Tag Archives: Verizon

Major US ISPs Refuse to Discuss Repeat Infringer Policies

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/major-us-isps-refuse-to-discuss-repeat-infringer-policies-190912/

Every single week, Internet users in the United States take to Reddit and other discussion forums seeking advice about copyright infringement notices.

Whether the claims against them are true is often hard to assess, but many speak of receiving notices from their ISP which state that a third-party has caught them torrenting something they shouldn’t – usually movies, TV shows, or music.

While any and all of them are able to speak directly to their ISP to find out what the notices are all about and what the consequences might be, many seem confused. Are they going to be sued, for example, or perhaps their Internet might get suspended or cut off completely?

Most advice dished out by fellow internet users is (and I’m paraphrasing), “Dumbass – use a VPN”, but while that comprehensively solves the problem, it doesn’t answer the big questions.

A common topic is how many notices a customer can receive from their ISP before things get serious. One might think this basic information would be easy to find but despite most major ISPs in the US stating that they don’t allow infringement and there could be consequences for receiving multiple complaints, more often than not their information pages aren’t specific.

So, in an effort to cut through all the jargon and put all the relevant information into one article, on August 27 we approached several of the major ISPs in the United States – Comcast, AT&T, Charter/Spectrum, Verizon, and CenturyLink – with a list of questions, detailed below;

  • Your company forwards copyright complaints from rightsholders, based on their claims. How many complaints can a subscriber have made against their account before some action is taken by you, beyond simply forwarding the notice to the subscriber?
  • What is the nature of that action, i.e requiring to confirm receipt of the notice, taking a copyright lesson, promising not to infringe again, etc?
  • Once this stage has been completed, how many more complaints against an account will trigger any subsequent action, i.e a more serious warning, warning that an account could be suspended etc?
  • At what point would a customer with multiple complaints against their account be considered a ‘repeat infringer’?
  • At what point could an account holder expect a temporary account suspension? At this point, how would that suspension be lifted?
  • At what point could an account holder expect a complete termination of his or her service?
  • In respect of points 5 and 6, is the number of complaints a deciding factor or does a subscriber’s negative or positive responses and actions in respect of your efforts to prevent infringement also play a part?
  • Are you able to confirm that accounts have been temporarily suspended for repeat infringement and if so, how many?
  • Are you able to confirm that accounts have been permanently shut down for repeat infringement and if so, how many?

We told the ISPs exactly why we were asking these questions and indicated that a response within seven days would guarantee their inclusion in this article. We extended the deadline to two weeks and beyond but not a single company listed above responded to any of our questions.

In fact, none even acknowledged receipt of our initial email, despite one ISP requiring us to send emails to at least three people involved in their media communications team. It seems fairly clear this potato is simply too hot to pick up.

That being said, we thought we should press on with at least trying to help subscribers.

There are usually very few valid excuses for receiving multiple copyright infringement complaints. Some do exist, of course, but not knowing the precise mechanism for being dealt with under various ISPs’ ‘repeat infringer’ rulesets only makes matters worse.

What we can do here is give relevant snippets/quotes from each ISP’s website and link to the page(s) in question, with a comment here and there. In no particular order:

AT&T: In accordance with the DMCA and other applicable laws, AT&T maintains a policy that provides for the termination of IP Services, under appropriate circumstances, if Customers are found to be a repeat infringer and/or if Customers’ IP Services are used repeatedly for infringement (the ‘Repeat Infringer Policy’). AT&T may terminate IP Services at any time with or without notice to Customers.

AT&T has no obligation to investigate possible copyright infringements with respect to materials transmitted by Customer or any other users of the IP Services. However, AT&T will process valid notifications of claimed infringement under the DMCA, and continued receipt of infringement notifications for Customer’s account will be used as a factor in determining whether Customer is a repeat infringer.

TF note on AT&T: We can find no “Repeat Infringer Policy”

CenturyLink: Company respects the intellectual property rights of others and is committed to complying with U.S. copyright laws, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (‘DMCA’). Company reserves the right to suspend or terminate, in appropriate circumstances, the service of users whose accounts are repeatedly implicated in allegations of copyright infringement involving the use of Company’s network.

TF note: We have no idea what constitutes “appropriate circumstances.”

Comcast/Xfinity: Any infringement of third party copyright rights violates the law. We reserve the right to treat any customer account for whom we receive multiple DMCA notifications from content owners as a repeat infringer.

We reserve the right to move a customer account to the next step of the policy upon receiving any number of DMCA notifications from content owners in a given month, or upon learning that the account holder is a repeat infringer.

You may receive an email alert to the preferred email address on your account or a letter to your home address. You may also receive an in-browser notification, a recorded message to your telephone number on file, a text message to your mobile telephone number on file, or another form of communication.

Triggering steps under this policy may result in the following: a persistent in-browser notification or other form of communication that requires you to log in to your account or call us; a temporary suspension of, or other interim measures applied to, your service; or the termination of your Xfinity Internet service as well as your other Xfinity services (other than Xfinity Mobile).

TF note on Comcast: The ‘repeat infringer’ policy is quite detailed and worth the long read.

Cox Communications: Cox encourages responsible internet use. Our internet use policy is consistent with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and allows us to take steps when we receive notifications of claimed infringement.

Repeated notifications of claimed violations on your account could lead to Internet service suspension or termination.

If you continue to receive copyright infringement notifications on your account, Cox suspends your Internet service. In the Customer Portal, you may reactivate your Internet service up to two times.

If your account continues to receive copyright infringement notifications, your Internet service is terminated.

TF note on Cox: The repeat infringer policy is worth a read and is quite specific in parts, less so in others.

Spectrum/Charter: TF initial note: The company doesn’t appear to have a dedicated ‘repeat infringer’ policy outside of its published “copyright violation” advice. While this is both detailed and helpful in many respects, it doesn’t give specifics on alleged ‘repeat infringers’.

After noting that “Charter may suspend or disconnect your service as a result of repeat copyright violations,” users are sent to its Acceptable Use Policy page, which reads in part as follows:

Spectrum reserves the right to investigate violations of this AUP, including the gathering of information from the Subscriber or other Users involved and the complaining party, if any, and the examination of material on Spectrum’s servers and network.

Spectrum prefers to advise Users of AUP violations and any necessary corrective action but, if Spectrum, in its sole discretion, determines that a User has violated the AUP, Spectrum will take any responsive action that is deemed appropriate without prior notification. Such action includes but is not limited to: temporary suspension of service, reduction of service resources, and termination of service.

Verizon: Pursuant to Section 512 of the DMCA, it is Verizon’s policy to terminate the account of repeat copyright infringers in appropriate circumstances.

TF note: This appears to be the shortest ‘repeat infringer’ policy of all the ISPs and is a good example of why we decided to ask all of the companies for their precise steps, so we could offer a little more detail to their customers.

Sorry, we failed, but there’s probably a good reason for that.

Summary: With several ISPs up to their necks in lawsuits filed by the RIAA alleging that they haven’t done enough to deal with “repeat infringers”, it’s perhaps no surprise that the companies ignored our requests for information.

That being said, it’s of interest that several appear to be acting in a particularly vague manner – perhaps they’re already worrying that they’ll be next on the music industry’s list.

In the meantime and in most cases, users will remain largely in the dark unless they do a lot of reading and research. And even that might not be enough.

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

Accessing Cell Phone Location Information

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

The New York Times is reporting about a company called Securus Technologies that gives police the ability to track cell phone locations without a warrant:

The service can find the whereabouts of almost any cellphone in the country within seconds. It does this by going through a system typically used by marketers and other companies to get location data from major cellphone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, documents show.

Another article.

Boing Boing post.

Success at Apache: A Newbie’s Narrative

Post Syndicated from mikesefanov original https://yahooeng.tumblr.com/post/170536010891

yahoodevelopers:

Kuhu Shukla (bottom center) and team at the 2017 DataWorks Summit


By Kuhu Shukla

This post first appeared here on the Apache Software Foundation blog as part of ASF’s “Success at Apache” monthly blog series.

As I sit at my desk on a rather frosty morning with my coffee, looking up new JIRAs from the previous day in the Apache Tez project, I feel rather pleased. The latest community release vote is complete, the bug fixes that we so badly needed are in and the new release that we tested out internally on our many thousand strong cluster is looking good. Today I am looking at a new stack trace from a different Apache project process and it is hard to miss how much of the exceptional code I get to look at every day comes from people all around the globe. A contributor leaves a JIRA comment before he goes on to pick up his kid from soccer practice while someone else wakes up to find that her effort on a bug fix for the past two months has finally come to fruition through a binding +1.

Yahoo – which joined AOL, HuffPost, Tumblr, Engadget, and many more brands to form the Verizon subsidiary Oath last year – has been at the frontier of open source adoption and contribution since before I was in high school. So while I have no historical trajectories to share, I do have a story on how I found myself in an epic journey of migrating all of Yahoo jobs from Apache MapReduce to Apache Tez, a then-new DAG based execution engine.

Oath grid infrastructure is through and through driven by Apache technologies be it storage through HDFS, resource management through YARN, job execution frameworks with Tez and user interface engines such as Hive, Hue, Pig, Sqoop, Spark, Storm. Our grid solution is specifically tailored to Oath’s business-critical data pipeline needs using the polymorphic technologies hosted, developed and maintained by the Apache community.

On the third day of my job at Yahoo in 2015, I received a YouTube link on An Introduction to Apache Tez. I watched it carefully trying to keep up with all the questions I had and recognized a few names from my academic readings of Yarn ACM papers. I continued to ramp up on YARN and HDFS, the foundational Apache technologies Oath heavily contributes to even today. For the first few weeks I spent time picking out my favorite (necessary) mailing lists to subscribe to and getting started on setting up on a pseudo-distributed Hadoop cluster. I continued to find my footing with newbie contributions and being ever more careful with whitespaces in my patches. One thing was clear – Tez was the next big thing for us. By the time I could truly call myself a contributor in the Hadoop community nearly 80-90% of the Yahoo jobs were now running with Tez. But just like hiking up the Grand Canyon, the last 20% is where all the pain was. Being a part of the solution to this challenge was a happy prospect and thankfully contributing to Tez became a goal in my next quarter.

The next sprint planning meeting ended with me getting my first major Tez assignment – progress reporting. The progress reporting in Tez was non-existent – “Just needs an API fix,”  I thought. Like almost all bugs in this ecosystem, it was not easy. How do you define progress? How is it different for different kinds of outputs in a graph? The questions were many.

I, however, did not have to go far to get answers. The Tez community actively came to a newbie’s rescue, finding answers and posing important questions. I started attending the bi-weekly Tez community sync up calls and asking existing contributors and committers for course correction. Suddenly the team was much bigger, the goals much more chiseled. This was new to anyone like me who came from the networking industry, where the most open part of the code are the RFCs and the implementation details are often hidden. These meetings served as a clean room for our coding ideas and experiments. Ideas were shared, to the extent of which data structure we should pick and what a future user of Tez would take from it. In between the usual status updates and extensive knowledge transfers were made.

Oath uses Apache Pig and Apache Hive extensively and most of the urgent requirements and requests came from Pig and Hive developers and users. Each issue led to a community JIRA and as we started running Tez at Oath scale, new feature ideas and bugs around performance and resource utilization materialized. Every year most of the Hadoop team at Oath travels to the Hadoop Summit where we meet our cohorts from the Apache community and we stand for hours discussing the state of the art and what is next for the project. One such discussion set the course for the next year and a half for me.

We needed an innovative way to shuffle data. Frameworks like MapReduce and Tez have a shuffle phase in their processing lifecycle wherein the data from upstream producers is made available to downstream consumers. Even though Apache Tez was designed with a feature set corresponding to optimization requirements in Pig and Hive, the Shuffle Handler Service was retrofitted from MapReduce at the time of the project’s inception. With several thousands of jobs on our clusters leveraging these features in Tez, the Shuffle Handler Service became a clear performance bottleneck. So as we stood talking about our experience with Tez with our friends from the community, we decided to implement a new Shuffle Handler for Tez. All the conversation points were tracked now through an umbrella JIRA TEZ-3334 and the to-do list was long. I picked a few JIRAs and as I started reading through I realized, this is all new code I get to contribute to and review. There might be a better way to put this, but to be honest it was just a lot of fun! All the whiteboards were full, the team took walks post lunch and discussed how to go about defining the API. Countless hours were spent debugging hangs while fetching data and looking at stack traces and Wireshark captures from our test runs. Six months in and we had the feature on our sandbox clusters. There were moments ranging from sheer frustration to absolute exhilaration with high fives as we continued to address review comments and fixing big and small issues with this evolving feature.

As much as owning your code is valued everywhere in the software community, I would never go on to say “I did this!” In fact, “we did!” It is this strong sense of shared ownership and fluid team structure that makes the open source experience at Apache truly rewarding. This is just one example. A lot of the work that was done in Tez was leveraged by the Hive and Pig community and cross Apache product community interaction made the work ever more interesting and challenging. Triaging and fixing issues with the Tez rollout led us to hit a 100% migration score last year and we also rolled the Tez Shuffle Handler Service out to our research clusters. As of last year we have run around 100 million Tez DAGs with a total of 50 billion tasks over almost 38,000 nodes.

In 2018 as I move on to explore Hadoop 3.0 as our future release, I hope that if someone outside the Apache community is reading this, it will inspire and intrigue them to contribute to a project of their choice. As an astronomy aficionado, going from a newbie Apache contributor to a newbie Apache committer was very much like looking through my telescope - it has endless possibilities and challenges you to be your best.

About the Author:

Kuhu Shukla is a software engineer at Oath and did her Masters in Computer Science at North Carolina State University. She works on the Big Data Platforms team on Apache Tez, YARN and HDFS with a lot of talented Apache PMCs and Committers in Champaign, Illinois. A recent Apache Tez Committer herself she continues to contribute to YARN and HDFS and spoke at the 2017 Dataworks Hadoop Summit on “Tez Shuffle Handler: Shuffling At Scale With Apache Hadoop”. Prior to that she worked on Juniper Networks’ router and switch configuration APIs. She likes to participate in open source conferences and women in tech events. In her spare time she loves singing Indian classical and jazz, laughing, whale watching, hiking and peering through her Dobsonian telescope.

Libertarians are against net neutrality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

NetNeutrality vs. Verizon censoring Naral

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-verizon-censoring-naral.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in support of net neutrality. It’s wrong. In this post, I debunk the second item. I debunk other items in other posts [1] [4].

Firstly, it’s not a NetNeutrality issue (which applies only to the Internet), but an issue with text-messages. In other words, it’s something that will continue to happen even with NetNeutrality rules. People relate this to NetNeutrality as an analogy, not because it actually is such an issue.

Secondly, it’s an edge/content issue, not a transit issue. The details in this case is that Verizon provides a program for sending bulk messages to its customers from the edge of the network. Verizon isn’t censoring text messages in transit, but from the edge. You can send a text message to your friend on the Verizon network, and it won’t be censored. Thus the analogy is incorrect — the correct analogy would be with content providers like Twitter and Facebook, not ISPs like Comcast.

Like all cell phone vendors, Verizon polices this content, canceling accounts that abuse the system, like spammers. We all agree such censorship is a good thing, and that such censorship of content providers is not remotely a NetNeutrality issue. Content providers do this not because they disapprove of the content of spam such much as the distaste their customers have for spam.
Content providers that are political, rather than neutral to politics is indeed worrisome. It’s not a NetNeutrality issue per se, but it is a general “neutrality” issue. We free-speech activists want all content providers (Twitter, Facebook, Verizon mass-texting programs) to be free of political censorship — though we don’t want government to mandate such neutrality.
But even here, Verizon may be off the hook. They appear not be to be censoring one political view over another, but the controversial/unsavory way Naral expresses its views. Presumably, Verizon would be okay with less controversial political content.

In other words, as Verizon expresses it’s principles, it wants to block content that drivers away customers, but is otherwise neutral to the content. While this may unfairly target controversial political content, it’s at least basically neutral.

So in conclusion, while activists portray this as a NetNeutrality issue, it isn’t. It’s not even close.

AWS Hot Startups – May 2017

Post Syndicated from Tina Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-may-2017/

April showers bring May startups! This month we have three hot startups for you to check out. Keep reading to find out what they’re up to, and how they’re using AWS to do it.

Today’s post features the following startups:

  • Lobster – an AI-powered platform connecting creative social media users to professionals.
  • Visii – helping consumers find the perfect product using visual search.
  • Tiqets – a curated marketplace for culture and entertainment.

Lobster (London, England)

Every day, social media users generate billions of authentic images and videos to rival typical stock photography. Powered by Artificial Intelligence, Lobster enables brands, agencies, and the press to license visual content directly from social media users so they can find that piece of content that perfectly fits their brand or story. Lobster does the work of sorting through major social networks (Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, Vk, YouTube, and Vimeo) and cloud storage providers (Dropbox, Google Photos, and Verizon) to find media, saving brands and agencies time and energy. Using filters like gender, color, age, and geolocation can help customers find the unique content they’re looking for, while Lobster’s AI and visual recognition finds images instantly. Lobster also runs photo challenges to help customers discover the perfect image to fit their needs.

Lobster is an excellent platform for creative people to get their work discovered while also protecting their content. Users are treated as copyright holders and earn 75% of the final price of every sale. The platform is easy to use: new users simply sign in with an existing social media or cloud account and can start showcasing their artistic talent right away. Lobster allows users to connect to any number of photo storage sources so they’re able to choose which items to share and which to keep private. Once users have selected their favorite photos and videos to share, they can sit back and watch as their work is picked to become the signature for a new campaign or featured on a cool website – and start earning money for their work.

Lobster is using a variety of AWS services to keep everything running smoothly. The company uses Amazon S3 to store photography that was previously ordered by customers. When a customer purchases content, the respective piece of content must be available at any given moment, independent from the original source. Lobster is also using Amazon EC2 for its application servers and Elastic Load Balancing to monitor the state of each server.

To learn more about Lobster, check them out here!

Visii (London, England)

In today’s vast web, a growing number of products are being sold online and searching for something specific can be difficult. Visii was created to cater to businesses and help them extract value from an asset they already have – their images. Their SaaS platform allows clients to leverage an intelligent visual search on their websites and apps to help consumers find the perfect product for them. With Visii, consumers can choose an image and immediately discover more based on their tastes and preferences. Whether it’s clothing, artwork, or home decor, Visii will make recommendations to get consumers to search visually and subsequently help businesses increase their conversion rates.

There are multiple ways for businesses to integrate Visii on their website or app. Many of Visii’s clients choose to build against their API, but Visii also work closely with many clients to figure out the most effective way to do this for each unique case. This has led Visii to help build innovative user interfaces and figure out the best integration points to get consumers to search visually. Businesses can also integrate Visii on their website with a widget – they just need to provide a list of links to their products and Visii does the rest.

Visii runs their entire infrastructure on AWS. Their APIs and pipeline all sit in auto-scaling groups, with ELBs in front of them, sending things across into Amazon Simple Queue Service and Amazon Aurora. Recently, Visii moved from Amazon RDS to Aurora and noted that the process was incredibly quick and easy. Because they make heavy use of machine learning, it is crucial that their pipeline only runs when required and that they maximize the efficiency of their uptime.

To see how companies are using Visii, check out Style Picker and Saatchi Art.

Tiqets (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Tiqets is making the ticket-buying experience faster and easier for travelers around the world.  Founded in 2013, Tiqets is one of the leading curated marketplaces for admission tickets to museums, zoos, and attractions. Their mission is to help travelers get the most out of their trips by helping them find and experience a city’s culture and entertainment. Tiqets partners directly with vendors to adapt to a customer’s specific needs, and is now active in over 30 cities in the US, Europe, and the Middle East.

With Tiqets, travelers can book tickets either ahead of time or at their destination for a wide range of attractions. The Tiqets app provides real-time availability and delivers tickets straight to customer’s phones via email, direct download, or in the app. Customers save time skipping long lines (a perk of the app!), save trees (don’t need to physically print tickets), and most importantly, they can make the most out of their leisure time. For each attraction featured on Tiqets, there is a lot of helpful information including best modes of transportation, hours, commonly asked questions, and reviews from other customers.

The Tiqets platform consists of the consumer-facing website, the internal and external-facing APIs, and the partner self-service portals. For the app hosting and infrastructure, Tiqets uses AWS services such as Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS, Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, and Amazon ElastiCache. Through the infrastructure orchestration of their AWS configuration, they can easily set up separate development or test environments while staying close to the production environment as well.

Tiqets is hiring! Be sure to check out their jobs page if you are interested in joining the Tiqets team.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out April’s Hot Startups if you missed it.

-Tina Barr

 

 

John Oliver is wrong about Net Neutrality

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/05/john-oliver-is-wrong-about-net.html

People keep linking to John Oliver bits. We should stop doing this. This is comedy, but people are confused into thinking Oliver is engaging in rational political debate:
Enlightened people know that reasonable people disagree, that there’s two sides to any debate. John Oliver’s bit erodes that belief, making one side (your side) sound smart, and the other side sound unreasonable.
The #1 thing you should know about Net Neutrality is that reasonable people disagree. It doesn’t mean they are right, only that they are reasonable. They aren’t stupid. They aren’t shills for the telcom lobby, or confused by the telcom lobby. Indeed, those opposed to Net Neutrality are the tech experts who know how packets are routed, whereas the supporters tend only to be lawyers, academics, and activists. If you think that the anti-NetNeutrality crowd is unreasonable, then you are in a dangerous filter bubble.
Most everything in John Oliver’s piece is incorrect.
For example, he says that without Net Neutrality, Comcast can prefer original shows it produces, and slow down competing original shows by Netflix. This is silly: Comcast already does that, even with NetNeutrality rules.
Comcast owns NBC, which produces a lot of original shows. During prime time (8pm to 11pm), Comcast delivers those shows at 6-mbps to its customers, while Netflix is throttled to around 3-mbps. Because of this, Comcast original shows are seen at higher quality than Netflix shows.
Comcast can do this, even with NetNeutrality rules, because it separates its cables into “channels”. One channel carries public Internet traffic, like Netflix. The other channels carry private Internet traffic, for broadcast TV shows and pay-per-view.
All NetNeutrality means is that if Comcast wants to give preference to its own contents/services, it has to do so using separate channels on the wire, rather than pushing everything over the same channel. This is a detail nobody tells you because NetNeutrality proponents aren’t techies. They are lawyers and academics. They maximize moral outrage, while ignoring technical details.
Another example in Oliver’s show is whether search engines like Google or the (hypothetical) Bing can pay to get faster access to customers. They already do that. The average distance a packet travels on the web is less than 100-miles. That’s because the biggest companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) pay to put servers in your city close to you. Smaller companies, such as search engine DuckDuckGo.com, also pay third-party companies like Akamai or Amazon Web Services to get closer to you. The smallest companies, however, get poor performance, being a thousand miles away.
You can test this out for yourself. Run a packet-sniffer on your home network for a week, then for each address, use mapping tools like ping and traceroute to figure out how far away things are.
The Oliver bit mentioned how Verizon banned Google Wallet. Again, technical details are important here. It had nothing to do with Net Neutrality issues blocking network packets, but only had to do with Verizon-branded phones blocking access to the encrypted enclave. You could use Google Wallet on unlocked phones you bought separately. Moreover, market forces won in the end, with Google Wallet (aka. Android Wallet) now the preferred wallet on their network. In other words, this incident shows that the “free market” fixes things in the long run without the heavy hand of government.
Oliver shows a piece where FCC chief Ajit Pai points out that Internet companies didn’t do evil without Net Neutrality rules, and thus NetNeutrality rules were unneeded. Oliver claimed this was a “disingenuous” argument. No, it’s not “disingenuous”, it entirely the point of why Net Neutrality is bad. It’s chasing theoretical possibility of abuse, not the real thing. Sure, Internet companies will occasionally go down misguided paths. If it’s truly bad, customers will rebel. In some cases, it’s not actually a bad thing, and will end up being a benefit to customers (e.g. throttling BitTorrent during primetime would benefit most BitTorrent users). It’s the pro-NetNeutrality side that’s being disingenuous, knowingly trumping up things as problems that really aren’t.
The point is this. The argument here is a complicated one, between reasonable sides. For humor, John Oliver has created a one-sided debate that falls apart under any serious analysis. Those like the EFF should not mistake such humor for intelligent technical debate.

Congress Removes FCC Privacy Protections on Your Internet Usage

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/03/congress_remove.html

Think about all of the websites you visit every day. Now imagine if the likes of Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon collected all of your browsing history and sold it on to the highest bidder. That’s what will probably happen if Congress has its way.

This week, lawmakers voted to allow Internet service providers to violate your privacy for their own profit. Not only have they voted to repeal a rule that protects your privacy, they are also trying to make it illegal for the Federal Communications Commission to enact other rules to protect your privacy online.

That this is not provoking greater outcry illustrates how much we’ve ceded any willingness to shape our technological future to for-profit companies and are allowing them to do it for us.

There are a lot of reasons to be worried about this. Because your Internet service provider controls your connection to the Internet, it is in a position to see everything you do on the Internet. Unlike a search engine or social networking platform or news site, you can’t easily switch to a competitor. And there’s not a lot of competition in the market, either. If you have a choice between two high-speed providers in the US, consider yourself lucky.

What can telecom companies do with this newly granted power to spy on everything you’re doing? Of course they can sell your data to marketers — and the inevitable criminals and foreign governments who also line up to buy it. But they can do more creepy things as well.

They can snoop through your traffic and insert their own ads. They can deploy systems that remove encryption so they can better eavesdrop. They can redirect your searches to other sites. They can install surveillance software on your computers and phones. None of these are hypothetical.

They’re all things Internet service providers have done before, and they are some of the reasons the FCC tried to protect your privacy in the first place. And now they’ll be able to do all of these things in secret, without your knowledge or consent. And, of course, governments worldwide will have access to these powers. And all of that data will be at risk of hacking, either by criminals and other governments.

Telecom companies have argued that other Internet players already have these creepy powers — although they didn’t use the word “creepy” — so why should they not have them as well? It’s a valid point.

Surveillance is already the business model of the Internet, and literally hundreds of companies spy on your Internet activity against your interests and for their own profit.

Your e-mail provider already knows everything you write to your family, friends, and colleagues. Google already knows our hopes, fears, and interests, because that’s what we search for.

Your cellular provider already tracks your physical location at all times: it knows where you live, where you work, when you go to sleep at night, when you wake up in the morning, and — because everyone has a smartphone — who you spend time with and who you sleep with.

And some of the things these companies do with that power is no less creepy. Facebook has run experiments in manipulating your mood by changing what you see on your news feed. Uber used its ride data to identify one-night stands. Even Sony once installed spyware on customers’ computers to try and detect if they copied music files.

Aside from spying for profit, companies can spy for other purposes. Uber has already considered using data it collects to intimidate a journalist. Imagine what an Internet service provider can do with the data it collects: against politicians, against the media, against rivals.

Of course the telecom companies want a piece of the surveillance capitalism pie. Despite dwindling revenues, increasing use of ad blockers, and increases in clickfraud, violating our privacy is still a profitable business — especially if it’s done in secret.

The bigger question is: why do we allow for-profit corporations to create our technological future in ways that are optimized for their profits and anathema to our own interests?

When markets work well, different companies compete on price and features, and society collectively rewards better products by purchasing them. This mechanism fails if there is no competition, or if rival companies choose not to compete on a particular feature. It fails when customers are unable to switch to competitors. And it fails when what companies do remains secret.

Unlike service providers like Google and Facebook, telecom companies are infrastructure that requires government involvement and regulation. The practical impossibility of consumers learning the extent of surveillance by their Internet service providers, combined with the difficulty of switching them, means that the decision about whether to be spied on should be with the consumer and not a telecom giant. That this new bill reverses that is both wrong and harmful.

Today, technology is changing the fabric of our society faster than at any other time in history. We have big questions that we need to tackle: not just privacy, but questions of freedom, fairness, and liberty. Algorithms are making decisions about policing, healthcare.

Driverless vehicles are making decisions about traffic and safety. Warfare is increasingly being fought remotely and autonomously. Censorship is on the rise globally. Propaganda is being promulgated more efficiently than ever. These problems won’t go away. If anything, the Internet of things and the computerization of every aspect of our lives will make it worse.

In today’s political climate, it seems impossible that Congress would legislate these things to our benefit. Right now, regulatory agencies such as the FTC and FCC are our best hope to protect our privacy and security against rampant corporate power. That Congress has decided to reduce that power leaves us at enormous risk.

It’s too late to do anything about this bill — Trump will certainly sign it — but we need to be alert to future bills that reduce our privacy and security.

This post previously appeared on the Guardian.

EDITED TO ADD: Former FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler wrote a good op-ed on the subject. And here’s an essay laying out what this all means to the average Internet user.

IoT Attack Against a University Network

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/02/iot_attack_agai.html

Verizon’s Data Brief Digest 2017 describes an attack against an unnamed university by attackers who hacked a variety of IoT devices and had them spam network targets and slow them down:

Analysis of the university firewall identified over 5,000 devices making hundreds of Domain Name Service (DNS) look-ups every 15 minutes, slowing the institution’s entire network and restricting access to the majority of internet services.

In this instance, all of the DNS requests were attempting to look up seafood restaurants — and it wasn’t because thousands of students all had an overwhelming urge to eat fish — but because devices on the network had been instructed to repeatedly carry out this request.

“We identified that this was coming from their IoT network, their vending machines and their light sensors were actually looking for seafood domains; 5,000 discreet systems and they were nearly all in the IoT infrastructure,” says Laurance Dine, managing principal of investigative response at Verizon.

The actual Verizon document doesn’t appear to be available online yet, but there is an advance version that only discusses the incident above, available here.

AWS Direct Connect Update – Link Aggregation Groups, Bundles, and re:Invent Recap

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-direct-connect-update-link-aggregation-groups-bundles-and-reinvent-recap/

AWS Direct Connect helps our large-scale customers to create private, dedicated network connections to their office, data center, or colocation facility. Our customers create 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps connections in order to reduce their network costs, increase data transfer throughput, and to get a more consistent network experience than is possible with an Internet-based connection.

Today I would like to tell you about a new Link Aggregation feature for Direct Connect. I’d also like to tell you about our new Direct Connect Bundles and to tell you more about how we used Direct Connect to provide a first-class customer experience at AWS re:Invent 2016.

Link Aggregation Groups
Some of our customers would like to set up multiple connections (generally known as ports) between their location and one of the 46 Direct Connect locations. Some of them would like to create a highly available link that is resilient in the face of network issues outside of AWS; others simply need more data transfer throughput.

In order to support this important customer use case, you can now purchase up to 4 ports and treat them as a single managed connection, which we call a Link Aggregation Group or LAG. After you have set this up, traffic is load-balanced across the ports at the level of individual packet flows. All of the ports are active simultaneously, and are represented by a single BGP session. Traffic across the group is managed via Dynamic LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol – or ISO/IEC/IEEE 8802-1AX:2016). When you create your group, you also specify the minimum number of ports that must be active in order for the connection to be activated.

You can order a new group with multiple ports and you can aggregate existing ports into a new group. Either way, all of the ports must have the same speed (1 Gbps or 10 Gbps).

All of the ports in as group will connect to the same device on the AWS side. You can add additional ports to an existing group as long as there’s room on the device (this information is now available in the Direct Connect Console). If you need to expand an existing group and the device has no open ports, you can simply order a new group and migrate your connections.

Here’s how you can make use of link aggregation from the Console. First, creating a new LAG from scratch:

And second, creating a LAG from existing connections:


Link Aggregation Groups are now available in the US East (Northern Virginia), US West (Northern California), US East (Ohio), US West (Oregon), Canada (Central), South America (São Paulo), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), and Asia Pacific (Seoul) Regions and you can create them today. We expect to make them available in the remaining regions by the end of this month.

Direct Connect Bundles
We announced some powerful new Direct Connect Bundles at re:Invent 2016. Each bundle is an advanced, hybrid reference architecture designed to reduce complexity and to increase performance. Here are the new bundles:

Level 3 Communications Powers Amazon WorkSpaces – Connects enterprise applications, data, user workspaces, and end-point devices to offer reliable performance and a better end-user experience:

SaaS Architecture enhanced by AT&T NetBond – Enhances quality and user experience for applications migrated to the AWS Cloud:

Aviatrix User Access Integrated with Megaport DX – Supports encrypted connectivity between AWS Cloud Regions, between enterprise data centers and AWS, and on VPN access to AWS:

Riverbed Hybrid SDN/NFV Architecture over Verizon Secure Cloud Interconnect – Allows enterprise customers to provide secure, optimized access to AWS services in a hybrid network environment:

Direct Connect at re:Invent 2016
In order to provide a top-notch experience for attendees and partners at re:Invent, we worked with Level 3 to set up a highly available and fully redundant set of connections. This network was used to support breakout sessions, certification exams, the hands-on labs, the keynotes (including the live stream to over 25,000 viewers in 122 countries), the hackathon, bootcamps, and workshops. The re:Invent network used four 10 Gbps connections, two each to US West (Oregon) and US East (Northern Virginia):

It supported all of the re:Invent venues:

Here are some video resources that will help you to learn more about how we did this, and how you can do it yourself:

Jeff;

No, Yahoo! isn’t changing its name

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/01/no-yahoo-isnt-changing-its-name.html

Trending on social media is how Yahoo is changing it’s name to “Altaba” and CEO Marissa Mayer is stepping down. This is false.

What is happening instead is that everything we know of as “Yahoo” (including the brand name) is being sold to Verizon. The bits that are left are a skeleton company that holds stock in Alibaba and a few other companies. Since the brand was sold to Verizon, that investment company could no longer use it, so chose “Altaba”. Since 83% of its investment is in Alibabi, “Altaba” makes sense. It’s not like this new brand name means anything — the skeleton investment company will be wound down in the next year, either as a special dividend to investors, sold off to Alibaba, or both.

Marissa Mayer is an operations CEO. Verizon didn’t want her to run their newly acquired operations, since the entire point of buying them was to take the web operations in a new direction (though apparently she’ll still work a bit with them through the transition). And of course she’s not an appropriate CEO for an investment company. So she had no job left — she made her own job disappear.

What happened today is an obvious consequence of Alibaba going IPO in September 2014. It meant that Yahoo’s stake of 16% in Alibaba was now liquid. All told, the investment arm of Yahoo was worth $36-billion while the web operations (Mail, Fantasy, Tumblr, etc.) was worth only $5-billion.

In other words, Yahoo became a Wall Street mutual fund who inexplicably also offered web mail and cat videos.

Such a thing cannot exist. If Yahoo didn’t act, shareholders would start suing the company to get their money back.That $36-billion in investments doesn’t belong to Yahoo, it belongs to its shareholders. Thus, the moment the Alibaba IPO closed, Yahoo started planning on how to separate the investment arm from the web operations.

Yahoo had basically three choices.

  • The first choice is simply give the Alibaba (and other investment) shares as a one time dividend to Yahoo shareholders. 
  • A second choice is simply split the company in two, one of which has the investments, and the other the web operations. 
  • The third choice is to sell off the web operations to some chump like Verizon.

Obviously, Marissa Mayer took the third choice. Without a slushfund (the investment arm) to keep it solvent, Yahoo didn’t feel it could run its operations profitably without integration with some other company. That meant it either had to buy a large company to integrate with Yahoo, or sell the Yahoo portion to some other large company.

Every company, especially Internet ones, have a legacy value. It’s the amount of money you’ll get from firing everyone, stop investing in the future, and just raking in year after year a stream of declining revenue. It’s the fate of early Internet companies like Earthlink and Slashdot. It’s like how I documented with Earthlink [*], which continues to offer email to subscribers, but spends only enough to keep the lights on, not even upgrading to the simplest of things like SSL.

Presumably, Verizon will try to make something of a few of the properties. Apparently, Yahoo’s Fantasy sports stuff is popular, and will probably be rebranded as some new Verizon thing. Tumblr is already it’s own brand name, independent of Yahoo, and thus will probably continue to exist as its own business unit.

One of the weird things is Yahoo Mail. It permanently bound to the “yahoo.com” domain, so you can’t do much with the “Yahoo” brand without bringing Mail along with it. Though at this point, the “Yahoo” brand is pretty tarnished. There’s not much new you can put under that brand anyway. I can’t see how Verizon would want to invest in that brand at all — just milk it for what it can over the coming years.

The investment company cannot long exist on its own. Investors want their money back, so they can make future investment decisions on their own. They don’t want the company to make investment choices for them.

Think about when Yahoo made its initial $1-billion investment for 40% of Alibaba in 2005, it did not do so because it was a good “investment opportunity”, but because Yahoo believed it was good strategic investment, such as providing an entry in the Chinese market, or providing an e-commerce arm to compete against eBay and Amazon. In other words, Yahoo didn’t consider as a good way of investing its money, but a good way to create a strategic partnership — one that just never materialized. From that point of view, the Alibaba investment was a failure.

In 2012, Marissa Mayer sold off 25% of Alibaba, netting $4-billion after taxes. She then lost all $4-billion on the web operations. That stake would be worth over $50-billion today. You can see the problem: companies with large slush funds just fritter them away keeping operations going. Marissa Mayer abused her position of trust, playing with money that belong to shareholders.

Thus, Altbaba isn’t going to play with shareholder’s money. It’s a skeleton company, so there’s no strategic value to investments. They can make no better investment choices than its shareholders can with their own money. Thus, the only purpose of the skeleton investment company is to return the money back to the shareholders. I suspect it’ll choose the most tax efficient way of doing this, like selling the whole thing to Alibaba, which just exchanges the Altaba shares for Alibaba shares, with a 15% bonus representing the value of the other Altaba investments. Either way, if Altaba is still around a year from now, it’s because it’s board is skimming money that doesn’t belong to them.


Key points:

  • Altaba is the name of the remaining skeleton investment company, the “Yahoo” brand was sold with the web operations to Verizon.
  • The name Altaba sucks because it’s not a brand name that will stick around for a while — the skeleton company is going to return all its money to its investors.
  • Yahoo had to spin off its investments — there’s no excuse for 90% of its market value to be investments and 10% in its web operations.
  • In particular, the money belongs to Yahoo’s investors, not Yahoo the company. It’s not some sort of slush fund Yahoo’s executives could use. Yahoo couldn’t use that money to keep its flailing web operations going, as Marissa Mayer was attempting to do.
  • Most of Yahoo’s web operations will go the way of Earthlink and Slashdot, as Verizon milks the slowly declining revenue while making no new investments in it.

2016: The Year In Tech, And A Sneak Peek Of What’s To Come

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/2016-year-tech-sneak-peek-whats-come/

2016 is safely in our rear-view mirrors. It’s time to take a look back at the year that was and see what technology had the biggest impact on consumers and businesses alike. We also have an eye to 2017 to see what the future holds.

AI and machine learning in the cloud

Truly sentient computers and robots are still the stuff of science fiction (and the premise of one of 2016’s most promising new SF TV series, HBO’s Westworld). Neural networks are nothing new, but 2016 saw huge strides in artificial intelligence and machine learning, especially in the cloud.

Google, Amazon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft and others are developing cloud computing infrastructures designed especially for AI work. It’s this technology that’s underpinning advances in image recognition technology, pattern recognition in cybersecurity, speech recognition, natural language interpretation and other advances.

Microsoft’s newly-formed AI and Research Group is finding ways to get artificial intelligence into Microsoft products like its Bing search engine and Cortana natural language assistant. Some of these efforts, while well-meaning, still need refinement: Early in 2016 Microsoft launched Tay, an AI chatbot designed to mimic the natural language characteristics of a teenage girl and learn from interacting with Twitter users. Microsoft had to shut Tay down after Twitter users exploited vulnerabilities that caused Tay to begin spewing really inappropriate responses. But it paves the way for future efforts that blur the line between man and machine.

Finance, energy, climatology – anywhere you find big data sets you’re going to find uses for machine learning. On the consumer end it can help your grocery app guess what you might want or need based on your spending habits. Financial firms use machine learning to help predict customer credit scores by analyzing profile information. One of the most intriguing uses of machine learning is in security: Pattern recognition helps systems predict malicious intent and figure out where exploits will come from.

Meanwhile we’re still waiting for Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons. And flying cars. So if Elon Musk has any spare time in 2017, maybe he can get on that.

AR Games

Augmented Reality (AR) games have been around for a good long time – ever since smartphone makers put cameras on them, game makers have been toying with the mix of real life and games.

AR games took a giant step forward with a game released in 2016 that you couldn’t get away from, at least for a little while. We’re talking about Pokémon GO, of course. Niantic, makers of another AR game called Ingress, used the framework they built for that game to power Pokémon GO. Kids, parents, young, old, it seemed like everyone with an iPhone that could run the game caught wild Pokémon, hatched eggs by walking, and battled each other in Pokémon gyms.

For a few weeks, anyway.

Technical glitches, problems with scale and limited gameplay value ultimately hurt Pokémon GO’s longevity. Today the game only garners a fraction of the public interest it did at peak. It continues to be successful, albeit not at the stratospheric pace it first set.

Niantic, the game’s developer, was able to tie together several factors to bring such an explosive and – if you’ll pardon the overused euphemism – disruptive – game to bear. One was its previous work with a game called Ingress, another AR-enhanced game that uses geomap data. In fact, Pokémon GO uses the same geomap data as Ingress, so Niantic had already done a huge amount of legwork needed to get Pokémon GO up and running. Niantic cleverly used Google Maps data to form the basis of both games, relying on already-identified public landmarks and other locations tagged by Ingress players (Ingress has been around since 2011).

Then, of course, there’s the Pokémon connection – an intensely meaningful gaming property that’s been popular with generations of video games and cartoon watchers since the 1990s. The dearth of Pokémon-branded games on smartphones meant an instant explosion of popularity upon Pokémon GO’s release.

2016 also saw the introduction of several new virtual reality (VR) headsets designed for home and mobile use. Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View made a splash. As these products continue to make consumer inroads, we’ll see more games push the envelope of what you can achieve with VR and AR.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud services combine public cloud storage (like B2 Cloud Storage) or public compute (like Amazon Web Services) with a private cloud platform. Specialized content and file management software glues it all together, making the experience seamless for the user.

Businesses get the instant access and speed they need to get work done, with the ability to fall back on on-demand cloud-based resources when scale is needed. B2’s hybrid cloud integrations include OpenIO, which helps businesses maintain data storage on-premise until it’s designated for archive and stored in the B2 cloud.

The cost of entry and usage of Hybrid Cloud services have continued to fall. For example, small and medium-sized organizations in the post production industry are finding Hybrid Cloud storage is now a viable strategy in managing the large amounts of information they use on a daily basis. This strategy is enabled by the low cost of B2 Cloud Storage that provides ready access to cloud-stored data.

There are practical deployment and scale issues that have kept Hybrid Cloud services from being used widespread in the largest enterprise environments. Small to medium businesses and vertical markets like Media & Entertainment have found promising, economical opportunities to use it, which bodes well for the future.

Inexpensive 3D printers

3D printing, once a rarified technology, has become increasingly commoditized over the past several years. That’s been in part thanks to the “Maker Movement:” Thousands of folks all around the world who love to tinker and build. XYZprinting is out in front of makers and others with its line of inexpensive desktop da Vinci printers.

The da Vinci Mini is a tabletop model aimed at home users which starts at under $300. You can download and tweak thousands of 3D models to build toys, games, art projects and educational items. They’re built using spools of biodegradable, non-toxic plastics derived from corn starch which dispense sort of like the bobbin on a sewing machine. The da Vinci Mini works with Macs and PCs and can connect via USB or Wi-Fi.

DIY Drones

Quadcopter drones have been fun tech toys for a while now, but the new trend we saw in 2016 was “do it yourself” models. The result was Flybrix, which combines lightweight drone motors with LEGO building toys. Flybrix was so successful that they blew out of inventory for the 2016 holiday season and are backlogged with orders into the new year.

Each Flybrix kit comes with the motors, LEGO building blocks, cables and gear you need to build your own quad, hex or octocopter drone (as well as a cheerful-looking LEGO pilot to command the new vessel). A downloadable app for iOS or Android lets you control your creation. A deluxe kit includes a handheld controller so you don’t have to tie up your phone.

If you already own a 3D printer like the da Vinci Mini, you’ll find plenty of model files available for download and modification so you can print your own parts, though you’ll probably need help from one of the many maker sites to know what else you’ll need to aerial flight and control.

5D Glass Storage

Research at the University of Southampton may yield the next big leap in optical storage technology meant for long-term archival. The boffins at the Optoelectronics Research Centre have developed a new data storage technique that embeds information in glass “nanostructures” on a storage disc the size of a U.S. quarter.

A Blu-Ray Disc can hold 50 GB, but one of the new 5D glass storage discs – only the size of a U.S. quarter – can hold 360 TB – 7200 times more. It’s like a super-stable supercharged version of a CD. Not only is the data inscribed on much smaller structures within the glass, but reflected at multiple angles, hence “5D.”

An upside to this is an absence of bit rot: The glass medium is extremely stable, with a shelf life predicted in billions of years. The downside is that this is still a write-once medium, so it’s intended for long term storage.

This tech is still years away from practical use, but it took a big step forward in 2016 when the University announced the development of a practical information encoding scheme to use with it.

Smart Home Tech

Are you ready to talk to your house to tell it to do things? If you’re not already, you probably will be soon. Google’s Google Home is a $129 voice-activated speaker powered by the Google Assistant. You can use it for everything from streaming music and video to a nearby TV to reading your calendar or to do list. You can also tell it to operate other supported devices like the Nest smart thermostat and Philips Hue lights.

Amazon has its own similar wireless speaker product called the Echo, powered by Amazon’s Alexa information assistant. Amazon has differentiated its Echo offerings by making the Dot – a hockey puck-sized device that connects to a speaker you already own. So Amazon customers can begin to outfit their connected homes for less than $50.

Apple’s HomeKit software kit isn’t a speaker like Amazon Echo or Google Home. It’s software. You use the Home app on your iOS 10-equipped iPhone or iPad to connect and configure supported devices. Use Siri, Apple’s own intelligent assistant, on any supported Apple device. HomeKit turns on lights, turns up the thermostat, operates switches and more.

Smart home tech has been coming in fits and starts for a while – the Nest smart thermostat is already in its third generation, for example. But 2016 was the year we finally saw the “Internet of things” coalescing into a smart home that we can control through voice and gestures in a … well, smart way.

Welcome To The Future

It’s 2017, welcome to our brave new world. While it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds, there are at least a few tech trends that are pretty safe to bet on. They include:

  • Internet of Things: More smart-connected devices are coming online in the home and at work every day, and this trend will accelerate in 2017 with more and more devices requiring some form of Internet connectivity to work. Expect to see a lot more appliances, devices, and accessories that make use of the API’s promoted by Google, Amazon, and Apple to help let you control everything in your life just using your voice and a smart speaker setup.
  • Blockchain security: Blockchain is the digital ledger security technology that makes Bitcoin work. Its distribution methodology and validation system help you make certain that no one’s tampered with the records, which make it well-suited for applications besides cryptocurrency, like make sure your smart thermostat (see above) hasn’t been hacked). Expect 2017 to be the year we see more mainstream acceptance, use, and development of blockchain technology from financial institutions, the creation of new private blockchain networks, and improved usability aimed at making blockchain easier for regular consumers to use. Blockchain-based voting is here too. It also wouldn’t surprise us, given all this movement, to see government regulators take a much deeper interest in blockchain, either.
  • 5G: Verizon is field-testing 5G on its wireless network, which it says deliver speeds 30-50 times faster than 4G LTE. We’ll be hearing a lot more about 5G from Verizon and other wireless players in 2017. In fairness, we’re still a few years away from widescale 5G deployment, but field-testing has already started.

Your Predictions?

Enough of our bloviation. Let’s open the floor to you. What do you think were the biggest technology trends in 2016? What’s coming in 2017 that has you the most excited? Let us know in the comments!

The post 2016: The Year In Tech, And A Sneak Peek Of What’s To Come appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

What’s the Diff: Megabits and Megabytes

Post Syndicated from Peter Cohen original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/megabits-vs-megabytes/

Megabits vs. Megabytes

What is the difference between a megabit and a megabyte? The answer is obvious to computer people – it’s “a factor of eight,” since there are eight bits in a single byte. But there’s a lot more to the answer, too, involving how data moves, is stored, and the history of computing.

What are Megabits?

“Megabit” is a term we use most often when talking about the speed of our Internet connection. Megabits per second, or Mbps, is a measurement of data transfer speed. 1 Mbps is 1 million bits per second.

Take Internet service providers, for example. My cable provider has upped my maximum download speed from 25 to 75 to 150 Mbps over the years. Fiber optic connections (Verizon’s FIOS, Google Fiber) can be much faster, where you can get the service.

What is a Megabyte?

“Megabyte” is a measurement most often used to describe both hard drive space and memory storage capacity, though the term of art we throw around most frequently these days is the next order of magnitude, the Gigabyte (GB). My computer has 8 GB of RAM, for example, and 512 GB of storage capacity.

How to Measure Megabits and Megabytes

A bit is a single piece of information, expressed at its most elementary in the computer as a binary 0 or 1. Bits are organized into units of data eight digits long – that is a byte. Kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes – each unit of measurement is 1,000 times the size before it.

So why does network bandwidth get measured in megabits, while storage gets measured in megabytes? There are a lot of theories and expositions about why. I haven’t found a “hard” answer yet, but the most reasonable explanation I’ve heard from networking engineers is that it’s because a bit is the lowest common denominator, if you will – the smallest meaningful unit of measurement to understand network transfer speed. As in bits per second. It’s like measuring the flow rate of the plumbing in your house.

As to why data is assembled in bytes, Wikipedia cites the popularity of IBM’s System/360 as one likely reason: The computer used a then-novel eight-bit data format. IBM defined computing for a generation of engineers, so it’s the standard that moved forward. The old marketing adage was, “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.”

Plausible? Absolutely. Is it the only reason? Well, Wikipedia presents an authoritative case. You’ll find a lot of conjecture but few hard answers if you look elsewhere on the Internet.

Which means aliens are behind it all, as far as I’m concerned.

What Does It All Mean

Anyway, here we stand today, with the delineation clear: Bandwidth is measured in bits, storage capacity in bytes. Simple, but what can be confusing is when we mix the two. Let’s say your network upload speed is 8 Mbps (megabits per second), that means that the absolute most you can upload is 1 MB (megabyte) of data from your hard drive per second. Megabits versus Megabytes, remember to keep the distinction in your head as you see how fast data moves over your network or to the Internet.

The post What’s the Diff: Megabits and Megabytes appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Freaking out over the DBIR

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2016/05/freaking-out-over-dbir.html

Many in the community are upset over the recent “Verizon DBIR” because it claims widespread exploitation of the “FREAK” vulnerability. They know this is impossible, because of the vulnerability details. But really, the problem lies in misconceptions about how “intrusion detection” (IDS) works. As a sort of expert in intrusion detection (by which, I mean the expert), I thought I’d describe what really went wrong.
First let’s talk FREAK. It’s a man-in-the-middle attack. In other words, you can’t attack a web server remotely by sending bad data at it. Instead, you have to break into a network somewhere and install a man-in-the-middle computer. This fact alone means it cannot be the most widely exploited attack.
Second, let’s talk FREAK. It works by downgrading RSA to 512-bit keys, which can be cracked by supercomputers. This fact alone means it cannot be the most widely exploited attack — even the NSA does not have sufficient compute power to crack as many keys as the Verizon DBIR claim were cracked.
Now let’s talk about how Verizon calculates when a vulnerability is responsible for an attack. They use this methodology:
  1. look at a compromised system (identified by AV scanning, IoCs, etc.)
  2. look at which unpatched vulnerabilities the system has (vuln scans)
  3. see if the system was attacked via those vulnerabilities (IDS)
In other words, if you are vulnerable to FREAK, and the IDS tells you people attacked you with FREAK, and indeed you were compromised, then it seems only logical that they compromised you through FREAK.
This sounds like a really good methodology — but only to stupids. (Sorry for being harsh, I’ve been pointing out this methodology sucks for 15 years, and am getting frustrated people still believe in it.)
Here’s the problem with all data breach investigations. Systems get hacked, and we don’t know why. Yet, there is enormous pressure to figure out why. Therefore, we seize on any plausible explanation. We then go through the gauntlet of logical fallacies, such as “confirmation bias”, to support our conclusion. They torture the data until it produces the right results.
In the majority of breach reports I’ve seen, the identified source of the compromise is bogus. That’s why I never believed North Korea was behind the Sony attack — I’ve read too many data breach reports fingering the wrong cause. Political pressure to come up with a cause, any cause, is immense.
This specific logic, “vulnerable to X and attacked with X == breached with X” has been around with us for a long time. 15 years ago, IDS vendors integrated with vulnerability scanners to produce exactly these sorts of events. It’s nonsense that never produced actionable data.
In other words, in the Verizon report, things went this direction. FIRST, they investigated a system and found IoCs (indicators that the system had been compromised). SECOND, they did the correlation between vuln/IDS. They didn’t do it the other way around, because such a system produces too much false data. False data is false data. If you aren’t starting with this vuln/IDS correlation, then looking for IoCs, then there is no reason to believe such correlations will be robust afterwards.
On of the reasons the data isn’t robust is that IDS events do not mean what you think they mean. Most people in our industry treat them as “magic”, that if an IDS triggers on a “FREAK” attack, then that’s what happen.
But that’s not what happened. First of all, there is the issue of false-positives, whereby the system claims a “FREAK” attack happened, when nothing related to the issue happened. Looking at various IDSs, this should be rare for FREAK, but happens for other kinds of attacks.
Then there is the issue of another level of false-positives. It’s plausible, for example, that older browsers, email clients, and other systems may accidentally be downgrading to “export” ciphers simply because these are the only ciphers old and new computers have in common. Thus, you’ll see a lot of “FREAK” events, where this downgrade did indeed occur, but not for malicious reasons.
In other words, this is not a truly false-positive, because the bad thing really did occur, but it is a semi-false-positive, because this was not malicious.
Then there is the problem of misunderstood events. For FREAK, both client and server must be vulnerable — and clients reveal their vulnerability in every SSL request. Therefore, some IDSs trigger on that, telling you about vulnerable clients. The EmergingThreats rules have one called “ET POLICY FREAK Weak Export Suite From Client (CVE-2015-0204)”. The key word here is “POLICY” — it’s not an attack signature but a policy signature.
But a lot of people are confused and think it’s an attack. For example, this website lists it as an attack.
If somebody has these POLICY events enabled, then it will appear that their servers are under constant attack with the FREAK vulnerability, as random people around the Internet with old browsers/clients connect to their servers, regardless if the server itself is vulnerable.
Another source of semi-false-positives are vulnerability scanners, which simply scan for the vulnerability without fully exploiting/attacking the target. Again, this is a semi-false-positive, where it is correctly identified as FREAK, but incorrectly identified as an attack rather than a scan. As other critics of the Verizon report have pointed out, people have been doing Internet-wide scans for this bug. If you have a server exposed to the Internet, then it’s been scanned for “FREAK”. If you have internal servers, but run vulnerability scanners, they have been scanned for “FREAK”. But none of these are malicious “attacks” that can be correlated according to the Verizon DBIR methodology.
Lastly, there are “real” attacks. There are no real FREAK attacks, except maybe twice in Syria when the NSA needed to compromise some SSL communications. And the NSA never does something if they can get caught. Therefore, no IDS event identifying “FREAK” has ever been a true attack.
So here’s the thing. Knowing all this, we can reduce the factors in the Verizon DBIR methodology. The factor “has the system been attacked with FREAK?” can be reduced to “does the system support SSL?“, because all SSL supporting systems have been attacked with FREAK, according to IDS. Furthermore, since people just apply all or none of the Microsoft patches, we don’t ask “is the system vulnerable to FREAK?” so much as “has it been patched recently?“.
Thus, the Verizon DBIR methodology becomes:
1. has the system been compromised?
2. has the system been patched recently?
3. does the system support SSL?
If all three answers are “yes”, then it claims the system was compromised with FREAK. As you can plainly see, this is idiotic methodology.
In the case of FREAK, we already knew the right answer, and worked backward to find the flaw. But in truth, all the other vulnerabilities have the same flaw, for related reasons. The root of the problem is that people just don’t understand IDS information. They, like Verizon, treat the IDS as some sort of magic black box or oracle, and never question the data.
Conclusion

An IDS is wonderfully useful tool if you pay attention to how it works and why it triggers on the things it does. It’s not, however, an “intrusion detection” tool, whereby every event it produces should be acted upon as if it were an intrusion. It’s not a magical system — you really need to pay attention to the details.
Verizon didn’t pay attention to the details. They simply dumped the output of an IDS inappropriately into some sort of analysis. Since the input data was garbage, no amount of manipulation and analysis would ever produce a valid result.


False-positives: Notice I list a range of “false-positives”, from things that might trigger that have nothing to do with FREAK, to a range of things that are FREAK, but aren’t attacks, and which cannot be treated as “intrusions”. Such subtleties is why we can’t have nice things in infosec. Everyone studies “false-positives” when studying for their CISSP examine, but truly don’t understand them.

That’s why when vendors claim “no false positives” they are blowing smoke. The issue is much more subtle than that.