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Computer Spots Fakers Better Than People Do 62

Posted by timothy
from the just-don't-make-eye-contact dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Using sophisticated pattern matching software, researchers have had substantially better success with a computer, than was obtained with human subjects, in spotting faked facial expressions of pain. [Original, paywalled article in Current Biology] From the Reuters piece: '... human subjects did no better than chance — about 50 percent ...', 'The computer was right 85 percent of the time.'"

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 1) 572

Actually, we'd push the CA on the enterprise desktops to make the "experience" identical to it not being there. because the product was advertised as "transparent" to traffic, for some marketting-speak definition of "transparent".

The bottom line is "do that which makes customers complain the least".

If enough employees complained that this interception and certificate resigning was unacceptable, or not disclosed clearly enough, things might change. They don't.

For my part, I was satisfied that the decrypted traffic would not leave the appliance. Of course, someone could later change things so this was possible, but one can't object to useful, legitimate functions, because another might expend non-trivial effort to twist them to nefarious ends.

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 1) 572

Furthermore, the mechanism is in the product to NOT decrypt and reencrypt selected sensitive whitelisted sites. The purchaser of the appliance has complete control.

It also does not work for some web applications which HAVE to be whitelisted because they do not permit import of new trust credentials.

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 1) 572


Your whole privacy argument fails in the legal context because the unencrypted data does not leave the appliance.

Trust me, my employer and their lawyers went over these issues with great care, and I raised many of the concerns you pointed out. The issue hinges on two points:
1) enencrypted data does not leave the box (except whent the box actually does SSL termination), and 2) non-modified browsers (such as BYOD equipment) would pop up a Certificate validation error.

At that point it becomes an HR education issue.

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 1) 572

No, people do not lose their individuality at work, but they should have a resonable understanding of their use of corporate resources, and most HR departments issue employee handbooks that spell this out, including any monitoring of computing or network resources that may take place.

As for being "tricked", only a fool would consider equipment not their own to respect their privacy wishes without engaging in some due diligence: either establishing a VPN to trusted equipment, or carefully examining the trust anchors the equipment they use has installed.

A better complaint might be to question the use of such equipment in public access networks, with forged CA certs. Proper practice would have a captive portal explaining policy, and using a clearly non-standard resigning CA that had to be explicitly accepted. But still, it is ultimately the user's responsibility to establish due diligence with regard to network security.

There is nothing inherently nefarious about resigning SSL traffic. In fact, in the public access scenario it helps thwart drive-by virus attacks and other malware through secure web sessions, at the expense of end user privacy. Do what us "in the know" do: set up a VPN to trusted servers.

In any case, the problem only arises when using equipment administered by others wirh prior installation of the trusted resigning CA cert: your own equipment, lacking the cert would CLEARLY indicate signing by an untrusted source. That strikes me as an appropriate balance: you have no expectation of privacy using someone else's computer!

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 1) 572

Wrong: behind our corporate router, it's our network. The users are in our employ. That's the reasoning.

And the notice is in the trusted certs installed on the client PCs.

End to end security was in place AS FAR AS THE CORPORATE ORGANIZATION IS CONCERNED. Security from the standpoint of the employee is a different issue that the employee has to take up with the employer.

Do you really think your corporate network traffic is secure from your employer? It's easy enough for you to check, you know.

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 2) 572

HTTP Proxy, SMTP Proxy "encrypted traffic" features. (There was also an HTTPS proxy, but all it did was drop connections to destinations on a blacklist by domain name as specified by the certificate the remote server provided: it did not decrypt, reencrypt, and resign).

It properly IS a proxy since it proxies the traffic for you. Whether you consider that a MITM attack on encrypted traffic depends on whether you trust the proxy or not.

SSL does not prevent MITM attacks: it just makes MITM mangling of encrypted traffic discoverable. IF the "man" is "your man" (or your employer's man) then it presumably is not an attack.

Realize the target audience of vendors of procducts like these: IT managers who want to "protect" against malicious traffic, whether encrypted or not. Of course we can only do that as a MITM. But they way they see it, all network connections "inside" are "theirs", so our box is "their" man in the middle. Often they are clueless and just ask salesmen "Does it work with HTTPS and SMTP/STARTTLS and SMTP/SSL?" without knowing what that means, only that encrypted traffic is "difficult" to scan.

Comment: Re:Will be the norm shortly.... (Score 1) 572

There are non-nefarious uses for this: SPAM and virus filtering of encrypted email and blocking of undesirable encrypted web content.

As for being a mini-NSA, the appliances that I helped develop to do this did not allow unecrypted traffic to leave the box (unless we were deliberately doing ingress SSL-termination), though theoretically someone could hacl the box to do this.

The best way to assure users of such a proxy that their content is not being monitored is to disclose the make, model, and confiuration of the appliance and, short of a hacked appliance, decide for themselves if the plain text content is constrained to be in the appliance.

Comment: Re:Not MITM (Score 5, Informative) 572

At a former employer, we produced firewall hardware where this was SPECIFICALLY available as a feature. In fact, I developed the software for it. The certificates provided by the external servers are resigned by a CA cert installed on the appliance which is accepted by client machines behind it. Our equipment allowed the option of generating an internal CA cert, which would then be exported to all clients; generate a Certificate Signing Request, which could be signed by a CA already trusted by clients and imported back to the appliance (if the organization had it's own PKI infrastructure); or allow a resigning certificate and key to be imported.

The justification is simply this: "Our network, our traffic."

The practical reasons for this are to permit the firewall to do virus scanning on encrypted web pages and email (I handled SMTP STARTTLS and SMTP/SSL as well).

At least as far as the work I did went, there was no official way to take the plain text traffic off the appliance - it was not "designed" to snoop on employee traffic, though if someone managed to hack the appliance this would be theoretically possible.

Of course, if you are a contractor or employee concerned about the confidentiality of your traffic, you should exercise due diligence with regard to the CA's your machine trusts.

In our case, we DID have the capability to specify domain names for which this resigning would not be done: those that were "trusted" by the organization installing the firewall. This made it possible to go the extra mile and make some banking site traffic secure end-to-end, but it was on a site by site basis.

As I recall, I left the employ of this company prior to SNI support ever being implemented (we barely supported TLS 1.1, and certainly not TLS 1.2 when I was there, much to my protestations, and SNI is a TLS 1.2 Client Hello extension).

The appliance could also be used in a reverse-fashion: protecting web servers (but not virtual ones, for lack of SNI support, unless they shared a domain name), where it could just do SSL termination, with the site-specific certificate (presumably signed by a CA trusted by most browsers), though we allowed resigning here as well, in the event the internal traffic had to remain encrypted.



Scientists Invent Urine-Powered Robots 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the bathroom-bot dept.
Lucas123 writes "Researchers have already built robots that can use microorganisms to digest waste material, such as rotten fruit and vegetables, and generate electricity from it. This time, a group of scientists has taken that concept to a strange, new place: urine-powered robots. The scientists from the University of the West of England, Bristol and the University of Bristol constructed a system in robots that functions like the human heart, except it's designed to pump urine into the robot's 'engine room,' converting the waste into electricity and enabling the robot to function completely on its own. The researchers hope the system, which can hold 24.5 ml of urine, could be used to power future generations of robots, or what they're calling EcoBots. 'In the city environment, they could re-charge using urine from urinals in public lavatories,' said Peter Walters, a researcher with the University of the West of England. 'In rural environments, liquid waste effluent could be collected from farms.'"

Entropy requires no maintenance. -- Markoff Chaney