Thursday, June 18. 2015
Via Tech Crunch
While companies like Facebook have been relatively open about their data center networking infrastructure, Google has generally kept pretty quiet about how it connects the thousands of servers inside its data centers to each other (with a few exceptions). Today, however, the company revealed a bit more about the technology that lets its servers talk to each other.
It’s no secret that Google often builds its own custom hardware for its data centers, but what’s probably less known is that Google uses custom networking protocols that have been tweaked for use in its data centers instead of relying on standard Internet protocols to power its networks.
Google says its current ‘Jupiter’ networking setup — which represents the fifth generation of the company’s efforts in this area — offers 100x the capacity of its first in-house data center network. The current generation delivers 1 Petabit per second of bisection bandwidth (that is, the bandwidth between two parts of the network). That’s enough to allow 100,000 servers to talk to each other at 10GB/s each.
Google’s technical lead for networking, Amin Vahdat, notes that the overall network control stack “has more in common with Google’s distributed computing architectures than traditional router-centric Internet protocols.”
Here is how he describes the three key principles behind the design of Google’s data center networks:
Monday, April 13. 2015
Back in December, we reported on the alpha for BitTorrent’s Maelstrom, a browser that uses BitTorrent’s P2P technology in order to place some control of the Web back in users’ hands by eliminating the need for centralized servers.
Along with the beta comes the first set of developer tools for the browser, helping publishers and programmers to build their websites around Maelstrom’s P2P technology. And they need to – Maelstrom can’t decentralize the Internet if there isn’t any native content for the platform.
It’s only available on Windows at the moment but if you’re interested and on Microsoft’s OS, you can download the beta from BitTorrent now.? Project Maelstrom
Wednesday, April 01. 2015
Via Network World
GitHub has been hammered by a continuous DDoS attack for three days. It's the "largest DDoS attack in github.com's history." The attack is aimed at anti-censorship GreatFire and CN-NYTimes projects, but affected all of GitHub. The traffic is reportedly coming from China, as attackers are using the Chinese search engine Baidu for the purpose of "HTTP hijacking."
According to tweeted GitHub status messages, GitHub has been the victim of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack since Thursday March 26. 24 hours later, GitHub said it had "all hands on deck" working to mitigate the continuous attack. After GitHub later deployed "volumetric attack defenses," the attack morphed to include GitHub pages and then "pages and assets." Today, GitHub said it was 71 hours into defending against the attack.
Friday, March 20. 2015
Via PC World
Remember when the Internet was just that thing you accessed on your computer?
Today, connectivity is popping up in some surprising places: kitchen appliances, bathroom scales, door locks, clothes, water bottles… even toothbrushes.
That’s right, toothbrushes. The Oral-B SmartSeries is billed as the world’s first “interactive electric toothbrush” with built-in Bluetooth. Whatever your feelings on this level of connectivity, it’s undeniable that it’s a new frontier for data.
And let’s face it, we’re figuring it out as we go. Consequently, it’s a good idea to keep your devices secure - and that means leveraging a product like Norton Security, which protects mobile devices and can help keep intruders out of your home network. Because, let’s face it, the last thing you want is a toothbrush that turns on you.
Welcome to the age of the Internet of Things (IoT for short), the idea that everyday objects - and everyday users - can benefit from integrated network connectivity, whether it’s a washing machine that notifies you when it’s done or a collar-powered tracker that helps you locate your runaway pet.
Some of these innovations are downright brilliant. Others veer into impractical or even unbelievable. And some can present risks that we’ve never had to consider before.
Consider the smart lock. A variety of companies offer deadbolt-style door locks you can control from your smartphone. One of them, the August Smart Lock, will automatically sense when you approach your door and unlock it for you, even going so far as to lock it again once you’ve passed through. And the August app not only logs who has entered and exited, but also lets you provide a temporary virtual key to friends, family members, a maid service, and the like.
That’s pretty cool, but what happens in the event of a dead battery - either in the user’s smartphone or the lock itself? If your phone gets lost or stolen, is there a risk a thief can now enter your home? Could a hacker “pick” your digital lock? Smart lock-makers promise safeguards against all these contingencies, but it begs the question whether the conveniences outweigh the risks. Do we really need the Internet in all our things?
The latest that-can’t-possibly-be-a-real-product example made its debut at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show: The Belty, an automated belt/buckle combo that automatically loosens when you sit and tightens when you stand. A smartphone app lets you control the degree of each. Yep.
Then there’s the water bottle that reminds you to drink more water. The smart exercise shirt your trainer can use to keep tabs on your activity (or lack thereof). And who can forget the HAPIfork, the “smart” utensil that aims to steer you toward healthier eating by reminding you to eat more slowly?
Stop the Internet (of Things), I want to get off.
Okay, I shouldn’t judge. And it’s not all bad. There is real value in - and good reason to be excited about - a smart basketball that helps you perfect your jump shot. Or a system of smart light bulbs designed to deter break-ins. Ultimately, the free market will decide which ones are useful and which ones are ludicrous.
The important thing to remember is that with the IoT, we’re venturing into new territory. We’re linking more devices than ever to our home networks. We’re installing phone and tablet apps that have a direct line not just to our data, but also our very domiciles.
Monday, February 23. 2015
Via EE Times
PARIS — As of the end of 2014, 16 million mobile devices worldwide have been infected by malicious software, estimated Alcatel-Lucent’s security arm, Motive Security Labs, in its latest security report released Thursday (Feb. 12).
Such malware is used by “cybercriminals for corporate and personal espionage, information theft, denial of service attacks on business and governments and banking and advertising scams,” the report warned.
Some of the key facts revealed in the report -- released two weeks in advance of the Mobile World Congress 2015 -- could dampen the mobile industry’s renewed enthusiasm for mobile payment systems such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay.
At risk is also the matter of privacy. How safe is your mobile device? Consumers have gotten used to trusting their smartphones, expecting their devices to know them well enough to accommodate their habits and preferences. So the last thing consumers expect them to do is to channel spyware into their lives, letting others monitor calls and track web browsing.
Declaring that 2014 “will be remembered as the year of cyber-attacks,” Kevin McNamee, director, Alcatel-Lucent Motive Security Labs, noted in his latest blog other cases of hackers stealing millions of credit and debit card account numbers at retail points of sale. They include the security breach at Target in 2013 and similar breaches repeated in 2014 at Staples, Home Depot Sally Beauty Supply, Neiman Marcus, United Parcel Service, Michaels Stores and Albertsons, as well as the food chains Dairy Queen and P. F. Chang.
“But the combined number of these attacks pales in comparison to the malware attacks on mobile and residential devices,” McNamee insists. In his blog, he wrote, “Stealing personal information and data minutes from individual device users doesn’t tend to make the news, but it’s happening with increased frequency. And the consequences of losing one’s financial information, privacy, and personal identity to cyber criminals are no less important when it’s you.”
'Workhorse of cybercrime'
According to the report, in the mobile networks, “Android devices have now caught up to Windows laptops as the primary workhorse of cybercrime.” The infection rates between Android and Windows devices now split 50/50 in 2014, said the report.
This may be hardly a surprise to those familiar with Android security. There are three issues. First, the volume of Android devices shipped in 2014 is so huge that it makes a juicy target for cyber criminals. Second, Android is based on an open platform. Third, Android allows users to download apps from third-party stores where apps are not consistently verified and controlled.
In contrast, the report said that less than 1% of infections come from iPhone and Blackberry smartphones. The report, however, quickly added that this data doesn’t prove that iPhones are immune to malware.
The Motive Security Labs report cited findings by Palo Alto Networks in early November. The Networks discussed the discovery of WireLurker vulnerability that allows an infected Mac OS-X computer to install applications on any iPhone that connects to it via a USB connection. User permission is not required and the iPhone need not be jail-broken.
News stories reported the source of the infected Mac OS-X apps as an app store in China that apparently affected some 350,000 users through apps disguised as popular games. These infected the Mac computer, which in turn infected the iPhone. Once infected, the iPhone contacted a remote C&C server.
According to the Motive Security Labs report, a couple of weeks later, FireEye revealed Masque Attack vulnerability, which allows third-party apps to be replaced with a malicious app that can access all the data of the original app. In a demo, FireEye replaced the Gmail app on an iPhone, allowing the attacker complete access to the victim’s email and text messages.
Spyware on the rise
Impact on mobile payment
The rise of mobile malware threats isn’t unexpected. But as Google Wallet, Apple Pay and others rush to bring us mobile payment systems, security has to be a top focus. And malware concerns become even more acute in the workplace where more than 90% of workers admit to using their personal smartphones for work purposes.
Fixed broadband networks
Why is this all happening?
Noting that a recent Motive Security Labs survey found that 65 percent of subscribers expect their service provider to protect both their mobile and home devices, the report seems to suggest that the onus is on operators. “They are expected to take a proactive approach to this problem by providing services that alert subscribers to malware on their devices along with self-help instructions for removing it,” said Patrick Tan, General Manager of Network Intelligence at Alcatel-Lucent, in a statement.
Due to the large market share it holds within communication networks, Alcatel-Lucent says that it’s in a unique position to measure the impact of mobile and home device traffic moving over those networks to identify malicious and cyber-security threats. Motive Security Labs is an analytics arm of Motive Customer Experience Management.
According to Alcatel-Lucent, Motive Security Labs (formerly Kindsight Security Labs), processes more than 120,000 new malware samples per day and maintains a library of 30 million active samples.
In the following pages, we will share the hilights of data collected by Motive Security Labs.
Mobile infection rate since December 2012
Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Labs found 0.68% of mobile devices are infected with malware.
Using the ITU’s figure of 2.3 billion mobile broadband subscriptions, Motive Security Labs estimated that 16 million mobile devices had some sort of malware infection in December 2014.
The report called this global estimate “likely to be on the conservative side.” Motive Security Labs’ sensors do not have complete coverage in areas such as China and Russia, where mobile infection rates are known to be higher.
Mobile malware samples since June 2012
Motive Security Labs used the increase in the number of samples in its malware database to show Android malware growth.
The chart above shows numbers since June 2012. The number of samples grew by 161% in 2014.
In addition to the increase in raw numbers, the sophistication of Android malware also got better, according to Motive Security Labs. Researchers in 2014 started to see malware applications that had originally been developed for the Windows/PC platform migrate to the mobile space, bringing with them more sophisticated command and control and rootkit technologies.
Infected device types in 2013 and 2014
The chart shows the breakdown of infected device types that have been observed in 2013 and 2014. Shown in red is Android and shown in blue is Windows.
While the involvement of such a high proportion of Windows/PC devices may be a surprise to some, these Windows/PCs are connected to the mobile network via dongles and mobile Wi-Fi devices or simply tethered through smartphones.
They’re responsible for about 50% of the malware infections observed.
The report said, “This is because these devices are still the favorite of hardcore professional cybercriminals who have a huge investment in the Windows malware ecosystem. As the mobile network becomes the access network of choice for many Windows PCs, the malware moves with them.”
Android phones and tablets are responsible for about 50% of the malware infections observed.
Currently most mobile malware is distributed as “Trojanized” apps. Android offers the easiest target for this because of its open app environment, noted the report.
Monday, February 02. 2015
The next generation of cloud servers might be deployed where the clouds can be made of alcohol and cosmic dust: in space. That’s what ConnectX wants to do with their new data visualization platform.
Why space? It’s not as though there isn’t room to set up servers here on Earth, what with Germans willing to give up space in their utility rooms in exchange for a bit of ambient heat and malls now leasing empty storefronts to service providers. But there are certain advantages.
The desire to install servers where there’s abundant, free cooling makes plenty of sense. Down here on Earth, that’s what’s driven companies like Facebook to set up shop in Scandinavia near the edge of the Arctic Circle. Space gets a whole lot colder than the Arctic, so from that standpoint the ConnectX plan makes plenty of sense. There’s also virtually no humidity, which can wreak havoc on computers.
They also believe that the zero-g environment would do wonders for the lifespan of the hard drives in their servers, since it could reduce the resistance they encounter while spinning. That’s the same reason Western Digital started filling hard drives with helium.
But what about data transmission? How does ConnectX plan on moving the bits back and forth between their orbital servers and networks back on the ground? Though something similar to NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration — which beamed data to the moon 4,800 times faster than any RF system ever managed — seems like a decent option, they’re leaning on RF.
Mind you, it’s a fairly complex setup. ConnectX says they’re polishing a system that “twists” signals to reap massive transmission gains. A similar system demonstrated last year managed to push data over radio waves at a staggering 32gbps, around 30 times faster than LTE.
So ConnectX seems to have that sorted. The only real question is the cost of deployment. Can the potential reduction in long-term maintenance costs really offset the massive expense of actually getting their servers into orbit? And what about upgrading capacity? It’s certainly not going to be nearly as fast, easy, or cheap as it is to do on Earth. That’s up to ConnectX to figure out, and they seem confident that they can make it work.
Friday, December 19. 2014
Diogo Mónica once wrote a short computer script that gave him a secret weapon in the war for San Francisco dinner reservations.
This was early 2013. The script would periodically scan the popular online reservation service, OpenTable, and drop him an email anytime something interesting opened up—a choice Friday night spot at the House of Prime Rib, for example. But soon, Mónica noticed that he wasn’t getting the tables that had once been available.
By the time he’d check the reservation site, his previously open reservation would be booked. And this was happening crazy fast. Like in a matter of seconds. “It’s impossible for a human to do the three forms that are required to do this in under three seconds,” he told WIRED last year.
Mónica could draw only one conclusion: He’d been drawn into a bot war.
Everyone knows the story of how the world wide web made the internet accessible for everyone, but a lesser known story of the internet’s evolution is how automated code—aka bots—came to quietly take it over. Today, bots account for 56 percent of all of website visits, says Marc Gaffan, CEO of Incapsula, a company that sells online security services. Incapsula recently an an analysis of 20,000 websites to get a snapshot of part of the web, and on smaller websites, it found that bot traffic can run as high as 80 percent.
People use scripts to buy gear on eBay and, like Mónica, to snag the best reservations. Last month, the band, Foo Fighters sold tickets for their upcoming tour at box offices only, an attempt to strike back against the bots used by online scalpers. “You should expect to see it on ticket sites, travel sites, dating sites,” Gaffan says. What’s more, a company like Google uses bots to index the entire web, and companies such as IFTTT and Slack give us ways use the web to use bots for good, personalizing our internet and managing the daily informational deluge.
But, increasingly, a slice of these online bots are malicious—used to knock websites offline, flood comment sections with spam, or scrape sites and reuse their content without authorization. Gaffan says that about 20 percent of the Web’s traffic comes from these bots. That’s up 10 percent from last year.
Often, they’re running on hacked computers. And lately they’ve become more sophisticated. They are better at impersonating Google, or at running in real browsers on hacked computers. And they’ve made big leaps in breaking human-detecting captcha puzzles, Gaffan says.
“Essentially there’s been this evolution of bots, where we’ve seen it become easier and more prevalent over the past couple of years,” says Rami Essaid, CEO of Distil Networks, a company that sells bot-blocking software.
But despite the rise of these bad bots, there is some good news for the human race. The total percentage of bot-related web traffic is actually down this year from what it was in 2013. Back then it accounted for 60 percent of the traffic, 4 percent more than today.
Thursday, December 18. 2014
BitTorrent, the peer-to-peer file sharing company, is today opening an alpha test for its latest stab at disrupting — or at least getting people to rethink — how users interact with each other and with content over the Internet. Project Maelstrom is BitTorrent’s take on the web browser: doing away with centralised servers, web content is instead shared through torrents on a distributed network.
BitTorrent years ago first made a name for itself as a P2P network for illicit file sharing — a service that was often used to share premium content for free at a time when it was hard to get legal content elsewhere. More recently, the company has been applying its knowledge of distributed architecture to tackle other modern file-sharing problems, producing services like Sync to share large files with others, Bundle for content makers to have a way of distributing and selling content; and the Bleep messaging service.
These have proven attractive to people for a number of reasons. For some, it’s about more efficient services — there is an argument to be made for P2P transfers of large files being faster and easier than those downloaded from the cloud — once you’ve downloaded the correct local client, that is (a hurdle in itself for some).
For others, it is about security. Your files never sit on any cloud, and instead stay locally even when they are shared.
This latter point is one that BitTorrent has been playing up a lot lately, in light of all the revelations around the NSA and what happens to our files when they are put onto cloud-based servers. (The long and short of it: they’re open to hacking, and they’re open to governments and others’ prying fingers.)
In the words of CEO Eric Klinker, Maelstrom is part of that line of thinking that using P2P can help online content run more smoothly.
“What if more of the web worked the way BitTorrent does?” he writes of how the company first conceived of the problem. “Project Maelstrom begins to answer that question with our first public release of a web browser that can power a new way for web content to be published, accessed and consumed. Truly an Internet powered by people, one that lowers barriers and denies gatekeepers their grip on our future.”
Easy enough to say, but also leaving the door open to a lot of questions.
For now, the picture you see above is the only one that BitTorrent has released to give you an idea of how Maelstrom might look. Part of the alpha involves not just getting people to sign up to use it, but getting people signed up to conceive of pages of content to actually use. “We are actively engaging with potential partners who would like to build for the distributed web,” a spokesperson says.
Nor is it clear what form the project will take commercially.
Asked about advertising — one of the ways that browsers monetise today — it is “too early to tell,” the spokesperson says. “Right now the team is focused on building the technology. We’ll be evaluating business models as we go, just as we did with Sync. But we treat web pages, along with distributed web pages the same way other browsers do. So in that sense they can contain any content they want.”
That being said, it won’t be much different from what we know today as “the web.”
“HTML on the distributed web is identical to HTML on the traditional web. The creation of websites will be the same, we’re just provided another means for distributing and publishing your content,” he adds.
In that sense, you could think of Maelstrom as a complement to what we know as web browsers today. “We also see the potential that there is an intermingling of HTTP and BitTorrent content across the web,” he says.
It sounds fairly radical to reimagine the entire server-based architecture of web browsing, but it comes at a time when we are seeing a lot of bumps and growing pains for businesses over more traditional services — beyond the reasons that consumers may have when they opt for P2P services.
BitTorrent argues that the whole net neutrality debate — where certain services that are data hungry like video service Netflix threaten to be throttled because of their strain on ISP networks — is one that could be avoided if those data-hungry services simply opted for different ways to distribute their files. Again, this highlights the idea of Maelstrom as a complement to what we use today.
“As a distributed web browser, Maelstrom can help relieve the burden put on the network,” BitTorrent says. “It can also help maintain a more neutral Internet as a gatekeeper would not be able to identify where such traffic is originating.
Saturday, November 29. 2014
Monday, November 10. 2014
Google is working on “copresence,” which might let Chrome, Android and iOS devices communicate directly
Google is working on new APIs to support something called “copresence,” but what it might be isn’t yet clear. A tip from the blog TechAeris suggests a new cross-platform messaging system between Android and iOS, which is certainly plausible. I did a little digging in the Chromium bug tracker and found 18 mentions of copresence there, along with a pair of related APIs available on the Chrome dev channel.
Here are all of the bug listings, all of which were at least updated this month, meaning that Google has been pretty active of late on copresence. Scanning though these I saw one mention of GCM, which is the Google Cloud Messaging service that’s already available to Android app makers. Developers can deliver files or data from a server to their respective Android app through GCM.
But the TechAeris report suggests copresence will do more than what GCM does today. Based on a source that scanned the latest Google Play Services build, numerous references to copresence were found along with images alluding to peer-to-peer file transfers, similar to how Apple’s AirDrop works between iOS and OS X. One of the images in the software appears to be song sharing between an iPhone and an Android device.
Copresence could even be location-based, where the appropriate app could tell you when other friends are nearby and in range for transfers or direct communications. Obviously, without an official Google announcement we don’t know what this project is about. All of the evidence so far suggests, however, that a new cross-platform communication method is in the works.
Update: In a review of the Google Play Services software last month, Android Police noticed the copresence mentions that may correspond to a Google service called Nearby.
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