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Oh, that Apple Link you clicked on — it is Russian or Chinese or anything but Apple

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Click this link (don’t fret, nothing malicious). Chances are your browser displays “apple.com” in the address bar. What about this one? Goes to “epic.com,” right?

Wrong. They are in fact carefully crafted but entirely legitimate domains in non-English languages that are designed to look exactly the same as common English words. The real domains for the two above links are: xn--80ak6aa92e.com and xn--e1awd7f.com.

In quick testing by El Reg, Chrome 57 on Windows 10 and macOS 10.12, and Firefox 52 on macOS, display apple.com and epic.com rather than the actual domains. We’re told Chrome 57 and Firefox 52 are vulnerable while Safari and Internet Explorer are in the clear. Bleeding-edge Chrome 60 on macOS 10.12 was not vulnerable.

This domain disguising, which tricks people into visiting a site they think is legit but really isn’t, is called a “homograph attack” – and we were supposed to have fixed it more than a decade ago when the exact same problem was noticed with respect to the address “paypal.com.”

So what is this, how does it work, and why does it still exist?

Well, thanks to the origins of the internet in the United States, the global network’s addressing systems were only designed to handle English – or, more accurately, the classic Western keyboard and computer ASCII text.

The limitations of this approach became apparent very soon after people in other countries started using the domain name system and there was no way to represent their language.

And so a lengthy and often embarrassingly tone-deaf effort was undertaken by largely American engineers to resolve this by assigning ASCII-based codes to specific symbols. Unicode became “Punycode.”

PS: To fix the issue with Chrome, wait for Chrome 58 to arrive around April 25 and install it. On Firefox, Firefox Mobile, and Seamonkey, go to about:config and set network.IDN_show_punycode to true.

Dear Microsoft: absolutely not!

Great Rant–Quote

#MakeWhatsNext: Change the Odds

And it has nothing to do with your software. It has to do with your new ad campaign, which I happened to see while I was at the gym last week. Here’s the gist: brilliant young girls express their ambitions to cure cancer and explore outer space and play with the latest in virtual reality tech. Then—gotcha!—they’re shown a statistic that only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. They look crushed. The tagline? “Change the world. Stay in STEM.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

Microsoft, where’s your ad campaign telling adult male scientists not to rape their colleagues in the field? Where’s the campaign telling them not to steal or take credit for women’s work? Or not to serially sexually harass their students? Not to discriminate against them? Not to ignore, dismiss, or fail to promote them at the same rate as men? Not to publish their work at a statistically significant lower rate? Not to refuse to take women on field expeditions, as did my graduate advisor, now tenured at University of Washington? Where’s your ad campaign telling institutions not to hire, shelter, or give tenure to serial harassers or known sexists, as UW and countless others have done? Where’s your ad campaign encouraging scientific journals to switch to blind submissions and blind peer reviewers? Or to pay women at the same rate as men? I could keep linking articles all day. But I’m tired. Everyones’ noses have been pushed in these same data for decades and nothing changes.

There’s a reason women and girls leave STEM. It is because STEM is so hostile to women that leaving the field is an act of survival. It was for me.

Microsoft, do not dump this shit on the shoulders of young girls. It’s not their responsibility; it’s the responsibility of those in power. That means you.

Democrats draft laws in futile attempt to protect US internet privacy

At a the the present, I agree that this has a snowball’s chance in hell. But if more states take it seriously, just maybe it will negate the disgusting screwing of Internet users privacy by big corporate ISPs with their bidding done by their lackies in the congress, chief FCC lackie Pai and signed by the poorest excuse for a leader in years, Trump.

Hah Hah – Drain the swamp. What a joke. Just filled it with swine dung and does it wreak worse than it ever did. Hey maybe I show start a new category “swine swamp.”

Oh, do I sound angry? God damn right I am.

Less than a week after President Trump signed the law allowing ISPs to sell customers’ browsing habits to advertisers, Democratic politicians are introducing bills to stop the practice.

On Thursday, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) submitted a bill [PDF] that would enshrine the FCC privacy rules proposed during the Obama administration into law – the rules just shot down by the Trump administration. Americans would have to opt in to allowing ISPs to sell their browsing data under the proposed legislation, and ISPs would have to take greater care to protect their servers from hacking attacks.

“Thanks to Congressional Republicans, corporations, not consumers, are in control of sensitive information about Americans’ health, finances, and children. The Republican roll-back of strong broadband privacy rules means ISP no longer stands for Internet Service Provider, it stands for ‘Information Sold for Profit’,” said Senator Markey.

“This legislation will put the rules back on the books to protect consumers from abusive invasions of their privacy. Americans should not have to forgo their fundamental right to privacy just because their homes and phones are connected to the internet.”

The bill has been cosponsored by ten senators, all Democrats except for the independent Bernie Sanders. No Republicans have added their name to the legislation – nor shown any support for it – which probably means it’s doomed to failure given the GOP-dominated composition of the Senate.

The new bill echoes similar legislation introduced in the House of Representatives earlier in the week. Representative Jacky Rosen, who was a software developer before she got into politics, has introduced the Restoring American Privacy Act of 2017.

“As someone who has first-hand experience as a computer programmer, I know that keeping privacy protections in place is essential for safeguarding vulnerable and sensitive data from hackers,” said Representative Rosen (D-NV).

“I will not stand by and let corporations get access to the most intimate parts of people’s lives without them knowing and without consent. It is appalling that Republicans and President Trump would be in favor of taking Americans’ most personal information to sell it to the highest bidder.”

The FCC rules would have required internet users to sign up to allow their browsing histories to be sold, and put an increased onus on ISPs to protect their private data. One of the first acts of the new administration was to drop the FCC rules and legislate against them, with President Trump signing off on the legislation on Monday.

Facing a public backlash, the major ISPs have promised that they won’t sell off an individual’s browsing history – but left the door open for selling the data as part of a group. Customers will also have the choice to opt out, but you can bet the form to do so will be in the internet equivalent of a locked filing cabinet carrying a sign reading “Beware of the leopard.”

The bills will be welcomed by many but, realistically, have no chance of passing unless a sizable number of Republicans cross the floor. That’s not going to happen, so individual states have been taking action of their own.

Last week, Minnesota and Illinois legislatures began enacting legislation to provide privacy protections for internet users, and now New York has done the same. Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) has introduced legislation to stop ISPs selling off their customers’ browsing histories.

“When voters across the country elected this House and US Senate last November, I doubt they were voting with the hope that their ISP would be allowed to sell their browsing history,” said Senator Kennedy.

“This kind of anti-consumer, anti-privacy action doesn’t benefit anyone except large corporations. This is not an abstract threat to regular folks – this is bad policy with real-world consequences.”

It’s possible the ISPs could have bitten off more than they can chew on this one by seriously underestimating quite how angry this issue has made people. Despite frantic PR moves, more and more states are now taking matters into their own hands – which is just as the Founding Fathers designed the system.

SOURCE: HERE

The House voted to wipe away the FCC’s Internet privacy protections

SJ 34 would repeal safeguards that prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from sharing data, such as e-mails and web history, with third parties without user consent. It would also do away with transparency requirements, which mandate that ISPs provide easily accessible privacy notices to customers and advanced notice prior to changes…..Assuming Trump signs the measure, Internet providers will be freed from those obligations, which would otherwise have taken effect later this year. With this data, Internet providers can sell highly targeted ads, making them rivals to Google and Facebook, analysts say.

Internet providers also will be free to use customer data in other ways, such as selling the information directly to data brokers that target lucrative or vulnerable demographics.

“ISPs like Comcast, AT&T, and Charter will be free to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission — and no one will be able to protect you,” wrote Gigi Sohn, a former FCC staffer who helped draft the privacy rules, in a recent blog post on the Verge.

Selling your data is merely one of the four ways in which Internet providers intend to make money off consumers. The others include selling you access to the Internet, as they have traditionally done; selling access to media content they’ve acquired by purchasing large entertainment companies; and selling advertising that directly targets you based on the data the provider has collected by watching how you use the Internet and what content you consume.

Sources: The Hill, Washington Post

Here is the roll call Miscreants who voted to repeal. Source Senate.Gov

Miscreants who voted For BillVoted AgainstNot Voting
Alexander (R-TN)Baldwin (D-WI)sakson (R-GA)
Barrasso (R-WY)Bennet (D-CO)Paul (R-KY)
Blunt (R-MO)Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boozman (R-AR)Booker (D-NJ)
Burr (R-NC)Brown (D-OH)
Capito (R-WV)Cantwell (D-WA)
Cassidy (R-LA)Cardin (D-MD)
Cochran (R-MS)Carper (D-DE)
Collins (R-ME)Casey (D-PA)
Corker (R-TN)Coons (D-DE)
Cornyn (R-TX)Cortez Masto (D-NV)
Cotton (R-AR)Donnelly (D-IN)
Crapo (R-ID)Duckworth (D-IL)
Cruz (R-TX)Durbin (D-IL)
Daines (R-MT)Feinstein (D-CA)
Enzi (R-WY)Franken (D-MN)
Ernst (R-IA)Gillibrand (D-NY)
Fischer (R-NE)Harris (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)Hassan (D-NH)
Gardner (R-CO)Heinrich (D-NM)
Graham (R-SC)Heitkamp (D-ND)
Grassley (R-IA)Hirono (D-HI)
Hatch (R-UT)Kaine (D-VA)
Heller (R-NV)King (I-ME)
Hoeven (R-ND)Klobuchar (D-MN)
Inhofe (R-OK)Leahy (D-VT)
Johnson (R-WI)Manchin (D-WV)
Kennedy (R-LA)Markey (D-MA)
Lankford (R-OK)McCaskill (D-MO)
Lee (R-UT)Menendez (D-NJ)
McCain (R-AZ)Merkley (D-OR)
McConnell (R-KY)Murphy (D-CT)
Moran (R-KS)Murray (D-WA)
Murkowski (R-AK)Nelson (D-FL)
Perdue (R-GA)Peters (D-MI)
Portman (R-OH)Reed (D-RI)
Risch (R-ID)Sanders (I-VT)
Roberts (R-KS)Schatz (D-HI)
Rounds (R-SD)Schumer (D-NY)
Rubio (R-FL)Shaheen (D-NH)
Sasse (R-NE)Stabenow (D-MI)
Scott (R-SC)Tester (D-MT)
Shelby (R-AL)Udall (D-NM)
Strange (R-AL)Van Hollen (D-MD)
Sullivan (R-AK)Warner (D-VA)
Thune (R-SD)Warren (D-MA)
Tillis (R-NC)Whitehouse (D-RI)
Toomey (R-PA)Wyden (D-OR)
Wicker (R-MS)
Young (R-IN)

Is Microsoft blocking Windows 7/8.1 updates on newer hardware?

NOTE: I think this is rumor at this point, but I certainly would not put it past that awful company Microsoft to do this to force more people onto their Windows 10 Advertising & Spyware Platform.

Source: Here

Is Microsoft blocking Windows 7/8.1 updates on newer hardware?

A year ago, Microsoft revealed that Windows 10 would be the only Windows platform to support nextgen processors like Intel’s Kaby Lake, AMD’s Bristol Ridge, and Qualcomm’s 8996. The message then — as now — was clear: If you want to run a nextgen processor, you’ll need Windows 10.

Last week, Microsoft published KB 4012982, with the title “‘Your PC uses a processor that isn’t supported on this version of Windows’ error when you scan or download Windows updates”, suggesting that the restriction was now being enforced.

In the article, Microsoft describes the “symptoms” of the error as:

When you try to scan or download updates through Windows Update, you receive the following error message:

Unsupported Hardware
Your PC uses a processor that isn’t supported on this version of Windows and you won’t receive updates.

Additionally, you may see an error message on the Windows Update window that resembles the following:

Windows could not search for new updates
An error occurred while checking for new updates for your computer.
Error(s) found:
Code 80240037 Windows Update encountered an unknown error.

The “cause” of the error being:

This error occurs because new processor generations require the latest Windows version for support. For example, Windows 10 is the only Windows version that is supported on the following processor generations:

Intel seventh (7th)-generation processors
AMD “Bristol Ridge”
Qualcomm “8996”

Because of how this support policy is implemented, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 devices that have a seventh generation or a later generation processor may no longer be able to scan or download updates through Windows Update or Microsoft Update.

As noted by Woody Leonhard over at Woody on Windows, there’s a long thread on the topic on Reddit (naturally) but as of yet no one appears to have seen the error message “in the wild” so it’s likely updates aren’t currently being blocked (if you do see the error message we’d love to know).

Of course, updates being blocked through Windows Update — when it eventually happens — is an inconvenience rather than the end of the world, as there will no doubt be plenty of workarounds to enable nextgen processor owners to keep older Windows versions fully up to date.

Windows 10: Just Say No

Comment: I have been in I.T. my entire career. I witness the birth of the internet, and with the help of Microsoft, Google and their ilk, I am witnessing its death. What was suppose to be an open platform for information sharing and communication has descended into an advertising & spyware platform for all sorts of miscreants – legal and otherwise. Welcome to the cesspool.

Microsoft is disgustingly sneaky: Windows 10 isn’t an operating system, it’s an advertising platform

Don’t believe what Microsoft tells you — Windows 10 is not an operating system. Oh, sure, it has many features that make it look like an operating system, but in reality it is nothing more than a vehicle for advertisements. Since the launch of Windows 10, there have been numerous complaints about ads in various forms. They appear in the Start menu, in the taskbar, in the Action Center, in Explorer, in the Ink Workspace, on the Lock Screen, in the Share tool, in the Windows Store and even in File Explorer.

Microsoft has lost its grip on what is acceptable, and even goes as far as pretending that these ads serve users more than the company — “these are suggestions”, “this is a promoted app”, “we thought you’d like to know that Edge uses less battery than Chrome”, “playable ads let you try out apps without installing”. But if we’re honest, the company is doing nothing more than abusing its position, using Windows 10 to promote its own tools and services, or those with which it has marketing arrangements. Does Microsoft think we’re stupid?

….
(Yes they do)

It might feel as though we’re going over old ground here, and we are. Microsoft just keeps letting us (and you) down, time and time and time again.

It’s time for things to change, but will Microsoft listen?
Article source: HERE

(Of course not, they are a monopolist)

Cloud Pets! Your Family & Intimate Messages exposed to all sorts of Miscreants

… Now I know the average parent spends a good deal their time on Facebook and other “look at me .. look at me” social media and can care less about such hard to understand things like I.T. Security.

BUT THESE ARE YOUR CHILDREN AND YOU NEED TO PROTECT THEM!

…sorry, as a parent, this stuff makes my blood boil. Look parents, you scour the pedophile databases for your neighborhood, but leave the barn door open on the Internet. If you think governmental entities are going to protect you, you are only fooling yourselves. Companies peddling these things are about making the maximum amount of money at the lowest possible cost. They will **NOT** invest in expensive and complex security. Why? they do not have to. By the time the breach is discovered, they have made there millions. And there is absolutely no teeth in any governmental mandates op provide security such that any really exist in the first place.

Ok, on with the story!

The personal information of more than half a million people who bought internet-connected fluffy animals has been compromised.

The details, which include email addresses and passwords, were leaked along with access to profile pictures and more than 2m voice recordings of children and adults who had used the CloudPets stuffed toys.

The US company’s toys can connect over Bluetooth to an app to allow a parent to upload or download audio messages for their child.

Of course the company denied it and shot at the messenger

CloudPets’s chief executive, Mark Myers, denied that voice recordings were stolen in a statement to NetworkWorld magazine. “Were voice recordings stolen? Absolutely not.” He added: “The headlines that say 2m messages were leaked on the internet are completely false.” Myers also told NetworkWorld that when Motherboard raised the issue with CloudPets, “we looked at it and thought it was a very minimal issue”. Myers added that a hacker would only be able to access the sound recordings if they managed to guess the password. When the Guardian tried to contact Myers on Tuesday, emails to CloudPets’s official contact address were returned as undeliverable.

Troy Hunt, owner of data breach monitoring service Have I Been Pwned, drew attention to the breach, which he first became aware of in mid-February. At that point, more than half a million records were being traded online. Hunt’s own source had first attempted to contact CloudPets in late December, but also received no response. While the database had been connected to the internet, it had more than 800,000 user records in it, suggesting that the data dump Hunt received is just a fraction of the full information potentially stolen.

The personal information was contained in a database connected directly to the internet, with no usernames or passwords preventing any visitor from accessing all the data. A week after Hunt’s contact first attempted to alert CloudPets, the original databases were deleted, and a ransom demand was left, and a week after that, no remaining databases were publicly accessible. CloudPets has not notified users of the hack.

Hunt argues the security flaws should undercut the entire premise of connected toys. “It only takes one little mistake on behalf of the data custodian – such as misconfiguring the database security – and every single piece of data they hold on you and your family can be in the public domain in mere minutes.

“If you’re fine with your kids’ recordings ending up in unexpected places then so be it, but that’s the assumption you have to work on because there’s a very real chance it’ll happen. There’s no doubt whatsoever in my mind that there are many other connected toys out there with serious security vulnerabilities in the services that sit behind them. Inevitably, some would already have been compromised and the data taken without the knowledge of the manufacturer or parents.”

John Madelin, CEO at IT security experts RelianceACSN, echoes Hunt’s warnings. “Connected toys that are easily accessible by hackers are sinister. The CloudPets issue highlights the fact that manufacturers of connected devices really struggle to bake security in from the start. The 2.2m voice recordings were stored online, but not securely, along with email addresses and passwords of 800,000 users, this is unforgivable.”  Source: Guardian Article Here

Now for the technical, here are some tid-bits from the researcher. Full article here

Clearly, CloudPets weren’t just ignoring my contact, they simply weren’t even reading their emails”

There are references to almost 2.2 million voice recordings of parents and their children exposed by databases that should never have contained production data.

But then I dug a little deeper and took a look at the mobile app:

CloudPets app

This app communicates with a website at spiraltoys.s.mready.net which is on a domain owned by Romanian company named mReady. That URL is bound to a server with IP address 45.79.147.159, the exact same address the exposed databases were on. That’s a production website there too because it’s the one the mobile app is hitting so in other words, the test and staging databases along with the production website were all sitting on the one box. The most feasible explanation I can come up with for this is that one of those databases is being used for production purposes and the other non-production (a testing environment, for example).

Not so Smart using a Smart TV

As reported Vizio’s Smart TVs spied on you

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership. And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

That’s what Vizio was up to behind the screen, but what was the company telling consumers? Not much, according to the complaint.

Source here

Well for their offense Vizio was slapped with 2.2million fine. Sounds like a lot, right? Well as a colleague of mine observed, that is 20cents per TV. In other words, it was a great ROI for Vizio and points out how toothless the FTC really is.

So what to do? Turn off all the Smart TV features, boycott Vizio (that said, Samsung and others are just as bad it may appear). Better Yet, unplug the TV from the Internet.

Some sites suggest that Roku and Apple streaming boxes front-ending your TV are better. I am not so sure as I know with the Roku, at least, one needs to reset your ID often to clear the tracking and there does not appear to be a permanent “Kill” switch for this type of spyware crap.

I am toying of building my own set top streaming device using the RasberryPI. If I do so, I will pay pay special attention to the privacy aspects of the embedded software I use and report findings here. Don’t hold your breath, time is at a premium of here.

Anyway – welcome to the iDIoT. The Insecure Dumbed-down Internet of Things

Nick

Trump: Blame the Computers not Russia

Trump: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on. We have speed, we have a lot of other things, but I’m not sure we have the kind the security we need,” Trump said according to press pool report. He was at the Mar-a-Lago resort at the time of making the statement.” Source

Actually, I agree with Trump on this. We do not have the security we need. More fundamental to that, we do not have a mindset that puts computer security first. We bolt the front door and secure our physical premises with 24/7 monitoring services, yet we leave the barn door wide open for our online presence be it email, social media, browsing and shopping.

Privacy and security is an option when in fact it should come first. Imagine if the internet was built from the ground up with privacy and security as the foundation layer? That would mean no web bugs, tracking cookies, targeted advertising, privacy statements like Netflix’s (for example) that say, let me rape you and sell my experience and if you do not agree, your option is to cancel your subscription.

And home router manufacturers that make appliances so easily hacked it is a joke. And Microsoft windows that to this day facilitates users running with administrator privileges in everyday use. And the IoT – internet of things that have little if any security. And the mindset of the average consumer the allows Amazon’s Alexa into their home. Completely secure, right? Yeah sure, Why then, I ask, did this happen: “Amazon had been served with a search warrant in a murder case, as detectives in Bentonville, Ark., want to know what Alexa heard in the early morning hours of Nov. 22, 2015 — when Victor Collins was found dead in a hot tub behind a home after an Arkansas Razorbacks football game. (Read more) Come on! Lock the door, arm yourself to the teeth, **but** let a device with 7 microphones listening to every sound in your house connected to ?? and easily hacked by ?? (you’ll never know!). By the way, the same goes with Siri and Google voice on your smart phones.

Don’t blame the Russians, blame yourself. Yes, the mindset needs to change indeed.

Happy New Year.

Russian hackers throw Trump victory party with new spear phishing campaign

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Tied to DNC breach

Less than six hours after Donald Trump won the US presidential election, a new spear phishing campaign was launched by a Russia-based group. The group is apparently one of the two organizations connected to the breach at the Democratic National Committee, and it’s responsible for nearly a decade of intelligence collection campaigns against military and diplomatic targets.

Security firm Volexity refers to the group as “the Dukes” based on the malware family being utilized. According to a report by Volexity founder Steven Adair, the group is known for a malware family known as “the Dukes”—also referred to as APT29 or “Cozy Bear.” The Dukes’ primary targets in this latest round of attacks appear to be non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and policy think tanks in the US.