* Posts by Paul Crawford

1935 posts • joined 15 Mar 2007

Plod wants your PC? Brick it with a USB stick BEFORE they probe it

Paul Crawford
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Re: Destroying the contents is no good in the UK

I think most SSD support a "secure erase" instruction that wipes the device. They would have to prove you did it (harder to prove if the wipe software was on the SSD when it wiped) but that way there is nothing encrypted to be forced in to decrypting (or trying to prove that random data is in fact random data, for example, as I have from the Numerical Recipes CD). Might also be useful if your device is stolen/confiscated for espionage (industrial or nation state) reasons.

What is a bit sad is the fact this discussion is taking place. That people feel enough of a threat of 'data' being used/abused to convict them when in the past you generally had to be shown to have physically done something and/or have corroborating evidence from others.

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Good luck displacing Windows 7, Microsoft, it's still growing

Paul Crawford
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Re: FAT32

Are the patents for FAT32 not expired now?

After all its been 20 years since Win95 came out with long file name support. Sure it sucks as a file system, but I doubt you need a license for that any-more. Not true for exFAT of course as it is a recent one...

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Paul Crawford
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Re: @Martin an gof

The answers to your points are:

1) Yes, realistically you need newer machines to have a decent chance of running a VM. Think of at least 4GB RAM and support for virtulisation (AMD A8 ought to be fine).

1.1) What the VM buys you is you don't need to have drivers for the new hardware for an old OS (currently a w2k or XP issue).

1.2) You can also (sometimes!) migrate a working machine in to a VM image and thus save the process of installing the OS, patching, installing applications, getting license keys, setting stuff up, etc. Down side is you don't then clear out years of crud.

2) Most software that is currently performing OK on a 5 year old machine will be fine in a VM, and you can get some video acceleration support for the VM as well (depends on OS/video driver/etc).

Obviously you won't get "bare metal" performance but often the convenience beats that except for really high performance tasks, gaming, etc.

3) USB dongles are not usually a problem, you can selectively connect USB devices through the host to the VM, but you might find the occasional thing that won't work.

However, all change has a cost (time, software and hardware, sometimes all 3) and eventually you need to attend to it. Better to do it before the excrement hits to HVAC attachment so you don't find big problems that take ages to work around.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: What about non-connected computers?

If all you need is XP/7 application support, and not special hardware, then running Windows in a VM is a good solution.

OK for the typical end user its a little more training/understanding of the whole "computer in a computer" arrangement, but it allows you to totally decouple the application+OS you depend upon from the hardware you have. You also can lock it down so web/email is from the host, and the VM has only the internet access it really needs (which could be zero). Finally, as a lot of malware now avoids running in a VM to evade analysis, and you are probably not exposed so much, you can drop a lot of crappy AV software and rely on other methods of recovering from an infestation (as AV is pretty shit generally at that job).

For myself I have XP and 7 VMs for CAD software, Office, etc, and use Linux for my host machine. No need to rent, no need for cloud unless I want it, no need to sign up to a MS account, etc.

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Mozilla to whack HTTP sites with feature-ban stick

Paul Crawford
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Re: @Charles 9

The issue has nothing to do with disk space (usually) but everything to do with the mindset of your typical large system IT department where if it can't be locked down by AD policies, it ain't going on their machines.

It is not that daft a rule, as typically they want to be able to control trust certificates and proxy settings, etc, as well as controlling what sort of plugins are permitted.

If Mozilla really do want to be relevant and get a bigger share of the corporate world they ought to make their web browser and email clients much easier to administer remotely using Windows practice and ideally something for Mac/Linux as well.

Stop copying the dumbed down Chrome UI and its policy of changing stuff every month or two, as that just pisses of people who have to manage and train non-technical staff.

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Paul Crawford
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FAIL

Re: @an SSL cert it doesn't need "much testing"

So if no one has checked the person requesting the certificate, How can you trust it? how do you know it was issued to the site that is now signed as being so?

That is the underlying problem of the whole https system: the certificates are only as secure as the logical-OR of all 600+ authorities who can issue them, and some (or their governments) I would not trust as far as I can comfortably spit out a rat...

Hence we than have the "certificate pinning" that sort of works on some browsers & sites. And we have Chrome basically ignoring certificate revocation completely (speed matters! WTF do you care if its dodgy?)

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Bye, bye, Mozilla

"customers will be willing to download a free alternative"

Try telling that to the Gov, NHS, etc, who have their balls in IE's vice...

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UK exam board wants kids to be able to Google answers

Paul Crawford
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Would a better approach not be to have a system where all of the stuff they access on-line is included in the submission the examiner gets?

That way you can mark how well they "used" google and check for simply asking the question and/or using google to go to a 'mechanical Turk' site for a solution.

OK, would make marking a bit more tedious, but maybe the knowledge that their search operations are assessed would make for a more focused approach.

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This is Spartan? No, it's Microsoft Edge, Son of Internet Explorer

Paul Crawford
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Close, but still no cigar

If MS has really done the decent thing and put a bullet in IE's multiple mutant heads, and developed a new standard-compliant browser that is up with the rest of them, I applaud them.

But why only Win10?

I mean all of the major browsers like Chrome, Firefox and the also-ran Opera (sadly now a skinned Chrome engine) manage to support various versions of Windows and also Mac & Linux. Why can't MS do this?

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Facebook policy wonk growls at Europe's mass of data laws

Paul Crawford
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Of course if their business model did not consist of screwing every last cent out of whoring its users' data from advertiser to advertiser, maybe this would not be a problem?

Yes, it is free, and no I would not pay for it. Unless it really did offer privacy and respected laws outside of the USA.

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Why the US government reckons it should keep phone network kill-switches a secret

Paul Crawford
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Why? Really, if anyone is sick enough to want to use a radio controlled bomb there are plenty of other RC devices out there that don't need a mobile phone network. Or a timer. Or the lack of a radio link. Or as demonstrated with those very 7 July tube bombing, but pushing the button and blowing yourself up as well.

One strongly suspects there is much more to this reluctance than just how some bomber could manipulate the network kill-switch.

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'Android on Windows': Microsoft tightens noose around neck, climbs on chair

Paul Crawford
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Times change, business does not

In 5 years will we be reading "After a couple of years, Microsoft Google moved the goalposts again. IBM Microsoft couldn’t keep up and threw in the towel" I wonder?

I don't like Google's behaviour with many things, but it is hard to feel much sympathy here.

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Fondleslab deaths grounded ALL of American Airlines' 737s

Paul Crawford
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Re: Told you so!

"your child's child likely will have no need of handwriting"

So they can't sign things and thus we all have to be corralled in to a biometric future like cattle, all suitably tagged and compliant.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Now an intelligent design

They may not be "safety critical" but they sure are business-critical as shown today.

Also I doubt the cost of having software for two OS is anywhere near double to cost of one, but we will have to wait and see if it was an OS problem killing the connections or an app problem. Either way, it is a timely reminder of just how much companies depend on IT systems working.

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Paranoid about the NSA? The case for dumping cloud's Big 3

Paul Crawford
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Re: @Vimes

"http://www.teamdrive.com/

Problem = solved."

Not really. While the "Professional Starter 5 Server" looks as if it provides your cloudy store & share, it still leaves open the whole issue of how you secure access to your own server to host it (assuming that you have the need for enough data to make them hosting it uneconomical or too slow, so you want only some data synced but lots more on-demand).

Also you might have software on a home/work machine you need to run remotely (maybe its tied to MAC address or whatever for licensing). That was why the issue of choosing & configuring a router/VPN was mentioned, as it could drastically reduce the chances of other having a pop at your server, etc.

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Paul Crawford
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@Vimes

"safe solution would be to have your own NAS box somewhere on the network"

Yes - except most home & small-office products are shockingly shit when it comes to security.

Maybe Trevor Pott has some advice from his much greater experience than me, but personally I won't put any of my machines on the world-accessible network as I don't trust them much. My own Linux PC which I can SSH in to also has a 2nd software firewall (behind my el-cheapo router) that only allows my work's sub-net to even try a log-in.

It might make a useful article, how to chose & set up a router and NAS + few machines so you can VPN in and access your data or desktop with tolerable risk?

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Paul Crawford
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Its not just the Americans, though they seem to be the worst offender these days given the open attitude of "USA courts can enforce USA laws in other countries".

It is about anyone out there who wants to get a hold of your data: be it spy agency in your own country or another, business competitors, jilted spouse, nosey employee at your hosting provider, whatever.

As for deliberate weaknesses, that is far easier to do in a closed source implementation (to leak the key as claimed for Crypto AG devices) than in a standard (where you hope that the breaking effort is much less than obvious brute-force due to some knowledge you have about it). Which is why the only standards you should consider are ones that have been publicly analysed by the international community (e.g. AES) and not ones where the creation was done in secret (e.g. Dual EC).

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Paul Crawford
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The only way that is trustworthy is to have your own encryption.

That way if anyone has a legal reason to access your data they have to come directly to you with a court order. You then only have to respond to courts that have legal authority over you, not over your ISP or over your cloud provider, etc.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Encryption

Just to add that SpiderOak claim to provide a drop-box like file sync/share with "zero knowledge" of the data stored on their servers. Of course, just so long as you don't create a share link for web access as that needs your key to be transferred.

This is how it should be!

The only reservation I have is I don't think it has been independently audited and even if the source was available to me, I doubt I could audit it myself.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Lovely idea... maybe not

Yes, look at BT here in the UK.

They outsourced email to Yahoo and the buggers changed settings from time to time without it being updated on BT's help pages, and their useless hell desk had no clue either :(

I mean WTF are they doing changing an email server's settings without informing the users. You know, maybe by emailing them in advance?

If I am kind then it is simple incompetence in not knowing the POP/IMAP settings at any point in time. If cynical then its because they want people to use the web-mail interface where they can serve up adverts.

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Paul Crawford
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Encryption

Encryption works if you use the "cloud" for data storage, say as an off-site back-up. And it is only trustworthy if you have control over exactly what software is doing it (and realistically that means a well regarded open source system) and you are the only one holding the key.

Where it all falls down is if you are using the "cloud" as a computing-on-demand service, or for document sharing and web-based editing, because then it has to be decrypted on the servers of the host, so they have access to your key.

Sure, the data at rest (i.e. stored on disk) may be encrypted, but they could snapshot the running VM or whatever and then poke through its memory for the key.

Really if you are concerned about privacy then run everything on a local machine, with multiple layers of firewall/VPN style protection depending on who/where access is needed, and only use an off-site provider to keep encrypted backups. That you encrypt before they move off-site.

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SOHOpeless Realtek driver vuln hits Wi-Fi routers

Paul Crawford
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Re: We must finally outlaw hardware without publically documented interfaces

Yes, fines should be large and enforced otherwise bugger-all will change.

How said companies chose to respond is up to them. It would be better for free software and probably cheaper for them to cooperate in making specifications fully public, also it would help build trust that nothing dodgy was added. But sense seems to be a rear thing these days.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: We must finally outlaw hardware without publically documented interfaces

Even if not going so far, it is time that suppliers were punished financially for failing to freely patch bugs in a timely manner for, say, 5 years after the software/product was last sold.

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Today, the US govt must explain why its rules on shutting down whole cell networks are a secret

Paul Crawford
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I don't see the logic here, if they are using phones to simultaneously trigger bombs then by time you know about it all said bombs have gone off. And if your aim is to detonate other bombs a bit later, you have timers and/or the ability to notice the network has gone dead for that.

The only situation where it would make any sense, and probably it is the reason for them wanting the document kept secret, is for demonstrations and similar where you would not want the organisers to be able to re-route a march, etc. And then it starts to look rather undemocratic.

Doh, me being stupid again! Why would they presume the people should have any say in their government's actions?

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When THINGS attack! Defending data centres from IoT device-krieg

Paul Crawford
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The problem comes down to two simple issues:

1) People want new & shiny & cheap.

2) No one gets punished for shit software.

Put them together and you see what IoT is bringing. As we can't stop people buying cheap tat, the only other real option[*] is to start making suppliers liable for shit security.

We know you can never be perfectly secure, but "shit" means things like known insecure protocols, no enforcement of password changes, no patching, ignoring vulnerability reports for more than 30 days, etc. That sort of thing ought to be punishable by more or less unlimited fines depending on how much lacking in diligence is found.

[*] Of course we could pay lots to mitigate other people's shit, but that is a lost battle if the projected numbers of IoT are true. Making the "polluter pay" is a better idea IMHO.

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NINETY PER CENT of Java black hats migrate to footling Flash

Paul Crawford
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Re: 120%?

They are allowing for the Spinal Tap Hacking Crew.

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Welcome, stranger: Inside Microsoft's command line shell

Paul Crawford
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Re: re: Windows XP was the first PC operating system to drop the MS-DOS

I think he meant the first consumer-facing system. They ran in parallel with 95/98/ME and were intended for serious applications (proper 32-bit programs, multi-user, etc).

Sadly in the push to make consumer & professional lines converge and be fast enough for gaming, compatible with older badly written software (some of it MS' of course!), etc, a lot of dumb decisions were made w.r.t. security, etc.

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So how should we tax these BASTARD COMPANIES, then?

Paul Crawford
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Re: High Wage and High Cost Economies

"That affects the price of everything"

Yes, but it also pays for better standards of health, hygiene and public safety. Where would you rather live, a poor-to-middle region of the UK, or poor-to-middle of Indonesia?

(nothing against Indonesia as such, but its your example)

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Paul Crawford
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Why tax?

AFIK the reason for taxation is we all want to live in a safe and prosperous environment.

That in turn means we need protection from those who would steal our sheep and rape our wife (or steal the wife and rape the sheep, same principle). For outside of our nation (a somewhat arbitrary boundary, usually resulting from hundreds of yeas of bloodshed and the odd natural boundary) it means we need some armed services and intelligence agencies , and inside that boundary we need the police and legal system. All has to be paid for.

We also want things to be generally clean and safe, so we need things sanitation and refuse disposal, health care, some standards and enforcement of employment law, etc. For long term prosperity we also need education so those who are able can do well in employment, not just those lucky enough to be born to those who value and can afford to pay for it. Bitter experience has shown that most people are lazy and will try to avoid "public spirited" support, very much so if it costs them money, so we also have to find a way of making sure it is paid for. So we have taxation.

"why not negative income tax for individuals"

Is that not one key aspect of the welfare state? To provide support for those who cant otherwise afford food, shelter, etc? While it might be popular in certain political circles to class them as spongers and time-wasters, and I dare say there is a proportion who are like that, the reality is a lot of folk will find themselves out of work at some point in their lives for any one of a number of reasons. Without support they could well end up as 'unemployable tramps' and never get a 2nd chance. Even if you are totally self-interested you should still want some welfare state, as poor and hungry people may decide to take your property and maybe life as well since they have little to lose.

I am not saying current governments are optimum, but it is a hell of a lot better than the pre-taxation days.

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Paul Crawford
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Evasion opportunities?

One thing that has been touched upon in these comments, rather than in the article, is the issue of how easy it is to evade the show of profit in order to avoid taxation.

That is the main beef of "man in the street" when it comes to corporate tax, not that it is, say, less than standard rate income tax, but that on massive turnover somehow international business (and some UK based ones) magic it away via shell companies, curious accounting practice, etc, and they are only seeing a pittance in "profit" to tax, when we know (or at least suspect) someone, somewhere, has made a fortune.

Now there may well be a truth that taxing people directly, be it consumer, worker or shareholder, is simpler and ultimately who pays anyway. But for a lot of the public having some system that taxes on turnover or related activity would be seen as fairer as there are not huge sums of money going abroad without tax being paid to support the local government and population.

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Who was downloading smut in the office while eating ice cream?

Paul Crawford
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Re: hmmm

Indeed. As the apocryphal survey found out: 90% of men masturbate and 10% are liars.

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Paul Crawford
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Shame that she felt she could not come back to the job. He should really have just given her a stiff talking-to so she could come clean and not be interfering with the company's download jobs, those that ought to have been in-hand at that time of the evening.

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Why Box and not SharePoint? 'Everybody doesn't hate us' says Box engineering veep

Paul Crawford
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Re: SaaS Bubble

At least if you are using a synced-to-the-cloud system and the supplier goes off line one day forever, you still have a local copy of your data.

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China tackles vital strippers-at-funeral problem

Paul Crawford
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@h4rm0ny - down votes

There is often no rhyme nor reason for commentard's voting actions.

They might not like the practice and chose to down-vote you as the messenger, or maybe they have some petty grudge based on some other posting of yours they didn't like. Or maybe their underpants were on too tight. Who knows?

Actually I'm betting on the underpants.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: @Ian Emery (was: Fantastic idea, I have already booked some for my funeral.)

He won't benefit in any way from even having a funeral, or anything, being dead.

But while he is alive, or even on his way to meet Death, he can enjoy the joke.

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Ransomware crims drop Bitcoin faster than Google axes services

Paul Crawford
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Reactive vs Proactive

"Far too many people are willing to pay up to have their data decrypted"

Such a shame they are so much less willing to pay for a backup (or someone knowledgeable to arrange & test it for them). Such is life...

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Surveillance, broadband, zero hours: Tech policy in a UK hung Parliament

Paul Crawford
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Sadly we, the populous, were given a chance to vote on at least some revision to the first-past-the-post system and we rejected it. Why you ask?

Maybe due to the Tories & Labour pushing to keep the system in place that has served both of them well since WW-2.

Or maybe because the morons out there felt it better to "punish" the Lib-dems for failing to hold back the Tory's education cuts & fees, than to make for a better and more representative future.

What do they say about getting the government you deserve? :(

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Microsoft to offer special Surface 3 for schools

Paul Crawford
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Re: Chromebook?

The big saving comes from the almost complete absence of malware for a chrome book, and the inability of BYOD style kids bringing them in infected with that, or other general crap that might be disruptive installed.

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Paul Crawford
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Re: Back in my day...

Slide rule? Oh how we dreamt of a slide rule!

That were luxury! We had to work with an abacus down t'mine and were beaten for 27 hours per day if you got it wrong! And you tell the kids today and they won't believe you...

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FBI alert: Get these motherf'king hackers off this motherf'king plane

Paul Crawford
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Really? I thought Boing, etc, assured us all that there is NO POSSIBILITY of in-flight systems being connected to the critical aircraft systems and thus leading to vulnerabilities.

Are you telling me they lied about this? When are Boing, Airbus, etx, going to be arrested and prosecuted for recklessly exposing critical systems to danger?

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London man arrested over $40 MILLION HFT flash crash allegations

Paul Crawford
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Re: meh

"HFT isn't the issue"

Really? Being fooled by proposed sales that don't ever take pace, and you say that is not a fundamental failure?

What he may (or may not) have done may be dubious, but the real issue is just how much those automated traders were taken in by momentary data of sales that did not complete. You would have thought after one or two incidents they would have learned, but no, it seems to have been profit for years if the allegations are true...

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White House cyber-general says US must be able to cyber-nuke the worst of the cyber-worst

Paul Crawford
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+1 for that.

Really, the note about UL is the only sane thing but it misses the point - there is a need for standards of software/systems not being shitty that are legally enforced. If your kit fails the UL standards then AFIK you can't sell it in the USA/Canada and if you do you can be prosecuted.

We need something similar for software: a requirement that best-practice (e.g. MISRA coding standards, etc) is used when writing it and the security aspect is properly considered, and finally that timely bug-fixes are provided for free (i.e. covered by the intial sales cost) and are practical to install for 5 years or so after the product family is last sold. Some legal stick is also needed, e.g. making the supplier liable for the consequences if not patched effectively after say 30 days of a vulnerability being reported, and obstructing security testing/auditing of your products to be illegal.

Yes, I know that costs money to do, but if it is a requirement on ALL businesses then doing it right is no longer a cost-penalty compared to the shitty state we currently see.

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VAMPIRE SQUID romps stun scientists: Unique sex lives revealed

Paul Crawford
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Motion in the ocean

But does it make for a small craft advisory?

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High on bath salts, alleged Norse god attempts tree love

Paul Crawford
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Oh once he has come down from the drugs he will be discharged

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iPhone vs. Galaxy fight hospitalises two after beer bottle stabbing

Paul Crawford
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Re: Wrong conclusion to the report

The funny thing is stupidity seems to increase quickly with alcohol consumption.

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D-Link router patch creates NEW SOHOpeless vuln

Paul Crawford
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The whole printf() family should always be regarded as suspect because (1) a lot of compilers can type-check the format string against the variable argument list, and (2) you don't always know if the destination string(s) are long enough to hold the result(s).

These days gcc can format-check, and most decent static analysis tools also do this, but I have seen too many projects with shed-loads of compilation warnings that were obviously ignored. And most modern libraries have 'nprintf' variants where the target buffer can have its size passed in to stop buffer overruns.

As with a lot of these problems, the solutions are already out there if only they would use them :(

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In some ways, dating apps are the anti-internet

Paul Crawford
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What is worse is that some folk do seem to succeed by using the “Hi, wanna jiggy?” approach, and that leads to the tragic reality of Darwinism:

"Survival of the fittest" is often misunderstood to be about strength, cunning, health, etc. It is not, it is about the ability to out-breed your opponents by any means.

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Why are enterprises being irresistibly drawn towards SSDs?

Paul Crawford
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@Rebecca M

The majority of HDD errors are indeed detected by the controller and/or reported by the disk itself when a read request cannot be honoured. That is what classical RAID protects against.

With a periodic "scrub", where the system attempts to real all HDD sectors so errors are seen and re-written to hopefully fix the problem via sector reallocation, you get a good chance of not ever suffering from known RAID failure under normal conditions (data read, or more commonly when a HDD is replaced and a rebuild is needed).

But today where you might have massive data sets you can't ignore the problems of "silent errors" where the HDD's correction/detection system, or any one of a number of other sub-systems, has mess with your data. You might want to read this paper on the subject:

http://research.cs.wisc.edu/wind/Publications/zfs-corruption-fast10.pdf

(There is another from CERN but I don't have the link to hand)

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Paul Crawford
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You have to start with the assumption that if a storage device fails, you won't ever/economically get any/trusworthy data back off it.

From that starting point, you ought to have enough paranoia to assume the worst, so you begin with the question of what happens when (not if) your device fails/corrupts?

RAID save you down-time, both use (machine keeps working) and admin (no need to restore your backup) but RAID!=Backup as we are always told.

Also most RAID & file systems don't have integrity checks so you can have data corruption and not know until something starts playing up. Once you realise this and the vast amount of data you may need to store (comparable to the 10^14 bits of HDD error rate) you might want that, so you then invest in ECC memory and a file system like ZFS or GPFS that has checks. They also support snapshots, a vastly under-rated feature that can save a lot of hassle in restoring a just deleted/modified file, or simplifying a consistent backup point-in-time.

And there there is your backup, which ought to be in another building and not on-line as a mounted file system or you might get randsomeware screwed (something that snapshots can also help with, if you notice soon enough).

Really the arguments for SSD vs HDD that matter are cost/GB and IOPS, and smarter systems will use both to give to lots of storage at good price and responsiveness.

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This open-source personal crypto-key vault wants two things: To make the web safer ... and your donations

Paul Crawford
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I suspect such side-channel attacks are only a real problem for remote equipment, or DRM applications where the end user/customer/dupe also "owns" the hardware that is intended to oppress them.

If you are enough of an intelligence agency target to have probes attached to hardware in your own business or home, I doubt the finer points of hardware design will be your biggest problem...

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