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“Stop Online Piracy Act” legislation. NOT.

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Behind the law

On its surface, fighting piracy sounds like a good thing, especially if you’ve worked hard on a book, album, font, video, or other product and discovered it being illegally distributed free of charge on a shady website or server beyond the reach of U.S. law.

Speaking personally, every for-sale creative product I’ve helped develop in the past two decades has reached appreciative paying customers through authorized sales channels, from tiny Paypal-powered sites to mighty Amazon and chain stores. But pirated copies have also been readily available on law-flaunting websites, and there are always people who will download free stuff even when they know it’s wrong. I always think people who steal stuff weren’t my customers anyway, but not everyone can take that point of view, and it’s reasonable to wish there was some way to stop the illegal distribution of content.

Wishes are one thing, laws are another. If there is a way to stop piracy (and I think we’d have more luck legislating an end to adultery or overeating), SOPA is not it.

A broad and burning brush

SOPA approaches the piracy problem with a broad brush, lights that brush on fire, and soaks the whole internet in gasoline. If passed, SOPA will allow corporations to block the domains of websites that are “capable of” or “seem to encourage” copyright infringement. Once a domain is blocked, nobody can access it, unless they’ve memorized the I.P. address.

Nothing is more dangerous than tremendous power coupled with vague language. But SOPA’s definition is intentionally vague to give corporate lawyers maximum leeway in fighting for their clients’ interests at $450 an hour.

Under SOPA, an article on NPR’s website covering the copyright dispute between Shepard Fairey and the Associated Press could be seen as supporting copyright infringement, because the article includes a JPG of Fairey’s infringing “HOPE” poster as part of its news coverage, or because the article refers passingly to Fairey’s “fair use” defense. Under SOPA, the AP could legally block the entire NPR website in response.

But it doesn’t stop there, because this is the internet, and the internet is about connections.

Say you blog about the NPR story and include a screen capture. Under SOPA, your website could be blocked. If your blog is a subdomain of Tumblr or WordPress, all of Tumblr or WordPress could also be blocked.

Maybe you just post a link to the story on your Facebook wall. Under SOPA, all of Facebook can be blocked. To avoid this fate, Facebook would be responsible for policing the copyright status of every piece of content its users post.

Servers and search engines, too

Ever used a search engine? Google and Bing would have indexed the NPR story and probably included the artwork. (That’s what search engines do.) Therefore Google and Bing could be shut down. To avoid being shut down, Google and Bing would be responsible for policing the copyright ownership of every piece of content they index.

Same thing with hosting companies and Internet Service Providers. If there’s a copyrighted image on an ISP’s server or in the cloud, the server and cloud service must go away, along with all the innocent content also stored on that server or cloud service. To stay online, ISPs of every stripe will be responsible for policing the copyright status of every piece of content they store. Hosting is a tough game. Most hosting companies barely break even, and have a tough enough job maintaining uptime. Who will pay hosting companies to hire content police, and who will train them?

And let’s not forget the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. That’s got to be full of copyright violations. Better to be on the safe side. Let’s just shut it down, and Wikipedia with it (because maybe one file in the Wikipedia commons is arguably copyright protected).

Lobbyists want this

Anyone with five minutes’ experience of how the internet actually works will understand why SOPA is technically unfeasible, economically burdensome, and a ball gag in the mouth of free speech. No company that stores or publishes internet content can police all that content all the time. SOPA is a job and freedom ender.

U.S. legislators are not internet experts, but they know the side on which their bread gets buttered and they are in thrall to powerful lobbyists, as anyone not on peyote knows. Andlobbyists have thrown $91 million at this issue so far, grotesquely outspending citizens and internet companies.

What Big Money wants, Big Money tends to get, even when its experts testifying at the U.S. House of Representatives admit they don’t know what they’re talking about, as covered byFortune, of all publications:

Internet companies worry that they could be held liable for the actions of people outside their control. Under the bill, Yahoo, for example, could be held liable if someone posted a copyrighted picture to that company’s Flickr site. And Google and other search engines would in effect be responsible for the actions of basically everyone on the Internet. But logic either doesn’t seem to matter much to SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and his 21 cosponsors, or else they simply can’t get their minds around the problem. Opponents of the bill have noted that it could disrupt the domain-name system—the Internet’s basic technical underpinning. But when witnesses who support the bill were asked about that issue, they said they were not qualified to speak to the technical aspects of it, even as they insisted that SOPA would present no such problem. And in a bit of delicious symbolism, the committee’s streaming video of the hearing basically didn’t work—Why the House is stacking the deck on Internet piracyFortune

 

Google enables two-factor athentication for user accounts

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Google seems to take user security quite seriously, since today gmail accounts are commonly used as a global account among many websites.  To protect its customers (paying or not) Google has employed a two-factor authentication method in order for a user to login to its gmail account.

Two-factor authentication is not something used and has been widely used in the financial industry, seems it appears to be very effective.  Google’s scheme involves using a second password in addition to your original password when you try to login.  All you have to do is check the corresponding checkbox from your gmail account’s setting and wait for google to send you a sms with the second password or use a mobile phone application to generate one if you own an Android or iPhone.

However this password will only last a few minutes so hurry up and use it!  Indeed, this new policy (which is of course optional) will add some complexity to the login process for the user, who will need to get such a password every time he tries to login.  Alternatively, you can choose to use the two-factor authentication only once per Computer you login from.  Still this method raises some issues in cases where you do not have a mobile phone available to you, say while travelling abroad.   Google offers a workaround, pre-printed passwords, if you still need or want the option enabled and have no access to a mobile phone or smartphone.

Overall, it seems that the policy worths the extra effort from the user’s end if he desires an impenetrable account.

 

Relative links:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/02/google-security/

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/02/advanced-sign-in-security-for-your.html

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/perlow/googles-two-factor-authentication-nice-idea-but-unwieldy/15864

http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/10/google-rolls-out-two-factor-authentication-for-everyone-you-should-use-it/

DNSChanger attackers made profit of $14 million

Friday, November 18th, 2011

DNSChanger is a trojan that will change the infected system’s Domain Name Server (DNS) settings, in order to divert traffic to unsolicited, and potentially illegal sites. It is usually a small file that changes the ‘NameServer’ Registry key value to a custom IP address. This IP address is usually encrypted in the body of a trojan. As a result of this change a victim’s computer will contact the newly assigned DNS server to resolve names of different webservers.

 

Six people, who made that attack and earned more than $14 million dollars ,were arrested in Estonia and Russia by the FBI.Accoriding to FBI When users of infected computers clicked on the link for the official Web site of iTunes, for example, they were instead taken to a Web site for a business unaffiliated with Apple Inc. that purported to sell Apple software

 

What the attackers also did ,was to replace legimate ads on sites with ads that gave illegal payments to them e.g they replaced an American Express ad on the Wall Street Journal home page with an ad for “Fashion Girl LA,” and an Internet Explorer 8 ad on Amazon.com with one for an e-mail marketing firm.Specifically,computers where affected by DSNChanger when they were visting certain web-sites or from downloading particular software,and also preventing in  the same time antivirus and operating systems from updating.

 

This hole operation has been shut down by an FBI two-year investigation so called “Operation Ghost Click”.And so what they did afterwards was to replace rogue DNS servers used in the operation with legitimate servers hoping that infected computers will still be able to access the Internet and aslo making owners of infected computers to clean the malware off their machines.

 

It is also provided a service that can inform you if your computer is infected or not just by visiting the FBI page.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-57321844-83/seven-accused-in-$14-million-click-hijacking-scam/?tag=txt;title

http://krebsonsecurity.com/2011/11/malware-click-fraud-kingpins-arrested-in-estonia/

https://forms.fbi.gov/check-to-see-if-your-computer-is-using-rogue-DNS

RSA attack

Monday, November 7th, 2011

RSA attackers took the advantage of using phising e-mail and the exploitition  of a previously unpatched Adope Flash hole.

They were sending phising emails to low profile employees with a subject lined of  ”2011 Recruitment Plan”.One of the employess made the terrible mistake and opened the above email and ,so the attached Excel file that contained malware which could exploit a hole in Adobe Flash, installed a back door.From there on the attacker could remotely take control of the computer.

To do that remotely attackers used the Poison Ivy tool which let them to gather critical information using C&C connections.This type of  espionage attack is called ”Advanced Persistent Threat” (APT) and it is used to gather ,as i said ,critical information of the company being hit.Critical information such as knowledgement of the company’s high level operations, network, and info about expert IT employees and their roles in the company.

The next step of the attackers was to gather the data(asap becuse they were discovered by RSA) and exfilarate them in encrypted files over ftp to external compromised hosting provider.

By this type of attack (APT) ,which main characteristic is the persistent espionage of significant targets(stuxnet worm), may had been hit more companies around the globe (see links above).

 

http://krebsonsecurity.com/2011/10/who-else-was-hit-by-the-rsa-attackers/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-27080_3-20051071-245.html

https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Advanced_persistent_threat

Security Flaw Makes VPNs Useless for BitTorrent

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Nowadays VPN (virtual private network) services became very common because more and more users would like privacy. Many websites, like the Pirate Bay’s Ipredator, will offer anonymous vpn services which ensures privacy in downloads from BitTorrent. But is this working?

It turns out that there’s a big security flaw in these services that allows individual users to be identified! The flaw is caused by a combination of IPv6 and PPTP -based VPN services, which is widely used ,moreover  IPV6 is enabled by default in most computers (vista,win7).

With this flaw, the IP address and sometimes the MAC address and the computer’s name of a user behind a VPN can be found thanks to their connection broadcasting information that can be used to identify them. Also if the clients are not seperated they might expose each other and reveal sensitive information.(seperate subnet for each one may help).
Only if the following preconditions exist, it may be possible to see a user’s public IP.

1)The computer has an IPv6 stack installed with support for tunneling IPv6 traffic over an IPv4 link (such as ISATAP) (Default in windows vista and 7)
2)The computer has a public IP address assigned.(if you are behind a router with NAT ,192.168.1.1 will be compromised)

Some ways to avoid this flow is to disable IPv6 and rollback to IPv4 or use an alternative to PPTP ,the OpenVPN which is free ,open-source and more stable.
Also by using a VPN, a third party company  access to all your private information, that could be a far larger security hole than anything else, so be careful who you trust with your data.

sources
www.wired.co.uk

http://torrentfreak.com/huge-security-flaw-makes-vpns-useless-for-bittorrent-100617/

Malicious Kama Sutra presentation

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A supposed PowerPoint presentation file, called Real kamasutra.pps.exe, supposedly demonstrates different sexual positions. The file does include a NSFW slideshow of 13 different positions, but this is just a decoy.

The malicious file uses the old double extension ruse, a mainstay of virus writing for many years. While a casual glance might fool users into thinking it is a PowerPoint document, the file is actually an executable.

The real purpose of the distribution is to install a Trojan called AdobeUpdater.exe, and identified by net security firm Sophos as Bckdr-RFM. Compromised machines might be used to send spam or spy on users, among other malicious purposes.

Tips for Correct Passwords

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Choosing Passwords
These days, we have passwords for just about everything. You need a PIN to use your debit card or access an ATM. You need a password to log on to your bank, Amazon and other shopping sites, your favorite discussion forum, and many other websites. Remembering all of those passwords can be a major hassle! Unfortunately, this often leads to using the same password at multiple sites, which means that if someone guesses your password they can access a lot of your information. Even worse, it’s often a very weak password; believe it or not, many people actually use the word ‘password’ as their password!

Let’s look at some tips for choosing good computer security codes and passwords to keep your private information secure.

Choosing Good Computer Security Codes and Passwords

A good password is one that isn’t a common word or anything else someone could guess, but that is somehow meaningful to you. It doesn’t do you much good to keep everyone else out of the system if you can’t get in, either! For something like a home wireless router where it’s rare that you need to type in the password, you can get away with using a random string and writing it down, but you certainly wouldn’t want to leave your bank passwords lying around! While some people can remember random strings, most of us will probably forget them. Accordingly, the trick is to come up with a string that is meaningful to you but gibberish to anyone else.

In one Asimov story, a character had a 14-character password chosen by taking the first letter of each line of a poem; while his enemy was able to figure out the password (from knowing the approximate length and the character’s background and love of poetry), the idea still holds: choose a string of characters that refers to something meaningful. For example, suppose your wife’s name is Mary, you met her when you were 27, you went to Paris for your honeymoon, and your daughter was born when you were 32, something that you found very exciting. The string M27PF32! is thus total gibberish to anyone not familiar with your line of reasoning, but should be easy enough for you to remember.

US orders Twitter to hand over account data on Wikileaks and multiple Wikileaks

Friday, January 14th, 2011

US orders Twitter to hand over information about accounts registered or associated with Wikileaks, rop_g, ioerror, birgittaj, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Rop Gongrijp, and Birgitta Jonsdottir for the time period November 1, 2009 to present (december 2010).

All previously mentioned twitter accounts are supposed to be connected with wikileaks. That means that anyone connected with them is supposed to be related and/or a supporter of wikileaks.

If you are a follower (not sure if it also includes mentions and retweets) of any of those accounts, twitter has already handed all your personal information to the US government.

You can find the subpoena here

source

Which is the fastest computer ?

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Since 1993, the fastest supercomputers have been ranked on the TOP500 list according to their LINPACK  benchmark results. But how unbiased and definitive is this list?

At the moment the top supercomputer in list is China’s Tianhe-1A which usurped the US Cray XT5 Jaguar system as the world’s fastest supercomputer. It cost of over $88 million ,it’s peak performance reaches 1.206 petaflops and it runs at 563.1 teraflops on the Linpack benchmark. The key to become no1 supercomputer was the use of GPUs (7,168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 ) in compination with 14,336 Intel Xeon CPUs.

But the Linpack  benchmark is often criticized for not necessarily predicting  the usefulness of a system in solving real-world problems and it doesn’t measure about 80% of the workloads that are usually run on supercomputers. The Linpack benchmark has been ported to Android mobiles and a tweaked Motorola hit 52Mflop/s, so humorously has been mentioned that 100.000 people around the world would have had the world’s fastest Linpack number,revealing the ‘stupidity’ of Linpack. Aslo the Linpack method said that offers boosted results when GPUs are used and many contesting the lead of Tianhe.

So we can’t say which is truly the fastest computer in world till new set of benchmarks developed.

sources :

http://www.top500.org/list/2010/11/100

http://it.slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=supercomputer

http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/article/368598/supercomputing_top500_brews_discontent/

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/76731/20101028/tianhe-1a-tianhe-supercomputer-fastest-supercomputer-china-us-nvidia-amd-gpum-cpu-chip-semiconductor.htm#

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9196981/Nvidia_chief_scientist_CPUs_slowed_by_legacy_design

“Anonymous” activities

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Anonymous is a group of individuals, mainly from on-line community,
who share common ideas and act against self agreed goals under
the name “Anonymous”. Their strength lies in their number and
the true anonymity. Anonymous use public communication channels for
their conversation and planning of their activities, like wikis , irc, facebook,forums etc.

A list of activities done by Anonymous

Hal Turner raid
Took down Turner’s website.

Project Chanology
Criticize the Church of Scientology for Internet censorship
and plan a DDOS series of attacks to  the Church’s websites and
street protests wearing masks.

Epilepsy Foundation forum invasion
Anonymous blamed for an attack on Epilepsy Foundation of America
forum/website, using JavaScript code and flashing animations to
provoke seizures in victims.

Defacement of SOHH and AllHipHop websites
Starting from a flooding in forums,then DDoS attacks against the
websites and finaly they deface the site by adding satirical images,
headlines and also stole employess information, using cross-site scripting.

Operation Titstorm
A protest against the Australian Government using DDoS Attacks in
federal websites.

WikiLeaks
After the worldwide fight from goverments against wikileaks, Anonymous decided to express their support to wikileaks with several Operations/protests.

Operation Payback
When this operations started the main target was websites that did not respond to software takedown notices.The DDoS websites of Law firms, copyright organisations etc. till the target moved to companies that oppose Wikileaks.Some of the targets was Amazon, Paypal, MasterCard, Visa and the Swiss bank PostFinance.

Zimbabwe
Goverment website taken down due to censorship of wikileaks documents

Operation Tunisia
8 Tynisian gov websites taked down due to censorship of wikileaks.

sources:

http://www.slashdot.org/

http://www.wired.com

http://www.wikipedia.com