Tag Archives: United

The devil wears Pravda

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original https://blog.erratasec.com/2018/05/the-devil-wears-pravda.html

Classic Bond villain, Elon Musk, has a new plan to create a website dedicated to measuring the credibility and adherence to “core truth” of journalists. He is, without any sense of irony, going to call this “Pravda”. This is not simply wrong but evil.

Musk has a point. Journalists do suck, and many suck consistently. I see this in my own industry, cybersecurity, and I frequently criticize them for their suckage.

But what he’s doing here is not correcting them when they make mistakes (or what Musk sees as mistakes), but questioning their legitimacy. This legitimacy isn’t measured by whether they follow established journalism ethics, but whether their “core truths” agree with Musk’s “core truths”.

An example of the problem is how the press fixates on Tesla car crashes due to its “autopilot” feature. Pretty much every autopilot crash makes national headlines, while the press ignores the other 40,000 car crashes that happen in the United States each year. Musk spies on Tesla drivers (hello, classic Bond villain everyone) so he can see the dip in autopilot usage every time such a news story breaks. He’s got good reason to be concerned about this.

He argues that autopilot is safer than humans driving, and he’s got the statistics and government studies to back this up. Therefore, the press’s fixation on Tesla crashes is illegitimate “fake news”, titillating the audience with distorted truth.

But here’s the thing: that’s still only Musk’s version of the truth. Yes, on a mile-per-mile basis, autopilot is safer, but there’s nuance here. Autopilot is used primarily on freeways, which already have a low mile-per-mile accident rate. People choose autopilot only when conditions are incredibly safe and drivers are unlikely to have an accident anyway. Musk is therefore being intentionally deceptive comparing apples to oranges. Autopilot may still be safer, it’s just that the numbers Musk uses don’t demonstrate this.

And then there is the truth calling it “autopilot” to begin with, because it isn’t. The public is overrating the capabilities of the feature. It’s little different than “lane keeping” and “adaptive cruise control” you can now find in other cars. In many ways, the technology is behind — my Tesla doesn’t beep at me when a pedestrian walks behind my car while backing up, but virtually every new car on the market does.

Yes, the press unduly covers Tesla autopilot crashes, but Musk has only himself to blame by unduly exaggerating his car’s capabilities by calling it “autopilot”.

What’s “core truth” is thus rather difficult to obtain. What the press satisfies itself with instead is smaller truths, what they can document. The facts are in such cases that the accident happened, and they try to get Tesla or Musk to comment on it.

What you can criticize a journalist for is therefore not “core truth” but whether they did journalism correctly. When such stories criticize “autopilot”, but don’t do their diligence in getting Tesla’s side of the story, then that’s a violation of journalistic practice. When I criticize journalists for their poor handling of stories in my industry, I try to focus on which journalistic principles they get wrong. For example, the NYTimes reporters do a lot of stories quoting anonymous government sources in clear violation of journalistic principles.

If “credibility” is the concern, then it’s the classic Bond villain here that’s the problem: Musk himself. His track record on business statements is abysmal. For example, when he announced the Model 3 he claimed production targets that every Wall Street analyst claimed were absurd. He didn’t make those targets, he didn’t come close. Model 3 production is still lagging behind Musk’s twice adjusted targets.

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-tesla-tracker/

So who has a credibility gap here, the press, or Musk himself?

Not only is Musk’s credibility problem ironic, so is the name he chose, “Pravada”, the Russian word for truth that was the name of the Soviet Union Communist Party’s official newspaper. This is so absurd this has to be a joke, yet Musk claims to be serious about all this.

Yes, the press has a lot of problems, and if Musk were some journalism professor concerned about journalists meeting the objective standards of their industry (e.g. abusing anonymous sources), then this would be a fine thing. But it’s not. It’s Musk who is upset the press’s version of “core truth” does not agree with his version — a version that he’s proven time and time again differs from “real truth”.

Just in case Musk is serious, I’ve already registered “www.antipravda.com” to start measuring the credibility of statements by billionaire playboy CEOs. Let’s see who blinks first.


I stole the title, with permission, from this tweet:

AWS IoT 1-Click – Use Simple Devices to Trigger Lambda Functions

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-iot-1-click-use-simple-devices-to-trigger-lambda-functions/

We announced a preview of AWS IoT 1-Click at AWS re:Invent 2017 and have been refining it ever since, focusing on simplicity and a clean out-of-box experience. Designed to make IoT available and accessible to a broad audience, AWS IoT 1-Click is now generally available, along with new IoT buttons from AWS and AT&T.

I sat down with the dev team a month or two ago to learn about the service so that I could start thinking about my blog post. During the meeting they gave me a pair of IoT buttons and I started to think about some creative ways to put them to use. Here are a few that I came up with:

Help Request – Earlier this month I spent a very pleasant weekend at the HackTillDawn hackathon in Los Angeles. As the participants were hacking away, they occasionally had questions about AWS, machine learning, Amazon SageMaker, and AWS DeepLens. While we had plenty of AWS Solution Architects on hand (decked out in fashionable & distinctive AWS shirts for easy identification), I imagined an IoT button for each team. Pressing the button would alert the SA crew via SMS and direct them to the proper table.

Camera ControlTim Bray and I were in the AWS video studio, prepping for the first episode of Tim’s series on AWS Messaging. Minutes before we opened the Twitch stream I realized that we did not have a clean, unobtrusive way to ask the camera operator to switch to a closeup view. Again, I imagined that a couple of IoT buttons would allow us to make the request.

Remote Dog Treat Dispenser – My dog barks every time a stranger opens the gate in front of our house. While it is great to have confirmation that my Ring doorbell is working, I would like to be able to press a button and dispense a treat so that Luna stops barking!

Homes, offices, factories, schools, vehicles, and health care facilities can all benefit from IoT buttons and other simple IoT devices, all managed using AWS IoT 1-Click.

All About AWS IoT 1-Click
As I said earlier, we have been focusing on simplicity and a clean out-of-box experience. Here’s what that means:

Architects can dream up applications for inexpensive, low-powered devices.

Developers don’t need to write any device-level code. They can make use of pre-built actions, which send email or SMS messages, or write their own custom actions using AWS Lambda functions.

Installers don’t have to install certificates or configure cloud endpoints on newly acquired devices, and don’t have to worry about firmware updates.

Administrators can monitor the overall status and health of each device, and can arrange to receive alerts when a device nears the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced, using a single interface that spans device types and manufacturers.

I’ll show you how easy this is in just a moment. But first, let’s talk about the current set of devices that are supported by AWS IoT 1-Click.

Who’s Got the Button?
We’re launching with support for two types of buttons (both pictured above). Both types of buttons are pre-configured with X.509 certificates, communicate to the cloud over secure connections, and are ready to use.

The AWS IoT Enterprise Button communicates via Wi-Fi. It has a 2000-click lifetime, encrypts outbound data using TLS, and can be configured using BLE and our mobile app. It retails for $19.99 (shipping and handling not included) and can be used in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

The AT&T LTE-M Button communicates via the LTE-M cellular network. It has a 1500-click lifetime, and also encrypts outbound data using TLS. The device and the bundled data plan is available an an introductory price of $29.99 (shipping and handling not included), and can be used in the United States.

We are very interested in working with device manufacturers in order to make even more shapes, sizes, and types of devices (badge readers, asset trackers, motion detectors, and industrial sensors, to name a few) available to our customers. Our team will be happy to tell you about our provisioning tools and our facility for pushing OTA (over the air) updates to large fleets of devices; you can contact them at [email protected].

AWS IoT 1-Click Concepts
I’m eager to show you how to use AWS IoT 1-Click and the buttons, but need to introduce a few concepts first.

Device – A button or other item that can send messages. Each device is uniquely identified by a serial number.

Placement Template – Describes a like-minded collection of devices to be deployed. Specifies the action to be performed and lists the names of custom attributes for each device.

Placement – A device that has been deployed. Referring to placements instead of devices gives you the freedom to replace and upgrade devices with minimal disruption. Each placement can include values for custom attributes such as a location (“Building 8, 3rd Floor, Room 1337”) or a purpose (“Coffee Request Button”).

Action – The AWS Lambda function to invoke when the button is pressed. You can write a function from scratch, or you can make use of a pair of predefined functions that send an email or an SMS message. The actions have access to the attributes; you can, for example, send an SMS message with the text “Urgent need for coffee in Building 8, 3rd Floor, Room 1337.”

Getting Started with AWS IoT 1-Click
Let’s set up an IoT button using the AWS IoT 1-Click Console:

If I didn’t have any buttons I could click Buy devices to get some. But, I do have some, so I click Claim devices to move ahead. I enter the device ID or claim code for my AT&T button and click Claim (I can enter multiple claim codes or device IDs if I want):

The AWS buttons can be claimed using the console or the mobile app; the first step is to use the mobile app to configure the button to use my Wi-Fi:

Then I scan the barcode on the box and click the button to complete the process of claiming the device. Both of my buttons are now visible in the console:

I am now ready to put them to use. I click on Projects, and then Create a project:

I name and describe my project, and click Next to proceed:

Now I define a device template, along with names and default values for the placement attributes. Here’s how I set up a device template (projects can contain several, but I just need one):

The action has two mandatory parameters (phone number and SMS message) built in; I add three more (Building, Room, and Floor) and click Create project:

I’m almost ready to ask for some coffee! The next step is to associate my buttons with this project by creating a placement for each one. I click Create placements to proceed. I name each placement, select the device to associate with it, and then enter values for the attributes that I established for the project. I can also add additional attributes that are peculiar to this placement:

I can inspect my project and see that everything looks good:

I click on the buttons and the SMS messages appear:

I can monitor device activity in the AWS IoT 1-Click Console:

And also in the Lambda Console:

The Lambda function itself is also accessible, and can be used as-is or customized:

As you can see, this is the code that lets me use {{*}}include all of the placement attributes in the message and {{Building}} (for example) to include a specific placement attribute.

Now Available
I’ve barely scratched the surface of this cool new service and I encourage you to give it a try (or a click) yourself. Buy a button or two, build something cool, and let me know all about it!

Pricing is based on the number of enabled devices in your account, measured monthly and pro-rated for partial months. Devices can be enabled or disabled at any time. See the AWS IoT 1-Click Pricing page for more info.

To learn more, visit the AWS IoT 1-Click home page or read the AWS IoT 1-Click documentation.

Jeff;

 

Sending Inaudible Commands to Voice Assistants

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

Researchers have demonstrated the ability to send inaudible commands to voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online ­– simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

Analyze Apache Parquet optimized data using Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose, Amazon Athena, and Amazon Redshift

Post Syndicated from Roy Hasson original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/analyzing-apache-parquet-optimized-data-using-amazon-kinesis-data-firehose-amazon-athena-and-amazon-redshift/

Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose is the easiest way to capture and stream data into a data lake built on Amazon S3. This data can be anything—from AWS service logs like AWS CloudTrail log files, Amazon VPC Flow Logs, Application Load Balancer logs, and others. It can also be IoT events, game events, and much more. To efficiently query this data, a time-consuming ETL (extract, transform, and load) process is required to massage and convert the data to an optimal file format, which increases the time to insight. This situation is less than ideal, especially for real-time data that loses its value over time.

To solve this common challenge, Kinesis Data Firehose can now save data to Amazon S3 in Apache Parquet or Apache ORC format. These are optimized columnar formats that are highly recommended for best performance and cost-savings when querying data in S3. This feature directly benefits you if you use Amazon Athena, Amazon Redshift, AWS Glue, Amazon EMR, or any other big data tools that are available from the AWS Partner Network and through the open-source community.

Amazon Connect is a simple-to-use, cloud-based contact center service that makes it easy for any business to provide a great customer experience at a lower cost than common alternatives. Its open platform design enables easy integration with other systems. One of those systems is Amazon Kinesis—in particular, Kinesis Data Streams and Kinesis Data Firehose.

What’s really exciting is that you can now save events from Amazon Connect to S3 in Apache Parquet format. You can then perform analytics using Amazon Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum in real time, taking advantage of this key performance and cost optimization. Of course, Amazon Connect is only one example. This new capability opens the door for a great deal of opportunity, especially as organizations continue to build their data lakes.

Amazon Connect includes an array of analytics views in the Administrator dashboard. But you might want to run other types of analysis. In this post, I describe how to set up a data stream from Amazon Connect through Kinesis Data Streams and Kinesis Data Firehose and out to S3, and then perform analytics using Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum. I focus primarily on the Kinesis Data Firehose support for Parquet and its integration with the AWS Glue Data Catalog, Amazon Athena, and Amazon Redshift.

Solution overview

Here is how the solution is laid out:

 

 

The following sections walk you through each of these steps to set up the pipeline.

1. Define the schema

When Kinesis Data Firehose processes incoming events and converts the data to Parquet, it needs to know which schema to apply. The reason is that many times, incoming events contain all or some of the expected fields based on which values the producers are advertising. A typical process is to normalize the schema during a batch ETL job so that you end up with a consistent schema that can easily be understood and queried. Doing this introduces latency due to the nature of the batch process. To overcome this issue, Kinesis Data Firehose requires the schema to be defined in advance.

To see the available columns and structures, see Amazon Connect Agent Event Streams. For the purpose of simplicity, I opted to make all the columns of type String rather than create the nested structures. But you can definitely do that if you want.

The simplest way to define the schema is to create a table in the Amazon Athena console. Open the Athena console, and paste the following create table statement, substituting your own S3 bucket and prefix for where your event data will be stored. A Data Catalog database is a logical container that holds the different tables that you can create. The default database name shown here should already exist. If it doesn’t, you can create it or use another database that you’ve already created.

CREATE EXTERNAL TABLE default.kfhconnectblog (
  awsaccountid string,
  agentarn string,
  currentagentsnapshot string,
  eventid string,
  eventtimestamp string,
  eventtype string,
  instancearn string,
  previousagentsnapshot string,
  version string
)
STORED AS parquet
LOCATION 's3://your_bucket/kfhconnectblog/'
TBLPROPERTIES ("parquet.compression"="SNAPPY")

That’s all you have to do to prepare the schema for Kinesis Data Firehose.

2. Define the data streams

Next, you need to define the Kinesis data streams that will be used to stream the Amazon Connect events.  Open the Kinesis Data Streams console and create two streams.  You can configure them with only one shard each because you don’t have a lot of data right now.

3. Define the Kinesis Data Firehose delivery stream for Parquet

Let’s configure the Data Firehose delivery stream using the data stream as the source and Amazon S3 as the output. Start by opening the Kinesis Data Firehose console and creating a new data delivery stream. Give it a name, and associate it with the Kinesis data stream that you created in Step 2.

As shown in the following screenshot, enable Record format conversion (1) and choose Apache Parquet (2). As you can see, Apache ORC is also supported. Scroll down and provide the AWS Glue Data Catalog database name (3) and table names (4) that you created in Step 1. Choose Next.

To make things easier, the output S3 bucket and prefix fields are automatically populated using the values that you defined in the LOCATION parameter of the create table statement from Step 1. Pretty cool. Additionally, you have the option to save the raw events into another location as defined in the Source record S3 backup section. Don’t forget to add a trailing forward slash “ / “ so that Data Firehose creates the date partitions inside that prefix.

On the next page, in the S3 buffer conditions section, there is a note about configuring a large buffer size. The Parquet file format is highly efficient in how it stores and compresses data. Increasing the buffer size allows you to pack more rows into each output file, which is preferred and gives you the most benefit from Parquet.

Compression using Snappy is automatically enabled for both Parquet and ORC. You can modify the compression algorithm by using the Kinesis Data Firehose API and update the OutputFormatConfiguration.

Be sure to also enable Amazon CloudWatch Logs so that you can debug any issues that you might run into.

Lastly, finalize the creation of the Firehose delivery stream, and continue on to the next section.

4. Set up the Amazon Connect contact center

After setting up the Kinesis pipeline, you now need to set up a simple contact center in Amazon Connect. The Getting Started page provides clear instructions on how to set up your environment, acquire a phone number, and create an agent to accept calls.

After setting up the contact center, in the Amazon Connect console, choose your Instance Alias, and then choose Data Streaming. Under Agent Event, choose the Kinesis data stream that you created in Step 2, and then choose Save.

At this point, your pipeline is complete.  Agent events from Amazon Connect are generated as agents go about their day. Events are sent via Kinesis Data Streams to Kinesis Data Firehose, which converts the event data from JSON to Parquet and stores it in S3. Athena and Amazon Redshift Spectrum can simply query the data without any additional work.

So let’s generate some data. Go back into the Administrator console for your Amazon Connect contact center, and create an agent to handle incoming calls. In this example, I creatively named mine Agent One. After it is created, Agent One can get to work and log into their console and set their availability to Available so that they are ready to receive calls.

To make the data a bit more interesting, I also created a second agent, Agent Two. I then made some incoming and outgoing calls and caused some failures to occur, so I now have enough data available to analyze.

5. Analyze the data with Athena

Let’s open the Athena console and run some queries. One thing you’ll notice is that when we created the schema for the dataset, we defined some of the fields as Strings even though in the documentation they were complex structures.  The reason for doing that was simply to show some of the flexibility of Athena to be able to parse JSON data. However, you can define nested structures in your table schema so that Kinesis Data Firehose applies the appropriate schema to the Parquet file.

Let’s run the first query to see which agents have logged into the system.

The query might look complex, but it’s fairly straightforward:

WITH dataset AS (
  SELECT 
    from_iso8601_timestamp(eventtimestamp) AS event_ts,
    eventtype,
    -- CURRENT STATE
    json_extract_scalar(
      currentagentsnapshot,
      '$.agentstatus.name') AS current_status,
    from_iso8601_timestamp(
      json_extract_scalar(
        currentagentsnapshot,
        '$.agentstatus.starttimestamp')) AS current_starttimestamp,
    json_extract_scalar(
      currentagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.firstname') AS current_firstname,
    json_extract_scalar(
      currentagentsnapshot,
      '$.configuration.lastname') AS current_lastname,
    json_extract_scalar(
      currentagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.username') AS current_username,
    json_extract_scalar(
      currentagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.routingprofile.defaultoutboundqueue.name') AS               current_outboundqueue,
    json_extract_scalar(
      currentagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.routingprofile.inboundqueues[0].name') as current_inboundqueue,
    -- PREVIOUS STATE
    json_extract_scalar(
      previousagentsnapshot, 
      '$.agentstatus.name') as prev_status,
    from_iso8601_timestamp(
      json_extract_scalar(
        previousagentsnapshot, 
       '$.agentstatus.starttimestamp')) as prev_starttimestamp,
    json_extract_scalar(
      previousagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.firstname') as prev_firstname,
    json_extract_scalar(
      previousagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.lastname') as prev_lastname,
    json_extract_scalar(
      previousagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.username') as prev_username,
    json_extract_scalar(
      previousagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.routingprofile.defaultoutboundqueue.name') as current_outboundqueue,
    json_extract_scalar(
      previousagentsnapshot, 
      '$.configuration.routingprofile.inboundqueues[0].name') as prev_inboundqueue
  from kfhconnectblog
  where eventtype <> 'HEART_BEAT'
)
SELECT
  current_status as status,
  current_username as username,
  event_ts
FROM dataset
WHERE eventtype = 'LOGIN' AND current_username <> ''
ORDER BY event_ts DESC

The query output looks something like this:

Here is another query that shows the sessions each of the agents engaged with. It tells us where they were incoming or outgoing, if they were completed, and where there were missed or failed calls.

WITH src AS (
  SELECT
     eventid,
     json_extract_scalar(currentagentsnapshot, '$.configuration.username') as username,
     cast(json_extract(currentagentsnapshot, '$.contacts') AS ARRAY(JSON)) as c,
     cast(json_extract(previousagentsnapshot, '$.contacts') AS ARRAY(JSON)) as p
  from kfhconnectblog
),
src2 AS (
  SELECT *
  FROM src CROSS JOIN UNNEST (c, p) AS contacts(c_item, p_item)
),
dataset AS (
SELECT 
  eventid,
  username,
  json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.contactid') as c_contactid,
  json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.channel') as c_channel,
  json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.initiationmethod') as c_direction,
  json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.queue.name') as c_queue,
  json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.state') as c_state,
  from_iso8601_timestamp(json_extract_scalar(c_item, '$.statestarttimestamp')) as c_ts,
  
  json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.contactid') as p_contactid,
  json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.channel') as p_channel,
  json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.initiationmethod') as p_direction,
  json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.queue.name') as p_queue,
  json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.state') as p_state,
  from_iso8601_timestamp(json_extract_scalar(p_item, '$.statestarttimestamp')) as p_ts
FROM src2
)
SELECT 
  username,
  c_channel as channel,
  c_direction as direction,
  p_state as prev_state,
  c_state as current_state,
  c_ts as current_ts,
  c_contactid as id
FROM dataset
WHERE c_contactid = p_contactid
ORDER BY id DESC, current_ts ASC

The query output looks similar to the following:

6. Analyze the data with Amazon Redshift Spectrum

With Amazon Redshift Spectrum, you can query data directly in S3 using your existing Amazon Redshift data warehouse cluster. Because the data is already in Parquet format, Redshift Spectrum gets the same great benefits that Athena does.

Here is a simple query to show querying the same data from Amazon Redshift. Note that to do this, you need to first create an external schema in Amazon Redshift that points to the AWS Glue Data Catalog.

SELECT 
  eventtype,
  json_extract_path_text(currentagentsnapshot,'agentstatus','name') AS current_status,
  json_extract_path_text(currentagentsnapshot, 'configuration','firstname') AS current_firstname,
  json_extract_path_text(currentagentsnapshot, 'configuration','lastname') AS current_lastname,
  json_extract_path_text(
    currentagentsnapshot,
    'configuration','routingprofile','defaultoutboundqueue','name') AS current_outboundqueue,
FROM default_schema.kfhconnectblog

The following shows the query output:

Summary

In this post, I showed you how to use Kinesis Data Firehose to ingest and convert data to columnar file format, enabling real-time analysis using Athena and Amazon Redshift. This great feature enables a level of optimization in both cost and performance that you need when storing and analyzing large amounts of data. This feature is equally important if you are investing in building data lakes on AWS.

 


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Analyzing VPC Flow Logs with Amazon Kinesis Firehose, Amazon Athena, and Amazon QuickSight and Work with partitioned data in AWS Glue.


About the Author

Roy Hasson is a Global Business Development Manager for AWS Analytics. He works with customers around the globe to design solutions to meet their data processing, analytics and business intelligence needs. Roy is big Manchester United fan cheering his team on and hanging out with his family.

 

 

 

Supply-Chain Security

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

Earlier this month, the Pentagon stopped selling phones made by the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei on military bases because they might be used to spy on their users.

It’s a legitimate fear, and perhaps a prudent action. But it’s just one instance of the much larger issue of securing our supply chains.

All of our computerized systems are deeply international, and we have no choice but to trust the companies and governments that touch those systems. And while we can ban a few specific products, services or companies, no country can isolate itself from potential foreign interference.

In this specific case, the Pentagon is concerned that the Chinese government demanded that ZTE and Huawei add “backdoors” to their phones that could be surreptitiously turned on by government spies or cause them to fail during some future political conflict. This tampering is possible because the software in these phones is incredibly complex. It’s relatively easy for programmers to hide these capabilities, and correspondingly difficult to detect them.

This isn’t the first time the United States has taken action against foreign software suspected to contain hidden features that can be used against us. Last December, President Trump signed into law a bill banning software from the Russian company Kaspersky from being used within the US government. In 2012, the focus was on Chinese-made Internet routers. Then, the House Intelligence Committee concluded: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

Nor is the United States the only country worried about these threats. In 2014, China reportedly banned antivirus products from both Kaspersky and the US company Symantec, based on similar fears. In 2017, the Indian government identified 42 smartphone apps that China subverted. Back in 1997, the Israeli company Check Point was dogged by rumors that its government added backdoors into its products; other of that country’s tech companies have been suspected of the same thing. Even al-Qaeda was concerned; ten years ago, a sympathizer released the encryption software Mujahedeen Secrets, claimed to be free of Western influence and backdoors. If a country doesn’t trust another country, then it can’t trust that country’s computer products.

But this trust isn’t limited to the country where the company is based. We have to trust the country where the software is written — and the countries where all the components are manufactured. In 2016, researchers discovered that many different models of cheap Android phones were sending information back to China. The phones might be American-made, but the software was from China. In 2016, researchers demonstrated an even more devious technique, where a backdoor could be added at the computer chip level in the factory that made the chips ­ without the knowledge of, and undetectable by, the engineers who designed the chips in the first place. Pretty much every US technology company manufactures its hardware in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

We also have to trust the programmers. Today’s large software programs are written by teams of hundreds of programmers scattered around the globe. Backdoors, put there by we-have-no-idea-who, have been discovered in Juniper firewalls and D-Link routers, both of which are US companies. In 2003, someone almost slipped a very clever backdoor into Linux. Think of how many countries’ citizens are writing software for Apple or Microsoft or Google.

We can go even farther down the rabbit hole. We have to trust the distribution systems for our hardware and software. Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency installing backdoors into Cisco routers being shipped to the Syrian telephone company. There are fake apps in the Google Play store that eavesdrop on you. Russian hackers subverted the update mechanism of a popular brand of Ukrainian accounting software to spread the NotPetya malware.

In 2017, researchers demonstrated that a smartphone can be subverted by installing a malicious replacement screen.

I could go on. Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government. And just as Russia is penetrating the US power grid so they have that capability in the event of hostilities, many countries are almost certainly doing the same thing at the consumer level.

We don’t know whether the risk of Huawei and ZTE equipment is great enough to warrant the ban. We don’t know what classified intelligence the United States has, and what it implies. But we do know that this is just a minor fix for a much larger problem. It’s doubtful that this ban will have any real effect. Members of the military, and everyone else, can still buy the phones. They just can’t buy them on US military bases. And while the US might block the occasional merger or acquisition, or ban the occasional hardware or software product, we’re largely ignoring that larger issue. Solving it borders on somewhere between incredibly expensive and realistically impossible.

Perhaps someday, global norms and international treaties will render this sort of device-level tampering off-limits. But until then, all we can do is hope that this particular arms race doesn’t get too far out of control.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.

10 visualizations to try in Amazon QuickSight with sample data

Post Syndicated from Karthik Kumar Odapally original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/10-visualizations-to-try-in-amazon-quicksight-with-sample-data/

If you’re not already familiar with building visualizations for quick access to business insights using Amazon QuickSight, consider this your introduction. In this post, we’ll walk through some common scenarios with sample datasets to provide an overview of how you can connect yuor data, perform advanced analysis and access the results from any web browser or mobile device.

The following visualizations are built from the public datasets available in the links below. Before we jump into that, let’s take a look at the supported data sources, file formats and a typical QuickSight workflow to build any visualization.

Which data sources does Amazon QuickSight support?

At the time of publication, you can use the following data methods:

  • Connect to AWS data sources, including:
    • Amazon RDS
    • Amazon Aurora
    • Amazon Redshift
    • Amazon Athena
    • Amazon S3
  • Upload Excel spreadsheets or flat files (CSV, TSV, CLF, and ELF)
  • Connect to on-premises databases like Teradata, SQL Server, MySQL, and PostgreSQL
  • Import data from SaaS applications like Salesforce and Snowflake
  • Use big data processing engines like Spark and Presto

This list is constantly growing. For more information, see Supported Data Sources.

Answers in instants

SPICE is the Amazon QuickSight super-fast, parallel, in-memory calculation engine, designed specifically for ad hoc data visualization. SPICE stores your data in a system architected for high availability, where it is saved until you choose to delete it. Improve the performance of database datasets by importing the data into SPICE instead of using a direct database query. To calculate how much SPICE capacity your dataset needs, see Managing SPICE Capacity.

Typical Amazon QuickSight workflow

When you create an analysis, the typical workflow is as follows:

  1. Connect to a data source, and then create a new dataset or choose an existing dataset.
  2. (Optional) If you created a new dataset, prepare the data (for example, by changing field names or data types).
  3. Create a new analysis.
  4. Add a visual to the analysis by choosing the fields to visualize. Choose a specific visual type, or use AutoGraph and let Amazon QuickSight choose the most appropriate visual type, based on the number and data types of the fields that you select.
  5. (Optional) Modify the visual to meet your requirements (for example, by adding a filter or changing the visual type).
  6. (Optional) Add more visuals to the analysis.
  7. (Optional) Add scenes to the default story to provide a narrative about some aspect of the analysis data.
  8. (Optional) Publish the analysis as a dashboard to share insights with other users.

The following graphic illustrates a typical Amazon QuickSight workflow.

Visualizations created in Amazon QuickSight with sample datasets

Visualizations for a data analyst

Source:  https://data.worldbank.org/

Download and Resources:  https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/world-development-indicators

Data catalog:  The World Bank invests into multiple development projects at the national, regional, and global levels. It’s a great source of information for data analysts.

The following graph shows the percentage of the population that has access to electricity (rural and urban) during 2000 in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The following graph shows the share of healthcare costs that are paid out-of-pocket (private vs. public). Also, you can maneuver over the graph to get detailed statistics at a glance.

Visualizations for a trading analyst

Source:  Deutsche Börse Public Dataset (DBG PDS)

Download and resources:  https://aws.amazon.com/public-datasets/deutsche-boerse-pds/

Data catalog:  The DBG PDS project makes real-time data derived from Deutsche Börse’s trading market systems available to the public for free. This is the first time that such detailed financial market data has been shared freely and continually from the source provider.

The following graph shows the market trend of max trade volume for different EU banks. It builds on the data available on XETRA engines, which is made up of a variety of equities, funds, and derivative securities. This graph can be scrolled to visualize trade for a period of an hour or more.

The following graph shows the common stock beating the rest of the maximum trade volume over a period of time, grouped by security type.

Visualizations for a data scientist

Source:  https://catalog.data.gov/

Download and resources:  https://catalog.data.gov/dataset/road-weather-information-stations-788f8

Data catalog:  Data derived from different sensor stations placed on the city bridges and surface streets are a core information source. The road weather information station has a temperature sensor that measures the temperature of the street surface. It also has a sensor that measures the ambient air temperature at the station each second.

The following graph shows the present max air temperature in Seattle from different RWI station sensors.

The following graph shows the minimum temperature of the road surface at different times, which helps predicts road conditions at a particular time of the year.

Visualizations for a data engineer

Source:  https://www.kaggle.com/

Download and resources:  https://www.kaggle.com/datasnaek/youtube-new/data

Data catalog:  Kaggle has come up with a platform where people can donate open datasets. Data engineers and other community members can have open access to these datasets and can contribute to the open data movement. They have more than 350 datasets in total, with more than 200 as featured datasets. It has a few interesting datasets on the platform that are not present at other places, and it’s a platform to connect with other data enthusiasts.

The following graph shows the trending YouTube videos and presents the max likes for the top 20 channels. This is one of the most popular datasets for data engineers.

The following graph shows the YouTube daily statistics for the max views of video titles published during a specific time period.

Visualizations for a business user

Source:  New York Taxi Data

Download and resources:  https://data.cityofnewyork.us/Transportation/2016-Green-Taxi-Trip-Data/hvrh-b6nb

Data catalog: NYC Open data hosts some very popular open data sets for all New Yorkers. This platform allows you to get involved in dive deep into the data set to pull some useful visualizations. 2016 Green taxi trip dataset includes trip records from all trips completed in green taxis in NYC in 2016. Records include fields capturing pick-up and drop-off dates/times, pick-up and drop-off locations, trip distances, itemized fares, rate types, payment types, and driver-reported passenger counts.

The following graph presents maximum fare amount grouped by the passenger count during a period of time during a day. This can be further expanded to follow through different day of the month based on the business need.

The following graph shows the NewYork taxi data from January 2016, showing the dip in the number of taxis ridden on January 23, 2016 across all types of taxis.

A quick search for that date and location shows you the following news report:

Summary

Using Amazon QuickSight, you can see patterns across a time-series data by building visualizations, performing ad hoc analysis, and quickly generating insights. We hope you’ll give it a try today!

 


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Amazon QuickSight Adds Support for Combo Charts and Row-Level Security and Visualize AWS Cloudtrail Logs Using AWS Glue and Amazon QuickSight.


Karthik Odapally is a Sr. Solutions Architect in AWS. His passion is to build cost effective and highly scalable solutions on the cloud. In his spare time, he bakes cookies and cupcakes for family and friends here in the PNW. He loves vintage racing cars.

 

 

 

Pranabesh Mandal is a Solutions Architect in AWS. He has over a decade of IT experience. He is passionate about cloud technology and focuses on Analytics. In his spare time, he likes to hike and explore the beautiful nature and wild life of most divine national parks around the United States alongside his wife.

 

 

 

 

No, Ray Ozzie hasn’t solved crypto backdoors

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original https://blog.erratasec.com/2018/04/no-ray-ozzie-hasnt-solved-crypto.html

According to this Wired article, Ray Ozzie may have a solution to the crypto backdoor problem. No, he hasn’t. He’s only solving the part we already know how to solve. He’s deliberately ignoring the stuff we don’t know how to solve. We know how to make backdoors, we just don’t know how to secure them.

The vault doesn’t scale

Yes, Apple has a vault where they’ve successfully protected important keys. No, it doesn’t mean this vault scales. The more people and the more often you have to touch the vault, the less secure it becomes. We are talking thousands of requests per day from 100,000 different law enforcement agencies around the world. We are unlikely to protect this against incompetence and mistakes. We are definitely unable to secure this against deliberate attack.

A good analogy to Ozzie’s solution is LetsEncrypt for getting SSL certificates for your website, which is fairly scalable, using a private key locked in a vault for signing hundreds of thousands of certificates. That this scales seems to validate Ozzie’s proposal.

But at the same time, LetsEncrypt is easily subverted. LetsEncrypt uses DNS to verify your identity. But spoofing DNS is easy, as was recently shown in the recent BGP attack against a cryptocurrency. Attackers can create fraudulent SSL certificates with enough effort. We’ve got other protections against this, such as discovering and revoking the SSL bad certificate, so while damaging, it’s not catastrophic.

But with Ozzie’s scheme, equivalent attacks would be catastrophic, as it would lead to unlocking the phone and stealing all of somebody’s secrets.

In particular, consider what would happen if LetsEncrypt’s certificate was stolen (as Matthew Green points out). The consequence is that this would be detected and mass revocations would occur. If Ozzie’s master key were stolen, nothing would happen. Nobody would know, and evildoers would be able to freely decrypt phones. Ozzie claims his scheme can work because SSL works — but then his scheme includes none of the many protections necessary to make SSL work.

What I’m trying to show here is that in a lab, it all looks nice and pretty, but when attacked at scale, things break down — quickly. We have so much experience with failure at scale that we can judge Ozzie’s scheme as woefully incomplete. It’s not even up to the standard of SSL, and we have a long list of SSL problems.

Cryptography is about people more than math

We have a mathematically pure encryption algorithm called the “One Time Pad”. It can’t ever be broken, provably so with mathematics.

It’s also perfectly useless, as it’s not something humans can use. That’s why we use AES, which is vastly less secure (anything you encrypt today can probably be decrypted in 100 years). AES can be used by humans whereas One Time Pads cannot be. (I learned the fallacy of One Time Pad’s on my grandfather’s knee — he was a WW II codebreaker who broke German messages trying to futz with One Time Pads).

The same is true with Ozzie’s scheme. It focuses on the mathematical model but ignores the human element. We already know how to solve the mathematical problem in a hundred different ways. The part we don’t know how to secure is the human element.

How do we know the law enforcement person is who they say they are? How do we know the “trusted Apple employee” can’t be bribed? How can the law enforcement agent communicate securely with the Apple employee?

You think these things are theoretical, but they aren’t. Consider financial transactions. It used to be common that you could just email your bank/broker to wire funds into an account for such things as buying a house. Hackers have subverted that, intercepting messages, changing account numbers, and stealing millions. Most banks/brokers require additional verification before doing such transfers.

Let me repeat: Ozzie has only solved the part we already know how to solve. He hasn’t addressed these issues that confound us.

We still can’t secure security, much less secure backdoors

We already know how to decrypt iPhones: just wait a year or two for somebody to discover a vulnerability. FBI claims it’s “going dark”, but that’s only for timely decryption of phones. If they are willing to wait a year or two a vulnerability will eventually be found that allows decryption.

That’s what’s happened with the “GrayKey” device that’s been all over the news lately. Apple is fixing it so that it won’t work on new phones, but it works on old phones.

Ozzie’s solution is based on the assumption that iPhones are already secure against things like GrayKey. Like his assumption “if Apple already has a vault for private keys, then we have such vaults for backdoor keys”, Ozzie is saying “if Apple already had secure hardware/software to secure the phone, then we can use the same stuff to secure the backdoors”. But we don’t really have secure vaults and we don’t really have secure hardware/software to secure the phone.

Again, to stress this point, Ozzie is solving the part we already know how to solve, but ignoring the stuff we don’t know how to solve. His solution is insecure for the same reason phones are already insecure.

Locked phones aren’t the problem

Phones are general purpose computers. That means anybody can install an encryption app on the phone regardless of whatever other security the phone might provide. The police are powerless to stop this. Even if they make such encryption crime, then criminals will still use encryption.

That leads to a strange situation that the only data the FBI will be able to decrypt is that of people who believe they are innocent. Those who know they are guilty will install encryption apps like Signal that have no backdoors.

In the past this was rare, as people found learning new apps a barrier. These days, apps like Signal are so easy even drug dealers can figure out how to use them.

We know how to get Apple to give us a backdoor, just pass a law forcing them to. It may look like Ozzie’s scheme, it may be something more secure designed by Apple’s engineers. Sure, it will weaken security on the phone for everyone, but those who truly care will just install Signal. But again we are back to the problem that Ozzie’s solving the problem we know how to solve while ignoring the much larger problem, that of preventing people from installing their own encryption.

The FBI isn’t necessarily the problem

Ozzie phrases his solution in terms of U.S. law enforcement. Well, what about Europe? What about Russia? What about China? What about North Korea?

Technology is borderless. A solution in the United States that allows “legitimate” law enforcement requests will inevitably be used by repressive states for what we believe would be “illegitimate” law enforcement requests.

Ozzie sees himself as the hero helping law enforcement protect 300 million American citizens. He doesn’t see himself what he really is, the villain helping oppress 1.4 billion Chinese, 144 million Russians, and another couple billion living in oppressive governments around the world.

Conclusion

Ozzie pretends the problem is political, that he’s created a solution that appeases both sides. He hasn’t. He’s solved the problem we already know how to solve. He’s ignored all the problems we struggle with, the problems we claim make secure backdoors essentially impossible. I’ve listed some in this post, but there are many more. Any famous person can create a solution that convinces fawning editors at Wired Magazine, but if Ozzie wants to move forward he’s going to have to work harder to appease doubting cryptographers.

Tackling climate change and helping the community

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/fair-haven-weather-station/

In today’s guest post, seventh-grade students Evan Callas, Will Ross, Tyler Fallon, and Kyle Fugate share their story of using the Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station in their Innovation Lab class, headed by Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

United Nations Sustainable Goals

The past couple of weeks in our Innovation Lab class, our teacher, Mr Aviles, has challenged us students to design a project that helps solve one of the United Nations Sustainable Goals. We chose Climate Action. Innovation Lab is a class that gives students the opportunity to learn about where the crossroads of technology, the environment, and entrepreneurship meet. Everyone takes their own paths in innovation and learns about the environment using project-based learning.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station

For our climate change challenge, we decided to build a Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station. Tackling the issues of climate change in a way that helps our community stood out to us because we knew with the help of this weather station we can send the local data to farmers and fishermen in town. Recent changes in climate have been affecting farmers’ crops. Unexpected rain, heat, and other unusual weather patterns can completely destabilize the natural growth of the plants and destroy their crops altogether. The amount of labour output needed by farmers has also significantly increased, forcing farmers to grow more food on less resources. By using our Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station to alert local farmers, they can be more prepared and aware of the weather, leading to better crops and safe boating.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

Growing teamwork and coding skills

The process of setting up our weather station was fun and simple. Raspberry Pi made the instructions very easy to understand and read, which was very helpful for our team who had little experience in coding or physical computing. We enjoyed working together as a team and were happy to be growing our teamwork skills.

Once we constructed and coded the weather station, we learned that we needed to support the station with PVC pipes. After we completed these steps, we brought the weather station up to the roof of the school and began collecting data. Our information is currently being sent to the Initial State dashboard so that we can share the information with anyone interested. This information will also be recorded and seen by other schools, businesses, and others from around the world who are using the weather station. For example, we can see the weather in countries such as France, Greece and Italy.

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Aviles Innovation Lab Oracle Weather Station

Raspberry Pi allows us to build these amazing projects that help us to enjoy coding and physical computing in a fun, engaging, and impactful way. We picked climate change because we care about our community and would like to make a substantial contribution to our town, Fair Haven, New Jersey. It is not every day that kids are given these kinds of opportunities, and we are very lucky and grateful to go to a school and learn from a teacher where these opportunities are given to us. Thanks, Mr Aviles!

To see more awesome projects by Mr Avile’s class, you can keep up with him on his blog and follow him on Twitter.

The post Tackling climate change and helping the community appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Amazon S3 Update: New Storage Class and General Availability of S3 Select

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/amazon-s3-update-new-storage-class-general-availability-of-s3-select/

I’ve got two big pieces of news for anyone who stores and retrieves data in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3):

New S3 One Zone-IA Storage Class – This new storage class is 20% less expensive than the existing Standard-IA storage class. It is designed to be used to store data that does not need the extra level of protection provided by geographic redundancy.

General Availability of S3 Select – This unique retrieval option lets you retrieve subsets of data from S3 objects using simple SQL expressions, with the possibility for a 400% performance improvement in the process.

Let’s take a look at both!

S3 One Zone-IA (Infrequent Access) Storage Class
This new storage class stores data in a single AWS Availability Zone and is designed to provide eleven 9’s (99.99999999%) of data durability, just like the other S3 storage classes. Unlike those other classes, it is not designed to be resilient to the physical loss of an AZ due to major event such as an earthquake or a flood, and data could be lost in the unlikely event that an AZ is destroyed. S3 One Zone-IA storage gives you a lower cost option for secondary backups of on-premises data and for data that can be easily re-created. You can also use it as the target of S3 Cross-Region Replication from another AWS region.

You can specify the use of S3 One Zone-IA storage when you upload a new object to S3:

You can also make use of it as part of an S3 lifecycle rule:

You can set up a lifecycle rule that moves previous versions of an object to S3 One Zone-IA after 30 or more days:

And you can modify the storage class of an existing object:

You can also manage storage classes using the S3 API, CLI, and CloudFormation templates.

The S3 One Zone-IA storage class can be used in all public AWS regions. As I noted earlier, pricing is 20% lower than for the S3 Standard-IA storage class (see the S3 Pricing page for more info). There’s a 30 day minimum retention period, and a 128 KB minimum object size.

General Availability of S3 Select
Randall wrote a detailed introduction to S3 Select last year and showed you how you can use it to retrieve selected data from within S3 objects. During the preview we added support for server-side encryption and the ability to run queries from the S3 Console.

I used a CSV file of airport codes to exercise the new console functionality:

This file contains listings for over 9100 airports, so it makes for useful test data but it definitely does not test the limits of S3 Select in any way. I select the file, open the More menu, and choose Select from:

The console sets the file format and compression according to the file name and the encryption status. I set delimiter and click Show file preview to verify that my settings are correct. Then I click Next to proceed:

I type SQL expressions in the SQL editor and click Run SQL to issue the query:

Or:

I can also issue queries from the AWS SDKs. I initiate the select operation:

s3 = boto3.client('s3', region_name='us-west-2')

r = s3.select_object_content(
        Bucket='jbarr-us-west-2',
        Key='sample-data/airportCodes.csv',
        ExpressionType='SQL',
        Expression="select * from s3object s where s.\"Country (Name)\" like '%United States%'",
        InputSerialization = {'CSV': {"FileHeaderInfo": "Use"}},
        OutputSerialization = {'CSV': {}},
)

And then I process the stream of results:

for event in r['Payload']:
    if 'Records' in event:
        records = event['Records']['Payload'].decode('utf-8')
        print(records)
    elif 'Stats' in event:
        statsDetails = event['Stats']['Details']
        print("Stats details bytesScanned: ")
        print(statsDetails['BytesScanned'])
        print("Stats details bytesProcessed: ")
        print(statsDetails['BytesProcessed'])

S3 Select is available in all public regions and you can start using it today. Pricing is based on the amount of data scanned and the amount of data returned.

Jeff;

Why the crypto-backdoor side is morally corrupt

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original https://blog.erratasec.com/2018/04/why-crypto-backdoor-side-is-morally.html

Crypto-backdoors for law enforcement is a reasonable position, but the side that argues for it adds things that are either outright lies or morally corrupt. Every year, the amount of digital evidence law enforcement has to solve crimes increases, yet they outrageously lie, claiming they are “going dark”, losing access to evidence. A weirder claim is that  those who oppose crypto-backdoors are nonetheless ethically required to make them work. This is morally corrupt.

That’s the point of this Lawfare post, which claims:

What I am saying is that those arguing that we should reject third-party access out of hand haven’t carried their research burden. … There are two reasons why I think there hasn’t been enough research to establish the no-third-party access position. First, research in this area is “taboo” among security researchers. … the second reason why I believe more research needs to be done: the fact that prominent non-government experts are publicly willing to try to build secure third-party-access solutions should make the information-security community question the consensus view. 

This is nonsense. It’s like claiming we haven’t cured the common cold because researchers haven’t spent enough effort at it. When researchers claim they’ve tried 10,000 ways to make something work, it’s like insisting they haven’t done enough because they haven’t tried 10,001 times.
Certainly, half the community doesn’t want to make such things work. Any solution for the “legitimate” law enforcement of the United States means a solution for illegitimate states like China and Russia which would use the feature to oppress their own people. Even if I believe it’s a net benefit to the United States, I would never attempt such research because of China and Russia.
But computer scientists notoriously ignore ethics in pursuit of developing technology. That describes the other half of the crypto community who would gladly work on the problem. The reason they haven’t come up with solutions is because the problem is hard, really hard.
The second reason the above argument is wrong: it says we should believe a solution is possible because some outsiders are willing to try. But as Yoda says, do or do not, there is no try. Our opinions on the difficulty of the problem don’t change simply because people are trying. Our opinions change when people are succeeding. People are always trying the impossible, that’s not evidence it’s possible.
The paper cherry picks things, like Intel CPU features, to make it seem like they are making forward progress. No. Intel’s SGX extensions are there for other reasons. Sure, it’s a new development, and new developments may change our opinion on the feasibility of law enforcement backdoors. But nowhere in talking about this new development have they actually proposes a solution to the backdoor problem. New developments happen all the time, and the pro-backdoor side is going to seize upon each and every one to claim that this, finally, solves the backdoor problem, without showing exactly how it solves the problem.

The Lawfare post does make one good argument, that there is no such thing as “absolute security”, and thus the argument is stupid that “crypto-backdoors would be less than absolute security”. Too often in the cybersecurity community we reject solutions that don’t provide “absolute security” while failing to acknowledge that “absolute security” is impossible.
But that’s not really what’s going on here. Cryptographers aren’t certain we’ve achieved even “adequate security” with current crypto regimes like SSL/TLS/HTTPS. Every few years we find horrible flaws in the old versions and have to develop new versions. If you steal somebody’s iPhone today, it’s so secure you can’t decrypt anything on it. But then if you hold it for 5 years, somebody will eventually figure out a hole and then you’ll be able to decrypt it — a hole that won’t affect Apple’s newer phones.
The reason we think we can’t get crypto-backdoors correct is simply because we can’t get crypto completely correct. It’s implausible that we can get the backdoors working securely when we still have so much trouble getting encryption working correctly in the first place.
Thus, we aren’t talking about “insignificantly less security”, we are talking about going from “barely adequate security” to “inadequate security”. Negotiating keys between you and a website is hard enough without simultaneously having to juggle keys with law enforcement organizations.

And finally, even if cryptographers do everything correctly law enforcement themselves haven’t proven themselves reliable. The NSA exposed its exploits (like the infamous ETERNALBLUE), and OPM lost all its security clearance records. If they can’t keep those secrets, it’s unreasonable to believe they can hold onto backdoor secrets. One of the problems cryptographers are expected to solve is partly this, to make it work in a such way that makes it unlikely law enforcement will lose its secrets.

Summary

This argument by the pro-backdoor side, that we in the crypto-community should do more to solve backdoors, it simply wrong. We’ve spent a lot of effort at this already. Many continue to work on this problem — the reason you haven’t heard much from them is because they haven’t had much success. It’s like blaming doctors for not doing more to work on interrogation drugs (truth serums). Sure, a lot of doctors won’t work on this because it’s distasteful, but at the same time, there are many drug companies who would love to profit by them. The reason they don’t exist is not because they aren’t spending enough money researching them, it’s because there is no plausible solution in sight.
Crypto-backdoors designed for law-enforcement will significantly harm your security. This may change in the future, but that’s the state of crypto today. You should trust the crypto experts on this, not lawyers.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica

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

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, news articles and commentators have focused on what Facebook knows about us. A lot, it turns out. It collects data from our posts, our likes, our photos, things we type and delete without posting, and things we do while not on Facebook and even when we’re offline. It buys data about us from others. And it can infer even more: our sexual orientation, political beliefs, relationship status, drug use, and other personality traits — even if we didn’t take the personality test that Cambridge Analytica developed.

But for every article about Facebook’s creepy stalker behavior, thousands of other companies are breathing a collective sigh of relief that it’s Facebook and not them in the spotlight. Because while Facebook is one of the biggest players in this space, there are thousands of other companies that spy on and manipulate us for profit.

Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it “surveillance capitalism.” And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it’s up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and — if not — what to do about it.

There are 2,500 to 4,000 data brokers in the United States whose business is buying and selling our personal data. Last year, Equifax was in the news when hackers stole personal information on 150 million people, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.

You certainly didn’t give it permission to collect any of that information. Equifax is one of those thousands of data brokers, most of them you’ve never heard of, selling your personal information without your knowledge or consent to pretty much anyone who will pay for it.

Surveillance capitalism takes this one step further. Companies like Facebook and Google offer you free services in exchange for your data. Google’s surveillance isn’t in the news, but it’s startlingly intimate. We never lie to our search engines. Our interests and curiosities, hopes and fears, desires and sexual proclivities, are all collected and saved. Add to that the websites we visit that Google tracks through its advertising network, our Gmail accounts, our movements via Google Maps, and what it can collect from our smartphones.

That phone is probably the most intimate surveillance device ever invented. It tracks our location continuously, so it knows where we live, where we work, and where we spend our time. It’s the first and last thing we check in a day, so it knows when we wake up and when we go to sleep. We all have one, so it knows who we sleep with. Uber used just some of that information to detect one-night stands; your smartphone provider and any app you allow to collect location data knows a lot more.

Surveillance capitalism drives much of the internet. It’s behind most of the “free” services, and many of the paid ones as well. Its goal is psychological manipulation, in the form of personalized advertising to persuade you to buy something or do something, like vote for a candidate. And while the individualized profile-driven manipulation exposed by Cambridge Analytica feels abhorrent, it’s really no different from what every company wants in the end. This is why all your personal information is collected, and this is why it is so valuable. Companies that can understand it can use it against you.

None of this is new. The media has been reporting on surveillance capitalism for years. In 2015, I wrote a book about it. Back in 2010, the Wall Street Journal published an award-winning two-year series about how people are tracked both online and offline, titled “What They Know.”

Surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded in our increasingly computerized society, and if the extent of it came to light there would be broad demands for limits and regulation. But because this industry can largely operate in secret, only occasionally exposed after a data breach or investigative report, we remain mostly ignorant of its reach.

This might change soon. In 2016, the European Union passed the comprehensive General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The details of the law are far too complex to explain here, but some of the things it mandates are that personal data of EU citizens can only be collected and saved for “specific, explicit, and legitimate purposes,” and only with explicit consent of the user. Consent can’t be buried in the terms and conditions, nor can it be assumed unless the user opts in. This law will take effect in May, and companies worldwide are bracing for its enforcement.

Because pretty much all surveillance capitalism companies collect data on Europeans, this will expose the industry like nothing else. Here’s just one example. In preparation for this law, PayPal quietly published a list of over 600 companies it might share your personal data with. What will it be like when every company has to publish this sort of information, and explicitly explain how it’s using your personal data? We’re about to find out.

In the wake of this scandal, even Mark Zuckerberg said that his industry probably should be regulated, although he’s certainly not wishing for the sorts of comprehensive regulation the GDPR is bringing to Europe.

He’s right. Surveillance capitalism has operated without constraints for far too long. And advances in both big data analysis and artificial intelligence will make tomorrow’s applications far creepier than today’s. Regulation is the only answer.

The first step to any regulation is transparency. Who has our data? Is it accurate? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? How are they securing it? Can we delete it? I don’t see any hope of Congress passing a GDPR-like data protection law anytime soon, but it’s not too far-fetched to demand laws requiring these companies to be more transparent in what they’re doing.

One of the responses to the Cambridge Analytica scandal is that people are deleting their Facebook accounts. It’s hard to do right, and doesn’t do anything about the data that Facebook collects about people who don’t use Facebook. But it’s a start. The market can put pressure on these companies to reduce their spying on us, but it can only do that if we force the industry out of its secret shadows.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

EDITED TO ADD (4/2): Slashdot thread.

Simplicity is a Feature for Cloud Backup

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/distributed-cloud-backup-for-businesses/

cloud on a blue background
For Joel Wagener, Director of IT at AIBS, simplicity is an important feature he looks for in software applications to use in his organization. So maybe it’s not unexpected that Joel chose Backblaze for Business to back up AIBS’s staff computers. According to Joel, “It just works.”American Institute of Biological Sciences

AIBS (The American Institute of Biological Sciences) is a non-profit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education. Founded in 1947 as part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS later became independent and now has over 100 member organizations. AIBS works to ensure that the public, legislators, funders, and the community of biologists have access to and use information that will guide them in making informed decisions about matters that require biological knowledge.

AIBS started using Backblaze for Business Cloud Backup several years ago to make sure that the organization’s data was backed up and protected from accidental loss or computer failure. AIBS is based in Washington, D.C., but is a virtual organization, with staff dispersed around the United States. AIBS needed a backup solution that worked anywhere a staff member was located, and was easy to use, as well. Joel has made Backblaze a default part of the configuration management for all the AIBS endpoints, which in their case are exclusively Macintosh.

AIBS biological images

“We started using Backblaze on a single computer in 2014, then not too long after that decided to deploy it to all our endpoints,” explains Joel. “We use Groups to oversee backups and for central billing, but we let each user manage their own computer and restore files on their own if they need to.”

“Backblaze stays out of the way until we need it. It’s fairly lightweight, and I appreciate that it’s simple,” says Joel. “It doesn’t throttle backups and the price point is good. I have family members who use Backblaze, as well.”

Backblaze’s Groups feature permits an organization to oversee and manage the user accounts, including restores, or let users handle that themselves. This flexibility fits a variety of organizations, where various degrees of oversight or independence are desirable. The finance and HR departments could manage their own data, for example, while the rest of the organization could be managed by IT. All groups can be billed centrally no matter how other functionality is set up.

“If we have a computer that needs repair, we can put a loaner computer in that person’s hands and they can immediately get the data they need directly from the Backblaze cloud backup, which is really helpful. When we get the original computer back from repair we can do a complete restore and return it to the user all ready to go again. When we’ve needed restores, Backblaze has been reliable.”

Joel also likes that the memory footprint of Backblaze is light — the clients for both Macintosh and Windows are native, and designed to use minimum system resources and not impact any applications used on the computer. He also likes that updates to the client software are pushed out when necessary.

Backblaze for Business

Backblaze for Business also helps IT maintain archives of users’ computers after they leave the organization.

“We like that we have a ready-made archive of a computer when someone leaves,” said Joel. The Backblaze backup is there if we need to retrieve anything that person was working on.”

There are other capabilities in Backblaze that Joel likes, but hasn’t had a chance to use yet.

“We’ve used Casper (Jamf) to deploy and manage software on endpoints without needing any interaction from the user. We haven’t used it yet for Backblaze, but we know that Backblaze supports it. It’s a handy feature to have.”

”It just works.”
— Joel Wagener, AIBS Director of IT

Perhaps the best thing about Backblaze for Business isn’t a specific feature that can be found on a product data sheet.

“When files have been lost, Backblaze has provided us access to multiple prior versions, and this feature has been important and worked well several times,” says Joel.

“That provides needed peace of mind to our users, and our IT department, as well.”

The post Simplicity is a Feature for Cloud Backup appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Our Newest AWS Community Heroes (Spring 2018 Edition)

Post Syndicated from Betsy Chernoff original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/our-newest-aws-community-heroes-spring-2018-edition/

The AWS Community Heroes program helps shine a spotlight on some of the innovative work being done by rockstar AWS developers around the globe. Marrying cloud expertise with a passion for community building and education, these Heroes share their time and knowledge across social media and in-person events. Heroes also actively help drive content at Meetups, workshops, and conferences.

This March, we have five Heroes that we’re happy to welcome to our network of cloud innovators:

Peter Sbarski

Peter Sbarski is VP of Engineering at A Cloud Guru and the organizer of Serverlessconf, the world’s first conference dedicated entirely to serverless architectures and technologies. His work at A Cloud Guru allows him to work with, talk and write about serverless architectures, cloud computing, and AWS. He has written a book called Serverless Architectures on AWS and is currently collaborating on another book called Serverless Design Patterns with Tim Wagner and Yochay Kiriaty.

Peter is always happy to talk about cloud computing and AWS, and can be found at conferences and meetups throughout the year. He helps to organize Serverless Meetups in Melbourne and Sydney in Australia, and is always keen to share his experience working on interesting and innovative cloud projects.

Peter’s passions include serverless technologies, event-driven programming, back end architecture, microservices, and orchestration of systems. Peter holds a PhD in Computer Science from Monash University, Australia and can be followed on Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium, and GitHub.

 

 

 

Michael Wittig

Michael Wittig is co-founder of widdix, a consulting company focused on cloud architecture, DevOps, and software development on AWS. widdix maintains several AWS related open source projects, most notably a collection of production-ready CloudFormation templates. In 2016, widdix released marbot: a Slack bot supporting your DevOps team to detect and solve incidents on AWS.

In close collaboration with his brother Andreas Wittig, the Wittig brothers are actively creating AWS related content. Their book Amazon Web Services in Action (Manning) introduces AWS with a strong focus on automation. Andreas and Michael run the blog cloudonaut.io where they share their knowledge about AWS with the community. The Wittig brothers also published a bunch of video courses with O’Reilly, Manning, Pluralsight, and A Cloud Guru. You can also find them speaking at conferences and user groups in Europe. Both brothers are co-organizing the AWS user group in Stuttgart.

 

 

 

 

Fernando Hönig

Fernando is an experienced Infrastructure Solutions Leader, holding 5 AWS Certifications, with extensive IT Architecture and Management experience in a variety of market sectors. Working as a Cloud Architect Consultant in United Kingdom since 2014, Fernando built an online community for Hispanic speakers worldwide.

Fernando founded a LinkedIn Group, a Slack Community and a YouTube channel all of them named “AWS en Español”, and started to run a monthly webinar via YouTube streaming where different leaders discuss aspects and challenges around AWS Cloud.

During the last 18 months he’s been helping to run and coach AWS User Group leaders across LATAM and Spain, and 10 new User Groups were founded during this time.

Feel free to follow Fernando on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, or join the ever-growing Hispanic Community via Slack, LinkedIn or YouTube.

 

 

 

Anders Bjørnestad

Anders is a consultant and cloud evangelist at Webstep AS in Norway. He finished his degree in Computer Science at the Norwegian Institute of Technology at about the same time the Internet emerged as a public service. Since then he has been an IT consultant and a passionate advocate of knowledge-sharing.

He architected and implemented his first customer solution on AWS back in 2010, and is essential in building Webstep’s core cloud team. Anders applies his broad expert knowledge across all layers of the organizational stack. He engages with developers on technology and architectures and with top management where he advises about cloud strategies and new business models.

Anders enjoys helping people increase their understanding of AWS and cloud in general, and holds several AWS certifications. He co-founded and co-organizes the AWS User Groups in the largest cities in Norway (Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger), and also uses any opportunity to engage in events related to AWS and cloud wherever he is.

You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

To learn more about the AWS Community Heroes Program and how to get involved with your local AWS community, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AskRob: Does Tor let government peek at vuln info?

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2018/03/askrob-does-tor-let-government-peek-at.html

On Twitter, somebody asked this question:

The question is about a blog post that claims Tor privately tips off the government about vulnerabilities, using as proof a “vulnerability” from October 2007 that wasn’t made public until 2011.
The tl;dr is that it’s bunk. There was no vulnerability, it was a feature request. The details were already public. There was no spy agency involved, but the agency that does Voice of America, and which tries to protect activists under foreign repressive regimes.

Discussion

The issue is that Tor traffic looks like Tor traffic, making it easy to block/censor, or worse, identify users. Over the years, Tor has added features to make it look more and more like normal traffic, like the encrypted traffic used by Facebook, Google, and Apple. Tors improves this bit-by-bit over time, but short of actually piggybacking on website traffic, it will always leave some telltale signature.
An example showing how we can distinguish Tor traffic is the packet below, from the latest version of the Tor server:
Had this been Google or Facebook, the names would be something like “www.google.com” or “facebook.com”. Or, had this been a normal “self-signed” certificate, the names would still be recognizable. But Tor creates randomized names, with letters and numbers, making it distinctive. It’s hard to automate detection of this, because it’s only probably Tor (other self-signed certificates look like this, too), which means you’ll have occasional “false-positives”. But still, if you compare this to the pattern of traffic, you can reliably detect that Tor is happening on your network.
This has always been a known issue, since the earliest days. Google the search term “detect tor traffic”, and set your advanced search dates to before 2007, and you’ll see lots of discussion about this, such as this post for writing intrusion-detection signatures for Tor.
Among the things you’ll find is this presentation from 2006 where its creator (Roger Dingledine) talks about how Tor can be identified on the network with its unique network fingerprint. For a “vulnerability” they supposedly kept private until 2011, they were awfully darn public about it.
The above blogpost claims Tor kept this vulnerability secret until 2011 by citing this message. It’s because Levine doesn’t understand the terminology and is just blindly searching for an exact match for “TLS normalization”. Here’s an earlier proposed change for the long term goal of to “make our connection handshake look closer to a regular HTTPS [TLS] connection”, from February 2007. Here is another proposal from October 2007 on changing TLS certificates, from days after the email discussion (after they shipped the feature, presumably).
What we see here is here is a known problem from the very beginning of the project, a long term effort to fix that problem, and a slow dribble of features added over time to preserve backwards compatibility.
Now let’s talk about the original train of emails cited in the blogpost. It’s hard to see the full context here, but it sounds like BBG made a feature request to make Tor look even more like normal TLS, which is hinted with the phrase “make our funders happy”. Of course the people giving Tor money are going to ask for improvements, and of course Tor would in turn discuss those improvements with the donor before implementing them. It’s common in project management: somebody sends you a feature request, you then send the proposal back to them to verify what you are building is what they asked for.
As for the subsequent salacious paragraph about “secrecy”, that too is normal. When improving a problem, you don’t want to talk about the details until after you have a fix. But note that this is largely more for PR than anything else. The details on how to detect Tor are available to anybody who looks for them — they just aren’t readily accessible to the layman. For example, Tenable Networks announced the previous month exactly this ability to detect Tor’s traffic, because any techy wanting to would’ve found the secrets how to. Indeed, Teneble’s announcement may have been the impetus for BBG’s request to Tor: “can you fix it so that this new Tenable feature no longer works”.
To be clear, there are zero secret “vulnerability details” here that some secret spy agency could use to detect Tor. They were already known, and in the Teneble product, and within the grasp of any techy who wanted to discover them. A spy agency could just buy Teneble, or copy it, instead of going through this intricate conspiracy.

Conclusion

The issue isn’t a “vulnerability”. Tor traffic is recognizable on the network, and over time, they make it less and less recognizable. Eventually they’ll just piggyback on true HTTPS and convince CloudFlare to host ingress nodes, or something, making it completely undetectable. In the meanwhile, it leaves behind fingerprints, as I showed above.
What we see in the email exchanges is the normal interaction of a donor asking for a feature, not a private “tip off”. It’s likely the donor is the one who tipped off Tor, pointing out Tenable’s product to detect Tor.
Whatever secrets Tor could have tipped off to the “secret spy agency” were no more than what Tenable was already doing in a shipping product.

Update: People are trying to make it look like Voice of America is some sort of intelligence agency. That’s a conspiracy theory. It’s not a member of the American intelligence community. You’d have to come up with a solid reason explaining why the United States is hiding VoA’s membership in the intelligence community, or you’d have to believe that everything in the U.S. government is really just some arm of the C.I.A.

The Challenges of Opening a Data Center — Part 1

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

Backblaze storage pod in new data center

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

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

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

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

What is a Data Center?

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

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

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

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

Types of Data Centers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Availability is Key

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

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

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

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

Active/Passive Data Centers

Active/Active Data Centers

LEED Certification

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

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

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

ACT Data Center exterior

ACT Data Center exterior

ACT Data Center interior

ACT Data Center interior

Factors to Consider When Selecting a Data Center

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

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

Location

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

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

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

Business and Customer Proximity

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

Climate

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

Geographic Stability and Extreme Weather Events

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

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

Sacramento Data Center

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

Equinix Data Center in Miami

Equinix “NAP of the Americas” Data Center in Miami

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

Bahnhof Data Center under White Mountain in Stockholm

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

Cost vs Risk in selecting a data center

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

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

Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ode to ‘Locate My Computer’

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/laptop-locator-can-save-you/

Laptop locator signal

Some things don’t get the credit they deserve. For one of our engineers, Billy, the Locate My Computer feature is near and dear to his heart. It took him a while to build it, and it requires some regular updates, even after all these years. Billy loves the Locate My Computer feature, but really loves knowing how it’s helped customers over the years. One recent story made us decide to write a bit of a greatest hits post as an ode to one of our favorite features — Locate My Computer.

What is it?

Locate My Computer, as you’ll read in the stories below, came about because some of our users had their computers stolen and were trying to find a way to retrieve their devices. They realized that while some of their programs and services like Find My Mac were wiped, in some cases, Backblaze was still running in the background. That created the ability to use our software to figure out where the computer was contacting us from. After manually helping some of the individuals that wrote in, we decided to build it in as a feature. Little did we know the incredible stories it would lead to. We’ll get into that, but first, a little background on why the whole thing came about.

Identifying the Customer Need

“My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.”

Mat —
In December 2010, we saw a tweet from @DigitalRoyalty which read: “My friend’s laptop was stolen. He tracked the thief via @Backblaze for weeks & finally identified him on Facebook & Twitter. Digital 007.” Our CEO was manning Twitter at the time and reached out for the whole story. It turns out that Mat Miller had his laptop stolen, and while he was creating some restores a few days later, he noticed a new user was created on his computer and was backing up data. He restored some of those files, saw some information that could help identify the thief, and filed a police report. Read the whole story: Digital 007 — Outwitting The Thief.

Mark —
Following Mat Miller’s story we heard from Mark Bao, an 18-year old entrepreneur and student at Bentley University who had his laptop stolen. The laptop was stolen out of Mark’s dorm room and the thief started using it in a variety of ways, including audition practice for Dancing with the Stars. Once Mark logged in to Backblaze and saw that there were new files being uploaded, including a dance practice video, he was able to reach out to campus police and got his laptop back. You can read more about the story on: 18 Year Old Catches Thief Using Backblaze.

After Mat and Mark’s story we thought we were onto something. In addition to those stories that had garnered some media attention, we would occasionally get requests from users that said something along the lines of, “Hey, my laptop was stolen, but I had Backblaze installed. Could you please let me know if it’s still running, and if so, what the IP address is so that I can go to the authorities?” We would help them where we could, but knew that there was probably a much more efficient method of helping individuals and businesses keep track of their computers.

Some of the Greatest Hits, and the Mafia Story

In May of 2011, we launched “Locate My Computer.” This was our way of adding a feature to our already-popular backup client that would allow users to see a rough representation of where their computer was located, and the IP address associated with its last known transmission. After speaking to law enforcement, we learned that those two things were usually enough for the authorities to subpoena an ISP and get the physical address of the last known place the computer phoned home from. From there, they could investigate and, if the device was still there, return it to its rightful owner.

Bridgette —
Once the feature went live the stories got even more interesting. Almost immediately after we launched Locate My Computer, we were contacted by Bridgette, who told us of a break-in at her house. Luckily no one was home at the time, but the thief was able to get away with her iMac, DSLR, and a few other prized possessions. As soon as she reported the robbery to the police, they were able to use the Locate My Computer feature to find the thief’s location and recover her missing items. We even made a case study out of Bridgette’s experience. You can read it at: Backblaze And The Stolen iMac.

“Joe” —
The crazy recovery stories didn’t end there. Shortly after Bridgette’s story, we received an email from a user (“Joe” — to protect the innocent) who was traveling to Argentina from the United States and had his laptop stolen. After he contacted the police department in Buenos Aires, and explained to them that he was using Backblaze (which the authorities thought was a computer tracking service, and in this case, we were), they were able to get the location of the computer from an ISP in Argentina. When they went to investigate, they realized that the perpetrators were foreign nationals connected to the mafia, and that in addition to a handful of stolen laptops, they were also in the possession of over $1,000,000 in counterfeit currency! Read the whole story about “Joe” and how: Backblaze Found $1 Million in Counterfeit Cash!

The Maker —
After “Joe,” we thought that our part in high-profile “busts was over, but we were wrong. About a year later we received word from a “maker” who told us that he was able to act as an “internet super-sleuth” and worked hard to find his stolen computer. After a Maker Faire in Detroit, the maker’s car was broken into while they were getting BBQ following a successful show. While some of the computers were locked and encrypted, others were in hibernation mode and wide open to prying eyes. After the police report was filed, the maker went to Backblaze to retrieve his lost files and remembered seeing the little Locate My Computer button. That’s when the story gets really interesting. The victim used a combination of ingenuity, Craigslist, Backblaze, and the local police department to get his computer back, and make a drug bust along the way. Head over to Makezine.com to read about how:How Tracking Down My Stolen Computer Triggered a Drug Bust.

Una —
While we kept hearing praise and thanks from our customers who were able to recover their data and find their computers, a little while passed before we would hear a story that was as incredible as the ones above. In July of 2016, we received an email from Una who told us one of the most amazing stories of perseverance that we’d ever heard. With the help of Backblaze and a sympathetic constable in Australia, Una tracked her stolen computer’s journey across 6 countries. She got her computer back and we wrote up the whole story: How Una Found Her Stolen Laptop.

And the Hits Keep on Coming

The most recent story came from “J,” and we’ll share the whole thing with you because it has a really nice conclusion:

Back in September of 2017, I brought my laptop to work to finish up some administrative work before I took off for a vacation. I work in a mall where traffic [is] plenty and more specifically I work at a kiosk in the middle of the mall. This allows for a high amount of traffic passing by every few seconds. I turned my back for about a minute to put away some paperwork. At the time I didn’t notice my laptop missing. About an hour later when I was gathering my belongings for the day I noticed it was gone. I was devastated. This was a high end MacBook Pro that I just purchased. So we are not talking about a little bit of money here. This was a major investment.

Time [went] on. When I got back from my vacation I reached out to my LP (Loss Prevention) team to get images from our security to submit to the police with some thread of hope that they would find whomever stole it. December approached and I did not hear anything. I gave up hope and assumed that the laptop was scrapped. I put an iCloud lock on it and my Find My Mac feature was saying that laptop was “offline.” I just assumed that they opened it, saw it was locked, and tried to scrap it for parts.

Towards the end of January I got an email from Backblaze saying that the computer was successfully backed up. This came as a shock to me as I thought it was wiped. But I guess however they wiped it didn’t remove Backblaze from the SSD. None the less, I was very happy. I sifted through the backup and found the person’s name via the search history. Then, using the Locate my Computer feature I saw where it came online. I reached out on social media to the person in question and updated the police. I finally got ahold of the person who stated she bought it online a few weeks backs. We made arrangements and I’m happy to say that I am typing this email on my computer right now.

J finished by writing: “Not only did I want to share this story with you but also wanted to say thanks! Apple’s find my computer system failed. The police failed to find it. But Backblaze saved the day. This has been the best $5 a month I have ever spent. Not only that but I got all my stuff back. Which made the deal even better! It was like it was never gone.”

Have a Story of Your Own?

We’re more than thrilled to have helped all of these people restore their lost data using Backblaze. Recovering the actual machine using Locate My Computer though, that’s the icing on the cake. We’re proud of what we’ve been able to build here at Backblaze, and we really enjoy hearing stories from people who have used our service to successfully get back up and running, whether that meant restoring their data or recovering their actual computer.

If you have any interesting data recovery or computer recovery stories that you’d like to share with us, please email press@backblaze.com and we’ll share it with Billy and the rest of the Backblaze team. We love hearing them!

The post Ode to ‘Locate My Computer’ appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Mission Space Lab flight status announced!

Post Syndicated from Erin Brindley original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/mission-space-lab-flight-status-announced/

In September of last year, we launched our 2017/2018 Astro Pi challenge with our partners at the European Space Agency (ESA). Students from ESA membership and associate countries had the chance to design science experiments and write code to be run on one of our two Raspberry Pis on the International Space Station (ISS).

Astro Pi Mission Space Lab logo

Submissions for the Mission Space Lab challenge have just closed, and the results are in! Students had the opportunity to design an experiment for one of the following two themes:

  • Life in space
    Making use of Astro Pi Vis (Ed) in the European Columbus module to learn about the conditions inside the ISS.
  • Life on Earth
    Making use of Astro Pi IR (Izzy), which will be aimed towards the Earth through a window to learn about Earth from space.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, speaking from the replica of the Columbus module at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, has a message for all Mission Space Lab participants:

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst congratulates Astro Pi 2017-18 winners

Subscribe to our YouTube channel: http://rpf.io/ytsub Help us reach a wider audience by translating our video content: http://rpf.io/yttranslate Buy a Raspberry Pi from one of our Approved Resellers: http://rpf.io/ytproducts Find out more about the Raspberry Pi Foundation: Raspberry Pi http://rpf.io/ytrpi Code Club UK http://rpf.io/ytccuk Code Club International http://rpf.io/ytcci CoderDojo http://rpf.io/ytcd Check out our free online training courses: http://rpf.io/ytfl Find your local Raspberry Jam event: http://rpf.io/ytjam Work through our free online projects: http://rpf.io/ytprojects Do you have a question about your Raspberry Pi?

Flight status

We had a total of 212 Mission Space Lab entries from 22 countries. Of these, a 114 fantastic projects have been given flight status, and the teams’ project code will run in space!

But they’re not winners yet. In April, the code will be sent to the ISS, and then the teams will receive back their experimental data. Next, to get deeper insight into the process of scientific endeavour, they will need produce a final report analysing their findings. Winners will be chosen based on the merit of their final report, and the winning teams will get exclusive prizes. Check the list below to see if your team got flight status.

Belgium

Flight status achieved:

  • Team De Vesten, Campus De Vesten, Antwerpen
  • Ursa Major, CoderDojo Belgium, West-Vlaanderen
  • Special operations STEM, Sint-Claracollege, Antwerpen

Canada

Flight status achieved:

  • Let It Grow, Branksome Hall, Toronto
  • The Dark Side of Light, Branksome Hall, Toronto
  • Genie On The ISS, Branksome Hall, Toronto
  • Byte by PIthons, Youth Tech Education Society & Kid Code Jeunesse, Edmonton
  • The Broadviewnauts, Broadview, Ottawa

Czech Republic

Flight status achieved:

  • BLEK, Střední Odborná Škola Blatná, Strakonice

Denmark

Flight status achieved:

  • 2y Infotek, Nærum Gymnasium, Nærum
  • Equation Quotation, Allerød Gymnasium, Lillerød
  • Team Weather Watchers, Allerød Gymnasium, Allerød
  • Space Gardners, Nærum Gymnasium, Nærum

Finland

Flight status achieved:

  • Team Aurora, Hyvinkään yhteiskoulun lukio, Hyvinkää

France

Flight status achieved:

  • INC2, Lycée Raoul Follereau, Bourgogne
  • Space Project SP4, Lycée Saint-Paul IV, Reunion Island
  • Dresseurs2Python, clg Albert CAMUS, essonne
  • Lazos, Lycée Aux Lazaristes, Rhone
  • The space nerds, Lycée Saint André Colmar, Alsace
  • Les Spationautes Valériquais, lycée de la Côte d’Albâtre, Normandie
  • AstroMega, Institut de Genech, north
  • Al’Crew, Lycée Algoud-Laffemas, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
  • AstroPython, clg Albert CAMUS, essonne
  • Aruden Corp, Lycée Pablo Neruda, Normandie
  • HeroSpace, clg Albert CAMUS, essonne
  • GalaXess [R]evolution, Lycée Saint Cricq, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
  • AstroBerry, clg Albert CAMUS, essonne
  • Ambitious Girls, Lycée Adam de Craponne, PACA

Germany

Flight status achieved:

  • Uschis, St. Ursula Gymnasium Freiburg im Breisgau, Breisgau
  • Dosi-Pi, Max-Born-Gymnasium Germering, Bavaria

Greece

Flight status achieved:

  • Deep Space Pi, 1o Epal Grevenon, Grevena
  • Flox Team, 1st Lyceum of Kifissia, Attiki
  • Kalamaria Space Team, Second Lyceum of Kalamaria, Central Macedonia
  • The Earth Watchers, STEM Robotics Academy, Thessaly
  • Celestial_Distance, Gymnasium of Kanithos, Sterea Ellada – Evia
  • Pi Stars, Primary School of Rododaphne, Achaias
  • Flarions, 5th Primary School of Salamina, Attica

Ireland

Flight status achieved:

  • Plant Parade, Templeogue College, Leinster
  • For Peats Sake, Templeogue College, Leinster
  • CoderDojo Clonakilty, Co. Cork

Italy

Flight status achieved:

  • Trentini DOP, CoderDojo Trento, TN
  • Tarantino Space Lab, Liceo G. Tarantino, BA
  • Murgia Sky Lab, Liceo G. Tarantino, BA
  • Enrico Fermi, Liceo XXV Aprile, Veneto
  • Team Lampone, CoderDojoTrento, TN
  • GCC, Gali Code Club, Trentino Alto Adige/Südtirol
  • Another Earth, IISS “Laporta/Falcone-Borsellino”
  • Anti Pollution Team, IIS “L. Einaudi”, Sicily
  • e-HAND, Liceo Statale Scientifico e Classico ‘Ettore Majorana’, Lombardia
  • scossa team, ITTS Volterra, Venezia
  • Space Comet Sisters, Scuola don Bosco, Torino

Luxembourg

Flight status achieved:

  • Spaceballs, Atert Lycée Rédange, Diekirch
  • Aline in space, Lycée Aline Mayrisch Luxembourg (LAML)

Poland

Flight status achieved:

  • AstroLeszczynPi, I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. Krola Stanislawa Leszczynskiego w Jasle, podkarpackie
  • Astrokompasy, High School nr XVII in Wrocław named after Agnieszka Osiecka, Lower Silesian
  • Cosmic Investigators, Publiczna Szkoła Podstawowa im. Św. Jadwigi Królowej w Rzezawie, Małopolska
  • ApplePi, III Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. prof. T. Kotarbińskiego w Zielonej Górze, Lubusz Voivodeship
  • ELE Society 2, Zespol Szkol Elektronicznych i Samochodowych, Lubuskie
  • ELE Society 1, Zespol Szkol Elektronicznych i Samochodowych, Lubuskie
  • SpaceOn, Szkola Podstawowa nr 12 w Jasle – Gimnazjum Nr 2, Podkarpackie
  • Dewnald Ducks, III Liceum Ogólnokształcące w Zielonej Górze, lubuskie
  • Nova Team, III Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. prof. T. Kotarbinskiego, lubuskie district
  • The Moons, Szkola Podstawowa nr 12 w Jasle – Gimnazjum Nr 2, Podkarpackie
  • Live, Szkoła Podstawowa nr 1 im. Tadeusza Kościuszki w Zawierciu, śląskie
  • Storm Hunters, I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. Krola Stanislawa Leszczynskiego w Jasle, podkarpackie
  • DeepSky, Szkoła Podstawowa nr 1 im. Tadeusza Kościuszki w Zawierciu, śląskie
  • Small Explorers, ZPO Konina, Malopolska
  • AstroZSCL, Zespół Szkół w Czerwionce-Leszczynach, śląskie
  • Orchestra, Szkola Podstawowa nr 12 w Jasle, Podkarpackie
  • ApplePi, I Liceum Ogolnoksztalcace im. Krola Stanislawa Leszczynskiego w Jasle, podkarpackie
  • Green Crew, Szkoła Podstawowa nr 2 w Czeladzi, Silesia

Portugal

Flight status achieved:

  • Magnetics, Escola Secundária João de Deus, Faro
  • ECA_QUEIROS_PI, Secondary School Eça de Queirós, Lisboa
  • ESDMM Pi, Escola Secundária D. Manuel Martins, Setúbal
  • AstroPhysicists, EB 2,3 D. Afonso Henriques, Braga

Romania

Flight status achieved:

  • Caelus, “Tudor Vianu” National High School of Computer Science, District One
  • CodeWarriors, “Tudor Vianu” National High School of Computer Science, District One
  • Dark Phoenix, “Tudor Vianu” National High School of Computer Science, District One
  • ShootingStars, “Tudor Vianu” National High School of Computer Science, District One
  • Astro Pi Carmen Sylva 2, Liceul Teoretic “Carmen Sylva”, Constanta
  • Astro Meridian, Astro Club Meridian 0, Bihor

Slovenia

Flight status achieved:

  • astrOSRence, OS Rence
  • Jakopičevca, Osnovna šola Riharda Jakopiča, Ljubljana

Spain

Flight status achieved:

  • Exea in Orbit, IES Cinco Villas, Zaragoza
  • Valdespartans, IES Valdespartera, Zaragoza
  • Valdespartans2, IES Valdespartera, Zaragoza
  • Astropithecus, Institut de Bruguers, Barcelona
  • SkyPi-line, Colegio Corazón de María, Asturias
  • ClimSOLatic, Colegio Corazón de María, Asturias
  • Científicosdelsaz, IES Profesor Pablo del Saz, Málaga
  • Canarias 2, IES El Calero, Las Palmas
  • Dreamers, M. Peleteiro, A Coruña
  • Canarias 1, IES El Calero, Las Palmas

The Netherlands

Flight status achieved:

  • Team Kaki-FM, Rkbs De Reiger, Noord-Holland

United Kingdom

Flight status achieved:

  • Binco, Teignmouth Community School, Devon
  • 2200 (Saddleworth), Detached Flight Royal Air Force Air Cadets, Lanchashire
  • Whatevernext, Albyn School, Highlands
  • GraviTeam, Limehurst Academy, Leicestershire
  • LSA Digital Leaders, Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College, Lancashire
  • Mead Astronauts, Mead Community Primary School, Wiltshire
  • STEAMCademy, Castlewood Primary School, West Sussex
  • Lux Quest, CoderDojo Banbridge, Co. Down
  • Temparatus, Dyffryn Taf, Carmarthenshire
  • Discovery STEMers, Discovery STEM Education, South Yorkshire
  • Code Inverness, Code Club Inverness, Highland
  • JJB, Ashton Sixth Form College, Tameside
  • Astro Lab, East Kent College, Kent
  • The Life Savers, Scratch and Python, Middlesex
  • JAAPiT, Taylor Household, Nottingham
  • The Heat Guys, The Archer Academy, Greater London
  • Astro Wantenauts, Wantage C of E Primary School, Oxfordshire
  • Derby Radio Museum, Radio Communication Museum of Great Britain, Derbyshire
  • Bytesyze, King’s College School, Cambridgeshire

Other

Flight status achieved:

  • Intellectual Savage Stars, Lycée français de Luanda, Luanda

 

Congratulations to all successful teams! We are looking forward to reading your reports.

The post Mission Space Lab flight status announced! appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Facebook Will Verify the Physical Location of Ad Buyers with Paper Postcards

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

It’s not a great solution, but it’s something:

The process of using postcards containing a specific code will be required for advertising that mentions a specific candidate running for a federal office, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s global director of policy programs, said. The requirement will not apply to issue-based political ads, she said.

“If you run an ad mentioning a candidate, we are going to mail you a postcard and you will have to use that code to prove you are in the United States,” Harbath said at a weekend conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, where executives from Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google also spoke.

“It won’t solve everything,” Harbath said in a brief interview with Reuters following her remarks.

But sending codes through old-fashioned mail was the most effective method the tech company could come up with to prevent Russians and other bad actors from purchasing ads while posing as someone else, Harbath said.

It does mean a several-days delay between purchasing an ad and seeing it run.

Community Profile: Estefannie Explains It All

Post Syndicated from Alex Bate original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/community-profile-estefannie/

This column is from The MagPi issue 59. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition through your letterbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve our charitable goals.

“Hey, world!” Estefannie exclaims, a wide grin across her face as the camera begins to roll for another YouTube tutorial video. With a growing number of followers and wonderful support from her fans, Estefannie is building a solid reputation as an online maker, creating unique, fun content accessible to all.

A woman sitting at a desk with a laptop and papers — Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi

It’s as if she was born into performing and making for an audience, but this fun, enjoyable journey to social media stardom came not from a desire to be in front of the camera, but rather as a unique approach to her own learning. While studying, Estefannie decided the best way to confirm her knowledge of a subject was to create an educational video explaining it. If she could teach a topic successfully, she knew she’d retained the information. And so her YouTube channel, Estefannie Explains It All, came into being.

Note taking — Estefannie Explains it All

Her first videos featured pages of notes with voice-over explanations of data structure and algorithm analysis. Then she moved in front of the camera, and expanded her skills in the process.

But YouTube isn’t her only outlet. With nearly 50000 followers, Estefannie’s Instagram game is strong, adding to an increasing number of female coders taking to the platform. Across her Instagram grid, you’ll find insights into her daily routine, from programming on location for work to behind-the-scenes troubleshooting as she begins to create another tutorial video. It’s hard work, with content creation for both Instagram and YouTube forever on her mind as she continues to work and progress successfully as a software engineer.

A woman showing off a game on a tablet — Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi

As a thank you to her Instagram fans for helping her reach 10000 followers, Estefannie created a free game for Android and iOS called Gravitris — imagine Tetris with balance issues!

Estefannie was born and raised in Mexico, with ambitions to become a graphic designer and animator. However, a documentary on coding at Pixar, and the beauty of Merida’s hair in Brave, opened her mind to the opportunities of software engineering in animation. She altered her career path, moved to the United States, and switched to a Computer Science course.

A woman wearing safety goggles hugging a keyboard Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi

With a constant desire to make and to learn, Estefannie combines her software engineering profession with her hobby to create fun, exciting content for YouTube.

While studying, Estefannie started a Computer Science Girls Club at the University of Houston, Texas, and she found herself eager to put more time and effort into the movement to increase the percentage of women in the industry. The club was a success, and still is to this day. While Estefannie has handed over the reins, she’s still very involved in the cause.

Through her YouTube videos, Estefannie continues the theme of inclusion, with every project offering a warm sense of approachability for all, regardless of age, gender, or skill. From exploring Scratch and Makey Makey with her young niece and nephew to creating her own Disney ‘Made with Magic’ backpack for a trip to Disney World, Florida, Estefannie’s videos are essentially a documentary of her own learning process, produced so viewers can learn with her — and learn from her mistakes — to create their own tech wonders.

Using the Raspberry Pi, she’s been able to broaden her skills and, in turn, her projects, creating a home-automated gingerbread house at Christmas, building a GPS-controlled GoPro for her trip to London, and making everyone’s life better with an Internet Button–controlled French press.

Estefannie Explains it All Raspberry Pi Home Automated Gingerbread House

Estefannie’s automated gingerbread house project was a labour of love, with electronics, wires, and candy strewn across both her living room and kitchen for weeks before completion. While she already was a skilled programmer, the world of physical digital making was still fairly new for Estefannie. Having ditched her hot glue gun in favour of a soldering iron in a previous video, she continued to experiment and try out new, interesting techniques that are now second nature to many members of the maker community. With the gingerbread house, Estefannie was able to research and apply techniques such as light controls, servos, and app making, although the latter was already firmly within her skill set. The result? A fun video of ups and downs that resulted in a wonderful, festive treat. She even gave her holiday home its own solar panel!

A DAY AT RASPBERRY PI TOWERS!! LINK IN BIO ⚡🎥 @raspberrypifoundation

1,910 Likes, 43 Comments – Estefannie Explains It All (@estefanniegg) on Instagram: “A DAY AT RASPBERRY PI TOWERS!! LINK IN BIO ⚡🎥 @raspberrypifoundation”

And that’s just the beginning of her adventures with Pi…but we won’t spoil her future plans by telling you what’s coming next. Sorry! However, since this article was written last year, Estefannie has released a few more Pi-based project videos, plus some awesome interviews and live-streams with other members of the maker community such as Simone Giertz. She even made us an awesome video for our Raspberry Pi YouTube channel! So be sure to check out her latest releases.

Best day yet!! I got to hangout, play Jenga with a huge arm robot, and have afternoon tea with @simonegiertz and robots!! 🤖👯 #shittyrobotnation

2,264 Likes, 56 Comments – Estefannie Explains It All (@estefanniegg) on Instagram: “Best day yet!! I got to hangout, play Jenga with a huge arm robot, and have afternoon tea with…”

While many wonderful maker videos show off a project without much explanation, or expect a certain level of skill from viewers hoping to recreate the project, Estefannie’s videos exist almost within their own category. We can’t wait to see where Estefannie Explains It All goes next!

The post Community Profile: Estefannie Explains It All appeared first on Raspberry Pi.