the ‘cheat’ does not appear to be a functional Fortnite cheat, it functions as a bitcoin miner that infects the user’s computer with a virus that causes the user’s computer to mine bitcoin for the benefit of an unknown third party,” the complaint reads.

Epic ‘cheat’

Despite the non-working cheat, Epic Games maintains that Yakovenko created a cheat for Fortnite’s Battle Royale game mode, pointing to a YouTube video he posted last month.

“The First Yakovenko video and associated post contained instructions on how to download and install the cheat and showed full screen gameplay using the purported cheat,” the complaint reads.

All the videos have since been removed following takedown notices from Epic. Through the lawsuit, the game developer now hopes to get compensation for the damages it suffered.

In addition to the copyright infringement claims the two men are also accused of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and breach of contract.

There’s little doubt that Epic Games is doing its best to hold cheaters accountable. However, the problem is not easy to contain. A simple search for Fortnite Hack or Fortnite Cheat still yields tens of thousands of results, with new videos being added continuously.

A copy of the full complaint against Josefson and Yakovenko is available here (pdf).

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

More on Kaspersky and the Stolen NSA Attack Tools

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/more_on_kaspers.html

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting that Israel has penetrated Kaspersky’s network and detected the Russian operation.

From the New York Times:

Israeli intelligence officers informed the NSA that, in the course of their Kaspersky hack, they uncovered evidence that Russian government hackers were using Kaspersky’s access to aggressively scan for American government classified programs and pulling any findings back to Russian intelligence systems. [Israeli intelligence] provided their NSA counterparts with solid evidence of the Kremlin campaign in the form of screenshots and other documentation, according to the people briefed on the events.

Kaspersky first noticed the Israeli intelligence operation in 2015.

The Washington Post writes about the NSA tools being on the home computer in the first place:

The employee, whose name has not been made public and is under investigation by federal prosecutors, did not intend to pass the material to a foreign adversary. “There wasn’t any malice,” said one person familiar with the case, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case. “It’s just that he was trying to complete the mission, and he needed the tools to do it.

I don’t buy this. People with clearances are told over and over not to take classified material home with them. It’s not just mentioned occasionally; it’s a core part of the job.

More news articles.

"Responsible encryption" fallacies

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

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

The importance of law enforcement

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where law enforcement can’t go

Rosenstein repeats the frequent claim in the encryption debate:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balance between privacy and public safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“But it’s not conclusive”

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

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

Terrorists and child molesters

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

Definition of “backdoor”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple is morally weak

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

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

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

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

A better phrasing would have been:

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

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

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

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

They are willing to be vile

Rosenstein makes this argument:

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

Let me translate this for you:

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

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

Constitutional Rights

Rosenstein says:

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

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

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

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

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

Obliged to speak the truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Yet Another Russian Hack of the NSA — This Time with Kaspersky’s Help

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/yet_another_rus.html

The Wall Street Journal has a bombshell of a story. Yet another NSA contractor took classified documents home with him. Yet another Russian intelligence operation stole copies of those documents. The twist this time is that the Russians identified the documents because the contractor had Kaspersky Labs anti-virus installed on his home computer.

This is a huge deal, both for the NSA and Kaspersky. The Wall Street Journal article contains no evidence, only unnamed sources. But I am having trouble seeing how the already embattled Kaspersky Labs survives this.

WSJ follow up. Four more news articles.

EDITED TO ADD: This is either an example of the Russians subverting a perfectly reasonable security feature in Kaspersky’s products, or Kaspersky adding a plausible feature at the request of Russian intelligence. In the latter case, it’s a nicely deniable Russian information operation. In either case, it’s an impressive Russian information operation.

What’s getting a lot less press is yet another NSA contractor stealing top-secret cyberattack software. What is it with the NSA’s inability to keep anything secret anymore?

EDITED TO ADD (10/8): Another article.

HP Shared ArcSight Source Code with Russians

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/hp_shared_arcsi.html

Reuters is reporting that HP Enterprise gave the Russians a copy of the ArcSight source code.

The article highlights that ArcSight is used by the Pentagon to protect classified networks, but the security risks are much broader. Any weaknesses the Russians discover could be used against any ArcSight customer.

What is HP Enterprise thinking? Near as I can tell, they only gave it away because the Russians asked nicely.

Supply chain security is very difficult. The article says that Russia demands source code because it’s worried about supply chain security: “One reason Russia requests the reviews before allowing sales to government agencies and state-run companies is to ensure that U.S. intelligence services have not placed spy tools in the software.” That’s a reasonable thing to worry about, considering what we know about NSA’s interdiction of commercial hardware and software products. But how can Group A convince Group B of the integrity and security of hardware/software without putting itself at risk from Group B?

This is one of the areas where open-source software has a security edge. If everyone has access to the source code — and security doesn’t depend on its secrecy — then there’s no advantage in getting a copy. As long as companies rely on obscurity for their security, these sorts of attacks are possible and profitable.

I wonder what sorts of assurances HP Enterprise gave its customers that it would secure its source code, and if any of those customers have negligence options against HP Enterprise.

News articles.

EDITED TO ADD (10/5): Commentary.

MPAA Reports Pirate Sites, Hosts and Ad-Networks to US Government

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/mpaa-reports-pirate-sites-hosts-and-ad-networks-to-us-government-171004/

Responding to a request from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has submitted an updated list of “notorious markets” that it says promote the illegal distribution of movies and TV-shows.

These annual submissions help to guide the U.S. Government’s position towards foreign countries when it comes to copyright enforcement.

What stands out in the MPAA’s latest overview is that it no longer includes offline markets, only sites and services that are available on the Internet. This suggests that online copyright infringement is seen as a priority.

The MPAA’s report includes more than two dozen alleged pirate sites in various categories. While this is not an exhaustive list, the movie industry specifically highlights some of the worst offenders in various categories.

“Content thieves take advantage of a wide constellation of easy-to-use online technologies, such as direct download and streaming, to create infringing sites and applications, often with the look and feel of legitimate content distributors, luring unsuspecting consumers into piracy,” the MPAA writes.

According to the MPAA, torrent sites remain popular, serving millions of torrents to tens of millions of users at any given time.

The Pirate Bay has traditionally been one of the main targets. Based on data from Alexa and SimilarWeb, the MPAA says that TPB has about 62 million unique visitors per month. The other torrent sites mentioned are 1337x.to, Rarbg.to, Rutracker.org, and Torrentz2.eu.

MPAA calls out torrent sites

The second highlighted category covers various linking and streaming sites. This includes the likes of Fmovies.is, Gostream.is, Primewire.ag, Kinogo.club, MeWatchSeries.to, Movie4k.tv and Repelis.tv.

Direct download sites and video hosting services also get a mention. Nowvideo.sx, Openload.co, Rapidgator.net, Uploaded.net and the Russian social network VK.com. Many of these services refuse to properly process takedown notices, the MPAA claims.

The last category is new and centers around piracy apps. These sites offer mobile applications that allow users to stream pirated content, such as IpPlayBox.tv, MoreTV, 3DBoBoVR, TVBrowser, and KuaiKa, which are particularly popular in Asia.

Aside from listing specific sites, the MPAA also draws the US Government’s attention to the streaming box problem. The report specifically mentions that Kodi-powered boxes are regularly abused for infringing purposes.

“An emerging global threat is streaming piracy which is enabled by piracy devices preloaded with software to illicitly stream movies and television programming and a burgeoning ecosystem of infringing add-ons,” the MPAA notes.

“The most popular software is an open source media player software, Kodi. Although Kodi is not itself unlawful, and does not host or link to unlicensed content, it can be easily configured to direct consumers toward unlicensed films and television shows.”

Pirate streaming boxes

There are more than 750 websites offering infringing devices, the Hollywood group notes, adding that the rapid growth of this problem is startling. Interestingly, the report mentions TVAddons.ag as a “piracy add-on repository,” noting that it’s currently offline. Whether the new TVAddons is also seen a problematic is unclear.

The MPAA also continues its trend of calling out third-party intermediaries, including hosting providers. These companies refuse to take pirate sites offline following complaints, even when the MPAA views them as blatantly violating the law.

“Hosting companies provide the essential infrastructure required to operate a website,” the MPAA writes. “Given the central role of hosting providers in the online ecosystem, it is very concerning that many refuse to take action upon being notified…”

The Hollywood group specifically mentions Private Layer and Netbrella as notorious markets. CDN provider CloudFlare is also named. As a US-based company, the latter can’t be included in the list. However, the MPAA explains that it is often used as an anonymization tool by sites and services that are mentioned in the report.

Another group of intermediaries that play a role in fueling piracy (mentioned for the first time) are advertising networks. The MPAA specifically calls out the Canadian company WWWPromoter, which works with sites such as Primewire.ag, Projectfreetv.at and 123movies.to

“The companies connecting advertisers to infringing websites and inadvertently contribute to the prevalence and prosperity of infringing sites by providing funding to the operators of these sites through advertising revenue,” the MPAA writes.

The MPAA’s full report is available here (pdf). The USTR will use this input above to make up its own list of notorious markets. This will help to identify current threats and call on foreign governments to take appropriate action.

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

‘New “DeUHD” Tool Can Rip UHD Blu-Ray Discs’

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/new-deuhd-tool-can-rip-uhd-blu-ray-discs-171002/

While there is no shortage of pirated films on the Internet, Ultra-high-definition content is often hard to find.

Not only are the file sizes enormous, but the protection is better than that deployed to regular content. Protected with strong AACS 2 encryption, it has long been one of the last bastions movie pirates had yet to breach.

This year there have been some major developments on this front, as full copies of UHD Blu-Ray Discs began to leak online. While it remained unclear how these were ripped, it was a definite milestone.

Now, there’s another breakthrough to report on. Russian company Arusoft has released a new commercially available tool called DeUHD which claims the ability to rip UHD Blu-ray discs.

“It is a tool to decrypt the UHD disc, like remove the AACS 2.0 protections,” the company states.

“DeUHD works in the background to automatically enable read access of the contents of a 4K UHD movie as soon as it’s inserted into the drive. It is also able to rip the disc to your hard disk as a folder or an ISO file, and then you can play them on your UHD player.”

The software works on recent Windows operating systems and is compatible with a limited number of UHD drives, including the LG WH16NS60 and Buffalo BRUHD-PU3.

The list of supported UHD Blu-rays is not exhaustive but includes a few dozen popular movies such as Arrival, John Wick: Chapter 2, Passengers, and Terminator Genisys. New titles are added on a regular basis, the developers promise.

DeUHD in action

TorrentFreak reached out to a source who tested the software with the supported LG BE16NU50 drive and three of the listed movies, but this didn’t work. This could mean that there are still some issues that need to be ironed out.

The developers are adamant that their software works as advertised, and have published a detailed guide on their website.

It’s not clear whether AACS 2.0 has indeed been cracked. The DeUHD team informed MyCE, who first reported on the tool, that they see it as such. In any case, the tool promises to successfully decrypt UHD Blu-ray discs, which is quite an achievement by itself.

That said, the DeUHD software doesn’t come cheap. A lifetime license is currently selling for $199. Those who want to try it first to see if it works for them can download a free trial. This trial is limited to decrypting roughly 10 minutes of a single disc.

Interestingly, a handful of new UHD releases were published by the group HDRINVASION in recent days, all titles that are also supported by DeUHD. Whether there’s a connection between the two is unknown at this point.

DeUHD website

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

HDClub, Russia’s Leading HD-Only Torrent Site, Returns as EliteHD

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/hdclub-russias-leading-hd-only-torrent-site-returns-as-elitehd-170930/

With around 170,000 users, HDClub was known for high-quality releases that often leaked to public sites like The Pirate Bay.

Describing itself as “The HighDefinition BitTorrent Community”, HDClub specialized in HD productions including Blu-ray and 3D content, covering movies, TV shows, music videos, and animation.

The site was the largest of its kind in Russia and had been around for a long time. It celebrated its tenth anniversary a few months ago and during this time it amassed over 170,000 members, which is quite significant for a private community.

However, last month the fun was over. As a total surprise to most of the members, HDTorrents’ operators decided to shut down the site. A Russian language announcement now present on its main page explains the reasons for the site’s demise.

“Recently, we received several dozens of complaints from rightsholders weekly, and our community is subjected to attacks and espionage. In parallel, there is a tightening of Internet legislation in Russia, Ukraine and EU countries,” the announcement explained.

This grim outlook was, however, paired with a glimmer of hope. “There are talks on preserving the heritage of the club,” the site teased.

This was not a false promise, it turned out this week. The former foundation of HDClub now forms the basis of a new tracker. EliteHD takes over where HDClub left off with a working copy of the code, torrents and user database.

“Welcome to the closed tracker elitehd.org. We will try to increase the best HD collection and ensure your safety and confidentiality,” EliteHD’s operators posted in a Russian announcement earlier this week.

“The new site received a full copy of the database and the code of the closed HDClub. The user base has been thoroughly cleaned, there will be no free registration,” it adds.

EliteHD’s torrents

“Thoroughly cleaned” means that around 80,000 accounts were removed and the new maximum is currently set at 100,000 registered users. The torrent database is intact though. There are over 26,000 HD torrents in the database totaling more than 500 terabytes of data.

The site’s operators note that members can continue to seed old torrents as well. All they have to do is change the torrent’s announce URL in their client, and uploads should pick up again.

In recent weeks there have been other private trackers which tried to get former HDClub users on board, but it will be hard to compete with a site that has the real database and code.

EliteHD specifically warns people not to fall for fakes and ‘unofficial’ incarnations of its predecessor. “We strongly recommend that you beware of numerous fake projects and “successors,” the site operators stress.

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

GPS Spoofing Attacks

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/gps_spoofing_at.html

Wired has a story about a possible GPS spoofing attack by Russia:

After trawling through AIS data from recent years, evidence of spoofing becomes clear. Goward says GPS data has placed ships at three different airports and there have been other interesting anomalies. “We would find very large oil tankers who could travel at the maximum speed at 15 knots,” says Goward, who was formerly director for Marine Transportation Systems at the US Coast Guard. “Their AIS, which is powered by GPS, would be saying they had sped up to 60 to 65 knots for an hour and then suddenly stopped. They had done that several times.”

All of the evidence from the Black Sea points towards a co-ordinated attempt to disrupt GPS. A recently published report from NRK found that 24 vessels appeared at Gelendzhik airport around the same time as the Atria. When contacted, a US Coast Guard representative refused to comment on the incident, saying any GPS disruption that warranted further investigation would be passed onto the Department of Defence.

“It looks like a sophisticated attack, by somebody who knew what they were doing and were just testing the system,” Bonenberg says. Humphreys told NRK it “strongly” looks like a spoofing incident. Fire Eye’s Brubaker, agreed, saying the activity looked intentional. Goward is also confident that GPS were purposely disrupted. “What this case shows us is there are entities out there that are willing and eager to disrupt satellite navigation systems for whatever reason and they can do it over a fairly large area and in a sophisticated way,” he says. “They’re not just broadcasting a stronger signal and denying service this is worse they’re providing hazardously misleading information.”

Russia’s Largest Torrent Site Celebrates 13 Years Online in a Chinese Restaurant

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russias-largest-torrent-site-celebrates-13-years-online-in-a-chinese-restaurant-170923/

For most torrent fans around the world, The Pirate Bay is the big symbol of international defiance. Over the years the site has fought, avoided, and snubbed its nose at dozens of battles, yet still remains online today.

But there is another site, located somewhere in the east, that has been online for nearly as long, has millions more registered members, and has proven just as defiant.

RuTracker, for those who haven’t yet found it, is a Russian-focused treasure trove of both local and international content. For many years the site was frequented only by native speakers but with the wonders of tools like Google Translate, anyone can use the site at the flick of the switch. When people are struggling to find content, it’s likely that RuTracker has it.

This position has attracted the negative attention of a wide range of copyright holders and thanks to legislation introduced during 2013, the site is now subject to complete blocking in Russia. In fact, RuTracker has proven so stubborn to copyright holder demands, it is now permanently blocked in the region by all ISPs.

Surprisingly, especially given the enthusiasm for blockades among copyright holders, this doesn’t seem to have dampened demand for the site’s services. According to SimiliarWeb, against all the odds the site is still pulling in around 90 million visitors per month. But the impressive stats don’t stop there.

Impressive stats for a permanently blocked site

This week, RuTracker celebrates its 13th birthday, a relative lifetime for a site that has been front and center of Russia’s most significant copyright battles, trouble which doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.

Back in 2010, for example, RU-Center, Russia’s largest domain name registrar and web-hosting provider, pulled the plug on the site’s former Torrents.ru domain. The Director of Public Relations at RU-Center said that the domain had been blocked on the orders of the Investigative Division of the regional prosecutor’s office in Moscow. The site never got its domain back but carried on regardless, despite the setbacks.

Back then the site had around 4,000,000 members but now, seven years on, its ranks have swelled to a reported 15,382,907. According to figures published by the site this week, 778,317 of those members signed up this year during a period the site was supposed to be completely inaccessible. Needless to say, its operators remain defiant.

“Today we celebrate the 13th anniversary of our tracker, which is the largest Russian (and not only) -language media library on this planet. A tracker strangely banished in the country where most of its audience is located – in Russia,” a site announcement reads.

“But, despite the prohibitions, with all these legislative obstacles, with all these technical difficulties, we see that our tracker still exists and is successfully developing. And we still believe that the library should be open and free for all, and not be subject to censorship or a victim of legislative and executive power lobbied by the monopolists of the media industry.”

It’s interesting to note the tone of the RuTracker announcement. On any other day it could’ve been written by the crew of The Pirate Bay who, in their prime, loved to stick a finger or two up to the copyright lobby and then rub their noses in it. For the team at RuTracker, that still appears to be one of the main goals.

Like The Pirate Bay but unlike many of the basic torrent indexers that have sprung up in recent years, RuTracker relies on users to upload its content. They certainly haven’t been sitting back. RuTracker reveals that during the past year and despite all the problems, users uploaded a total of 171,819 torrents – on average, 470 torrents per day.

Interestingly, the content most uploaded to the site also points to the growing internationalization of RuTracker. During the past year, the NBA / NCAA section proved most popular, closely followed by non-Russian rock music and NHL games. Non-Russian movies accounted for almost 2,000 fresh torrents in just 12 months.

“It is thanks to you this tracker lives!” the site’s operators informed the users.

“It is thanks to you that it was, is, and, for sure, will continue to offer the most comprehensive, diverse and, most importantly, quality content in the Russian Internet. You stayed with us when the tracker lost its original name: torrents.ru. You stayed with us when access to a new name was blocked in Russia: rutracker.org. You stayed with us when [the site’s trackers] were blocked. We will stay with you as long as you need us!”

So as RuTracker plans for another year online, all that remains is to celebrate its 13th birthday in style. That will be achieved tonight when every adult member of RuTracker is invited to enjoy Chinese meal at the Tian Jin Chinese Restaurant in St. Petersburg.

Turn up early, seating is limited.

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

Russia Blocks 4,000 Pirate Sites Plus 41,000 Innocent as Collateral Damage

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-blocks-4000-pirate-sites-plus-41000-innocent-as-collateral-damage-170905/

After years of criticism from both international and local rightsholders, in 2013 the Russian government decided to get tough on Internet piracy.

Under new legislation, sites engaged in Internet piracy could find themselves blocked by ISPs, rendering them inaccessible to local citizens and solving the piracy problem. Well, that was the theory, at least.

More than four years on, Russia is still grappling with a huge piracy problem that refuses to go away. It has been blocking thousands of sites at a steady rate, including RuTracker, the country’s largest torrent platform, but still the problem persists.

Now, a new report produced by Roskomsvoboda, the Center for the Protection of Digital Rights, and the Pirate Party of Russia, reveals a system that has not only failed to reach its stated aims but is also having a negative effect on the broader Internet.

“It’s already been four years since the creation of this ‘anti-piracy machine’ in Russia. The first amendments related to the fight against ‘piracy’ in the network came into force on August 1, 2013, and since then this mechanism has been twice revised,” Roskomsvoboda said in a statement.

“[These include] the emergence of additional responsibilities to restrict access to network resources and increase the number of subjects who are responsible for removing and blocking content. Since that time, several ‘purely Russian’ trends in ‘anti-piracy’ and trade in rights have also emerged.”

These revisions, which include the permanent blocking of persistently infringing sites and the planned blocking of mirror sites and anonymizers, have been widely documented. However, the researchers say that they want to shine a light on the effects of blocking procedures and subsequent actions that are causing significant issues for third-parties.

As part of the study, the authors collected data on the cases presented to the Moscow City Court by the most active plaintiffs in anti-piracy actions (mainly TV show distributors and music outfits including Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music). They describe the court process and system overall as lacking.

“The court does not conduct a ‘triple test’ and ignores the position, rights and interests of respondents and third parties. It does not check the availability of illegal information on sites and appeals against decisions of the Moscow City Court do not bring any results,” the researchers write.

“Furthermore, the cancellation of the unlimited blocking of a site is simply impossible and in respect of hosting providers and security services, those web services are charged with all the legal costs of the case.”

The main reason behind this situation is that ‘pirate’ site operators rarely (if ever) turn up to defend themselves. If at some point they are found liable for infringement under the Criminal Code, they can be liable for up to six years in prison, hardly an incentive to enter into a copyright process voluntarily. As a result, hosts and other providers act as respondents.

This means that these third-party companies appear as defendants in the majority of cases, a position they find both “unfair and illogical.” They’re also said to be confused about how they are supposed to fulfill the blocking demands placed upon them by the Court.

“About 90% of court cases take place without the involvement of the site owner, since the requirements are imposed on the hosting provider, who is not responsible for the content of the site,” the report says.

Nevertheless, hosts and other providers have been ordered to block huge numbers of pirate sites.

According to the researchers, the total has now gone beyond 4,000 domains, but the knock on effect is much more expansive. Due to the legal requirement to block sites by both IP address and other means, third-party sites with shared IP addresses get caught up as collateral damage. The report states that more than 41,000 innocent sites have been blocked as the result of supposedly targeted court orders.

But with collateral damage mounting, the main issue as far as copyright holders are concerned is whether piracy is decreasing as a result. The report draws few conclusions on that front but notes that blocks are a blunt instrument. While they may succeed in stopping some people from accessing ‘pirate’ domains, the underlying infringement carries on regardless.

“Blocks create restrictions only for Internet users who are denied access to sites, but do not lead to the removal of illegal information or prevent intellectual property violations,” the researchers add.

With no sign of the system being overhauled to tackle the issues raised in the study (pdf, Russian), Russia is now set to introduce yet new anti-piracy measures.

As recently reported, new laws requiring search engines to remove listings for ‘pirate’ mirror sites comes into effect October 1. Exactly a month later on November 1, VPNs and anonymization tools will have to be removed too, if they fail to meet the standards required under state regulation.

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

Search Engines Will Open Systems to Prove Piracy & VPN Blocking

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/search-engines-will-open-systems-to-prove-piracy-vpn-blocking-170901/

Over the past several years, Russia has become something of a world leader when it comes to website blocking. Tens of thousands of websites are now blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other grounds.

With circumvention technologies such as VPNs, however, Russian citizens are able to access blocked sites, a position that has irritated Russian authorities who are determined to control what information citizens are allowed to access.

After working on new legislation for some time, late July President Vladimir Putin signed a new law which requires local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor to maintain a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them.

Rozcomnadzor is required to contact the operators of such services with a request for them to block banned resources. If they do not, then they themselves will become blocked. In addition, search engines are also required to remove blocked resources from their search results, in order to discourage people from accessing them.

With compliance now a matter of law, attention has turned to how search engines can implement the required mechanisms. This week Roskomnadzor hosted a meeting with representatives of the largest Russian search engines including Yandex, Sputnik, Search Mail.ru, where this topic was top of the agenda.

Since failure to comply can result in a fine of around $12,000 per breach, search companies have a vested interest in the systems working well against not only pirate sites, but also mirrors and anonymization tools that provide access to them.

“During the meeting, a consolidated position on the implementation of new legislative requirements was developed,” Rozcomnadzor reports.

“It was determined that the list of blocked resources to be removed from search results will be transferred to the operators of search engines in an automated process.”

While sending over lists of domains directly to search engines probably isn’t that groundbreaking, Rozcomnadzor wants to ensure that companies like Yandex are also responding to the removal requests properly.

So, instead of simply carrying out test searches itself, it’s been agreed that the watchdog will gain direct access to the search engines’ systems, so that direct verification can take place.

“In addition, preliminary agreements have been reached that the verification of the enforcement of the law by the search engines will be carried out through the interaction of the information systems of Roskomnadzor and the operators of search engines,” Rozcomnadzor reports.

Time for search engines to come into full compliance is ticking away. The law requiring them to remove listings for ‘pirate’ mirror sites comes into effect October 1. Exactly a month later on November 1, VPNs and anonymization tools will have to be removed too, if they fail to meet the standards required under state regulation.

Part of that regulation requires anonymization services to disclose the identities of their owners to the government.

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

Russian Hacking Tools Codenamed WhiteBear Exposed

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/russian_hacking.html

Kaspersky Labs exposed a highly sophisticated set of hacking tools from Russia called WhiteBear.

From February to September 2016, WhiteBear activity was narrowly focused on embassies and consular operations around the world. All of these early WhiteBear targets were related to embassies and diplomatic/foreign affair organizations. Continued WhiteBear activity later shifted to include defense-related organizations into June 2017. When compared to WhiteAtlas infections, WhiteBear deployments are relatively rare and represent a departure from the broader Skipper Turla target set. Additionally, a comparison of the WhiteAtlas framework to WhiteBear components indicates that the malware is the product of separate development efforts. WhiteBear infections appear to be preceded by a condensed spearphishing dropper, lack Firefox extension installer payloads, and contain several new components signed with a new code signing digital certificate, unlike WhiteAtlas incidents and modules.

The exact delivery vector for WhiteBear components is unknown to us, although we have very strong suspicion the group spearphished targets with malicious pdf files. The decoy pdf document above was likely stolen from a target or partner. And, although WhiteBear components have been consistently identified on a subset of systems previously targeted with the WhiteAtlas framework, and maintain components within the same filepaths and can maintain identical filenames, we were unable to firmly tie delivery to any specific WhiteAtlas component. WhiteBear focused on various embassies and diplomatic entities around the world in early 2016 — tellingly, attempts were made to drop and display decoy pdf’s with full diplomatic headers and content alongside executable droppers on target systems.

One of the clever things the tool does is use hijacked satellite connections for command and control, helping it evade detection by broad surveillance capabilities like what what NSA uses. We’ve seen Russian attack tools that do this before. More details are in the Kaspersky blog post.

Given all the trouble Kaspersky is having because of its association with Russia, it’s interesting to speculate on this disclosure. Either they are independent, and have burned a valuable Russian hacking toolset. Or the Russians decided that the toolset was already burned — maybe the NSA knows all about it and has neutered it somehow — and allowed Kaspersky to publish. Or maybe it’s something in between. That’s the problem with this kind of speculation: without any facts, your theories just amplify whatever opinion you had previously.

Oddly, there hasn’t been much press about this. I have only found one story.

EDITED TO ADD: A colleague pointed out to me that Kaspersky announcements like this often get ignored by the press. There was very little written about ProjectSauron, for example.

EDITED TO ADD: The text I originally wrote said that Kaspersky released the attacks tools, like what Shadow Brokers is doing. They did not. They just exposed the existence of them. Apologies for that error — it was sloppy wording.

HDClub, Russia’s Leading HD-Only Torrent Site, Permanently Shuts Down

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/hdclub-russias-leading-hd-torrent-site-permanently-shuts-down-170830/

While millions of users frequent popular public torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and RARBG every day, there’s a thriving scene that’s hidden from the wider public eye.

Every week, private torrent trackers cater to dozens of millions of BitTorrent users who have taken the time and effort to gain access to these more secretive communities. Often labeled as elitist and running counter to the broad sharing ethos that made file-sharing the beast it is today, private sites pride themselves on quality, order and speed, something public sites typically struggle to match.

In addition to these notable qualities, many private sites choose to focus on a particular niche. There are sites dedicated to obscure electronic music, comedy, and even magic, but HDClub’s focus was given away by its name.

Dubbing itself “The HighDefinition BitTorrent Community”, HDClub specialized in HD productions including Blu-ray and 3D content, covering movies, TV shows, music videos, and animation.

Born in 2007, HDClub celebrated its ninth birthday on March 9 last year, with 2017 heralding a full decade online for the site. Catering mainly to the Russian and Ukrainian markets, the site’s releases often preserved an English audio option, ideal for those looking for high-quality releases from an unorthodox source at decent speeds.

Of course, HDClub releases often leaked out of the site, meaning that thousands are still available on regular public trackers, as a search on any Western torrent engine reveals.

A sample of HDClub releases listed on Torrentz2

Importantly, the site offered thousands of releases completely unavailable in Russia from licensed sources, meaning it filled a niche in which official outlets either wouldn’t or couldn’t compete. This earned itself a place in Russia’s Top 1000 sites list, despite being a closed membership platform.

The site’s attention to detail and focus earned it a considerable following. For the past few years the site capped membership at 190,000 people but in practice, attendance floated around the 170,000 mark. Seeders peaked at approximately 400,000 with leechers considerably less, making seeding as difficult as one might expect on a ratio-based tracker.

Now, however, the decade-long run of HDClub has come to an abrupt end. Early this week the tracker went dark, reportedly without advance notice. A Russian language announcement now present on its main page explains the reasons for the site’s demise.

“Recently, we received several dozens of complaints from rightsholders weekly, and our community is subjected to attacks and espionage,” the announcement reads.

While public torrent sites are always bombarded with DMCA-style notices, private sites tend to avoid large numbers of complaints. In this case, however, HDClub were clearly feeling the pressure. The site’s main page was open to the public while featuring popular releases, so this probably didn’t help with the load.

It’s not clear what is meant by “attacks and espionage” but it’s possibly a reference to DDoS assaults and third-parties attempting to monitor the site. Nevertheless, as HDClub points out, the climate for torrent, streaming, and similar sites has become increasingly hostile in the region recently.

“In parallel, there is a tightening of Internet legislation in Russia, Ukraine and EU countries,” the site says.

Interestingly, the site’s operators also suggest that interest from some quarters had waned, noting that “the time of enthusiasts irretrievably goes away.” It’s unclear whether that’s a reference to site users, the site’s operators, or indeed both. But in any event, any significant decline in any area can prove fatal, particularly when other pressures are at play.

“In the circumstances, we can no longer support the work of the club in the originally conceived format. The project is closed, but we ask you to refrain from long farewells. Thank you all and goodbye!” the message concludes.

Interestingly, the site ends with a little teaser, which may indicate some hope for the future.

“There are talks on preserving the heritage of the club,” it reads, without adding further details.

Possibly stay tuned…..

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

Porn Producer Says He’ll Prove That AMC TV Exec is a BitTorrent Pirate

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/porn-producer-says-hell-prove-that-amc-tv-exec-is-a-bittorrent-pirate-170818/

When people are found sharing copyrighted pornographic content online in the United States, there’s always a chance that an angry studio will attempt to track down the perpertrator in pursuit of a cash settlement.

That’s what adult studio Flava Works did recently, after finding its content being shared without permission on a number of gay-focused torrent sites. It’s now clear that their target was Marc Juris, President & General Manager of AMC-owned WE tv. Until this week, however, that information was secret.

As detailed in our report yesterday, Flava Works contacted Juris with an offer of around $97,000 to settle the case before trial. And, crucially, before Juris was publicly named in a lawsuit. If Juris decided not to pay, that amount would increase significantly, Flava Works CEO Phillip Bleicher told him at the time.

Not only did Juris not pay, he actually went on the offensive, filing a ‘John Doe’ complaint in a California district court which accused Flava Works of extortion and blackmail. It’s possible that Juris felt that this would cause Flava Works to back off but in fact, it had quite the opposite effect.

In a complaint filed this week in an Illinois district court, Flava Works named Juris and accused him of a broad range of copyright infringement offenses.

The complaint alleges that Juris was a signed-up member of Flava Works’ network of websites, from where he downloaded pornographic content as his subscription allowed. However, it’s claimed that Juris then uploaded this material elsewhere, in breach of copyright law.

“Defendant downloaded copyrighted videos of Flava Works as part of his paid memberships and, in violation of the terms and conditions of the paid sites, posted and distributed the aforesaid videos on other websites, including websites with peer to peer sharing and torrents technology,” the complaint reads.

“As a result of Defendant’ conduct, third parties were able to download the copyrighted videos, without permission of Flava Works.”

In addition to demanding injunctions against Juris, Flava Works asks the court for a judgment in its favor amounting to a cool $1.2m, more than twelve times the amount it was initially prepared to settle for. It’s a huge amount, but according to CEO Phillip Bleicher, it’s what his company is owed, despite Juris being a former customer.

“Juris was a member of various Flava Works websites at various times dating back to 2006. He is no longer a member and his login info has been blocked by us to prevent him from re-joining,” Bleicher informs TF.

“We allow full downloads, although each download a person performs, it tags the video with a hidden code that identifies who the user was that downloaded it and their IP info and date / time.”

We asked Bleicher how he can be sure that the content downloaded from Flava Works and re-uploaded elsewhere was actually uploaded by Juris. Fine details weren’t provided but he’s insistent that the company’s evidence holds up.

“We identified him directly, this was done by cross referencing all his IP logins with Flava Works, his email addresses he used and his usernames. We can confirm that he is/was a member of Gay-Torrents.org and Gayheaven.org. We also believe (we will find out in discovery) that he is a member of a Russian file sharing site called GayTorrent.Ru,” he says.

While the technicalities of who downloaded and shared what will be something for the court to decide, there’s still Juris’ allegations that Bleicher used extortion-like practices to get him to settle and used his relative fame against him. Bleicher says that’s not how things played out.

“[Juris] hired an attorney and they agreed to settle out of court. But then we saw him still accessing the file sharing sites (one site shows a user’s last login) and we were waiting on the settlement agreement to be drafted up by his attorney,” he explains.

“When he kept pushing the date of when we would see an agreement back we gave him a final deadline and said that after this date we would sue [him] and with all lawsuits – we make a press release.”

Bleicher says at this point Juris replaced his legal team and hired lawyer Mark Geragos, who Bleicher says tried to “bully” him, warning him of potential criminal offenses.

“Your threats in the last couple months to ‘expose’ Mr. Juris knowing he is a high profile individual, i.e., today you threatened to issue a press release, to induce him into wiring you close to $100,000 is outright extortion and subject to criminal prosecution,” Geragos wrote.

“I suggest you direct your attention to various statutes which specifically criminalize your conduct in the various jurisdictions where you have threatened suit.”

Interestingly, Geragos then went on to suggest that the lawsuit may ultimately backfire, since going public might affect Flava Works’ reputation in the gay market.

“With respect to Mr. Juris, your actions have been nothing but extortion and we reject your attempts and will vigorously pursue all available remedies against you,” Geragos’ email reads.

“We intend to use the platform you have provided to raise awareness in the LGBTQ community of this new form of digital extortion that you promote.”

But Bleicher, it seems, is up for a fight.

“Marc knows what he did and enjoyed downloading our videos and sharing them and those of videos of other studios, but now he has been caught,” he told the lawyer.

“This is the kind of case I would like to take all the way to trial, win or lose. It shows
people that want to steal our copyrighted videos that we aggressively protect our intellectual property.”

But to the tune of $1.2m? Apparently so.

“We could get up to $150,000 per infringement – we have solid proof of eight full videos – not to mention we have caught [Juris] downloading many other studios’ videos too – I think – but not sure – the number was over 75,” Bleicher told TF.

It’s quite rare for this kind of dispute to play out in public, especially considering Juris’ profile and occupation. Only time will tell if this will ultimately end in a settlement, but Bleicher and Juris seemed determined at this stage to stand by their ground and fight this out in court.

Complaint (pdf)

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

Query name minimization

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/08/query-name-minimization.html

One new thing you need to add your DNS security policies is “query name minimizations” (RFC 7816). I thought I’d mention it since many haven’t heard about it.

Right now, when DNS resolvers lookup a name like “www.example.com.”, they send the entire name to the root server (like a.root-servers.net.). When it gets back the answer to the .com DNS server a.gtld-servers.net), it then resends the full “www.example.com” query to that server.

This is obviously unnecessary. The first query should be just .com. to the root server, then example.com. to the next server — the minimal amount needed for each query, not the full query.

The reason this is important is that everyone is listening in on root name server queries. Universities and independent researchers do this to maintain the DNS system, and to track malware. Security companies do this also to track malware, bots, command-and-control channels, and so forth. The world’s biggest spy agencies do this in order just to spy on people. Minimizing your queries prevents them from spying on you.

An example where this is important is that story of lookups from AlfaBank in Russia for “mail1.trump-emails.com”. Whatever you think of Trump, this was an improper invasion of privacy, where DNS researchers misused their privileged access in order to pursue their anti-Trump political agenda. If AlfaBank had used query name minimization, none of this would have happened.

It’s also critical for not exposing internal resources. Even when you do “split DNS”, when the .com record expires, you resolver will still forward the internal DNS record to the outside world. All those Russian hackers can map out the internal names of your network simply by eavesdropping on root server queries.

Servers that support this are Knot resolver and Unbound 1.5.7+ and possibly others. It’s a relatively new standard, so it make take a while for other DNS servers to support this.

Top 10 Most Obvious Hacks of All Time (v0.9)

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/07/top-10-most-obvious-hacks-of-all-time.html

For teaching hacking/cybersecurity, I thought I’d create of the most obvious hacks of all time. Not the best hacks, the most sophisticated hacks, or the hacks with the biggest impact, but the most obvious hacks — ones that even the least knowledgeable among us should be able to understand. Below I propose some hacks that fit this bill, though in no particular order.

The reason I’m writing this is that my niece wants me to teach her some hacking. I thought I’d start with the obvious stuff first.

Shared Passwords

If you use the same password for every website, and one of those websites gets hacked, then the hacker has your password for all your websites. The reason your Facebook account got hacked wasn’t because of anything Facebook did, but because you used the same email-address and password when creating an account on “beagleforums.com”, which got hacked last year.

I’ve heard people say “I’m sure, because I choose a complex password and use it everywhere”. No, this is the very worst thing you can do. Sure, you can the use the same password on all sites you don’t care much about, but for Facebook, your email account, and your bank, you should have a unique password, so that when other sites get hacked, your important sites are secure.

And yes, it’s okay to write down your passwords on paper.

Tools: HaveIBeenPwned.com

PIN encrypted PDFs

My accountant emails PDF statements encrypted with the last 4 digits of my Social Security Number. This is not encryption — a 4 digit number has only 10,000 combinations, and a hacker can guess all of them in seconds.
PIN numbers for ATM cards work because ATM machines are online, and the machine can reject your card after four guesses. PIN numbers don’t work for documents, because they are offline — the hacker has a copy of the document on their own machine, disconnected from the Internet, and can continue making bad guesses with no restrictions.
Passwords protecting documents must be long enough that even trillion upon trillion guesses are insufficient to guess.

Tools: Hashcat, John the Ripper

SQL and other injection

The lazy way of combining websites with databases is to combine user input with an SQL statement. This combines code with data, so the obvious consequence is that hackers can craft data to mess with the code.
No, this isn’t obvious to the general public, but it should be obvious to programmers. The moment you write code that adds unfiltered user-input to an SQL statement, the consequence should be obvious. Yet, “SQL injection” has remained one of the most effective hacks for the last 15 years because somehow programmers don’t understand the consequence.
CGI shell injection is a similar issue. Back in early days, when “CGI scripts” were a thing, it was really important, but these days, not so much, so I just included it with SQL. The consequence of executing shell code should’ve been obvious, but weirdly, it wasn’t. The IT guy at the company I worked for back in the late 1990s came to me and asked “this guy says we have a vulnerability, is he full of shit?”, and I had to answer “no, he’s right — obviously so”.

XSS (“Cross Site Scripting”) [*] is another injection issue, but this time at somebody’s web browser rather than a server. It works because websites will echo back what is sent to them. For example, if you search for Cross Site Scripting with the URL https://www.google.com/search?q=cross+site+scripting, then you’ll get a page back from the server that contains that string. If the string is JavaScript code rather than text, then some servers (thought not Google) send back the code in the page in a way that it’ll be executed. This is most often used to hack somebody’s account: you send them an email or tweet a link, and when they click on it, the JavaScript gives control of the account to the hacker.

Cross site injection issues like this should probably be their own category, but I’m including it here for now.

More: Wikipedia on SQL injection, Wikipedia on cross site scripting.
Tools: Burpsuite, SQLmap

Buffer overflows

In the C programming language, programmers first create a buffer, then read input into it. If input is long than the buffer, then it overflows. The extra bytes overwrite other parts of the program, letting the hacker run code.
Again, it’s not a thing the general public is expected to know about, but is instead something C programmers should be expected to understand. They should know that it’s up to them to check the length and stop reading input before it overflows the buffer, that there’s no language feature that takes care of this for them.
We are three decades after the first major buffer overflow exploits, so there is no excuse for C programmers not to understand this issue.

What makes particular obvious is the way they are wrapped in exploits, like in Metasploit. While the bug itself is obvious that it’s a bug, actually exploiting it can take some very non-obvious skill. However, once that exploit is written, any trained monkey can press a button and run the exploit. That’s where we get the insult “script kiddie” from — referring to wannabe-hackers who never learn enough to write their own exploits, but who spend a lot of time running the exploit scripts written by better hackers than they.

More: Wikipedia on buffer overflow, Wikipedia on script kiddie,  “Smashing The Stack For Fun And Profit” — Phrack (1996)
Tools: bash, Metasploit

SendMail DEBUG command (historical)

The first popular email server in the 1980s was called “SendMail”. It had a feature whereby if you send a “DEBUG” command to it, it would execute any code following the command. The consequence of this was obvious — hackers could (and did) upload code to take control of the server. This was used in the Morris Worm of 1988. Most Internet machines of the day ran SendMail, so the worm spread fast infecting most machines.
This bug was mostly ignored at the time. It was thought of as a theoretical problem, that might only rarely be used to hack a system. Part of the motivation of the Morris Worm was to demonstrate that such problems was to demonstrate the consequences — consequences that should’ve been obvious but somehow were rejected by everyone.

More: Wikipedia on Morris Worm

Email Attachments/Links

I’m conflicted whether I should add this or not, because here’s the deal: you are supposed to click on attachments and links within emails. That’s what they are there for. The difference between good and bad attachments/links is not obvious. Indeed, easy-to-use email systems makes detecting the difference harder.
On the other hand, the consequences of bad attachments/links is obvious. That worms like ILOVEYOU spread so easily is because people trusted attachments coming from their friends, and ran them.
We have no solution to the problem of bad email attachments and links. Viruses and phishing are pervasive problems. Yet, we know why they exist.

Default and backdoor passwords

The Mirai botnet was caused by surveillance-cameras having default and backdoor passwords, and being exposed to the Internet without a firewall. The consequence should be obvious: people will discover the passwords and use them to take control of the bots.
Surveillance-cameras have the problem that they are usually exposed to the public, and can’t be reached without a ladder — often a really tall ladder. Therefore, you don’t want a button consumers can press to reset to factory defaults. You want a remote way to reset them. Therefore, they put backdoor passwords to do the reset. Such passwords are easy for hackers to reverse-engineer, and hence, take control of millions of cameras across the Internet.
The same reasoning applies to “default” passwords. Many users will not change the defaults, leaving a ton of devices hackers can hack.

Masscan and background radiation of the Internet

I’ve written a tool that can easily scan the entire Internet in a short period of time. It surprises people that this possible, but it obvious from the numbers. Internet addresses are only 32-bits long, or roughly 4 billion combinations. A fast Internet link can easily handle 1 million packets-per-second, so the entire Internet can be scanned in 4000 seconds, little more than an hour. It’s basic math.
Because it’s so easy, many people do it. If you monitor your Internet link, you’ll see a steady trickle of packets coming in from all over the Internet, especially Russia and China, from hackers scanning the Internet for things they can hack.
People’s reaction to this scanning is weirdly emotional, taking is personally, such as:
  1. Why are they hacking me? What did I do to them?
  2. Great! They are hacking me! That must mean I’m important!
  3. Grrr! How dare they?! How can I hack them back for some retribution!?

I find this odd, because obviously such scanning isn’t personal, the hackers have no idea who you are.

Tools: masscan, firewalls

Packet-sniffing, sidejacking

If you connect to the Starbucks WiFi, a hacker nearby can easily eavesdrop on your network traffic, because it’s not encrypted. Windows even warns you about this, in case you weren’t sure.

At DefCon, they have a “Wall of Sheep”, where they show passwords from people who logged onto stuff using the insecure “DefCon-Open” network. Calling them “sheep” for not grasping this basic fact that unencrypted traffic is unencrypted.

To be fair, it’s actually non-obvious to many people. Even if the WiFi itself is not encrypted, SSL traffic is. They expect their services to be encrypted, without them having to worry about it. And in fact, most are, especially Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and other major services that won’t allow you to log in anymore without encryption.

But many services (especially old ones) may not be encrypted. Unless users check and verify them carefully, they’ll happily expose passwords.

What’s interesting about this was 10 years ago, when most services which only used SSL to encrypt the passwords, but then used unencrypted connections after that, using “cookies”. This allowed the cookies to be sniffed and stolen, allowing other people to share the login session. I used this on stage at BlackHat to connect to somebody’s GMail session. Google, and other major websites, fixed this soon after. But it should never have been a problem — because the sidejacking of cookies should have been obvious.

Tools: Wireshark, dsniff

Stuxnet LNK vulnerability

Again, this issue isn’t obvious to the public, but it should’ve been obvious to anybody who knew how Windows works.
When Windows loads a .dll, it first calls the function DllMain(). A Windows link file (.lnk) can load icons/graphics from the resources in a .dll file. It does this by loading the .dll file, thus calling DllMain. Thus, a hacker could put on a USB drive a .lnk file pointing to a .dll file, and thus, cause arbitrary code execution as soon as a user inserted a drive.
I say this is obvious because I did this, created .lnks that pointed to .dlls, but without hostile DllMain code. The consequence should’ve been obvious to me, but I totally missed the connection. We all missed the connection, for decades.

Social Engineering and Tech Support [* * *]

After posting this, many people have pointed out “social engineering”, especially of “tech support”. This probably should be up near #1 in terms of obviousness.

The classic example of social engineering is when you call tech support and tell them you’ve lost your password, and they reset it for you with minimum of questions proving who you are. For example, you set the volume on your computer really loud and play the sound of a crying baby in the background and appear to be a bit frazzled and incoherent, which explains why you aren’t answering the questions they are asking. They, understanding your predicament as a new parent, will go the extra mile in helping you, resetting “your” password.

One of the interesting consequences is how it affects domain names (DNS). It’s quite easy in many cases to call up the registrar and convince them to transfer a domain name. This has been used in lots of hacks. It’s really hard to defend against. If a registrar charges only $9/year for a domain name, then it really can’t afford to provide very good tech support — or very secure tech support — to prevent this sort of hack.

Social engineering is such a huge problem, and obvious problem, that it’s outside the scope of this document. Just google it to find example after example.

A related issue that perhaps deserves it’s own section is OSINT [*], or “open-source intelligence”, where you gather public information about a target. For example, on the day the bank manager is out on vacation (which you got from their Facebook post) you show up and claim to be a bank auditor, and are shown into their office where you grab their backup tapes. (We’ve actually done this).

More: Wikipedia on Social Engineering, Wikipedia on OSINT, “How I Won the Defcon Social Engineering CTF” — blogpost (2011), “Questioning 42: Where’s the Engineering in Social Engineering of Namespace Compromises” — BSidesLV talk (2016)

Blue-boxes (historical) [*]

Telephones historically used what we call “in-band signaling”. That’s why when you dial on an old phone, it makes sounds — those sounds are sent no differently than the way your voice is sent. Thus, it was possible to make tone generators to do things other than simply dial calls. Early hackers (in the 1970s) would make tone-generators called “blue-boxes” and “black-boxes” to make free long distance calls, for example.

These days, “signaling” and “voice” are digitized, then sent as separate channels or “bands”. This is call “out-of-band signaling”. You can’t trick the phone system by generating tones. When your iPhone makes sounds when you dial, it’s entirely for you benefit and has nothing to do with how it signals the cell tower to make a call.

Early hackers, like the founders of Apple, are famous for having started their careers making such “boxes” for tricking the phone system. The problem was obvious back in the day, which is why as the phone system moves from analog to digital, the problem was fixed.

More: Wikipedia on blue box, Wikipedia article on Steve Wozniak.

Thumb drives in parking lots [*]

A simple trick is to put a virus on a USB flash drive, and drop it in a parking lot. Somebody is bound to notice it, stick it in their computer, and open the file.

This can be extended with tricks. For example, you can put a file labeled “third-quarter-salaries.xlsx” on the drive that required macros to be run in order to open. It’s irresistible to other employees who want to know what their peers are being paid, so they’ll bypass any warning prompts in order to see the data.

Another example is to go online and get custom USB sticks made printed with the logo of the target company, making them seem more trustworthy.

We also did a trick of taking an Adobe Flash game “Punch the Monkey” and replaced the monkey with a logo of a competitor of our target. They now only played the game (infecting themselves with our virus), but gave to others inside the company to play, infecting others, including the CEO.

Thumb drives like this have been used in many incidents, such as Russians hacking military headquarters in Afghanistan. It’s really hard to defend against.

More: “Computer Virus Hits U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan” — USNews (2008), “The Return of the Worm That Ate The Pentagon” — Wired (2011), DoD Bans Flash Drives — Stripes (2008)

Googling [*]

Search engines like Google will index your website — your entire website. Frequently companies put things on their website without much protection because they are nearly impossible for users to find. But Google finds them, then indexes them, causing them to pop up with innocent searches.
There are books written on “Google hacking” explaining what search terms to look for, like “not for public release”, in order to find such documents.

More: Wikipedia entry on Google Hacking, “Google Hacking” book.

URL editing [*]

At the top of every browser is what’s called the “URL”. You can change it. Thus, if you see a URL that looks like this:

http://www.example.com/documents?id=138493

Then you can edit it to see the next document on the server:

http://www.example.com/documents?id=138494

The owner of the website may think they are secure, because nothing points to this document, so the Google search won’t find it. But that doesn’t stop a user from manually editing the URL.
An example of this is a big Fortune 500 company that posts the quarterly results to the website an hour before the official announcement. Simply editing the URL from previous financial announcements allows hackers to find the document, then buy/sell the stock as appropriate in order to make a lot of money.
Another example is the classic case of Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer who did this trick in order to download the account email addresses of early owners of the iPad, including movie stars and members of the Obama administration. It’s an interesting legal case because on one hand, techies consider this so obvious as to not be “hacking”. On the other hand, non-techies, especially judges and prosecutors, believe this to be obviously “hacking”.

DDoS, spoofing, and amplification [*]

For decades now, online gamers have figured out an easy way to win: just flood the opponent with Internet traffic, slowing their network connection. This is called a DoS, which stands for “Denial of Service”. DoSing game competitors is often a teenager’s first foray into hacking.
A variant of this is when you hack a bunch of other machines on the Internet, then command them to flood your target. (The hacked machines are often called a “botnet”, a network of robot computers). This is called DDoS, or “Distributed DoS”. At this point, it gets quite serious, as instead of competitive gamers hackers can take down entire businesses. Extortion scams, DDoSing websites then demanding payment to stop, is a common way hackers earn money.
Another form of DDoS is “amplification”. Sometimes when you send a packet to a machine on the Internet it’ll respond with a much larger response, either a very large packet or many packets. The hacker can then send a packet to many of these sites, “spoofing” or forging the IP address of the victim. This causes all those sites to then flood the victim with traffic. Thus, with a small amount of outbound traffic, the hacker can flood the inbound traffic of the victim.
This is one of those things that has worked for 20 years, because it’s so obvious teenagers can do it, yet there is no obvious solution. President Trump’s executive order of cyberspace specifically demanded that his government come up with a report on how to address this, but it’s unlikely that they’ll come up with any useful strategy.

More: Wikipedia on DDoS, Wikipedia on Spoofing

Conclusion

Tweet me (@ErrataRob) your obvious hacks, so I can add them to the list.

Russia Bans ‘Uncensored’ VPNs, Proxies and TOR

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/russia-bans-unrestricted-vpns-proxies-and-tor-in-russia-170731/

Russia has swiftly become a world leader when it comes to website blocking. Tens of thousands of websites are blocked in the country on copyright infringement and a wide range of other grounds.

However, as is often the case, not all citizens willingly subject themselves to these type of restrictions. On the contrary, many use proxies or anonymizing services such as VPNs and TOR to gain access.

In recent months, the Russian Government has worked on legislation to crack down on these circumvention tools as well, and local media report that President Vladimir Putin has now signed the proposed bill into law.

Under the new law, local telecoms watchdog Rozcomnadzor will keep a list of banned domains while identifying sites, services, and software that provide access to them. Rozcomnadzor will then try to contact the operators of the services, urging them to ban the blocked websites, or face the same fate.

The FSB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be tasked with monitoring offenses, which they will then refer to the telecoms watchdog.

In addition to targeting the circumvention sites, services, and their hosts, the bill targets search engines as well.

Search engines will be required to remove links to blocked resources from their results, as these would encourage people to access prohibited material. Search engines that fail to comply with the new requirements face a $12,400 penalty per breach.

Local search giant Yandex previously spoke out against the far-reaching requirements, describing them as unnecessary.

“We believe that the laying of responsibilities on search engines is superfluous,” a Yandex spokesperson said.

“Even if the reference to a [banned] resource does appear in search results, it does not mean that by clicking on it the user will get access, if it was already blocked by ISPs or in any other ways,” the company added.

The new legislation has not been without controversy. Earlier this month many Russians protested the plans, but this had little effect on the final vote. In the Duma, the bill was approved by 373 deputies. Only two voted against the plans, and another and two abstained.

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

Ethereum, Proof-of-Stake… and the consequences

Post Syndicated from Григор original http://www.gatchev.info/blog/?p=2070

For those who aren’t cryptocurrency-savvy: Ethereum is a cryptocurrency project, based around the coin Ether. It has the support of many big banks, big hedge funds and some states (Russia, China etc). Among the cryptocurrencies, it is second only to Bitcoin – and might even overtake it with the time. (Especially if Bitcoin doesn’t finally move and fix some of its problems.)

Ethereum offers some abilities that few other cryptocurrencies do. The most important one is the support for “smart projects” – kind of electronic contracts that can easily be executed and enforced with little to no human participation. This post however is dedicated to another of its traits – the Proof of Stake.

To work and exist, every cryptocurrency depends on some proof. Most of them use Proof-of-Work scheme. In it, one has to put some work – eg. calculating checksums – behind its participation in the network and its decision, and receive newly generated coins for it. This however results in huge amount of work done only to prove that, well, you can do it and deserve to be in and receive some of the newly squeezed juice.

As of August 2017, Ethereum uses this scheme too. However, they plan to switch to a Proof-of-Stake algorithm named Casper. In it, you prove yourself not by doing work, but by proving to own Ether. As this requires practically no work, it is much more technically effective than the Proof-of-Work schemes.

Technically, Caspar is an amazing design. I congratulate the Ethereum team for it. However, economically its usage appears to have an important weakness. It is described below.

—-

A polarized system

With Casper, the Ether generated by the Ethereum network and the decision power in it are distributed to these who already own Ether. As a consequence, most of both go to those who own most Ether. (There might be attempts to limit that, but these are easily defeatable. For example, limiting the amount distributed to an address can be circumvented by a Sybil attack.)

Such a distribution will create with the time a financial ecosystem where most money and vote are held by a small minority of the participants. The big majority will have little to no of both – it will summarily hold less money and vote than the minority of “haves”. Giving the speed with which the cryptocurrency systems evolve, it is realistic to expect this development in ten, maybe even in five or less years after introducing Casper.

The “middle class”

Economists love to repeat how important is to have a strong middle class. Why, and how that translates to the situation in a cryptocurrency-based financial system?

In systemic terms, “middle class” denotes in a financial system the set of entities that control each a noticeable but not very big amount of resources.

Game theory shows that in a financial system, entities with different clout usually have different interests. These interests usually reflect the amount of resources they control. Entities with little to no resources tend to have interests opposing to these with biggest resources – especially in systems where the total amount of resources changes slowly and the economics is close to a zero-sum game. (For example, in most cryptocurrency systems.) The “middle class” entities interests are in most aspects in the middle.

For an economics to work, there must be a balance of interests that creates incentive for all of its members to participate. In financial systems, where “haves” interests are mostly opposing to “have-nots” interests, creating such a balance depends on the presence and influence of a “middle class”. Its interests are usually the closest to a compromise that satisfies all, and its influence is the key to achieving that compromise within the system.

If the system state is not acceptable for all entities, these who do not accept it eventually leave. (Usually their participation is required for the system survival, so this brings the system down.) If these entities cannot leave the system, they ultimately reject its rules and try to change it by force. If that is impossible too, they usually resort to denying the system what makes them useful for it, thus decreasing its competitiveness to other systems.

The most reliable way to have acceptable compromise enforced in a system is to have in it a “middle class” that summarily controls more resources than any other segment of entities, preferably at least 51% of the system resources. (This assumes that the “middle class” is able and willing to protect their interests. If some of these entities are controlled into defending someone else’s interests – eg. botnets in computer networks, manipulated voters during elections, etc – these numbers apply to the non-controlled among them.)

A system that doesn’t have a non-controlled “middle class” that controls a decisive amount of resources, usually does not have an influential set of interests that are an acceptable compromise between the interests poles. For this reason, it can be called a polarized system.

The limitation on development

In a polarized system, the incentive for development is minimized. (Development is potentially disruptive, and the majority of the financial abilities and the decision power there has only to lose from a disruption. When factoring in the expected profits from development, the situation always becomes a zero-sum game.) The system becomes static (thus cementing the zero-sum game situation in it) and is under threat of being overtaken by a competing financial system. When that happens, it is usually destroyed together with all stakes in it.

Also, almost any initiative in such a financial system is bound to turn into a cartel, oligopoly or monopoly, due to the small number of participants with resources to start and support an initiative. That effectively destroys its markets, contributing to the weakness of the system and limiting further its ability to develop.

Another problem that stems from this is that the incentive during an interaction to violate the rules and to push the contragent into a loss is greater than the incentive to compete by giving a better offer. This in turn removes the incentive to increase productivity, which is a key incentive for development.)

Yet another problem of the concentration of most resources into few entities is the increased gain from attacking one of them and appropriating their resources, and thus the incentive to do it. Since good defensive capabilities are usually an excellent offense base, this pulls the “haves” into an “arms race”, redirecting more and more of their resources into defense. This also leaves the development outside the arms race increasingly resource-strapped. (The “arms race” itself generates development, but the race situation prevents that into trickling into “non-military” applications.)

These are only a part of the constraints on development in a polarized system. Listing all of them will make a long read.

Trickle-up and trickle-down

In theory, every economical system involves two processes: trickle-down and trickle-up. So, any concentration of resources on the top should be decreased by an automatically increased trickle-down. However, a better understanding how these processes work shows that this logic is faulty.

Any financial exchange in a system consists of two parts. One of them covers the actual production cost of whatever resource is being exchanged against the finances. The other part is the profit of the entity that obtains the finances. From the viewpoint of that entity, the first part vs. the resource given is zero-sum – its incentive to participate in this exchange is the second part, the profit. That second part is effectively the trickle in the system, as it is the only resource really gained.

The direction and the size of the trickle ultimately depends on the balance of many factors, some of them random, others constant. On the long run, it is the constant factors that determine the size and the direction of the trickle sum.

The most important constant factor is the benefit of scale (BOS). It dictates that the bigger entities are able to pull the balance to their side more strongly than the smaller ones. Some miss that chance, but others use it. It makes the trickle-up stronger than the trickle-down. In a system where the transaction outcome is close to a zero-sum game, this concentrates all resources at the top with a speed depending on the financial interactions volume per an unit of time.

(Actually the formula is a bit more complex. All dynamic entities – eg. living organisms, active companies etc – have an “existence maintenance” expense, which they cannot avoid. However, the amount of resources in a system above the summary existence maintenance follows the simple rule above. And these are the only resources that are available for investing in anything, eg. development.)

In the real-life systems the BOS power is limited. There are many different random factors that compete with and influence one another, some of them outweighing BOS. Also, in every moment some factors lose importance and / or cease to exist, while others appear and / or gain importance. The complexity of this system makes any attempt by an entity or entities pool to take control over it hard and slow. This gives the other entities time and ways to react and try to block the takeover attempt. Also, the real-life systems have many built-in constraints against scale-based takeovers – anti-trust laws, separation of the government powers, enforced financial trickle-down through taxes on the rich and benefits for the poor, etc. All these together manage to prevent most takeover attempts, or to limit them into only a segment of the system.

How a Proof-of-Stake based cryptocurrency fares at these?

A POS-based cryptocurrency financial system has no constraints against scale-based takeovers. It has only one kind of clout – the amount of resources controlled by an entity. This kind of clout is built in it, has all the importance in it and cannot lose that or disappear. It has no other types of resources, and has no slowing due to complexity. It is not segmented – who has these resources has it all. There are no built-in constraints against scale-based takeovers, or mechanisms to strengthen resource trickle-down. In short, it is the ideal ground for creating a polarized financial system.

So, it would be only logical to expect that a Proof-of-Stake based Ether financial system will suffer by the problems a polarized system presents. Despite all of its technical ingenuity, its longer-term financial usability is limited, and the participation in it may be dangerous to any entity smaller than eg. a big bank, a big hedge fund or a big authoritarian state.

All fixes for this problem I could think of by now would be easily beaten by simple attacks. I am not sure if it is possible to have a reliable solution to it at all.

Do smart contracts and secondary tokens change this?

Unhappily, no. Smart contracts are based on having Ether, and need Ether to exist and act. Thus, they are bound to the financial situation of the Ether financial system, and are influenced by it. The bigger is the scope of the smart contract, the bigger is its dependence on the Ether situation.

Due to this, smart contracts of meaningful size will find themselves hampered and maybe even endangered by a polarization in the financial system powered by POS-based Ethereum. It is technically possible to migrate these contracts to a competing underlying system, but it won’t be easy – probably even when the competing system is technically a clone of Ethereum, like Ethereum Classic. The migration cost might exceed the migration benefits at any given stage of the contract project development, even if the total migration benefits are far larger than this cost.

Eventually this problem might become public knowledge and most projects in need of a smart contract might start avoiding Ethereum. This will lead to decreased interest in participation in the Ethereum ecosystem, to a loss of market cap, and eventually maybe even to the demise of this technically great project.

Other dangers

There is a danger that the “haves” minority in a polarized system might start actively investing resources in creating other systems that suffer from the same problem (as they benefit from it), or in modifying existing systems in this direction. This might decrease the potential for development globally. As some of the backers of Ethereum are entities with enormous clout worldwide, that negative influence on the global system might be significant.

Zero-Day Vulnerabilities against Windows in the NSA Tools Released by the Shadow Brokers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/07/zero-day_vulner.html

In April, the Shadow Brokers — presumably Russia — released a batch of Windows exploits from what is presumably the NSA. Included in that release were eight different Windows vulnerabilities. Given a presumed theft date of the data as sometime between 2012 and 2013 — based on timestamps of the documents and the limited Windows 8 support of the tools:

  • Three were already patched by Microsoft. That is, they were not zero days, and could only be used against unpatched targets. They are EMERALDTHREAD, EDUCATEDSCHOLAR, and ECLIPSEDWING.
  • One was discovered to have been used in the wild and patched in 2014: ESKIMOROLL.

  • Four were only patched when the NSA informed Microsoft about them in early 2017: ETERNALBLUE, ETERNALSYNERGY, ETERNALROMANCE, and ETERNALCHAMPION.

So of the five serious zero-day vulnerabilities against Windows in the NSA’s pocket, four were never independently discovered. This isn’t new news, but I haven’t seen this summary before.