Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Is there some hope for Internet Of Things security?

Maybe.  Microsoft just announced they are getting into the game:
Microsoft has designed a family of Arm-based system-on-chips for Internet-of-Things devices that runs its own flavor of Linux – and securely connects to an Azure-hosted backend. 
Dubbed Azure Sphere, the platform is Microsoft's foray into the trendy edge-computing space, while craftily locking gadget makers into cloud subscriptions.
I know what you are thinking: Microsoft is solving a security problem?  Well, maybe.  Microsoft got a bad security reputation 20 years ago, but have been doing a credible job for quite some time now.  Besides, they address what are probably the top IoT security issues:

1. The people who write the IoT apps don't know the first thing about security, and so make mistakes that everyone else has known how to prevent for 20 years: insecure default passwords, poor network security hygene, bad coding that allows common attacks, etc.  Because Microsoft is providing  a development environment for creating these apps, they can provide a sane set of default settings that will make these sorts of attacks a lot harder.  I'm not sure if they will do this, but they could.

2. The people who write the IoT apps mostly don't have an auto-update mechanism to roll out new security fixes.  Most of these will not be in the app itself, but will rather be in the underlying Operating System code.  Microsoft has an update mechanism built into the system, so this will be automagic.  The IoT app developer doesn't have to know anything about security to get this.

These two changes will potentially move the needle a lot to make the systems more secure.  We'll have to see how things play out, but this is a positive move.

It's Not The Data You Collect

It's not the data you collect, it's how you interpret that data that matters.

During WWII, when planes returned with battle damage they were repaired and returned to service. Because so many of the returning planes had damage in the wings and fuselage, there was a suggestion made to add armor to the areas that were showing damage.

That plan might have been carried out except for Abraham Wald. Dr. Wald was a statistician. He looked at the battle damage reports on returning aircraft and noticed the obvious. These were returning planes. That meant that the damage they had received was not enough to prevent them from flying.

Since he understood that aerial combat was never precise enough to hit another aircraft in an exact spot, but was simply shooting and getting hits wherever they might, he was only looking at part of the data. The rest of the data was smashed into the dirt of France and Germany. The planes that did not return held the real information.

Since those planes were unavailable for inspection, he reversed the thinking. Of the planes that had returned with battle damage, where had they not been hit? In the cockpit, engine, and tail. If additional armor plate was going to be effective, that's where it should be installed.

His logic carried the day, the Army Air Corps added armor as he suggested. If you can do graduate level statistics, here's the math behind it.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It snowed today

Not much, but dang - it's half way through April.  In Maryland.  I wonder if Al Gore is visiting?




Everything is hackable

Peter posts about the lousy security of most electronic devices:
I've spoken out before against the so-called "Internet of things" in our homes.  They hold hidden dangers.
  • Frankly, I don't see any need for a "smart thermostat" that can be adjusted from my smartphone, when that means someone else can hack into it and potentially invade my privacy.
  • I think "smart security cameras" that I can operate from my smartphone, anywhere in the country, are an ideal tool for would-be burglars or home invaders, who can monitor them to select the best time to commit their crimes.
  • "Smart door locks" are an invitation to hackers to open my doors for themselves - or just leave them open for their amusement.
He then points out the example of a casino that was hacked via a network-connected thermostat in a fish tank.  I know people in the security business ("Penetration Testers", sometimes called "White Hat Hackers" who are hired by companies to test their defenses) - I've heard stories about how they have done precisely this sort of thing.  One story from around 20 years ago was how they checked into a casino hotel and went to their room.  The mini fridge had an Ethernet connection; they plugged their laptop into the network and found that they were on the main casino IT network.  It seems that someone wanted to have electronic sensors reporting when someone took a beer from the fridge for automatic billing.

My point is that this has been going on a long, long time.  It's not getting better, either: the mad rush to "Internet Enable" every device on the planet reminds me of the mad rush to put up corporate web sites in the late 1990s.  Nobody really knew why they "had" to do this, but everyone was doing it, so they had to as well.  Of course, the security wasn't an afterthought - it wasn't thought of at all.  And so there was idiocy like shopping cart applications that let you download the order form, edit the hidden price field, upload it back to the server, and buy a TV for a penny.

Now there's the "Internet Of Things" that doesn't seem to have any security at all. Everything is hackable.

So what can you do?  The best defense (as is typically the case) is good situational awareness.  When you see one of these devices, remind yourself that it almost certainly has no security built into it.  Imagine what might happen if you installed it in your house (say, a "smart" door lock that will open for anyone who knows the "open sesame" command).  Then ask yourself if the benefits are worth it to you.

For me, the answer is a resounding "no", but you know how nasty and suspicious I am.

But remember that network security is hard, even for people who are highly motivated to have good security.  Casinos have had pretty darn good security, in my experience.  They know what's at stake.  This is why they hire penetration testers, after all.  And they still get hacked through some dumb Internet Of Things device.

If it happens to them, with their experience, motivation, and security budget, what do you think will happen to you?

When you find yourself in a store looking at one of these shiny new devices and the hair on the back of your neck starts to stand up, you will know that you understand the situation precisely.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Well, what do we have here, Private Pyle?

Alright, ladies, listen up. Gunny Ermey has moved on to a new duty station. There's no need for tears. He was a Marine, a Drill Instructor, and then an actor and an ambassador for the Corps. He lived a hell of a life.

No, today is Eat a Jelly Donut Day. I'll see you at the bakery.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Rest In Peace, Gunny

R. Lee Ermey, dead at 72.  He was one of a kind.



Semper fi, and enjoy the ride up there, Gunny.  Just take it easy on the new arrivals - they're not recruits.

Running Silent, Running Deep - A Brigid Guest Post

Since Borepatch told me I was still welcome to stop by with a post, a Chapter from Saving Grace - A Story of Adoption that those of you who have read my posts about my late brother, the Submariner (SeaWolf, Halibut, Michigan) might enjoy. - B.

Chapter 44 – Running Silent and Deep

Friendships can form over many years of interaction. They can form in the sudden heat of battle. They can form over a handful of open, reflective conversations on or off the websimilar experiences, shared pain, among those who have earned your trust. They can involve humans, and they can involve four-legged friends who hold us just as dear, who protect us just as strongly.
All are valued.
I have one long-term friend who is very much like some of my friends, and beyond the conception of others. He’s a couple years younger than me, never married, his whole life spent in service to our country including a trip or two to a war zone. Now he works in something that would be the stuff of a TV show if you could somehow narrow it down to an hour, throw in some cleavage, unrealistic outcomes of science, and the occasional bumbling probie
But real life is not like that. It's not designer clothing while you assess the blood splatter, logical conclusions, or the good guys always winning. It’s continuing to bear with weight and steadiness the evils and excesses of man, holding up strong under the business of the slain even when you might lose. Throw in a dress code and the occasional political yard gnome, and though we don’t talk about it, we occasionally see something on TV and just look at each other and laugh.
He sometimes disappears for weeks or longer when I don’t know where he is, and I know not to ask, though I’ve seen him on TV before. Then with a phone call out of the blue, he pops in, occasionally on my front porch.
My husband understands our long history and that bond and just smiles a wry smile while the guest bed is made up and my friend and I have animated conversations involving Bosnian goats, wrong way tanks, and various shiny aircraft. For it is a friendship that is like family, even though we don’t share blood or any sort of romantic historyjust a lot of years, some mutual skirmishes, a number of fish sandwiches and pints, some bullets, and a passport or two.
Then there were the friends of childhood. Often such friendships didn’t survive high school as we grew and evolved into the people we would eventually be. One such person was the girl who lived across the street. She was my best friend in grade school; a tiny little thing with ice-blond hair. When we were kids, her little sister died of a rare form of cancer, then her still-young mom of the same disease. Her dad soon followed though we’re not sure if it was disease or heartbreak. She and I lost touch after high school, the friendship being more one of young girls than grown-ups.
We went off to college, myself initially majoring in engineering, my friend doing pre-med. I heard later she ended up working for a medical research facility. She studied the disease that had laid its cold hand on her family, hoping for a cure, likely looking at it each day with both horror and astonishment. Unfortunately, the disease took her before she could take it. She was only in her thirties, the world to her still comprised of small wonders.
We hadn’t had any contact in years, and it was months after she passed that I heard. She had no living family left; nothing remained of her but the handcrafted wood that held her remains. So small, so bare. That’s really all that life ends up as, I thought, and my heart swelled with tearsfor the girl she’d been, for joyous laughter watching cartoons, for whispered conversations about who liked what boy, for afternoons at ballet class; for all the joy and adventure we had as we explored our world with a curiosity and courage that had not learned limits. I cried with the realization that we had both let that slip past us, unremembered over so many years.
All I could do was go to the church and light a candle for her, then blow on it to release the flame, releasing her laughter with it, and the memories of childhood.
If we are fortunate, those we live with are also our friends. My dad married his best friend, as did I. I look at other friends of mine long married and I see that, and it’s precious to behold just being in the same room with the two of them; sitting across the table as we say grace you can feel the flame.
There’s nothing better than sharing a last name with your best friend.
Growing up, my big brother Allen was the best friend a kid could have, his not abandoning me even in high school when it just wasn’t cool to hang out with your baby sister. But lately we’d gotten much closer.
Because he was dying.
He had kept the truth from our ninety-four-year-old father, hoping that he would outlive Dad, sparing him that agony. But I knew even if he didn’t tell me, having too much knowledge of medicine not to understand what was going on. But I did everything I could to spend as much time with Allen during those last six months. In his last months on this earth we’d talk of everything: about our dad, about growing up (or our inherent refusal to). One thing I am glad was that I never heard from him during those conversations, “I wish I’d . . .”
I’ve heard so many people say: “I’ll do that when I’m older, when I lose twenty pounds, when I’m retired.” We go through life saying, “I would, but it probably wouldn’t work out,” or, “ I’d like to but . . .” We too often base our actions on an artificial future, painting a life picture based on an expectancy that time is more than sweat, tears, heat, and mirage.
 You can’t count on anything. For out of the blue fate can come calling. My husband and I had recently lost our beloved black Lab Barkley after a brief but valiant battle against bone cancer and a weekend of pain we couldn’t keep at bay for him. In a flash, life robbed me even of the power to grieve for what is ending. I think back to when Allen and I were kids: going down a turbulent little river with little more than an inner tube and youth, risking rocks and rapids and earth just to see what was around the bend of that forest we’d already mapped out like Lewis and Clark. The water was black and silver, fading swirls of deep current rising to the surface like a slap, fleeting and gravely significantas if something stirred beneath, unhappy to be disturbed from its slumber, making its presence known. A fish, perhaps; or simply fate.
I think of the true story of the woman whose parachute didn’t open on her first jump and she fell more than a mile and livedto change her whole life to pursue her dreams. Did she sense something as she boarded that plane, looking into the sky at a danger that she could not articulate that she could not see? Or was she unaware until that moment when she pulled the cord and nothing happened, as her life rushed up to her with a deep groaning sound? What was it like in that moment, that perception of her final minutes, what taste, what color, what sound defined her soul as it prepared to leave? 
I was in the paint section of a hardware store the other weekend, looking for a brick-colored paint to spruce up a backdrop in the crash pad’s kitchen. I noticed the yellows, the color I had painted my room as a teen. I noticed the greens, so many of themsome resembling the green of my parents’ house in the ’60s and ’70s, yet not being exactly the same color. The original was one that you’d not see in a landscape, only in a kitchen with avocado appliances while my Mom sang as she made cookies. I remember Allen and I racing through the house, one of us soldier, the other spy, friends forever; stopping only long enough for some of those cookies, still warm. Holding that funky green paint sample I can see it as if it were yesterday. Memories only hinted at, held there in small squares of color.
What is it about things from the past that evoke such responses? For some, it’s a favorite photo; a piece of clothing worn to a special event; a particular meal. Things that carry with them the sheer impossible quality of perfection that has not been achieved since. Things that somehow trigger in us a response of wanting to go back to that time and place when you were safe and all was well. But even as you try and recapture the memory, it eludes you, caught in a point in your mind between immobility and motion, the taste of empty air, the color of wind.
One morning while out in a hangar checking out a pilot friend’s home-built project, I had one of those moments. It was an old turboprop lumbering down the taxiway with all the grace of a water buffalo. It wasn’t the aircraft that caught my eye, it being one of those planes that carries neither speed nor sleek beauty, but rather serves as the embodiment of inertia overcome by sufficient horsepower. No, it was the smell of jet fuel that took me backto years of pushing the limits, not really caring if I came home, only that the work was done without my breaking beyond re-use something I was trusted with.
Until one day, while my heart was beating despite being broken unseen beneath starched white cotton, my aircraft made a decided effort to kill me. It was not the “Well, I’ll make a weird sound and flash some red lights at you and see what you do,” an aircraft’s equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the North cackling: “Care for a little fire, Scarecrow?” No, it was a severe vibration that shook the yoke right out of my hand as we accelerated through 180 knots on the initial climb when, unbeknownst to me, a small piece of metal on the aircraft’s tail had come loose and was flapping in the breeze.
At that moment, as I heard the silent groaning of the earth below, I thought: I do not wish to dieand I fought back. In that moment of slow and quiet amazement that can come at the edge of sound, finding in myself a renewed desire to live; recognizing the extent and depth of that desire to draw another breath and share that soft warm breath with another.
Today is a memory that months from now could be one of those memoriesnot of fear, but of triumph. You may look back and see this day, the friends you were with, the smile on your face, the simple tasks you were doing together. Things, so basic in their form to at this time simply be another chore: cleaning, fixing, an ordinary day; while children played with a paper plane fueled by laughter and the hangar cat drowsed in the sunlight. It might be a day you didn’t even capture on filmno small squares of color left to retain what you felt as you worked and laughed together, there in those small strokes of color, those small brushes of hope as you wait for your best friend to join you.
Twenty years from now you may look at yourself in the mirror, at the wrinkles formed from dust, time, and tears around your eyes, at the gray in your hair; and you will think back to this day, the trivial things that contain the sublime. On that day, so far beyond here and now, you may look around you, that person you were waiting for no longer present, and you’ll want it all back. Want it as bad as the yearning for a color that is not found in nature, in the taste of something for which you search and ache, acting on the delusion that you can recreate it, those things that haunt the borders of almost-knowing.
You touch the mirror, touch your face and wish you’d laughed more, cared less of what others thought, dove into those feelings that lapped at the safe little edges of your life, leaped into the astonishing uncertainty.
Allen spent years running silent and deep under the ocean, visiting places I can only guess at as he will not speak of it, a code about certain things I share with him. But I knew the name. Operation Ivy Bells. He understood testing the boundaries of might and the cold depths to which we travel in search of ourselves.
On his last nights, Allen and I talked, but not of those days under the ocean. We both were aware of grave matters of honor, but do not speak of them, not even with each other. I’d sit as he talked about Dad and how he hoped Dad would live to be a hundred; how he hoped he would be there to take care of him, even as I watched 120 pounds leave Allen’s frame as he went through that second round of chemo and radiation.
He talked until his eyes closed, only his labored breath letting me know he was still with me; the rise and fall of his chest as he was trying to push up from the waters of the sea, unfathomed flesh still so buoyant if only in spirit as the cold water lapped against him.
I too have had more than one day where I stood outside on a pale crescent of beaten earth and breathed deeply of that cold. On those days I felt every ache in my muscles; my skin hot under the sun; the savage, fecund smell of loss in the air, lying heavily in the loud silence. Somewhere in the distance would come a soft clap of thunder; overhead clouds strayed deliberately across the earth, disconnected from mechanical time. I’d rather be elsewhere; the smell simply that of kitchen and comfort: the sounds only that of laughter. But I knew how lucky I was to simply be, in that moment, and alive.
I’d go home on such nights and pour a drink, prepare a small meal. I’d eat it slowly, letting the sweet and salt stay on my tongue. For me there would be no quick microwaved meal eaten with all the detachment of someone at a bar, tossing back a handful of stale nuts with his beer. No, I wished to taste and savor the day, the warm layers of it, this day that had been someone’s last.
You can’t control fate, but you can make choices. You can continue your day and do nothing, standing in brooding and irretrievable calculation as if casting in a game already lost. Or you can seize the moment, the days, wringing every last drop from them. Tell the ones you love that you love them. Hug your family; call an old friend you’ve not spoken to for months; forgive an enemy; salute your flagand always, always give the dog an extra biscuit. Then step outside into the sharp and unbending import of spring, a dying winter flaring up like fading flame. One last taste, one last memory, never knowing how long it will remain.
As I sit and wait for the phone to ring to let me know my husband has landed, I have no idea what this day will bring as it closes. But one thing I do know: today is that memory. Alone or together, I’m going to go out and make everything I can of it. I look at the photos of my daughter Rebecca and the family that adopted her. I look at a photo of Allen, the shirt he wore in the last picture I have of him now hanging in my closet, next to a crisp cotton shirt that still bears the scent of memory. I pause and smile, preparing my evening table with thanks to the Lord for the blessing of family and friends. - Brigid

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Blessing of the Bikes

Posting has been delayed because co-blogger and brother-from-another-mother ASM826 stopped by last night.  Bourbon was drunk and the World's problems solved.

Now it's the blessing of the bikes.  Back later.

Thursday, April 12, 2018