How to make perfect fried rice (and I mean perfect)

Perfect fried rice

Photo: Kevin Pang
  • 2 slices of bacon, diced
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced thinly on a sharp bias
  • 3-4 cups leftover medium or long-grain rice, such as jasmine (no freshly steamed rice)
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • Salt
  • 2 tsp. light soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame oil
Photo: Kevin Pang

Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add diced bacon and sauté until crisp and golden. Remove from pan and leave about a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat in the pan. (Any more and your final product may become too greasy.)

Add beaten eggs, swirling to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. When the edges start to ruffle, add the rice evenly on to the eggs. Gently but expeditiously stir them around, breaking the eggs into small pieces. Do not press down on the rice, as you want to keep the fluffy texture. I use chopsticks to do the stirring, which also curbs the impulse to smoosh down with a spatula.

When the rice is warmed through, add bacon back in and stir through. If using the Chinese preserved vegetables add them in now too. Add a small pinch of salt to season.

Season with a teaspoon of soy sauce to start, and take a quick taste. If you like a bit of a deeper flavor add another teaspoon. Remember we are going for a light brown color, not a murky dark shade.

Turn off the heat, add scallions and stir through. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, and stir gently to incorporate. Scoop into bowls and serve immediately.

Source: How to make perfect fried rice (and I mean perfect)

UK Watchdog Calls for Face Recognition Ban Over 90 Percent False-Positive Rate

As face recognition in public places becomes more commonplace, Big Brother Watch is especially concerned with false identification. In May, South Wales Police revealed that its face-recognition software had erroneously flagged thousands of attendees of a soccer game as a match for criminals; 92 percent of the matches were wrong. In a statement to the BBC, Matt Jukes, the chief constable in South Wales, said “we need to use technology when we’ve got tens of thousands of people in those crowds to protect everybody, and we are getting some great results from that.”

If someone is misidentified as a criminal or flagged, police may engage and ask for further identification. Big Brother Watch argues that this amounts to “hidden identity checks” that require people to “prove their identity and thus their innocence.” 110 people were stopped at the event after being flagged, leading to 15 arrests.

Simply walking through a crowd could lead to an identity check, but it doesn’t end there. South Wales reported more than 2,400 “matches” between May 2017 and March 2018, but ultimately made only 15 connecting arrests. The thousands of photos taken, however, are still stored in the system, with the overwhelming majority of people having no idea they even had their photo taken.

Source: UK Watchdog Calls for Face Recognition Ban Over 90 Percent False-Positive Rate

Thieves suck millions out of Mexican banks in transfer heist

Thieves siphoned hundreds of millions of pesos out of Mexican banks, including No. 2 Banorte, by creating phantom orders that wired funds to bogus accounts and promptly withdrew the money, two sources close to the government’s investigation said. Hackers sent hundreds of false orders to move amounts ranging from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of pesos from banks including Banorte, to fake accounts in other banks, the sources said, and accomplices then emptied the accounts in cash withdrawals in dozens of branch offices.

One source said the thieves transferred more than 300 million pesos ($15.4 million). Daily newspaper El Financiero said about 400 million pesos had been stolen in the hack, citing an anonymous source.

It was not clear how much of the money transferred was later withdrawn in cash. Some of the attempts to fraudulently transfer funds were blocked, the sources said.

Source: Thieves suck millions out of Mexican banks in transfer heist | Reuters

UPnP joins the ‘just turn it off on consumer devices, already’ club

It’s not particularly difficult, particularly with Shodan to help. The required steps are:

  • Discover targets on Shodan by searching for the rootDesc.xml file (Imperva found 1.3 million devices);
  • Use HTTP to access rootDesc.xml;
  • Modify the victim’s port forwarding rules (the researchers noted that this isn’t supposed to work, since port forwarding should be between internal and external addresses, but “few routers actually bother to verify that a provided ‘internal IP’ is actually internal, and [they abide] by all forwarding rules as a result”.
  • Launch the attack.

That means an attacker can create a port forwarding rule that spoofs a victim’s IP address – so a bunch of ill-secured routers can be sent a DNS request which they’ll try to return to the victim, in the classic redirection DDoS attack.

The port forwarding lets an attacker use “evasive ports”, “enabling them to bypass commonplace scrubbing directives that identify amplification payloads by looking for source port data for blacklisting”, the post explained.

Source: UPnP joins the ‘just turn it off on consumer devices, already’ club • The Register

Boffins build smallest drone to fly itself with AI

A team of computer scientists have built the smallest completely autonomous nano-drone that can control itself without the need for a human guidance.

Although computer vision has improved rapidly thanks to machine learning and AI, it remains difficult to deploy algorithms on devices like drones due to memory, bandwidth and power constraints.

But researchers from ETH Zurich, Switzerland and the University of Bologna, Italy have managed to build a hand-sized drone that can fly autonomously and consumes only about 94 milliWatts (0.094 W) of energy. Their efforts were published in a paper on arXiv earlier this month.

At the heart of it all is DroNet, a convolutional neural network that processes incoming images from a camera at 20 frames per second. It works out the steering angle, so that it can control the direction of the drone, and the probability of a collision, so that it know whether to keep going or stop. Training was conducted using thousands of images taken from bicycles and cars driving along different roads and streets.

[…]

But it suffers from some of the same setbacks as the older model. Since it was trained with images from a single plane, the drone can only move horizontally and cannot fly up or down.

Autonomous drones are desirable because if we’re going to use drones to do things like deliver packages, it would be grand if they could avoid obstacles instead of flying on known-safe routes. Autonomy will also help drones to monitor environments, spy on people and develop swarm intelligence for military use.

Source: Boffins build smallest drone to fly itself with AI • The Register

Square Off: The Magic Chess Board with self moving pieces allows you to play remotely or vs AI

No holograms, no 3D, no AR, no bullshit. Square Off is a chess board where the pieces move themselves, and you can play online or against AI.

Square Off is really something special. There’s no avoiding a smile the first time you see a knight slide out from the back row without banging into any pawns along the way, and there’s a certain smug satisfaction from the AI as it slowly slides your pieces off the board after capturing them.

GIF: Square Off

The board houses a 2200 mAh battery that’s rated to around 50 games, rechargeable via AC adapter. There are two versions of Square Off, the standard $329 “Kingdom” set and the $399 “Grand Kingdom” set. The latter, which I’m playing with as I write this, has:

  • Additional capture space where the opponent’s captured pieces are placed automatically at their designated position
  • Auto Rest of board after current game is over.
  • Comes with Special Edition Premium Rosewood chess set
  • Board size is bigger due to additional capture space but play area is same as Kingdom Set

The Square Off app, which has to remain connected to the board throughout play, is very bare bones at this point, and we’ll update accordingly as upcoming features roll out, including:

  • Chess.com integration
  • Game analyzer
  • Training mode
  • Pro game live “streaming” and match recording
  • Chat

While the whole package feels very premium and well-made, at these price points, it’s a bit crazy that there’s no included permanent storage case for the pieces.

Square Off is planning to start taking orders after April 15, once their crowdfunded preorders have all been delivered. Ultimately they also plan to make the board modular for the playing of other games by switching out the surface.

Source: Square Off: The Magic Chess Board You Thought You’d Never Get

Oh, great, now there’s a SECOND remote Rowhammer exploit / Nethammer

Hard on the heels of the first network-based Rowhammer attack, some of the boffins involved in discovering Meltdown/Spectre have shown off their own technique for flipping bits using network requests.

With a gigabit connection to the victim, the researchers reckon, they can induce security-critical bit flips using crafted quality-of-service packets.

Last week, we reported on research called “Throwhammer” that exploited Rowhammer via remote direct memory access (RDMA) channels.

In separate research, Meltdown/Spectre veterans Daniel Gruss, Moritz Lipp and Michael Schwarz of Graz University of Technology and their team have published a paper describing Nethammer (their co-authors are Lukas Lamster and Lukas Raab, also of Graz; Misiker Tadesse Aga of the University of Michigan; and Clémentine Maurice of IRISA at the University of Rennes).

Nethammer works, they said, without any attacker-controlled code on the target, attacking “systems that use uncached memory or flush instructions while handling network requests.

Source: Oh, great, now there’s a SECOND remote Rowhammer exploit

Kinect is back!

Building on the technology that debuted with Kinect and became a core part of HoloLens, Project Kinect for Azure combines Microsoft’s next-generation depth camera with the power of Azure services to enable new scenarios for developers working with ambient intelligence. This technology will transform AI on the edge with spatial, human, and object understanding, increasing efficiency and unlocking new possibilities.

everage capabilities like spatial mapping, segmentation, and human and object recognition to enable:

  • Azure end-points
  • Robotics and drones
  • Holoportation and telepresence
  • Object capture and reconstruction

Hardware features:

  • 1MP depth camera
  • 4K RGB camera
  • 360° microphone array

Source: Perception-powered intelligent edge dev kits

Yes, Pluto is a planet

But the process for redefining planet was deeply flawed and widely criticized even by those who accepted the outcome. At the 2006 IAU conference, which was held in Prague, the few scientists remaining at the very end of the week-long meeting (less than 4 percent of the world’s astronomers and even a smaller percentage of the world’s planetary scientists) ratified a hastily drawn definition that contains obvious flaws. For one thing, it defines a planet as an object orbiting around our sun – thereby disqualifying the planets around other stars, ignoring the exoplanet revolution, and decreeing that essentially all the planets in the universe are not, in fact, planets.

Even within our solar system, the IAU scientists defined “planet” in a strange way, declaring that if an orbiting world has “cleared its zone,” or thrown its weight around enough to eject all other nearby objects, it is a planet. Otherwise it is not. This criterion is imprecise and leaves many borderline cases, but what’s worse is that they chose a definition that discounts the actual physical properties of a potential planet, electing instead to define “planet” in terms of the other objects that are – or are not – orbiting nearby. This leads to many bizarre and absurd conclusions. For example, it would mean that Earth was not a planet for its first 500 million years of history, because it orbited among a swarm of debris until that time, and also that if you took Earth today and moved it somewhere else, say out to the asteroid belt, it would cease being a planet.

To add insult to injury, they amended their convoluted definition with the vindictive and linguistically paradoxical statement that “a dwarf planet is not a planet.” This seemingly served no purpose but to satisfy those motivated by a desire – for whatever reason – to ensure that Pluto was “demoted” by the new definition.

By and large, astronomers ignore the new definition of “planet” every time they discuss all of the exciting discoveries of planets orbiting other stars. And those of us who actually study planets for a living also discuss dwarf planets without adding an asterisk. But it gets old having to address the misconceptions among the public who think that because Pluto was “demoted” (not exactly a neutral term) that it must be more like a lumpy little asteroid than the complex and vibrant planet it is. It is this confusion among students and the public – fostered by journalists and textbook authors who mistakenly accepted the authority of the IAU as the final word – that makes this worth addressing.

Source: Yes, Pluto is a planet – SFGate

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Source: Humble Monthly

AI trained to navigate develops brain-like location tracking

Now that DeepMind has solved Go, the company is applying DeepMind to navigation. Navigation relies on knowing where you are in space relative to your surroundings and continually updating that knowledge as you move. DeepMind scientists trained neural networks to navigate like this in a square arena, mimicking the paths that foraging rats took as they explored the space. The networks got information about the rat’s speed, head direction, distance from the walls, and other details. To researchers’ surprise, the networks that learned to successfully navigate this space had developed a layer akin to grid cells. This was surprising because it is the exact same system that mammalian brains use to navigate.

A few different cell populations in our brains help us make our way through space. Place cells are so named because they fire when we pass through a particular place in our environment relative to familiar external objects. They are located in the hippocampus—a brain region responsible for memory formation and storage—and are thus thought to provide a cellular place for our memories. Grid cells got their name because they superimpose a hypothetical hexagonal grid upon our surroundings, as if the whole world were overlaid with vintage tiles from the floor of a New York City bathroom. They fire whenever we pass through a node on that grid.

More DeepMind experiments showed that only the neural networks that developed layers that “resembled grid cells, exhibiting significant hexagonal periodicity (gridness),” could navigate more complicated environments than the initial square arena, like setups with multiple rooms. And only these networks could adjust their routes based on changes in the environment, recognizing and using shortcuts to get to preassigned goals after previously closed doors were opened to them.

Implications

These results have a couple of interesting ramifications. One is the suggestion that grid cells are the optimal way to navigate. They didn’t have to emerge here—there was nothing dictating their formation—yet this computer system hit upon them as the best solution, just like our biological system did. Since the evolution of any system, cell type, or protein can proceed along multiple parallel paths, it is very much not a given that the system we end up with is in any way inevitable or optimized. This report seems to imply that, with grid cells, that might actually be the case.

Another implication is the support for the idea that grid cells function to impose a Euclidian framework upon our surroundings, allowing us to find and follow the most direct route to a (remembered) destination. This function had been posited since the discovery of grid cells in 2005, but it had not yet been proven empirically. DeepMind’s findings provide a biological bolster for the idea floated by Kant in the 18th century that our perception of place is an innate ability, independent of experience.

Source: AI trained to navigate develops brain-like location tracking | Ars Technica

Why Scientists Think AI Systems Should Debate Each Other

Ultimately, AI systems are only useful and safe as long as the goals they’ve learned actually mesh with what humans want them to do, and it can often be hard to know if they’ve subtly learned to solve the wrong problems or make bad decisions in certain conditions.

To make AI easier for humans to understand and trust, researchers at the nonprofit research organization OpenAI have proposed training algorithms to not only classify data or make decisions, but to justify their decisions in debates with other AI programs in front of a human or AI judge.

“Given a question or proposed action, two agents take turns making short statements up to a limit, then a human judges which of the agents gave the most true, useful information,” write OpenAI researchers Geoffrey Irving, Paul Christiano and Dario Amodei in a new research paper. The San Francisco-based AI lab is funded by Silicon Valley luminaries including Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, with a goal of building safe, useful AI to benefit humanity.

Since human time is valuable and usually limited, the researchers say the AI systems can effectively train themselves in part by debating in front of an AI judge designed to mimic human decision making, similar to how software that plays games like Go or chess often trains in part by playing against itself.

In an experiment described in their paper, the researchers set up a debate where two software agents work with a standard set of handwritten numerals, attempting to convince an automated judge that a particular image is one digit rather than another digit, by taking turns revealing one pixel of the digit at a time. One bot is programmed to tell the truth, while another is programmed to lie about what number is in the image, and they reveal pixels to support their contentions that the digit is, say, a five rather than a six.

Microsoft’s computer vision API incorrectly determined this image contains sheep [Image: courtesy Janelle Shane / aiweirdness.com]

The truth-telling bots tend to reveal pixels from distinctive parts of the digit, like the horizontal line at the top of the numeral “5,” while the lying bots, in an attempt to deceive the judge, point out what amount to the most ambiguous areas, like the curve at the bottom of both a “5” and a “6.” The judge ultimately “guesses” which bot is telling the truth based on the pixels that have been revealed.The image classification task, where most of the image is invisible to the judge, is a sort of stand-in for complex problems where it wouldn’t be possible for a human judge to analyze the entire dataset to judge bot performance. The judge would have to rely on the facets of the data highlighted by debating robots, the researchers say.

“The goal here is to model situations where we have something that’s beyond human scale,” says Irving, a member of the AI safety team at OpenAI. “The best we can do there is replace something a human couldn’t possibly do with something a human can’t do because they’re not seeing an image.”

[…]

To test their hypothesis—that two debaters can lead to honest behavior even if the debaters know much more than the judge—the researchers have also devised an interactive demonstration of their approach, played entirely by humans and now available online. In the game, two human players are shown an image of either a dog or a cat and argue before a judge as to which species is represented. The contestants are allowed to highlight rectangular sections of the image to make their arguments—pointing out, for instance, a dog’s ears or cat’s paws—but the judge can “see” only the shapes and positions of the rectangles, not the actual image. While the honest player is required to tell the truth about what animal is shown, he or she is allowed to tell other lies in the course of the debate. “It is an interesting question whether lies by the honest player are useful,” the researchers write.

[…]

The researchers emphasize that it’s still early days, and the debate-based method still requires plenty of testing before AI developers will know exactly when it’s an effective strategy or how best to implement it. For instance, they may find that it may be better to use single judges or a panel of voting judges, or that some people are better equipped to judge certain debates.

It also remains to be seen whether humans will be accurate judges of sophisticated robots working on more sophisticated problems. People might be biased to rule in a certain way based on their own beliefs, and there could be problems that are hard to reduce enough to have a simple debate about, like the soundness of a mathematical proof, the researchers write.

Other less subtle errors may be easier to spot, like the sheep that Shane noticed had been erroneously labeled by Microsoft’s algorithms. “The agent would claim there’s sheep and point to the nonexistent sheep, and the human would say no,” Irving writes in an email to Fast Company.

But deceitful bots might also learn to appeal to human judges in sophisticated ways that don’t involve offering rigorous arguments, Shane suggested. “I wonder if we’d get kind of demagogue algorithms that would learn to exploit human emotions to argue their point,” she says.

Source: Why Scientists Think AI Systems Should Debate Each Other

Infosec brainiacs release public dataset to classify new malware using AI

Researchers at Endgame, a cyber-security biz based in Virginia, have published what they believe is the first large open-source dataset for machine learning malware detection known as EMBER.

EMBER contains metadata describing 1.1 million Windows portable executable files: 900,000 training samples evenly split into malicious, benign, and unlabeled categories and 200,000 files of test samples labelled as malicious and benign.

“We’re trying to push the dark arts of infosec research into an open light. EMBER will make AI research more transparent and reproducible,” Hyrum Anderson, co-author of the study to be presented at the RSA conference this week in San Francisco, told The Register.

Progress in AI is driven by data. Researchers compete with one another by building models and training them on benchmark datasets to reach ever increasing accuracies.

Computer vision is flooded with numerous datasets containing millions of annotated pictures for image recognition tasks, and natural language processing has various text-based datasets to test machine reading and comprehension skills. this has helped a lot in building AI image processing.

Although there is a strong interest in using AI for information security – look at DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge where academics developed software capable of hunting for security bugs autonomously – it’s an area that doesn’t really have any public datasets.

Source: Infosec brainiacs release public dataset to classify new malware using AI • The Register

Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Actors Targeting Network Infrastructure Devices

On April 19, 2018, an industry partner notified NCCIC and the FBI of malicious cyber activity that aligns with the techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) and network indicators listed in this Alert. Specifically, the industry partner reported the actors redirected DNS queries to their own infrastructure by creating GRE tunnels and obtained sensitive information, which include the configuration files of networked devices.

NCCIC encourages organizations to use the detection and prevention guidelines outlined in this Alert to help defend against this activity. For instance, administrators should inspect the presence of protocol 47 traffic flowing to or from unexpected addresses, or unexplained presence of GRE tunnel creation, modification, or destruction in log files.

[…]

Legacy Protocols and Poor Security Practice

Russian cyber actors leverage a number of legacy or weak protocols and service ports associated with network administration activities. Cyber actors use these weaknesses to

  • identify vulnerable devices;
  • extract device configurations;
  • map internal network architectures;
  • harvest login credentials;
  • masquerade as privileged users;
  • modify
    • device firmware,
    • operating systems,
    • configurations; and
  • copy or redirect victim traffic through Russian cyber-actor-controlled infrastructure.

Additionally, Russian cyber actors could potentially modify or deny traffic traversing through the router.

Russian cyber actors do not need to leverage zero-day vulnerabilities or install malware to exploit these devices. Instead, cyber actors take advantage of the following vulnerabilities:

  • devices with legacy unencrypted protocols or unauthenticated services,
  • devices insufficiently hardened before installation, and
  • devices no longer supported with security patches by manufacturers or vendors (end-of-life devices).

[…]

Solution

Telnet

Review network device logs and netflow data for indications of TCP Telnet-protocol traffic directed at port 23 on all network device hosts. Although Telnet may be directed at other ports (e.g., port 80, HTTP), port 23 is the primary target. Inspect any indication of Telnet sessions (or attempts). Because Telnet is an unencrypted protocol, session traffic will reveal command line interface (CLI) command sequences appropriate for the make and model of the device. CLI strings may reveal login procedures, presentation of user credentials, commands to display boot or running configuration, copying files and creation or destruction of GRE tunnels, etc. See Appendices A and B for CLI strings for Cisco and other vendors’ devices.

SNMP and TFTP

Review network device logs and netflow data for indications of UDP SNMP traffic directed at port 161/162 on all network-device hosts. Because SNMP is a management tool, any such traffic that is not from a trusted management host on an internal network should be investigated. Review the source address of SNMP traffic for indications of addresses that spoof the address space of the network. Review outbound network traffic from the network device for evidence of Internet-destined UDP TFTP traffic. Any correlation of inbound or spoofed SNMP closely followed by outbound TFTP should be cause for alarm and further inspection. See Appendix C for detection of the cyber actors’ SNMP tactics.

Because TFTP is an unencrypted protocol, session traffic will reveal strings associated with configuration data appropriate for the make and model of the device. See Appendices A and B for CLI strings for Cisco and other vendor’s devices.

SMI and TFTP

Review network device logs and netflow data for indications of TCP SMI protocol traffic directed at port 4786 of all network-device hosts. Because SMI is a management feature, any traffic that is not from a trusted management host on an internal network should be investigated. Review outbound network traffic from the network device for evidence of Internet-destined UDP TFTP traffic. Any correlation of inbound SMI closely followed by outbound TFTP should be cause for alarm and further inspection. Of note, between June 29 and July 6, 2017, Russian actors used the SMI protocol to scan for vulnerable network devices. Two Russian cyber actors controlled hosts 91.207.57.69(3) and 176.223.111.160(4), and connected to IPs on several network ranges on port 4786. See Appendix D for detection of the cyber actors’ SMI tactics.

Because TFTP is an unencrypted protocol, session traffic will reveal strings appropriate for the make and model of the device. See Appendices A and B for CLI strings for Cisco and other vendors’ devices.

Determine if SMI is present

  • Examine the output of “show vstack config | inc Role”. The presence of “Role: Client (SmartInstall enabled)” indicates that Smart Install is configured.
  • Examine the output of “show tcp brief all” and look for “*:4786”. The SMI feature listens on tcp/4786.
  • Note: The commands above will indicate whether the feature is enabled on the device but not whether a device has been compromised.

Detect use of SMI

The following signature may be used to detect SMI usage. Flag as suspicious and investigate SMI traffic arriving from outside the network boundary. If SMI is not used inside the network, any SMI traffic arriving on an internal interface should be flagged as suspicious and investigated for the existence of an unauthorized SMI director. If SMI is used inside the network, ensure that the traffic is coming from an authorized SMI director, and not from a bogus director.

  • alert tcp any any -> any 4786 (msg:”Smart Install Protocol”; flow:established,only_stream; content:”|00 00 00 01 00 00 00 01|”; offset:0; depth:8; fast_pattern;)
  • See Cisco recommendations for detecting and mitigating SMI. [9]

Detect use of SIET

The following signatures detect usage of the SIET’s commands change_config, get_config, update_ios, and execute. These signatures are valid based on the SIET tool available as of early September 2017:

  • alert tcp any any -> any 4786 (msg:”SmartInstallExploitationTool_UpdateIos_And_Execute”; flow:established; content:”|00 00 00 01 00 00 00 01 00 00 00 02 00 00 01 c4|”; offset:0; depth:16; fast_pattern; content:”://”;)
  • alert tcp any any -> any 4786 (msg:”SmartInstallExploitationTool_ChangeConfig”; flow:established; content:”|00 00 00 01 00 00 00 01 00 00 00 03 00 00 01 28|”; offset:0; depth:16; fast_pattern; content:”://”;)
  • alert tcp any any -> any 4786 (msg: “SmartInstallExploitationTool_GetConfig”; flow: established; content:”|00 00 00 01 00 00 00 01 00 00 00 08 00 00 04 08|”; offset:0; depth:16; fast_pattern; content:”copy|20|”;)

In general, exploitation attempts with the SIET tool will likely arrive from outside the network boundary. However, before attempting to tune or limit the range of these signatures, i.e. with $EXTERNAL_NET or $HOME_NET, it is recommended that they be deployed with the source and destination address ranges set to “any”. This will allow the possibility of detection of an attack from an unanticipated source, and may allow for coverage of devices outside of the normal scope of what may be defined as the $HOME_NET.

GRE Tunneling

Inspect the presence of protocol 47 traffic flowing to or from unexpected addresses, or unexplained presence of GRE tunnel creation, modification, or destruction in log files.

Mitigation Strategies

There is a significant amount of publically available cybersecurity guidance and best practices from DHS, allied government, vendors, and the private-sector cybersecurity community on mitigation strategies for the exploitation vectors described above. The following are additional mitigations for network device manufacturers, ISPs, and owners or operators.

General Mitigations

All

  • Do not allow unencrypted (i.e., plaintext) management protocols (e.g. Telnet) to enter an organization from the Internet. When encrypted protocols such as SSH, HTTPS, or TLS are not possible, management activities from outside the organization should be done through an encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) where both ends are mutually authenticated.
  • Do not allow Internet access to the management interface of any network device. The best practice is to block Internet-sourced access to the device management interface and restrict device management to an internal trusted and whitelisted host or LAN. If access to the management interface cannot be restricted to an internal trusted network, restrict remote management access via encrypted VPN capability where both ends are mutually authenticated. Whitelist the network or host from which the VPN connection is allowed, and deny all others.
  • Disable legacy unencrypted protocols such as Telnet and SNMPv1 or v2c. Where possible, use modern encrypted protocols such as SSH and SNMPv3. Harden the encrypted protocols based on current best security practice. DHS strongly advises owners and operators to retire and replace legacy devices that cannot be configured to use SNMP V3.
  • Immediately change default passwords and enforce a strong password policy. Do not reuse the same password across multiple devices. Each device should have a unique password. Where possible, avoid legacy password-based authentication, and implement two-factor authentication based on public-private keys. See NCCIC/US-CERT TA13-175A – Risks of Default Passwords on the Internet, last revised October 7, 2016.

Manufacturers

  • Do not design products to support legacy or unencrypted protocols. If this is not possible, deliver the products with these legacy or unencrypted protocols disabled by default, and require the customer to enable the protocols after accepting an interactive risk warning. Additionally, restrict these protocols to accept connections only from private addresses (i.e., RFC 1918).
  • Do not design products with unauthenticated services. If this is not possible, deliver the products with these unauthenticated services disabled by default, and require the customer to enable the services after accepting an interactive risk warning. Additionally, these unauthenticated services should be restricted to accept connections only from private address space (i.e., RFC 1918).
  • Design installation procedures or scripts so that the customer is required to change all default passwords. Encourage the use of authentication services that do not depend on passwords, such as RSA-based Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) keys.
  • Because YARA has become a security-industry standard way of describing rules for detecting malicious code on hosts, consider embedding YARA or a YARA-like capability to ingest and use YARA rules on routers, switches, and other network devices.

Security Vendors

  • Produce and publish YARA rules for malware discovered on network devices.

ISPs

  • Do not field equipment in the network core or to customer premises with legacy, unencrypted, or unauthenticated protocols and services. When purchasing equipment from vendors, include this requirement in purchase agreements.
  • Disable legacy, unencrypted, or unauthenticated protocols and services. Use modern encrypted management protocols such as SSH. Harden the encrypted protocols based on current best security practices from the vendor.
  • Initiate a plan to upgrade fielded equipment no longer supported by the vendor with software updates and security patches. The best practice is to field only supported equipment and replace legacy equipment prior to it falling into an unsupported state.
  • Apply software updates and security patches to fielded equipment. When that is not possible, notify customers about software updates and security patches and provide timely instructions on how to apply them.

Owners or operators

  • Specify in contracts that the ISP providing service will only field currently supported network equipment and will replace equipment when it falls into an unsupported state.
  • Specify in contracts that the ISP will regularly apply software updates and security patches to fielded network equipment or will notify and provide the customers the ability to apply them.
  • Block TFTP from leaving the organization destined for Internet-based hosts. Network devices should be configured to send configuration data to a secured host on a trusted segment of the internal management LAN.
  • Verify that the firmware and OS on each network device are from a trusted source and issued by the manufacturer. To validate the integrity of network devices, refer to the vendor’s guidance, tools, and processes. See Cisco’s Security Center for guidance to validate Cisco IOS firmware images.
  • Cisco IOS runs in a variety of network devices under other labels, such as Linksys and SOHO Internet Gateway routers or firewalls as part of an Internet package by ISPs (e.g., Comcast). The indicators in Appendix A may be applicable to your device.

Detailed Mitigations

Refer to the vendor-specific guidance for the make and model of network device in operation.

For information on mitigating SNMP vulnerabilities, see

How to Mitigate SMI Abuse

  • Configure network devices before installing onto a network exposed to the Internet. If SMI must be used during installation, disable SMI with the “no vstack” command before placing the device into operation.
  • Prohibit remote devices attempting to cross a network boundary over TCP port 4786 via SMI.
  • Prohibit outbound network traffic to external devices over UDP port 69 via TFTP.
  • See Cisco recommendations for detecting and mitigating SMI. [10]
  • Cisco IOS runs in a variety of network devices under other labels, such as Linksys and SOHO Internet Gateway routers or firewalls as part of an Internet package by ISPs (e.g., Comcast). Check with your ISP and ensure that they have disabled SMI before or at the time of installation, or obtain instructions on how to disable it.

How to Mitigate GRE Tunneling Abuse:

  • Verify that all routing tables configured in each border device are set to communicate with known and trusted infrastructure.
  • Verify that any GRE tunnels established from border routers are legitimate and are configured to terminate at trusted endpoints.

 

Source: Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Actors Targeting Network Infrastructure Devices | US-CERT

Facebook admits it does track non-users, for their own good

Facebook’s apology-and-explanation machine grinds on, with The Social Network™ posting detail on one of its most controversial activities – how it tracks people who don’t use Facebook.

The company explained that the post is a partial response to questions CEO Mark Zuckerberg was unable to answer during his senate and Congressional hearings.

It’s no real surprise that someone using their Facebook Login to sign in to other sites is tracked, but the post by product management director David Baser goes into (a little) detail on other tracking activities – some of which have been known to the outside world for some time, occasionally denied by Facebook, and apparently mysteries only to Zuck.

When non-Facebook sites add a “Like” button (a social plugin, in Baser’s terminology), visitors to those sites are tracked: Facebook gets their IP address, browser and OS fingerprint, and visited site.

If that sounds a bit like the datr cookie dating from 2011, you wouldn’t be far wrong.

Facebook denied non-user tracking until 2015, at which time it emphasised that it was only gathering non-users’ interactions with Facebook users. That explanation didn’t satisfy everyone, which was why The Social Network™ was told to quit tracking Belgians who haven’t signed on earlier this year.

Source: Facebook admits it does track non-users, for their own good • The Register

Artificial intelligence can scour code to find accidentally public passwords

researchers at software infrastructure firm Pivotal have taught AI to locate this accidentally public sensitive information in a surprising way: By looking at the code as if it were a picture. Since modern artificial intelligence is arguably better than humans at identifying minute differences in images, telling the difference between a password and normal code for a computer is just like recognizing a dog from a cat.

The best way to check whether private passwords or sensitive information has been left public today is to use hand-coded rules called “regular expressions.” These rules tell a computer to find any string of characters that meets specific criteria, like length and included characters. But passwords are all different, and this method means that the security engineer has to anticipate every kind of private data they want to guard against.

To automate the process, the Pivotal team first turned the text of passwords and code into matrixes, or lists of numbers describing each string of characters. This is the same process used when AI interprets images—similar to how the images reflected into our eyes are turned into electrical signals for the brain, images and text need to be in a simpler form for computers to process.

When the team visualized the matrices, private data looked different from the standard code. Since passwords or keys are often randomized strings of numbers, letters, and symbols—called “high entropy”—they stand out against non-random strings of letters.

Below you can see a GIF of the matrix with 100 characters of simulated secret information.

A matrix with confidential information.
A matrix with confidential information.

And then here’s another with 100 normal, non-secret code:

Pixel-Art-NO-Secret
(Pivotal)

The two patterns are completely different, with patches of higher-entropy appearing lighter in the top example of “secret” data.

Pivotal then trained a deep learning algorithm typically used for images on the matrixes, and, according to Pivotal chief security officer Justin Smith, the end result performed better than the regular expressions the firm typically uses.

Source: Artificial intelligence can scour code to find accidentally public passwords — Quartz

This AI-Controlled Roach Breeding Site Is a Nightmare Factory

In the city of Xichang, located in the southwestern Sichuan province, there is a massive, artificial intelligence-powered roach breeding farm that is producing more than six billion cockroaches per year.

The facility, which is described by the South China Morning Post as a multi-story building about the size of two sports fields, is being operated by Chengdu-based medicine maker Gooddoctor Pharmaceutical Group. Its existence raises a number of questions like, “Oh god, why?” and “Who asked for this monstrosity?”

Inside the breeding site, the environment is described as “warm, humid, and dark” all-year round. The layout is wide open, allowing the roaches to roam around freely, find food and water, and reproduce whenever and wherever the right mood strikes.

The insect sex pit is managed by what the South China Morning Post describes as a “smart manufacturing system” that is controlled primarily by algorithms. The system is in charge of analyzing more than 80 categories of data collected from throughout the facility. Everything from the temperature to the level of food consumption is monitored by AI, which is programmed to learn from historical data to determine the best conditions for peak roach fornication.

The billions of roaches that pass through the facility each year never get to see the light of day. From their birth inside the building until their death months or years later, they are locked within the walls of the moist coitus cabin.

Each and every one of the insects is eventually fed into machines and crushed up to be used in a “healing potion” manufactured by the pharmaceutical company responsible for the facility.

The potion—which is described as having a tea-like color, a slightly sweet taste, and a fishy smell—sells for about $8 for two 100ml bottles. While it is used primarily as a fix for stomach issues, the medicine can be prescribed by doctors for just about anything.

Source: This AI-Controlled Roach Breeding Site Is a Nightmare Factory

Many Satellites run Windows 95 – and are ripe for hacking

Hundreds of multi-ton liabilities—soaring faster than the speed of sound, miles above the surface of the earth—are operating on Windows-95.They’re satellites, responsible for everything from GPS positioning, to taking weather measurements, to carrying cell signals, to providing television and internet. For the countries that own these satellites, they’re invaluable resources. Even though they’re old, it’s more expensive to take satellites down than it is to just leave them up. So they stay up.Unfortunately, these outdated systems makes old satellites prime targets for cyber attacks.A malicious actor could fake their IP address, which gives information about a user’s computer and its location. This person could then get access to the satellite’s computer system, and manipulate where the satellite goes or what it does. Alternatively, an actor could jam the satellite’s radio transmissions with earth, essentially disabling it.

Source: We don’t know what to do if a satellite gets hacked | The Outline

Hackers Steal Data on 14 Million Users From Ride-Hail App Careem

Careem, a ride-hail startup based in Dubai and operating in 14 countries, announced today that hackers stole data belonging to 14 million riders and drivers.

The company discovered the breach on January 14 but waited to notify its customers because the investigation was ongoing. “Cybercrime investigations are immensely complicated and take time. We wanted to make sure we had the most accurate information before notifying people,” Careem said in a statement, noting it worked with cybersecurity experts and law enforcement to investigate the breach.

The stolen data includes customer names, email addresses, phone numbers, and trip history. Careem said that it discovered no evidence that passwords or credit card information had been breached.

However, the company is recommending that its users change their passwords anyway, especially if they used their Careem password on other websites. Careem also warned its users to watch their bank statements for signs of fraud or suspicious activity.

Source: Hackers Steal Data on 14 Million Users From Ride-Hail App Careem

Forget the Double Helix—Scientists Discovered a New DNA Structure Inside Human Cells

For the first time ever, scientists have identified the existence of a new DNA structure that looks more like a twisted, four-stranded knot than the double helix we all know from high school biology.

The newly identified structure, detailed Monday in the journal Nature Chemistry, could play a crucial role in how DNA is expressed.

Some research had previously suggested the existence of DNA in this tangled form, dubbed an i-motif, but it had never before been detected in living cells outside of the test tube. Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, though, found that not only does the structure exist in living human cells, but it is even quite common.

A rendering of the “twisted knot” DNA structure.
Illustration: Zeraati et al., Nat Chem, 2018

Its existence in living cells indicates that the structure likely plays a significant role in cell biology. In the double helix, nitrogen bases of adenine (A) forms a base pair with thymine (T), and cytosine (C) forms a base pair with guanine (G). Base pairs are stacked on top of one another, with two strands of a sugar-phosphate backbone twisting around them to form an elegant, spiraling ladder. This structure plays an important role in protein synthesis.

The twisted knot structure only occurs in a relatively small region of a genome, like a knot in the helical double strands of DNA. In the twisted knot structure, Cs bind to Cs instead of to Gs.

This phenomenon was first observed in labs in the 1990s, but for a long time it seemed that the structure could only occur under acidic conditions that did not exist inside a living cell. More recent work has shown the knots could also occur in other environments. On a hunch, Garvan Institute researchers developed an antibody that could sniff out i-motifs in the genome and identify them, tagging them with an immunofluorescent glow. This allowed researchers to see how frequently and where these knots of DNA occur. They found that the i-motifs are could fold and unfold depending on the acidity of their surroundings, and that the codes were generally found in areas of the genome involved in whether or not a certain gene gets expressed. This suggests the i-motifs may be some kind of switch that can regulate gene expression.

Source: Forget the Double Helix—Scientists Discovered a New DNA Structure Inside Human Cells

Yahoo! fined! $35m! for! covering! up! massive! IT! security! screwup!

The Disaster Formerly Known as Yahoo! has been fined $35m by US financial watchdog, the SEC, for failing to tell anyone about one of the world’s largest ever computer security breaches.

Now known as Altaba following its long, slow and painful descent in irrelevance, Yahoo! knew that its entire user database – including billions of usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, passwords, security questions – had been grabbed by Russian hackers back in December 2014 – just days after the break-in occurred.

Security staff informed senior Yahoo! management and its legal department, who then demonstrated the same kind of business and strategic nous that saw the company fold into itself when they decided to, um, not tell anyone.

It wasn’t until two years later when telco giant Verizon said it wanted to buy the troubled company that Yahoo! finally revealed the massive breach.

The SEC is, understandably, not overly impressed. “Yahoo! failed to properly investigate the circumstances of the breach and to adequately consider whether the breach needed to be disclosed to investors,” it said Tuesday, before the co-director of its enforcement division, Steven Peikin, gave what amounts to a vicious burn in the regulatory world.

“We do not second-guess good faith exercises of judgment about cyber-incident disclosure,” said Peikin. “But we have also cautioned that a company’s response to such an event could be so lacking that an enforcement action would be warranted. This is clearly such a case.”

Another SEC staffer – director of its San Francisco office, Jina Choi, also piled in, noting that: “Yahoo!’s failure to have controls and procedures in place to assess its cyber-disclosure obligations ended up leaving its investors totally in the dark about a massive data breach. Public companies should have controls and procedures in place to properly evaluate cyber incidents and disclose material information to investors.”

So, about that…

Yahoo! should have let investors know about the massive breach in its quarterly and annual reports because of the huge business and legal implications to its business, the SEC said.

But it didn’t of course – probably because it was already desperate to get someone to buy it following years of abortive efforts by CEO Marissa Meyer to turnaround what was once the internet’s poster child.

The SEC also found that Yahoo! did not share information on the breach with either auditors or its outside lawyers. The Canadian who helped the Russians gain access to the data faces eight years in jail.

Source: Yahoo! fined! $35m! for! covering! up! massive! IT! security! screwup! • The Register

McAfee’s Cryptocurrency Leaks Personal Information for Thousands of Investors

On Mar 30, researchers at Kromtech Security identified a database open to the public containing full names, addresses, email addresses, encrypted passwords, wallet information, along with links to scanned passports, driver’s licenses, and other IDs for over 25,000 investors of the newly created Bezop. The information was found within a MongoDB database without any security.

John Mcafee, an adviser on the board for Bezop, described Bezop as “a distributed version of Amazon.com” in a recent Twitter post.  It is that, but it’s also a cryptocurrency.  Bezop is adding, and has in fact already added, it’s own cryptocurrency, which they call “Bezop tokens”, into the stream of transactions.

[…]

It does not seem to be a very good start for a company such as this to place personal information of anyone on the Internet and open to the public, especially it’s early investors.  In fact, it’s a little difficult to grasp how it could happen, even if by mistake.   Given the changes to MongoDB, it would have to have been deliberately configured to be public, a configuration which should not even be risked internally.

Making your investor’s personal information public is obviously not a good practice and a huge mistake to make.  We hope that they ensure that their new product, which uses MongoDB as part of it’s design, and any future bounty programs using the same, will be configured far more securely than this MongoDB instance turned out to be.  Ease of use should never be placed above security, even during the development cycle.

At the time of this report, Bezop has been notified and have made no comment, but they have secured the database.

In our previous research we have learned that it takes about 3 hours for a misconfigured MongoDB server to be compromised.

Source: Cryptocurrency Leaks Personal Information for Thousands of I

But really – who uses MongoDB anymore?!

Gaia creates richest star map of our Galaxy – and beyond / Gaia / Space Science / Our Activities / ESA

ESA’s Gaia mission has produced the richest star catalogue to date, including high-precision measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars and revealing previously unseen details of our home Galaxy.

A multitude of discoveries are on the horizon after this much awaited release, which is based on 22 months of charting the sky. The new data includes positions, distance indicators and motions of more than one billion stars, along with high-precision measurements of asteroids within our Solar System and stars beyond our own Milky Way Galaxy.

[…]

The new data release, which covers the period between 25 July 2014 and 23 May 2016, pins down the positions of nearly 1.7 billion stars, and with a much greater precision. For some of the brightest stars in the survey, the level of precision equates to Earth-bound observers being able to spot a Euro coin lying on the surface of the Moon.

With these accurate measurements it is possible to separate the parallax of stars – an apparent shift on the sky caused by Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun – from their true movements through the Galaxy.

The new catalogue lists the parallax and velocity across the sky, or proper motion, for more than 1.3 billion stars. From the most accurate parallax measurements, about ten per cent of the total, astronomers can directly estimate distances to individual stars.

Source: Gaia creates richest star map of our Galaxy – and beyond / Gaia / Space Science / Our Activities / ESA

Researchers are keeping pig brains alive outside the body

In a step that could change the definition of death, researchers have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs and kept the reanimated organs alive for as long as 36 hours.

The feat offers scientists a new way to study intact brains in the lab in stunning detail. But it also inaugurates a bizarre new possibility in life extension, should human brains ever be kept on life support outside the body.

The work was described on March 28 at a meeting held at the National Institutes of Health to investigate ethical issues arising as US neuroscience centers explore the limits of brain science.

During the event, Yale University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan disclosed that a team he leads had experimented on between 100 and 200 pig brains obtained from a slaughterhouse, restoring their circulation using a system of pumps, heaters, and bags of artificial blood warmed to body temperature.

Source: Researchers are keeping pig brains alive outside the body – MIT Technology Review

The World’s First Working Projector Smartwatch Turns Your Arm Into a Big Touchscreen

GIF: Carnegie Mellon University & ASU Tech

Some smartwatches come with powerful processors, lots of storage, and robust software, but have limited capabilities compared to smartphones thanks to their tiny touchscreens. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, however, have now created a smartwatch prototype with a built-in projector that turns the wearer’s arm into a smartphone-sized touchscreen.

Despite what you may have seen on crowdfunding sites, the LumiWatch is the first smartwatch to integrate a fully-functional laser projector and sensor array, allowing a screen projected on a user’s skin to be poked, tapped, and swiped just like a traditional touchscreen. It seems like a gadget straight out of science fiction, but don’t reach for your credit card just yet, because it’s going to be a very long time before the technology created for this research project ends up in a consumer-ready device.

Source: The World’s First Working Projector Smartwatch Turns Your Arm Into a Big Touchscreen

 
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