2597 posts • joined 9 Mar 2007
...in probably the only European country where terrestrial television actually works as a whole.
I'm all for teaching children how to program...
it's an essential part of being a politically mature member of society as more and more issues are related to data processing....
... but please don't torture kids with C++
Uhm, not really
There are now cheap ESP8266 based WIFI boards around which cost around 5 Euros a piece and have a nice serial port. They contain a minimal TCP/IP stack and can be easily controlled from just about any microcontroller you want. Plus there's a fairly obscure SDK available which should allow you to actually do everything on the board itself.
Re: When I am King
I wonder how much cheaper that would be than what we currently pay for cables in the ground.
The Internet was meant to survive a nuclear war...
... but nobody back then has thought of MBAs.
How reliable are those systems?
I mean those systems are probably cheaper than actual workstations and the operating system could probably easily be replaced by something more suited for professional use (like some Linux or Windows Server instead of Windows 8 or whatever they are shipping this with).
How reliable are those systems? Is this typical "if it left the shop it's already half broken" quality, or is this something decent?
Re: Most Apps are pointless
Well those are shortcomings of current browsers. Browsers have become a gigantic mess. However let's imagine for a moment we'd have something much more simpler than a browser bringing you the same functionality. Essentially a simple protocol to let your mobile device be a client to a server you choose.
Re: Most Apps are pointless
Well it's just like with "multimedia CD-Roms" back in the 1990s. You bought an "Online Encyclopedia" which had a couple of thousands of articles of dubious quality. Or you bought image archives where you got someone's holiday snapshots and povray experments.
This has passed with fast Internet. And as soon as decent mobile Internet is available it'll pass in the mobile world, too. Now what Siri has introduced is something very much like a command line. You literally say your computer what you want, and it'll obey your command. Maybe one day there will be a simple voice terminal, encoding what you say into the 4800bit/sec stream used by such services, and giving you back the results in a form that can be said and shown.
Re: 23 Years
"But Dell offered Linux (do they still?) as an option so I'd have expected more consumer penetration by now."
Yes they offer it for the intersection of their models that are neither suited for Linux (as they use overly exotic hardware) or are utterly undesirable (as they have shiny displays, non-replacable batteries and/or no Ethernet).
Making products for the lowest denominator
Companies used to make products for specialist markets. For example a home computer required you to actually learn about how it works to some degree. Of course there were devices for people who didn't want to do that, those were games consoles or television sets.
Today it costs more and more to develop and build a "smart"phone. So much that companies increasingly won't dare to experiment. Apple has brought out a "device" which was rather bad by the standards back then. Since Apple has developed a cult following with their iPod and since it didn't require you to think, it was successful. Being the only such device from Apple in a market where companies like Nokia had hundreds of models, also makes it look good on the sales rankings. Most of the competition being utter shit probably also helped.
What companies don't do any more is to experiment and take bets. Nokia did that with their "Maemo" series. Despite of not being advertised and not having any GSM connectivity, those devices were very popular.
Come on that series cannot be _that_ bad, can it?
I mean surely this seems very dated now, but calling it "Medieval terror bastards" seems harsh. It can't be worth than "Saphire and Steel". What does that even mean in the context of a 1970s children's TV series?
Ohh you mean that organisation in Iraq? That's named "IS" not "ISIS", they had a rebrand recently.
The goal has already been reached years ago
The goal was to have independent systems apart from GPS. Because of political problems, Galileo will never operate without the consent of the US. That's why Galileo cannot do this directly...
However the announcement of Galileo has prompted other countries to start their own, truly independent, systems. Glonass is just one example. In fact many "smart" phones already have combined GPS Glonass receivers.
It's depressing to see how much effort they put into DRM...
... and how much effort it takes to remove that DRM again on the customer side. All of that would be so much simpler if it wasn't for idiotic DRM which neither protects content nor helps anybody in any way.
If you want to see what's streaming without such idiocy, look at the streaming at the Chaos Communication Congress in late December. There they have a fairly well scaling streaming infrastructure which is simpler and works more reliable... unless the network there fails.
Even if you are not paranoid
You will know that you will have to do harm the people around you and all over the world. You will be responsible for opposition forces in some country being tracked to kill them because your prime minister likes the dictator in their country. You will have to find security holes and are not allowed to get them fixed. If you take such a job, you will make the world a worse place... and if you want to quit they have more than enough information on you to blackmail you into staying.
If secret services would act for the common good, they would do so publicly, or at least disclose what they did after a sensible amount of time. What we see instead are secret services fighting of every little bit of democratic oversight they have. The sensible thing would be to close them down, and maybe, if we kind parts of them useful, to recreate those parts.
That's not much saver than what we have now
Today most mail servers already use TLS for all their connections, so only the involved servers see the headers. Of course those are self-signed certificates... but for governmental attackers that's no less of a problem than actual ones. In both cases you need to do an active attack which is potentially visible.
So what shall we do? I believe we should make GPG more user friendly while keeping it compatible with what he have. For example the default configuration of Enigmail could always attach the current active key for the sending address, plus it could automatically store public keys it got from e-mails that were signed. In the default setting it would then try to make smart decisions on which keys to use when. So if it recently got a signed e-mail from someone you'd send back an encrypted one to that address.
Of course you should still be able to do everything manually, if you choose to do so. Also for mobile devices you could do key exchange via QR-codes.
The point is, we already have good infrastructure, which was not designed by idiots. Redoing it now again risks that it'll be done by the current flood of idiots who think that earning their money in writing shitty apps for mobile devices and reading a the Wikipedia page on Cryptography makes them suitable for designing systems that should protect peoples lives.
"Smart TVs are the rage. but for some reason, clunky and really needing some improvements. My point, there is room to grow in that area. MS could really hit a home run in this evolution if they could just push aside the 800 pound gorilla. I dont want Windows on TV, I want an interactive TV menu that makes me wonder "How did I get along without it"."
Well for that Microsoft would have to:
1. have a clue on how to do it, which is much harder than you'd imagine
2. be able to have that clue somehow survive through the company and reach the people who are in charge
Particularly point 2 is not likely to do happen at any time. Microsoft just is far to large for that.
Re: Windows fans?
No that should be:
Linux has fans and users
Windows has mostly sufferers
So far most of the Windows users I've seen seem to suffer from it. They are constrained by the arbitrary limits it imposes and more or less fight with it over trivial problems. Just read Trevor Pott's articles where he fights to do trivial things like getting e-mail out of an e-mail server. Things which on any other platform just require a single line typed into the command line... or dragging and dropping a folder in the GUI.
Of course there is also a group of genuine Windows fans. Those people actually know Windows and do things like porting Windows CE onto the Raspberry Pi (at least they claim to do that) or bypassing the Win32 API and directly talking to the kernel.
Then of course there are the Windows fanbois. People who have no idea about Windows, but just irrationally like it very much. That seems to be a much larger group than the genuine fans. They may have tried to install some 10 year old Linux distribution on overly exotic hardware... and fail, which they use as justification for thinking Windows is the best thing EWAR.
Re: What software will it run?
I'd say the vast majority of software for Windows was long abandoned before 64 bit Windows came around. And the software that's not yet abandoned couldn't afford to cut Windows XP users out.
On the other hand, only very few types of applications actually profit from the larger 64 bit address space.
Additionally, Microsoft removed Windows support from their 64 bit versions. So your normal 16 bit applications won't run anymore. So I can understand large parts of the Windows market still being on 32 bit, particularly in the business sector.
Actually not the first time
Microsoft continued using mostly using foreign Unix based system well into the 1990s. It's comparatively recent that Microsoft uses their own products internally for things that count.
And all of that effort, just because of the lack of multicast on the Internet...
...and a severely broken copyright system which forces/allows TV stations to limit their broadcast area.
Just think how differently radio on the Internet is. Today you can tune into virtually every radio station in the world from wherever you are. It's like shortwave, only often in "better than FM" quality.
We could have the same with television. The step from 128 kbit/s audio to 1024kbit/s video isn't big enough to make it infeasible.
Television used to be different. Back in the 1990s, you just started your TV station and put it onto a satellite. Everybody in Europe could just receive it. Television was a lot more European, it didn't know as many boundaries as it does now. Today when I order "Cartoon Network" in English on my cable company, I get a monstrosity known as "Cartoon Network Deutschland", which has very little to do with the real "Cartoon Network" as it only shows shows which have been dubbed to German... which means that those shows have been shown on other channels for years and are continuously repeated. The result is something more akin to "Pop" than Cartoon Network.
Apparently the problem is more "botched administration"
At least that's according to what the people working there actually complain about. That's something that can, unfortunately, now be found for every platform.
One bizarre complaint was, that people couldn't get "mobile devices" quickly... which is actually more of a sign of decent administration since it's good practice to not let every insecure device onto your network.
People usually take that for granted on Windows.
Well first of all most of todays computers have MMUs. Virtually every slightly more modern mobile phone has one and certainly everything that runs Linux. And yes I think we all understand how MMUs work, and what vital work has been done in the last years to improve on it.
"License plates" or other identity schemes where you have to show your passport to get to the net, won't help anything. Just look at malware like WhatsApp, you can find out who made it, but that's of no use, you still cannot get the malware aspects out of it. The only thing this helps with is make it easier for governments and companies to track the opposition. There are people whose life depends on anonymity.
What we need to do instead is to make computers more secure. We are already much better at this than we were in the 1990s, except on Windows and mobile phones. Instead of misinformed grumbling we should go on on that path and make our systems even more secure. We need to understand where our current weaknesses are and find out ways to circumvent them.
This feels very retro-futuristic
Like sci-fi series where people live in stations on the moon, but only have one computer on that station and communicate via videophones with monochrome CRTs.
Come on, we shouldn't need this by now.
Even ad companies can now build self-driving cars. Trains and buses have reached a point where they are far more reliable and safe than cars. We shouldn't have large parts of our population driving around regularly in cars. It's 2014 not 1964.
Re: Only a complete idiot...
Plus you should design battery operated devices to work on a larger range of voltages. Such parking meters wouldn't work reliable with rechargable "9V" batteries since they often just have 8.4V. Ideally you'd a little step up converter inside and make them work with a single cell. That way you avoid the problem of a single bad cell among several good ones bringing down the whole battery.
Re: SSL is a good thing
Well you can always use self signed certificates. They have little security disadvantage over the ones coming from a CA... unless of course you believe ALL the CAs you trust are somehow all trustworthy and totally secure. If one of those is compromised you are back to the security level of self signed certificates.
Well, but in this case HTTPS wouldn't help
Most governments already run their own CAs which means they can easily issue fake certificates which will be accepted by the browser. So if you already do man in the middle, it's trivial for a government to just intercept that. We already see that in some countries.
The big problem is the CA system in SSL/TLS. It relies on hundreds of organisations to all be trustworthy. Therefore I'd go for a system like in ssh where you see the fingerprint of the public key of the host and once you've connected to it, your computer will remember it. That way an attacker would have to continuously and reliably do a man in the middle.
SSL/TLS is only really good against passive attacks, and for that you don't even need the CA system. Perhaps we should make browser display the public key of the host as some kind of graphics. Sure it would just be a pattern of dots or something, but it could be done in a way that's easily recognizable. Or maybe we extend the URL standard in a way to include some public key information. Such longer URLs could then be promoted via QR codes.
Re: Software liability is not a new idea
Yes but apparently his point is that if you have software where you can "remove features you don't want", i.e. open source software, you aren't liable. This makes it very feasible as there is no reason for not distributing your source code anymore, except for malware.
Re: We should finally invest in defence
Actually the thing with the stack pointer won't help against stack overflows and is in fact done by the computer. In short it guarantees you that pushes and pops to the stack will be symmetrical.
C also does things like automatically make sure that if you add a float to an integer, the correct "float to int" adding will be called instead of just seeing the bits of the float as an integer or vice versa.
About distributing software in source only
Now what if whenever you do an update, you actually get to see the changes. Just like with Eclipse you could simply see the changes between the old and the new version. Such changes are much easier to understand than the rest of the software. Of course 99.99% of all people would just accept them without even looking. However with the millions of computer users, 0.01% still amount to hundreds to thousands of people. Compare that to the few people who look at patches today.
There are lots of people who, while not proficient enough to actually write their own code, know enough to be able to spot code they may not want. Those people can then just refuse to accept certain parts of the code.
For other people this may be an introduction to reading code. If it's just a click away people might start looking at it, and it'll gradually make sense to them. Computing would change from some "magic box" to something we all can take part in.
Re: We should finally invest in defence
> We've known how to prove code for decades. The trouble is - it's ruinously expensive.
Well not necessarily. Certainly hand proving your code, which is done in some areas routinely, is rather expensive. However there are little things where automatic proofs are already extremely common. Many languages, for example, will make sure that your stackpointer is at the same value it used to be before a function call. (unless you do some really weird things) This may seem trivial, but it helps preventing certain problems.
There is research going on into how to make proving more complex things easy. One idea is, for example, to have useful types. For example your compiler and system could know that a certain memory location contains an integer, which is a prime number. Your compiler could check the code path, and insert code to check this condition where necessary. It can even can throw a compiler error if you try to write in the exit value of a function that does not produce primes.
Futhermore you could have tags to your types indicating how this data can be moved. For example every word of memory you have could have a type tag which allows you to set that word to be "private". A "private" memory word would stay private during normal operations. So if you add 5 to it, it would stay private. Your network card would refuse to transmit words marked as private. However a special privileged function could, for example, encrypt it and turn that information public. That way you could guarantee that no information marked "private" ever gets out unencrypted.
Essentially the current attempts boil down to the idea that you give your compiler hints on how it can check if the code is right. Early starts to this are "const" attributes to variables in C.
We should finally invest in defence
We should make computers simpler so they are less vulnerable. We should quit making highly complex standards. And we should learn how to prove code.
Also we need to stop distributing software without source code.
....how Microsoft actually managed to lower their market share by bringing out a product that's even less desirable than the old Windows CE-based devices.
Re: It's even less secure than an unencrypted passwords.txt file
"It doesn't work like that, because that would be moronic. Instead the encrypted blob is sent to your PC, where the password is used to decrypt it in-app."
If you are a bit luckier, you have an actual app, however that can still be updated by the developer... or whoever else has access to the chain of trust bringing you that code. Updates on todays operating systems are done in binary form making it extremely hard to see what has actually been changed. So it's completely plausible that you as the target got a special version which sends out your master password, along with the encrypted blob, to some 3rd party server.
Software distribution is, unfortunately, severely broken on commercial systems. Even having a list of the source files that have changed between versions could make a big difference to the security conscious end user. Having access to the diffs could bring actual security, at least to educated users. It's comparatively easy to look at a patch in code.
It's even less secure than an unencrypted passwords.txt file
Just think of it. For a foreign party (e.g. your local secret service) to compromise that unencrypted file, they need to compromise your local computer. Either remotely or via hardware access. If they can do that, it's trivial to sniff the master password you enter into one of those services to get to the other passwords...
So seriously, instead of using such a service, it's far better to use a passwords text file.
You could build Bitcoin heaters
After all it's just a waste turning electricity into hot air. You could easily build a water heater which, instead of just having some wire heating up, having some computer mining Bitcoin.
Re: My SCADA is already secure, ta you very much.
Ohh you've missed a generation.
In between there was OPC, OLE for Process Control. A grand plan to make everything interoperable... based on OLE and DCOM. Of course it didn't actually work and now there are dozends of companies adding trivial features like logging to those systems. Oh and guess what, DCOM has little security features, and the few it has are typically deactivated... meaning that you can not just control your special SCADA software, but probably also other OLE software on your system. OLE was one of the backbones of Windows back in the 1990s.
So sure, text based SCADA kit with 9600 baud would be much more secure, in fact you could even hang them onto a small Linux system running SSH for network access.... but that won't bring you flashy graphics you can watch on your iPad.
In the Meantime...
...have some SCADA in the cloud. No, I'm not joking. It's a real thing, you can look it up. Usually it runs on Microsoft Azure.
Re: Not to downplay the security hole....
Plus in 30 seconds you can probably just replace the device with an identical looking one that's bugged. Or you could implant a bug into one of those.
Re: That's actually a feature I'd want
"In a world where most people aren't developers, most people will always run someone else's code."
You're completely missing the point. Of course you won't have to security audit all the code you are running yourself, but you can get code from other trusted sources. Just like people now replace their Windows XP or Windows 8 with some Linux, or replacing their manufacturer branded Android with Cyanogenmod, being able to choose what software runs on those devices is a good thing.
Just imagine Google deciding to "upgrade" the software to display ads. Or to sell off the data they collect from those devices. Just because Google doesn't do this today, they could one day get into financial troubles and be sold to a company having other ideas. In the 1990s nobody would have thought IBM would sell off their PC division.
And seriously, how is the mentioned "security hole" even a security hole. If you have 10 seconds alone with such a device, you could also simply replace it with an identically looking other device. Or you could just stick on additional hardware to it.
That's actually a feature I'd want
I'd not want to run such devices with some Google software which is designed to spy on me, but with a software coming from a source I trust. In fact since the task is rather simple, I'd want to be able to write my own software to get onto those devices.
It's not a security vulnerability, it's a security feature. Running your own code means that you can get rid of all the security problems the manufacturer put in there.
We must stop seeing "running your own code" as a security problem, since "code is law" and only if you can decide what code a device runs, you truly own it. Seeing more and more devices going against the will of the person who paid for it, that's a really important thing.
Re: If it can execute J2M...
Well so far, the only feature I missed from J2M was the ability to go into suspend when a program was running. Surely that can't be a technical problem.
If it can execute J2M...
...and go to sleep while doing so, it may be a serious competitor to their higher end line. After all there probably still is more J2M Software out there than software written for Windows Phone.
Re: Finally a standard for booting
I disagree, from all I've heard the specification itself is already far to complex to ever be implemented correctly. I mean the reference implementations are already larger than the Linux Kernel... and those implementations don't include any drivers.
It just seems to be a heck of an overhead just to do booting and hardware support. OpenFirmware did the same, much more cleanly with much less code.
Maybe we should stop comparing EFI with the IBM-BIOS and instead compare it to something that actually was "state of the art" at one point.
Finally a standard for booting
Finally you are likely to be able to run the same image on several devices... the only problem is that it's based on UEFI, a system more complex than the Linux kernel.
Uhm, it's hard to see what advantages a Windows laptop would have over a Chromebook. So it does make sense for people using Windows laptops to switch to Chromebooks.
How do they know?
The M2M project I've been involved in used cheap pre-paid SIMs from ALDI. There's no way they could know what we use it for.
Re: Start tracking them young
Well it doesn't matter if they _want_ to do it. Because of information asymmetry they can simply be blackmailed into such positions.
This is why the Chaos Computer Club heavily advises against any sort of such cooperation. There simply is no way you can win in such a situation.
I wouldn't have expeced otherwise
The Blackphone went down a wrong route. It's just a slightly modified standard phone.
The problem with that is complexity. Mobile operating systems are orders of magnitude to complex to be secure. More complexity means more errors, and more errors mean more security critical errors.
Another problem on those devices is that you have several instances of "binary blobs", code running with very high privileges, facing outside, but having never gone through some sort of security audit.
If you actually want to have a secure device, you need to design it differently. One important thing is to spread out your hardware to different components connected via simple interfaces. Todays mobile phones often have their GSM/UMTS/LTE baseband connected via shared memory or USB, this means that once the baseband is is compromised it's plausible it can attack the application processor, and therefore read out all the keys... or just fake the display.
If you had a simple high speed serial port running a much simpler protocol like PPP, this becomes so hard it gets implausible.
You could have each function of your mobile phone done by an independent microcontroller. The software running on each of those would be simple enough that it would be essentially bug free, so it wouldn't need to be updated. Simple protocols could reduce the attack surface even more.
Without any need to update your software, you could just embed your electronics in transparent resin with a bit of glitter. That would even make the hardware tamper evident.
Then you could greatly simplify the software architecture. Since it'll always be possible to get keys out of your device, and since the CA concept of TLS is severely broken, you could just limit the communication of your device to a single server you own yourself. Since you can exchange the key in advance, you can simply use symmetric encryption. Securing a server is much easier than securing a device that's inside your pocket.
Actually PrivateCore seems to be complete Snakeoil
They claim to have security benefits by encrypting RAM. They claim to do this by having a "secure hypervisor" in CPU cache. Which is hard enough to do, but they don't seem to have any actual credentials in security.
The way they are trying to get around the obvious "boot another OS" attack is by using bootloaders that only run signed code... something that may sound good in theory until you realize that it typically depends on certificate chains... which have so far failed in so many places and are regularly exploited on the Internet. It's not designed to protect the user, but to protect business models.
In essence, they are running more code, which will mean more bugs and therefore more security critical bugs. There's very little security benefit in that.
Well looking at it more realistically...
The "GSM" baseband is very complex adding layer upon layer of code trying to implement standards which are in part badly designed.
Added to that is the principle that the network is always trustworthy, so those implementations were never tested against malevolent networks.
What makes this a really big problem is that some mobile phone manufacturers use shared memory to have the baseband talk to the application processor. So if you take over the baseband CPU you'll likely be able to compromise the rest of the system.
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