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Security-Focused BlackPhone Was Vulnerable To Simple Text Message Bug

IamTheRealMike Re:Security is a process ... (46 comments)

There will -always- be flaws. However, part of a company selling security is how they respond to issues, and here, BlackPhone has performed quite well. There was a problem, they fixed it, and that is what matters.

I agree that how a company handles incident response is important and the BlackPhone guys have apparently handled this well.

However, there are several things that are troubling about this story which lead me to not trust BlackPhone and question the security experience of the people designing it.

The first thing we notice about this exploit is that the library in question appears to be written in C, even though it's newly written code that is parsing complex data structures straight off the wire from people who might be attackers. What is this, 1976? These guys aren't programming smartcard chips without an OS, they're writing a text messaging app that runs on phones in which the OS is written in Java. Why the hell is the core of their secure messaging protocol written in C?

The second thing we notice is that the bug occurs due to a type confusion attack whilst parsing JSON. JSON?! Yup, SCIMP messages apparently contain binary signatures which are base 64 encoded, wrapped in JSON, and then base64 encoded again. A more bizarre or error-prone format is difficult to imagine. They manage to combine the efficiency of double-base64 encoding binary data with the tightness and simplicity of a text based format inspired by a scripting language which has, for example, only one kind of number (floating point). They get the joy of handling many different kinds of whitespace, escaping bugs, etc. And to repeat, they are parsing this mess of unneeded complexity .... in C.

Compare this to TextSecure, an app that does the same thing as the BlackPhone SMS app. TextSecure is written by Moxie Marlinspike, a man who Knows What He Is Doing(tm). TextSecure uses protocol buffers, a very simple and efficient binary format with a schema language and compiler. There is minimal scope for type confusion. Moreover, the entire app is written in Java, so there is no possibility of memory management errors whilst trying to read messages crafted by an attacker. By doing things this way they eliminate entire categories of bugs in one fell swoop.

So yes, whilst the BlackPhone team should be commended for getting a patch out to their users, this whole incident just raises deep questions about their design decisions and development processes. The fact that such a bug could occur should have been mind-blowingly obvious from the moment they wrote their first line of code.

yesterday
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Engineers Develop 'Ultrarope' For World's Highest Elevator

IamTheRealMike Re:Worthless (240 comments)

Indeed. I once read that the limiting factor on how high we can build skyscrapers is not structural engineering but the explosion in space occupied by elevator shafts as you try and go higher and higher whilst preserving reasonable wait times.

yesterday
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Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers

IamTheRealMike Re:Why you shouldnt buy anything with revocable DR (457 comments)

No, if you read the article they clearly state the keys were fraudulently obtained. If you obtain keys via fraud, they are almost by definition not "good keys".

2 days ago
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EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance

IamTheRealMike Re:SIP Replacement? (275 comments)

RedPhone is free and open source end to end encrypted telephony that works OK (not amazingly, but as well as a typical commercial VoIP app does). People authenticate each other using their voices.

2 days ago
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EFF Unveils Plan For Ending Mass Surveillance

IamTheRealMike Re:Good Luck! You'll Need It! (275 comments)

This is very true. However, WhatsApp appears to be a counter-example. They are deploying full end to end encryption and instead of ads, they just ..... charge people money, $1 per year. WhatsApp is not very big in the USA but it's huge everywhere else in the world.

The big problem is not people sharing with Facebook or Google or whoever (as you note: who cares?) but rather the last part - sharing with a foreign corporation is currently equivalent to sharing with its government, and people tend to care about the latter much more than the former. But that's a political problem. It's very hard to solve with cryptography. All the fancy science in the world won't stop a local government just passing a law that makes it illegal to use, and they all will because they all crave the power that comes with total knowledge of what citizens are doing and thinking.

Ultimately the solution must be two-pronged. Political effort to make it socially unacceptable for politicians to try and ban strong crypto. And the deployment of that crypto to create technical resistance against bending or breaking those rules.

2 days ago
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Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers

IamTheRealMike Re:Everyone back up a step... (457 comments)

That's not what the second link says is happening though.

My reading of the second article is that there is the following problem. Website G2A.com allows private re-sale of game keys, whether that's to undercut the retail prices or avoid region locking or whatever is irrelevant. Carders are constantly on the lookout for ways to cash out stolen credit card numbers. Because fraudulent card purchases can be rolled back and because you have to go through ID verification to accept cards, spending them at their own shops doesn't work - craftier schemes are needed.

So what they do is go online and buy game activation keys in bulk with stolen cards. They know it will take time for the legit owners of the cards to notice and charge back the purchase. Then they go to G2A.com and sell the keys at cut-down prices to people who know they are obtaining keys from a dodgy backstreet source, either they sell for hard-to-reverse payment methods like Western Union or they just bet that nobody wants to file a complaint with PayPal saying they got ripped off trying to buy a $60 game for $5 on a forum known for piracy and unauthorised distribution.

Then what happens? Well, the game reseller gets delivered a list of card chargebacks by their banks and are told they have a limited amount of time to get the chargeback problem under control. Otherwise they will get cut off and not be able to accept credit card payments any more. The only available route to Ubisoft or whoever at this point is to revoke the stolen keys to try and kill the demand for the carded keys.

If that reading is correct then Ubisoft aren't to blame here. They can't just let this trade continue or it threatens their ability to accept legitimate card payments.

2 days ago
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Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers

IamTheRealMike Re:Why you shouldnt buy anything with revocable DR (457 comments)

In this case UBISOFT has a dispute with gray marketeers and decides to take it out on the customers instead of taking it to the courts

Ubisoft might not be able to take them to the courts. For example if these resellers are in China or developing countries where the local authorities don't care about foreign IP cases. Technically speaking, it's actually the customers who have a dispute with the resellers, because those resellers knowingly sold them dud keys. It's not much different than if you buy a fake branded Mac, take it to an Apple repair centre and they tell you to go away. Your dispute is not with Apple. Your dispute is with the entity that sold you the fake goods.

Look at it another way. What if these "resellers" were actually selling you random numbers instead of game activation keys. When you try them out and discover they don't work .... your dispute is not with Ubisoft. They would be totally correct to deny activation of the game. Your dispute is with the fraudster who sold you the invalid keys.

2 days ago
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Ubisoft Revokes Digital Keys For Games Purchased Via Unauthorised Retailers

IamTheRealMike Re:First Sale (457 comments)

Legally speaking that would be a dispute between you and the bogus reseller. They sold you something that was effectively counterfeit. There's lots of well established law in this area.

2 days ago
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Oracle Releases Massive Security Update

IamTheRealMike Re:Impressive (79 comments)

How many unauthenticated remote exploits in a HTTP stack does it take to lose a customer?

Not many, I should imagine, but your comment is irrelevant because there were no such bugs fixed in this Java update. The way Oracle describes these bugs is horribly confusing. Normally we expect "remotely exploitable without authentication" to mean you can send a packet across the network and pwn the box. If you actually check the CVEs you will see that there's only one bug like that, and it's an SSL downgrade attack - doesn't give you access to the box. All the others are sandbox escapes. If you aren't trying to sandbox malicious code then they don't affect you.

about a week ago
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Oracle Releases Massive Security Update

IamTheRealMike Re:But Java... (79 comments)

Java doesn't have security holes like C or C++ .... or so I was told.

Then again, I haven't seen too many security patches for gcc or libstdc++ or glibc

You're comparing apples and oranges. The "remotely exploitable bugs" in this Java update, like all the others, are assuming you download and run malicious code in the sandbox. GCC and glibc don't have protecting you from malicious code as a goal, in fact Linux typically requires all software to be installed as root no matter what. Obviously if you never even try, you cannot fail.

The interesting story here is not so much that sandboxes have holes (look at the Chrome release notes to see how many security holes are fixed in every update), but rather than the sandbox makers seem to be currently outrunning the sandbox breakers. In 2014 Java had security holes, but no zero days at all - all the exploits were found by whitehat auditors. Same thing for Chrome, people found bugs but they were found by the good guys.

I'm not sure if this means the industry is finally turning a corner on sandboxing of mobile code or not, but it's an interesting trend.

about a week ago
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Rust Programming Language Reaches 1.0 Alpha

IamTheRealMike Re:Obligatory (161 comments)

GC tuning can do a lot, but yes, huge heaps where the GC cannot keep up with the rate of garbage requires a full stop the world collection. However, if your application is really keeping a 15 gigabyte working set, I suspect you'd hit problems with fragmentation and memory leaks using something like Rust long before scaling to such sizes.

about two weeks ago
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'Silk Road Reloaded' Launches On a Network More Secret Than Tor

IamTheRealMike Re:Infamous Tor Network? (155 comments)

Why don't you watch the talk and find out?

Actually I'll just summarise it for you. If you run a lot of Tor nodes you will eventually get picked to host a hidden service directory. Then you can measure lookups for the entries of hidden services to measure their popularity, and crawl them to find out what's on them.

about two weeks ago
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Rust Programming Language Reaches 1.0 Alpha

IamTheRealMike Re:Obligatory (161 comments)

[Java took a very different approach to the problem of "how to we get rid of segfaults and memory corruption". Java basically banned all interesting use of the stack, forcing everything onto the heap, and barred developers from using RAII. Nowadays, with more advanced compilers able to do advanced lifetime analysis, we can reconsider languages - such as Rust - that take a less draconian approach.]

I think it's rather misleading to state that more advanced compilers have obviated the need for Java's approach.

Firstly, Rust doesn't solve automatic memory management like garbage collection does. Their solution appears to be basically smart pointers with move semantics + reference counting for the cases where data doesn't have a lifetime cleanly tied to scope. Well, great. It's back to the 1990's and COM. Reference counting notoriously cannot handle cycles, which are very common in real programs. Any tree structure where you want to be able to navigate both up and down, for example.

In addition to the difficulty of breaking reference cycles and preventing memory leaks in complex programs, refcounting also has poor performance especially if you want threads involved. Garbage collection has now been optimised (in good implementations like HotSpot) to the point where it's faster than refcounting.

If we start seeing teams of non-expert programmers writing large programs in Rust, you will see programs with memory leaks all over the place.

Additionally, you realise that Java compilers have got smarter over the years too, right? HotSpot can stack allocate objects in a bunch of different circumstances, when analysis reveals that it'd be safe.

about two weeks ago
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Cryptocurrency Based Basic Income Program Started In Finland

IamTheRealMike Re:Sounds suspiciously like welfare. (109 comments)

Basic Income is welfare, not something that sounds like it. The difference between it and normal welfare is, everyone gets a basic income whether they want it or not. It's meant to be enough to live off.

The idea of a BI is a very old one. It has nothing to do with cryptocurrency, and I'm not sure what relevance cryptocurrency has (and I say that as a Bitcoin developer, so I'm a fan of CC in general). In theory a society rich enough to afford it would have moved to the oft-fictionalised post work utopia that you sometimes see in things like Star Trek. Because everyone gets it whether they want it or not, unconditionally, the basic income would be supposedly stigma free. Thus if you want to pursue things that are not very profitable but are beneficial to society nonetheless (production of art, charity, etc) then you could do that and not have to worry about being seen as a welfare sponger.

I love the concept in theory, but a society rich enough to afford one is pretty unimaginable in today's world. Western societies are clearly incapable of even providing the current levels of welfare let alone a vastly larger level. I see a BI as a useful goal to inspire people about the future rather than something practical for today.

about three weeks ago
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In-Flight Service Gogo Uses Fake SSL Certificates To Throttle Streaming

IamTheRealMike Re:Why? (163 comments)

That was true 10 years ago. These days browsers make them un-ignorable and in some cases like with HSTS unbypassable.

about three weeks ago
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In-Flight Service Gogo Uses Fake SSL Certificates To Throttle Streaming

IamTheRealMike Re:Why? (163 comments)

They aren't allowed to impersonate another company, I suspect that's rather the point. Look at the screenshot: the HTTPS indicator was crossed out. I guess you have to click through a big fat warning to get there ..... and I'm surprised it's even possible at all. I thought YouTube was SSL pinned. Maybe it's just google.com

about three weeks ago
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In-Flight Service Gogo Uses Fake SSL Certificates To Throttle Streaming

IamTheRealMike Re:Get What You Pay For (163 comments)

In all of my years of being a network engineer, I've never heard of managing bandwidth that way and can't think of why someone would mange bandwidth that way.

Me neither but we have no idea what kind of filtering system you can install onto a plane.

My guess is that they can't filter by DNS lookup for some reason (people's devices have cached answers?) but they can do SSL rewriting, and for big sites like anything Google runs IP address blocking isn't useful because all their sites share IPs. They know browsers and apps won't accept their fake certs, it's just a way to create an unbypassable error.

about three weeks ago
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In-Flight Service Gogo Uses Fake SSL Certificates To Throttle Streaming

IamTheRealMike Re:Why? (163 comments)

You're not thinking like someone who has to deal with the general public.

People who read slashdot can easily rattle off some semi-accurate estimates for how much bandwidth a particular online activity consumes. Load BBC News? Less than 1mb (I hope). Listen to a streamed MP3 of a pop hit? Probably 3-4mb. Watch a 40 second video? Maybe 5-8 megabytes. Windows update? Errrmm ..... maybe 20-30? Stream a full TV episode. Multiple gigabytes.

None of this means anything to your average flyer. They don't think in units of bits. Telling them they have 300 megabytes of transfer quota is just meaningless nerd speak to them. What they understand is watching youtube, browsing the web, downloading TV episodes, etc. This is the fundamental problem all brokers of bandwidth have: their customers don't really understand what they're buying.

So now we come to the question of why GoGo is serving bogus SSL certs. The most obvious reason I can think of is that doing so breaks both websites and apps in such a way that they will stop immediately, rather than switching to alternative hostnames or IP addresses or constantly hammering away and retrying stuff. If you're trying to selectively kill off YouTube and other video sites so you can tell people "Sure, browse the web and play with your phone, have fun" in a massively bandwidth starved environment, causing unbypassable errors for specific websites is probably not the worst way to do it. People will be happier this way than thinking they're gonna surf for an hour before going to sleep, and then getting a quota exceeded error after five minutes because they accidentally clicked on a YouTube vid.

about three weeks ago
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Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ

IamTheRealMike Re:islam (1350 comments)

I don't think people wielding guns in Gaza has much to do with them being Muslim.

about three weeks ago
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Gunmen Kill 12, Wound 7 At French Magazine HQ

IamTheRealMike Re:Let's ban all guns! (1350 comments)

Obviously a ban is not the same thing as a well enforced ban.

Note that the most recent comparable incident in the UK involved two Muslim men hacking a soldier to death with a machete. But there was only one death. It's much easier to kill people, much faster, with guns than with machetes. The UK has been very serious about gun control though, so the lack of guns in the last attack wasn't a huge surprise.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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China performing SSL MITM attacks on iCloud

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  about 3 months ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "Anti-censorship blog GreatFire has published a story claiming that SSL connections from inside China to Apple iCloud are being subject to a man in the middle attack, using a self signed certificate. Apple has published a knowledge base article stating that the attacks are indeed occurring, with example screenshots of the SSL cert error screens used by popular Mac browsers. Unfortunately, in China at least one natively produced browser called Qihoo markets itself as "secure", but does not show any certificate errors when presented with the self signed cert. Is this the next step towards China doing systematic SSL MITM attacks, thus forcing their population onto Chinese browsers that allow the surveillance and censorship to occur?"
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Fake PGP keys for crypto developers found

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  about 10 months ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "In recent months fake PGP keys have been found for at least two developers on well known crypto projects: Erinn Clark, a Tor developer and Gavin Andresen, the maintainer of Bitcoin. In both cases these PGP keys are used to sign the downloads for popular pieces of crypto software. PGP keys are supposed to be verified through the web of trust, but in practice it's very hard to find a trust path between two strangers on the internet: one reply to Erinn's mail stated that despite there being 30 signatures her key, he couldn't find any trust paths to her. It's also very unclear whether anyone would notice a key substitution attack like this. This leaves three questions: who is doing this, why, and what can be done about it? An obvious candidate would be intelligence agencies, who may be trying to serve certain people with backdoored binaries via their QUANTUMTHEORY man-in-the-middle system. As to what can be done about it, switching from PGP to X.509 code signing would be an obvious candidate. Both Mac and Windows support it, obtaining a forged certificate is much harder than simply uploading a fake PGP key, and whilst X.509 certs can be issued in secret until Google's Certificate Transparency system is fully deployed, finding one would be strong evidence that an issuing CA had been compromised: something that seems plausible but for which we currently lack any evidence. Additionally, bad certificates can be revoked when found whereas beyond making blog posts, not much can be done about the fake PGP keys."
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No back door in TrueCrypt

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  about a year ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "Previously on Slashdot, we learned that the popular TrueCrypt disk encryption tool had mysterious origins and security researchers were raising money to audit it, in particular, to verify that the Windows binaries matched the source. But a part of the job just became a lot easier, because Xavier de Carné de Carnavalet, a masters student at Concordia University in Canada has successfully reproduced the binaries produced by the TrueCrypt team from their public sources. He had to install exactly the same compiler toolchain used by the original developers, to the extent of matching the right set of security updates issued by Microsoft. Once he did that, compiling the binary and examining the handful of differences in a binary diffing tool revealed that the executables matched precisely beyond a handful of build timestamps. If there's a backdoor in TrueCrypt, it must therefore be in the source code itself — where hiding it would be a significantly harder proposition. It thus seems likely that TrueCrypt is sound."
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Are the NIST standard elliptic curves back-doored?

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  about a year ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "In the wake of Bruce Schneier's statements that he no longer trusts the constants selected for elliptic curve cryptography, people have started trying to reproduce the process that led to those constants being selected ... and found it cannot be done. As background, the most basic standard elliptic curves used for digital signatures and other cryptography are called the SEC random curves (SEC is "Standards for Efficient Cryptography"), a good example being secp256r1. The random numbers in these curve parameters were supposed to be selected via a "verifiably random" process (output of SHA1 on some seed), which is a reasonable way to obtain a nothing up my sleeve number if the input to the hash function is trustworthy, like a small counter or the digits of PI. Unfortunately it turns out the actual inputs used were opaque 256 bit numbers, chosen ad-hoc with no justifications provided. Worse, the curve parameters for SEC were generated by head of elliptic curve research at the NSA — opening the possibility that they were found via a brute force search for a publicly unknown class of weak curves. Although no attack against the selected values are currently known, it's common practice to never use unexplainable magic numbers in cryptography standards, especially when those numbers are being chosen by intelligence agencies. Now that the world received strong confirmation that the much more obscure and less widely used standard Dual_EC_DRBG was in fact an NSA undercover operation, NIST re-opened the confirmed-bad standards for public comment. Unless NIST/the NSA can explain why the random curve seed values are trustworthy, it might be time to re-evaluate all NIST based elliptic curve crypto in general."
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BitCoin reaches dollar parity

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 3 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "The BitCoin peer to peer currency briefly reached exchange parity with the US dollar today after a spike in demand for the coins pushed prices slightly above 1 USD:1 BTC. BitCoin was launched in early 2009, so in only two years this open source currency has gone from having no value at all to one with not only an open market of competing exchanges, but the ability to buy real goods and services like web hosting, gadgets, organic beauty products and even alpaca socks."
Link to Original Source
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Graduate students being warned away from leak

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 4 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "The US State Dept has started to warn potential recruits from universities not to read leaked cables, lest it jeopardise their chances of getting a job. They're also showing warnings to troops who access news websites and the Library of Congress and Department of Education have blocked WikiLeaks on their own networks. Quite what happens when these employees go home is an open question."
Link to Original Source
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Julian Assange rape arrest dropped

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 4 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "The BBC reports that "Swedish authorities have cancelled an arrest warrant for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on accusations of rape and molestation. The Swedish Prosecution Authority website said the chief prosecutor had come to the decision that Mr Assange was not suspected of rape." — that was fast!"
Link to Original Source
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BD+ resealed once again

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 5 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "It's been a few months since we last checked in on how the BluRay group were doing in their fight against piracy, so it's time to see how it's going. At the time, a new generation of BD+ programs had stopped both SlySoft AnyDVD HD and the open source effort at Doom9. That was December 13th 2008. At the start of January, SlySoft released an update that could handle the new BD+ programs, meaning that BluRay discs were undecryptable for a period of about three months in total — the same length as SlySofts worst case scenario. The BD+ retaliation was swift but largely ineffective, consisting of a unique program for every BluRay master. Users had to upload log files for every new movie/region to SlySoft, who would then support that unique variant in their next update, usually released a few days later. Despite that, the open source effort never did manage to progress beyond the Winter 2008 programs and is currently stalled completely, thus SlySoft are the only group remaining. This situation remained for several months, but starting around the same time as Paramount joined Fox in licensing BD+ a new set of programs came out which have once again made BluRay discs unrippable. There are currently 19 movies that cannot be decrypted. It appears neither side is unable to decisively gain the upper hand, but one thing seems clear — only full time, for profit professionals are able to consistently beat BD+. Unless SlySoft or a licensed vendor release a BluRay player for Linux it appears the only way to watch BluRay movies on this platform will be to wait for them to become pirateable."
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BD+ successfully resealed

IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 6 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "A month on from the story that BD+ had been completely broken, it appears a new generation of BD+ programs has re-secured the system. A SlySoft developer now estimates February 2009 until support is available. There's a list of unrippable movies on the SlySoft forums, currently there are 16. Meanwhile, one of the open source VM developers seems to have given up on direct emulation attacks, and is now attempting to break the RSA algorithm itself. Back in March SlySoft confidently proclaimed BD+ was finished and said the worst case scenario was 3 months work: apparently they underestimated the BD+ developers."
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IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 7 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "Rose George has written a fascinating tour of the sewers of London — rarely seen yet essential to life. But the sewers are in decline, with the last of the flushermen who know their inner workings about to retire. Although some of the work is now done by robots and contractors, can anything replace the experience of the men who roam the tunnels by night destroying fat blockages, searching for leaks and repairing the underground labryrinths below our cities?"
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IamTheRealMike IamTheRealMike writes  |  more than 7 years ago

IamTheRealMike (537420) writes "As one of the worlds most prolific producers of oil, Saudi Arabian production is of vital importance to maintaining our standard of living in the west. A new analysis from Stuart Staniford appears to show large, fast declines in production throughout 2006 that are uncorrelated with price, world events or OPECs own announced production cuts (in fact, no evidence for those cuts occurring is found at all). Given that the apparent steep decline (8%/year) matches the rates seen in other areas where horizontal drilling and water injection were used, and high prices give the Kingdom every incentive to produce, is this the beginning of the end for Saudi oil?"

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