Wednesday, 18 October 2017

On 01:55 by Vismit Rakhecha in    No comments
Yesterday, Microsoft announced the second generation of its detachable PC, the Surface Book 2. At Adobe's MAX conference today though, HP has announced its own take on the form factor with the ZBook x2.

The company says that the ZBook 2 is the first detachable PC workstation, and it's meant to give designers the power that they need to easily get their work done.
It comes with dual-core seventh- or quad-core eighth-generation processors, and it has an option for Nvidia Quadro M620 (2GB GDDR5) graphics. And one of the benefits of the dGPU here is that it's stored in the tablet portion of it, rather than in the base as with the Surface Book. If you remove the keyboard, you don't lose that additional GPU power.
There are also buttons on the sides, which can be customized for various shortcuts. They'll also be preprogrammed with 18 different shortcuts for some Adobe Creative Cloud apps like Photoshop and Lightroom.
"As the world’s most powerful and first detachable PC workstation, there is no device better suited to turn the vision of artists and designers into reality," said Xavier Garcia, vice president and general manager of HP Z Workstations, HP Inc. "With the HP ZBook x2, we are delivering the perfect tool to accelerate the creative process – with unprecedented power, performance and natural ease-of-use. This device will make it easier than ever for creators to do what they do best – bring inspiring new ideas to life and enrich the world around us."
The tablet is a 14-inch 4K UHD display, and customers can draw on that with the Wacom pen that supports 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and doesn't require a battery. If the display isn't enough for you though, HP says that you can power up to two external 4K displays or five total external screens.

If dedicated Quadro graphics, a 4K display, and a quad-core processor aren't enough, it also comes with up to 32GB of RAM, twice as much as competing devices. You can also get it up to a 512GB NVMe M.2 SED SSD.

Starting at $1,749, it comes with either Windows 10 Home Single Language, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations, or FreeDOS 2.0, and comes out in December.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

On 04:46 by Vismit Rakhecha   No comments
Is there a limit to a state's control over users' data? If yes, what is that limit and what shall be the precedent for crossing the aforementioned limit? These questions and much more will be on the radar when Telegram fights the Russian government over the privacy of user data. The FSB (Federal Security Service) has imposed a fine of 800,000 rubles (approx. $14,000) on the company for refusing to share user data with the Kremlin.

Back in June, Telegram had agreed to register with the government in order to avoid a nationwide ban on the service. But, the service's founder, Pavel Durov had reassured users that "not a single byte of private data will ever be shared with any government". The FSB claimed that the messaging service was a communication channel for terrorists to perpetrate crimes on a large scale. Now, the Meshchansky Court of Moscow has levied the fine on the company but, its founder has refused to budge.
Mr. Durov wrote in a post on VK, another service he created, that the move was an unconstitutional one and violated the privacy of the citizens. Additionally, Durov asked if any lawyers were interested in helping him appeal the ruling. The post [translated] can be read below:
"In addition to the fact that the requirements of the FSB are not technically feasible, they contradict Article 23 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation: "Everyone has the right to privacy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, telegraphic and other communications."

The desire of the FSB to gain access to personal correspondence is an attempt to expand its influence at the expense of the constitutional right of citizens. Today's decision of the Meshchansky court can be appealed until the claim of the FSB is examined by a judge familiar with the basic law of Ros

This isn't the first time that Telegram has had a run-in with the authorities. The FBI allegedly tried to gain backdoor access to the service by courting Durov and even attempting to cajole a developer at the firm.

Monday, 16 October 2017

On 05:44 by Vismit Rakhecha   No comments
A crippling flaw in a widely used code library has fatally undermined the security of millions of encryption keys used in some of the highest-stakes settings, including national identity cards, software- and application-signing, and trusted platform modules protecting government and corporate computers.
The weakness allows attackers to calculate the private portion of any vulnerable key using nothing more than the corresponding public portion. Hackers can then use the private key to impersonate key owners, decrypt sensitive data, sneak malicious code into digitally signed software, and bypass protections that prevent accessing or tampering with stolen PCs. The five-year-old flaw is also troubling because it's located in code that complies with two internationally recognized security certification standards that are binding on many governments, contractors, and companies around the world. The code library was developed by German chipmaker Infineon and has been generating weak keys since 2012 at the latest.

The flaw is the one Estonia's government obliquely referred to last month when it warned that 750,000 digital IDs issued since 2014 were vulnerable to attack. Estonian officials said they were closing the ID card public key database to prevent abuse. Last week, Microsoft, Google, and Infineon  all warned how the weakness can impair the protections built into TPM products that ironically enough are designed to give an additional measure of security to high-target individuals and organizations.

"In public key cryptography, a fundamental property is that public keys really are public—you can give them to anyone without any impact in security," Graham Steel, CEO of encryption consultancy Cryptosense, told Ars. "In this work, that property is completely broken." He continued:
It means that if you have a document digitally signed with someone's private key, you can't prove it was really them who signed it. Or if you sent sensitive data encrypted under someone's public key, you can't be sure that only they can read it. You could now go to court and deny that it was you that signed something—there would be no way to prove it, because theoretically, anyone could have worked out your private key.

Both Steel and Petr Svenda, one of the researchers who discovered the faulty library, also warned the flaw has, or at least had, the potential to create problems for elections in countries where vulnerable cards are used. While actual voter fraud would be difficult to carry out, particularly on a scale needed to sway elections, "just the possibility (although impractical) is troubling as it is support for various fake news or conspiracy theories," Svenda, who is a professor at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, told Ars. Invoking the prolific leakers of classified National Security Agency material, Steel added: "Imagine a Shadowbrokers-like organization posts just a couple of private keys on the Internet and claims to have used the technique to break many more."

The flaw is the subject of a research paper titled The Return of Coppersmith's Attack: Practical Factorization of Widely Used RSA Moduli, which will be presented on November 2 at the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security. The vulnerability was discovered by Slovak and Czech researchers from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, Enigma Bridge in Cambridge, UK, and Ca' Foscari University in Italy. To give people time to change keys, the paper describing the factorization method isn't being published until it's presented at the conference.
The flaw resides in the Infineon-developed RSA Library version v1.02.013, specifically within an algorithm it implements for RSA primes generation. The library allows people to generate keys with smartcards rather than with general-purpose computers, which are easier to infect with malware and hence aren't suitable for high-security uses. The library runs on hardware Infineon sells to a wide range of manufacturers using Infineon smartcard chips and TPMs. The manufacturers, in turn, sell the wares to other device makers or end users. The flaw affects only RSA encryption keys, and then only when they were generated on a smartcard or other embedded device that uses the Infineon library.
To boost performance, the Infineon library constructs the keys' underlying prime numbers in a way that makes them prone to a process known as factorization, which exposes the secret numbers underpinning their security. When generated properly, an RSA key with 2048 bits should require several quadrillion years—or hundreds of thousands of times the age of universe—to be factorized with a general-purpose computer. Factorizing a 2048-bit RSA key generated with the faulty Infineon library, by contrast, takes a maximum of 100 years, and on average only half that. Keys with 1024 bits take a maximum of only three months.

The factorization can be dramatically accelerated by spreading the load onto multiple computers. While costs and times vary for each vulnerable key, the worst case for a 2048-bit one would require no more than 17 days and $40,300 using a 1,000-instance machine on Amazon Web Service and $76 and 45 minutes to factorize an affected 1024-bit key. On average, it would require half the cost and time to factorize the affected keys. All that's required is passing the public key through an extension of what's known as Coppersmith's Attack.

While all keys generated with the library are much weaker than they should be, it's not currently practical to factorize all of them. For example, 3072-bit and 4096-bit keys aren't practically factorable. But oddly enough, the theoretically stronger, longer 4096-bit key is much weaker than the 3072-bit key and may fall within the reach of a practical (although costly) factorization if the researchers' method improves.

To spare time and cost, attackers can first test a public key to see if it's vulnerable to the attack. The test is inexpensive, requires less than 1 millisecond, and its creators believe it produces practically zero false positives and zero false negatives. The fingerprinting allows attackers to expend effort only on keys that are practically factorizable. The researchers have already used the method successfully to identify weak keys, and they have provided a tool here to test if a given key was generated using the faulty library. A blog post with more details is here.

The researchers examined keys used in electronic identity cards issued by four countries and quickly found two—Estonia and Slovakia—were issuing documents with fingerprinted keys, both of which were 2048 bits in length, making them practically factorizable. Estonia has disclosed the flaw in what it said were 750,000 of the cards issued since 2014. Ars checked the key used in an e-residency card Ars Senior Business Editor Cyrus Farivar obtained in 2015 and it came back as factorizable.
While it has closed its public key database, Estonian government officials haven't announced any plans to replace the affected cards. The status of Slovakia's system isn't immediately clear. With two of the four countries checked testing positive for fingerprinted keys, a more exhaustive search is likely to identify many more nations issuing cards with factorizable keys.

Next, the researchers examined a sampling of 41 different laptop models that used trusted platform modules. They found vulnerable TPMs from Infineon in 10 of them. The vulnerability is especially acute for TPM version 1.2, because the keys it uses to control Microsoft's BitLocker hard-disk encryption are factorizable. That means anyone who steals or finds an affected computer could bypass the encryption protecting the hard drive and boot sequence. TPM version 2.0 doesn't use factorizable keys for BitLocker, although RSA keys generated for other purposes remain affected. Infineon has issued a firmware update that patches the library vulnerability, and downstream affected TPM manufacturers are in the process of releasing one as well.

The researchers also scanned the Internet for fingerprinted keys and quickly found hits in a variety of surprising places. They found 447 fingerprinted keys—237 of them factorizable—used to sign GitHub submissions, some for very popular software packages. GitHub has since been notified of the fingerprinted keys and is in the process of getting users to change them.

The researchers also found 2,892 PGP keys used for encrypted e-mail, 956 of which were factorizable. The researchers speculated that the majority of the PGP keys were generated using the Yubikey 4, which allows owners to use the faulty library to create on-chip RSA keys. Other functions of the USB device, including U2F authentication, remain unaffected.

The researchers went on to find 15 factorizable keys used for TLS. Strangely, almost all of them contain the string "SCADA" in the common name field. All 15 fingerprinted keys have a characteristic involving their prime numbers that's outside the range of what's produced by the faulty Infineon library, raising the possibility there was a modification of it that hasn't yet been documented.
This is the second time in four years that a major crypto flaw has been found hitting a crypto scheme that's passed rigorous certification tests. In 2013, a different set of researchers unearthed flaws in Taiwan's secure digital ID system that would allow attackers to impersonate some citizens. Both the flawed Infineon library and the Taiwanese digital ID system passed the FIPS 140-2 Level 2 and the Common Criteria standards. Both certifications are managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Both certifications are often mandatory for certain uses inside government agencies, contractors, and others.

The researchers who uncovered the Infineon library flaw questioned whether the secrecy required by some of the certification process played a role. They wrote:

Our work highlights the dangers of keeping the design secret and the implementation closed-source, even if both are thoroughly analyzed and certified by experts. The lack of public information causes a delay in the discovery of flaws (and hinders the process of checking for them), thereby increasing the number of already deployed and affected devices at the time of detection.

All told, the researchers estimate that Infineon's faulty library may have generated tens of millions of RSA keys in the five or so years it has been commercially available. A good many of them are practically factorizable, but even those that are not are considerably more vulnerable to factorization than federal standards and common-sense security guidelines dictate. RSA keys generated with OpenSSL, PGP-compliant programs, or similar computer programs aren't affected. People who have relied on smartcards or embedded devices for cryptographic functions should test their RSA keys using the researchers' fingerprinting tool. In the event the keys test positive, people should revoke them as soon as possible and generate new ones. Keys using Elliptic Curve Cryptography and other non-RSA methods aren't affected.

It's going to take a while for people to identify all vulnerable keys. They should start by replacing those that are known to be practically factorizable, but eventually all RSA keys generated by the flawed library should go. Cryptographers and engineers within NIST and other standards organizations should also use the failure to learn how improve their high-security certifications processes.
On 05:33 by Vismit Rakhecha in    No comments
The Raspberry Pi is a great low-power, low-cost computer for making things and learning STEAM, but its barebones design isn’t always a good fit for some classrooms. Fortunately, there is a whole universe of RPi products and accessories to fill in the gap. The pi-top is one of those, guiding young and old alike in building their own laptop almost from scratch. And on its third birthday, pi-top is introducing a second-generation pi-top that not only makes it more powerful but also more accessible in more ways than one.

We did a review of the original pi-top not so long ago and, while the idea and execution were commendable, it definitely needed some more polish. The 13.3-inch 720p screen was already old, the placement of the touchpad was odd and uncomfortable, and its ingenious rail system was rendered nearly useless because of the difficulty of accessing it.

That polish has finally arrived. The new pi-top now features a 14-inch 1920×1080 screen that can fold down flat 180 degrees. It’s still not a touch screen though. It now has a full-sized touchpad that rightly sits below the keyboard. pi-top was able to accomplish this by a rather interesting change. Instead of a slide out panel at the top to reveal the rails and the Raspberry Pi, it is the keyboard itself that slides out to reveal the laptop’s innards.

The theme of the new pi-top seems to be one of accessibility. Because of the new sliding keyboard, it’s easier to get to the rail system. The new pi-top also rearranges the RPi and hub boards so that there’s more space of add-ons and modules on the magnetic rails. What’s more, the Raspberry Pi’s ports can now easily be reached from the back, one of the biggest flaws of the first gen’s design.

All these changes, unfortunately, means that, other than the RPi itself and the add-on modules, none of the first pi-top’s parts can be reused for this new model. pi-top does throw in a new “inventor’s kit”, which contains a booklet with 20 hands-on projects, and cut-out parts for games, to make the $319.99 purchase all the more worth it.
On 05:29 by Vismit Rakhecha   No comments
In June this year, Olga Skorobogatova, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, stated that “regulators of all countries have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to do a national virtual currency,” adding that each country would have to “decide the issue of a specific time and maturity independently.”

Skorobogatova made this statement at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) 2017, where, in an interesting coincidence, Russian president Vladimir Putin met with Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. It wasn’t clear what the two discussed during their meeting at the time, but in August, an RT report suggested that Buterin was working “to adopt the blockchain technology in Russia.”

It seems that, for Russia, the time to introduce a digital Ruble has come. Details remain scarce, but according to CoinTelegraph, citing local news reports, Russia’s Minister of Communications and Mass Media, Nikolay Nikiforov, has revealed a few crumbs of information about the country’s new digital currency.

CryptoRuble appears to be the name of this state-issued digital currency; but it seems to be more of an attempt at utilizing the blockchain technology, rather than a cryptocurrency with privacy in mind. As per the reports, Nikiforov states that the digital currency cannot be mined and is instead centralized, with the Russian state being the sole issuer, making it quite different from the popular decentralized cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Rubles and CryptoRubles will also be interchangeable, with the Russian government allowing an equivalent exchange of the two at any time, albeit with a few caveats. If one is unable to explain the source of their CryptoRubles during an exchange, the Russian government would levy a 13 percent tax on the amount. Additionally, if CryptoRuble’s value appreciates compared to Rubles, the same tax will also be levied on the difference between the two.

As for why this move is being made now, Nikiforov had, per the report, this to say:
“I confidently declare that we run CryptoRuble for one simple reason: if we do not, then after 2 months our neighbors in the EurAsEC will.”
The term ‘EurAsEC’, in this context, refers to the Eurasian Economic Community, where China has been reportedly experimenting with its own cryptocurrency, with India mulling its own ideas as well.

As this develops, further details would be made clear, but one thing seems certain: CryptoRuble, and other digital currencies like it, wouldn't be an alternative to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, as the state would still maintain centralized control over its value and flow.
On 05:25 by Vismit Rakhecha   No comments

Everybody’s internet is public today. WPA2, the go-to Wi-Fi security option, has been cracked by Belgian researchers. The US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) has issued a warning in response and is due to release more details about the vulnerability later today. The warning issued is stark, saying that almost all implementations are affected. Now there are calls for a superseding WPA3 standard.
On the researchers' website, the attacking is decribed in the following way:
Concretely, attackers can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted. This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos, and so on. The attack works against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks. Depending on the network configuration, it is also possible to inject and manipulate data. For example, an attacker might be able to inject ransomware or other malware into websites.
The researchers tested multiple devices to see whether the vulnerability impacted them. Initial research shows that Android, Linux, Apple, Windows, OpenBSD, MediaTek, Linksys, are among those that are affected by some variant of the attack. The researchers urge users to update devices as soon as possible, but in reality, many devices will never see such a patch.

Here's a demonstration of the exploit being used against an affected device:

The statement from US CERT reads:
“The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection and others … most or all correct implementations of the standard will be affected.”
In response to the news, one person proposed two solutions to the problem; the first option is for the Wi-Fi Alliance to be given a list of everything that’s broken in WPA2 and let them fix it, issuing new specs for the standard for software manufacturers to implement. The second option was the creation of an un-official WPA3 without the help of the Wi-Fi Alliance.
The proposal for option two reads:
“Free Software community has a wide range of networking software that enables manipulation of Wi-Fi traffic. While some of it can be used for nefarious purposes, we could as well use it to sketch up a prototype of WPA3 and push for it to get adopted. If you’re interested, I encourage you to contact the discussion boards for projects related to Wi-FI manipulation and see if they’re interested in this. Some of the projects that are related include: ScaPy, WPA supplicant, OpenWRT. There’s definitely more of them so if you know them, let me know!”

Going forward, you will likely only be able to use WPA2 on your home devices for quite a while. In the meantime you can mitigate attacks by connecting to internet resources over secure protocols such as HTTPS and SSL. In order to use SSL for things such as email, ensure that you’re using port 465 with SMTP, as for HTTPS, it’s recommended that you install EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere, this will force many more connections to use HTTPS than your browser normally would and allows you to disable insecure traffic in your browser entirely.

Friday, 13 October 2017

On 06:47 by Vismit Rakhecha in    No comments
How to Block Websites/Miners From ‘Borrowing’ your  PC CPU to mine cryptocurrency

Over the weekend, torrent portal The Pirate Bay was caught running a cryptocurrency miner on its website, queitly hijacking visitors’ computing resources to stack Monero coins, TorrentFreak reported.

The Pirate Bay has since confessed its sins on its official blog, claiming the JavaScript mining implementation was “only a test” as part of their efforts to “get rid of all the ads” clustered on their site. “[W]e also need enough money to keep the site running,” the admins said.

But should you feel this excuse isn’t cutting it for you – and if you want to stop other websites from doing the same – there are measures you can take to prevent sites from piggybacking on your CPU resources.

Available for Chrome, minerBlock and No Coin are handy browser extensions specifically designed to block popular crypto miners from using your computing power.

What’s especially handy is that, similar to an ad-blocker, you can choose to remove certain sites from your list of blocked domains in case you want to deliberately lend your CPU for usage.

Those interested in more technical details can look up the source code for minerBlock and No Coin (respectively) here and here; both are available on GitHub.

One thing to keep in mind, when making the decision whether or not to get one of these extensions, is that crypto miners – like Coinhive, the solution implemented by The Pirate Bay – is that they are hard to spot by users; until, of course, you start noticing the sharp increase in CPU usage.

Next to these solutions, you can also try using JavaScript-blocking extensions like NoScript (for Firefox) or ScriptSafe (for Chrome). Another alternative is to manually add the cryptominers in question to your list of blocked domains in ad-blocker.

There is nothing inherently wrong with experimenting with alternative models to generate revenue. Where The Pirate Bay (and any other sites that do the same) err, though, is failing to alert its users of this “test” in advance. Putting this aside and factoring in its awful ads, such sites might actually be onto something.

But as Motherboard so adeptly summed it up, everything ultimately comes down to user consent: It’s a choice between trading in your privacy (ads) or computing power (miners) for the right to use a service.

Still, given that The Pirate Bay is hardly the only one busted for surreptitiously borrowing users’ CPU to mine crypto, the more concerning aspect here is that there are probably a pile of shady sites out there running the same scheme.

Now at least you know how to defend your device’s battery against these shifty practices.

Ref : Google