Online Ad Industry Threatened by Security Issues

Most people use ad blockers because they’re irritated with some of the intrusive ways ads are presented. But there are also compelling security arguments behind ad blockers. By blocking ads, consumers are better insulated against security risks from malvertisements.

The social media site Reddit, which can be a rich traffic source for publishers, warns users of links to content that demand people to disable their ad blockers, including publishers such as Forbes and Wired.

“Warning! Disabling your ad blocker may open you up to malware infections, malicious cookies and can expose you to unwanted tracker networks,” Reddit’s warning says. “Proceed with caution.”

I don’t know whether to be glad or worried by this.
It may be considered unsocial of me, but I use adblockers. Continue reading Online Ad Industry Threatened by Security Issues

Some thoughts on the performance of SSD RAID 0 arrays

My Friend Alan Rocker and I often discuss ideas about technology and tradeoffs.  Alan asked about SSDs for Linux:

> I haven’t been following hardware developments very closely for a while, so I
> find it hard to judge the arguments. What’s important?

Ultimately what’s important is the management software, the layer above the drivers, off to one side. That applies regardless of the media and means that the view the applications take of storage is preserved regardless of changes in the physical media.

> The first question is, what areas are currently the bottlenecks and
> constraints, at what orders of magnitude?

The simple answer is ‘channels’. Continue reading Some thoughts on the performance of SSD RAID 0 arrays

Everything old is new again

What’s the saying “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it over again“?

Weren’t we doing this with routers and … well if not firewalls as such then certainly filtering rules in the routers, way back in the 1980s?

Jon Postel, c. 1994
Jon Postel, c. 1994 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recall attending a luncheon put on by Dell about “Software Defined networking“. Basically it was having routers that were ‘agile’ enough to change routing and implement tactical policy by load, demand and new devices or devices making processing demands.

Again we were doing that in the 1980s. Working with ANS as they cut over the academic internet to the commercial internet with their “CO+RE” pseudo-product. basically it was that they had been supporting the academic internet and were not selling commercial services using the same backbones, trunks and “outlets” (sometimes known as ‘point of presence’). This ‘policy based routing’ was carried out by custom built routers; they were IBM AIX desktop boxes — the kind I’d used to implement an Oracle based time management/billing system for at Public Works Ottawa a few years earlier, along with some custom built T3 interface cards. Continue reading Everything old is new again

Everybody wants in on ‘Cybersecurity”

Intel Sets McAfee Free …

… becoming what Intel bills as one of the world’s biggest “pure-play cybersecurity companies.”

When I graduated the hot topic was then chemistry, mostly organic but anything to do with chemistry was IN. Engineering was considered ho-hum, aviation was in the doldrums especially in Europe, and electronics & computing — nobody blathered on about ‘cybernetics’ or ‘cybersecurity’ in public back then — held no potential. The future was chemistry. Continue reading Everybody wants in on ‘Cybersecurity”

The Hidden Curriculum of Work

I think part of the problem I have in dealing with the current generation of head-hunters and corporate recruiters is that they focus on the job description, the check-list. They focus on it two ways: the first is demanding it of the hiring managers, who are often ill equipped to write one. Many jobs are not circumscribed, especially in a field like IT which is dynamic and about continuous learning and adaption to changing circumstances. All to often the most valuable question I’ve been able to ask of a manager in a hiring situation amounts to “what do you need done?”.
Their description of the work – the WORK not the JOB – only makes sense in context, a context that another practitioner understands, but someone in HR would hear as the gobbledygook of technology-talk. How can you base a bullet-list Job Description on that? Trying to translate it into a vernacular that allows the HR-droid to ask appraisal questions of candidates that the HR-droid can make sense of removes it from what the work is about.

Which leads to the second point. Continue reading The Hidden Curriculum of Work

Nobody wants to pay for security, including security companies

In theory, consumers and businesses could punish Symantec for these
oversights by contracting with other security vendors. In practice, there’s
no guarantee that products from other vendors are well-secured,
— and there is no clearway to determine how secure a given security
product actually is.

Too many firms take an “appliance” or “product” (aka ‘technology”) approach to security. There’s a saying that’s been attributed to many security specialists over the years but is quite true:

If you think technology can solve your security problems,
then you don’t understand the problems and you don’t
understand the technology.

Its still true today. Continue reading Nobody wants to pay for security, including security companies

Brexit: What’s Next for Privacy, Policing, Surveillance?

Now we’re getting over the “how could that do THAT!” shock stage and starting to think what the operational, rather than just the financial, implications are.

Cyber risk in the business

The take-away that is relevant :

Cyber risk should not be managed separately from enterprise or business risk. Cyber may be only one of several sources of risk to a new initiative, and the total risk to that initiative needs to be understood.

Cyber-related risk should be assessed and evaluated based on its effect on the business, not based on some calculated value for the information asset. Continue reading Cyber risk in the business

Purpose unclear. Why are the FBI *really* trying to subvert encryption?

Tim cook says Apple will fight a federal order to help the FBI hack an iPhone.  

An earlier version of this page has a paragraph which seems to have been deleted later;

It was not immediately clear what investigators believed they might find on Farook’s work phone or why the information would not be available from third-party service providers, such as Google or Facebook, though investigators think the device may hold clues about whom the couple communicated with and where they might have travelled.

Is that “Whom” grammatically correct?

This does raise a ‘why’ in my mind.
Cant the other service providers (who would it be, AT&T, Verizon?) supply the ‘traffic analysis of who they communicated with? Isn’t this the sort of “metadata” that the government spies are supposed to be collecting?

Opening the phone won’t give the content of the messages past, they are gone like the snows of yesteryear[1]. Dead as the author of that famous quote.

So what are the FBI looking for? The address book? I’m not sure how helpful that will be and its likely to cast suspicion on innocent parties. Continue reading Purpose unclear. Why are the FBI *really* trying to subvert encryption?

We’re mobile addicts but we just don’t want new smartphones

For whatever value of “Mobile” is applicable in context, yes.
A lot of what I see is students in the library with their laptops or large tablets_keyboards with paper and books beside. Perhaps if students had the multi-screen displays like the one in the movie “Swordfish” AND there were more books on-line at low cost and multi-access (which isn’t how many libraries work, sadly) then the marketers dream of students with ebooks rather than a knapsack of books would happen. As it is, with only one viewer, books and papers are still needed. Continue reading We’re mobile addicts but we just don’t want new smartphones

The 11 tiniest, most powerful computers your money can buy

I have my doubts about many things and the arguments here and in the comments section loom large.

Yes, I can see that business sees no need for an ‘arms race’ escalation of desktops once the basics are there. A few people, gamers, developers, might want personal workstations that they can load up with memory and high performance graphics engines, but for the rest of us, its ho-hum. That Intel and AMD are producing chips with more cores, more cache, integrated graphics and more, well Moore’s Law applies to transistor density, doesn’t it, and they have to do something to soak up all those extra transistors on the chips.

As for smaller packaging, what do these people think smart phones and tablets and watches are?

Gimme a brake!
My phone has more computing power than was used by the Manhattan project to develop the first nuclear bomb.

These are interesting, but the real application of chip density is going to have to be doing other things serving the desktop. its going to be

1. IoT
2. Servers
3. backbone/communications

And for #1 & #3 Windows will become if not an impediment, then irrelevant.
Its possible a very stripped down Linux can serve for #1 & #3, but somewhere along the line I suspect people might wake up and adopt a proper RTOS such as QNX much in the same way that Linux has come to dominate #2. It is, however, possible, the Microsoft will, not that Gates and Balmer are out of the scene, adopt something Linux like or
work with Linux so as to stay relevant in new markets. The Windows tablet isn’t the success they hoped for and the buyout of Nokia seemed more to take Nokia out of the market than become an asset for Microsoft to enter the phone market and compete with Apple and Samsung. many big forms that do have lots of Windows workstations are turning to running
SAMBA on Big Iron because (a) its cheaper than a huge array of Windows Servers that present reliability and administrative overhead, and (b) its scalable. Linux isn’t the ‘rough beast’ that Balmer made out and Microsoft’s ‘center cannot hold’ the way it has in the past.

Cyber, Ciber or Syber?

Occasionally, people do ask:

What exactly do you mean by “cyber security”?
Or “cyber” for that matter. Please explain.

“Steersman Security”?

It seems to be one of those Humpty-dumpty words that the media, the government and others use with — what’s the current politically correct phrase to use now when one would, 50 years ago have said ‘gay abandon’? — because its current;y “in”?

I see it used to mean “computer” and “network” in the specific and “computers” and “networks” in the general, as well as specific functions such as e-banking, & other e-commerce, “Big Data”, SCADA, POTS and its replacements.

I see it used in place of “Information” in contexts like “information Security” becoming, as above, “Cyber Security“. But you don’t know that it means that.

Are we here to protect the data? Or just the network? or just the computer?

Until a few years ago “Cyber” still did mean “steersman”, even if that was automated rather than a human presence. No-one would call the POTUS a “Cyber-man’ in the sense of being a steersman for the republic.

Perhaps we should start a movement to ban the use of “Cyber-” from use by the media.

Perhaps we might try to get some establishments to stop abusing the term.
I doubt very much we could do that with media such as SCMagazine but perhaps we could get the Estate of the Late Norbert Weiner to threaten some high profile entities like the State Department for the mis-use of the term?


Why Silicon Valley Will Continue to Rule

The historical, cultural and economic context described here sums up why
efforts to replicate ‘the valley’ in other countries, other places,
according to governmental whims, never happens, never works, never will.

People around the world have tried to reproduce Silicon Valley. No one
has succeeded.

And no one will succeed because no place else — including Silicon Valley
itself in its 2015 incarnation — could ever reproduce the unique
concoction of academic research, technology, countercultural ideals and
a California-specific type of Gold Rush reputation that attracts people
with a high tolerance for risk and very little to lose. Partially
through the passage of time, partially through deliberate effort by some
entrepreneurs who tried to “give back” and others who tried to make a
buck, this culture has become self-perpetuating.

See also



Tracking kids via microchip ‘can’t be far off,’ says expert

Dickerson said she though one day, “I microchip my dog, why couldn’t I
microchip my son?”

I think there’s something despicable about treating a human being the same way you would treat a dog or your keys.

Its one thing to chip your keys or have one of those devices that when you whistle the keyring goes bleep-bleep to help you find it. I can imagine extending that to people who let their dogs (or cats) roam and need/want to have them in at night. Domesticated pets might not be able to cope with even urban predators such as badgers and grizzly raccoons.
If, that is, the animals aren’t smart though to come in when you call them.

But treating a human as you would a dog? Continue reading Tracking kids via microchip ‘can’t be far off,’ says expert

Can We Secure the ‘Internet of Other People’s Things’?

I think that title expresses the problem very well. Continue reading Can We Secure the ‘Internet of Other People’s Things’?

U.S. Defense Secretary Carter emphasizes culture change needed to

Yes the government needs a culture change if it is to address its own and the national issues pertaining to security, technological, in general, internet related and more. But not like this.

A real culture change would involve hiring the likes of people such as Marcus Ranum, Gene Spafford, Becky Herrold., and more significantly the very vocal Bruce Schneier AND PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT THEY SAY AND CARRYING OUT THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS.  And please note: none of this is new or radical.

But a read of Bruce’s articles blog and published articles will make it clear to any intelligent reader, even those outside the InfoSec community, that they won’t. The culture change it would require would impact too many vested interests and long held beliefs, even though Bruce — and others — have long since shown them to be in the same class as The Emperor’s New Clothes.

When the government talks of cyber-security experts it really doesn’t want people who think in terms of policy and strategy. The fact that most government agencies could do better if they carried out the recommendations that have been made to them — but consistently don’t[1] — tells you something about their innate culture. Just adopting the GAO recommendations would take a culture change. Adopting ‘uber 133z h4x0r’-wannabes for job roles that are written as what amounts to jumped-up netadmin and sysadmin positions doesn’t make for good security[2].

Yes, a culture change is needed. But the kind of changes that the ‘insiders’ — and that goes for the media too — envision don’t really amount to a meaningful change.


[2] The idiom “rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic” comes to mind
Or perhaps the Hindenburg.


Review: “Penetration with Perl” by Douglas Berdeaux

Penetration Testing with Perl

Douglas Berdeaux has written an excellent book, excellent from quite a number of points of view, some of which I will address. Packt Publishing have done a great service making this and other available at their web site. It is one of many technical books there that have extensive source code and are good ‘instructors’.

Penetration Testing with Perl is available as both a PDF file and as an e-book in Mobi and epub formats.

It is one of over 2000 instructional books and videos available at the Packt web site.

I read a lot on my tablet but most of the ebooks I read are “linear text” (think: ‘novels’, ‘news’). A book like this is heavily annotated by differentiating fonts and type and layout. How well your ebook reader renders that might vary. None of the ones I used were as satisfactory as the PDF. For all its failings, if you want a page that looks “just so” whatever it is read on, then PDF still wins out. For many, this won’t matter since the source code can be downloaded in a separate ZIP file.

Of course you may be like me and prefer to learn by entering the code by hand so as to develop the learned physical habit which you can then carry forward. You may also prefer to have a hard copy version of the book rather than use a ‘split screen’ mode.

This is not a book about learning to code in Perl, or earning about the basics of TCP/IP. Berdeaux himself says in the introduction:

This book is written for people who are already familiar with
basic Perl programming and who have the desire to advance this
knowledge by applying it to information security and penetration
testing. With each chapter, I encourage you to branch off into
tangents, expanding upon the lessons and modifying the code to
pursue your own creative ideas.

I found this to be an excellent ‘source book’ for ideas and worked though many variations of the example code. This book is a beginning, not a end point. Continue reading Review: “Penetration with Perl” by Douglas Berdeaux

Should all applicable controls be mentioned in documenting an ISMS?

In my very first job we were told, repeatedly told, to document everything and keep our personal journals up to date. Not just with what we did but the reasoning behind those decisions. This was so that if anything happened to use kn knowledge about the work, the project, what had been tried and thought about was lost, if, perhaps, we were ‘hit by a bus on the way to work‘.

At that point whoever was saying this looked toward a certain office or certain place in the parking lot. One of the Project managers drove a VW bus and was most definitely not a good driver!

So the phrase ‘document everything in case you’re hit by a bus’ entered into the work culture, even after that individual had left.

And for the rest of us it entered into our person culture and practices.

Oh, and the WHY is very important. How often have you looked at something that seems strange and worried about changing it in case there was some special reason for it being like that which you did no know of?
Unless things get documented …. Heck a well meaning ‘kid’ might ‘clean it out’ ignorant of the special reason it was like that!

So here we have what appear to be undocumented controls.
Perhaps they are just controls that were added and someone forgot to mention; perhaps the paperwork for these ‘exceptions’ is filed somewhere else[1] or is referred to by the easily overlooked footnote or mentioned in the missing appendix.

It has been pointed out to me that having to document everything, including the reasons for taking one decision rather than another, “slows down work”. Well that’s been said of security, too, hasn’t it? I’ve had this requirement referred to in various unsavoury terms and had those terms associated with me personally for insisting on them. I’ve had people ‘caught out’, doing one thing and saying another.
But I’ve also had the documentation saving mistakes and rework.

These days with electronic tools, smartphones, tablets, networking, and things like wikis as shared searchable resources, its a lot easier.[2]

Sadly I still find places where key documents such as the Policy Manuals and more are really still “3-ring binder” state of the art, PDF files in some obscure[1] location that don’t have any mechanism for commenting or feedback or ways they can be updated.

Up to date and accurate documentation is always a good practice!

[2] And what surpises me is that when I’ve implemented those I get a ‘deer in the headlight’ reaction from staff an managers much younger than myself. Don’t believe what you read about ‘millennials’ being better able to deal with e-tools than us Greybeards.

This is not the IoT you want.

If I plug in an IDE drive or a SATA drive or a USB drive or device my mobo or system recognizes what it is. The connection protocol tell the mobo or system.

My digital camera uses exif to convey a vast amount of contextual information and imprint it on each photo: date, time, the camera, shutter, aperture, flash. I have GPS in the camera so it can tell the location, elevation. The exif protocol also allows for vendor specific information and is extensible and customizable.

Unless and until we have an ‘exif’ for IoT its going to be lame and useless.

What is plugged in to that socket? A fan, a PC, a refrigerator, a charger for your cell phone? What’s the rating of the device? How is it used? What functions other than on/off can be controlled?

Lame lame lame lame.

14 antivirus apps found to have security problems

Let us pass over the “All A are B” illogic in this and consider what we’ve known all along. AV doesn’t really work; it never did.
Signature based AV, the whole “I’m better than you cos I have more signatures in my database” approach to AV and AV marketing that so bedazzled the journalists (“Metrics? You want metrics? We can give you metrics! How many you want? One million? Two million!) is a loosing game. Skip over polymorphism and others.  The boundary between what actually works and what works for marketing blurs.

So then we have the attacks on the ‘human firewall’ or whatever the buzz-word is that appears in this month’s geek-Vogue magazines, whatever the latest fashion is. What’s that? Oh right, the malware writers are migrating to Android the industry commentators say. Well they’ve tried convincing us that Linux and MacOS were under attack and vulnerable, despite the evidence. Perhaps those same vendor driven – yes vendors try convincing Linux and Apple users to buy AV products, just because Linux and MacOS ran on the same chip as Microsoft they were just as vulnerable as Microsoft, and gave up dunning the journalists and advertising when they found that the supposed market wasn’t convinced and didn’t buy.

That large software production is buggy surprises no-one. There are methods to producing high quality code as NASA has shown on its deep space projects, but they are incompatible with the attitudes that commercial software vendors have. They require an discipline that seems absent from the attitudes of many younger coders, the kind that so many commercial firms hire on the basis of cost and who are drive by ‘lines of code per day’ metrics, feature driven popularity and the ‘first to market’ imperatives.

So when I read about, for example, RSA getting hacked by means of social engineering, I’m not surprised. Neither am I surprised when I hear that so many point of sales terminals are, if not already infected, then vulnerable.

But then all too many organization take a ‘risk-based’ approach that just is not right. The resistance that US firms have had to implementing chi-n-pin credit card technology while the rest of the world had adopted it is an example in point. “It was too expensive” – until it was more expensive not to have implemented it.