Friday Squid Blogging: Not Finding a Giant Squid on Google Earth

The Internet is buzzing—at least, my little corner of the Internet—about finding a 120-meter-long giant squid on Google Earth. It’s a false alarm.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Posted on June 17, 2016 at 4:05 PM212 Comments


Ronnie June 17, 2016 4:25 PM

A Reddit crypto-mystery.
The subreddit was made private again for some unknown reason.

A little more than five years ago, a previously unused Reddit account began posting seemingly random strings of numbers and text in a new subreddit it had created. To the casual eye, there wasn’t much to see. The subreddit shared the same inscrutable set of numbers and letters as its moderator; the sidebar and comments provided no clarifying information.

If it was a mystery, it appeared a banal one. Like any number of niche subreddits, it seemed to serve some unknown, private purpose. Whoever was using it had no interest in drawing attention, and so it remained ignored and forgotten, letters and numbers quietly churning away in a overlooked corner of the web.

It’s not clear how the larger Reddit community discovered r/A858DE45F56D9BC9—whether by chance or through subtle hints—but soon enough, redditors saw those strings of letters and numbers and decided they looked like a code. And if it was a code, the online sleuths would set out to crack it.

In the case of r/A858DE45F56D9BC9, it languished in obscurity for the better part of a year, until an AMA request asked for more information. “My big question is what do these seemingly random strings of numbers mean, do they correlate to something; is there some big joke I’m missing out on?” the post read. Though the mysterious moderator never responded, the request stoked interest, and a sister subreddit formed shortly afterward: r/Solving_A858.
Almost immediately a dedicated group of computer science students, amateur cryptographers, and motivated enthusiasts began trying to crack the code. The initial community was small and close-knit; the creator kept the subreddit private, only allowing those who showed promise to join. But that exclusivity didn’t last long, and the community soon opened to the public.

Anura June 17, 2016 4:54 PM

I find it amusing that the rock that kind of looked like a squid from Google Earth is near “Deception Island.”

Glomar June 17, 2016 5:16 PM

I retweeted to @SenatorReid @POTUS @HillaryClinton @JohnSarbanes @SenWarren @SenatorCardin @uspto — Reid stopped legislation against patent trolls

Thoth June 17, 2016 7:16 PM

@Bruce Schneier, all
CIA chief living in as a frog in a well thinkibg that US is the only maker of encryption products ignoring the facts of previous researches done on the countries that produce encryption products.

He makes some really daring statements which have no basis.

He needs to be reminded that the world does not revolve around the US for security products and other countries are just as capable as the US in terms of producing effective security solutions.

In fact, a good ton of security products originate outside US territory and are imported to the US. One good example is the famous BouncyCastle crypto library made by Australians (yes yes … the 5Eyes but still not directly made in US) and a global open source community.


Einnor June 17, 2016 8:42 PM


That reaks of an NSA recruitment portal. Tell your kids to JUST SAY NO TO THE NSA

Mark June 17, 2016 11:10 PM

Why is it that you’re allowed to obviously lie at a congressional hearing? These things are a complete and utter joke.

Are US government officials really that stupid? Oh, wait…

Encryption products June 18, 2016 2:04 AM


Perhaps the good C…I…A… director would like to rethink his theoretical stance, lest he accelerate the destruction of US software sales? Trust in US software and hardware is already at an all-time low.

From the same website, where Bruce slaps down the old man:

The latest study analyzed 865 hardware and software products incorporating encryption from 55 countries, with a third of them coming from the US. That’s up from 805 in 35 countries in 1999.

Schneier told The Register this shows calls for backdoors are pretty pointless because it’s rather easy for a person to move from one encryption system to another. If one product is found to be flawed by design, or compromised by a government, there will be another package available that isn’t.

But with the internet today, all of those problems have been virtually solved. Now people can build encryption into software for free and let anyone download and use their code. Of the 546 non-US encryption systems studied, 44 per cent are free and 34 per cent are open source, and even commercial systems usually have a free trial version.

In the end-game, smart terrorists simply won’t use electronic means of communication (winning) or use poor man’s one-time-pads using paper, pencil and dice to completely defeat the three letter agencies who can’t decipher the messages until the end of time. Ironically, they only need to imitate CIA OTP methods outlined everywhere online.

Signing off: 06460 28585 55146 14857 07784 77821 18799 10464 83200

PS What probabilities do you assign to major US products already being back-doored? I think:

  • Microsoft 100%
  • Apple 100%
  • Google products and services 100%
  • Facebook 110%
  • AMD 100%
  • All proprietary products focused on security & all closed source O/S 100%
  • Intel 100%

But maybe I’m a cynic 😉 I would also assign 100% probability of specialized groups already hacking ALL end users of VPN services, Tor, I2P, Freenet and other potentially anonymizing/privacy services.

Now would another whistle-blower please stand up and confirm by sending the appropriate docs to Wikileaks instead of profit-minded gatekeepers (e.g. The Intercept)? Thanks in advance.

Thoth June 18, 2016 3:36 AM

@Encryption products
The better way is to implement your own home brewed pencil and paper protocols and ciphers and change the ciphers and variables every couple months 😀 . Sending messages can be done by personally carrying encrypted messages by hand and visiting your friend(s) while XOR-splitting your messages while carrying them with you in case one part of the message is discovered, your can easily destroy the remainder of the messages by destroying one XOR-split worth of the message making recovery hard since you need all XOR-splits to recover them.

Match or lighter with messages written on flammable cigarette papers would be very effective to destruction at a short moment’s notice by pretending to be lighting a smoke which in fact you are destroying one XOR-split worth of the encrypted message.

Wael June 18, 2016 4:04 AM


The better way is to implement your own home brewed pencil and paper protocols and ciphers…

Is that realistic?

Thoth June 18, 2016 5:57 AM

It really depends if someone wants to. Gangs and mobs do employ their own pencil and paper techniques despite not being very effective against expert cryptanalysis but if someone wants to do it, they do it at their own risk.

Drone June 18, 2016 7:12 AM

Ethereum Markets Reeling After Security Fault Allows Massive Theft


“…An attack has been found and exploited in the DAO, and the attacker is currently in the process of draining the ether contained in the DAO into a child DAO. The attack is a recursive calling vulnerability,where an attacker called the “split” function, and then calls the split function recursively inside of the split, thereby collecting ether many times over in a single transaction.”

Pffft, whatever. Just Blockchain your naked self to the bed, and wait for me.

Tatütata June 18, 2016 7:18 AM

@Ronnie: A frustrated programmer copied and pasted some old core dump onto Reddit, like digital graffiti. The “DEADBEEF” pattern and the posting hour gave it away.

@Thoth: yeah, sure, will someone please tell Brennan as gently as possible that Rijndael, the NIST’s AES block cipher, is foreign in origin… Godverdomme, une fois!

keiner June 18, 2016 7:42 AM


You missed the point: In the US-neocolonial neoliberal empire NOTHING is “foreign”. Some parts are “hostile”, but (especially after TTIP and TTP) EVERYTHING is inside, nothinx left behind 😀

Clive Robinson June 18, 2016 7:55 AM

@ Wael,

Is that realistic?

It depends not so much on the strength of the ciphers but the quantity of messages and the timelyness of delivery and type of transmission.

If we start with a couple of basic assumptions. The first that a “split message” is secure unless the enemy gets access to all thr parts. The second that if the enemy gets access to any part they can not hide the fact they have done so.

Then it’s possible to use the same transmission channel to send all parts of a message provided there is a sufficient time gap between them.

So if I come up with a foolproof tamper evident envelope system for Alice and Bob to use, Alice can split a message and put one part in an envelope and give it to a courier to hand carry to Bob. On arival Bob puts a suitable acknowledgment of some type into another envelope and sends it back with the courier to Alice. When Alice gets the acknowledgment back she can then give the courier the next part of the message. If the courier gets grabbed then he has nothing to give up to the enemy other than the current part or acknowledgement sealed in their envelopes and the knowledge of how many envelopes he has personaly carried. To be able to get any message the enemy need to be able to turn the courier and they must have a way to read the message without triping the tamper evident envelopes. If a courier is lost or an envelope tampered with then the other part of the message is not sent. However other messages can still be sent either by a new courier, or the same one.

This system has been used with diplomatic couriers long prior to the realisation of the OTP and is the basis of Quantum Key Delivery systems used to transmit an OTP between two parties.

The two main problems with the system are. Firstly the round trip delay and secondly how to deal with lost message parts / couriers.

The strength of the system ultimately rests on the secure envelopes and proper protocol behaviour by Alice and Bob, part of which is the spliting function.

At one point in time the splitting function would have been something like a set of numbered grills, one for each message part. These would be burned and replaced if a message part was lost.

As usual such systems become insecure over time due to technology changes and with impatience of the users at the time and cost of operating the system.

Such changes as moving from a single end to end courier to a more general shared courier service, which was faster and less expensive. But unfortunatly where it was possible for an enemy to examine the envelopes and develop methods to circumvent them, thus by examination work out the grils in use etc. See the history of the Geheime Kabinettskanzlei (secret chancellery) in Vienna where it was turned into an industrial process, and amongst others provided gainful employment to the artist Joseph Mahler.

Putin Outs Clinton June 18, 2016 8:06 AM

It’s been obvious for decades that spying at ALL high level government communications are of the highest priority for allies and foes alike.
The West banned Russian athletes for failing doping, so Putin returned the favor by releasing the Truth about Clinton’s unsecured email server.

Russian President Goes After Hillary By Releasing 20,000(!) Of Her ‘Private’Emails

I’m surprised NBC is allowed to speak so boldly. Obviously the reporters knew but were prevented from writing until now. No doubt the NSA knew but chose to remain silent.
The release gives considerable weight to Putin’s claim that our once great country is also corrupt.

kiwano June 18, 2016 8:20 AM


The attack on the DAO was entirely forseeable; not the specifics of it, but the simple fact of the matter is that the DAO smart contract was completely new code, in a relatively new language, being used to control ~$150M in assets. I remarked to my coworkers a few weeks back (when the DAO came up in discussion–it was stll in the fundraising/issuance phase, so the market cap was only $50M then) that $50M is a very large bug bounty–obviously $150M is even larger.

Grauhut June 18, 2016 9:07 AM

@ Thoth: Maybe the CIA was misunderstood and it just means “we own them all, because we own the NATO” and has nothing to do with national borders. 😉

@Ronnie: Honey, here is some pot! 🙂

“We think that full discovery is unlikely”

Could mean: We don’t know what this means and where this originated from, lets see if we find some volunteer crackin it for us and who monitors this crypto party passivly besides us. Lets set up a meta data generating honeypot on reddit.

Clive Robinson June 18, 2016 9:25 AM

@ Putin Outs Clinton, All,

Russian President Goes After Hillary By Releasing 20,000(!) Of Her ‘Private’Emails

Whilst the political and corruption side is quite yawn worthy, the security story behind it is perhaps a little more interesting.

The 20,000ft overview story so far is HRC had a private Email server that got hacked by an individual. The fact that it got hacked is not security news, I suspect by far the majority of Email server software is relatively easily hackable, and for those that are not the OS or other apps on the server hardware or backup taking/keeping hardware are. Thus getting access to the actual Email records is not going to be that hard as history has repeatedly shown [1][2].

This is why network diodes, guards, pumps and sluices have been developed and used to provide “gapping” and “unidirectional traffic” on clasified networks for some time now with full air/energy gaps for the more secure requirments.

The interesting bit is that the hacker appears to have been “caught in the act” in some way by Russia and that is how they have got copies of the Emails.

There are various scenarios for this but the one that is of interest is that Russia also –perhaps unsuprisingly– opperates a “collect it all” policy and system as well. Which leaves the question as to how the traffic fell under their gaze…

So a message for all you hackers out there, “Make sure you encrypt data before exfiltration” otherwise you will not know who else has copies…[1]

[1] It’s an old mistake to make, if you are old enough to remember the Iran-Contra Affair staring Ollie North the enchanting Fawn Hall nearly thirty years ago. What got found were plaintext emails on the backups of intermediate hosts that routed them…

[2] As has been remarked in the past, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same'[Karr 1849], and thus ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it'[Santayana 1905].

CallMeLateForSupper June 18, 2016 9:46 AM

“Thoughts on this awesome deal this car dealership is running?”

“Awesome”?? Um… no. Sorry. Solar flares are awesome. Whales and giant squid are awesome. “The Treasury”, an ediface in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, is awesome. Offering free killing machines in order to lure customers is tasteless and opportunistic. The combat veteran who is making this offer should be ashamed.

“Personally I think New Hampshire is becoming more appealing every year as a place to live.”

Personally, I think the majority of people who already live there would disagree with your implied logic.

MrC June 18, 2016 10:22 AM

@ Putin Outs Clinton:

It’s not NBC. It’s a fake site. Look at the URL — http://nbcpolitics DOT ORG.
Now, look at the disclaimer at the bottom of the page: “This is not an NBC NEWS original website nor is a fake news website. We post only real and good articles about politics including our own articles and polls…”

Searching Google News finds:
1. This “story” doesn’t exist anywhere outside of a few right-wing wackadoodle websites. These guys aren’t exactly reliable news sources.
2. Aside from this one, none of those sites cites a source for the information. Some cite anonymous “intelligence sources”; others straightforwardly state that it’s an unsourced rumor.
3. I could find no confirmation — and not even any other reporting — that Judge Andrew Napolitano is the source of the information. If that were true, it would be all over every news outlet. Since it appears literally nowhere else, it’s probably bullshit.

So, let’s leave it at this: We can’t completely rule out the possibility that these reports are true, but we can say the overwhelmingly likely explanation is that some right-wing wackadoodle made the whole thing up, and now other right-wing wackadoodles are parroting it because it aligns with their preconceived biases. They wish it were true, so they believe it without much critical thought.

CallMeLateForSupper June 18, 2016 10:47 AM

Re: post by Putin Outs Clinton

Of course, the “nbcpolitics” part of the URL should raise eyebrows, and the “org” part fairly screams “Danger, Christopher Robin” because NBC is not an “org”. Heads-up, Snopes.

So, instead of clicking, I Startpaged “Clinton emails” and noted the URL in each result on the first two pages: not a single major news organization among them. ‘Nuf said.

Curl Winthrop June 18, 2016 11:14 AM

1000s of Aussie server and PoS credentials available for a few days access for just $7-8 each on xDedic, though given Australia’s terrible network speeds listings for other countries with 21st century speeds are probably much better value.

r June 18, 2016 11:54 AM


That’s the problem with exfiltration in an environment that’s already compromised isn’t it?

From what we know about other nation state excursions is that quite often somebody else has already been there – or currently is.

I wouldn’t expect to be able to pull off a transform of data onsite and not risk somebody catching your keys as easily as ‘your’ outgoing data.

Putin outs Kimmy Queen of /b/ June 18, 2016 1:39 PM

Putin outs Clinton is not plausible. If Putin wanted Hillary’s emails he could just wait ten seconds for some 12-year old to pwn her defenseless naked server.

And what does Putin want with her emails? Putin doesn’t care what US presidents think. He knows US presidents are CIA figureheads, and not freely-elected officials with popular support, as in Russia.

‘Russia hacked us’ is a face-saving excuse for jaw-dropping technical ineptitude.

ianf June 18, 2016 1:44 PM

Bit OT but still IC[*]

Having now glimpsed odd TV cuts of Jo Cox’s political career a number of times, I can’t help noting how much she reminds me of the fictional character Labour MP Jo Porter (Rachel Cassidy) in a sadly missed (only one season) exquisite episodic BBC2 drama “Party Animals”.

That out of the system, while the (British) mass media keep presenting Cox assailant’s motives as a consequence of his far-right worldview, its press wolf-pack mentality (and the UK legal constraints) prevents them from concentrating on whether FIRST AND FOREMOST he simply might have been/ ergo is/ mentally unstable; a.k.a. crazy. Because to go from hating another’s political views to pulling the trigger, as he did, presupposes a level of mental imbalance (to say the least).

In fact, this murder is quite reminiscent of the 2003 ad-hoc killing of the Swedish Foreign Minister, and designated party leader/ PM successor, Anna Lindh, slain by an unhinged, unemployed, high on drugs local yob.

    Because the murderer was of Serbian immigrant stock, and Lindh previously had something to do with the “peace process” in former Yugo (which plenty of Serbs consider to have been “forced upon them”), initially there was no end to claims of this, by all looks deranged act, being political payback as his sole motive. When the truth finally emerged—he stumbled upon, then followed and knifed the politician as she was trying on a new jacket in a posh department store for that evening’s upcoming TV appearance; indirectly a victim of the vanity of followers of fashion;-(()—it was altogether something quite prosaic: a CRIME OF OPPORTUNITY.

As hard as it is to grasp, despite the earlier Swedish PM, Olof Palme, having been assassinated in 1986, when he “begged off to be allowed to go to a cinema without bodyguards,” the lesson of all politicians’ by default carrying a high threat profile, hasn’t really sunk in—and so Anna Lindh thought nothing of simply veering off from work without a bodyguard, accompanied only by her BFF. Old habits of being a peaceful nation refuse to die, as one Swedish official commenting Barack Obama’s 23-hour/ no-contact-with-the-public visit there, “could not understand that the Secret Service classed his country on a par with Kongo” (the two assassinations of public figures in the last 30 years apparently still treated there as a double-fluke… Palme’s murder is cold-cased).

BTW, this medial search for, TO NEWSSTAND-COPY BUYERS easily digestible, labels, is repeated in the Orlando shooter’s case, where the far from implausible motive of “revenge for gay unfulfillment(?)” has from the start been completely overshadowed by the shooter’s posthumous enlistment in the combined forces of ISIS, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda (all of which he is said to have praised, even though they’re at loggerheads with one another). But, hey!, as long as it satisfies the analytical minds of Numbered Anonymouses of this forum ;-))

[^*] In Context

life by 1000 band-aids June 18, 2016 1:58 PM


While I don’t disagree with your analysis on any particular point (esp. concerning an individual’s susceptibility to confirmation bias), I recently experienced a curious discrepancy between google and non-google search engine results when searching the topic, “Hillary Clinton indictment”. A few days later I found a youtube video that confirmed that I was not the only one to notice this anomaly. It appears that since that time google now renders results similar to other search engines.

Again, I don’t mean this to in any way counter anything you wrote. I only mention it as at least a curiosity and at most a cautionary reminder to always use more than one search engine.

Did Google Manipulate Search for Hillary?

Uhu June 18, 2016 2:51 PM


Just use a public-key algorithm. Even if they get the secret random key used for the symmetric part, it’s just a one-time use and they, in your scenario, already have access to the data. The worst they could do is modify the data without you noticing, but again, if they have access to the system they could do that anyway.

Spooky June 18, 2016 3:21 PM

@ Thoth, @ Wael:

Without a doubt, a one-time pad is probably the best low-tech method to use, assuming you’re not well-versed in idiomatic Navajo (hey, everyone needs a hobby). There is, however, another quick and easy method of exchanging several messages of limited complexity: randomized trigraphs. Using dice, cards or other source of quasi-randomness, generate three random letters of the alphabet and allow that to represent a “word” in your dictionary (26 x 26 x 26 = 17576 potential entries; easily sufficient). Create entries for useful words and breveties, to establish a simple working vocabulary relevant to the intended usage. As with a OTP, your intended receiver must have (or memorize) a copy of the translation sheet. I would probably take at least one additional step: because the repetition of commonly used trigraphs is easily visible in the ciphertext (even though its actual meaning is not directly computable), it is especially helpful to obscure this repetition in some way. In traditional crypto, we might use a random initialization vector prior to performing CBC mode encryption on several (potentially repeating) blocks of data. For this simple system, it would probably be sufficient to alter the trigraph letters modulo some non-repeating set of digits that can be computed manually–say, every other digit of Pi, Euler’s constant e, or the square root of 2, computed at some random offset. On the other hand, if you’re only exchanging three or four messages in total, you may not really care whether your adversary can see structural elements of the message; since words (not letters) are being used here, letter frequency analysis is useless, leaving only vague grammatical assumptions that might be difficult to correlate with a scant four messages’ worth of input. One severe downside of this method is the specificity of the translation sheet–if it is ever intercepted, it pretty well details the entire subject matter of your conversations. Yet another reason to use OTPs (plus, decoding against a random OTP letter stream is fairly fast and easy to do in your head, with practice).

@ Clive,

For some reason, the primary long-standing memory that I have of the whole Iran Contra affair was their impressive shredding operation, or Shred Parties as they were called. I’ll have to see about having one of those, sometime! Caveat emptor: it may involve heavy metal… Those were somewhat simpler times, when legal culpability was innately tied to the existance of physical evidence. In the ongoing era of the surveillance state, thought crime is considered sufficient reason for involuntary, indefinite detention. Three (sullen) cheers for the wonders of technology…


Wael June 18, 2016 3:23 PM

@Clive Robinson,

quantity of messages and the timelyness of delivery and type of transmission.

True, also on the type of message (Text, Audio, Video, JPEG, …)

Then it’s possible to use the same transmission channel to send all parts of a message provided there is a sufficient time gap between them.

Continuous channel monitoring is an assumption that has to be made. Also, the ability to reconstruct messages from seemingly unrelated fragments should be assumed to be trivial for a sophisticated adversary.

So if I come up with a foolproof tamper evident envelope system for Alice and Bob to use, Alice can split a message and put one part in an envelope and give it to a courier to hand carry to Bob.

Tamper evident, as in integrity protection? Or do you mean the ability to detect that the envelop was opened and information was “observed”?

What I am saying is this: paper and pencil “crypto-crap” works for a very limited kind of messages and situations. It’s not practical or realistic to suggest such a “system” instead of what we have. This is not how the game is played!!!

Secret Sysadmins June 18, 2016 3:44 PM


The 20,000ft overview story so far is HRC had a private Email server that got hacked by an individual. The fact that it got hacked is not security news, I suspect by far the majority of Email server software is relatively easily hackable,

Amidst the fog of BS, I think you are forgetting a key part of the story from about a year ago when it all started bubbling up. That the Secret Service was managing security for the server in question. Or was that some BS itself?

Historical Hijinks June 18, 2016 3:56 PM

Now seems like a good time to remind people of that early operation against Assad that involved an attempt to discredit via leaked emails. Something about gooses and ganders.

MrC June 18, 2016 4:00 PM

@ band-aids:

If DuckDuckGo had a news search, I’d use it. But they don’t so it’s Google News or nothing.

As for Google, I do not find that video particularly convincing. However, would not be terribly surprised if it turned out to be true that Google is manipulating the auto-complete results for political reasons, as per that video, or if it turned out that they are manipulating the Google News main page for political reasons.

This doesn’t affect my earlier conclusion at all because I relied on neither auto-complete nor the main page in checking out that the Clinton E-mail/Putin story was bogus. Rather, I specifically asked Google News for news articles containing “clinton e-mail putin,” and it dutifully barfed up a pile of right-wing wackadoodle scribblings. Quick review confirmed that (1) no one outside the far-right wackadoodle fringe buys this story, (2) no one has a source for it, (3) some of them admit that they don’t have a source for it, and (4) literally no one else attributes it to Judge Napolitano. So, I conclude the story is bogus with a high degree of probability. (The fact that the website is pretending to be NBC did nothing to help their credibility either.)

Setting aside these speculative bias problems with Google News, there’s a more fundamental bias problem with it that isn’t speculative at all — it adopts your bias. It builds up a profile of what you click on and what you don’t so that it can feed you more of what you’ll click on. Google’s intent isn’t sinister here — they’re just trying to maximize clicks and thus advertising revenue. But the effect is problematic because it locks you into an echo chamber of voices you’re already inclined to agree with. Things that might surprise you or cause you to question your viewpoint probably don’t even hit the main page. One remedial step you can take is to block cookies Google News. If you don’t want to block all Google cookies (i.e., you want to use gmail), a uMatrix rule can block cookie transmission specifically to

Wael June 18, 2016 4:04 PM


Without a doubt, a one-time pad is probably the best low-tech method to use

What are you trying to accomplish? Exchange a simple message with a friend? If that’s the case, solutions are abundant. Want to digitally sign contents, conduct e-commerce, share Gigabytes of confidential messages with groups you never met at close to speed of light rate? … Good luck with paper and pencil 🙂

Milo M. June 18, 2016 4:13 PM


Maybe you mean “Danger, Will Robinson”.

Unless Winnie the Pooh has segued into Condition Orange.

Come to think of it, the Disney version of Pooh does look sort of orange.

Spooky June 18, 2016 5:28 PM

@ Wael,

Hah–well, no, I guess you won’t be doing much of that. 🙂 But, you do have the ability to communicate effectively with like-minded people using simple, manual cryptographic methods that are unaffected by improvements in computer-assisted cryptanalysis. Quite useful, that. And depending on the dystopian future du jour, you may some day find yourself having a need to communicate securely, without having the ability to actually trust any of the software or hardware at your disposal (imagine that)–in such a case, manual methods may be your only option. I’d recommend everyone learn 2-3 manual systems, as an inexpensive innoculation against various forms of oppression.


Gerard van Vooren June 18, 2016 5:33 PM

@ Putin Outs Clinton,

The release gives considerable weight to Putin’s claim that our once great country is also corrupt.

The only part I want to react upon is “our once great country”. Can you give me the time frame of when that was? If it’s about the twentieth century I suggest you to watch Oliver Stone’s “The Untold History of The United States”. After that you might change your opinion.

Thoth June 18, 2016 6:03 PM

Mobile banking or in general iBanking is still insecure due to the platform (smartphone or PC) is an insecure option and the chances of being hacked is high.

Anyway, the Tesco banking app should not be able to know the apps you installed unless the user gave too much permissions the the banking app which is a security risk. I do the best option is remove the Tesco app instead of giving up Tor and you are better off drawing cash from ATMs or local bank branches than mobile banking via smartphones.

po June 18, 2016 6:04 PM

@Gerard, Bending over backwards to cut them a break, you could say there was a period between 1900 and the early 1920s when the US actually contributed to rule of law with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, good-faith negotiation of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, Wilson’s 14 points, and so on. Not great by any means, but I’d trade. The Senate of the time was what the current totalitarian regime calls ‘isolationist,’ meaning they didn’t want to sail around bombarding everything in sight. Right through World War II some legislators retained this orientation, but once Taft got pushed aside for Eisenhower, the New Look entrenched covert coercive foreign interference and mutually assured destruction, and here we are.

Clive Robinson June 18, 2016 6:43 PM

@ Spooky,

For some reason, the primary long-standing memory that I have of the whole Iran Contra affair was their impressive shredding operation, or Shred Parties as they were called.

Yes there were plenty of paper shreding parties, and even “dress stuffing events”. I must admit my main memory of the time was where did the lucky so-n-so get such an attractive and class act secretary from 😉

However the smoking gun was the IBM office productivity system that the NSC used. It could run on mainframes and mini computers, and could be accessed with PC’s with IBM terminal cards and software. It was this system which North and Poindexter communicated on electronicaly. Both were unaware that deleting their personal message files did not delete backups held on tape etc.

The investigating committee had been given some emails but they contained refrences to emails they had not seen this “meta data” enabled a profficient assistant to seek them out. But how he did it was not officialy said initialy, it was later revealed as from backups on intermediate machines.

You can read more in an LA Times article of 10th Aug 1987, which they have helpfully put up online,

If you want to know the contents of some of those emails have a look at,


Clive Robinson June 18, 2016 7:11 PM

@ Wael,

It’s not practical or realistic to suggest such a “system” instead of what we have. This is not how the game is played!!!

When an attacking player blocks all other avenues of play, then yes this is the way the game will be played. Otherwise you forfeit, and you realy don’t want to do that as it can have a terminal effect on not just that game.

With regards the “tamper evident envelope” these have evolved with time and technology over five centuries or so. The original purpose was to show that the message part from Alice had arived at Bob without being observed / copied Originaly with a single courier little more than sealing wax and seals were used. If you remember OBL started off all HiTec with satellite phones, but as the technology got closed off, he ended up using a single courier method. With it’s been alleged that the courier used their body as the envelope to conceal the message with…

Clive Robinson June 18, 2016 7:26 PM

@ Secret Sysadmins,

Amidst the fog of BS, I think you are forgetting a key part of the story from about a year ago when it all started bubbling up. That the Secret Service was managing security for the server in question. Or was that some BS itself?

The honest answer is I don’t know the who or the what of the Clinton Email server. There are so many allegations and suppositions involved that it’s difficult to judge what may be true or not.

And “managing security for the server” can mean many different things. That is from just unknowingly guarding the building through knowingly guarding the physical hardware, to the point of actually having console access and full SysAdmin responsibilities…

It’s all a mess and “kicking up the riverbed” just clouds the issues further.

albert June 18, 2016 7:45 PM

@Clive, et al,

No question that the Russians are interested in Hillary Regina, notwithstanding the email server issues, etc.

She will be a Super Hawk, and likely outdo any previous POTUS, representing a true existential threat Russia (and others).

There are three kinds of relationships the US has with other countries:

  1. Countries we like: Israel, Canada, Australia, NATO countries, most EU states.
  2. Countries we don’t like, but put up with because they serve our interests, e.g. Saudi Arabia, etc.
  3. Countries we hate, because they value their sovereignty: Russia, China, etc.

You can guess the rest.

Hil’ry and Trump are being watched very carefully; especially Trump, who’s dangerous because he’s an unknown. Better the enemy you know, than the enemy you don’t know.

BTW, what happened to Ted and Carol?

. .. . .. — ….

life by 1000 band-aids June 18, 2016 8:58 PM


I appreciate your thoughtful response. I think we’re in agreement for the most part.

Re: “DuckDuckGo”
As much as I think their heart is in the right place, I’ve found DDG to be a mediocre search engine. However in this circumstance, DDG did return results when google did not. As did Yahoo. As did Bing. None of which are my preferred search engine.

Re: “Google News” search
Any search engine will return “news” results simply by typing applicable search terms. If you’re looking for a result by a specific source, it’s helpful to type the name of that source before the search term (even if that first search term is simply, “news”). But as far as “Google News or nothing”, that’s just not accurate at all.

Re: “the video”
I get what you’re saying about the video. I happened to experience the issue firsthand and then found the video later. I believe the video because I saw the issue beforehand and thought it most strange. However, I appreciate that if you did not see it firsthand, why you might think it less than convincing.

Re: “This doesn’t affect my earlier conclusion at all…”
Sir, I took great pains to explain that I did not disagree with your analysis. May I suggest in the future, you just gracefully accept the win.

Re: “Google’s intent isn’t sinister here…”
Define “sinister.” 0_o

Now for the fun part…

Re: Filter bubble burster (i.e., “Google news cookies”)
First let me say, I commend your general attitude towards breaking the filter bubble. However, I sense by what you wrote that you may have great opportunity towards better achieving that goal (and many others) by adding the following Firefox extensions/addins (or whatever are your browser-of-choice equivalents) to your defenses:

Basic defense –

1) NoScript (script blocker) – somewhat of a learning curve but the singularly most effective browser defense against any number of interweb nasties.

2) Disconnet (tracker blocker)

3) uBlock Origin (add blocker)

4) BetterPrivacy (LSO/Supercookie tracker delete)

5) Cookie Controller (cookie blocker/permissions)

More defense –

6) HTTP Nowhere (http blocker) – turn this on, if only once in a while, to see how many https sites redirect you to http. It’s a real eye opener.

7) Certificate Patrol (certificate management) – learning curve but really worth it if just for the edification on subject.

Sure why not –

HTTPS-Everywhere (http to https redirect)

Good luck and safe surfing!

Drone June 19, 2016 1:22 AM


Yes, I did see a number of posts elsewhere flagging the inevitability of a DAO attack. And here we are. Makes me wonder if the whole thing was a set-up.

Foxpup June 19, 2016 2:17 AM


People have been warning ever since Ethereum was first released that its “Turing-complete” smart contracts were far too complicated to write securely. It’s easy to forget that Bitcoin uses smart contracts too; the difference is that Bitcoin’s script language is intentionally limited (and not even close to Turing-complete) to make scripts easier to check for correctness. Security is hard, and adding complexity makes it harder. It’s not clear to me why anyone thought a cryptocurrency as complicated as Ethereum was a good idea.

Gerard van Vooren June 19, 2016 4:44 AM

@ po,

Bending over backwards to cut them a break, you could say there was a period between 1900 and the early 1920s when the US actually contributed to rule of law with the Kellogg-Briand Pact, good-faith negotiation of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, Wilson’s 14 points, and so on.

The Wilson era is episode A (the prequel) of The Untold History of the United States. It’s not broadcast on TV but it’s in the DVD and in the book (there is also an audio version).

It was the era of a couple of wars executed by US Marine General Smedley D. Butler, who later wrote War is a Racket and also the “help” of the US in WW1, which was started on false pretenses, broken election promises, and was also about the spoils of war for the US.

Not great by any means, but I’d trade.

You can. Just move to the poorer regions of Africa.

Thoth June 19, 2016 4:48 AM

Your script can be somewhat complex and Turing Complete all you want if the execution environment has a tiny TCB and is capable of catching the problem or even isolating each applets as they execute from each other.

Fact is moat of the execution environment we have are complex and untrusted and layering Ethereum’s own EVM on top of untrusted layers is complexity and insecurity on top of complexity and insecurity.

Security have to be approached from the ground up and that means the OS, compiler toolkit, VM and a whole load of stuff must be reliable and trusted especially the lower layers (i.e. OS).

In fact, any type of distributed execution and even standard Javascript should not be trusted and frown upon as they add additional vulnerabilities to your already complex and highly untrusted systems.

Distributed execution aggravates the situation by the fact when you manage to compromise a system that distributes and shares loads, the complexity and exposed layers becomes bigger. There is no known way to secure a distributed execution environment over an open network like Ethereum.

Foxpup June 19, 2016 6:58 AM


That’s somewhat academic, though I will note that a few major bugs in standard crypto libraries have been uncovered through Bitcoin’s provision of “automatic bug bounties” as kiwano puts it. The situation with the DAO is more fundamental: the smart contract contained a non-reentrant function which was called recursively, making payments to the attacker with each call until it ran out of money. The execution environment functioned flawlessly, perfectly executing the poorly-written code. Complicated smart contracts will simply never be feasible, regardless of all other security considerations, until they implement DWIM.

Ergo Sum June 19, 2016 7:03 AM

@life by 1000 band-aids…

Basic defense –

1) NoScript (script blocker) – somewhat of a learning curve but the singularly most effective browser defense against any number of interweb nasties.

2) Disconnet (tracker blocker)

Etc., etc…

The basic defense would be disconnecting from the web, this is more of an advance defense. And if you go to this length to protect privacy and security in the browser, you may want to add User Agent Switcher:

You can also test your settings at:

Thoth June 19, 2016 7:42 AM

Indeed what I describe is a broad and mostly uncommon but nevertheless plausible stuff.

They (Ethereum team) might want to subject their APIs and codes to at least partially formal modelling and testing to up the security assurance game. They could team up with Galois Inc. to begin doing their security models for their function calls and codes to harden Ethereum.

The Ethereum project and other software application projects can benefit from this Common Criteria Protection Profile to increase their security assurance (linked below).


Vatos June 19, 2016 7:53 AM


Do you recommend that people disable javascript for their daily web browsing?

CallMeLateForSupper June 19, 2016 8:01 AM

@Milo M.
Maybe you mean “Danger, Will Robinson”.

False flag. I meant CLIVE Robinson. 😉

Little Birdie June 19, 2016 8:12 AM


If you don’t use Bluetooth on your Windows machine, go into services and disable the three or so Bluetooth services.

Windows+R -> Run type services.msc enter….stop service, disable, restart.

No particular reason that I want to share.

Thoth June 19, 2016 8:13 AM

It is recommended but the fact of life is most webpages utilizes Javascript and that’s where you have to segregate your computer habits with one sacrificial computer for Internet browsing, a computer for work and so on….

Another method for people who cannot afford to own that many computers (or Raspberry Pis) would be to simply buy a few CD/DVD-R (Read-Only) and burn a few Live CD/DVD images. One image for Internet browsing and another for work and another for personal and so on and on top of that buy a few external hard disks especially for the sensitive stuff to be kept isolated (and possibly encrypted) entirely on a hard disk of it’s own. Cheap hard disks with probably 64 GB memory or smaller would be useful. If hard disks are too expensive, portable storage media like MicroSD cards would be fine too.

Vatos June 19, 2016 8:23 AM


I tend to think of javascript as pretty secure these days. What dangers are avoided by using separate images for browsing and personal stuff? If there is a bug in firefox which gave away VISA card info (and this seems like the most plausable thing to worry about), are you likely to avoid it by using an image?

Czerno June 19, 2016 9:01 AM

I use NoScript (in Firefox, which I do not trust and don’t use any more except for browsing with Tor anyway) or the similar ScriptSafe (formely ScriptNo) extension in Google Chrome, with scripts DISallowed and only allowed TEMPORARILY on a case by case basis when deemed really really needed, which is almost never. Contrary to what other may think or say, JScript or other forms of scripting are absolutely not necessary or useful for browsing to-days… at least not my kind of browsing. I also do not keep any cookies permanently or even from session to session. Totally useless.

YMMV. If you find yourself fequently doing certain activity (banking ?) that you can’t avoid JS, then as others suggested, use a separate, different browser.

HTH anyway !

Thoth June 19, 2016 10:52 AM

Varying degrees of hardening and network access. One would be used for general surfing with Adobe Flash, Javascript and all the media stuff, one without network and highly locked down for critical applications and so on.

herman June 19, 2016 11:34 AM

As an ex army officer, I have to agree that a rifle in the hands of an untrained person is not a good idea, but if someone in that hall was able to shoot back accurately, things could have ended much differently.

“If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” is unfortunately true.

Oswald Penna June 19, 2016 11:45 AM

“Do you recommend that people disable javascript for their daily web browsing?”

Not only does javascript significantly increase the attack surface of your browser (which, in itself, is probably the biggest attack vector in your system), it also makes it impossible to browse the internet without being tracked.

If you haven’t come across this yet:

Try running the test with and without javascript and compare the results.

Marcus June 19, 2016 12:13 PM

@Oswald Penna

Are you sure it’s not actually because of electrical power? If you don’t use any electrical power it’s been proven that your computer cannot be hacked.

But if you must use electrical power, then don’t turn the computer on, don’t type anything, don’t run anything, don’t do anything, don’t go anywhere, don’t talk to anyone.

Wow, see what a security genius I am.

aromatic butane June 19, 2016 12:58 PM


Contrary to what other may think or say, JScript or other forms of scripting are absolutely not necessary or useful

I agree. I use NoScript in whitelist mode and 95% of the time I can access everything I need. When I hit a website that doesn’t load without java I’ll allow it and refresh if I can be bothered, or just look for the information elsewhere.


Have you tried configuring your server with “iptables -I INPUT -j ACCEPT”? It really boosts your system’s usability.

herman June 19, 2016 1:13 PM

@aromatic butane
“iptables -I INPUT -j DROP” will boost a system even more…

Froth June 19, 2016 1:17 PM

@Marcus & herman:
Don’t forget to flush all your iptables rules first! (iptables -F) You don’t want those pesky exceptions getting in the way of your user experience.

Da Manager June 19, 2016 1:30 PM

Or you could just connect all the work stations in your office to your admin account via passwordless VPN. It saves so you all the trouble with forgotten passwords and user management.

PS: Do it over wifi for that extra level of convenience (you know, cable-free and all that).

Gerard van Vooren June 19, 2016 1:31 PM

@ herman,

As an ex army officer, I have to agree that a rifle in the hands of an untrained person is not a good idea, but if someone in that hall was able to shoot back accurately, things could have ended much differently.

Yes, the trained police officers that were at the spot stopped him all right. I simply can’t explain how incredibly stupid your idea is. Even if this event was prevented with people carrying guns, if you look at the total number of deaths and wounded caused by accidents with guns in the US each year this attack was peanuts.

“If you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” is fortunately true.

Curious June 19, 2016 2:50 PM

Pardon my ignorance, but what would cryptography be without relying on factoring prime numbers being a hard problem?

(What if it turns out that prime numbers aren’t hard to factor because prime numbers are simply intrinsic parts to some same same multidimensional math structure?)

Clive Robinson June 19, 2016 2:55 PM

@ herman,

As an ex army officer, I have to agree that a rifle in the hands of an untrained person is not a good idea, but if someone in that hall was able to shoot back accurately, things could have ended much differently.

I don’t know which army you claim to have been an officer in but, in most armies the soldiers on average can not shot all that accurately.

Let’s put it this way with a rifle good to 2cm/100m most soldiers would be very lucky to get a 20cm grouping over 10 shots in favourable unstressed conditions.

Further most people do not carry rifles around with them as they tend to be heavy, inconvenient and make them a target. So if alowed they carry hand guns. When hand guns were alowed in the UK, I used to fire them both for qualifying and sport. I do not consider myself a good shot with a pistol but there were a lot worse than me. Many who could barely hit a 1m by 1.75m board onto which their target was pasted from 25m, in favourable and unstressed conditions.

Thus I find your argument about “if someone in that hall was able to shoot back accurately”, abit like saying “if somebody won the Euro Millions jackpot”, only a few people ever fall in that group and the chances are you will never meet one on the day the beat the odds.

The simple fact is that the average person would be more likely to do the shooter harm with a higher class laser pointer than they would with a hand gun, and though still legal to carry higher class laser pointers around few if any do.

Ergo Sum June 19, 2016 3:30 PM

@Gerard van Vooren

Yes, the trained police officers that were at the spot stopped him all right. I simply can’t explain how incredibly stupid your idea is. Even if this event was prevented with people carrying guns, if you look at the total number of deaths and wounded caused by accidents with guns in the US each year this attack was peanuts.

Tell that to the 49 victims’ families that their loved ones are peanuts and not worth considering the idea of someone fighting back and saving them…

While this type of events are a small portion of the total number of gun related homicides, it’s a perfect news for gun control advocates. Despite the fact that statistically the gun related homicides dropped close to half since 1993:

During the same time period, the gun ownership has more than doubled in the US, 0.93 per person in 1993 to 1.45 in 2013. Maybe there’s a correlation between these numbers, maybe there isn’t. And yes, citizens do use their guns for self defense:

The self defense events just don’t make it in to the mainstream media…

josh June 19, 2016 5:08 PM

I don’t see how mandatory background checks, waiting periods, and increased restriction on some assault rifles and high powered ammo would prevent a reasonable person from legally obtaining and even carrying the type of gun which is suitable for self defense. Which would most likely be a handgun. Do people really use assault rifles against burglars, or carry them in the street in case they get attacked?
I understand the concern people have about governments disarming them, which seems to be the original context of the constitution. I kind of think the two issues of self defense against crime and the right to live in a country where the authorities aren’t the only people with guns need to be disentangled.
Anyway the reduction in crime in America has been shown to be due to many factors, but increased gun ownership and ability for absolutely anyone to purchase crazy powerful weapons is not one. Crime how decreased all over the western world in the last 25 years, and many of those countries have stricter controls than they did back then.

Figureitout June 19, 2016 5:23 PM

RE: browsing
–NoScript has been such a nice add-on, keep up the good work whoever is working on that.

–In addition to having dedicated PC’s that can mostly scrub memory after power cycle, I think one would also need multiple access points to connect to. That would be some money to cable companies but would be good opsec once you get it up and running. I’d place my tcpdump RasPi set up that sniffs from a throwing star lan-tap on the connection otherwise and check out the traffic from time to time (storing and analyzing all that data, would be more of a full-time job…).

Clive Robinson
–Got an update on my pet project, figured I’d annoy you some more. :p Made some good progress today, got encryption working on more than 8 bytes, and doing 64 rounds of XTEA, followed by 10 rounds of AES128 (not CBC since I don’t want to mess w/ IV’s, just single block, I have sufficient entropy built-in to change the message enough). The key to encrypting something like a struct is to “flatten the struct”, and turn it into a stream of bytes. That’s the key. Whatever the blocksize is, and size of what you’re encrypting, that can be modified by a good algorithm I stumbled on stackoverflow (some guy was doing exactly what I wanted).

So I’m not worried about messages getting cracked remotely, assuming someone is sniffing traffic (already a rare scenario). My next thing was being able to keep the nodes paired if one of them were to be jammed or lose power. So, I’m simply writing the channel number to EEPROM, and I keep track of activations there too. So that way, I can kill power to either TX or RX, and both nodes will remain synced.

The threat of jamming TX to prevent logging (channels will remain synced though), I can write a failure count to EEPROM and encrypt it, or blow a fuse, or something, but that’s still a big fail point.

Updated code will be coming soon for anyone interested.

Nick P June 19, 2016 5:35 PM

@ Foxpup, Thoth

Yeah, we’ve been having fun with Ethereum situation on various Hacker News threads. Lots of Bitcoin and Ethereum fans there who are still in stage 1 (Denial) or finally getting along in stages involving sad realizations. This tech is simply not trustworthy. Matter of fact, an organization, currency, and/or smart-contract platform with $150 million from people with some malicious insiders is a perfect situation for both high-assurance systems and all the OPSEC you can throw at it. I wrote this:

“This is an example of why I created my mantra for high-assurance security: “tried and true beats novel and new.” Another is to wait at least 10 years for specific tech and techniques to prove themselves out before betting lives or entire businesses on them (startups an exception).

The blockchain and DAO models are very new. They introduce new mathematical constructs, complex code, security issues we haven’t thought about, coordination among many for such issues, and so on. Ethereum even includes an interpreter or something, which has its own set of risks. So, I refused to bet on such models given enormous risk means stuff is going to happen to them that isn’t going to happen to regular, financial processing. We also have mitigations for most of its risks.

Today is a good example. This is the kind of thing you’re not going to see the Federal Reserve, VISA/Mastercard, most banks, or even large eCommerce sites announce. It probably won’t be the last announcement of an unusual issue. So, anyone wanting stable currency + commerce should avoid stuff like Ethereum unless they’re just investing small amounts to help them experiment & improve. Risk/reward doesn’t make sense on such immature tech.”

Let’s recap on how retarded this all is. I mean, first all these communities of N-coin or Ethereum advocates think that a centrally run system with decentralized code has no centralization risks. Then, they think something run by consensus of human beings might never need a lawyers. That those “things” exist for reasons that don’t pertain to organizations backing cool, distributed tech. Then, they think distributed altogithms will achieve better security on human side than banks who have employees turn in ID’s, sign NDA’s, and follow enforceable policies. Then, they think people who hire lawyers to screw each other for personal gain over English in contracts won’t do the same, intentionally or accidentally, in contracts written by programmers. Also that programmers are infallible. Finally, they think it’s a good idea to drop $150 million on all of that without any fail-safes, but with a declaration that implies coding hacks might be legal. Holy. Shit.

I’m not sure I have a simplifying analogy outside of tech that fails this badly. Oh, wait, it gets worse: the current DAO situation is just a “theoretical” risk per Vitalik Buterin. Darn, I wonder what he’d call more run of the mill hacking of Ethereum that didn’t siphon off $70+ million. Maybe “a speculative concept on the fringe of existence.” There we go. Yeah, safe to say dodge these mofo’s like the plague. They don’t know shit about information security or even “banking/finance management 101” apparently.

Clive Robinson June 19, 2016 6:10 PM

With regards javascript.

I generaly have it turned of on the mobile device I use to graze the internet.

As for sites –like forbs– that just will not load anything with Js turned off… I treat them the same way I do pay-walled sites. Which is, they chose to require it, I chose not to have it, as my wishes overrule their petty requirments, it’s by by site, it’s their loss not mine.

Thoth June 19, 2016 6:33 PM

@Nick P, Foxpup
With PCI-DSS, EMV, PBOC,MAS-TRM and other banking standards and banks having to spend millions of dollars regularly to meet all those standarss in order to have a license to operate their business, they still can’t get their security right let alone small organisations like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

People have been asking me regarding my constant refusal in using Bitcoin or cryptocurrency since I am in this sector and precisely being in this sector of seurity engineering, you are very wary of the immaturity and lack of formalized security these new cryptocurrency have. Even the EMV make mistakes let alone Ethereum. These cryptocurrencies are too new, volatile and untested to be trusted yet.

life by 1000 band-aids June 19, 2016 6:47 PM

@Erogo Sum


Re: “The basic defense would be disconnecting from the web, this is more of an advanced defense.”
I grew up w/o the web and would happily disconnect forever if not for the bountiful information stream it provides and that my personal finances depend upon staying connected. Oh, and the porn is also swell.

For the sake of argument lets just assume we’re not going to completely disconnect from the web. In that case, this defense is extremely basic. I started reading this blog after Snowden. At first, I couldn’t understand a word the regular commenter’s here were talking about (this is still often the case). I had to look up almost every term they mentioned. My initial thought was, how could a mere mortal ever hope to protect themselves in the slightest? I caused me much distress to say the least.

Where I am with it now is that one needs to accept they’re in this for the long-haul. Forget about 100% security – as most folks don’t need that anyway (and in all probability, is impossible). Just focus on learning a little everyday and applying as much sand to the gears of Big Brother as you’re able.

Besides being regularly terrified, that’s what I get here. Btw – Thanks @All, I continue to learn and am forever in your debt.

Re: “User Agent Switcher”
I like the basic idea of this addon. As I said, I’m just a mere mortal when it comes to security. I used an addon called “Random Agent Spoofer” for a very long while until I found a site called, which gave me the heads-up that using such an addon might be letting some folks know I’m obfuscating. And that’s fine in some cases (and why in some cases I still use this addon), but not in others. So like with all defenses, its value depends. As always, pick your poison and apply whatever addon is appropriate towards whatever your threat model.

Nick P June 19, 2016 7:51 PM

How SQLite is Tested

I heard it was pretty rigorous. However, this regiment is so thorough that it checked off all the boxes on a prototype I had for high-assurance testing methodology then some. Incredibly impressive. I think any reboot of a standard for high-assurance could probably get away with just copy and pasting that page if they felt lazy. I’d probably not complain given it’s so thorough that anything I add will only get marginal gains if any. 🙂

The Father’s of the Internet Revolution Urge Today’s Software Engineers to Reinvent the Web

Interesting article. My commentary on the recommendations is here.

Nick P June 19, 2016 7:58 PM

EDIT: I meant copy and paste SQLite page for “testing section” of a high-assurance reboot. Clarifying in case it read like I meant to replace the whole process.

Clive Robinson June 19, 2016 11:04 PM

Oh further on why Javascript and similar are not realy a good idea with the state of out-of-the-box browser technology,

As a thinking point, all malware with a payload needs an executable environment for the payload to run. Crackers spend alot of their time trying to get a toe hold in a system just to get an executable environment, either to further attack that machine or as a staging point / springboard to attack other machines.

By far the majority of attacks are absolutely dependent on gaining a remote executable environment either to function or provide the attacker with remote force multiplication. This has been known since well before the Robert Morris Worm in 1988 nearly thirty years ago. Which made it obvious to all users of the then fledgling 56Kbps NFSNET –that would later become the “Commercial Internet” of today– that uncontroled accessable execution environments were very bad news indeed.

So you have to ask yourself the very serious question of why you would willingly open up an execution environment to anybody who can get “upstream” of your computer? Especialy when it’s been shown that attacks can be injected into data from sites / IP hosts you’ve “whitelisted” in some way.

Then also think on why you do the same with MS-Office Macro’s, PDF files and much more besides…

Figureitout June 19, 2016 11:18 PM

life by 1000 band-aids
I started reading this blog after Snowden
–Yeah I started like around 2009/2010, when my dad got me Applied Crytography II and I googled Bruce’s name lol, otherwise I would have no clue who Bruce was and he probably would’ve remained another “talking head pundit” but he’s far from your typical talking head, you can tell when he says some things but doesn’t really mean it, then says what he’s really thinking later.

My security posture went from totally pathetic, my opsec was beyond atrocious (I still can improve it quite a bit), meaning most any attack would be able to easily persist beyond my attempted cleanups, to now I usually have strongest security setup among my peers and can switch it into high gear if I have a reason to. When I went to a security conference some of those guys probably had better (network, that’s it, I know I’d beat them at opsec or counterintel) setups than me, but I’d give them a run for their money.

It comes down to how much you want to be secure, I really want it. And if you’ve had some bad hacking experiences, that’s how Brian Krebs got into security, probably how a ton of people did. Not a good feeling knowing someone f*cked you and you can’t get back at them.

Thanks @All
–Stay tuned, we’re only getting started. Really gotta watch out for the names putting technical deliverables out. But it depends if people are willing to put in the effort to build what may be necessary, even if build instructions are provided. There’s also some really interesting deliverables on the horizon.

RE: user agent switcher
–Yeah I use that on Orweb, the browser is pretty good at cleaning up after itself but honestly it’s not the greatest for just surfing on a mobile phone.

NTH June 19, 2016 11:25 PM

Is there a pen-and-paper method for establishing a shared secret over insecure channels?

Figureitout June 20, 2016 12:11 AM

–No, this is a fundamental problem that won’t be solved in the foreseeable future. You need to physically hand paper (acting like there’s high resolution cameras peeping for any hints during the entire transfer) of the codebook/keys that you’ve written down in a secured location while looking for shoulder snoopers (visible cameras, being out in the open, etc.) over to whoever you want to talk to in utmost privacy. Be best to agree to meet somewhere over insecure network, scan the area, then discretely say where to meet next to do the exchange and look for any similar faces. Repeat until you feel comfortable.

Simple and effective, won’t be easily hacked. But you need a damn good reason to do this, b/c it’s either awkward or weird (this is a problem I’ve mentioned before w/ high security, the awkwardness…).

Wael June 20, 2016 12:32 AM

@Figureitout, @NTH,

Is there a pen-and-paper method for establishing a shared secret over insecure channels?

Come on, guys! It’s a simple DH protocol. Just do it manually or with an offline calculator. Give it a try here, I promise I’ll be nice 😉

Clive Robinson June 20, 2016 12:54 AM

@ Life by 1000 bandaids,

My initial thought was, how could a mere mortal ever hope to protect themselves in the slightest? I caused me much distress to say the least.

Whilst it can seem like you “get thrown under the bus before you can walk” with the Internet there are some quite simple things you can do to reduce your risk.

As I noted above by far the majority of attackers need an “execution environment”. If you can deny them this then it’s effectively game over, unless they can manipulate you or another user of your computer via content you actually experience to do something you should not.

But even if an attacker can get an execution environment, they still need access to other resources to do harm. This is the idea behind Sandbox and Virtual Machine technologies, which are an extention of the earlier ideas around diskless network based thin clients of the 1990’s and earlier. You can emulate much of the thin client security by using a CDROM based OS running in RAM on a computer striped of all but essential resources. This has been a security recomendation for twenty years now and is still the best way for most ordinary users to go. Sadly though Linux Magazine’s that have CDs and DVDs on the cover “ready made” to do this are becoming a thing of the past.

Outside of this, the real problem many people make, is the mistake of mixing up three activities they realy should keep seperate,

1, Private productivity activities.
2, Personal social activities.
3, Entertainment activities.

One reason for this difficulty is the root of all evil “Money”. Much of the Internet is predicated on “in band financial transactions” which blurs the edges of these activites significantly for many people.

Financial transaction security is at best a joke and in most cases nonexistant in any meaningfull way. The reason for this is that the central payments systems owners have externalised their risk to the account holding issuing banks, who in turn have externalised the risk to the account holders and merchants. So their primary interest is not in improving security for account holders or merchants because that would mean taking some or all of that externalised risk back again. There are ways you can limit the risk with some types of “virtual credit cards” or “pre pay cards” but they are very jurisdiction dependent, as are the dispute resolution options.

But the other significant reason why there is bluring or no seperation of these activities, is that humans are social creatures, who usually carry out the three activities in a place they feel secure in. Thus they do not think defensively as they would in other places.

Whilst there are technical solutions to some of the above issues that might actually become secure –think issues with SSL etc– one day, the others require legislation and education. On the issue of legislation it is clear that there is a wide disparity on what legislators think or are coerced into thinking. The US for instance significantly favours commerce over privacy, the EU much less so. The result as was seen over various IP issues imense and well financed lobbying from US interests aimed at EU legislators and as that did not have the desired effect now secret trade agrements. Where US Corporate lawyers get not only to see the secret negotiations they have major input into them, whilst elected officials and citizens have no say in the matter.

But importantly at the end of the day individuals who are adults, are deemed to be responsible for their actions and any harms they might cause. Part of being a responsible adult is learning right from wrong at a level society in general holds as a norm.

The problem with this is most humans only relate to tangible objects in a physical universe. That is nearly all their assumptions about the way things work are based on reasoning about tangible objects they can directly sense. Not however tangible objects outside of their ordinary sensing abilities or more significantly intangible information that has no physical limitations. Thus their ordinary learned abilities mislead them into making incorrect assumptions thus reasoning, which means things can and do go horribly wrong.

The solution to this as has always been the case is a mixture of education and experience. Currently few Governments require children to become educated in the practicalities of intangible information nor is there much experience that the majority of adults have that can be passed on. Whilst the former can be changed with political will, the latter will take several generations to become ubiquitous (think about the history of cars to see why).

Figureitout June 20, 2016 1:13 AM

Give it a try
–All my OTP’s always come down to some message dealing w/ drinking my ovaltine though…so easy to crack. :p

Clive Robinson June 20, 2016 1:29 AM

@ NTH, Figureitout, Wael,

Is there a pen-and-paper method for establishing a shared secret over insecure channels?

I suspect you are not asking the question you should be asking, which is why you got to replies that are correct but appear to conflict with each other.

If you are only talking about getting a “number” that only the two people know, then providing they know they are actually talking to each other –which is a big IF– then Wael is correct with a lot of paper and pencils and a calculator you could use the DH Protocol for secret sharing (though how much longer DH will be valid for is an open question).

But that “big IF” is a major problem because it allows for impersonation attacks, which is what Figureitout is talking about.

As can be quickly realised, if you can not authenticate the person you are talking to then you could share a secret number with the wrong person. As history shows a secret shared with the wrong person gives that person a number of opportunities to cause harm.

The unsolved and possibly unsolvable issue is the very important authentication step. If you think about it there is currently no way to tell remotely if the person is who they say they are without a “trusted” third party the two parties already share a secret with. But this only works if the third party can not be impersonated or cheated and is compleatly trustworthy.

Wael June 20, 2016 1:32 AM


All my OTP’s always come down to some message dealing w/ drinking my ovaltine …

Good heavens, mate! What happened to your OPSEC? Didn’t anyone tell you not to leak information (voluntarily, mind you?) My suggestion is to replace that Ovaltine® drink with a nice warm cup of STFU. Keep your lips tight (loose lips sink ships, they say.) Say, while you’re at it, what’s the password to your email account?

Besides, this ain’t no OTP 🙂

Wael June 20, 2016 2:20 AM

@Clive Robinson, @Figureitout, @NTH,

The unsolved and possibly unsolvable issue is the very important authentication step.

The fact that multiple discussion iterations are allowed on a blog that lets people choose duplicate identities changes the dynamics of a DH key exchange. Still seems solvable to me because it’s a little different than DH proper.

Curious June 20, 2016 2:25 AM

Btw, I saw a twitter message not too long ago, seemingly about how there, as I think I remember it, would or might be a new psychiatric diagnose created for people thinking they are under mass surveillance or something. I didn’t follow it up, so I don’t know for sure if this is a real thing. I have too many twitter feeds open every day, can’t read all the links showing up.

I had learned some time ago that someone from north america that I played a game with, someone who also supposedly works or worked in the arms industry, apparently implied with such words that I had been sort of creating attention like creating rings in the water, and there was something about it being not too bad if I didn’t do anything wrong. There is no knowing if that was just bullshit or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if something I had written somewhere had ended up me being placed on some list somewhere. Who knows, maybe if I traveled to the middle east, I would become a target. I don’t think that is unreasonable concern, given how my opinions overall basically vilify and criminalize certain people and various state powers.

If I can give some advice to people on twitter. If linking to news pertaining to traditional institutions which also are associated with abuse, please consider not acting like their mouth piece uncritically.

tyr June 20, 2016 3:58 AM


So you’re saying we are all now in the DSM-VI !!

Any one who thinks they built Bluffdale to store
a few folks is highly delusional.


The saying among serious pistol shooters is that
you have to shoot your own weight in gunpowder to
be considered in the club. For 45 Auto that’s
200,000 rounds shooting hot loads. you can make
about 1000 rounds with a 1 pound can.
You are correct about the average nitwit running
around armed because most of their experience
is at ranges under controlled conditions which
is not the same as live targets in field conditions.
This applies to the army as well, though I’d bet
a few of them have learned something besides
“spray and pray” in the ME region.
What I have always found weird is that the rifles
used in WW2 were designed to kill cavalry horses
and the modern infantry is mainly armed with
quite lesser equipment, it’s quite enough for
the job which is wounding enemy combatants but
has serious lacks in the deadly department.

Here’s a nice fact for the gun control crowd,
the Sullivan Act banned Assault Weapons in
the United States in 1934.
What the yappers are chattering about are the
ARs and it stands for Armalite Rifle. Fully
automatic versions require a Class III federal
liscense to own.


The best tales of Ollie were of him and Clives
GF shredding files on one side of the room as
the FBI was rummaging in the files on the
other side looking for evidence. Anyone who
thought he was James Bond needed Fawn by
his side at work.

Wael June 20, 2016 4:02 AM


would or might be a new psychiatric diagnose created for people thinking they are under mass surveillance or something.

Probably related to an older disorder: Scopophobia! When it comes to security, Paranoia and Scopophobia aren’t necessarily bad. Now where did I put my straitjacket?

Precious is what Mom calls me June 20, 2016 4:05 AM

But importantly at the end of the day individuals who are adults, are deemed to be responsible for their actions and any harms they might cause.

Clive, this is a sound moral and legal premise, but it is rapidly being eroded.

Individual agency has been undercut by the use of psychological operations against civilians by the state.

The military uses terms like “human landscape”, implicitly lumping individuals into statistical categories. Some think that collective mental “hills” can be “taken” by launching information offensives.

Psychological signature strikes are carried out against certain kinds of people or groups based on profiles formed from metadata parsed by neural nets.

Weapons like those described in the 1998 paper “The Mind Has No Firewall” are in routine use in the US, which means that normally understood ego boundary concepts don’t apply there. Subliminal interrogation is practical. Psychological containment of a person’s own thoughts is no longer a foregone conclusion.

And the military methods are being adopted by the police. They are attempting to normalize psychological conditioning of the population and zersetzung tactics by promoting “pre-crime” methods in the press.

So I wonder how the concept of justice can even be applied to people who have essentially been reduced to puppets?

cal June 20, 2016 5:33 AM

Sounds like something out of an Umberto Eco novel. He sadly died in February, so suspiciously/poignantly/ironically/conspiracy-theoretically the timing of the subreddit handover is consistent with his having had a hand in it…

Herman June 20, 2016 5:50 AM

@Gerard van Vooren
I would guess that you lived your whole life in a safe and civilized environment, but having a .38 special in her purse saved my wife and child once. I don’t have much trouble in the streets, because I am a large male, but my big diving knife that I always have in my car saved me twice. In these events, the would be mugger changed his mind very abruptly and ran away. Cases like these will never get into the news papers, because ‘nothing’ happened.

So, it much depends on where you live and which part of humanity you regularly get into contact with, what your view on personal defence will be. The big problem is that the Police can only act after the fact and after your wife or child is dead, they are not much help. So your first line of defence is you.

If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Ergo Sum June 20, 2016 8:11 AM

@life by 1000 band-aids..

Certainly, most of the security stuff can be learned, but most people do not have the inclination to do so. And even if you learned and use it, Clive will tell you that your system is still wide open for the taking… 🙂

Thanks for the link…

None of the user agent switchers prevent actual browser and OS leaks 100%. Determined and/or targeted attacks will gather OS, browser, etc., information. For example, Windows OS TCP/IP fingerprint is coded in the DLL files and cannot be obfuscated:

On the other hand, they are good enough to derail automated, or scripted hacking attempts. And that’s all one can ask for. If you really want to obfuscate your location, browser, etc., you’d need to use ToR browser and/or VPN services.

With ToR browser, my actual IP, browser, OS, time zone, etc., are not detected. Using other browsers, this information comes to light…

festive banana June 20, 2016 8:24 AM


“Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study”


Data from a US mortality follow-back survey were analyzed to determine whether having a firearm in the home increases the risk of a violent death in the home and whether risk varies by storage practice, type of gun, or number of guns in the home. Those persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 1.9, 95% confidence interval: 1.1, 3.4). They were also at greater risk of dying from a firearm homicide, but risk varied by age and whether the person was living with others at the time of death. The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home (adjusted odds ratio = 10.4, 95% confidence interval: 5.8, 18.9). Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method (adjusted odds ratio = 31.1, 95% confidence interval: 19.5, 49.6). Results show that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

American Journal of Epidemology, Volume 160 Issue 10, pp. 929-936

65535 June 20, 2016 8:24 AM

@ Clive Robinson and herman

“I don’t know which army you claim to have been an officer in but, in most armies the soldiers on average can not shot all that accurately.”

Clive’s point is well taken.

Most police train with a hand guns at 3 yards and a long guns at 100 or so yards only SWAT snipers train at longer distances [from what my LE contacts tell me].

Emptywheel feels the Orlando killings are probably high because four police officers entered the building packed with 300 people and opened fire on the shooter – missing him with their hand guns [each hand gun could about 12 to 20 round magazines]. Because of this fact and other facts [concision grenades] could have doubled the amount of people killed – but is only speculation.

“Orlando’s police chief said that it was possible that some law enforcement officers — that might include the four who initially responded to Omar Mateen or the nine SWAT team members who later did — had (accidentally) shot Pulse patrons.” – Emptywheel

“The medical examiner has had a final count of how many victims were killed in the cross-fire since Tuesday.” – Emptywheel

I will that if trigger happy police entered the building to neutralize the shooter and killed a number of innocent people in Orlando this is only a data point in the case.

Sooner or later, the police would have to have a shoot-out with the shooter. It’s kind of a non-issue but could be a learning point in hostage taking situations.

Thoth June 20, 2016 11:04 AM

@Clive Robinson
re: Accuracy of troopers

Very true especially in a scenario when someone or a group of people are shooting at you. Putting a trooper in a nice range setup is a benefit until when the actual load and stress comes in.

Just spray and pray 😀 .

Herman June 20, 2016 11:36 AM

Quoting suicide statistics is not useful since it is not relevant to a crazy shooter situation.
Statistics also do not include cases where an attack was repulsed simply by showing a fire arm without firing a shot. In my experience this happens far more often than actual shootings.
There was one case not long ago where a shooter in a church was shot by an off duty security guard. So some Americans do know how to shoot straight.
My wife was a sharp shooter. She only made a single hole in a target- all bullets went through it. Im not too bad either and performance under stress comes with training.
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Anselm June 20, 2016 11:49 AM

“Orlando’s police chief said that it was possible that some law enforcement officers — that might include the four who initially responded to Omar Mateen or the nine SWAT team members who later did — had (accidentally) shot Pulse patrons.” – Emptywheel

The problem here is that guys like Mateen are at a massive advantage because they don’t need to care who or what they hit. Police officers or SWAT operators, on the other hand, have to figure out exactly what to shoot at, because even a near-miss could injure or kill someone who just accidentally happens to stand behind the target (possibly, depending on the type of weapon and ammunition in use, with a dry wall in between). In any case, the marksmanship of many police officers doesn’t seem to be that great to begin with, as is evidenced by the huge amounts of ordnance (tens or hundreds of rounds) expended in many shootout situations before the bad guys get away unscathed.

Military hostage-rescue teams and the like spend unbelievable amounts of time just practicing to make sure they don’t accidentally shoot one another (or for that matter the hostages) in a high-stress situation. This is the sort of practice that run-of-the-mill law enforcement officers don’t get, let alone random people who like to run around with handguns in their pockets. It is fairly safe to say that, as far as danger to innocent bystanders is concerned, a situation where there is one terrorist and four gun nuts trying to take out the terrorist isn’t all that different from a situation where there are five terrorists in the first place. (This is incidentally why arming teachers so they can respond to school shootings is a terrible, terrible idea.)

Gerard van Vooren June 20, 2016 12:52 PM

@ Ergo Sum,

Tell that to the 49 victims’ families that their loved ones are peanuts and not worth considering the idea of someone fighting back and saving them…

Do you really need to throw the hammer into the discussion? But let me reply with this Wikipedia link. Look at the numbers of US and the UK for a quick reference.

Despite the fact that statistically the gun related homicides dropped close to half since 1993…

… During the same time period (1993 to 2013), the gun ownership has more than doubled in the US, 0.93 per person in 1993 to 1.45 in 2013. Maybe there’s a correlation between these numbers, maybe there isn’t.

How do I explain that? The number of guns is not important (esp when almost everyone has one). The number of people who have direct access to guns, that is important. I don’t think that having 2 or 3 guns a person changes the mortality rate. Having zero or one does!

The second argument is politics. Remember the year 1993.

@ herman,

I would guess that you lived your whole life in a safe and civilized environment…

Yes! It’s called The Netherlands. Nice little country except for the weather right now (it’s good crop weather) and it’s a bit crowded. In general we are also not flag wavers nor do we have that patriotic crap that the US is full of. And most of us don’t own nor have access to guns.

… but having a .38 special in her purse saved my wife and child once.

Did it really? What about pepper spray, wouldn’t that helped too?

I don’t have much trouble in the streets, because I am a large male, but my big diving knife that I always have in my car saved me twice. In these events, the would be mugger changed his mind very abruptly and ran away.

So a knife, not a gun saved your life twice? I would still stick with pepper spray btw.

But now serious, just look at the numbers of the first link in this message. Numbers don’t lie. The US has by far the highest firearm-related death rate of any Western country. In fact only a couple banana republics have a higher rate. Think about it.

Mata Hairy June 20, 2016 1:51 PM


“Is there a pen-and-paper method for establishing a shared secret over insecure channels?”

Sure. Would you like me to post it on an internet forum?

Nick P June 20, 2016 4:26 PM

Alan Kay doing an AMA on Hacker News. Jump in!

He had some good conversations with us over there in the past. So, he agreed to do an AMA on the site so we could get his thoughts on various things. It’s ongoing. Link is here.

Slime Mold with Mustard June 20, 2016 5:09 PM

I must concur with @Clive et al regarding the average pistol shooter’s ability.

I teach self-defense, both unarmed and armed as a sideline.

As for unarmed, we practice sparing only for ju-jitsu/wrestling moves. For striking, we beat up trees. Kumite teaches a student how not to hit people.

For armed combat, we start with safety, then stationary targets, on to predictable then unpredictable moving targets, Part 3 of the course is firing at different moving targets while weaving between points of cover as people throw (small) rocks at the student. I decline to outline phase 4. Suffice to say, I do not believe these people can be spooked. Finding a place to practice is more difficult than it used to be. Indoor ranges are pretty useless.

It would not surprise me at all to discover that one or more of the patrons at the Orlando nightclub had a weapons permit, but were not armed. Only half of permitted holders say they “carry often or always”. If your “earthquake alarm” weighed three pounds, caused raised eyebrows, and you did not live in California or Japan, would you “remember” it always? Additionally, it is extremely illegal to carry while drinking.

Carrying a pistol saved my life twice in targeted murder attempts (a third time, I had to use my hands and was wounded). My wife saved her own life with her pistol. I have waved off would be muggers on public transit so often I have lost count.

RE; Homicides: 49% of US homicides occur among a ethnicity that makes up 13% of the population. It is still far to high, regardless. Our non-US readers should try to understand how this is linked to drug dealing gangs.
RE: Suicides: Japan still has trains.
RE: Accidents: UNF***NG FORGIVABLE –

I hate to be so personal, but I have such a different experience than most here. I grew up with firearms. Every boy in the family got his .22 rifle for his 11th birthday. Moving between rural and urban areas, I was shocked, decades ago, to hear a 10 or 11 year old African – American kid on city bus brag to a girl “I got a gun”. I’ve spent much of my life where that is like saying “I’ve got a lawn mower” (but it was damn hazardous to be a rabbit).

Dirk Praet June 20, 2016 6:38 PM

@ Gerard Van Vooren, @ Ergo Sum

I’m having a bit of a hard time understanding Trump and other people claiming that the massacre could have been prevented if more people at that club had been packing. Doesn’t sound to me like they have ever been to a crowded gay club where more than half of the patrons are either drunk or high on ecstacy, cocaine or poppers.

So imagine a situation where a guy walks in with an automatic rifle and starts shooting people. The most likely outcome would be that all the drunks and dopies would start shooting at each other, as would police and SWAT teams arriving on scene. Irrespective of your position on gun control, am I the only person to think that this would be an incredibly stupid idea?

Anon10 June 20, 2016 6:49 PM


if you look at the total number of deaths and wounded caused by accidents with guns in the US each year this attack was peanuts.

According to the CDC, 505 deaths resulted from the accidental discharge of a firearm in 2013 in the US. Sure, the US has a lot of homicides and suicides from firearms, but deaths from accidental/negligent discharges are much rarer than you’re implying.

Nick P June 20, 2016 7:53 PM

@ All

re safe software

Many languages with memory safety do so with a garbage collector. The GC is usually written in an unsafe language, esp C. There’s been attempts to mathematically verify GC’s. That’s naturally something we have a talent limit on. Applying safe, non-GC, languages to the problem could be helpful but handling dynamic memory is often out of scope for them. In this paper, the researchers use the static and dynamic protections of Rust language to implement a garbage collector with good results. Most importantly, maintains performance advantage of C GC’s.

Maybe people should start recoding their GC’s. Language VM’s and standard libraries, too, for that matter. 🙂

@ Slime Mold

Same here. Quite a few muggings, rape attempts, and death threats have been prevented in my family by drawing or displaying a firearm. Especially true among the women and elderly here as the crooks are often aggressive, alpha males likely to win a fist-fight. I had OC pepper spray but a steady percent is immune with others likely to keep coming at you. With bullets, they eventually drop even in worst case. I recommend carrying both, though, so a non-lethal option is available. A fog over a spray so one can just draw an S in front of the attacker while stepping backward. Any situation with crowds is fucked either way. If in crowded area, subsonic hollowpoints can at least reduce stray bullet risk.

Far as accidents, I almost always hear about it happening in the cities despite rural people having the most guns as far as I can tell. I’d love to see good data on where most of these accidents occur. Especially suburbs and cities vs rural areas with a similar breakdown on gun ownership. I have a hunch that it will be smaller in rural areas because people are raised using and showing respect for firearms. In the suburbs or cities, they often hide their guns from kids then go to shooting ranges. Best way to get a kid to do something is tell them it’s for grown-ups only and keep them in the dark. I know that’s how I did shit I wasn’t supposed to, including holding my first 9mm. Whereas, the .22’s I was allowed to shoot I understood and respected well.

No kids in my area would aim real guns at people. Not until I went to mostly-black schools where they brought so many guns and weapons in that lockers were banned. Would steal or deface books, too, just for fun. I still have back problems from all those books I carried. In any case, that was first environment I was in where kids would consider aiming guns at other kids outside of toys and playing.

@ Anon10

One thing people often leave off citing gun risks in the U.S. is the other side of the equation: what it stops. Surveys put that number between 162,000 to 1+ million a year extrapolated from answers in the surveys. It was half a million on home defense alone per CDC. I’ll trade 40,000 murders for 162,000 to a million rescues any day. Simple numbers. Also, I wonder how much higher the violent, non-gun crimes would’ve gone up if those people weren’t armed with effective weapons. The UK gives us some not so nice hints about that.

Glomar June 20, 2016 7:53 PM

I just hatched a “new” conspiracy theory chatting with a friend a few minutes ago:

Back in 2014 according to The Guardian, “You can be turned into an informant (or punished if you refuse) Keeping track of suspected terrorists may not be the only purpose the watchlisting system serves. Recent lawsuits allege that the FBI uses it to as leverage to turn people into snitches.”

So the FBI had the Orlando shooter under investigation and on the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) or Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE), a broad terror database that feeds into the TSDB. Then he was taken off the list by the FBI’s own admission so my question is did the FBI offer to end their investigation and take him off the list if he turned informant against his “community”?

Sounds plausible to me.

Glomar June 20, 2016 8:07 PM

There’s no appeal process to get off these lists. The Orlando killer was employed by G4S, the world’s largest security company. Can you work for such a company if you’re on the TSDB? Loss of livelyhood is a lot of leverage. Again according to the Guardian, “So much for that job.” The only way off the lists is what?

Nick P June 20, 2016 8:33 PM

@ Dirk Praet

I agree. We had the same statements in comments here on Aurora shooting. Some people were plotting gun control. Some self-defense. Eventually, someone pointed out it was a dark room full of people and tear gas. How could a self-defense situation not go horribly wrong in that situation? Similarly for the clubs.

That said, violence (including shootings) regularly happens in clubs in city near me. The security usually takes care of it either dealing with the perps or pushing it onto the streets so it’s not their problem. The average patron might not handle the situation but armed bouncers or regulars moonlighting as muscle might be able to. Not saying the specific one in Orlando as I’m not following it. Just that defending clubs in general from armed attackers is feasible as many do it on regular basis. Just need right people doing it.

Spooky June 20, 2016 9:10 PM

@ Clive,

Thanks for the two links, they were quite informative. In all that I’ve read so far, I am amazed that a senior officer would have failed to consider the lengthy audit trail made possible by a fully computerised document management system; or, perhaps he was aware of it, but had to accept that there was really nothing he could do about it, apart from continuing to distract the focus of investigators. Information never fails to find a way to eventually escape its owners. It’s harder to keep bottled than hydrogen…

On that note, I’m reminded of an odd situation I stumbled into more than a decade ago. Enough time has passed that I feel reasonably comfortable mentioning it here and my brain is such a sieve these days that most of the details are lost to time. I received a used laptop (a classic 560 series Thinkpad, I believe) from an online e-waste retailer and the hard drive had not been erased; normally, that is done by default prior to shipment. Being a curious person, I decided to see if I could find out who the laptop’s previous owner had been, before reformatting the drive and installing one of the popular flavors of BSD Unix. Sigh. It turns out that the laptop had once been owned by a government contractor who appeared to be the coordinator of a small intelligence working group. This group, in conjunction with two unusual companies (identified later as having been regularly used for CIA business), were conducting drone-mounted GPR (ground-penetrating radar) overflights from improvised bases in South America, with occasional incursions into neighboring countries. Needless to say, I practically fell out of my chair while reading about this foolishness. Without a doubt, apart from the whole Iran Contra affair, we do get up to some pretty shady business south of the border. Later on that night, I zeroed the entire disk and smashed it to pieces with a sledge hammer, before discarding the remnants in a nearby skip. Clearly, whatever infosec policies had been in place to prevent such an unintentional release had failed spectacularly. Perhaps subcontracted companies are not required to observe the more restrictive infosec/opsec guidelines, despite having repeated close contact with those that do (allowing data to occasionally leak at the intersection of those two worlds). Maybe a bankruptcy filing forced the unplanned sale of all of their corporate assets? I have no idea, although I do have a hard time believing that this was an isolated incident.

@ tyr,

Lol, I have a mental image of the scenario you describe, with the Benny Hill theme song playing in the background. Keystone Cops…


CallMeLateForSupper June 20, 2016 9:43 PM

@Dirk Praet
“So imagine a situation where a guy walks in with an automatic rifle and starts shooting people. The most likely outcome would be that all the drunks and dopies would start shooting at each other, as would police and SWAT teams arriving on scene.”

Even if every person were sober, there would be mayhem, confusion and panic, with fratricide the likely result. A shooter and a crowd in close quarters is a nghtmare scenario. Throw in one or more armed civilians, and you’ve got an even deadlier scenario. I would not choose to be in that space, even if every other patron were a sober U.S. Marine infantryman still dusty from Afghanistan.

“Irrespective of your position on gun control, am I the only person to think that this would be an incredibly stupid idea?”

You are not alone.

“If guns are outlawed, [yadda-yadda]”.

That is a tired old conservative red herring you blessed us with twice today. There is no serious debate about outlawing all guns. Implying otherwise only makes the reciter sound out of touch with reality. So please, just stop.

More guns is not the solution to death by gun.

Anon10 June 20, 2016 9:45 PM

@festive banana

Ignoring that your paper is based on 23-year-old data, it’s a case study in what’s wrong with social science research. To get that 1.9 number, it’s Adjusted for sex, age group, race/ethnicity, education, marital status, residential status, region of death, alcohol consumption within 4 hours of death, illicit drug use, and an expressed wish to die. The model for suicide was also adjusted for depression/anxiety, suicidal ideation, and the interaction between the presence of a firearm in the home and sex. While it might be appropriate to adjust for some of those factors, it’s also true that a researcher can slant the data quite a bit by what confounding variables they choose to include and which to exclude for their model. The crude ratio is only 1.5. Using their own data, it’s not clear how they got a crude ratio of 1.5. According to their own data, 40% of households have firearms and 41.9% of decedents had firearms in their household. That means households with firearms should have a ~8% higher risk, not 50% of a homicide. The data on suicides looks a lot stronger.

Figureitout June 20, 2016 9:58 PM

Clive Robinson
–It’s all about authentication.

–Haha I know, joking. I don’t live like an opsec freak that never shares what I’m doing (also makes spying on me pretty pointless). I hate living like that. When I need it though, when there’s a good reason, I have no other choice. You won’t hear about that buddy. :p

Still seems solvable to me
–Well it’s not in my view, so I don’t waste time on impossibilities like that. Lots of systems function w/ it, just b/c they aren’t attacked enough, it’s assumed working fine. Not 100% though. More like 85-90%. Pen/Paper is like 99% unless you make your codes/keys in a bugged area and can’t exchange it competently (not that hard, you’d have to “special” to really mess it up) or you use rot13 or whatever (if the code was created in secret, it could just be a trick to make you think you deciphered it etc., stupid game).

I just find it funny like all this surveillance can be defeated by pen/paper exchanged by hand and some made-up code. Just need a good reason for it or it’s a waste of time.

Wael June 20, 2016 10:41 PM


I don’t live like an opsec freak that never shares what I’m doing (also makes spying on me pretty pointless) …

Neither do I.

Well it’s not in my view, so I don’t waste time on impossibilities like that.

That’s okay. We all have our areas of interest.

I just find it funny like all this surveillance can be defeated by pen/paper exchanged by hand and some made-up code. Just need a good reason for it or it’s a waste of time.

Right on, although it hasn’t been established that pen/paper exchanged by hand actually defeats all surveillance methods.

Thoth June 20, 2016 10:57 PM

@Nick P, all
re: The Fathers of the Internet Revolution Urge Today’s Software Engineers to Reinvent the Web

What is wanted is a decentralized Internet to “re-gain control” on an individual basis. That means lay people would be able to do geeky stuff but the thing is lay people wants it to simply work. Codes indeed governs behaviours (that is how powerful it is) but that bunch of codes can be corrupted by the bunch of Elites who don’t like it.

The IPFS project has a design for network transportation level P2P sharing and browsing as one of the many attempts to build a decentralized Internet. What many of these P2P browsing and sharing schemes lack is how to distribute content shards where the content shards are uniquely secured so that individuals or groups cannot modify codes to filter the shards they are suppose to cache and hold and also protect individuals and groups in the case where authoritarian regime agents bash down the front door with armoured vehicles and automatic weapons pointing at the poor user and decide to search his/her laptop and find a P2P encrypted cache, the user must not have the ability to decrypt the cache at all even (by not having the object keys).

Maidsafe have a concept of making content shards obfuscated (not true encryption due to not using secret keys) but the vulnerability lies in publicly shared contents that would de-obfuscate predictably once known. The idea is to make even publicly known content shards kept in multiple user caches to have their content shards unique and encrypted (not just obfuscated) despite being the same data content and safe in a way that every access would somehow permutate the data encryption of the shard to prevent the user from being able to filter what he/she wants to cache and protect him/her from searches.

P2P hosting for decentralized sharing and browsing has the risk of being easily singled out without appropriate security features but these security features would add complexity. There are still many unanswered questions and problems with P2P (especially on the security side). The cost for switching on a computer on your network and leaving it running 24/7 and allowing people to access your self-hosted node may become a monetary cost issue as well for those with limited bandwidths.

Spooky June 20, 2016 11:45 PM

@ NTH,

“Is there a pen-and-paper method for establishing a shared secret over insecure channels?”

I’m not aware of one that is amenable to manual methods, as most of these systems involve computationally intensive pre- and inter-session calculations that would be impractical or impossible without the assistance of a computing device (depending on the method chosen, you may be working with very large prime numbers). On the other hand, perhaps a riddle could be used? Computers are of little help in breaking them. If your adversary is as thick as a brick, and your potential communications partner is rather clever, you might obtain a brief span of time in which the solution to the riddle could be used as a temporary shared secret. In a way this is probably cheating, since knowing the solution to a riddle does tend to imply a degree of pre-shared experience (literary, notional, or otherwise).

This thing all things devours: birds, beasts, trees, flowers…
Gnaws iron, bites steel, grinds hard stones to meal…
Slays king, ruins town, beats high mountain down…

(from The Hobbit, “Riddles in the Dark” IIRC…)


65535 June 20, 2016 11:58 PM

@ Glomar

‘Back in 2014 according to The Guardian, “You can be turned into an informant (or punished if you refuse) Keeping track of suspected terrorists may not be the only purpose the watchlisting system serves. Recent lawsuits allege that the FBI uses it to as leverage to turn people into snitches… Why would the FBI redact the shooter’s 911 calls?”’

[The guardian]

‘Recent lawsuits allege that the FBI uses it to as leverage to turn people into snitches… A 30-year-old Afghan American, Naveed Shinwari, found that after FBI agents questioned him about his 2012 travel to Afghanistan – he was getting married – he couldn’t obtain a boarding pass he needed for an out-of-state job interview. Soon he found himself talking to other FBI agents, who wanted to know if he knew anyone “threatening” his community in Omaha, Nebraska. “That’s where it was mentioned to me: you help us, we help you. We know you don’t have a job; we’ll give you money,” Shinwari, who is suing over the apparent quid pro quo, told the Guardian in April.] – Guardian

It’s very plausible as you say.

Police routinely try to turn gang member into informants once arrested in exchange for a slap on the wrist.

My thinking is Mateen was trying to become a police officer and he would be required to inform authorities on other Muslims – regardless of him becoming a full police officer or not [Note that Mateen had no criminal record – yet was on watch lists for a time – a strange thing].

“Justice Dept. reverses course on redacting transcript of Orlando gunman” –Glomar

So, the Justice Department says – take that with a grain of salt.

“the FBI censored details that should have led them to raise questions about Mateen’s invocation of ISIS. It made no mention of what Comey did: that Mateen also invoked al-Nusra and the Tsarnaev brothers (presumably in the calls to the crisis negotiation team), which doesn’t make sense. So rather than elucidating, this “transcript” actually covers over one of the problems with FBI’s reaction…Update: FBI and DOJ have now released the name Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (calling it the “complete” transcript), but not the other things that would make them look bad.” –emptywheel

I tried to follow the two “transcripts” but I was not able to do so with any certainty. So, we have to take the FBI/DOJ’s word for it- which is not reassuring as emptywheel notes.

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 2:34 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

Irrespective of your position on gun control, am I the only person to think that this would be an incredibly stupid idea?

It is an incredibly stupid idea.

With regards intoxication, –ignoring the legality of the chemicals injested as it’s a different isssue–, the main reason people take them is that they have a mood altering effect. Usually the effect people want in a club or similar social situation is to appear more self confident out going etc. In short “less restrained” by the social norms and rational thought.

You only have to see some of the incredibly silly behaviour people get up to like “drinking games” taking off of clothing etc to realize that having “over confidence” can lead to poor rationality. But anyone who is sober that has sat through a weekend night in a Hospital emergency department and seen people who had been “glassed” or “bottled” being wheeled in should know that a place where people are having a lack of impulse control and over self confidence due to intoxication is not a place for weapons of any kind at any time.

Also there tends to be a childish attitude to weapons in many, where people think that just holding it conveys some kind of status. Thus the more potent the weapon the more status they assume it confers. Which starts a “mine is bigger than yours” race. This sort of escalation puts increasingly more dangerous and difficult to operate weapons in less than qualified hands. It also causes a different form of escalation which is the “respect entitlement” one, where a person gets upset when they do not think that the weapon they are holding is giving them the respect they are entitled to. Thus we get stand offs that turn to trigger pulling with weapons that can pass through furniture, internal and external walls and still have sufficient energy to be lethal.

And to make a point about injested chemicals, do you realy want to have some one strung out and jittery on coffee pointing a gun at you as part of their job? I suspect not, and I certainly don’t either.

Which raises the question of if people who have injested coffee, nicotine or other legal chemicals should be alowed to carry weapons.

I know from experience that an “adrenalin rush” impairs judgment. I got lucky in that no harm came to me and I managed to get others out of danger, but it could so easily have gone the other way.

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 3:20 AM

@ Nick P,

Far as accidents, I almost always hear about it happening in the cities despite rural people having the most guns as far as I can tell.

Even on a range, most bullets do not go where the person pulling the trigger thinks they are aiming at. Even the best of marksmen don’t get perfect scores, it’s a given in any sport.

If I fire a gun the bullet has to go somewhere, that’s another given, usually the only relevent question is where.

The real question though is not “where” but “what harm” is done.

Let us assume Im “joe rube” on a hunting trip, I’m standing resting and my gun “accidently” goes off. If the bullet goes into the ground “what is the harm?” but if it goes into my foot, my partners foot?…

Each has a probability but out in the wilderness the probability is it will not do “harm of human interest” most of the time.

You get into a city, the probability of the bullet doing “harm of human interest” is very very high as just about everything around you is “people or property” where bullet holes are not wanted, thus nearly every shot is of “human interest”.

The problem with trying to analyse “gun accidents” is you only get to record those that get reported. It’s something the pro gun lobby do not talk about when they complain about all the times that don’t get reported on what they see as “a gun doing good”.

It’s the same with auto accidents, workshop accidents, slips, trips and falls.

What might prove interesting is to look at the ratios of ammunition sales and gun ownership in various places as well as ammunition type. Oh and gun oil as well.

People that use their guns regularly, are going to treat them differently to those that have them in the night stand all the time. As a general rule of thumb, the more frequently you use a tool the more profficient you become in it’s use, handeling, maintenance and care.

We talk about 10,000 hours training to become skilled in any discipline, why should we consider guns any differently? Especially in “target rich environments” such as cities?

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 3:37 AM

@ Glomar,

I just hatched a “new” conspiracy theory chatting with a friend a few minutes ago:

You are by no means the first, and certainly will not be the last.

But why do you call it a “conspiracy theory”?

People talk of “means, motive and opportunity” when talking about crime. We certainly know the FBI had the opportunity, we know they have the means, which leaves motive… Well people also talk about criminals having an “MO”, it’s certainly been demonstrated that the FBI have considerable “previous” in setting people up as patsies for “terrorism” in what most who think about it say is “entrapment”.

If you were talking about others not a LEA in this way you would be calling them a “Dangerous Career Criminal”.

So do you want to have a rethink on using “conspiracy theory”?

Just a question as the say 😉

Glomar June 21, 2016 4:11 AM

@ Clive Robinson

Well I think the powers that be would label the hypothesis just that.

“To aid them in their efforts, the FBI has deployed paid undercover informants throughout the nation’s Muslim community, particularly in mosques. These informants often act as agents provocateur. At a mosque in California in 2007, for example, one such FBI informant, Craig Monteilh, who says he was paid $177,000 for his services, talked so vigorously about jihad that the mosque sought and received a restraining order against him.”

This was the second time not third investigation as I mistook:

“After my [Mohammed A. Malik] talk with the FBI [about Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, the suicide bomber], I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, abut Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.”

Thus Manteen was talking up jihad in the mosque in 2014 after the first investigation, possibly the standard approach for an informant, testing waters for others feelings on the subject. I’ll just call it all speculation.

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 4:40 AM

@ Spooky,

On that note, I’m reminded of an odd situation I stumbled into more than a decade ago…

You are not the first and will not be the last, oh and in the usuall “Catch 22” of such things you realise you are probably guilty of committing a crime or seven?..

A story for you…

You’ve probably heard of Dell, what you might not know is that as suppliers to Mil/IC Complex they have “special procedures” for repairing / decommissioning equipment the MIC has “tainted”. These proceadures are radically different to those of non MIC customers, where the kit gets refurbished and second marketed to all sorts of places including Russia, India, China and the Middle East etc.

The problem is “secrecy” surounding the “special proceadures”. As a MIC customer, you are supposed to use a special phrase to the Dell technicians to ensure the special procedure starts… But there are problems with this in that not all Dell staff are “in the loop” and secondly most MIC staff are not aware of the special proceadures existance, thus how to initiate it. The result is highly classified documents on hard drives turns up on a regular basis.

Worse you might remember the “clipper chip”, well it ended up on Fortezza cards. These were “Type II” algorithm cards, but there were also “Type I” Fortezza cards. These also ended up on the second market as they had not been taken out of the laptop as part of the special procedures, that had not been initiated because either the MIC staff or Dell technicians were not aware of it due to the secrecy about it…

The odd thing is all of the equipment covered by Dell’s special proceadures is “accountable” and thus supposadly subject to a fairly stringent audit process with career terminating and optional criminal sanctions…

Yet this sort of thing still happens all the time, though we usually do not hear about it (an exception is the recent case of an officer with a clasified document on a personal laptop they sent to a person not cleared for it even though the information contained was common knowledge in other geographic areas, that gets mentioned when Clinton-Mail gets talked about).

But the most laughable thing about the whole classified information handeling is firstly it’s mostly “classified” which means you have to be “indoctrinated” or “read in”, but not being so is not a defence in law under the US Espionage Act or Criminal Evidence proceadures. Merely having possession of a classified document knowingly or unknowingly is an offence. Knowingly or unknowingly destroying it is also an offence. Even looking at it is an offence. Thus you are expected by some strange logic to be aware without looking that you have classified information or equipment and know correctly what to do with it without having been told… Hence Catch 22…

Wesley Parish June 21, 2016 5:36 AM

@Dirk Praet, @Clive Robinson, Nick P, etc

Irrespective of your position on gun control, am I the only person to think that this would be an incredibly stupid idea?

I thought, on hearing about The Donald’s comments over the radio today, that that would be the ideal way to make sure of a full-size massacre. If everybody’s packing an Uzi and high on whatever, and some random bugger wanders in and starts shooting, and everybody else joins in out of solidarity with the idea of shooting at someone else, then we don’t settle for a measly 49 killed and 51 wounded, we get everybody killed.

Of course, if the cops wander in with heavy machine guns with an armored car backing them a la some of the Rambo movies, and start firing, we wind up with a Passchendaele-sized massacre. But The Donald probably would like to see frontline police armed with tactical nukes in case of pterorists … not a bad idea, now I come to think of it. Just wait a few hundred years until the radiation’s back down to background levels and redevelop the neighborhood. Just the thing for handling demonstrations aka riots in front of the Pentagon and the White House.

Also, the real reason why everybody needs to be armed to the teeth with firearms is there’s a guy out to get you. You meet him in the mirror, and he hates your guts. So it’s a wise idea to arm yourself for protection and get him first. Pre-emption is next to godliness, after all, according to Their Holinesses Bush and (Typhoid) Cheney.

Remember, Cthulhu for President, why vote for the lesser of two evils?

Transient Parent June 21, 2016 6:04 AM

“it’s a case study in what’s wrong with social science research.”

I’ve got to disagree. I don’t know how familiar you are with applied statistics in the social sciences, but if you don’t standardize your variables with weighted data before an analysis you will incur in sampling bias. This is basic. In the social sciences, most of the data is high-dimensional. You can’t quantify human behavior the same way you measure your bandwidth. The variables used in the weighting are not aleatory, they are dictated by the nature of the question that you are trying to answer (in this case, comparing gun owners to a representative cross-section of society as a whole, NOT to a sub-set of society that coincides with the general traits shown by the mean of gun owners). If you do not compensate for this distortion, you end up with a self-reinforcing pattern. All in all, the methodology in that paper is pretty sound.

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 7:07 AM

@ Figureitout,

Just need a good reason for it or it’s a waste of time.

You actually need a couple of good reasons 😉

The first is a need for privacy, the second a need for secrecy.

Sadly the need for both is not just iminent but a requirment for many.

Currently the authorities in the US, UK, Auz and several other places encoraged by various industry lobbyists are trying to remove privacy entirely, and have more or less succeeded for communications. That is they want to get at your communications of any type for amongst other things profit at your expense.

Thus people already have a need for “secure communications” in the same way they have for four walls, doors with locks and curtains for the windows. Not because they are doing anything wrong, quite the contrary to stop others doing wrong to them by stealing from them.

That is in my home, office and other place not specifically designated as public I have considerably more than an “expectation” of privacy. It is public places where I only have an expectation of privacy.

Now there are also occasions where it is desirable and actually legaly required that I use “secrecy”. That is I am required by law to take active steps to limit the number of people that are party to information. That is it’s not just Doctors, Lawyers and the Clergy that have “a duty of confidence”, it’s those involved with finance, inventions and all manner of aspects of trade and employment etc.

Contrary to what some legislators think, they can not just gather peoples data, even though it might be in plain sight. In the same way you can not just pick up and take away physical items that are in plain sight. Even though an object might be intangible, it is still property and the owner has rights over it. This has been established over case law going back centuries.

It’s the reason “theft” has been described as “Denying the owner the rights and privileges pertaining to ownership”. At the very least you have copyright over everything you say, write and do, either as an original or derived work. For it to be otherwise due cause has to be shown and due process followed. Which put simply means it is subject to independent oversight by the judiciary.

Thus as we have in effect lost our right to privavcy in communications due to ongoing illegal activities, we have to take additional steps to ensure it. It is the same as shutting and locking your door, or transporting large quantities of money in an armoured truck.

Up till now such methods have been available if people wanted to use them, but they did not know they “had need” to use them. Now they do know they “have need” to use them the legislators are seeking to invalidate where they can such methods. Usually by faux argument preceded by considerable FUD.

A significant problem with regard to “the need” is that third parties effectivly control the end points of electronic communications. Thu methods on such equipment are subject to third party control above and beyond that of the user.

Therefor the third party due to currently known legislation can safely be assumed to be an “agent of the authorities” irrespective of any contract or agrement that might be in place.

Which means that with a legal requirment for secrecy, you have to look to methods beyond any third party influance or control.

Whilst there are methods other than pencil, paper, dice and match, their very trancparency to any kind of subversion makes them more trustworthy than other methods.

So yes whilst paper and pencil methods can be cumbersome, difficult to operate securely and difficult to transfer keying material securely, they are in effect the last line of refuge as well as the last communications end point outside of your body.

As they are in effect the “last line of defence” they are worthy not just of understanding but practical training etc, so they are in your head as and when you need them, just like the knowledge of how to change a bulb or fuse. So that if the need becomes a requirment, the methods can be called into use quickly in an emergancy when all else is failing.

To that end people often talk about “the need for OTPs” in the real world and it’s interesting to note the answers given by people. Those who tend to have quiet comfy nine to five lives behind a desk where little tends to go wrong by and large say “no need” or “problematical” due to KeyMan issues. Whilst those bouncing around in the back of beyond where things go wrong almost on an hourly basis despite good planning and preperation and have to maintain secure comms no matter what, tend to take an opposit view of “when you need them, you need them desperatly”. Experience has taught me it is better to be in the latter group thinking, no matter how comfy your life currently is “as 541t happens” you just do not know when.

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 7:52 AM

@ Wael,

… although it hasn’t been established that pen/paper exchanged by hand actually defeats all surveillance methods.

It’s like any “link in a chain”, all secrecy methods are vulnerable to surveillance methods. If you don’t ensure you are employing the right anti-surveillance methods, then you are going to be vulnerable.

Thus the problem moves from “pen/paper exchanged by hand” to areas around it.

If you look far enough back on this blog, you will find I first pointed out one problem with mechanical keys is that if you have them on a belt clip ring etc they are “publicaly visable”. Thus they can be photographed from quite a distance away by a long lense, and the resulting picture can then be used to “cut a key”. Once said “it was obvious” as were the anti-surveillance methods to countering the threat.

The real difficulty was infact becoming aware that that surveillance method was applicable in the first place. And that is the point most people miss, it’s what you don’t know that can harm you the most because you only defend against it by luck…

I first realised this issue when I was pre-teen on a number of occasions. Two I’ve mentioned here in the past, that of making false fingerprints by using edam chease wax, WD40 oil and rubber solution glue, and the idea of cutting keys without having physical access to them. I realised this when seeing “emergancy exit keys” hanging in “break glass boxes” by the doors. Whilst I did not need to photograph the keys a simple sketch sufficed, I was able to aquire a blank and cut one by hand with a hacksaw and needle files.

Interestingly, it gave rise to a third realisation which indicates another security blind spot most people and quite a few security practitioners are compleatly unaware of (and no doubt the lokksmithing guild will knash their teeth over).

Key cutting shops would cut copies from my hand cut keys without comment, where as the originals with “FB1” stamped on them they would not copy…

Key cutters are trained not to cut keys with “security identifiers” on them, or keys that look like an identifier has been cut off in some way.

This is another form of “security theater” much like @Bruces two bottles of eyedrops and airport security where telling the TSA person “one for the left eye one for the right eye” alowed the rules to be breached.

Security is a funny thing, quite often it’s like magic, it’s more illusion than dependable practice. Thus if you know the trick the magic has gone, and so has the security which is not funny.

Thoth June 21, 2016 8:06 AM

@Clive Robinson, all
Russia can be added to the official list of “decrypt your message or backdoor them” countries just like 5Eyes.

The Kremlin has been mulling over “legislation” to make it illegal to have any secured messages that the user cannot undo (although the open secret is they have already been doing that a long time).

Nothing surprising but another country to add to the “No Privacy” list of lands to blacklist if you are paranoid to travel or do businesses there.


Dirk Praet June 21, 2016 10:53 AM

@ Nick P.

Just that defending clubs in general from armed attackers is feasible as many do it on regular basis. Just need right people doing it.

It is feasible, but comes at a price in terms of gates, fences, CCTV, monitoring, metal detectors, trained security staff, membership background checks etc. I get asked quite often by friends and acquaintances to keep an eye at the door or inside a venue where there organising a party or other event. If necessary, I can bring along some additional muscle trained in Krav Maga and the like. We pretty much know how to deal with broken bottles, sticks, knives and even hand guns, but even if we were allowed to carry we’d most probably be defenseless against a nutcase showing up with a Bushmaster at the door. Which IMO goes for most clubs and venues.

However much you spend on security at a venue, a lot of people are going to die when someone brings a semi-automatic assault rifle to the party. From we’re I’m sitting, there is no reason whatsoever for an ordinary civilian to have such a weapon other than in the US being allowed to by the 2nd Amendment that well predates such arms and which, unfortunately, was upheld again by SCOTUS in their March 2016 Caetano v. Massachusetts ruling.

Clive Robinson June 21, 2016 12:13 PM

@ Thoth,

Ethernet connectivity coming to hard drives to speed up storage.

Not realy enough info to say but it reminds me of iSCSI SAN, or on the small scale a NFS or other equivalent level protocol NAS.

What would be more intetesting is if you could login to the SoC and use it as “compute node” of a parallel cluster. Though I’m fairly certain somebody with more info on it is already figuring out how to put malware etc on it. Or even how to use it as a “store-n-forward” device for covert data exfiltration.

Nick P June 21, 2016 1:17 PM

@ Dirk

“It is feasible, but comes at a price in terms of gates, fences, CCTV, monitoring, metal detectors, trained security staff, membership background checks etc.”

They just have cameras and bouncers at most of these. Still handle the gunmen. There’s quite a few that give free drinks and stuff to people that do Krav. References and reputation is what they go by instead of tranining. Idk about background checks given some of the people I’ve seen doing the bouncing haha. Overhead altogether is one-time installation of cameras, conversations with some tough guys, some cash for them, and free beers or food. Not much. They’re more professional in your area apparently.

“but even if we were allowed to carry we’d most probably be defenseless against a nutcase showing up with a Bushmaster at the door”

Only if he knew who you were and already had aim at you. Quite a few situations in stores and such end here in the U.S. when clerks see trouble coming, draw immediately, and take care of the situation. Good chance of casualties in situation we’re describing. But, having a rifle doesn’t make a person invincible or others unable to use their weapons. Experienced will likely take cover, draw, attempt to get a clean shot, and fire. Worst part of a club situation is people running around acting stupid, though.

Combining that with someone squeezing off rifle shots makes this a horrible scenario no matter what unless security saw him during entry.

” a lot of people are going to die when someone brings a semi-automatic assault rifle to the party”

Same can be said about one or more pistols with decent caliber. I recal testimony to Congress by a woman whose dad was shot in an area they weren’t legally allowed to carry in. That was the gist of her testimony. However, she did add a bit at the end concerning magazine size and such. She said the gunman, with small clips, took about 1 second to reload before killing more people in the area. Just 1 second. Rarely enough time for people to do anything unless they’re already right on the shooter.

Personally, a fast-reloading shooter with a hunting rifle or 12 guage scares me more than a typical (non-AK), assault rifle. The rounds do way more damage. We tested them on watermelons, old car parts, you name it. AR-15’s put holes in while others exploded the targets. Assault rifle risk is way overstated albeit some advantage in large clips for most fumbling attackers. Those usually just bring more guns (eg Kipland Kinkel).

“there is no reason whatsoever for an ordinary civilian to have such a weapon other than in the US being allowed to by the 2nd Amendment that well predates such arms”

It was originally there as insurance against government tyranny by ensuring citizens were armed as much as average infantry of the time. Extrapolating that to today would have citizens carrying machine guns, grenades, and so on. Some hunting or assault rifles are beyond a compromise in government’s favor if that’s the model. Now, the U.S. is a sleeping, fake-ass democracy whose people rarely use letters, votes, or investment to protect freedoms much less 2nd Amendment. I still think it’s valuable for its intended purpose but I’m skeptical when most Americans cite it while ignoring rest of rights/responsibilities. 😉

The other reason, which is more prominent, is our gun culture. You might even say a culture of violence but there’s definitely a gun subset. Many people just like it like any other toy. They even accessorize it to ridiculous degrees. They go out shooting with friends and family for a social angle. It has some, although hard to state, value for self-defense. Mentally justifies their obsession which is rarely rooted in self-defense. Tradition is a better word as it’s one of those things also passed down generation to generation in supporting areas. Such things become a part of culture nearly impossible to fight if we’re talking arguments or changing votes.

So, that’s the main part of how it works in practice vs how it should work. It’s still important to have to preserve the integrity of the process. First example I saw, although I’m not condoning the group, was the Waco massacre. ATF overstepped its bounds greatly with military-level violence in front of people who were armed and not going to tolerate it. Results were tragic. Instead of chilling them out, FBI doubled-up on violence & fraudulent claims with even more tragic results. The use of 2nd Amendment in self-defense of the compound sparked a serious debate about militarization of the police and what rights citizens have during abusive, police assaults. I can’t remember what of anything that came of that due to memory problems. I do remember watching the events unfold thinking, “Why didn’t they just try to calmly present a warrant and deal with them as Waco sheriffs did successfully? Why did they have to try to shoot their house up in the first place if they’re not charged with a crime? And why do they keep it up after the results?”

That wasn’t an isolated incident in the U.S.. Unlawful seizures, SWATing harmless people, killing for land seizures, corruption at Congress/Executive level w/ effective immunity in court, and so on are all too common. It’s why 2nd Amendment exists and might need to be used. Now, I’ll say prior Justices’ statements on that are consistent with my view that it’s a last resort after each branch fails to handle a clear corruption of the process & only to protect integrity of overall process. No shooting people that simply disagree with you or “shoot first, ask later.” A modern example of how clear this has to be might be Clapper: caught clearly misleading American people; Congress does nothing with some of them misleading people; President backs corrupt party & misleads people; some courts try but organization has legal immunity in practice; Supreme Court seems to dodge issues. Whole system fails in this case to clear, provable corruption with most of system reinforcing and rewarding the corruption. I’m not encouraging it but I think 2nd Amendment is valid option on provably-guilty parties in such cases given no other way to deter or correct the situation via traditional branches or checks/balances.

So, that shit is why we have it. America’s use of non-violent and violent tools of democracy at their disposal for important stuff remains to be seen. Lame asses. The option is there, though, for a good reason with a steady stream of examples coming forth. Hell, just dawned on me that 2008 situation with our ex-Goldman, Treasury head makes an even better example. “Various corrupt regulators or executives too big to fail or prosecute?” Victims of their activities who are also gun owners might say, “Bitch please.” That’s the theory at least.

ianf June 21, 2016 4:39 PM

Definitely NOT OT: having just watched on BBC One The Big Debate on EU Referendum in Wembley Stadium (2 hours!), 3 hand-picked representatives from the two Leave/ Remain campaigns (2, or 66% women, to 1, or 34% men ;-)) in front of an 6000-strong live audience, the only thing that I can say is this thing BADLY needs a Malcom Tucker (character)/ Peter Capaldi (actor) expletive-saturated treatment of “The Thick of It.

Anon10 June 21, 2016 6:44 PM


The problem with trying to analyse “gun accidents” is you only get to record those that get reported.

In the US, most jurisdictions require mandatory reporting to law enforcement from health care providers of any injury suspected of involving a firearm. So there’s actually much better data on gun accidents than most other types of accidents in the US.

Dirk Praet June 21, 2016 7:01 PM

@ Nick P.

Only if he knew who you were and already had aim at you.

Well, because of my age and Hell’s Angel looks, most people where ever I go already assume I’m the bouncer, even if I’m just there for a drink. When I’m outside for a smoke at the door, folks leaving some times even give me money. Add to that one of my drinking buddies being a huge former boxer of Congolese descent known all over town and you kinda get the picture. The rest of the crew include some Bulgarian and Nigerian professional MMA fighters and several Krav Maga experts, one of whom is a raving homosexual specialised in scaring the living daylights out of North African troublemakers by telling them he finds them irresistibly attractive. We are a bit of a colourful bunch.

Same can be said about one or more pistols with decent caliber.

True, but it’s still easier to take out an idiot pulling a handgun than stopping one entering with a semi-automatic rifle. Over here, the former is rather rare whereas the latter pretty much non-existent. In the US, both are happening all the time all over the place. There’s no way in hell any of us would ever consider bouncing for just food and drinks anywhere in the US.

It was originally there as insurance against government tyranny by ensuring citizens were armed as much as average infantry of the time.

Which made total sense at the time when you guys were fighting to get and keep the British colonial empire off your turf. But that war ended a long time ago, and guns, for better or for worse – and like you say – have become an integral part of your culture ever since.

Unlawful seizures, SWATing harmless people, killing for land seizures, corruption at Congress/Executive level w/ effective immunity in court, and so on are all too common.

I get that, but it would seem that the 2nd Amendment was never able to stop any of that, and it still isn’t.

Thoth June 21, 2016 7:23 PM

@Clive Robinson
re: Ethernet-enabled storage devices a.k.a OpenKinectic project

“Kinetic drives are native key/value stores. This shifts the burden of maintaining the space mapping of a device from a file system to the drive itself. Applications need only put and get objects; they no longer need to guess at LBA layout or prescribe data location. This shift largely eliminates a very significant amount of drive IO that moves no data but rather represents metadata- and file system-related overhead. (In a recent benchmark, this overhead accounted for up to 92% of drive activity.) There is also incremental benefit here for scaling: as both device manufacturers and cloud datacenter operators ramp device capacity as aggressively as possible, the increased IO efficiency – and resulting net IO utilization – enables more balanced scaling of IO and capacity, in addition to absolute performance on a given device and across a Kinetic cluster. Incremental downstream performance gains come from the improved manageability enabled by the key/value semantic abstraction. For example, this abstraction allows for graceful handling of device failures, including partial failures, in some cases without the corresponding extensive rebuild times characteristic of large capacity drives.”

I can’t find any whitepapers but from the website it mentions “shifts burden of maintaining … from a file system to the drive itself. Pretty much a give away of sorts.

I noticed that the OpenKinectic project did define some security (e.g. crypto API, crypto authentication and ACLs) on the same page. They need to add more details on how the ACLs, authentication, kernel for the ARM-based SoC chip powering the OpenKinectic storage devices work.

Interestingly, if you look at the top of the page, it is a Linux Foundation sponsored project as well. Hmmm ….. maybe an Open Source and Open Hardware/Architecture implementation would be nice.

A bunch of data diodes or a network guards would be useful to provide more protection for OpenKinectic devices from network exploitations.


r June 21, 2016 8:41 PM

@Dirk Praet,

As per your trailing remark, the last time there was ‘sufficient motivation’ was during our ‘civil’ war.

The 50’s 60’s and 70’s could’ve possibly boiled in that manner too had there not been voices of reason.

Do you know what the battle cry of Alphabet, the MIC and Facebook is?

There is no bus.

I double dog dare you to spin the public so hard that they break, it’s probably not even safe to think about such acts. 🙂

r June 21, 2016 9:00 PM


Actually, I’m not quite done here.

Fences? CCTV? Background checks?

This wonderful forum we all participate in regularly speaks of drones and security.

All your 1980’s style security is useless once we have robots and drones.
Thankfully my state is outlawing offensive capabilities in drones.
That specifically wont stop the crazies, but hey at least it will criminalize it.

Ask Clive about North? Brittain in the 90’s, I wont point out ideas because that’s the type of sh*t that scares me… not guns, not dirty bombs… plain old fashioned bicycle parts ala french revolution.

The shit that scares me ain’t big ol tough dirk frontin on a bunch of pussies, it’s the gd maniacs growing … from honey or some young kid with a crispr…

I don’t like talking about stuff like this because that last thing I would want is to feel responsible for some sort of technological revival.

Bottom line, if you feel safe then your imagination SUCKS.

Spooky June 21, 2016 11:47 PM

@ Clive,

You are not the first and will not be the last, oh and in the usual “Catch 22” of such things you realise you are probably guilty of committing a crime or seven?

Yes indeed, though I was drinking at the time and I may have been mistaken about the entire unfortunate incident… (as he paddles away from the courthouse on a river of lager)


All humor aside, you’re right that the laws concerning such matters are heavily skewed to favor government interests. Citizens have very few, if any, rights under the articles concerning national security (and sadly, extra-judicial executions via drones have become so common now that we hardly pause to consider it). None of the documents I read bore evidence of classification; perhaps that would lessen the penalties? You have to wonder whether some documents remain deliberately unclassified, as a way of permanently excluding them from the usual oversight of the FOIA search chain. If all records were assigned a formal classification stamp and provided with unique circulation numbers, the material would probably be subject to periodic review. By keeping it all at the level of informal correspondance, malfeasance can remain hidden indefinitely (or until such time as a conveniant fire can be arranged).

You’d think the situation with Dell could be easily remedied by giving every hard drive a mil-grade wipe (by default) and resetting the SPI Flash & NVRAM. For some reason, the process must be considerably more involved–perhaps additional verification steps are required, along with associated paperwork. Glad to hear that secrets continue to be a premium US export. 🙂


Clive Robinson June 22, 2016 2:35 AM

@ Anon10,

In the US, most jurisdictions require mandatory reporting to law enforcement from health care providers of any injury suspected of involving a firearm.

Yes and other jurisdictions as well, but you’ve missed my point.

When a gun is fired negligently or not, the bullet has to go somewhere. In the case of reporting it’s generaly not where that is the criteria but what damage it does. Thus there is a significant reporting threshold.

For instance a bullet that cuts a chunk out of somebodies boot, but not their foot as it passes into the ground is not going to get reported. Likewise one that goes whistling off through the trees etc.

So the number of negligent discharges reported as “accidents” due to ingury/death is a fraction of those that happen.

The question then is how do we extrapolate back from the number of “accidents” to the actual number of negligent discharges or shots that miss the intended target?

I could for instance take the US Armed fources figures from conflicts that very roughly indicat a 10e4-10e5 diffrence to rounds used to enemy killed… This appears very high but is confirmed by other conflicts. Further target range figures for initial training military personnel for small arms fire are only a couple of magnitudes down on that…

So the percentage of “accidets reported” of the total negligently fired is I suspect in the 0.1-1% range.

This does not appear to far off when you look at “crazy cop” reports, where cars with suspects in have hundreds of bullet holes in them. Likewise the numbers reported for terrorist attacks in open spaces.

Now irrespective of if you like or dislike my figures, it does not change the point of,

    “The number of reported “accidents” are just a small fraction of the total number of those negligently discharged”.

Thus we move onto Nick P’s observation about the difference between rural and city stories.

As I pointed out, in rural areas a bullet rarely hits anything of value, even when it does (red-neck traffic sign shooting) it rarely gets reported. In the city however, it’s difficult not to hit something of value and outside of “bad areas” where insurance costs are high that damage will mostly get reported in one way or another unless the damage is to property of the gun owner or known associate and those involved want to keep it quiet for some reason.

ianf June 22, 2016 4:13 AM

@ Dirk Praet,

[…] “imagine a situation where a guy walks in with an automatic rifle and starts shooting people. The most likely outcome would be that all the [also packing] drunks and dopies would start shooting at each other, as would police and SWAT teams arriving on scene. Irrespective of your position on gun control, am I the only person to think that this would be an incredibly stupid idea?

    What do you mean, i r r e s p e c t i v e? If the overall (if unstated) intent is to have the drunks, dopies, and other assorted yobs obliterate themselves at every opportunity, any which way they can, while also providing realistic on-the-job target practice for the designated Prætorians [no relation, I trust ;-))], then the idea of upholding that way outdated “right to bear arms” is ANYWHERE BUT STUPID. It’s a way of the population holding itself in check, and any potential collateral damage among our lawful and peace-loving own, while disturbing and heartbreaking, is the unavoidable price we pay for all the other benefits that we, The Powers That Be, enjoy in our society. In fact, it represents the quintessential American fantasy, that of a independent, strong frontiersman, able to tackle entire unruly hordes of uncivilized attackers with his trusty old Winchester 72.

    This may only represent my accumulated personal experience… that arguing gun control with ANY American who doesn’t declare at the outset “we need to abolish it, only don’t know how” is a fool’s game.

Dirk Praet June 22, 2016 5:59 AM

@ r

All your 1980’s style security is useless once we have robots and drones.

I am not aware of any recent terrorist, psycho or gang related massacres in which drones or terminators were involved other than those committed by the USG itself.

The shit that scares me ain’t big ol tough dirk frontin on a bunch of pussies, it’s the gd maniacs growing …

As my cousin, master-at-arms with the local police force over here, keeps repeating: ” An idiot is an idiot. Give him a gun and he becomes a dangerous idiot.” That’s the price you folks in the US pay for your gun culture. Either you fix it, or you accept it as part of your daily life and a possible cause of early demise. Folks like Omar Mateen, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik in the end are just surfing the same wave as Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza, Wade Michael Page and the like. Irrespective of their motivations, the one thing they all had in common is that they were nutcases who in most other countries would never have been able to procure their arsenals.

As I said in my previous post, I’d never even consider bouncing in the US. Way too many armed maniacs out there.

@ ianf

If the overall … intent is to have the drunks, dopies, and other assorted yobs obliterate themselves at every opportunity, any which way they can, while also providing realistic on-the-job target practice for the designated Prætorians …, then the idea of upholding that way outdated “right to bear arms” is ANYWHERE BUT STUPID

It’s a matter of perspective. I remember some Ronald Reagan story – I don’t know if it was actually true – who, when first explained what AIDS was and that it was primarily affecting gay, black and Puertorican communities, allegedly replied “So then are we for or against?”.

Gerard van Vooren June 22, 2016 2:30 PM

Today it’s 75 years ago that Hitler invaded the USSR, that started the worst massacre of the last century.

NTH June 22, 2016 3:37 PM

Thanks to those who answered my question about pen-and-paper secret sharing. You’ve given me a lot to think about, particularly with regard to authentication, which I had not even considered.

Clive, you mentioned the need to separate personal productivity, finances, socialization, and entertainment, which brings me to my next question. What would you and others with hinky minds recommend with regard to Outlook-style personal information management? I’d like to start tracking the time I spend on various daily tasks and recording data such as exercise progress, nutritional intake, personal finances, social contacts, and so on for the purposes of self- and career-improvement through personal data-mining.

Obviously this is far too sensitive to trust to Outlook or, god forbid, the cloud. However, recording such things on a paper daily planner has its own challenges: encryption would be impractical, backups would be tedious, and any serious data analysis would require transcription to a digital format anyway. This has left me tracking most of these things in my head, which is stressful and unreliable. Since I must “assume breach” with any digital end-point, how can I find a balance between data exposure risk and efficient, productive personal data management?

On another topic, the thing I find most interesting about American gun culture and 2nd amendment arguments is how many Americans share an utter disbelief that any nation could keep its government reasonably in check without the threat of mass violence. Yet, that is exactly what is happening in many European countries, Australia, Canada, and probably quite a few other nations I’m forgetting to mention. It turns out that people really can collectively work together for the greater good of society and individual liberty despite a minority of those people sabotaging the process for personal gain or amusement. Simply put, good people outnumber the bad in these places, and net improvement is possible despite numerous setbacks. Contrast this to nations that have experienced armed coups: generally, the new leadership immediately becomes corrupt and tyrannical, and is soon deposed in another coup, propagating a cycle of violence. The choice of which path is better for a nation to take seems obvious to me.

JG4 June 22, 2016 4:31 PM

from the usual compendium

A German Dropbox rival claims PayPal (pypl) dropped it as a customer because it refused the payment company’s demands to spy on its users’ data.

According to Jackson, PayPal contacted Seafile in early June with a questionnaire about its service, and by posting a notice on Seafile’s PayPal account to say it was violating an unspecified part of PayPal’s terms of use.
Jackson said her team got the feeling that PayPal classified Seafile as a service for illegal file-sharing. She said the company explained to PayPal that it did not offer free accounts and that customers needed to disclose their address when signing up.
According to Seafile, PayPal then demanded that Seafile monitor its customers’ data traffic and files for illegal content, and send the payment firm detailed statistics about the types of files synchronized over the service.
“In our opinion and our lawyers’ opinion, that would violate privacy laws,” said Jackson. “We also think that giving PayPal [statistical] information would violate our customers’ privacy rights.”

Anon10 June 22, 2016 6:28 PM


Irrespective of their motivations, the one thing they all had in common is that they were nutcases who in most other countries would never have been able to procure their arsenals.

Of course, we all know that mass shootings never happen in Europe:

Clive Robinson June 22, 2016 7:39 PM

Bad, Bad, IoT Plug, worse dam thing…

Theft of his IP, realy bad security using AES in ECB mode and using the wrong RNG, and “Code Chimps” bashing out with no clue as to what they do, is the view of mjg59 on this IoT plug,

This is IoT living down below worst expectations…

I guess the question to think on is “If I can get it cheap, can I reflash it or augment it so it’s more in line with atleast the minimal security expectations?”…

Figureitout June 22, 2016 9:02 PM

We all have our areas of interest.
–Yeah, history’s littered w/ people saying something’s impossible until someone proves them wrong…

hasn’t been established that pen/paper
–Well it can be proven (as of this point in time) but I won’t b/c I’m done w/ those games. You can probably reason out what I’m thinking.

Clive Robinson
have more or less succeeded for communications.
–I don’t think they have, but these are opinions here. :p So you’re telling me that all the data flowing (in the pockets of people going thru airports, boat ports, and cars via USB sticks and SD cards), every band capable of carrying RF traffic, all the mail in the world, then the internet and other phone lines. They got a lock on those? I think it’s still someone trying to drink from a firehose and the firehose keeps growing bigger…

There’s no answers to that question (that I would believe) b/c no one knows, it’s too much data to comprehend or analyze and too many opportunities to skew the data collected.

I’m trying to look for opportunities to use some better COMSEC at my work (like emails and stuff) but most of the time it’d be too awkward for me to bring it up, makes people uncomfortable too.

And I know sh*t happens lol, jeez c’mon now.

RE: aes in ecb mode
–It can be better than nothing, and especially if you make sure the packet data will be sufficiently different and you chain ciphers. Can anyone crack XTEA->AES-128-ECB offhand? No one? That’s what I thought. Have to receive the data first. I can do CBC mode easy where I don’t have to keep a ‘random’ IV synced. That’s what I’m using for my pet project (since dealing w/ IV’s in RF is hard, I could use CBC w/ a counter IV but it’s another thing to crash if radios don’t stay synced), and I can add more crypto I guess.

–Sounds like more work than it’s worth (you can keep track of what you eat based on what you eat/drink, whether it’s good or not, you know lol. Same w/ exercise, I do a very similar workout routine of 15 reps on just about every muscle in my body, then I can keep track how many miles I run based on track (I’ve been running for so long I can guesstimate pretty well too). Same w/ social stuff, you know whether or not it’s good enough or too much.

Personal finances is the one where data-logging would be most justified, and you’d want an airgapped PC w/ some kind of spreadsheet program probably.

To each their own, but the big “aha” moment for me was to have systems that interact w/ the public and your regular life, and systems that you guard like a rabid dog.

tyr June 22, 2016 9:25 PM

@Clive Robinson

Having seen a recent TV commercial for a toilet
seat lighting system that detects your presence
and has multiple colours, I can hardly wait until
the Wifi enabled talking version starts spying on
the buyers of such necessary items.

r June 22, 2016 10:57 PM


Thank you for pointing today’s date out, I didn’t realize today was the start of the red winter?

I always remember reading ~50 million lost in my elementary history book.

My heart goes out to Russia for that tragedy, and for the tragedy that has followed since.

Thoth June 23, 2016 12:04 AM

Is the XTEA in ECB mode ?

Making crypto keys fully random with small datasets when using ECB is fine. Other modes comes in when you have to encrypt bigger amount of data and the keys have a chance of being re-used.

Figureitout June 23, 2016 2:01 AM

–Yeah pretty much, that’s how that cipher works. If the same plaintext is encrypted, you get the same ciphertext. I’m taking care of that w/ 2 timers, and 4 entropy samples, and 2 authentication values that don’t change (in the middle of those 6 changing variables). The ciphertext always changes, since XTEA and AES-ECB have different block sizes.

This isn’t the internet, if someone had a website protected by XTEA on the web that’d be a joke (but still probably prevent a lot of attacks b/c a lot of people scoffing wouldn’t even be able to attack the pre-encrypted data at all), but this is an offline RF device. To even attack it, you need to be w/in a 100 yard radius of the device and be able to receive the data. I know I can do many more encryptions, and believe I can add keyloq easily, probably RC4. Chains of crypto could look like XTEA->AES->Keyloq->RC4->AES, until I run out of space. I think I’ll have to modify the XTEA file to add another key or 2 or I could just use the same key again after AES, so XTEA->AES->XTEA. I can do AES-CBC for stuff I store in the EEPROM. Other algorithms would be nice but I want to make sure they’re implemented right, so I’m hesitant on the newer ones. Even 64 rounds of XTEA and 10 rounds of AES is very fast, don’t even notice it.

Since people are going to scoff at these 2 ciphers, I’m going to add more now probably. I’m going on vacation next week so it’s gonna be a little longer now, gonna code on vacation lol.

Sadly, I think I’m going to do away w/ the channel changing feature for now, I can make it work but it’s just not reliable enough. I have it working pretty nicely now though.

Clive Robinson June 23, 2016 2:17 AM

@ tyr,

Having seen a recent TV commercial for a toilet seat lighting system that detects your presence…

Hmm electricity in your very cheaply made[1] toilet seat with a bowl full of earthed water that your dangly bits might touch in hot sweaty weather. What could possibly go wrong….

[1] It would have to be cheaply made due to costs of manufacture, and advertising etc on what I suspect is going to be low volume sales[2]. So production in some sweat shop garage around the back of nowheresville Fareast selected from the darker recesses of alibaba’s trade directory (

[2] Yes I know the US has such shows as “Pimp my Ride”, but seriously how many of the ~320million US citizens are going to have the sort of “taste” that thinks (depending on colour change rate) a 70’s disco or worse 60’s “Luve shack” mood effect lighting is “hip and trendy dee’ corr” for their toilet? Hmm I wonder if the inventor tried to get funding on the US version of dragons den, now that could have been “entertainment”.

Clive Robinson June 23, 2016 3:06 AM

@ Figureitout,

The main problem with ECB is it’s just a “substitution cipher” so cipher algorithm and block size are irrelevant if the plain text entropy is low. Worse it’s easily subject to replay attacks if there is no verification included.

However as you may have found out the normal “cipher chaining” modes and large block sizes realy do not work in “high noise” communications environments where error rates can be around one in every twenty bits or so. It’s why sometimes “self syncing” stream ciphers are used with amongst other things FEC using various Hamming Distance weights.

The two FEC systems you might want to look at are “Turbo codes” and “Low Density Parity-check Codes”. Turbo codes are generaly better for low power microcontrolers as they are less computationaly intensive in noisy environments.

You can also use combination codes where very short FEC deals with random noise spikes and longer length FEC deals with bursts of noise. If multipath is likely to be a problem then depending on what you can get at you can also implement various forms of ISI correction.

It’s interesting to note that all “deep-space” missions, and many satellites and digital mobile systems all use FEC in combination code.

Whilst FEC on the ciphertext is essential, if using stream –not block– ciphers you can get an extra couple of dB’s improvment by implementing the likes of Reed-Solomon on the plaintext as well.

Dirk Praet June 23, 2016 6:00 AM

@ Anon10

Of course, we all know that mass shootings never happen in Europe

They do occur, beit not on an almost daily basis as is the case in the US. Nutcases, of course, can get hold of guns here too, but just not that easily.

ianf June 23, 2016 7:19 AM

@ Dirk,
            as could be expected of the numbered Onan, this is unbecoming, a response wholly in line with the legendary Russian reaction of feeling accused of being Also-Run: “a у вас негров бьют” – which translates roughly to as “and you beat up Negroes.” And that’s the casual, socially-acceptable version, I won’t tell you what the Russian vernacular for “Negro” spells out.

r June 23, 2016 9:28 AM


Your story about the lack of dban usage you saw makes me curious, it’s possible the lack of scrubbing could be due to shifting the blame if a leak occurs.

They would still be liable for the breech but the buck could be passed to you as the foreign agent.

There may be some deniability in that practice I think.

Clive Robinson June 23, 2016 10:43 AM

@ ianf,

Hmm there is a famous painting called “Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt. It is of Jesus holding a lamp and knocking on a door of what in all honesty has always –to me atleast– looked like an outdoor privy.

For some reason it came to mind as the link you gave had the red “Demon Spawn” light used in cheap horror flics spilling out of it…

Now as they say “Time for something compleatly different”… As you probably know the UK refrendum on In/Out on the EU is today. What you may not know is that the law forbids anybody of the press publishing exit polls, or in any other way “influencing the vote”. In fact it’s technically a crime to suggest people should vote even if you mention no prefrence etc etc. Now it would appear the definition on “reporting” is very wide and in effect covers all forms of social media, blogging etc etc… So the BBC amongst others are doing silly news stories about “dogs and polling” people turning up on horseback and more seriously… People who have struggled to get through the flooding, shutdown roads, not running public transport etc in the South East, all interspersed with weather persons with manic smiles talking about Amber alerts and loads and loads more rain and flash flooding…

For those at work in London right now who live south or east of the capital “your doomed” if you want a train or quite a few busses, so on the off chance you were thinking of voting later (I’m not allowed to say 😉

Glomar June 23, 2016 6:43 PM

I’ve got to wonder with all of the digitized signatures at point of sale terms, and elsewhere etc, has this been added to biometric databases and is there signature forgery software that generates signatures based on such databases? Also is there a digital “signature” for signatures? I think I know the answer.

Alphabet & Agencies June 23, 2016 6:52 PM

Federal Court: The Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Your Home Computer

In a dangerously flawed decision unsealed today, a federal district court in Virginia ruled that a criminal defendant has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in his personal computer, located inside his home. According to the court, the federal government does not need a warrant to hack into an individual’s computer.

ianf June 23, 2016 7:24 PM

Clive, Clive, Clive, Clive,

I want you to know well in advance that, NO MATTER HOW TONIGHT’S EU REFERENDUMB VOTE TURNS OUT, I shall always, up to and beyond my cumudgeon days, think of you personally as, warts ‘n all, civilized. To that effect the die-hard atheistevangelist in me will for once overlook your YA meek attempt to sell us the conceptual image of the mythical “Jesus,” when any schoolkid nowadays will explain it to you, behind the bike shed, and for a mere tuppence, what IS the true l’origine du monde (longform background for grown-ups).

    In other news, you should not complain over filler TV news itemettes of, e.g. 5000 dogs having been stolen since 2013 in southeastern UK alone, but see it as a valuable tidbit of life-intel. Today it’s the dogs; tomorrow it will be programmers kidnapped and forced to debug their own fawlty code on their life (=further ability to output some more of suboptimal code).

    What else are David Dimbleby, and Emily “The Dishy” Maitlis, to report on, when they’ve got zit to say, and furthermore are prevented from disclosing it? I think you and I would agree that, stolen dogs and torrential downpour on referendumb day, are waaaay better than the usual TV fare in such cases: journalists interviewing other, preferably foreign correspondents/ fellow journalists, over how little they happen to know, and what can they leading-question-answer-say about THAT! (ObWikiRef:

BTW. I see that they’ve chosen the color blue to represent “Leave” in the onscreen voting staples, and the color yellow for “Remain.” R.E.A.L.L.Y… need they be soooo obliquely obvious about it… why not come right out and declare a desire for the UK becoming Sweden – blue and yellow being their colors, as anyone who’s ever been to a IKEA restroom will confirm.

P.S. I hailed you 4 times, one each for the four “hitherto-united” parts that make the K. Also, there’s this “dumb” in “referendumb.”

watson June 23, 2016 7:44 PM


yea Clinton using a private email was certainly not some great thing.

But seems that it has been relatively common on both side of the party line.

At least if we look at information such as in this article…

5 other examples of politicians toying with the email rules

…which lists these politicians as engaging in similar behavior…
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
Former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

And then there was Colin Powell who also used a private email server while serving as a Secretary of State.

And this article states that:

During the Bush administration, 88 White House staffers had e-mail addresses from the Republican National Committee. According to a report by the House Committee on Oversight in 2007, back when Democrat Henry Waxman was chair, much of this e-mail traffic was destroyed by the RNC, making it hard for investigators and historians to know what happened in the White House.

(probably bad for anyone wanting to know what really happened during 9/11)

Then there is that “Bush White House email controversy” described at Wikipedia, related to the administration officials using a private Internet domain (called for emailing.

Some of that is described in this article which states:

Bush has released hundreds of thousands of emails from the personal account he used during his eight years as governor in the name of transparency — and after public records requests for those emails. A Bush aide told NBC News that a number of his staffers and his general counsel’s office decided which emails to release.

But a CNN review of those emails turned up evidence a number of his official aides and family members also had email addresses housed at — and used them to conduct both official and political business — raising questions about how transparent that email dump ultimately was.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released a report about the Bush administration use of private emails. It that can be found here.

Figureitout June 23, 2016 11:16 PM

Clive Robinson
–Know how to do a replay attack on the nRF24? I know my pet project can improve quite a bit. Can you predict the microsecond and millisecond between activations if you tried? Then the entropy (it’s a weird method, I can replace it but I didn’t want too much hardware, I wanted it to be small, so I need an HWPRNG in a small shield form), you can predict that too?

Nope I don’t think so. Channel used (I’ve got like 14 handpicked ones that give a good probability of being low noise), and the address of tx/rx and then a couple authenticate variables are used (I want to use something like the ATSHA204A for the authentication later).

Authenticated encryption confuses me, I don’t know what it means nor how it works.

Interesting RE: turbo/ldpc codes, but it’s going on the backburner. FEC opens up an attack b/c it means transmitting something way more times than needed.

Clive Robinson June 23, 2016 11:44 PM

@ ianf,

Also, there’s this “dumb” in “referendumb.

Yes, it would appear that the more deprived areas of Northern England and Wales[1], that are perhaps the most dependent on EU membership because it brings companies and subsidies in, have like turkeys “voting for xmas” decided they want to leave…

Scotland and Northern Ireland, who appear to know the importance of the EU to them have voted remain. And some of their politicians are calling for new referendums on their relationship to England should the overall tally be to leave…

On news of a likely leave the markets have “ditched the pound” and it has sunk to it’s lowest value against the USD in thirty one years…

I guess the next question is when is the “brain drain” going to start? That is when will we be rounding up non UK EU citizens and dumping them on the Eurostar… The likes of Nigel Farage will probably start crowing for it later this morning…

I guess most people have not twigged that if we do export EU citizens, UK citizens will not get their jobs, and thus those contributions to UK pension funds that pay the current pensioners will take a hit…

All a bit silly realy. I’m hoping a few EU politicos will wake up, because there is a lot of ill will towards the EU Council and other unelected and uncontrolable parts of the EU political structure. There will now be renewed cries from other Northern EU countries citizens to get out from Europe, and “Mummy Merkel” is likely to feel the heat turned up on her considerably. If some get their way she will be gone befor the UK actually “Brexits”. But as with all brinkmanship you have a tipping point and you dare your opponent in your bombast, and when they do cross you realise you are stuck with what is worst for all, and bridges can nolonger be built…

As I look at the tallies it’s currently 16.2Million to leave 15.1Million to remain. I guess it’s time for Britania to get her Helmet and Cloak, the taxi is at the door.

[1] There is a long running joke about Wales that basicaly says, the only reason Albania is Europe’s poorest nation, is because like a tick Wales sucks their life blood out of England and Europe.

Clive Robinson June 24, 2016 12:31 AM

@ ianf,

You might find this of interest,

    In those places with most graduates the average level of support for Remain was 58% (typified by high Remain votes in Edinburgh, Oxford, and Cambridge) whereas in those with fewest graduates it was just 39%.

It’s from a piece by Professor John Curtice (Polling expert) currently on the BBC news page, but how long it will stay there I’ve no idea,

It appears your “referendumb” hypothesis has validity. The “little Englanders” in their Northern issolated –virtual– “Power House” of desolation were have had their say…

ianf June 24, 2016 2:36 AM


Your (formally also yours) PM Cameron just voted himself out into oblivion… because what is bound to happen now, is a kind of Tory Leninist revolution (=a consequence of yesterday’s bourgeois / February 1917/ Kerensky’s one BY ANALOGY – Gerard Van has the details), with the Invincible, Feeling All Victorious Little Englanders now calling for IMMEDIATE withdrawal from Europe, and for seeing the benefits of the de-facto, if not exactly by Cameron himself, promised Instant Brexgasm in their lives. Speak of a nincompoop not letting the sleeping dogs lie, but waking them up only to subsequently try to reign them in. Well… as Nina Simone used to crown

    it’s a new day
    it’s a new light
    it’s a new something…
    waiting for the inevitable
    appearance of a graphic
    meme of the last scene
    of Planet of the Apes
    with the fallen-down Liberty
    supplanted by Big Ben, sorta thing
    probably it’s already out there,
    only I haven’t been looking.

Mind you, you’ll all be back in 20 years time, groveling to be readmitted “on any terms” (ask your nearest to chisel that out on your gravestone–if there still are any stone masons around). De Gaulle was right, Britain doesn’t belong on the Continent, and exports of BritCom will only go that far towards filling the ever growing trade deficit.

Wesley Parish June 24, 2016 5:39 AM

Just in case anybody’s forgotten the idea of discussing security news reported in the media, here’s yet another version of the same side channel we’ve had discussed before:

Israeli researcher fans fears: here’s another way to cross the airgap
‘Fansmitter’, a cool way to steal passwords

FWVLIW, YMMV, and anything else worth mentioning …

Clive Robinson June 24, 2016 7:34 AM

@ Wesly Parish,

Israeli researcher fans fears: here’s another way to cross the airgap ‘Fansmitter’

Yet another reason to point out you need an “energy-gap” not just an “air-gap” 😉

Just to reiterate, any kind of work needs energy to be transformed from a coherent state to a less coherent state (entropy of second law of thermodynamics).

Such processing of energy is never perfect, therefore there is always “waste energy” from the Inefficiency.

The problem is that this waste energy is generated by what is effectivly a transducer, so it gets modulated by the changes in work etc. Thus information escapes with it.

In the case of electronics that waste energy can be in many forms the difficult part is recognising what they all are, and dealing with them appropriately.

But it’s not just electronics and mobile phones… If you have read Peter Wright’s “Spy Catcher”, in the first half you will read how MI5 developed the use of the old fashioned carbon granual microphone in an old mechanical phone (POTS) to listen into the code wheels of the mechanical cipher machine in a crypto room inside a London based embassy for a middle east nation…

So whilst the “instance” of this side channel might be newish, the class of it has been exploited for something like seventy years…

So at the end of the day what you are looking to do is to limit the bandwidth of such awasye energy signal, as the energy has to go somewhere “Botteling it up” is not practical….

Gerard van Vooren June 24, 2016 12:04 PM

@ ianf,

… because what is bound to happen now, is a kind of Tory Leninist revolution (=a consequence of yesterday’s bourgeois / February 1917/ Kerensky’s one BY ANALOGY – Gerard Van has the details)

It’s not even close to the 1917 revolution, not even in analogy. People have voted, that is the only thing what just happened. Nothing more, nothing less. I don’t think that anyone knows what will happen next because what will happen next depends on so many factors. So just enjoy the ride.

Gerard van Vooren June 24, 2016 12:31 PM

Adding to my previous comment: This is the first time that todays fear politics have failed. THAT is a good thing. My opinion of the Brexit? Of course it’s not very smart, but on the other hand it’s a clear signal. My hope is that the Bruxelles learns from it but that is only hope.

Clive Robinson June 24, 2016 4:54 PM

Backdooring DH

    Many papers have already discussed the fragility of cryptographic constructions not using nothing-up-my-sleeve numbers, as well as how such numbers can be safely picked. However, the question of how to introduce a backdoor in an already secure, safe and easy to audit implementation has so far rarely been researched (in the public). We present two ways of building a Nobody-But-Us (NOBUS) Diffie-Hellman backdoor

By David Wong, of NCC Group.

Thoth June 24, 2016 7:54 PM

@Clive Robinson
Nice paper. Thanks. The attacks are typical as usual. MiTM with privileged positions on the network backbone and using non-standardized crypto parameters (DH parameters).

I would say the safer route is stick to RFC published DH parameters that have existed and studied for a long time like the DNSSEC and Oakley DH Groups with large safe primes.

On top of using fixed standardized parameters, over a KEX protocol, do not allow negotiations of alternative parameters like setting a non-standard and unknown generator, prime or whatever there is. Instead give users like a bunch of options DH_2048_OAKLEY_PARAMS or DH_2048_DNSSEC_PARAMS. Once both parties agrees on one of the options for KEX, they use their own internal DH params and calculate (assuming their own systems have not been tampered with). This protects against arbitrary over the network MiTM with some strange and exotic crypto params.

This falls inline with their recommendation: “Curve Diffie-Hellman in the sense that only a few curves are pre-defined and accepted in most exchanges.”

As we all know, the problem with most crypto backdoors is due to allowing arbitrary options of some sort which the attacker can exploit. By using more rigid and carefully vetted selection groups, it becomes much more harder to insert arbitrary parameters.

For the MiTM part, long term signing keys can be used together with the practice of meeting face to face and establish and trusted long term signing key which can be leveraged as a root of trust from there on. Another method for anonymous DH(E) would be to exchange DH parameters and create a session checksum with both parties again physical next to each other vet them on each other’s secure display screen.

Their recommendation to use ECDHE is also problematic due to the curves being deployed are from the NSA. Daniel Bernstein have a project called SafeCurves which list the NIST Suite B curves as unsafe for use due to the curve parameter choices being unknown without explanation (as per the usual habit of almost all NSA recommendations of not explaining their choices and leaving an instinctual feeling of a backdoor). ECC being a product developed by the NSA, we have no way to know what advantages they (NSA et. al.) may hold and the SafeCurves project showing that NSA recommended NIST Suite B curves have unexplained paramerters are unsettling. Whether those curves vetted by the SafeCurves project are immune to ECC crypto-exploitation development by NSA since the ECC concepts came from NSA itself is unknown. There are many types of curves and many parameters (flexibility of the curves) making it very hard to vet everyone of the curves and the permutations and effects of the curves (SafeCurves attempted to vet the permutations and effects of the curves) which makes it a remarkable effort that Daniel Bernstein and his team have undertaken for the SafeCurves project in an attempt to vet the many curves available out there.

The most secure method would still be symmetric keyed systems delivered by secure couriers (split keys and multiple trusted courier approach again 🙂 ) as it has been done since the old days of military crypto up till now with most of the old and current military crypto systems still prefer symmetric keyed than asymmetrically keyed.

Nick P June 24, 2016 8:25 PM

@ Clive

Good find. Yeah, they’ll inevitably get better at that. Just wait till we see service providers doing the stuff. I wonder if something like that exists for NaCl’s asymmetric scheme. That’s the top recommendation by cryptographers for new implementations. So, it should be top target by spies trying to hit best stuff.

@ All into just testing, C, or correct software

Test-case reduction of compiler bugs

This probably has more value that in initially appears. As in, outside compiler domain. Large programs keep having errors that show up after tons of fuzzing. Their CSmith tool for fuzzing compilers finds errors that take submissions of hundreds of KB sometimes. Idea is to somehow find the smallest, easiest-to-read test to activate the same error. More so, to automate doing that by starting with a large test/code that activates the error then trimming it down like reducing a fraction or something. Examples they give are tiny.

@ All into formal methods or high-assurance

Previously, Thoth reported on and we discussed some work by Magnus Myreen et al on verified ML called CakeML. Their work is among most cutting edge and practical in terms of potential impact. However, those teams are involved in a few more things plus inspiring some mindbending results. The older stuff first. Each of these is specified and verified in HOL.

  • A decompiler that converts machine code to a function that describes it with a formal proof of equivalence. Then, formal tools (or people) can work on the program at that level instead of binary. Good for after-the-fact verifications.
  • A synthesis tool that does the above in reverse. Given functional description in certain form, it will produce assembler that implements it with a proof of equivalence. The two can be combined for software transformation or analysis.
  • Verified extraction from HOL to ML. Both HOL and Coq support doing formal specs and proofs in the theorem prover followed by an automatic conversion to Haskell, SML, or Ocaml. The part that does that is unverified. This one is verified. Removes extraction from TCB.
  • Inspired by this, they are working on a Bluespec-style synthesis from HOL to hardware. The linked one is already pretty badass in terms of spec to hardware correspondence with TCB considerations. Can’t wait to see Myreen et al’s.
  • PhD was verified version of McCarthy’s LISP with machine-code proofs (as above) for ARM, x86, and PPC. Poor performance due to naive, direct implementation. Correctness that one can build on, though, as any work like this removes assembler and C from consideration or TCB far as your own code. You know the semantic/logical part in one will equal what’s specified in the other. Personally, I think combining his machine-code stuff with PreScheme would be powerful given it has C-like, low-level performance with LISP’s benefits.

  • Milawa was anothers attempt at saying, “Can we verify a proof checker so we get it outside TCB?” Like incremental builds of compilers, Jared started with pencil-and-paper-provable checker then gradually built and proved others on top of it to get a subset of ACL2. Very inefficient but verified.

  • JIT for x86 also verified by Myreen. Two versions. One produces everything at once and one on demand.

  • Verified, LISP runtime for Milawa. Combines it with his LISP work. Includes a JIT, copying GC, parser, and printer that are all verified in HOL. One or more things on that list are left off in other work. Handles 4GB proofs.

  • Jitawa is above runtime + Milawa proven sound down to machine code.

  • CakeML is a Standard ML REPL that’s specified and verified down to x86 machine code similar to above. Neat trick as it bypasses the need for a formally-verified compiler like CompCert. Sort of a direct translation to machine code within the theorem prover with equivalence proofs.

  • seL4 used his work to get verified machine code without CompCert-style compiler.

  • HOL Light, a clean-slate version of HOL for simplicity, is getting their tech for its own verification down to machine code. That’s critical given all the critical proofs done on top of HOL. More on that in a second, though. 😉

Alright, I already have listed enough reasons for DARPA or someone to write those people a blank check or at least one with a high, upper-limit. As described, they’ve knocked out of the TCB these components: LISP, ML, compilers via machine code stuff, garbage-collector, parser, REPL, printer, ACL2-style prover, extraction mechanism from HOL prover, and some hardware synthesis. That’s “Holy shit!” level in my book given it’s been under a decade of work. Also shows how far the tooling has come since Orange Book’s Gypsy and such.

Now the fun one from associate Ramana Kumar. Starts with “proof-grounded” bootstrapping of a compiler. Let me just quote it:

“…project require the use of unverified software for compmiling the verified compiler, and thus a significant unverified compiler is still included in the TCB. In this paper, we describe a technique, called proof-grounded bootstrapping, for reducing the TCB further. In particular, we explain how one can produce a verified machine-code implementation of a verified compiler by applying the verified compiler to itself. This self-application of the verified compiler is done with proof within the logic of the theorem prover used for verification of the compiler. … The TCB ofor this REPL implementation includes only the operating system, the hardware, and the theorem prover: assumptions about the compiler and runtime are replaced by proof. We demonstrate… [via creating CakeML].”

So, to get rid of a compiler and runtime, they formally specify and verify the compilation result of the compiler, then compile the compiler in that, and build a compiler in that. I hope everyone else is still following along successfully because trying to fully wrap my head around correctness or security implications gives me bigger headache than Rust’s borrow-checker docs did. I might have not even described it correctly. Already linked to CakeML, though, so this isn’t new. Just thought you’d get why I thought it was mind-bending with that quote. Kind of like VM’s that help attest themselves in security in ways that don’t add to VM. Hard for me to navigate abstractions mentally well enough to assess whether I buy into the claim.

That’s not it, though. Kumar decided to apply “proof-grounding” to proof assistants, too, in his dissertation. Let’s get him to explain it to help our minds understand the material in a relaxing way:

“Just as self-compilation is the benchmark by which to judge a compiler, I propose self-verification as a benchmark for theorem provers, and present a method by which a theorem prover could verify its own implementation. By applying proof-grounded compilation (i.e. proof-grounded bootstrapping applied to something other than a compiler) to a theorem prover implementation, we obtain a theorem prover whose machine-code implementation is verified. I present some advances… to formalize HOL within itself, as well as demonstrating that the theorem prover, and its correctness proof, can be pushed through the verified compiler.”

So much for relaxing. The Matrix ain’t got shit on these people in terms turning mind-bending ideas and techniques into action sequences (err, instruction sequences). They don’t pussy out by doing the hard stuff in unverified C, either. They’re like, “Need to verify the implementation? Just prove the binary code itself. Then prove and compile the compiler without a compiler. The extraction of those untrustworthy? Prove the extractor. Can’t trust the prover? Just prove the prover in itself and sort of not.” Despite being out of my depth, I still can’t wait to see the full results on HOL verification or whatever they’re doing with HOL to hardware. Far as machine code, anyone that fancies themself a mathematician can merge the VAMP results from Verisoft with CakeML or HOL-to-hardware compiler. That gives you verified everything (damn-near) on a verified, DLX processor. Run it on three, FPGA toolchains to be sure while re-running everything they ran in itself, beside itself, and on itself. Yeah, go figure that one out. 😛

Note: People with less time on their hands might try to do the PreScheme with machine-code proof merge. Better yet, combine the already-verified (IIRC), Rust borrow-checker with it to get safety for dynamic allocations and concurrency. In an efficient, verified, Scheme language.

Nick P June 24, 2016 8:37 PM

@ Thoth

“The most secure method would still be symmetric keyed systems delivered by secure couriers (split keys and multiple trusted courier approach again :)”

CLOSE! But not quite! The most secure are in this order:

  1. Trusted couriers that deliver the paper OTP’s as in Cold War with paper message itself coming however.
  2. Trusted, extra-loyal couriers delivering the message itself.
  3. Trusted couriers delivering the KEYMAT, OTP or not, using safe media for use on energy-gapped computers.
  4. Everything else involving computers.

The elites that run the world operate with No 2 or physical meetups with excellent results. Number 1 is superior since the secrets don’t enter courier’s mind, making them torture proof. Number 3 is number 1 but susceptible to hacking by SIGINT organizations (substantial resources) or bugging by others vs limited HUMINT skills needed for 1 or 2. Number 4 is 3 with risks adding up. So, as in Cold War and Clive’s recommendations, pencil + paper + memory + key management (i.e. 1-to-1 w/ trusted couriers) + OTP is still ideal after all INFOSEC research in the world combined. Computers are inherently just too untrustworthy if NSA is coming a knockin’.

In case I forgot before, even The Matrix isn’t safe from them. 😉

Thoth June 24, 2016 9:28 PM

@Nick P
re: CakeML and other verified language

I guess for the critical nanokernel TCB parts, code them in specific assembly languages (ARM, x86, MIPS …) and with emphasis on KISS and making the TCB as tiny as possible and in the assembly language of the targeted platform. Since it’s a nanokernel, verification can be done by hand (a.k.a paper and pencil) as much as possible.

This prevents easy portability across platforms but it is a trade-off for higher assurances.

If a sort of “tree” or overall view of what are the critical targets for paper and pencil verification can be defined and mapped out (laying out semi-formal verification blueprint) or even a fully formal verification blueprint before hand and then start building the nanokernel via assembly and checking them by hand, it would be more assuring since you can match the tiny nanokernel assembly codes to a bunch of blueprints to verify by hand.

Once that is done, you can layer higher language compiled/interpreted stuff on top of the verified by hand nanokernel.

Nick P June 25, 2016 2:36 PM

@ Thoth

“You can even train yourself to be one 🙂 ”

No need. Before my recent situation, I already was reluctantly one according to some people. Seemed to run in the family. One of reasons I was agnostic rather than full-on atheist. I countered a lot of it with reasonable explanations but some stuff was just weird. Example was that my Mom would often be relaxing, sowing, whatever then sit up with a jolt of recognition. She’d say a person’s name. The phone would ring immediately. It was that person. Not the people calling at the same times and such. There was a miss rate. Yet, running numbers, odds of her getting this right at any time were slim. Much less consistently with people she didn’t often talk to at exact moment they’d call.

Another interesting example I plan to look into further came from a step-sister. Just happened last week. Her daughter, not prone to worrying, wouldn’t got to sleep. Came to her mother to explain she couldn’t sleep because she “smelled blood” on the bed. Weird. Sister was talking her into going to bed when lightbulb above bed exploded, sending shards all into the bed. Had she not smelled blood, she’d have been covered in it given some of that glass was in a nearby bathroom due to force of blast. Sister said the house has electrical issues of some sort where lightbulbs go out frequently. So, we know she sensed in one way or another something was amiss & she needed to get out of the bed. My theory for now, which I forgot to ask her about (was passively listening), was if she saw the light bulb flickering or anything. Might get her mind worrying with imagination taking over. Yet, they usually just went out with nothing violent or bloody. It would still be weird that she sensed blood on her bed before one non-characteristically almost put it there.

Those are two that are interesting examples. Lot of them in our family’s history with some saving people’s lives. Many I can’t easily explain away with odds or typical intuition as neurscience teaches. Even when I consider unconsciuous senses or thoughts adding to the mix. Enough of that, though. 🙂

re: CakeML and other verified language

“I guess for the critical nanokernel TCB parts, code them in specific assembly languages ”

It’s how it used to be done. Now days, we can do it in SPARK or C with source-to-object equivalence. Advantage is that you write less code in assembly. Helps with maintenance, reuse, and extension. I could see using Myreen’s technique to spec one of those then implement and verify the machine code directly for each to increase assurance. Techniques like with LLVM verifications can be use to optimize at instruction level while proving equivalence.

“This prevents easy portability across platforms but it is a trade-off for higher assurances.”

Oh wait, you saw the problem coming. I should’ve read the rest first haha.

“If a sort of “tree” or overall view of what are the critical targets for paper and pencil verification can be defined and mapped out”

It’s a nice idea but we shouldn’t do that. Myreen et all are taking better approach of proving a common logic (esp HOL), specing it, and doing verified implementation. This leaves us with bootstrapping the original proof. I don’t trust their proof in its own prover for now since I can’t understand it. I agree pencil and paper with extensive human review on tiniest thing is better start. Fortunately, that’s exactly what Milawa did in the link above. Read that one. Here’s the summary from the site which I should’ve included:

“Milawa is a “self-verifying” theorem prover for an ACL2-like logic. We begin with a simple proof checker, call it A, which is short enough to verify by the “social process” of mathematics—and more recently with a theorem prover for a more expressive logic. We then develop a series of increasingly powerful proof checkers, call them B, C, D, and so on. We show each of these programs only accepts the same formulas as A, using A to verify B, and B to verify C, and so on. Then, since we trust A, and A says B is trustworthy, we can trust B. Then, since we trust B, and B says C is trustworthy, we can trust C. And so on for all the rest. Our final proof checker is really a theorem prover; it can carry out a goal-directed proof search using assumptions, calculation, rewrite rules, and so on. We use this theorem prover to discover the proofs of soundness for B, C, and so on, and to emit these proofs in a format that A can check. Hence, “self verifying.”” (Milawa web site)

You’re more mathematically inclined than me. You might be able to see if the increments, but especially the first one, lives up to the claim. The final one, Milawa, is an “ACL2-like logic.” Given what’s done in ACL2, that means one should be able to bootstrap another prover on it like HOL. Myreen et al already built a whole high-assurance process on it. seL4 built a kernel on it. One should not re-do all that if one can just verify and implement a HOL on a bootstrapped prover like Milawa. Might be able to confirm the secure hardware both ways, in bootstrapped HOL and Milawa directly, given ACL2 was used to verify and implement AAMP7G processor. Rockwell-Collins published their techniques for doing that. They’d do it themselves for money I’m pretty sure.

So, with a verified prover, the kernel is done more like seL4 that mainly relies on specs and proofs. Except, instead of C, the specs are refined into CakeML or something. There’s things like Flow Caml to help do security analysis, too. Then, Jitawa- and CakeML-style, produced verified assembly directly from that. Analysis are run on it to make sure no issues introduced at that level outside the provers’ scope. Combined with other lifecycle, assurance activities. Result is highly-secure kernel. Its own specs can then be factored into what builds on it whether monolithically or microkernel. Monolithic style would use stuff with provable data, memory and interface safety obviously. That’s what all I’m seeing for now.

Spooky June 25, 2016 6:00 PM

@ Nick P,

Extremely significant post. Holy crap, I had no idea that these efforts were so far along; back when I was in school, people knew that they wanted to do this, but the actual software was still in its infancy. I plan to read as many of these papers as I can (until I run out of IQ points). Hopefully, the techniques described are still amenable to the understanding of mortals. My introduction to self-hosting systems was a Forth metacompiler, for others it was probably C or Lisp; it will be interesting to read about their bootstrap process. Thanks for all of the links, I believe I’ll clear my calendar…


Thoth June 25, 2016 6:20 PM

@Nick P
Is there a way to prevent toolchain or maybr verifier poisoning on the CakeML level ? That’s a concern since there is so much automation these days and we have no idea who to trust along the way thus my suggestions of by hand methods and persobally coded and personally verified assembly to mitigate toolchain and verifier corruption.

Nick P June 25, 2016 7:55 PM

@ Spooky

Glad you enjoyed it. Remember, though, that you can still get some of the benefits going medium assurance where you use simple, hand-coded versions of good tools like ML or LISP. Here’s my favorite example that went from assembly to a scripting language in successive increments by cheating with LISP. You could also use a resource like this to incrementally build and test a basic scheme. Then, apply that to the ML output of CompCert or FLINT passes for full C or ML compiler. VLISP PreScheme can also be revived given they take it to the bare metal with rigor if not full-formal. One might even write GC in Rust, static parts in SPARK Ada, and so on to catch problems.

Far as high assurance, there’s a few projects that have or are doing results along similar lines to Myreen et al. Verisoft Project did a whole stack included verified hardware (VAMP). Linked FLINT group is doing CertiKOS which ties into DeepSpec. Galois open-sourced all kinds of tools with CRYPTOL, Ivory, Tower, and HaLVM being significant. NICTA has been on it with seL4 their best success story. The GPL’d Termite system for driver synthesis is especially promising.

So, there’s a few in medium and high assurance for you to mess with during your clear calender.

@ Thoth

No, you have to trust the specs/proofs, at least the simplest checker, the first implementation, whoever verified these, and the distribution. That’s on software side, of course. This is still remarkably little as you have to trust these outside proofs in a non-formal setting: they just aren’t all explicitly stated. 😉 Now, I am for modifying or isolating such things in the event they get attacked via source. I think that should be knocked out by review of aforementioned deliverables. Then, further toolchain security can be built with what was bootstrapped. Easier that way, too.

Anon10 July 3, 2016 11:05 PM


The study only sampled roughly 2%(490) of all homicides(~24000) that year, but claims an 89% response rate. So the authors, chose a definition that excludes roughly 97% of all homicides. You have to wonder why the study was constructed that way.

ianf July 21, 2016 1:00 PM

Finally, I found time to check EFF’s browser-fingerprint tester link in @ Ergo Sum’s post of over a month ago, and got this response:

Here’s what I don’t get: the browser tested was the default iPhone 4 iOS 6.1.3 SafariMobile 6.0, as it comes out of the box. How can such a pedestrian thing, even if well past its upgrade date (don’t ask), be so UNIQUE?

And what do they mean exactly by it conveying (broadcasting?) at least 17.1 bits of identifying information. I wish that EFF had some sense and explained in context where these bits come from, and whether “bits” are used here in their abstract digital info sense, or as an euphemism for “named fingerprint marks,” or similar (=where each such “bit” unambiguously points back to its fons et corigo).

Later, in the same thread @ Thoth offers up this (metaphorical!) bit of security advice:

[…] people who can not afford to own many separate computers (or Raspberry Pis) could simply burn a few Live CD/DVD-R (Read-Only) images. One image for Internet browsing and another for work and another for personal and so on […] If dedicated hard disks are too expensive, portable storage media like MicroSD cards would be fine too.

As MicroSD are fine for dedicated storage, and assuming other such cards can be used for Live booting up sessions, why not simply eliminate the CD/DVD altogether, and glue fast the write tabs on the SD cards to prevent them from being altered?

It so happens that my primary USB stick is a gizmo with a HD/SD or MicroSD card inside – which could well be write-tab protected for Live boot up duty. And it only cost me $8 or something + any capacity SD card I’d care to use there.

Clive Robinson July 21, 2016 4:27 PM

@ ianf,

… and glue fast the write tabs on the SD cards to prevent them from being altered?

You’ve obviously not been reading my past posts (as you appear to claim to have done else where with your “Clivebot” comment).

@ All,

Beware “write protect tabs” on removable media, in many cases they do nothing other than change a status line that the OS on the computer you plug it into may or may not check / honour.

Thus any mal/spyware will ignore it as it sees fit and copy it’s self onto the removable media.

In the case of thumbdrives / USB flash memory, there is a microcontroler chip that the computer talks to, to do “wear leveling”, Due to cutting costs in the manufacturing process you can find out how to rewrite the microcontrolers programming making life even more fun (not).

Figureitout July 21, 2016 6:40 PM

Clive Robinson
Due to cutting costs
–I think there’s much more benefits to having an MCU there in terms of “hey we need this or that now” (though it should just be one-time configured), especially wear-leveling. What’s your solution to wear-leveling then? In the real world, where costs matter b/c we aren’t the perpetually in debt gov’t who can levy more taxes you don’t have to pay back, the “costs” of supporting isn’t just “costs”, it’s stress that comes w/ supporting say an OTP-ROM MCU that the manufacturer f*cked up and loaded a ton of chips incorrectly, now we have to debug why that happened b/c the blame game will start. They’re capable of so much worse…

I can see that now, I didn’t see it before. You also can NEVER trust someone to read instructions to configure and setup correctly, you have to assume they’re a toddler (or do it yourself remotely unless the consumer, and ultimately the world wants to pay in pollution from sending people on plane trips all over to debug something that can be handled over a phone call or email, which is what the market is leaning on now…sucks for security but that’s where we’re at).

If everything was so bloated and inefficient, we’d have no resources left, which is the big failing of “secure methods”.

Clive Robinson July 22, 2016 2:19 AM

@ Figureitout,

My “Due to cutting costs” comment was with rereading unclear. What I was refering to was that the manufactures decided that reprograming the firmware via the USB interface was a worthwhile cost cut…

The result being compleate loss of security for the microcontroler…

Clive Robinson July 22, 2016 4:04 AM

@ Figureitout,

With regards wear leveling, it’s an interesting question.

First off we have alternative technologies that do not require wear leveling just bad block marking. The problem is they are “not as convenient” and sometimes contain mechanical components so are considered “more fragile”[1].

But electricaly nand flash drives have little hope of lasting out the guarantee time without wear leveling, which is something people should get between their ears. Paper pencil and eraser appear to be more reliable in write cycles than some of the cheaper flash devices. In fact the flash in the microcontroler is actually likely to be more reliable than the flash in the attached memory chips of quite a few thumb drives…

So the question that arises is why do we manufacture and sell such unreliable devices?

So users should realy regard them as Write Once Read Many (WORM) ROM not reliable in any other mode of use… As for security well unless you use file level encryption of the right sort you are going to leave bread crumbs that can be got at by those with the right equipment. Again you should consider another issue which is in effect that of ‘traffic analysis’. Basicaly you have a time based history of activity on the drive showing which files have been updated, which if the crypto mode is wrong may alow a “plaintext in depth” attack… Thus flash devices are not something you should consider for securing “work in progress”

As for the cost of the devices, I can remember paying $2/MByte for them you can now get multiple GByte devices for well under $10. So with a price deflation of that level you have to ask “What the real price is?” that is what has been given up in the “race for the bottom”. Quality, Support, reliability, data security etc etc, as the old saying has it “Sometimes you get what you pay for” good or bad, hence “Buyer beware”.

As for (ab)users and support mankind in the western world is in most cases a “petulant child”, you can blaim the “Make it so” mentality which avoids responsibility of understanding what you are asking others to do.

In most western countries you are required to show minimal competence and health to be permitted to drive a vehicle. People accept this because it is easy to see the risk to others of not having these requirments. Likewise much machinery requires the user to be qualified to use. However we don’t require computer users to be tested and licenced, arguably on the cost basis computer users are considerably more dangerous than car drivers.

Thus everything appears upside down with computers compared to things we are more used to in society. If we can get things the right way up or not will depend more on money than will, and the Chinese amongst others would not be happy as it would destroy their business models as well as those such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and many others.

[1] Whilst more fragile than other technologies, they are more robust than the humans who might have them in their pockets…


Figureitout July 22, 2016 6:22 AM

Clive Robinson
–For you, it’s a very loaded term that seems to trigger some really eviseral internal reaction, any of it. When in the real world, we have to “cost cut” everyday, our budget to live. Where I’m at now, some of it really cheapens the product and pisses me off a bit to save not that much and make our lives harder dealing w/ crappier parts and compromise the product too much. Other times there’s really no choice.

I wonder how many times they had a substantial batch of chips get the wrong firmware, and those chips being basically garbage, probably bickering and lawsuits ensued, and you could probably salvage the boards but you could only do that once or twice at the most. Wonder how much of it was really their decision, probably at the mercy of another manufacturer. And if that chip fails, again it’s basically garbage unless you have test points built in, if you can cleanly reflash that MCU then you have reasonable assurance the problem is elsewhere (well, of course I’ve had all kinds of additional problems where chip would flash correctly, but still have other problems).

I’m wondering if there’s a way to do wear-leveling w/o an MCU, looks like not or it’d be too much time to design. And “not as convenient” is a bit of an understatement, if I tried to write down all my files (which is pointless if I can’t execute it, so just the code) I can save in about 45 mins on a USB stick, then make around 5 backup copies, I’d be writing code down as my full time job. Having PDF’s of datasheets and appnotes in my pocket is nice, as opposed to printing one off fully which we have done once. :p Re-scribing that w/ a pencil/paper…pointless effort.

Paper pencil and eraser appear to be more reliable in write cycles than some of the cheaper flash devices
–What about the more expensive ones from more reputable vendors? That’s a gamble on the consumer to not be a dumb consumer and risk getting away w/ the cheap crap. Nowadays, you get burned, you post about it everywhere on the internet. W/ pencil/paper, you can’t encrypt the paper, anyone w/ access can erase the pencil, I’d write in pen, but you can encrypt a partition or zip files or both on a USB stick and prevent access to that data, quick and cheap compared to encrypting your files on pencil/paper lol…

ianf July 22, 2016 7:14 AM

Somewhat digressive, but still…

@ Figureitout: For [Clive Robinson, cost cutting] is a very loaded term that seems to trigger some really eviseral internal reaction, any of it. When in the real world, we have to “cost cut” everyday, our budget to live.

Just so. I could supply several examples where the real-world need to cut (already budgeted) costs led to change of process paradigm, and ultimately to better results. I could, but I won’t because my samples all are of the “analog,” hardware kind, nothing primarily to do with electronics.

But there are other well-known examples in the wider world: because, what is the saga of the McDonald’s burgers, than a textbook example of the owner of the original getting-busier-all-the-time blue-collar burger lunch joint analyzing the weak points in his meat-patty-to-table process, and coming up with a, for that time novel, practically assembly-line flow of ingredients and people. Which in turn necessitated ongoing investment in machinery, that stood out in proportion to such of similar outlets.

    I bet the Ol’ McDonald didn’t think of ‘self as a methodology innovator, but that’s what he turned out to be. I don’t do burgers, but have to admit that, wherever out in the world that I spy those Golden Arches, my bladder feels relief just-in-case. The overall CIVILIZING INFLUENCE of constantly clean toilets that McDonalds infuses into every culture that it conquers can not be underestimated.

So there are benefits to cost cutting as well, if not as easy to attain in Clive’s purist lab-bench enviro ;-))

Clive Robinson July 22, 2016 8:04 AM

@ Figureitout,

–What about the more expensive ones from more reputable vendors?

They are all heading down the same rabbit hole as far as cost cutting goes, in part because of the punters purchasing habits but also the limited number of chip suppliers. So all the device manufacturers irespective of name or reputation “are caught between a rock and a hard place” quite literally. So down the rabbit hole they go “in the race to the bottom”.

But there is also the issue of supply line poisoning in it’s various varieties. It’s not exactly difficult to buy cheap “China Knock Offs”[1] and get new plastic cases and packaging made, and change the MCU code to say it’s say a 64GByte part not the 2GByte it realy is. Then there is putting hidden malware on the hardware –ligitimate or not[2]– that auto installs a fake google toolbar etc such that you get put through a website that makes them money etc.

As I’ve indicated in the past the IT industry exhibits the very worst of business ethics. Which can easily be seen as a natural outcome of “free market” ideals (expect nonsensical squeals of protest from the usuall proponents who embarisingly keep repeating the very much debunked “free market mantra”).

Which is why you say,

For you, it’s a very loaded term that seems to trigger some really eviseral internal reaction, any of it. When in the real world, we have to “cost cut” everyday, our budget to live.

Think through why “we have to cost cut everyday” and what it realy is telling you…

Now ask the same question about other industries where the product is regulated for good and proper reasons.

I’ve mentioned this in the past, that the “free market” only has one type of behaviour with inovation that allways ends with a race for the bottom. However regulated markets end up compeating not on low price but quality and safety etc. The result is that correctly applied regulation leads to real inovation that improves the product differential not the price.

Why more people don’t understand this realy supprises me. Even Bill Gates woke up to the fact that a race to the bottom had only one “terminal” outcome. Which is why he decided that quality had to be brought back into MS’s products. Saddly for MS they were so far down that rabbit hole that backing out is a long difficult task.

[1] This expression was originaly about the Taiwanese not the Communist main land.

[2] I purchased a genuine device from a well known retail outlet. Having unpackaged it as is my habit I put it in a “check device” I’ve made with a non Intel non Microsoft singleboard controler and dumped the memory and low and behold found a hidden autorun and other files, that installed a fake toolbar etc. On doing some checking it turns out the packaging had been quite cleaverly tampered with…

ianf July 22, 2016 9:45 AM

You’ve obviously not been reading my past posts

@ Clive,
            I hasten to assure you, that I indeed am reading, and learning from your posts, though undoubtedly not to the extent that you apparently would expect me/ if by extension not all the others/ to. Reading, but then what says I remember them in detail AS YOU DO? Therein lies the problem: you expect others to be… well, essentially, you. Only no can do.

My (as yet informal) Clivebot proposal was only half in jest, as well you know. Since over the years you managed to establish yourself as an institution, a Schneierian Pythia of sorts, it goes without saying, that it’s your responsibility to ensure continuance, a smooth transition to some other Forum Deity in the event of your permanent absence. What, then, could be more suitable than a well-prepared, turn key Clivebot waiting in the wings? You, of all people, should know the importance of uninterrupted flow-of-intellect supply.

Now, regarding write tabs on SD cards. I realize that, as these are manually set indicators, something opto/mechanical inside card readers must detect their position, and act accordingly. While of course everything can (and in time probably will) be subverted, I really can’t see the general threat vector that depends on overriding write protection of these cards. I don’t know how many different controller chips for the readers there are out there, but let’s say that every camera manufacturer uses its own version. Say 50 different instances of controller chips, of several generations and makes, most probably without any spare onboard memory. They all differ slightly in firmware, if only for no-copyright-infringenent reasons. A generic write-override hostile attack routine that’s already present in the limited camera’s memory, would have to be able to figure out exactly which chip it is attacking etc., and then deliver just the right “online infusion”. That seems to me a tall order, on the verge of inapplicability for omnidirectional all-brands deployment.

So that leaves mainly the highly targeted attack, where all the components for illegal rewrite of the controller and subsequent subversion of surreptitiously written SD data ARE KNOWN IN ADVANCE. Not impossible, but still a tall order out in the wild (e.g. for the discontinued Minolta camera that I used for SD ROM data storage, which said right out “Read-Only Card. Slide back tab to write.”)

    That said, I need to vent off some RAGE at the collective you for the fact that, while there are clever heads here aplenty, doing esoteric research for ever-higher security purposes, not a single one of you—who can—has deemed it important to come up with e.g. a secure USB alternative to CDROM for those of us who can not. The best that (the collective) you can do is to raise hooting fingers and issue 360-degree WARNINGS for undefined but potential vulnerabilities. But come up with something that will work FOR ALL OF US—oh, no, that’s too much to be asking for. Consider yourself raged against. Feel better now.

Later, Clive mentions having “purchased a genuine device from a well known retail outlet… found hidden autorun and other files that installed a fake toolbar etc.,… turned out the packaging had been quite cleverly tampered with…

If that was outer (display) cellophane packaging, be aware that, while tabletop shrink-wrapping/ thermal closure machines are a dime a dozen, the entire pallet/equiv. size order would have to be adulterated similarly to not raise suspicion of tampering at the retailer. If tampering was done below the cellophane, then it’s basically a hardware MITM attack at the distributor level (unless it was done ineffectually already at the factory?) Please describe it better… I’ve had a Palm LifeDrive come back once from its authorized repair outlet in Brno(?) looking like it was tampered with in transit, only to have it explained to me that the glue used underneath crystallized slightly, so they had to use brute force to pry it open.

Figureitout July 23, 2016 12:28 AM

Somewhat digressive, but still
–Not really compared to some of your meandering posts, in security vs. efficiency, it’s something every technical person fighting for a budget to make things secure is confronted w/ daily. If you don’t invest in security then you will get owned, just a matter of time. We can make things secure, at such a cost that we’d run out of resources that essentially do nothing but create false traffic, waste power, take up our time alive waiting for encryption, remembering worthless sequences of garbage (passwords), and at a worst case scenario getting into physical/chemical destruction of the data and the area around it, so more pollution.

Clive Robinson
–When the sky starts falling more is when things will change. We need to hit rock bottom for things to go the other way, strive for quality.

Yes I heard a story a while back where there was a high likelihood of state attacker trying to get USB malware in a defense contractor. Brand new USB sticks w/ malware. As an attacker, you probably want to know what kind of procurement your target is doing to hit that company. That’s what I want, a “USB sanitizer” that can run a test to see the real memory, clear the memory, then reflash the USB chip doing transfer from computer to flash memory.

There’s no such thing as a “free market” anymore too, that’s just a historical term now. It’s all regulated now, even kids selling lemonade these days…And so it’s a regulated race to the bottom w/ mob-like organizations in charge of the regulatory agencies. Lots of regulations being rubber stamps that don’t actually inspect something, so it’s a false sense of confidence as well, just much more expensive for a label.

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