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Comment Re:Oil Sands (Score 1) 165

If you don't want our money, many other countries will be happy to take it.

No longer true, to be honest. People (read countries) still take it, but they're no longer happy about it. In fact a lot of them are planning to move away from it. The biggest customer for US Treasuries is the US Federal Reserve nowadays . Go figure.

Comment Drinking Water Isn't So Easy As You Think (Score 3, Interesting) 247

When I was a kid I did Unicef collection every Haloween. We got an orange cardboard coin box at school, and collected donations to it along with our trick-or-treat. Unicef used these funds to build water wells for people in Africa who had only access to contaminated surface water.

A decade or two later, we found that many of these wells accessed aquifers that were contaminated by arsenic. And that thus we kids had funded the wholesale poisoning of people in Africa, and that a lot of them had arsenic-induced cancers that were killing them.

OK, we would not make that mistake again, and today we have access to better water testing. But it caused me to lose my faith that we really do know how to help poor people in the third world, no matter how well-intentioned we are.

And we had better not go around curing disease withoput also promoting birth control. Despite what the churches say, and the local dislikes and prejudices. Or we'll just be condemning more people to starve.

Comment Re:Harder than killing him... (Score 3, Informative) 520

According to TFA, he was shot in the chest multiple times before being taken into custody. I don't think bringing him in alive was their top priority, but I agree that it is unusual and will be interesting to hear what he claims his motives were rather than piecing it together by scraping it off of his Facebook page and his Guns 'R Us receipts.

Comment Depends on the business (Score 5, Insightful) 453

Today, you usually know who's calling before you answer. It may be appropriate to take a call if it's more important than the meeting. If you're in sales, a call from a major customer is probably more important than a meeting. If you're responsible for something operational, a call from someone reporting trouble is probably more important than the meeting.

As for reading texts, if you're in a meeting and the current meeting activity doesn't involve you, it's an effective use of your time. This is more of a large-meeting thing. Large meetings are generally nonproductive anyway.

Comment Already available (Score 1) 116

Here are some existing over-the-power-line transmission systems usable for home control:

  • X10 Pro signals over the power line since 1978, and still works, despite having annoyed millions with their ads in the 1990s.
  • LonWorks - originally intended for home automation, but was too expensive in its early days. So it became a standard for commercial building automation. So robust electrically that it's used on subway trains to control auxiliary equipment (signs, lights, HVAC, etc.)
  • HomePlug - also known as IEEE 1901. Mostly used to pipe Ethernet packets around house-sized buildings. More bandwidth than needed for lighting and such, but there are HomePlug thermostats.

We don't need another one. Especially since the original article's link to the protocol definition is a dead link. And because making home automation run a web server with "node.js" is terrible from a security perspective. And because it's WiFi based, which means it won't go through some walls it needs to go through, and will go through some walls it shouldn't. With the power line systems you can put a low-pass filter after your meter and keep out external signals.

Comment May be an attack via the network controller. (Score 5, Informative) 265

I read the original article, but I don't see any part where someone recorded what was going out the speaker and looked at it. If someone is sending data over audio, it will show on a scope. Clearly that's not going to do much unless the receiving side has some kind of modem code listening for it.

Then there are claims like "It seemed to send TLS encrypted commands in the HostOptions field of DHCP packets." Attacking via DHCP packets is plausible; DHCP clients get told a lot of things they're supposed to do, and some of the older vendor-specific extensions are very insecure. But TLS? TLS isn't used within the DHCP protocol itself. There's a way to store DHCP configuration info in an LDAP server and have a DHCP server access it via LDAP.

If someone is seeing strange DHCP packets, and reloading the BIOS won't help, it's possible that what's going on involves an attack via the network controller. The fancier network controller parts now have CPUs and EEPROM. This may be an attack which puts code in the network controller which in turn patches the BIOS.

The people studying this need to list exactly what network ICs the machines involved are using. Some network devices are too dumb to be used as an attack vector, but some have whole protocol stacks, WiFi support, remote administration support, etc. It would not be surprising if those were attackable.

I've expected attacks via network controllers for years. That's been used to attack servers. There's a known attack on PCI controllers which can survive rebooting and reloading the BIOS.

If the machine has wireless networking hardware and the attack exploits the network controller, it may be able to do wireless networking even if the user thinks they have the hardware disabled. Time to open up the machine, clip onto the JTAG port on the network controller, and read out the device memory with a JTAG debugger. Compare the dumps with other machines.


Airgap-Jumping Malware May Use Ultrasonic Networking To Communicate 265

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dan Goodwin writes at Ars Technica about a rootkit that seems straight out of a science-fiction thriller. According to security consultant Dragos Ruiu one day his MacBook Air, on which he had just installed a fresh copy of OS X, spontaneously updated the firmware that helps it boot. Stranger still, when Ruiu then tried to boot the machine off a CD ROM, it refused and he also found that the machine could delete data and undo configuration changes with no prompting. Next a computer running the Open BSD operating system also began to modify its settings and delete its data without explanation or prompting and further investigation showed that multiple variants of Windows and Linux were also affected. But the story gets stranger still. Ruiu began observing encrypted data packets being sent to and from an infected laptop that had no obvious network connection with—but was in close proximity to—another badBIOS-infected computer. The packets were transmitted even when the laptop had its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth cards removed. Ruiu also disconnected the machine's power cord so it ran only on battery to rule out the possibility it was receiving signals over the electrical connection. Even then, forensic tools showed the packets continued to flow over the airgapped machine. Then, when Ruiu removed internal speaker and microphone connected to the airgapped machine, the packets suddenly stopped. With the speakers and mic intact, Ruiu said, the isolated computer seemed to be using the high-frequency connection to maintain the integrity of the badBIOS infection as he worked to dismantle software components the malware relied on. It's too early to say with confidence that what Ruiu has been observing is a USB-transmitted rootkit that can burrow into a computer's lowest levels and use it as a jumping off point to infect a variety of operating systems with malware that can't be detected. It's even harder to know for sure that infected systems are using high-frequency sounds to communicate with isolated machines. But after almost two weeks of online discussion, no one has been able to rule out these troubling scenarios, either. 'It looks like the state of the art in intrusion stuff is a lot more advanced than we assumed it was,' says Ruiu. 'The take-away from this is a lot of our forensic procedures are weak when faced with challenges like this. A lot of companies have to take a lot more care when they use forensic data if they're faced with sophisticated attackers.'"

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