Tag Archives: vita

Security and Human Behavior (SHB 2018)

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/security_and_hu_7.html

I’m at Carnegie Mellon University, at the eleventh Workshop on Security and Human Behavior.

SHB is a small invitational gathering of people studying various aspects of the human side of security, organized each year by Alessandro Acquisti, Ross Anderson, and myself. The 50 or so people in the room include psychologists, economists, computer security researchers, sociologists, political scientists, neuroscientists, designers, lawyers, philosophers, anthropologists, business school professors, and a smattering of others. It’s not just an interdisciplinary event; most of the people here are individually interdisciplinary.

The goal is to maximize discussion and interaction. We do that by putting everyone on panels, and limiting talks to 7-10 minutes. The rest of the time is left to open discussion. Four hour-and-a-half panels per day over two days equals eight panels; six people per panel means that 48 people get to speak. We also have lunches, dinners, and receptions — all designed so people from different disciplines talk to each other.

I invariably find this to be the most intellectually stimulating conference of my year. It influences my thinking in many different, and sometimes surprising, ways.

This year’s program is here. This page lists the participants and includes links to some of their work. As he does every year, Ross Anderson is liveblogging the talks. (Ross also maintains a good webpage of psychology and security resources.)

Here are my posts on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth SHB workshops. Follow those links to find summaries, papers, and occasionally audio recordings of the various workshops.

Next year, I’ll be hosting the event at Harvard.

Зукърбърг е приел поканата на Европейския парламент, но няма да има публично изслушване

Post Syndicated from nellyo original https://nellyo.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/fb_ep_transp/

Вера Йоурова, член на ЕК – Антонио Таяни, председател на ЕП – и брюкселска журналистка обменят мисли в Туитър.  Зукърбърг пристига в Брюксел “вероятно следващата седмица” – но няма да има публично изслушване, казва Йоурова.  – Не е ваша работа, казва Таяни.  – Гласувани сте от нас, наша работа е, пише Дженифър Бейкър (@BrusselsGeek) – Говоря на Йоурова, пояснява Таяни.

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Details on a New PGP Vulnerability

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

A new PGP vulnerability was announced today. Basically, the vulnerability makes use of the fact that modern e-mail programs allow for embedded HTML objects. Essentially, if an attacker can intercept and modify a message in transit, he can insert code that sends the plaintext in a URL to a remote website. Very clever.

The EFAIL attacks exploit vulnerabilities in the OpenPGP and S/MIME standards to reveal the plaintext of encrypted emails. In a nutshell, EFAIL abuses active content of HTML emails, for example externally loaded images or styles, to exfiltrate plaintext through requested URLs. To create these exfiltration channels, the attacker first needs access to the encrypted emails, for example, by eavesdropping on network traffic, compromising email accounts, email servers, backup systems or client computers. The emails could even have been collected years ago.

The attacker changes an encrypted email in a particular way and sends this changed encrypted email to the victim. The victim’s email client decrypts the email and loads any external content, thus exfiltrating the plaintext to the attacker.

A few initial comments:

1. Being able to intercept and modify e-mails in transit is the sort of thing the NSA can do, but is hard for the average hacker. That being said, there are circumstances where someone can modify e-mails. I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of this attack, but that is a consideration.

2. The vulnerability isn’t with PGP or S/MIME itself, but in the way they interact with modern e-mail programs. You can see this in the two suggested short-term mitigations: “No decryption in the e-mail client,” and “disable HTML rendering.”

3. I’ve been getting some weird press calls from reporters wanting to know if this demonstrates that e-mail encryption is impossible. No, this just demonstrates that programmers are human and vulnerabilities are inevitable. PGP almost certainly has fewer bugs than your average piece of software, but it’s not bug free.

3. Why is anyone using encrypted e-mail anymore, anyway? Reliably and easily encrypting e-mail is an insurmountably hard problem for reasons having nothing to do with today’s announcement. If you need to communicate securely, use Signal. If having Signal on your phone will arouse suspicion, use WhatsApp.

I’ll post other commentaries and analyses as I find them.

EDITED TO ADD (5/14): News articles.

Slashdot thread.

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.

Ransomware Update: Viruses Targeting Business IT Servers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ransomware-update-viruses-targeting-business-it-servers/

Ransomware warning message on computer

As ransomware attacks have grown in number in recent months, the tactics and attack vectors also have evolved. While the primary method of attack used to be to target individual computer users within organizations with phishing emails and infected attachments, we’re increasingly seeing attacks that target weaknesses in businesses’ IT infrastructure.

How Ransomware Attacks Typically Work

In our previous posts on ransomware, we described the common vehicles used by hackers to infect organizations with ransomware viruses. Most often, downloaders distribute trojan horses through malicious downloads and spam emails. The emails contain a variety of file attachments, which if opened, will download and run one of the many ransomware variants. Once a user’s computer is infected with a malicious downloader, it will retrieve additional malware, which frequently includes crypto-ransomware. After the files have been encrypted, a ransom payment is demanded of the victim in order to decrypt the files.

What’s Changed With the Latest Ransomware Attacks?

In 2016, a customized ransomware strain called SamSam began attacking the servers in primarily health care institutions. SamSam, unlike more conventional ransomware, is not delivered through downloads or phishing emails. Instead, the attackers behind SamSam use tools to identify unpatched servers running Red Hat’s JBoss enterprise products. Once the attackers have successfully gained entry into one of these servers by exploiting vulnerabilities in JBoss, they use other freely available tools and scripts to collect credentials and gather information on networked computers. Then they deploy their ransomware to encrypt files on these systems before demanding a ransom. Gaining entry to an organization through its IT center rather than its endpoints makes this approach scalable and especially unsettling.

SamSam’s methodology is to scour the Internet searching for accessible and vulnerable JBoss application servers, especially ones used by hospitals. It’s not unlike a burglar rattling doorknobs in a neighborhood to find unlocked homes. When SamSam finds an unlocked home (unpatched server), the software infiltrates the system. It is then free to spread across the company’s network by stealing passwords. As it transverses the network and systems, it encrypts files, preventing access until the victims pay the hackers a ransom, typically between $10,000 and $15,000. The low ransom amount has encouraged some victimized organizations to pay the ransom rather than incur the downtime required to wipe and reinitialize their IT systems.

The success of SamSam is due to its effectiveness rather than its sophistication. SamSam can enter and transverse a network without human intervention. Some organizations are learning too late that securing internet-facing services in their data center from attack is just as important as securing endpoints.

The typical steps in a SamSam ransomware attack are:

1
Attackers gain access to vulnerable server
Attackers exploit vulnerable software or weak/stolen credentials.
2
Attack spreads via remote access tools
Attackers harvest credentials, create SOCKS proxies to tunnel traffic, and abuse RDP to install SamSam on more computers in the network.
3
Ransomware payload deployed
Attackers run batch scripts to execute ransomware on compromised machines.
4
Ransomware demand delivered requiring payment to decrypt files
Demand amounts vary from victim to victim. Relatively low ransom amounts appear to be designed to encourage quick payment decisions.

What all the organizations successfully exploited by SamSam have in common is that they were running unpatched servers that made them vulnerable to SamSam. Some organizations had their endpoints and servers backed up, while others did not. Some of those without backups they could use to recover their systems chose to pay the ransom money.

Timeline of SamSam History and Exploits

Since its appearance in 2016, SamSam has been in the news with many successful incursions into healthcare, business, and government institutions.

March 2016
SamSam appears

SamSam campaign targets vulnerable JBoss servers
Attackers hone in on healthcare organizations specifically, as they’re more likely to have unpatched JBoss machines.

April 2016
SamSam finds new targets

SamSam begins targeting schools and government.
After initial success targeting healthcare, attackers branch out to other sectors.

April 2017
New tactics include RDP

Attackers shift to targeting organizations with exposed RDP connections, and maintain focus on healthcare.
An attack on Erie County Medical Center costs the hospital $10 million over three months of recovery.
Erie County Medical Center attacked by SamSam ransomware virus

January 2018
Municipalities attacked

• Attack on Municipality of Farmington, NM.
• Attack on Hancock Health.
Hancock Regional Hospital notice following SamSam attack
• Attack on Adams Memorial Hospital
• Attack on Allscripts (Electronic Health Records), which includes 180,000 physicians, 2,500 hospitals, and 7.2 million patients’ health records.

February 2018
Attack volume increases

• Attack on Davidson County, NC.
• Attack on Colorado Department of Transportation.
SamSam virus notification

March 2018
SamSam shuts down Atlanta

• Second attack on Colorado Department of Transportation.
• City of Atlanta suffers a devastating attack by SamSam.
The attack has far-reaching impacts — crippling the court system, keeping residents from paying their water bills, limiting vital communications like sewer infrastructure requests, and pushing the Atlanta Police Department to file paper reports.
Atlanta Ransomware outage alert
• SamSam campaign nets $325,000 in 4 weeks.
Infections spike as attackers launch new campaigns. Healthcare and government organizations are once again the primary targets.

How to Defend Against SamSam and Other Ransomware Attacks

The best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. If you are attacked, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or none if you ever suffer an attack.

In our previous post, How to Recover From Ransomware, we listed the ten ways to protect your organization from ransomware.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as disconnected external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to patch early and patch often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, server software, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

Please Tell Us About Your Experiences with Ransomware

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please tell us of your experiences in the comments.

The post Ransomware Update: Viruses Targeting Business IT Servers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Securing Elections

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/04/securing_electi_1.html

Elections serve two purposes. The first, and obvious, purpose is to accurately choose the winner. But the second is equally important: to convince the loser. To the extent that an election system is not transparently and auditably accurate, it fails in that second purpose. Our election systems are failing, and we need to fix them.

Today, we conduct our elections on computers. Our registration lists are in computer databases. We vote on computerized voting machines. And our tabulation and reporting is done on computers. We do this for a lot of good reasons, but a side effect is that elections now have all the insecurities inherent in computers. The only way to reliably protect elections from both malice and accident is to use something that is not hackable or unreliable at scale; the best way to do that is to back up as much of the system as possible with paper.

Recently, there have been two graphic demonstrations of how bad our computerized voting system is. In 2007, the states of California and Ohio conducted audits of their electronic voting machines. Expert review teams found exploitable vulnerabilities in almost every component they examined. The researchers were able to undetectably alter vote tallies, erase audit logs, and load malware on to the systems. Some of their attacks could be implemented by a single individual with no greater access than a normal poll worker; others could be done remotely.

Last year, the Defcon hackers’ conference sponsored a Voting Village. Organizers collected 25 pieces of voting equipment, including voting machines and electronic poll books. By the end of the weekend, conference attendees had found ways to compromise every piece of test equipment: to load malicious software, compromise vote tallies and audit logs, or cause equipment to fail.

It’s important to understand that these were not well-funded nation-state attackers. These were not even academics who had been studying the problem for weeks. These were bored hackers, with no experience with voting machines, playing around between parties one weekend.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that voting equipment, including voting machines, voter registration databases, and vote tabulation systems, are that hackable. They’re computers — often ancient computers running operating systems no longer supported by the manufacturers — and they don’t have any magical security technology that the rest of the industry isn’t privy to. If anything, they’re less secure than the computers we generally use, because their manufacturers hide any flaws behind the proprietary nature of their equipment.

We’re not just worried about altering the vote. Sometimes causing widespread failures, or even just sowing mistrust in the system, is enough. And an election whose results are not trusted or believed is a failed election.

Voting systems have another requirement that makes security even harder to achieve: the requirement for a secret ballot. Because we have to securely separate the election-roll system that determines who can vote from the system that collects and tabulates the votes, we can’t use the security systems available to banking and other high-value applications.

We can securely bank online, but can’t securely vote online. If we could do away with anonymity — if everyone could check that their vote was counted correctly — then it would be easy to secure the vote. But that would lead to other problems. Before the US had the secret ballot, voter coercion and vote-buying were widespread.

We can’t, so we need to accept that our voting systems are insecure. We need an election system that is resilient to the threats. And for many parts of the system, that means paper.

Let’s start with the voter rolls. We know they’ve already been targeted. In 2016, someone changed the party affiliation of hundreds of voters before the Republican primary. That’s just one possibility. A well-executed attack that deletes, for example, one in five voters at random — or changes their addresses — would cause chaos on election day.

Yes, we need to shore up the security of these systems. We need better computer, network, and database security for the various state voter organizations. We also need to better secure the voter registration websites, with better design and better internet security. We need better security for the companies that build and sell all this equipment.

Multiple, unchangeable backups are essential. A record of every addition, deletion, and change needs to be stored on a separate system, on write-only media like a DVD. Copies of that DVD, or — even better — a paper printout of the voter rolls, should be available at every polling place on election day. We need to be ready for anything.

Next, the voting machines themselves. Security researchers agree that the gold standard is a voter-verified paper ballot. The easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve this is through optical-scan voting. Voters mark paper ballots by hand; they are fed into a machine and counted automatically. That paper ballot is saved, and serves as a final true record in a recount in case of problems. Touch-screen machines that print a paper ballot to drop in a ballot box can also work for voters with disabilities, as long as the ballot can be easily read and verified by the voter.

Finally, the tabulation and reporting systems. Here again we need more security in the process, but we must always use those paper ballots as checks on the computers. A manual, post-election, risk-limiting audit varies the number of ballots examined according to the margin of victory. Conducting this audit after every election, before the results are certified, gives us confidence that the election outcome is correct, even if the voting machines and tabulation computers have been tampered with. Additionally, we need better coordination and communications when incidents occur.

It’s vital to agree on these procedures and policies before an election. Before the fact, when anyone can win and no one knows whose votes might be changed, it’s easy to agree on strong security. But after the vote, someone is the presumptive winner — and then everything changes. Half of the country wants the result to stand, and half wants it reversed. At that point, it’s too late to agree on anything.

The politicians running in the election shouldn’t have to argue their challenges in court. Getting elections right is in the interest of all citizens. Many countries have independent election commissions that are charged with conducting elections and ensuring their security. We don’t do that in the US.

Instead, we have representatives from each of our two parties in the room, keeping an eye on each other. That provided acceptable security against 20th-century threats, but is totally inadequate to secure our elections in the 21st century. And the belief that the diversity of voting systems in the US provides a measure of security is a dangerous myth, because few districts can be decisive and there are so few voting-machine vendors.

We can do better. In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security declared elections to be critical infrastructure, allowing the department to focus on securing them. On 23 March, Congress allocated $380m to states to upgrade election security.

These are good starts, but don’t go nearly far enough. The constitution delegates elections to the states but allows Congress to “make or alter such Regulations”. In 1845, Congress set a nationwide election day. Today, we need it to set uniform and strict election standards.

This essay originally appeared in the Guardian.

Serverless Dynamic Web Pages in AWS: Provisioned with CloudFormation

Post Syndicated from AWS Admin original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/serverless-dynamic-web-pages-in-aws-provisioned-with-cloudformation/

***This blog is authored by Mike Okner of Monsanto, an AWS customer. It originally appeared on the Monsanto company blog. Minor edits were made to the original post.***

Recently, I was looking to create a status page app to monitor a few important internal services. I wanted this app to be as lightweight, reliable, and hassle-free as possible, so using a “serverless” architecture that doesn’t require any patching or other maintenance was quite appealing.

I also don’t deploy anything in a production AWS environment outside of some sort of template (usually CloudFormation) as a rule. I don’t want to have to come back to something I created ad hoc in the console after 6 months and try to recall exactly how I architected all of the resources. I’ll inevitably forget something and create more problems before solving the original one. So building the status page in a template was a requirement.

The Design
I settled on a design using two Lambda functions, both written in Python 3.6.

The first Lambda function makes requests out to a list of important services and writes their current status to a DynamoDB table. This function is executed once per minute via CloudWatch Event Rule.

The second Lambda function reads each service’s status & uptime information from DynamoDB and renders a Jinja template. This function is behind an API Gateway that has been configured to return text/html instead of its default application/json Content-Type.

The CloudFormation Template
AWS provides a Serverless Application Model template transformer to streamline the templating of Lambda + API Gateway designs, but it assumes (like everything else about the API Gateway) that you’re actually serving an API that returns JSON content. So, unfortunately, it won’t work for this use-case because we want to return HTML content. Instead, we’ll have to enumerate every resource like usual.

The Skeleton
We’ll be using YAML for the template in this example. I find it easier to read than JSON, but you can easily convert between the two with a converter if you disagree.

---
AWSTemplateFormatVersion: '2010-09-09'
Description: Serverless status page app
Resources:
  # [...Resources]

The Status-Checker Lambda Resource
This one is triggered on a schedule by CloudWatch, and looks like:

# Status Checker Lambda
CheckerLambda:
  Type: AWS::Lambda::Function
  Properties:
    Code: ./lambda.zip
    Environment:
      Variables:
        TABLE_NAME: !Ref DynamoTable
    Handler: checker.handler
    Role:
      Fn::GetAtt:
      - CheckerLambdaRole
      - Arn
    Runtime: python3.6
    Timeout: 45
CheckerLambdaRole:
  Type: AWS::IAM::Role
  Properties:
    ManagedPolicyArns:
    - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonDynamoDBFullAccess
    - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AWSLambdaBasicExecutionRole
    AssumeRolePolicyDocument:
      Version: '2012-10-17'
      Statement:
      - Action:
        - sts:AssumeRole
        Effect: Allow
        Principal:
          Service:
          - lambda.amazonaws.com
CheckerLambdaTimer:
  Type: AWS::Events::Rule
  Properties:
    ScheduleExpression: rate(1 minute)
    Targets:
    - Id: CheckerLambdaTimerLambdaTarget
      Arn:
        Fn::GetAtt:
        - CheckerLambda
        - Arn
CheckerLambdaTimerPermission:
  Type: AWS::Lambda::Permission
  Properties:
    Action: lambda:invokeFunction
    FunctionName: !Ref CheckerLambda
    SourceArn:
      Fn::GetAtt:
      - CheckerLambdaTimer
      - Arn
    Principal: events.amazonaws.com

Let’s break that down a bit.

The CheckerLambda is the actual Lambda function. The Code section is a local path to a ZIP file containing the code and its dependencies. I’m using CloudFormation’s packaging feature to automatically push the deployable to S3.

The CheckerLambdaRole is the IAM role the Lambda will assume which grants it access to DynamoDB in addition to the usual Lambda logging permissions.

The CheckerLambdaTimer is the CloudWatch Events Rule that triggers the checker to run once per minute.

The CheckerLambdaTimerPermission grants CloudWatch the ability to invoke the checker Lambda function on its interval.

The Web Page Gateway
The API Gateway handles incoming requests for the web page, invokes the Lambda, and then returns the Lambda’s results as HTML content. Its template looks like:

# API Gateway for Web Page Lambda
PageGateway:
  Type: AWS::ApiGateway::RestApi
  Properties:
    Name: Service Checker Gateway
PageResource:
  Type: AWS::ApiGateway::Resource
  Properties:
    RestApiId: !Ref PageGateway
    ParentId:
      Fn::GetAtt:
      - PageGateway
      - RootResourceId
    PathPart: page
PageGatewayMethod:
  Type: AWS::ApiGateway::Method
  Properties:
    AuthorizationType: NONE
    HttpMethod: GET
    Integration:
      Type: AWS
      IntegrationHttpMethod: POST
      Uri:
        Fn::Sub: arn:aws:apigateway:${AWS::Region}:lambda:path/2015-03-31/functions/${WebRenderLambda.Arn}/invocations
      RequestTemplates:
        application/json: |
          {
              "method": "$context.httpMethod",
              "body" : $input.json('$'),
              "headers": {
                  #foreach($param in $input.params().header.keySet())
                  "$param": "$util.escapeJavaScript($input.params().header.get($param))"
                  #if($foreach.hasNext),#end
                  #end
              }
          }
      IntegrationResponses:
      - StatusCode: 200
        ResponseParameters:
          method.response.header.Content-Type: "'text/html'"
        ResponseTemplates:
          text/html: "$input.path('$')"
    ResourceId: !Ref PageResource
    RestApiId: !Ref PageGateway
    MethodResponses:
    - StatusCode: 200
      ResponseParameters:
        method.response.header.Content-Type: true
PageGatewayProdStage:
  Type: AWS::ApiGateway::Stage
  Properties:
    DeploymentId: !Ref PageGatewayDeployment
    RestApiId: !Ref PageGateway
    StageName: Prod
PageGatewayDeployment:
  Type: AWS::ApiGateway::Deployment
  DependsOn: PageGatewayMethod
  Properties:
    RestApiId: !Ref PageGateway
    Description: PageGateway deployment
    StageName: Stage

There’s a lot going on here, but the real meat is in the PageGatewayMethod section. There are a couple properties that deviate from the default which is why we couldn’t use the SAM transformer.

First, we’re passing request headers through to the Lambda in theRequestTemplates section. I’m doing this so I can validate incoming auth headers. The API Gateway can do some types of auth, but I found it easier to check auth myself in the Lambda function since the Gateway is designed to handle API calls and not browser requests.

Next, note that in the IntegrationResponses section we’re defining the Content-Type header to be ‘text/html’ (with single-quotes) and defining the ResponseTemplate to be $input.path(‘$’). This is what makes the request render as a HTML page in your browser instead of just raw text.

Due to the StageName and PathPart values in the other sections, your actual page will be accessible at https://someId.execute-api.region.amazonaws.com/Prod/page. I have the page behind an existing reverse-proxy and give it a saner URL for end-users. The reverse proxy also attaches the auth header I mentioned above. If that header isn’t present, the Lambda will render an error page instead so the proxy can’t be bypassed.

The Web Page Rendering Lambda
This Lambda is invoked by calls to the API Gateway and looks like:

# Web Page Lambda
WebRenderLambda:
  Type: AWS::Lambda::Function
  Properties:
    Code: ./lambda.zip
    Environment:
      Variables:
        TABLE_NAME: !Ref DynamoTable
    Handler: web.handler
    Role:
      Fn::GetAtt:
      - WebRenderLambdaRole
      - Arn
    Runtime: python3.6
    Timeout: 30
WebRenderLambdaRole:
  Type: AWS::IAM::Role
  Properties:
    ManagedPolicyArns:
    - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/AmazonDynamoDBReadOnlyAccess
    - arn:aws:iam::aws:policy/service-role/AWSLambdaBasicExecutionRole
    AssumeRolePolicyDocument:
      Version: '2012-10-17'
      Statement:
      - Action:
        - sts:AssumeRole
        Effect: Allow
        Principal:
          Service:
          - lambda.amazonaws.com
WebRenderLambdaGatewayPermission:
  Type: AWS::Lambda::Permission
  Properties:
    FunctionName: !Ref WebRenderLambda
    Action: lambda:invokeFunction
    Principal: apigateway.amazonaws.com
    SourceArn:
      Fn::Sub:
      - arn:aws:execute-api:${AWS::Region}:${AWS::AccountId}:${__ApiId__}/*/*/*
      - __ApiId__: !Ref PageGateway

The WebRenderLambda and WebRenderLambdaRole should look familiar.

The WebRenderLambdaGatewayPermission is similar to the Status Checker’s CloudWatch permission, only this time it allows the API Gateway to invoke this Lambda.

The DynamoDB Table
This one is straightforward.

# DynamoDB table
DynamoTable:
  Type: AWS::DynamoDB::Table
  Properties:
    AttributeDefinitions:
    - AttributeName: name
      AttributeType: S
    ProvisionedThroughput:
      WriteCapacityUnits: 1
      ReadCapacityUnits: 1
    TableName: status-page-checker-results
    KeySchema:
    - KeyType: HASH
      AttributeName: name

The Deployment
We’ve made it this far defining every resource in a template that we can check in to version control, so we might as well script the deployment as well rather than manually manage the CloudFormation Stack via the AWS web console.

Since I’m using the packaging feature, I first run:

$ aws cloudformation package \
    --template-file template.yaml \
    --s3-bucket <some-bucket-name> \
    --output-template-file template-packaged.yaml
Uploading to 34cd6e82c5e8205f9b35e71afd9e1548 1922559 / 1922559.0 (100.00%) Successfully packaged artifacts and wrote output template to file template-packaged.yaml.

Then to deploy the template (whether new or modified), I run:

$ aws cloudformation deploy \
    --region '<aws-region>' \
    --template-file template-packaged.yaml \
    --stack-name '<some-name>' \
    --capabilities CAPABILITY_IAM
Waiting for changeset to be created.. Waiting for stack create/update to complete Successfully created/updated stack - <some-name>

And that’s it! You’ve just created a dynamic web page that will never require you to SSH anywhere, patch a server, recover from a disaster after Amazon terminates your unhealthy EC2, or any other number of pitfalls that are now the problem of some ops person at AWS. And you can reproduce deployments and make changes with confidence because everything is defined in the template and can be tracked in version control.

HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold?

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ssd-vs-hdd-future-of-storage/

SSD 60 TB drive

This is part one of a series. Use the Join button above to receive notification of future posts on this and other topics.

Customers frequently ask us whether and when we plan to move our cloud backup and data storage to SSDs (Solid-State Drives). That’s not a surprising question considering the many advantages SSDs have over magnetic platter type drives, also known as HDDs (Hard-Disk Drives).

We’re a large user of HDDs in our data centers (currently 100,000 hard drives holding over 500 petabytes of data). We want to provide the best performance, reliability, and economy for our cloud backup and cloud storage services, so we continually evaluate which drives to use for operations and in our data centers. While we use SSDs for some applications, which we’ll describe below, there are reasons why HDDs will continue to be the primary drives of choice for us and other cloud providers for the foreseeable future.

HDDs vs SSDs

HDD vs SSD

The laptop computer I am writing this on has a single 512GB SSD, which has become a common feature in higher end laptops. The SSD’s advantages for a laptop are easy to understand: they are smaller than an HDD, faster, quieter, last longer, and are not susceptible to vibration and magnetic fields. They also have much lower latency and access times.

Today’s typical online price for a 2.5” 512GB SSD is $140 to $170. The typical online price for a 3.5” 512 GB HDD is $44 to $65. That’s a pretty significant difference in price, but since the SSD helps make the laptop lighter, enables it to be more resistant to the inevitable shocks and jolts it will experience in daily use, and adds of benefits of faster booting, faster waking from sleep, and faster launching of applications and handling of big files, the extra cost for the SSD in this case is worth it.

Some of these SSD advantages, chiefly speed, also will apply to a desktop computer, so desktops are increasingly outfitted with SSDs, particularly to hold the operating system, applications, and data that is accessed frequently. Replacing a boot drive with an SSD has become a popular upgrade option to breathe new life into a computer, especially one that seems to take forever to boot or is used for notoriously slow-loading applications such as Photoshop.

We covered upgrading your computer with an SSD in our blog post SSD 101: How to Upgrade Your Computer With An SSD.

Data centers are an entirely different kettle of fish. The primary concerns for data center storage are reliability, storage density, and cost. While SSDs are strong in the first two areas, it’s the third where they are not yet competitive. At Backblaze we adopt higher density HDDs as they become available — we’re currently using both 10TB and 12TB drives (among other capacities) in our data centers. Higher density drives provide greater storage density per Storage Pod and Vault and reduce our overhead cost through less required maintenance and lower total power requirements. Comparable SSDs in those sizes would cost roughly $1,000 per terabyte, considerably higher than the corresponding HDD. Simply put, SSDs are not yet in the price range to make their use economical for the benefits they provide, which is the reason why we expect to be using HDDs as our primary storage media for the foreseeable future.

What Are HDDs?

HDDs have been around over 60 years since IBM introduced them in 1956. The first disk drive was the size of a car, stored a mere 3.75 megabytes, and cost $300,000 in today’s dollars.

IBM 350 Disk Storage System — 3.75MB in 1956

The 350 Disk Storage System was a major component of the IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control) system, which was introduced in September 1956. It consisted of 40 platters and a dual read/write head on a single arm that moved up and down the stack of magnetic disk platters.

The basic mechanism of an HDD remains unchanged since then, though it has undergone continual refinement. An HDD uses magnetism to store data on a rotating platter. A read/write head is affixed to an arm that floats above the spinning platter reading and writing data. The faster the platter spins, the faster an HDD can perform. Typical laptop drives today spin at either 5400 RPM (revolutions per minute) or 7200 RPM, though some server-based platters spin at even higher speeds.

Exploded drawing of a hard drive

Exploded drawing of a hard drive

The platters inside the drives are coated with a magnetically sensitive film consisting of tiny magnetic grains. Data is recorded when a magnetic write-head flies just above the spinning disk; the write head rapidly flips the magnetization of one magnetic region of grains so that its magnetic pole points up or down, to encode a 1 or a 0 in binary code. If all this sounds like an HDD is vulnerable to shocks and vibration, you’d be right. They also are vulnerable to magnets, which is one way to destroy the data on an HDD if you’re getting rid of it.

The major advantage of an HDD is that it can store lots of data cheaply. One and two terabyte (1,024 and 2,048 gigabytes) hard drives are not unusual for a laptop these days, and 10TB and 12TB drives are now available for desktops and servers. Densities and rotation speeds continue to grow. However, if you compare the cost of common HDDs vs SSDs for sale online, the SSDs are roughly 3-5x the cost per gigabyte. So if you want cheap storage and lots of it, using a standard hard drive is definitely the more economical way to go.

What are the best uses for HDDs?

  • Disk arrays (NAS, RAID, etc.) where high capacity is needed
  • Desktops when low cost is priority
  • Media storage (photos, videos, audio not currently being worked on)
  • Drives with extreme number of reads and writes

What Are SSDs?

SSDs go back almost as far as HDDs, with the first semiconductor storage device compatible with a hard drive interface introduced in 1978, the StorageTek 4305.

Storage Technology 4305 SSD

The StorageTek was an SSD aimed at the IBM mainframe compatible market. The STC 4305 was seven times faster than IBM’s popular 2305 HDD system (and also about half the price). It consisted of a cabinet full of charge-coupled devices and cost $400,000 for 45MB capacity with throughput speeds up to 1.5 MB/sec.

SSDs are based on a type of non-volatile memory called NAND (named for the Boolean operator “NOT AND,” and one of two main types of flash memory). Flash memory stores data in individual memory cells, which are made of floating-gate transistors. Though they are semiconductor-based memory, they retain their information when no power is applied to them — a feature that’s obviously a necessity for permanent data storage.

Samsung SSD

Samsung SSD 850 Pro

Compared to an HDD, SSDs have higher data-transfer rates, higher areal storage density, better reliability, and much lower latency and access times. For most users, it’s the speed of an SSD that primarily attracts them. When discussing the speed of drives, what we are referring to is the speed at which they can read and write data.

For HDDs, the speed at which the platters spin strongly determines the read/write times. When data on an HDD is accessed, the read/write head must physically move to the location where the data was encoded on a magnetic section on the platter. If the file being read was written sequentially to the disk, it will be read quickly. As more data is written to the disk, however, it’s likely that the file will be written across multiple sections, resulting in fragmentation of the data. Fragmented data takes longer to read with an HDD as the read head has to move to different areas of the platter(s) to completely read all the data requested.

Because SSDs have no moving parts, they can operate at speeds far above those of a typical HDD. Fragmentation is not an issue for SSDs. Files can be written anywhere with little impact on read/write times, resulting in read times far faster than any HDD, regardless of fragmentation.

Samsung SSD 850 Pro (back)

Due to the way data is written and read to the drive, however, SSD cells can wear out over time. SSD cells push electrons through a gate to set its state. This process wears on the cell and over time reduces its performance until the SSD wears out. This effect takes a long time and SSDs have mechanisms to minimize this effect, such as the TRIM command. Flash memory writes an entire block of storage no matter how few pages within the block are updated. This requires reading and caching the existing data, erasing the block and rewriting the block. If an empty block is available, a write operation is much faster. The TRIM command, which must be supported in both the OS and the SSD, enables the OS to inform the drive which blocks are no longer needed. It allows the drive to erase the blocks ahead of time in order to make empty blocks available for subsequent writes.

The effect of repeated reading and erasing on an SSD is cumulative and an SSD can slow down and even display errors with age. It’s more likely, however, that the system using the SSD will be discarded for obsolescence before the SSD begins to display read/write errors. Hard drives eventually wear out from constant use as well, since they use physical recording methods, so most users won’t base their selection of an HDD or SSD drive based on expected longevity.

SSD internals

SSD circuit board

Overall, SSDs are considered far more durable than HDDs due to a lack of mechanical parts. The moving mechanisms within an HDD are susceptible to not only wear and tear over time, but to damage due to movement or forceful contact. If one were to drop a laptop with an HDD, there is a high likelihood that all those moving parts will collide, resulting in potential data loss and even destructive physical damage that could kill the HDD outright. SSDs have no moving parts so, while they hold the risk of a potentially shorter life span due to high use, they can survive the rigors we impose upon our portable devices and laptops.

What are the best uses for SSDs?

  • Notebooks, laptops, where performance, lightweight, areal storage density, resistance to shock and general ruggedness are desirable
  • Boot drives holding operating system and applications, which will speed up booting and application launching
  • Working files (media that is being edited: photos, video, audio, etc.)
  • Swap drives where SSD will speed up disk paging
  • Cache drives
  • Database servers
  • Revitalizing an older computer. If you’ve got a computer that seems slow to start up and slow to load applications and files, updating the boot drive with an SSD could make it seem, if not new, at least as if it just came back refreshed from spending some time on the beach.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of HDD vs SSD

That’s it for part 1. In our second part we’ll take a deeper look at the differences between HDDs and SSDs, how both HDD and SSD technologies are evolving, and how Backblaze takes advantage of SSDs in our operations and data centers.

Here's a tip!Here’s a tip on finding all the posts tagged with SSD on our blog. Just follow https://www.backblaze.com/blog/tag/ssd/.

Don’t miss future posts on HDDs, SSDs, and other topics, including hard drive stats, cloud storage, and tips and tricks for backing up to the cloud. Use the Join button above to receive notification of future posts on our blog.

The post HDD vs SSD: What Does the Future for Storage Hold? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

AWS Hot Startups for February 2018: Canva, Figma, InVision

Post Syndicated from Tina Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-for-february-2018-canva-figma-invision/

Note to readers! Starting next month, we will be publishing our monthly Hot Startups blog post on the AWS Startup Blog. Please come check us out.

As visual communication—whether through social media channels like Instagram or white space-heavy product pages—becomes a central part of everyone’s life, accessible design platforms and tools become more and more important in the world of tech. This trend is why we have chosen to spotlight three design-related startups—namely Canva, Figma, and InVision—as our hot startups for the month of February. Please read on to learn more about these design-savvy companies and be sure to check out our full post here.

Canva (Sydney, Australia)

For a long time, creating designs required expensive software, extensive studying, and time spent waiting for feedback from clients or colleagues. With Canva, a graphic design tool that makes creating designs much simpler and accessible, users have the opportunity to design anything and publish anywhere. The platform—which integrates professional design elements, including stock photography, graphic elements, and fonts for users to build designs either entirely from scratch or from thousands of free templates—is available on desktop, iOS, and Android, making it possible to spin up an invitation, poster, or graphic on a smartphone at any time.

To learn more about Canva, read our full interview with CEO Melanie Perkins here.

Figma (San Francisco, CA)

Figma is a cloud-based design platform that empowers designers to communicate and collaborate more effectively. Using recent advancements in WebGL, Figma offers a design tool that doesn’t require users to install any software or special operating systems. It also allows multiple people to work in a file at the same time—a crucial feature.

As the need for new design talent increases, the industry will need plenty of junior designers to keep up with the demand. Figma is prepared to help students by offering their platform for free. Through this, they “hope to give young designers the resources necessary to kick-start their education and eventually, their careers.”

For more about Figma, check out our full interview with CEO Dylan Field here.

InVision (New York, NY)

Founded in 2011 with the goal of helping improve every digital experience in the world, digital product design platform InVision helps users create a streamlined and scalable product design process, build and iterate on prototypes, and collaborate across organizations. The company, which raised a $100 million series E last November, bringing the company’s total funding to $235 million, currently powers the digital product design process at more than 80 percent of the Fortune 100 and brands like Airbnb, HBO, Netflix, and Uber.

Learn more about InVision here.

Be sure to check out our full post on the AWS Startups blog!

-Tina

Integration With Zapier

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/integration-with-zapier/

Integration is boring. And also inevitable. But I won’t be writing about enterprise integration patterns. Instead, I’ll explain how to create an app for integration with Zapier.

What is Zapier? It is a service that allows you tо connect two (or more) otherwise unconnected services via their APIs (or protocols). You can do stuff like “Create a Trello task from an Evernote note”, “publish new RSS items to Facebook”, “append new emails to a spreadsheet”, “post approaching calendar meeting to Slack”, “Save big email attachments to Dropbox”, “tweet all instagrams above a certain likes threshold”, and so on. In fact, it looks to cover mostly the same usecases as another famous service that I really like – IFTTT (if this then that), with my favourite use-case “Get a notification when the international space station passes over your house”. And all of those interactions can be configured via a UI.

Now that’s good for end users but what does it have to do with software development and integration? Zapier (unlike IFTTT, unfortunately), allows custom 3rd party services to be included. So if you have a service of your own, you can create an “app” and allow users to integrate your service with all the other 3rd party services. IFTTT offers a way to invoke web endpoints (including RESTful services), but it doesn’t allow setting headers, so that makes it quite limited for actual APIs.

In this post I’ll briefly explain how to write a custom Zapier app and then will discuss where services like Zapier stand from an architecture perspective.

The thing that I needed it for – to be able to integrate LogSentinel with any of the third parties available through Zapier, i.e. to store audit logs for events that happen in all those 3rd party systems. So how do I do that? There’s a tutorial that makes it look simple. And it is, with a few catches.

First, there are two tutorials – one in GitHub and one on Zapier’s website. And they differ slightly, which becomes tricky in some cases.

I initially followed the GitHub tutorial and had my build fail. It claimed the zapier platform dependency is missing. After I compared it with the example apps, I found out there’s a caret in front of the zapier platform dependency. Removing it just yielded another error – that my node version should be exactly 6.10.2. Why?

The Zapier CLI requires you have exactly version 6.10.2 installed. You’ll see errors and will be unable to proceed otherwise.

It appears that they are using AWS Lambda which is stuck on Node 6.10.2 (actually – it’s 6.10.3 when you check). The current major release is 8, so minus points for choosing … javascript for a command-line tool and for building sandboxed apps. Maybe other decisions had their downsides as well, I won’t be speculating. Maybe it’s just my dislike for dynamic languages.

So, after you make sure you have the correct old version on node, you call zapier init and make sure there are no carets, npm install and then zapier test. So far so good, you have a dummy app. Now how do you make a RESTful call to your service?

Zapier splits the programmable entities in two – “triggers” and “creates”. A trigger is the event that triggers the whole app, an a “create” is what happens as a result. In my case, my app doesn’t publish any triggers, it only accepts input, so I won’t be mentioning triggers (though they seem easy). You configure all of the elements in index.js (e.g. this one):

const log = require('./creates/log');
....
creates: {
    [log.key]: log,
}

The log.js file itself is the interesting bit – there you specify all the parameters that should be passed to your API call, as well as making the API call itself:

const log = (z, bundle) => {
  const responsePromise = z.request({
    method: 'POST',
    url: `https://api.logsentinel.com/api/log/${bundle.inputData.actorId}/${bundle.inputData.action}`,
    body: bundle.inputData.details,
	headers: {
		'Accept': 'application/json'
	}
  });
  return responsePromise
    .then(response => JSON.parse(response.content));
};

module.exports = {
  key: 'log-entry',
  noun: 'Log entry',

  display: {
    label: 'Log',
    description: 'Log an audit trail entry'
  },

  operation: {
    inputFields: [
      {key: 'actorId', label:'ActorID', required: true},
      {key: 'action', label:'Action', required: true},
      {key: 'details', label:'Details', required: false}
    ],
    perform: log
  }
};

You can pass the input parameters to your API call, and it’s as simple as that. The user can then specify which parameters from the source (“trigger”) should be mapped to each of your parameters. In an example zap, I used an email trigger and passed the sender as actorId, the sibject as “action” and the body of the email as details.

There’s one more thing – authentication. Authentication can be done in many ways. Some services offer OAuth, others – HTTP Basic or other custom forms of authentication. There is a section in the documentation about all the options. In my case it was (almost) an HTTP Basic auth. My initial thought was to just supply the credentials as parameters (which you just hardcode rather than map to trigger parameters). That may work, but it’s not the canonical way. You should configure “authentication”, as it triggers a friendly UI for the user.

You include authentication.js (which has the fields your authentication requires) and then pre-process requests by adding a header (in index.js):

const authentication = require('./authentication');

const includeAuthHeaders = (request, z, bundle) => {
  if (bundle.authData.organizationId) {
	request.headers = request.headers || {};
	request.headers['Application-Id'] = bundle.authData.applicationId
	const basicHash = Buffer(`${bundle.authData.organizationId}:${bundle.authData.apiSecret}`).toString('base64');
	request.headers['Authorization'] = `Basic ${basicHash}`;
  }
  return request;
};

const App = {
  // This is just shorthand to reference the installed dependencies you have. Zapier will
  // need to know these before we can upload
  version: require('./package.json').version,
  platformVersion: require('zapier-platform-core').version,
  authentication: authentication,
  
  // beforeRequest & afterResponse are optional hooks into the provided HTTP client
  beforeRequest: [
	includeAuthHeaders
  ]
...
}

And then you zapier push your app and you can test it. It doesn’t automatically go live, as you have to invite people to try it and use it first, but in many cases that’s sufficient (i.e. using Zapier when doing integration with a particular client)

Can Zapier can be used for any integration problem? Unlikely – it’s pretty limited and simple, but that’s also a strength. You can, in half a day, make your service integrate with thousands of others for the most typical use-cases. And not that although it’s meant for integrating public services rather than for enterprise integration (where you make multiple internal systems talk to each other), as an increasing number of systems rely on 3rd party services, it could find home in an enterprise system, replacing some functions of an ESB.

Effectively, such services (Zapier, IFTTT) are “Simple ESB-as-a-service”. You go to a UI, fill a bunch of fields, and you get systems talking to each other without touching the systems themselves. I’m not a big fan of ESBs, mostly because they become harder to support with time. But minimalist, external ones might be applicable in certain situations. And while such services are primarily aimed at end users, they could be a useful bit in an enterprise architecture that relies on 3rd party services.

Whether it could process the required load, whether an organization is willing to let its data flow through a 3rd party provider (which may store the intermediate parameters), is a question that should be answered in a case by cases basis. I wouldn’t recommend it as a general solution, but it’s certainly an option to consider.

The post Integration With Zapier appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

LSFMM 2018 call for proposals

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/744400/rss

The 2018 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management Summit will be
held April 23-25 in Park City, Utah. The call for proposals has just gone
out with a tight deadline: they need to be received by January 31.
LSF/MM is an invitation-only technical
workshop to map out improvements to the Linux storage, filesystem and
memory management subsystems that will make their way into the
mainline kernel within the coming years.

[$] Statistics for the 4.15 kernel

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/742672/rss

The 4.15 kernel is likely to require a relatively long development cycle as
a result of the post-rc5 merge of the kernel
page-table isolation
patches. That said, it should be in something
close to its final form, modulo some inevitable bug fixes. The development
statistics for this kernel release look fairly normal, but they do reveal an
unexpectedly busy cycle overall.

Acoustical Attacks against Hard Drives

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/12/acoustical_atta.html

Interesting destructive attack: “Acoustic Denial of Service Attacks on HDDs“:

Abstract: Among storage components, hard disk drives (HDDs) have become the most commonly-used type of non-volatile storage due to their recent technological advances, including, enhanced energy efficacy and significantly-improved areal density. Such advances in HDDs have made them an inevitable part of numerous computing systems, including, personal computers, closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, medical bedside monitors, and automated teller machines (ATMs). Despite the widespread use of HDDs and their critical role in real-world systems, there exist only a few research studies on the security of HDDs. In particular, prior research studies have discussed how HDDs can potentially leak critical private information through acoustic or electromagnetic emanations. Borrowing theoretical principles from acoustics and mechanics, we propose a novel denial-of-service (DoS) attack against HDDs that exploits a physical phenomenon, known as acoustic resonance. We perform a comprehensive examination of physical characteristics of several HDDs and create acoustic signals that cause significant vibrations in HDDs internal components. We demonstrate that such vibrations can negatively influence the performance of HDDs embedded in real-world systems. We show the feasibility of the proposed attack in two real-world case studies, namely, personal computers and CCTVs.

Start off the New Year by earning AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate

Post Syndicated from Janna Pellegrino original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/architecture/start-off-the-new-year-by-earning-aws-certified-solutions-architect-associate/

Do you design applications and systems on AWS? Want to demonstrate your AWS Cloud skills? Ring in 2018 by becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate. It’s a way to validate your expertise with an industry-recognized credential and give your career a boost.

Why get certified, you ask? According to the 2017 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary Report, cloud certifications, including AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, generally have salaries well above average. For example, a typical U.S. salary for AWS Certified IT staff is 27.5 percent higher than the normal salary rate. Looking ahead, the report also finds that the IT industry will continue investing heavily in certification as a way to validating employees’ skills and expertise.

Here are our tips for preparing for the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam—which we hope you’ll pass with flying colors.

Learn About the Exam

View the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam Guide. It covers concepts within the exam and gives you a blueprint of what you need to study.

The exam tests your technical expertise in designing and deploying scalable, highly-available, and fault-tolerant systems on AWS. It’s for anyone with one or more years of hands-on experience designing distributed applications and systems on the AWS platform.

Continue with Digital and Classroom Training

Next, brush up on key AWS services covered in the exam with our new free digital training offerings at aws.training. Our 100+ bite-sized online courses are each 10 minutes long so you learn AWS fundamentals at your own pace.

Just getting started learning the fundamentals of the AWS Cloud? We recommend you take our AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course, part of our free digital training offerings.

For more in-depth technical training, register for our immersive Architecting on AWS course. It’s three days of instructor-led classroom training, books, and labs, built and taught by AWS experts.

Study with Exam Prep Resources

Once you have an idea of what’s on the exam, and you’ve taken training to prepare, it’s time to prepare for the exam itself.

Dig deeper into the exam’s concepts and topics with the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam: Official Study Guide. It provides access to content written by AWS experts, real-world knowledge, key exam essentials, chapter review questions, an interactive online learning environment, and much more.

Next, study AWS whitepapers and FAQs with content related to the exam. You can find links to our suggested whitepapers at FAQs at https://aws.amazon.com/certification/certification-prep/ under the Solutions Architect – Associate tab.

You can also take an Exam Prep Workshop and learn exam strategies from a certified technical instructor.

Once you’re ready, put your knowledge to the (practice) test with sample questions. Register for an online practice exam to test your knowledge in a timed environment.

Schedule Your Exam and Get Certified

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What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future?

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/hamr-hard-drives/

HAMR drive illustration

During Q4, Backblaze deployed 100 petabytes worth of Seagate hard drives to our data centers. The newly deployed Seagate 10 and 12 TB drives are doing well and will help us meet our near term storage needs, but we know we’re going to need more drives — with higher capacities. That’s why the success of new hard drive technologies like Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) from Seagate are very relevant to us here at Backblaze and to the storage industry in general. In today’s guest post we are pleased to have Mark Re, CTO at Seagate, give us an insider’s look behind the hard drive curtain to tell us how Seagate engineers are developing the HAMR technology and making it market ready starting in late 2018.

What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future?

Guest Blog Post by Mark Re, Seagate Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Earlier this year Seagate announced plans to make the first hard drives using Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording, or HAMR, available by the end of 2018 in pilot volumes. Even as today’s market has embraced 10TB+ drives, the need for 20TB+ drives remains imperative in the relative near term. HAMR is the Seagate research team’s next major advance in hard drive technology.

HAMR is a technology that over time will enable a big increase in the amount of data that can be stored on a disk. A small laser is attached to a recording head, designed to heat a tiny spot on the disk where the data will be written. This allows a smaller bit cell to be written as either a 0 or a 1. The smaller bit cell size enables more bits to be crammed into a given surface area — increasing the areal density of data, and increasing drive capacity.

It sounds almost simple, but the science and engineering expertise required, the research, experimentation, lab development and product development to perfect this technology has been enormous. Below is an overview of the HAMR technology and you can dig into the details in our technical brief that provides a point-by-point rundown describing several key advances enabling the HAMR design.

As much time and resources as have been committed to developing HAMR, the need for its increased data density is indisputable. Demand for data storage keeps increasing. Businesses’ ability to manage and leverage more capacity is a competitive necessity, and IT spending on capacity continues to increase.

History of Increasing Storage Capacity

For the last 50 years areal density in the hard disk drive has been growing faster than Moore’s law, which is a very good thing. After all, customers from data centers and cloud service providers to creative professionals and game enthusiasts rarely go shopping looking for a hard drive just like the one they bought two years ago. The demands of increasing data on storage capacities inevitably increase, thus the technology constantly evolves.

According to the Advanced Storage Technology Consortium, HAMR will be the next significant storage technology innovation to increase the amount of storage in the area available to store data, also called the disk’s “areal density.” We believe this boost in areal density will help fuel hard drive product development and growth through the next decade.

Why do we Need to Develop Higher-Capacity Hard Drives? Can’t Current Technologies do the Job?

Why is HAMR’s increased data density so important?

Data has become critical to all aspects of human life, changing how we’re educated and entertained. It affects and informs the ways we experience each other and interact with businesses and the wider world. IDC research shows the datasphere — all the data generated by the world’s businesses and billions of consumer endpoints — will continue to double in size every two years. IDC forecasts that by 2025 the global datasphere will grow to 163 zettabytes (that is a trillion gigabytes). That’s ten times the 16.1 ZB of data generated in 2016. IDC cites five key trends intensifying the role of data in changing our world: embedded systems and the Internet of Things (IoT), instantly available mobile and real-time data, cognitive artificial intelligence (AI) systems, increased security data requirements, and critically, the evolution of data from playing a business background to playing a life-critical role.

Consumers use the cloud to manage everything from family photos and videos to data about their health and exercise routines. Real-time data created by connected devices — everything from Fitbit, Alexa and smart phones to home security systems, solar systems and autonomous cars — are fueling the emerging Data Age. On top of the obvious business and consumer data growth, our critical infrastructure like power grids, water systems, hospitals, road infrastructure and public transportation all demand and add to the growth of real-time data. Data is now a vital element in the smooth operation of all aspects of daily life.

All of this entails a significant infrastructure cost behind the scenes with the insatiable, global appetite for data storage. While a variety of storage technologies will continue to advance in data density (Seagate announced the first 60TB 3.5-inch SSD unit for example), high-capacity hard drives serve as the primary foundational core of our interconnected, cloud and IoT-based dependence on data.

HAMR Hard Drive Technology

Seagate has been working on heat assisted magnetic recording (HAMR) in one form or another since the late 1990s. During this time we’ve made many breakthroughs in making reliable near field transducers, special high capacity HAMR media, and figuring out a way to put a laser on each and every head that is no larger than a grain of salt.

The development of HAMR has required Seagate to consider and overcome a myriad of scientific and technical challenges including new kinds of magnetic media, nano-plasmonic device design and fabrication, laser integration, high-temperature head-disk interactions, and thermal regulation.

A typical hard drive inside any computer or server contains one or more rigid disks coated with a magnetically sensitive film consisting of tiny magnetic grains. Data is recorded when a magnetic write-head flies just above the spinning disk; the write head rapidly flips the magnetization of one magnetic region of grains so that its magnetic pole points up or down, to encode a 1 or a 0 in binary code.

Increasing the amount of data you can store on a disk requires cramming magnetic regions closer together, which means the grains need to be smaller so they won’t interfere with each other.

Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) is the next step to enable us to increase the density of grains — or bit density. Current projections are that HAMR can achieve 5 Tbpsi (Terabits per square inch) on conventional HAMR media, and in the future will be able to achieve 10 Tbpsi or higher with bit patterned media (in which discrete dots are predefined on the media in regular, efficient, very dense patterns). These technologies will enable hard drives with capacities higher than 100 TB before 2030.

The major problem with packing bits so closely together is that if you do that on conventional magnetic media, the bits (and the data they represent) become thermally unstable, and may flip. So, to make the grains maintain their stability — their ability to store bits over a long period of time — we need to develop a recording media that has higher coercivity. That means it’s magnetically more stable during storage, but it is more difficult to change the magnetic characteristics of the media when writing (harder to flip a grain from a 0 to a 1 or vice versa).

That’s why HAMR’s first key hardware advance required developing a new recording media that keeps bits stable — using high anisotropy (or “hard”) magnetic materials such as iron-platinum alloy (FePt), which resist magnetic change at normal temperatures. Over years of HAMR development, Seagate researchers have tested and proven out a variety of FePt granular media films, with varying alloy composition and chemical ordering.

In fact the new media is so “hard” that conventional recording heads won’t be able to flip the bits, or write new data, under normal temperatures. If you add heat to the tiny spot on which you want to write data, you can make the media’s coercive field lower than the magnetic field provided by the recording head — in other words, enable the write head to flip that bit.

So, a challenge with HAMR has been to replace conventional perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), in which the write head operates at room temperature, with a write technology that heats the thin film recording medium on the disk platter to temperatures above 400 °C. The basic principle is to heat a tiny region of several magnetic grains for a very short time (~1 nanoseconds) to a temperature high enough to make the media’s coercive field lower than the write head’s magnetic field. Immediately after the heat pulse, the region quickly cools down and the bit’s magnetic orientation is frozen in place.

Applying this dynamic nano-heating is where HAMR’s famous “laser” comes in. A plasmonic near-field transducer (NFT) has been integrated into the recording head, to heat the media and enable magnetic change at a specific point. Plasmonic NFTs are used to focus and confine light energy to regions smaller than the wavelength of light. This enables us to heat an extremely small region, measured in nanometers, on the disk media to reduce its magnetic coercivity,

Moving HAMR Forward

HAMR write head

As always in advanced engineering, the devil — or many devils — is in the details. As noted earlier, our technical brief provides a point-by-point short illustrated summary of HAMR’s key changes.

Although hard work remains, we believe this technology is nearly ready for commercialization. Seagate has the best engineers in the world working towards a goal of a 20 Terabyte drive by 2019. We hope we’ve given you a glimpse into the amount of engineering that goes into a hard drive. Keeping up with the world’s insatiable appetite to create, capture, store, secure, manage, analyze, rapidly access and share data is a challenge we work on every day.

With thousands of HAMR drives already being made in our manufacturing facilities, our internal and external supply chain is solidly in place, and volume manufacturing tools are online. This year we began shipping initial units for customer tests, and production units will ship to key customers by the end of 2018. Prepare for breakthrough capacities.

The post What is HAMR and How Does It Enable the High-Capacity Needs of the Future? appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

The deal with Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Michal Zalewski original http://lcamtuf.blogspot.com/2017/12/the-deal-with-bitcoin.html

♪ Used to have a little now I have a lot
I’m still, I’m still Jenny from the block
          chain ♪

For all that has been written about Bitcoin and its ilk, it is curious that the focus is almost solely what the cryptocurrencies are supposed to be. Technologists wax lyrical about the potential for blockchains to change almost every aspect of our lives. Libertarians and paleoconservatives ache for the return to “sound money” that can’t be conjured up at the whim of a bureaucrat. Mainstream economists wag their fingers, proclaiming that a proper currency can’t be deflationary, that it must maintain a particular velocity, or that the government must be able to nip crises of confidence in the bud. And so on.

Much of this may be true, but the proponents of cryptocurrencies should recognize that an appeal to consequences is not a guarantee of good results. The critics, on the other hand, would be best served to remember that they are drawing far-reaching conclusions about the effects of modern monetary policies based on a very short and tumultuous period in history.

In this post, my goal is to ditch most of the dogma, talk a bit about the origins of money – and then see how “crypto” fits the bill.

1. The prehistory of currencies

The emergence of money is usually explained in a very straightforward way. You know the story: a farmer raised a pig, a cobbler made a shoe. The cobbler needed to feed his family while the farmer wanted to keep his feet warm – and so they met to exchange the goods on mutually beneficial terms. But as the tale goes, the barter system had a fatal flaw: sometimes, a farmer wanted a cooking pot, a potter wanted a knife, and a blacksmith wanted a pair of pants. To facilitate increasingly complex, multi-step exchanges without requiring dozens of people to meet face to face, we came up with an abstract way to represent value – a shiny coin guaranteed to be accepted by every tradesman.

It is a nice parable, but it probably isn’t very true. It seems far more plausible that early societies relied on the concept of debt long before the advent of currencies: an informal tally or a formal ledger would be used to keep track of who owes what to whom. The concept of debt, closely associated with one’s trustworthiness and standing in the community, would have enabled a wide range of economic activities: debts could be paid back over time, transferred, renegotiated, or forgotten – all without having to engage in spot barter or to mint a single coin. In fact, such non-monetary, trust-based, reciprocal economies are still common in closely-knit communities: among families, neighbors, coworkers, or friends.

In such a setting, primitive currencies probably emerged simply as a consequence of having a system of prices: a cow being worth a particular number of chickens, a chicken being worth a particular number of beaver pelts, and so forth. Formalizing such relationships by settling on a single, widely-known unit of account – say, one chicken – would make it more convenient to transfer, combine, or split debts; or to settle them in alternative goods.

Contrary to popular belief, for communal ledgers, the unit of account probably did not have to be particularly desirable, durable, or easy to carry; it was simply an accounting tool. And indeed, we sometimes run into fairly unusual units of account even in modern times: for example, cigarettes can be the basis of a bustling prison economy even when most inmates don’t smoke and there are not that many packs to go around.

2. The age of commodity money

In the end, the development of coinage might have had relatively little to do with communal trade – and far more with the desire to exchange goods with strangers. When dealing with a unfamiliar or hostile tribe, the concept of a chicken-denominated ledger does not hold up: the other side might be disinclined to honor its obligations – and get away with it, too. To settle such problematic trades, we needed a “spot” medium of exchange that would be easy to carry and authenticate, had a well-defined value, and a near-universal appeal. Throughout much of the recorded history, precious metals – predominantly gold and silver – proved to fit the bill.

In the most basic sense, such commodities could be seen as a tool to reconcile debts across societal boundaries, without necessarily replacing any local units of account. An obligation, denominated in some local currency, would be created on buyer’s side in order to procure the metal for the trade. The proceeds of the completed transaction would in turn allow the seller to settle their own local obligations that arose from having to source the traded goods. In other words, our wondrous chicken-denominated ledgers could coexist peacefully with gold – and when commodity coinage finally took hold, it’s likely that in everyday trade, precious metals served more as a useful abstraction than a precise store of value. A “silver chicken” of sorts.

Still, the emergence of commodity money had one interesting side effect: it decoupled the unit of debt – a “claim on the society”, in a sense – from any moral judgment about its origin. A piece of silver would buy the same amount of food, whether earned through hard labor or won in a drunken bet. This disconnect remains a central theme in many of the debates about social justice and unfairly earned wealth.

3. The State enters the game

If there is one advantage of chicken ledgers over precious metals, it’s that all chickens look and cluck roughly the same – something that can’t be said of every nugget of silver or gold. To cope with this problem, we needed to shape raw commodities into pieces of a more predictable shape and weight; a trusted party could then stamp them with a mark to indicate the value and the quality of the coin.

At first, the task of standardizing coinage rested with private parties – but the responsibility was soon assumed by the State. The advantages of this transition seemed clear: a single, widely-accepted and easily-recognizable currency could be now used to settle virtually all private and official debts.

Alas, in what deserves the dubious distinction of being one of the earliest examples of monetary tomfoolery, some States succumbed to the temptation of fiddling with the coinage to accomplish anything from feeding the poor to waging wars. In particular, it would be common to stamp coins with the same face value but a progressively lower content of silver and gold. Perhaps surprisingly, the strategy worked remarkably well; at least in the times of peace, most people cared about the value stamped on the coin, not its precise composition or weight.

And so, over time, representative money was born: sooner or later, most States opted to mint coins from nearly-worthless metals, or print banknotes on paper and cloth. This radically new currency was accompanied with a simple pledge: the State offered to redeem it at any time for its nominal value in gold.

Of course, the promise was largely illusory: the State did not have enough gold to honor all the promises it had made. Still, as long as people had faith in their rulers and the redemption requests stayed low, the fundamental mechanics of this new representative currency remained roughly the same as before – and in some ways, were an improvement in that they lessened the insatiable demand for a rare commodity. Just as importantly, the new money still enabled international trade – using the underlying gold exchange rate as a reference point.

4. Fractional reserve banking and fiat money

For much of the recorded history, banking was an exceptionally dull affair, not much different from running a communal chicken
ledger of the old. But then, something truly marvelous happened in the 17th century: around that time, many European countries have witnessed
the emergence of fractional-reserve banks.

These private ventures operated according to a simple scheme: they accepted people’s coin
for safekeeping, promising to pay a premium on every deposit made. To meet these obligations and to make a profit, the banks then
used the pooled deposits to make high-interest loans to other folks. The financiers figured out that under normal circumstances
and when operating at a sufficient scale, they needed only a very modest reserve – well under 10% of all deposited money – to be
able to service the usual volume and size of withdrawals requested by their customers. The rest could be loaned out.

The very curious consequence of fractional-reserve banking was that it pulled new money out of thin air.
The funds were simultaneously accounted for in the statements shown to the depositor, evidently available for withdrawal or
transfer at any time; and given to third-party borrowers, who could spend them on just about anything. Heck, the borrowers could
deposit the proceeds in another bank, creating even more money along the way! Whatever they did, the sum of all funds in the monetary
system now appeared much higher than the value of all coins and banknotes issued by the government – let alone the amount of gold
sitting in any vault.

Of course, no new money was being created in any physical sense: all that banks were doing was engaging in a bit of creative accounting – the sort of which would probably land you in jail if you attempted it today in any other comparably vital field of enterprise. If too many depositors were to ask for their money back, or if too many loans were to go bad, the banking system would fold. Fortunes would evaporate in a puff of accounting smoke, and with the disappearance of vast quantities of quasi-fictitious (“broad”) money, the wealth of the entire nation would shrink.

In the early 20th century, the world kept witnessing just that; a series of bank runs and economic contractions forced the governments around the globe to act. At that stage, outlawing fractional-reserve banking was no longer politically or economically tenable; a simpler alternative was to let go of gold and move to fiat money – a currency implemented as an abstract social construct, with no predefined connection to the physical realm. A new breed of economists saw the role of the government not in trying to peg the value of money to an inflexible commodity, but in manipulating its supply to smooth out economic hiccups or to stimulate growth.

(Contrary to popular beliefs, such manipulation is usually not done by printing new banknotes; more sophisticated methods, such as lowering reserve requirements for bank deposits or enticing banks to invest its deposits into government-issued securities, are the preferred route.)

The obvious peril of fiat money is that in the long haul, its value is determined strictly by people’s willingness to accept a piece of paper in exchange for their trouble; that willingness, in turn, is conditioned solely on their belief that the same piece of paper would buy them something nice a week, a month, or a year from now. It follows that a simple crisis of confidence could make a currency nearly worthless overnight. A prolonged period of hyperinflation and subsequent austerity in Germany and Austria was one of the precipitating factors that led to World War II. In more recent times, dramatic episodes of hyperinflation plagued the fiat currencies of Israel (1984), Mexico (1988), Poland (1990), Yugoslavia (1994), Bulgaria (1996), Turkey (2002), Zimbabwe (2009), Venezuela (2016), and several other nations around the globe.

For the United States, the switch to fiat money came relatively late, in 1971. To stop the dollar from plunging like a rock, the Nixon administration employed a clever trick: they ordered the freeze of wages and prices for the 90 days that immediately followed the move. People went on about their lives and paid the usual for eggs or milk – and by the time the freeze ended, they were accustomed to the idea that the “new”, free-floating dollar is worth about the same as the old, gold-backed one. A robust economy and favorable geopolitics did the rest, and so far, the American adventure with fiat currency has been rather uneventful – perhaps except for the fact that the price of gold itself skyrocketed from $35 per troy ounce in 1971 to $850 in 1980 (or, from $210 to $2,500 in today’s dollars).

Well, one thing did change: now better positioned to freely tamper with the supply of money, the regulators in accord with the bankers adopted a policy of creating it at a rate that slightly outstripped the organic growth in economic activity. They did this to induce a small, steady degree of inflation, believing that doing so would discourage people from hoarding cash and force them to reinvest it for the betterment of the society. Some critics like to point out that such a policy functions as a “backdoor” tax on savings that happens to align with the regulators’ less noble interests; still, either way: in the US and most other developed nations, the purchasing power of any money kept under a mattress will drop at a rate of somewhere between 2 to 10% a year.

5. So what’s up with Bitcoin?

Well… countless tomes have been written about the nature and the optimal characteristics of government-issued fiat currencies. Some heterodox economists, notably including Murray Rothbard, have also explored the topic of privately-issued, decentralized, commodity-backed currencies. But Bitcoin is a wholly different animal.

In essence, BTC is a global, decentralized fiat currency: it has no (recoverable) intrinsic value, no central authority to issue it or define its exchange rate, and it has no anchoring to any historical reference point – a combination that until recently seemed nonsensical and escaped any serious scrutiny. It does the unthinkable by employing three clever tricks:

  1. It allows anyone to create new coins, but only by solving brute-force computational challenges that get more difficult as the time goes by,

  2. It prevents unauthorized transfer of coins by employing public key cryptography to sign off transactions, with only the authorized holder of a coin knowing the correct key,

  3. It prevents double-spending by using a distributed public ledger (“blockchain”), recording the chain of custody for coins in a tamper-proof way.

The blockchain is often described as the most important feature of Bitcoin, but in some ways, its importance is overstated. The idea of a currency that does not rely on a centralized transaction clearinghouse is what helped propel the platform into the limelight – mostly because of its novelty and the perception that it is less vulnerable to government meddling (although the government is still free to track down, tax, fine, or arrest any participants). On the flip side, the everyday mechanics of BTC would not be fundamentally different if all the transactions had to go through Bitcoin Bank, LLC.

A more striking feature of the new currency is the incentive structure surrounding the creation of new coins. The underlying design democratized the creation of new coins early on: all you had to do is leave your computer running for a while to acquire a number of tokens. The tokens had no practical value, but obtaining them involved no substantial expense or risk. Just as importantly, because the difficulty of the puzzles would only increase over time, the hope was that if Bitcoin caught on, latecomers would find it easier to purchase BTC on a secondary market than mine their own – paying with a more established currency at a mutually beneficial exchange rate.

The persistent publicity surrounding Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies did the rest – and today, with the growing scarcity of coins and the rapidly increasing demand, the price of a single token hovers somewhere south of $15,000.

6. So… is it bad money?

Predicting is hard – especially the future. In some sense, a coin that represents a cryptographic proof of wasted CPU cycles is no better or worse than a currency that relies on cotton decorated with pictures of dead presidents. It is true that Bitcoin suffers from many implementation problems – long transaction processing times, high fees, frequent security breaches of major exchanges – but in principle, such problems can be overcome.

That said, currencies live and die by the lasting willingness of others to accept them in exchange for services or goods – and in that sense, the jury is still out. The use of Bitcoin to settle bona fide purchases is negligible, both in absolute terms and in function of the overall volume of transactions. In fact, because of the technical challenges and limited practical utility, some companies that embraced the currency early on are now backing out.

When the value of an asset is derived almost entirely from its appeal as an ever-appreciating investment vehicle, the situation has all the telltale signs of a speculative bubble. But that does not prove that the asset is destined to collapse, or that a collapse would be its end. Still, the built-in deflationary mechanism of Bitcoin – the increasing difficulty of producing new coins – is probably both a blessing and a curse.

It’s going to go one way or the other; and when it’s all said and done, we’re going to celebrate the people who made the right guess. Because future is actually pretty darn easy to predict — in retrospect.

How to Manage Amazon GuardDuty Security Findings Across Multiple Accounts

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

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

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

Enable GuardDuty in a master account and invite member accounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working with GuardDuty findings

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

Screenshot of a CloudWatch Events rule

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

Example GuardDuty findings

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

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

Summary

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

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

-Tom