Archive for January, 2018

Python’s One Hundred and Thirty-Nine Week Lectionary Cycle

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Python 3 Module of the Week by Doug Hellmann

From the webpage:

PyMOTW-3 is a series of articles written by Doug Hellmann to demonstrate how to use the modules of the Python 3 standard library….

Hellman documents one hundred and thirty-nine (139) modules in the Python standard library.

How many of them can you name?

To improve your score, use Hellman’s list as a one hundred and thirty-nine (139) week lectionary cycle on Python.

Some modules may take less than a week, but some, re — Regular Expressions, will take more than a week.

Even if you don’t finish a longer module, push on after two weeks so you can keep that feeling of progress and encountering new material.

GraphDBLP [“dblp computer science bibliography” as a graph]

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

GraphDBLP: a system for analysing networks of computer scientists through graph databases by Mario Mezzanzanica, et al.

Abstract:

This paper presents GraphDBLP, a system that models the DBLP bibliography as a graph database for performing graph-based queries and social network analyses. GraphDBLP also enriches the DBLP data through semantic keyword similarities computed via word-embedding. In this paper, we discuss how the system was formalized as a multi-graph, and how similarity relations were identified through word2vec. We also provide three meaningful queries for exploring the DBLP community to (i) investigate author profiles by analysing their publication records; (ii) identify the most prolific authors on a given topic, and (iii) perform social network analyses over the whole community. To date, GraphDBLP contains 5+ million nodes and 24+ million relationships, enabling users to explore the DBLP data by referencing more than 3.3 million publications, 1.7 million authors, and more than 5 thousand publication venues. Through the use of word-embedding, more than 7.5 thousand keywords and related similarity values were collected. GraphDBLP was implemented on top of the Neo4j graph database. The whole dataset and the source code are publicly available to foster the improvement of GraphDBLP in the whole computer science community.

Although the article is behind a paywall, GraphDBLP as a tool is not! https://github.com/fabiomercorio/GraphDBLP.

From the webpage:

GraphDBLP is a tool that models the DBLP bibliography as a graph database for performing graph-based queries and social network analyses.

GraphDBLP also enriches the DBLP data through semantic keyword similarities computed via word-embedding.

GraphDBLP provides to users three meaningful queries for exploring the DBLP community:

  1. investigate author profiles by analysing their publication records;
  2. identify the most prolific authors on a given topic;
  3. perform social network analyses over the whole community;
  4. perform shortest-paths over DBLP (e.g., the shortest-path between authors, the analysis of co-author networks, etc.)

… (emphasis in original)

Sorry to see author, title, venue, publication, keyword all as flat strings but that’s not uncommon. Disappointing but not uncommon.

Viewing these flat strings as parts of structured representatives will be in addition to this default.

Not to minimize the importance of improving the usefulness of the dblp, but imagine integrating the GraphDBLP into your local library system. Without a massive data mapping project. That’s what lies just beyond the reach of this data project.

AutoSploit

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

AutoSploit

From the webpage:

As the name might suggest AutoSploit attempts to automate the exploitation of remote hosts. Targets are collected automatically as well by employing the Shodan.io API. The program allows the user to enter their platform specific search query such as; Apache, IIS, etc, upon which a list of candidates will be retrieved.

After this operation has been completed the ‘Exploit’ component of the program will go about the business of attempting to exploit these targets by running a series of Metasploit modules against them. Which Metasploit modules will be employed in this manner is determined by programatically comparing the name of the module to the initial search query. However, I have added functionality to run all available modules against the targets in a ‘Hail Mary’ type of attack as well.

The available Metasploit modules have been selected to facilitate Remote Code Execution and to attempt to gain Reverse TCP Shells and/or Meterpreter sessions. Workspace, local host and local port for MSF facilitated back connections are configured through the dialog that comes up before the ‘Exploit’ component is started.

Operational Security Consideration

Receiving back connections on your local machine might not be the best idea from an OPSEC standpoint. Instead consider running this tool from a VPS that has all the dependencies required, available.

What a great day to be alive!

“Security experts,” such as Richard Bejtlich, @taosecurity, are already crying:

There is no need to release this. The tie to Shodan puts it over the edge. There is no legitimate reason to put mass exploitation of public systems within the reach of script kiddies. Just because you can do something doesn’t make it wise to do so. This will end in tears.

The same “security experts” who never complain about script kiddies that work for the CIA for example.

Script kiddies at the CIA? Sure! Who do you think uses the tools described in: Vault7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed, Vault 7: ExpressLane, Vault 7: Angelfire, Vault 7: Protego, Vault 8: Hive?

You didn’t think CIA staff only use tools they develop themselves from scratch did you? Neither do “security experts,” even ones capable of replicating well known tools and exploits.

So why the complaints present and forthcoming from “security experts?”

Well, for one thing, they are no longer special guardians of secret knowledge.

Ok, in practical economic terms, AutoSploit means any business, corporation or individual can run a robust penetration test against their own systems.

You don’t need a “security expert” for the task. The “security experts” with all the hoarded knowledge and expertise.

Considering “security experts” as a class (with notable exceptions) have sided with governments and corporations for decades, any downside for them is just an added bonus.

Email Address Vacuuming – Infoga

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Infoga – Email Information Gathering

From the post:

Infoga is a tool for gathering e-mail accounts information (ip,hostname,country,…) from different public sources (search engines, pgp key servers). Is a really simple tool, but very effective for the early stages of a penetration test or just to know the visibility of your company in the Internet.

Its not COMINT:

COMINT or communications intelligence is intelligence gained through the interception of foreign communications, excluding open radio and television broadcasts. It is a subset of signals intelligence, or SIGINT, with the latter being understood as comprising COMINT and ELINT, electronic intelligence derived from non-communication electronic signals such as radar. (COMINT (Communications Intelligence))

as practiced by the NSA, but that doesn’t keep it from being useful.

Not gathering useless data means a smaller haystack and a greater chance of finding needles.

Other focused information mining tools you would recommend?

Don’t Mix Public and Dark Web Use of A Bitcoin Address

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Bitcoin payments used to unmask dark web users by John E Dunn.

From the post:

Researchers have discovered a way of identifying those who bought or sold goods on the dark web, by forensically connecting them to Bitcoin transactions.

It sounds counter-intuitive. The dark web comprises thousands of hidden services accessed through an anonymity-protecting system, usually Tor.

Bitcoin transactions, meanwhile, are supposed to be pseudonymous, which is to say visible to everyone but not in a way that can easily be connected to someone’s identity.

If you believe that putting these two technologies together should result in perfect anonymity, you might want to read When A Small Leak Sinks A Great Ship to hear some bad news:

Researchers matched Bitcoin addresses found on the dark web with those found on the public web. Depending on the amount of information on the public web, identified named individuals.

Black Letter Rule: Maintain separate Bitcoin accounts for each online persona.

Black Letter Rule: Never use a public persona on the dark web or a dark web persona on the public web.

Black Letter Rule: Never make Bitcoin transactions between public versus dark web personas.

Remind yourself of basic OpSec rules every day.

Better OpSec – Black Hat Webcast – Thursday, February 15, 2018 – 2:00 PM EST

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

How the Feds Caught Russian Mega-Carder Roman Seleznev by Norman Barbosa and Harold Chun.

From the webpage:

How did the Feds catch the notorious Russian computer hacker Roman Seleznev – the person responsible for over 400 point of sale hacks and at least $169 million in credit card fraud? What challenges did the government face piecing together the international trail of electronic evidence that he left? How was Seleznev located and ultimately arrested?

This presentation will review the investigation that will include a summary of the electronic evidence that was collected and the methods used to collect that evidence. The team that convicted Seleznev will show how that evidence of user attribution was used to finger Seleznev as the hacker and infamous credit card broker behind the online nics nCuX, Track2, Bulba and 2Pac.

The presentation will also discuss efforts to locate Seleznev, a Russian national, and apprehend him while he vacationed in the Maldives. The presentation will also cover the August 2016 federal jury trial with a focus on computer forensic issues, including how prosecutors used Microsoft Windows artifacts to successfully combat Seleznev’s trial defense.

If you want to improve your opsec, study hackers who have been caught.

Formally it’s called avoiding survivorship bias. Survivorship bias – lessons from World War Two aircraft by Nick Ingram.

Abraham Wald was tasked with deciding where to add extra armour to improve the survival of airplanes in combat. Abraham Wald and the Missing Bullet Holes (An excerpt from How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg).

It’s a great story and one you should remember.

Combating State of the Uniom Brain Damage – Malware Reversing – Burpsuite Keygen

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Malware Reversing – Burpsuite Keygen by @lkw.

From the post:

Some random new “user” called @the_heat_man posted some files on the forums multiple times (after being deleted by mods) caliming it was a keygen for burpsuite. Many members of these forums were suspicious of it being malware. I, along with @Leeky, @dtm, @Cry0l1t3 and @L0k1 (please let me know if I missed anyone) decided to reverse engineer it to see if it is. Surprisingly as well as containing a remote access trojan (RAT) it actually contains a working keygen. As such, for legal reasons I have not included a link to the original file.

The following is a writeup of the analysis of the RAT.

In the event you, friend or family member is accidentally exposed to the State of the Uniom speech night, permanent brain damage can be avoided by repeated exposure to intellectually challenging material. For an extended time period.

With that in mind, I mention Malware Reversing – Burpsuite Keygen.

Especially challenging if you aren’t familiar with reverse engineering but the extra work of understanding each step will exercise your brain that much harder.

How serious can the brain damage be?

A few tweets from Potus and multiple sources report Democratic Senators and Representatives extolling the FBI as a bulwark of democracy.

Really? The same FBI that infiltrated civil rights groups, anti-war protesters, 9/11 defense, Black Panthers, SCLC,, etc. That FBI? The same FBI that continues such activities to this very day?

A few tweets produce that level of brain dysfunction. Imagine the impact of 20 to 30 continuous minutes of exposure.

State of the Uniom is scheduled for 9 PM EST on 30 January 2018.

Readers are strongly advised to turn off all TVs and radios, to minimize the chances of accidental exposure to the State of the Uniom or repetition of the same. The New York Times will be streaming it live on its website. I have omitted that URL for your safety.

Safe activities include, reading a book, consensual sex, knitting, baking, board games and crossword puzzles, to name only a few. Best of luck to us all.

Have You Been Drafted by Data Science Ethics?

Monday, January 29th, 2018

I ask because Strava‘s recent heatmap release (Fitness tracking app Strava gives away location of secret US army bases) is being used as a platform to urge unpaid consideration of government and military interests by data scientists.

Consider Ray Crowell‘s Strava Heatmaps: Why Ethics in Design Matters which presumes data scientists have an unpaid obligation to consider the interests of the military:

From the post:


These organizations have been warned for years (including by myself) of the information/operational security (specifically with pattern of life, that is, the data collected and analyzed establish an individual’s past behavior, determine their current behavior, and predict their future behavior) implications associated with social platforms and advanced analytical technology. I spent my career stabilizing this intersection between national security and progress — having a deep understanding of the protection of lives, billion-dollar weapon systems, and geopolitical assurances and on the other side, the power of many of these technological advancements in enabling access to health and wellness for all.

Getting at this balance requires us to not get enamored by the idea or implications of ethically sound solutions, but rather exposing our design practices to ethical scrutiny.

These tools are not only beneficial for the designer, but for the user as well. I mention these specifically for institutions like the Defense Department, impacted from the Strava heatmap and frankly many other technologies being employed both sanctioned and unsanctioned by military members and on military installations. These tools are beneficial the institution’s leadership to “reverse engineer” what technologies on the market can do by way of harm … in balance with the good. I learned a long time ago, from wiser mentors than myself, that you don’t know what you’re missing, if you’re not looking to begin with.

Crowell imposes an unpaid ethical obligation any unsuspecting reader/data scientist to consider their impact on government or military organizations.

In that effort, Crowell is certainly not alone:

If you contract to work for a government or military group, you owe them an ethical obligation of your best efforts. Just as for any other client.

However, volunteering unpaid assistance for military or government organizations, damages the market for data scientists.

Now that’s unethical!

PS: I agree there are ethical obligations to consider the impact of your work on disenfranchised, oppressed or abused populations. Governments and military organizations don’t qualify as any of those.

‘Learning to Rank’ (No Unique Feature Name Fail – Update)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Elasticsearch ‘Learning to Rank’ Released, Bringing Open Source AI to Search Teams

From the post:

Search experts at OpenSource Connections, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Snagajob, deliver open source cognitive search capabilities to the Elasticsearch community. The open source Learning to Rank plugin allows organizations to control search relevance ranking with machine learning. The plugin is currently delivering search results at Wikipedia and Snagajob, providing significant search quality improvements over legacy solutions.

Learning to Rank lets organizations:

  • Directly optimize sales, conversions and user satisfaction in search
  • Personalize search for users
  • Drive deeper insights from a knowledge base
  • Customize ranking down for complex nuance
  • Avoid the sticker shock & lock-in of a proprietary "cognitive search" product

“Our mission is to empower search teams. This plugin gives teams deep control of ranking, allowing machine learning models to be directly deployed to the search engine for relevance ranking” said Doug Turnbull, author of Relevant Search and CTO, OpenSource Connections.

I need to work through all the documentation and examples but:

Feature Names are Unique

Because some model training libraries refer to features by name, Elasticsearch LTR enforces unique names for each features. In the example above, we could not add a new user_rating feature without creating an error.

is a warning of what you (and I) are likely to find.

Really? Someone involved in the design thought globally unique feature names was a good idea? Or at a minimum didn’t realize it is a very bad idea?

Scope anyone? Either in the programming or topic map sense?

Despite the unique feature name fail, I’m sure ‘Learning to Rank’ will be useful. But not as useful as it could have been.

Doug Turnbull (https://twitter.com/softwaredoug) advises that features are scoped by feature stores, so the correct prose would read: “…LTR enforces unique names for each feature within a feature store.”

No fail, just bad writing.

Eset’s Guide to DeObfuscating and DeVirtualizing FinFisher

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Eset’s Guide to DeObfuscating and DeVirtualizing FinFisher

From the introduction:

Thanks to its strong anti-analysis measures, the FinFisher spyware has gone largely unexplored. Despite being a prominent surveillance tool, only partial analyses have been published on its more recent samples.

Things were put in motion in the summer of 2017 with ESET’s analysis of FinFisher surveillance campaigns that ESET had discovered in several countries. In the course of our research, we have identified campaigns where internet service providers most probably played the key role in compromising the victims with FinFisher.

When we started thoroughly analyzing this malware, the main part of our effort was overcoming FinFisher’s anti-analysis measures in its Windows versions. The combination of advanced obfuscation techniques and proprietary virtualization makes FinFisher very hard to de-cloak.

To share what we learnt in de-cloaking this malware, we have created this guide to help others take a peek inside FinFisher and analyze it. Apart from offering practical insight into analyzing FinFisher’s virtual machine, the guide can also help readers to understand virtual machine protection in general – that is, proprietary virtual machines found inside a binary and used for software protection. We will not be discussing virtual machines used in interpreted programming languages to provide compatibility across various platforms, such as the Java VM.

We have also analyzed Android versions of FinFisher, whose protection mechanism is based on an open source LLVM obfuscator. It is not as sophisticated or interesting as the protection mechanism used in the Windows versions, thus we will not be discussing it in this guide.

Hopefully, experts from security researchers to malware analysts will make use of this guide to better understand FinFisher’s tools and tactics, and to protect their customers against this omnipotent security and privacy threat.

Beyond me at the moment but one should always try to learn from the very best. Making note of what can’t be understood/used today in hopes of revisiting it in the future.

Numerous reports describe FinFisher as spyware sold exclusively to governments and their agencies. Perhaps less “exclusively” than previously thought.

In any event, FinFisher is reported to be in the wild so perhaps governments that bought Finfisher will be uncovered by FinFisher.

A more deserving group of people is hard to imagine.

Audio Adversarial Examples: Targeted Attacks on Speech-to-Text

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Audio Adversarial Examples: Targeted Attacks on Speech-to-Text by Nicholas Carlini and David Wagner.

Abstract:

We construct targeted audio adversarial examples on automatic speech recognition. Given any audio waveform, we can produce another that is over 99.9% similar, but transcribes as any phrase we choose (at a rate of up to 50 characters per second). We apply our iterative optimization-based attack to Mozilla’s implementation DeepSpeech end-to-end, and show it has a 100% success rate. The feasibility of this attack introduce a new domain to study adversarial examples.

You can consult the data used and code at: http://nicholas.carlini.com/code/audio_adversarial_examples.

Important not only for defeating automatic speech recognition but also for establishing properties of audio recognition differ from visual recognition.

A hint that automatic recognition properties cannot be assumed for unexplored domains.

Visualizing trigrams with the Tidyverse (Who Reads Jane Austen?)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Visualizing trigrams with the Tidyverse by Emil Hvitfeldt.

From the post:

In this post I’ll go though how I created the data visualization I posted yesterday on twitter:

Great post and R code, but who reads Jane Austen? 😉

I have a serious weakness for academic and ancient texts so the Jane Austen question is meant in jest.

The more direct question is to what other texts would you apply this trigram/visualization technique?

Suggestions?

I have some texts in mind but defer mentioning them while I prepare a demonstration of Hvitfeldt’s technique to them.

PS: I ran across an odd comment in the janeaustenr package:

Each text is in a character vector with elements of about 70 characters.

You have to hunt for a bit but 70 characters is the default plain text line length at Gutenberg. Some poor decisions are going to be with us for a very long time.

Data Science at the Command Line (update, now online for free)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Data Science at the Command Line by Jeroen Janssens.

From the webpage:

This is the website for Data Science at the Command Line, published by O’Reilly October 2014 First Edition. This hands-on guide demonstrates how the flexibility of the command line can help you become a more efficient and productive data scientist. You’ll learn how to combine small, yet powerful, command-line tools to quickly obtain, scrub, explore, and model your data.

To get you started—whether you’re on Windows, macOS, or Linux—author Jeroen Janssens has developed a Docker image packed with over 80 command-line tools.

Discover why the command line is an agile, scalable, and extensible technology. Even if you’re already comfortable processing data with, say, Python or R, you’ll greatly improve your data science workflow by also leveraging the power of the command line.

I posted about Data Science at the Command Line in August of 2014 and it remains as relevant today as when originally published.

Impress your friends, perhaps your manager, but most importantly, yourself.

Enjoy!

Games = Geeks, Geeks = People with Access (New Paths To Transparency)

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Critical Flaw in All Blizzard Games Could Let Hackers Hijack Millions of PCs by Mohit Kumar.

From the post:

A Google security researcher has discovered a severe vulnerability in Blizzard games that could allow remote attackers to run malicious code on gamers’ computers.

Played every month by half a billion users—World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Diablo III, Hearthstone and Starcraft II are popular online games created by Blizzard Entertainment.

To play Blizzard games online using web browsers, users need to install a game client application, called ‘Blizzard Update Agent,’ onto their systems that run JSON-RPC server over HTTP protocol on port 1120, and “accepts commands to install, uninstall, change settings, update and other maintenance related options.”
… (emphasis in original)

See Kumar’s post for the details on “DNS Rebinding.”

Unless you are running a bot net, why would anyone want to hijack millions of PCs?

If you wanted to rob for cash, would you rob people buying subway tokens or would you rob a bank? (That’s not a trick question. Bank is the correct answer.)

The same is true with creating government or corporate transparency. You could subvert every computer at a location but the smart money says to breach the server and collect all the documents from that central location.

How to breach servers? Target sysadmins, i.e., the people who play computer games.

PS: I would not be overly concerned with Blizzard’s reported development of patches. No doubt other holes exist or will be created by their patches.

The vector algebra war: a historical perspective [Semantic Confusion in Engineering and Physics]

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

The vector algebra war: a historical perspective by James M. Chappell, Azhar Iqbal, John G. Hartnett, Derek Abbott.

Abstract:

There are a wide variety of different vector formalisms currently utilized in engineering and physics. For example, Gibbs’ three-vectors, Minkowski four-vectors, complex spinors in quantum mechanics, quaternions used to describe rigid body rotations and vectors defined in Clifford geometric algebra. With such a range of vector formalisms in use, it thus appears that there is as yet no general agreement on a vector formalism suitable for science as a whole. This is surprising, in that, one of the primary goals of nineteenth century science was to suitably describe vectors in three-dimensional space. This situation has also had the unfortunate consequence of fragmenting knowledge across many disciplines, and requiring a significant amount of time and effort in learning the various formalisms. We thus historically review the development of our various vector systems and conclude that Clifford’s multivectors best fulfills the goal of describing vectorial quantities in three dimensions and providing a unified vector system for science.

An image from the paper captures the “descent of the various vector systems:”

The authors contend for use of Clifford’s multivectors over the other vector formalisms described.

Assuming Clifford’s multivectors displace all other systems in use, the authors fail to answer how readers will access the present and past legacy of materials in other formalisms?

If the goal is to eliminate “fragmenting knowledge across many disciplines, and requiring a significant amount of time and effort in learning the various formalisms,” that fails in the absence of a mechanism to access existing materials using the Clifford’s multivector formalism.

Topic maps anyone?

Stop, Stop, Stop All the Patching, Give Intel Time to Breath

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Root Cause of Reboot Issue Identified; Updated Guidance for Customers and Partners by Navin Shenoy.

From the post:

As we start the week, I want to provide an update on the reboot issues we reported Jan. 11. We have now identified the root cause for Broadwell and Haswell platforms, and made good progress in developing a solution to address it. Over the weekend, we began rolling out an early version of the updated solution to industry partners for testing, and we will make a final release available once that testing has been completed.

Based on this, we are updating our guidance for customers and partners:

  • We recommend that OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior. For the full list of platforms, see the Intel.com Security Center site.
  • We ask that our industry partners focus efforts on testing early versions of the updated solution so we can accelerate its release. We expect to share more details on timing later this week.
  • We continue to urge all customers to vigilantly maintain security best practice and for consumers to keep systems up-to-date.

I apologize for any disruption this change in guidance may cause. The security of our products is critical for Intel, our customers and partners, and for me, personally. I assure you we are working around the clock to ensure we are addressing these issues.

I will keep you updated as we learn more and thank you for your patience.

Essence of Shenoy’s advice:

…OEMs, cloud service providers, system manufacturers, software vendors and end users stop deployment of current versions, as they may introduce higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior.

Or better:

Patching an Intel machine makes it worse.

That’s hardly news.

Unverifiable firmware/code + unverifiable patch = unverifiable firmware/code + patch. What part of that seems unclear?

WebGoat (Advantage over OPM)

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Deliberately Insecure Web Application: OWASP WebGoat

From the webpage:

WebGoat is a deliberately insecure web application maintained by OWASP designed to teach web application security lessons. You can install and practice with WebGoat in either J2EE or WebGoat for .Net in ASP.NET. In each lesson, users must demonstrate their understanding of a security issue by exploiting a real vulnerability in the WebGoat applications.

WebGoat for J2EE is written in Java and therefore installs on any platform with a Java virtual machine. Once deployed, the user can go through the lessons and track their progress with the scorecard.

WebGoat’s scorecards are a feature not found when hacking Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Hacks of the OPM are reported by its inspector general and more generally in the computer security press.

EFF Investigates Dark Caracal (But Why?)

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Someone is touting a mobile, PC spyware platform called Dark Caracal to governments by Iain Thomson.

From the post:

An investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and security biz Lookout has uncovered Dark Caracal, a surveillance-toolkit-for-hire that has been used to suck huge amounts of data from Android mobiles and Windows desktop PCs around the world.

Dark Caracal [PDF] appears to be controlled from the Lebanon General Directorate of General Security in Beirut – an intelligence agency – and has slurped hundreds of gigabytes of information from devices. It shares its backend infrastructure with another state-sponsored surveillance campaign, Operation Manul, which the EFF claims was operated by the Kazakhstan government last year.

Crucially, it appears someone is renting out the Dark Caracal spyware platform to nation-state snoops.

The EFF could be spending its time and resources duplicating Dark Caracal for the average citizen.

Instead the EFF continues its quixotic pursuit of governmental wrong-doers. I say “quixotic” because those pilloried by the EFF, such as the NSA, never change their behavior. Unlawful conduct, including surveillance continues.

But don’t take my word for it, the NSA admits that it deletes data it promised under court order to preserve: NSA deleted surveillance data it pledged to preserve. No consequences. Just like there were no consequences when Snowden revealed widespread and illegal surveillance by the NSA.

So you have to wonder, if investigating and suing governmental intelligence organizations produces no tangible results, why is the EFF pursuing them?

If the average citizen had the equivalent of Dark Caracal at their disposal, say as desktop software, the ability of governments like Lebanon, Kazakhstan, and others, to hide their crimes, would be greatly reduced.

Exposure is no guarantee of accountability and/or punishment, but the wack-a-mole strategy of the EFF hasn’t produced transparency or consequences.

Don Knuth Needs Your Help

Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Donald Knuth Turns 80, Seeks Problem-Solvers For TAOCP

From the post:

An anonymous reader writes:

When 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming, he had no idea that he’d still be working on it 56 years later. This month he also celebrated his 80th birthday in Sweden with the world premier of Knuth’s Fantasia Apocalyptica, a multimedia work for pipe organ and video based on the bible’s Book of Revelations, which Knuth describes as “50 years in the making.”

But Knuth also points to the recent publication of “one of the most important sections of The Art of Computer Programming” in preliminary paperback form: Volume 4, Fascicle 6: Satisfiability. (“Given a Boolean function, can its variables be set to at least one pattern of 0s and 1 that will make the function true?”)

Here’s an excerpt from its back cover:

Revolutionary methods for solving such problems emerged at the beginning of the twenty-first century, and they’ve led to game-changing applications in industry. These so-called “SAT solvers” can now routinely find solutions to practical problems that involve millions of variables and were thought until very recently to be hopelessly difficult.

“in several noteworthy cases, nobody has yet pointed out any errors…” Knuth writes on his site, adding “I fear that the most probable hypothesis is that nobody has been sufficiently motivated to check these things out carefully as yet.” He’s uncomfortable printing a hardcover edition that hasn’t been fully vetted, and “I would like to enter here a plea for some readers to tell me explicitly, ‘Dear Don, I have read exercise N and its answer very carefully, and I believe that it is 100% correct,'” where N is one of the exercises listed on his web site.

Elsewhere he writes that two “pre-fascicles” — 5a and 5B — are also available for alpha-testing. “I’ve put them online primarily so that experts in the field can check the contents before I inflict them on a wider audience. But if you want to help debug them, please go right ahead.”

Do you have some other leisure project for 2018 that is more important?

😉

A “no one saw” It Coming Memory Hack (Schneider Electric)

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Schneider Electric: TRITON/TRISIS Attack Used 0-Day Flaw in its Safety Controller System, and a RAT by Kelly Jackson Higgins.

Industrial control systems giant Schneider Electric discovered a zero-day privilege-escalation vulnerability in its Triconex Tricon safety-controller firmware which helped allow sophisticated hackers to wrest control of the emergency shutdown system in a targeted attack on one of its customers.

Researchers at Schneider also found a remote access Trojan (RAT) in the so-called TRITON/TRISIS malware that they say represents the first-ever RAT to infect safety-instrumented systems (SIS) equipment. Industrial sites such as oil and gas and water utilities typically run multiple SISes to independently monitor critical systems to ensure they are operating within acceptable safety thresholds, and when they are not, the SIS automatically shuts them down.

Schneider here today provided the first details of its investigation of the recently revealed TRITON/TRISIS attack that targeted a specific SIS used by one of its industrial customers. Two of the customer’s SIS controllers entered a failed safe mode that shut down the industrial process and ultimately led to the discovery of the malware.

Teams of researchers from Dragos and FireEye’s Mandiant last month each published their own analysis of the malware used in the attack, noting that the smoking gun – a payload that would execute a cyber-physical attack – had not been found.

Perhaps the most amusing part of the post is Schneider’s attribution of near super-human capabilities to the hackers:


Schneider’s controller is based on proprietary hardware that runs on a PowerPC processor. “We run our own proprietary operating system on top of that, and that OS is not known to the public. So the research required to pull this [attack] off was substantial,” including reverse-engineering it, Forney says. “This bears resemblance to a nation-state, someone who was highly financed.”

The attackers also had knowledge of Schneider’s proprietary protocol for Tricon, which also is undocumented publicly, and used it to create their own library for sending commands to interact with Tricon, he says.

Alternatives to a nation-state:

  • 15 year old working with junked Schneider hardware and the Schneider help desk
  • Disgruntled Schneider Electric employee or their children
  • Malware planted to force a quick and insecure patch being pushed out

I discount all the security chest beating by vendors. Their goal: continued use of their products.

Are your Schneider controllers are air-gapped and audited?

Bludgeoning Bootloader Bugs:… (Rebecca “.bx” Shapiro – job hunting)

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Bludgeoning Bootloader Bugs: No write left behind by Rebecca “.bx” Shapiro.

Slides from ShmooCon 2018.

If you are new to bootloading, consider Shapiro’s two blog post on the topic:

A History of Linux Kernel Module Signing

A Toure of Bootloading

both from 2015, and her resources page.

Aside from the slides, her most current work is found at: https://github.com/bx/bootloader_instrumentation_suite.

ShmooCon 2018 just finished earlier today but check for the ShmooCon archives to see a video of Sharpio’s presentation.

I don’t normally post shout-outs for people seeking employment but Shario does impressive work and she is sharing it with the broader community. Unlike some governments and corporations we could all name. Pass her name and details along.

Are You Smarter Than A 15 Year Old?

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

15-Year-Old Schoolboy Posed as CIA Chief to Hack Highly Sensitive Information by Mohit Kumar.

From the post:

A notorious pro-Palestinian hacking group behind a series of embarrassing hacks against United States intelligence officials and leaked the personal details of 20,000 FBI agents, 9,000 Department of Homeland Security officers, and some number of DoJ staffers in 2015.

Believe or not, the leader of this hacking group was just 15-years-old when he used “social engineering” to impersonate CIA director and unauthorisedly access highly sensitive information from his Leicestershire home, revealed during a court hearing on Tuesday.

Kane Gamble, now 18-year-old, the British teenager hacker targeted then CIA director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, FBI deputy director Mark Giuliano, as well as other senior FBI figures.

Between June 2015 and February 2016, Gamble posed as Brennan and tricked call centre and helpline staff into giving away broadband and cable passwords, using which the team also gained access to plans for intelligence operations in Afghanistan and Iran.

Gamble said he targeted the US government because he was “getting more and more annoyed about how corrupt and cold-blooded the US Government” was and “decided to do something about it.”

Your questions:

1. Are You Smarter Than A 15 Year Old?

2. Are You Annoyed by a Corrupt and Cold-blooded Government?

3. Have You Decided to do Something about It?

Yeses for #1 and #2 number in the hundreds of millions.

The lack of governments hemorrhaging data worldwide is silent proof that #3 is a very small number.

What’s your answer to #3? (Don’t post it in the comments.)

Collaborative Journalism Projects (Collaboration Opportunities for the Public?)

Sunday, January 21st, 2018

Database: Search, sort and learn about collaborative journalism projects from around the world

From the post:

Over the past several months, the Center for Cooperative Media has been collecting, organizing and standardizing information about dozens and dozens of collaborative journalism projects around the world. Our goal was to build a database that could serve as a hub of information about collaborative journalism, something that would be useful to journalists, scholars, media executives, funders and others seeking information on the how such projects work, who’s doing them and what they’re covering.

We worked with Melody Kramer to build the first iteration of the database, which you can find below. It is a work in progress, and you’ll see that it’s still incomplete as we continue to add to it. So far for this soft launch, we’ve input information on 94 news collaborations between more than 800 organizations and 151 people.

But this is just the beginning. We need your help.

Is your project listed? If not, tell us about it. Is the information about your project incorrect? Let us know; email Melody at melodykramer@gmail.com. Are there fields missing you’d like to see us add, or other ways to sort that you think would be useful? Email the Center at info@centerforcooperativemedia.org. We’re using Airtable right now, but are still considering what the best way will be to display the treasure trove of data we’re collecting.

Some notes on navigating the database: First, it’s easier to see the whole picture on desktop than on mobile, although both work well. To see the full record for any particular project, click on the little blue arrow that appears to the left of the project name when you hover over it. You can sort by column as well.

Collaborative journalism is a great way to avoid duplication of effort and to find strength in numbers. This resource is a big step towards encouraging journalist to journalist collaboration.

Opportunities for members of the public to collaborate with journalists?

Suggestions?

What Can Reverse Engineering Do For You?

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

From the description:

Reverse engineering is a core skill in the information security space, but it doesn’t necessarily get the wide spread exposure that other skills do even though it can help you with your security challenges. We will talk about getting you quickly up and running with a reverse engineering starter pack and explore some interesting x86 assembly code patterns you may encounter in the wild. These patterns are essentially common malware evasion techniques that include packing, analysis evasion, shellcode execution, and crypto usages. It is not always easy recognizing when a technique is used. This talk will begin by defining the each technique as a pattern and then the approaches for reading or bypassing the evasion.

Technical keynote at Shellcon 2017 by Amanda Rousseau (@malwareunicorn).

Even if you’re not interested in reverse engineering, watch the video to see a true master describing their craft.

The “patterns” she speaks of are what I would call “subject identity” in a topic maps context.

TLDR pages (man pages by example)

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

TLDR pages

From the webpage:

The TLDR pages are a community effort to simplify the beloved man pages with practical examples.

The TLDR Pages Book (pdf), has 274 pages!

If you have ever hunted through a man page for an example, you will appreciate TLDR pages!

I first saw this in a tweet by Christophe Lalanne.

Launch of DECLASSIFIED

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Launch of DECLASSIFIED by Mark Curtis.

From the post:

I am about to publish on this site hundreds of UK declassified documents and articles on British foreign policy towards various countries. This will be the first time such a collection has been brought together online.

The declassified documents, mainly from the UK’s National Archives, reveal British policy-makers actual concerns and priorities from the 1940s until the present day, from the ‘horse’s mouth’, as it were: these files are often revelatory and provide an antidote to the often misleading and false mainstream media (and academic) coverage of Britain’s past and present foreign policies.

The documents include my collections of files, accumulated over many years and used as a basis for several books, on episodes such as the UK’s covert war in Yemen in the 1960s, the UK’s support for the Pinochet coup in Chile, the UK’s ‘constitutional coup’ in Guyana, the covert wars in Indonesia in the 1950s, the UK’s backing for wars against the Iraqi Kurds in the 1960s, the coup in Oman in 1970, support for the Idi Amin takeover in Uganda and many others policies since 1945.

But the collection also brings together many other declassified documents by listing dozens of media articles that have been written on the release of declassified files over the years. It also points to some US document releases from the US National Security Archive.

A new resource for those of you tracking the antics of the small and the silly through the 20th and into the 21st century.

I say the “small and the silly” because there’s no doubt that similar machinations have been part and parcel of government toady lives so long as there have been governments. Despite the exaggerated sense of their own importance and the history making importance of their efforts, almost none of their names survive in the ancient historical record.

With the progress of time, the same fate awaits the most recent and current crop of government familiars. While we wait for them to pass into obscurity, you can amuse yourself by outing them and tracking their activities.

This new archive may assist you in your efforts.

Be sure to keep topic maps in mind for mapping between disjoint vocabularies and collections of documents as well as accounts of events.

For Some Definition of “Read” and “Answer” – MS Clickbait

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Microsoft creates AI that can read a document and answer questions about it as well as a person by Allison Linn.

From the post:

It’s a major milestone in the push to have search engines such as Bing and intelligent assistants such as Cortana interact with people and provide information in more natural ways, much like people communicate with each other.

A team at Microsoft Research Asia reached the human parity milestone using the Stanford Question Answering Dataset, known among researchers as SQuAD. It’s a machine reading comprehension dataset that is made up of questions about a set of Wikipedia articles.

According to the SQuAD leaderboard, on Jan. 3, Microsoft submitted a model that reached the score of 82.650 on the exact match portion. The human performance on the same set of questions and answers is 82.304. On Jan. 5, researchers with the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba submitted a score of 82.440, also about the same as a human.

With machine reading comprehension, researchers say computers also would be able to quickly parse through information found in books and documents and provide people with the information they need most in an easily understandable way.

That would let drivers more easily find the answer they need in a dense car manual, saving time and effort in tense or difficult situations.

These tools also could let doctors, lawyers and other experts more quickly get through the drudgery of things like reading through large documents for specific medical findings or rarified legal precedent. The technology would augment their work and leave them with more time to apply the knowledge to focus on treating patients or formulating legal opinions.

Wait, wait! If you read the details about SQuAD, you realize how far Microsoft (or anyone else) is from “…reading through large documents for specific medical findings or rarified legal precedent….”

What is the SQuAD test?

Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) is a new reading comprehension dataset, consisting of questions posed by crowdworkers on a set of Wikipedia articles, where the answer to every question is a segment of text, or span, from the corresponding reading passage. With 100,000+ question-answer pairs on 500+ articles, SQuAD is significantly larger than previous reading comprehension datasets.

Not to take anything away from Microsoft Research Asia or the creators of SQuAD, but “…the answer to every question is a segment of text, or span, from the corresponding reading passage.” is a long way from synthesizing an answer from a long legal document.

The first hurdle is asking a question that can be scored against every “…segment of text, or span…” such that a relevant snippet of text can be found.

The second hurdle is the process of scoring snippets of text in order to retrieve the most useful one. That’s a mechanical process, not one that depends on the semantics of the underlying question or text.

There are other hurdles but those two suffice to show there is no “reading and answering questions” in the same sense we would apply to any human reader.

Click-bait headlines don’t serve the cause of advocating more AI research. On the contrary, a close reading of alleged progress leads to disappointment.

Tips for Entering the Penetration Testing Field

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Tips for Entering the Penetration Testing Field by Ed Skoudis.

From the post:

It’s an exciting time to be a professional penetration tester. As malicious computer attackers amp up the number and magnitude of their breaches, the information security industry needs an enormous amount of help in proactively finding and resolving vulnerabilities. Penetration testers who are able to identify flaws, understand them, and demonstrate their business impact through careful exploitation are an important piece of the defensive puzzle.

In the courses I teach on penetration testing, I’m frequently asked about how someone can land their first job in the field after they’ve acquired the appropriate technical skills and gained a good understanding of methodologies. Also, over the past decade, I’ve counseled a lot of my friends and acquaintances as they’ve moved into various penetration testing jobs. Although there are many different paths to pen test nirvana, let’s zoom into three of the most promising. It’s worth noting that these three paths aren’t mutually exclusive either. I know many people who started on the first path, jumped to the second mid-way, and later found themselves on path #3. Or, you can jumble them up in arbitrary order.

Career advice and a great listing of resources for any aspiring penetration “tester.”

If you do penetration work for a government, you may be a national hero. If you do commercial penetration testing, not a national hero but not on the run either. If you do non-sanctioned penetration work, life is uncertain. Same skill, same activity. Go figure.

Updated Hacking Challenge Site Links (Signatures as Subject Identifiers)

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Updated Hacking Challenge Site Links

From the post:

These are 70+ sites which offer free challenges for hackers to practice their skills. Some are web-based challenges, some require VPN access to private labs and some are downloadable ISOs and VMs. I’ve tested the links at the time of this posting and they work.

Most of them are at https://www.wechall.net but if I missed a few they will be there.

WeChall is a portal to hacking challenges where you can link your account to all the sites and get ranked. I’ve been a member since 2/2/14.

Internally to the site they have challenges there as well so make sure you check them out!

To find CTFs go to https://www.ctftime.org

On Twitter in the search field type CTF

Google is also your friend.

I’d rephrase “Google is also your friend.” to “Sometimes Google allows you to find ….”

When visiting hacker or CTF (capture the flag) sites, use the same levels of security as any government or other known hostile site.

What is an exploit or vulnerability signature if not a subject identifier?

Data Science Bowl 2018 – Spot Nuclei. Speed Cures.

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Spot Nuclei. Speed Cures.

From the webpage:

The 2018 Data Science Bowl offers our most ambitious mission yet: Create an algorithm to automate nucleus detection and unlock faster cures.

Compete on Kaggle

Three months. $100,000.

Even if you “lose,” think of the experience you will gain. No losers.

Enjoy!

PS: Just thinking outloud but if:


This dataset contains a large number of segmented nuclei images. The images were acquired under a variety of conditions and vary in the cell type, magnification, and imaging modality (brightfield vs. fluorescence). The dataset is designed to challenge an algorithm’s ability to generalize across these variations.

isn’t the ability to generalize, with lower performance a downside?

Why not use the best algorithm for a specified set of data conditions, “merging” that algorithm so to speak, so that scientists always have the best algorithm for their specific data set.

So outside the contest, perhaps recognizing the conditions of the images are the most important subjects and they should be matched to the best conditions for particular algorithms.

Anyone interested in collaborating on a topic map entry?