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Comments

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OpenSSL Bug Allows Attackers To Read Memory In 64k Chunks

rabtech Yet again C bites us in the ass (303 comments)

Yet again, C's non-existent bounds checking and completely unprotected memory access lets an attacker compromise the system with data.

But hey, it's faster.

Despite car companies complaining loudly that if people just drove better there would be no accidents, laws were eventually changed to require seatbelts and airbags because humans are humans and accidents are inevitable.

Because C makes it trivially easy to stomp all over memory we are guaranteed that even the best programmers using the best practices and tools will still churn out the occasional buffer overflow, information disclosure, stack smash, or etc.

Only the smallest core of the OS should use unmanaged code with direct memory access. Everything else, including the vast majority of the kernel, all drivers, all libraries, all user programs should use managed memory. Singularity proved that was perfectly workable. I don't care if the language is C#, Rust, or whatever else. How many more times do we have to get burned before we make the move?

As long as all our personal information relies on really smart people who never make mistakes, we're doomed.

about two weeks ago
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Was Eich a Threat To Mozilla's $1B Google "Trust Fund"?

rabtech Let's get some clarity here (564 comments)

Eich was not fired. He chose to resign. Maybe he did so because he cares about the foundation and didn't want to be a distraction. Maybe he was told he'd better resign or they would lose their funding and have to lay everyone off. We don't know, but the insinuations of the original story are out of line for implying so. The truth is we just don't know.

This isn't some free speech issue or some form of inquisition trying to purge the unbelievers.

Eich chose to wade into a controversial issue by making political donations (after all, a conservative majority of SCOTUS claims money == speech). Those "free speech" statements offended a bunch of people and he chose to resign rather than drag the non-profit Mozilla foundation through an ordeal over it.

Anyone in a leadership position is certainly free to make any statements or support any political cause they want. Employees, customers/donors, etc are also free to loudly complain or refuse to associate with the organization if they disagree. That comes with the territory. We wouldn't give Eich a pass if he were sending checks to neo-Nazi organizations. A leader always takes a risk that they'll piss people off by taking a stance. He was CTO of Mozilla at the time, he knew what the consequences could be and made the donation anyway.

A few decades ago it was accepted that blacks and whites shouldn't intermarry. Even some people who campaigned for civil rights still held such a view. If Eich were donating to a group promoting a constitutional amendment to outlaw interracial marriages almost none of you would be wringing your hands over free speech. Everyone would laugh at him for being a dumbass and move on with their lives.

Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. Even if someone faces no offical sanctions for speaking out, they can certainly be excluded socially, even to the point of being driven out of the organization. That's how human group dynamics have always worked since we were grunting at each other and throwing pointy sticks.

Furthermore, technology has always been intertwined with personalities, politics, and the like. Only very rarely is it always 100% about the pure technology. You can write the best code in the world but if you can't play nice with others you run the risk of your code languishing in obscurity.

Social norms are changing; you can change with them, you can keep your mouth shut about it, or you can fight for the status quo. Each of those courses of action has risk associated with them. Eich chose to fight for the status quo, then chose to stick by his guns when it pissed a lot of people off, including a lot of the very people his organization depends on to contribute money and code from their own good will! That has consequences and it always has.

about two weeks ago
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Linus Torvalds Suspends Key Linux Developer

rabtech Just pointing out that Linus is usually fair (641 comments)

Linus is generally fair from what I can tell, and does not except himself from criticism. In that very thread:

Yeah, what Andrew said. My suggestion of per-task or per-cred is
obviously moronic in comparison.

Linus "hangs head in shame" Torvalds

Someone proposed a better idea and Linus immediately admits his idea was worse and moves on. That was also one of Steve Jobs' greatest talents, even though it's in a completely different sphere. He originally said "no" to iPods for Windows and the iOS app store. People presented their case and he changed his mind.

We should all be so willing to admit when someone else has a better idea or we were wrong.

about two weeks ago
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Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades

rabtech Re:Contradictory news (230 comments)

So, if someone said to you, "your house is likely to catch fire in the future", and then your house caught fire 15 years later, you'd be thinking "damnit! I was warned this would happen, I should have listened to that guy 15 years ago and moved"??"

if that person said it would catch fire in the future because of faulty wiring (or something else) then i'd fix the wiring.

Ah, the arguments of the willfully ignorant. I wish I were still a conservative. No nuances, no questions. Everything had a trite simple answer.

Reality does not so neatly fit into a box.

House fires happen rapidly. They are also largely preventable. And even though one person's house fire may be a tragedy, pouring water on it puts out the fire. (Remember kids: the fire department exists to prevent your house fire from burning down the rest of the city, not to save your house)

Mudslides, like earthquakes, are triggered by complex conditions that are not knowable by humans in advance (with any degree of certainty). They also cannot be prevented or controlled. There is no "Mudslide Department" because there is no response. By the time you find out about it, the mudslide is over and the damage is done.

This case is very simple to explain: no one wants to be the person who "wastes" taxpayer dollars buying out homeowners and tearing down houses when the potential disaster can strike anywhere between tomorrow and 50 years from now. So county officials, housing developers, and maybe to some degree homeowners all chose to ignore the report and get on with their lives. That works great, right up until the moment when everyone died.

about three weeks ago
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One Billion Android Devices Open To Privilege Escalation

rabtech Re:Nope (117 comments)

That is certainly an issue, but not the huge gaping security flaw the summary makes it sound like. Apps can only ask for normal permissions that the OS offers, not bypass security or the sandbox. It's basically a UI issue.

Correct. The huge, gaping security flaw with Android is the same one that afflicted ActiveX in Internet Explorer: Assuming that the majority of users
a) have a clue what any of the permissions actually mean
b) can trust the app not to abuse the permissions it has (or contain flaws that allow it to be hijacked)

The reality is that 100% (rounding up from normal people to geeks) of people simply tap accept, click OK, etc and move on with their lives. Those annoying dialogs are just how you use phones/computers. They've learned if they choose Cancel they don't get the game/app they wanted, so the correct course of action is to always accept.

Any security decision that relies on users to take the correct course of action is an automatic failure. If making the wrong choice results in being pwned, having a $10/mo premium SMS subscription added to your bill, etc then the system is badly designed and broken.

about three weeks ago
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Teaching Calculus To 5-Year-Olds

rabtech People are missing the point (231 comments)

The article didn't make this terribly clear, but people seem to be missing the point.

If you teach the concepts through hands-on interactive play, kids as young as five can understand the concepts underlying Calculus without too much difficulty. This also happens to be one of the best times in your life for learning, when the brain is rapidly forming new connections.

Her point is teach the concepts, teach the patterns, teach kids how to find patterns, and how to internalize mathematical knowledge.

The mechanical drudgery of formal language, writing out and solving equations, etc comes later on but builds on the fundamental understanding developed much earlier in life.

about a month and a half ago
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New iOS Keylogging Vulnerability Discovered

rabtech Not a new thing (72 comments)

There have always been holes in the App Store and sometimes you can sneak things through.

The difference is if you try such things and you app becomes even remotely popular, Apple can pull your app and even your developer account so the actual window where your fraud or evil tricks can result in some kind of gain is very small.

I'm not sure why people constantly fail to recognize this.

Similarly with the SSL flaw... Apple pushes iOS updates in a way Android users can only dream of; within a month more than 90% of all iOS devices still in use will have the patch applied. Compare that with the web view remotely exploitable hole just revealed for Android... at least half of all Android devices will still have that hole a year from now!

So in theory yes, Apple is just the same as everyone else. In reality, the actual user experience will be quite different.

about 2 months ago
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Federal Agency Data-Mining Hundreds of Millions of Credit Card Accounts

rabtech Biased Much? (264 comments)

In order to regulate credit card companies and banks, the CFPB needs to know what is happening with these financial products.

It would appear that the banks' astroturf campaign is in full swing trying to get people riled up.

about 3 months ago
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UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble?

rabtech Seems reasonable? (266 comments)

I may be misunderstanding, but it appears that the existing contractors are using old-school waterfall. Gee, government contractors using a heavily-specs-oriented approach, when has that gone wrong?

The new idea seems to be having a team of smaller players use an agile approach to deliver the real system.

Any time you can get a group of smaller developers doing rapid iterations with the government it's a miracle... It is also vastly more likely to deliver something decent and on-budget.

Anytime I see HP, IBM, Agilent, et al winning a contract for some government system I automatically assume it will be an epic fail.

about 3 months ago
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Polar Vortex Sends Life-Threatening Freeze To US

rabtech Repeat After Me! (684 comments)

Repeat After Me: No single weather event can be said to be proof or refutation of Global Climate Change.

All Global Climate Change says is that as the *average* global temperature increases the traditional weather patterns we have become accustomed to will change in unpredictable ways. Some areas may see colder winters, others warmer. Some areas will see increased rain, others will become deserts. In fact some places may have hotter, drier summers yet colder wetter winters. The problems come from the fact that we've put farms and cities in certain locations with the expectation that the weather would be stable over the long term.

You can't say any one hurricane is proof of global climate change any more than you can say any one cold winter refutes global climate change.

about 3 months ago
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Why a Cure For Cancer Is So Elusive

rabtech Re:Why morons are so prevalent in scientific circl (366 comments)

Oh, cancer is an evolutionary compromise of multi-cellular life? Yeah, right. It's a product of mutation, but it runs counter to reproductive fitness, and it's not like our bodies don't have immune systems which reject other foreign (differently mutated) cells, so, Checkmate, moron.

A lot of crack pottery going on around here...

Anyway, evolution may certainly favor cancer-susceptibility for any number of reasons. A mutation that makes you more fit to produce young during your own relative youth could trigger an increase in cancers later.

The more likely explanation is that most people have historically died of something other than cancer and long after they produced their offspring, making cancer a complete non-entity as far as evolutionary fitness goes. We simply haven't lived in a way that makes anti-cancer (or anti-obesity or anti-heart-disease) a factor for near long enough to have evolution drive us in that direction.

Yes, naked mole rats don't tend to get cancer but that's literally one in a million. The vast majority of species are perfectly susceptible to it, they just don't live long enough in the wild for the issue to pop up.

about 3 months ago
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Researchers Crack Major HIV Mystery

rabtech Re:Both Science and Nature? (84 comments)

If you don't publish papers, you don't get funding. Sucks, but that's what we get for budget cut after budget cut, tax cut, after tax cut.

The big question appears to be if the latent infected cells can clear or deactivate HIV, or if they'll happily activate, travel to the site of an infection of some other kind, then start spewing HIV everywhere.

This process is basically cells realizing they are being infected (virus) or eaten (bacteria) by a foreign organism, and responding by killing themselves and spewing massive amounts of chemicals that alert the immune system to the problem. Normally, this recruits other immune cells to the site and is probably the right strategy 99% of the time. The problem is when the infected cells are immune cells themselves, their death just recruits more immune cells to an area with a higher chance of picking up HIV. What they found was that the body's stockpile of immune cells in the spleen, etc (normally dormant, awaiting an infection) get infected by HIV, but don't replicate the virus due to being inactive, however they are active enough to sense the virus in their DNA and kill themselves before repair mechanisms can remove or deactivate the virus genes.

The drug mentioned apparently shuts down or reduces this pathway, opening you up to a higher risk of bacterial infection but slowing or stopping the massive die-off of immune cells (assuming they are able to clean themselves up).

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Practical Bitrot Detection For Backups?

rabtech Re:Excellent question (321 comments)

Bitrot is a myth in modern times. Floppies and cheap-ass tape drives from the 90s had this problem, but anything reasonably modern (GMR) will read what you wrote until mechanical failure.

This isn't just wrong, it's laughably wrong. ZFS has proven that a wide variety of chipset bugs, firmware bugs, actual mechanical failure, etc are still present and actively corrupting our data. It applies to HDDs and flash. Worse, this corruption in most cases appears randomly over time so your proposal to verify the written data immediately is useless.

Prior to the widespread deployment of this new generation of check-summing filesystems, I made the same faulty assumption you made: that data isn't subject to bit rot and will reproduce what was written.

ZFS or BTRFS will disabuse you of these notions very quickly. (Be sure to turn on idle scrubbing).

It also appears that the error rate is roughly constant but storage densities are increasing, so the bit errors per GB stored per month are increasing as well.

Microsoft needs to move ReFS down to consumer euro ducts ASAP. BTRFS needs to become the Linux default FS. Apple needs to get with the program already and adopt a modern filesystem.

about 4 months ago
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Death to the Trapezoid... Next USB Connector Will Be Reversible

rabtech Apple's Influence (408 comments)

Apple's influence on the industry strikes again. Even if Apple isn't the first to take up some technology or improve a design, they are a trendsetter.

Once Apple ships magnetic power connectors that stop laptops from being pulled off desks or they ship a solid metal, reversible, extensible/future-proof connector, everyone else decides to jump on the bandwagon. Ultrabooks (read: MacBook Air clone) are another example.

Honestly, look at the USB 3 micro connector... it has to be the ugliest connector design ever imagined. They waited until after releasing that abomination on the world to suddenly decide reversibility and future-proofing were a good idea. I hope their wonderful redesign adopts the Lightning-style solid metal shape. The plug itself is much stronger, less subject to getting bent, smashed, etc, and naturally allows the socket to be sturdier. Smart moves when you are talking about a billion hairless apes smashing connectors into sockets as if they were rocks. How can you see the images of people putting coffee cups in their CD-ROM trays, busted-off mini-TOSlink connectors, etc and think any of the existing USB connectors are intelligently designed?

Apple thinks primarily about user's experience and is willing to toss legacy technology in the trash to streamline it. The USB-IF decided that USB 3 mircro had to be backwards-compatible with USB 2 micro so they just slapped a second port on the side and called it a day. If Apple makes a change, you're stuck with it so get over your floppy disk obsession and buy a USB memory stick. For everyone else, if Generic Vendor #9548 doesn't keep supporting your $9.99 USB 2 micro car charger, someone else will so any changes risk alienating users and failing to see any adoption, making manufacturers risk-averse.

about 4 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Best Laptops For Fans Of Pre-Retina MacBook Pro?

rabtech This Was Widely Predicted (477 comments)

When the first retina models went to soldered-on RAM, it was obviously that all MacBook Pros would ship this way in the future.

I miss the upgradability, but I ran the numbers on my non-retina 15" into which I installed two 512GB SSDs and 16GB RAM (the max you can do with two SODIMM slots due to current DRAM density and JDEC standards). It turns out that an equivalent retina MBP with 1TB SSD and 16 GB RAM is roughly the same price (within 10% of the cost).

Not having swappable batteries and RAM means you don't need a reinforced frame, rugged connectors, screw holes, and cover. That's all space that can be used for more battery and/or reducing size and weight. It's a trade-off, but ultimately I consider it to be worth it.

Plus I rather enjoy having a nice Mac OS GUI that I don't have to worry about, but can run macports and build Unix utilities from a terminal window.

about 5 months ago
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Arizona Approves Grid-Connection Fees For Solar Rooftops

rabtech Re:I don't understand (363 comments)

I am surprised because I would have bet good money that the utilities would have arranged things so they bought back electricity at a lower rate than it cost them to generate the same amount of power - isn't that sort of conniving how corporations usually manage things here? - but in this case it works to the benefit of the customer.

This varies a lot by state. In Arizona, any excess is carried over into the next month to offset your usage at the retail rate. At the end of the year, if you still have excess then the excess is cashed out at the wholesale rate, which is far lower. In Texas, any excess is simply gifted to the power company for free.

In reality, almost no one generates enough solar to totally offset their bill because such a large panel install is still cost-prohibitive unless you are willing to make some large sacrifices on the usage side (and with your wallet). Further, solar generates its maximum energy during the most expensive peak hours (in the south/southwest, A/C is the largest electric load by far and matches up roughly with peak sunshine on most days). At that time of day, the utility may even pay more than your retail rate for at least a few hours due to high demand, resulting in free money for the utility!

If they made this fee contingent on zeroing out your bill then perhaps it would be justified (e.g.: if you had carryover, then they can deduct $5 from the carryover to pay for infrastructure). In Texas, it would never be justified because excess power is free to the utility.

The reality is they want to charge this fee to pad their profit margin. It really is that simple.

If a whole-home solar install ever got down to $10,000 (to cover 75-80% of the home's electric usage) you can expect to see utilities everywhere engaging in all sorts of nasty tricks to jack up fees, taxes, get burdensome regulations passed, etc to make sure the barriers to entry are still very high. At that price, all new homes will simply start including solar and it will become a common remodel ala replacing windows and floors. In that scenario, the $3 million+ they spent will pale in comparison to the flood of lobbying dollars.

about 5 months ago
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Toyota's Killer Firmware

rabtech More Details (610 comments)

Couple of details here:

Toyota had no software testing procedures, no peer review, etc. The secondary backup CPU code was provided by a third party in compiled form, Toyota never examined it.

Their coding standards were ad hoc and they failed to follow them. Simple static analysis tools found massive numbers of errors.

They used over ten thousand global variables, with numerous confirmed race conditions, nested locks, etc.

Their watchdog merely checked that the system was running and did not respond to task failures or CPU overload conditions so would not bother to reset the ECU, even if most of the tasks crashed. Since this is the basic function of a watchdog, they may as well not have had one.

They claimed to be using ECC memory but did not, so anything from single bit errors to whole page corruption were undetected and uncorrected.

A bunch of logic was jammed in one spaghetti task that was both responsible for calculating the throttle position, running various failsafes, and recording diagnostic error codes. Any failure of this task was undetected by the watchdog and disabled most of the failsafes. Due to no ECC and the stack issue below, a single bit error would turn off the runnable flag for this task and cause it to stop being scheduled for CPU time. No error codes would be recorded.

They did not do any logging (eg of OS task scheduler state, number of ECU resets, etc), not even in the event of a crash or ECU reset.

The code contained various recursive paths and no effort was made to prevent stack overflows. Worse, the RTOS kernel data structures were located immediately after the 4K stack, so stack overflows could smash these structures, including disabling tasks from running.

They were supposed to be using mirroring of variables to detect memory smashing/corruption (write A and XOR A to separate locations, then compare them on read to make sure they match). They were not doing this for some critical variables for some inexplicable reason, including the throttle position so any memory corruption could write a max throttle value and be undetected.

Instead of using the certified, audited version of the RTOS like most auto makers, they used an unverified version.

Thanks to not bothering to review the OS code, they had no idea the OS data structures were not mirrored. A single bit flip can start or stop a task, even a life-safety critical one.

These are just some of the massive glaring failures at every level of specifying, coding, and testing a safety-critical embedded system.

I am now confident in saying at least some of the unintended acceleration events with Toyota vehicles were caused by software failures due to gross incompetence and negligence on the part of Toyota. They stumbled into writing software, piling hack on top of hack, never bothering to implement any testing, peer review, documentation, specifications, or even the slightest hint that they even considered the software something worth noticing.

about 6 months ago
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Can Nintendo Survive Gaming's Brave New World?

rabtech Re:Not saying Nintendo is doing well but... (277 comments)

The suggestion that Nintendo should release on iOS and Android would be suicide. The sales figures for the 3DS have already proven the nuts that keep saying Nintendo should release Pokemon the iPhone are insane short term thinkers

Total sales worldwide:

1989 - 2003 GameBoy / Color / Advance / SP: 200 million ~14.2m/yr
2004 - 2010 Nintendo DS: 153 million ~21.8m/yr
2011 - Present Nintendo 3DS / XL / 2DS: 32 million ~10.6m/yr

The GameBoy had a slower ramp up as handheld gaming started getting mainstream traction. Nintendo DS appears to have been the peak. Something happened during its release... around 2007 I think, though I'm having trouble recalling just what was released around then... oh wait, the iPhone followed shortly after by Android. The 3DS can't even match the GameBoy's sales figures and continues to fall.

The question is how big is the market for handheld gaming systems given that cell phones are eviscerating the market and a generation of kids is growing up without knowing who Nintendo is or why they should care (hint: more 10 year olds know what Angry Birds is than who Mario is!)

My contention is that the market is not large enough to sustain Nintendo's hardware development costs and they will be forced to exit the market after the next handheld system flops (or possibly the system after that). People who think everything is just fine must believe Nintendo can survive on ~2 million/year sales or possibly even less. If they do survive, the systems will be limited to almost entirely Nintendo games with relatively few 3rd party titles due to the small install base.

There is a short window of opportunity where those of us who grew up with Nintendo are young enough to buy games for nostalgia or are just starting to have kids and be looking to introduce them to gaming. If Nintendo were to release a Mario game designed for iOS now (and charge a premium price, say 7.99-9.99) we'd all buy it, sending it rocketing to the top of the charts. This would bring it to the notice of current young gamers, introducing a new generation to Nintendo characters, setting them up for sequels. Some of them might become hardcore Nintendo fans, willing to shell out for Nintendo hardware (controller accessories, cases, or even dedicated handheld gaming systems) thus expanding Nintendo's market. The point of Mario on iOS isn't to match the revenue of the 3DS; much like Google and Android, it exists to ensure their continued survival, access to the market, and expand their potential customer base and brand awareness. Once that window closes (sometime in the next 5 years), it may be gone forever.

TL;DR: My first kid was just born. I will never buy him a handheld gaming device, even though I owned a GameBoy, GB Color, and GB Advance in my day. I will just give him my old cell phone. The games are $1-10, if he drops it in the toilet I can just re-download his games for free, etc. Everyone I know with kids is doing the same thing. When I say "Mario" to my 7 yr old nephew, he asks me "Who's that?". You know what he does have? Angry Birds posters, because that's what all his friends have.

about 6 months ago
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First New Top-Level Domains Added To the Root Zone

rabtech Look-alikes (106 comments)

Does anyone know if they handle the look-alike issue or are we still stuck with URLs that appear to be latin "paypal.com", but with the "y" replaced by a greek lower gamma (Î) #x3b3, "p" replaced with cyrillic Er (Ñ) #x440, or some other equivalent that appears identical?

I understand why it's a hard issue: the cyrillic lowercase Er looks *identical* to latin p so they can be mapped to the same character, but the greek lower gamma isn't the exact same glyph as latin lower y, they just look close enough that a user might not notice. Would it be a slight to greek users to force greek domain names to use a misshapen lower gamma? Then what do you do with greek alpha, where the capital matches the latin glyph exactly but the lower does not?

Then there's the issue that every computer everywhere can enter latin characters, but not everyone has software for or how to use stuff like Chinese characters or Japanese Hirigana. Keeping to basic latin characters makes entering domain names universal, though I understand why that's convenient for an English speaker like me to say. I'd be curious to hear from some people who have non-European first languages how much having to use latin domain names seems to bother the average computer user and whether there is any actual cry for international domain names in their country? How difficult/easy is it to enter latin characters on your keyboard layout? Does it present a barrier to entry for the less educated/literate, or does everyone remember their English classes from school?

about 6 months ago

Submissions

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ASUS iKVM Epic Fail

rabtech rabtech writes  |  about 2 years ago

rabtech (223758) writes "In yet another vendor epic fail, it turns out ASUS' implementation of busybox for iKVM/IPMI ships with hard-coded anonymous access enabled, with a regular shell (not the Server Management shell). And passwords are stored in the clear. Including root with a default password of 'superuser'. So if you have anything with their iKVM or IP Management Interface your devices can be remotely rebooted by anonymous users. Enjoy!"
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