Friday, May 23, 2014

MICROSOFT - Successfully Challenges FBI

"Microsoft Successfully Challenges FBI Order For User Info" by Amy Lee, Cruxial 5/23/2014

Documents related to Microsoft's successful challenge of a governmental request for information about one of the company's customers have been unsealed.

The order, a Federal Bureau of Investigation National Security Letter, sought "basic subscriber information" about one of Microsoft's enterprise customers, according to according to a post by Microsoft’s general counsel and executive VP of Legal and Corporate Affairs, Brad Smith on the company's TechNet blog.

A federal court in Seattle unsealed the documents on May 22 2014.

"This marks an important and successful step to protect Microsoft's enterprise customers regarding government surveillance," Smith wrote.

Microsoft challenged the nondisclosure provision of the Letter in June 2013, arguing that it would violate the First Amendment.

"It did so by hindering our practice of notifying enterprise customers when we receive legal orders related to their data," Smith wrote.

After the petition was filed, the FBI withdrew the Letter.  According to Smith, governmental requests for information related to enterprise customers are "extremely rare."

In the previous cases where similar requests for information occurred, Microsoft was able to obtain permission from the customer in question, or to ask directly.  In this case, the FBI was able to get the info from the customer, according to the notice of withdrawal.

Microsoft, along with major tech firms like Apple, Facebook and Google, have ramped up their efforts to gain greater abilities to disclose the government's requests for data to their customers.

"As more users migrate from locally installed software and locally stored data to cloud-based computing platforms, Microsoft increasingly is entrusted to store its customers' data safely and securely," the petition states.

In December 2013, Smith wrote a post on the TechNet blog reaffirming Microsoft's commitment to protecting customer data, and promising to inform customers of any legal orders Microsoft receives or to challenge any gag orders prohibiting them from doing so.

Smith also stated the company’s belief that when seeking information, government agencies should go directly to customers except in exceptional circumstances, "just as they did before customers moved to the cloud."

With cloud services, such as Microsoft's Office 365, customer data is stored in Microsoft data centers, rather than on the customer's own systems.

"As more users migrate from locally installed software and locally stored data to cloud-based computing platforms, Microsoft increasingly is entrusted to store its customers' data safely and securely," the petition states.

Earlier this month, Glenn Greenwald, who has been a key part of disclosures related to how the National Security Administration collects information, published documents including details of Microsoft's relationship with the agency.

Greenwald had previously claimed in July 2013 that Microsoft had worked with the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook and had also worked with the FBI to help them better collect information from OneDrive.  Microsoft responded to the allegations shortly after, with the basic message that the company complies with data requests only when legally necessary.

"This new capability will result in a much more complete and timely collection response [...] for our enterprise customers.  This success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established," the recently revealed document states.


"Net Neutrality Fans Aren't Going To Like This Chart" by Gerry Smith, Huffington Post 5/22/2014

When news broke in February that streaming giant Netflix would pay Comcast for direct access to the cable company's broadband network, some experts said it marked the beginning of the end of net neutrality.

Yet a new report says that such deals are far more widespread than many realized at the time.

Many large tech companies -- including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook -- have quietly brokered deals with Internet providers to ensure their content is not slowed as it travels through their networks, according to a blog post published Wednesday by telecom analyst Dan Rayburn.

It's unclear whether these deals were brokered before or after a federal court in January struck down rules that maintained net neutrality, which is the principle that all Internet traffic should be equally accessible to consumers.  But Rayburn, an analyst at the research firm Frost & Sullivan, said such arrangements between web companies and Internet providers are nothing new.

"There are a lot of these deals in the market and have been for many, many years," he wrote on his blog.

Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Facebook did not return requests for comment.

Netflix, for example, accounts for roughly 30 percent of all web traffic.  Because data-heavy videos can create traffic jams on broadband networks, the company is paying Comcast to ensure its videos are streamed to customers more smoothly.

Such deals pertain to how Internet traffic flows between your Internet provider and third-party middlemen who operate the backbone of the web.

Those deals are technically beyond the scope of the Federal Communications Commission's recent proposal to allow Internet providers to charge web companies more to deliver their content via a "fast lane."  The FCC's proposed fast lanes only relate to the so-called last mile of online traffic that flows directly to customers' homes.

On Tuesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told a congressional panel that the FCC would start looking more closely at the type of deals that Rayburn highlighted.

In his blog post, Rayburn said the deals are fair.  If companies like Netflix didn't pay extra to ensure their content was delivered smoothly, Internet providers would be forced to raise prices on customers by passing on the extra cost of handling the increased traffic from all of Netflix's streaming videos.

This chart from Rayburn's blog indicates deals between tech companies and Internet providers:

Monday, May 19, 2014

SUPERCOMPUTERS - Canonical and China Collaboration in Cloud Computing

"NUDT and Canonical bring OpenStack to world’s fastest supercomputer" by Canonical 5/4/2014

China’s National University of Defense Technology, NUDT , developers of the Tianhe-2 supercomputer, and Canonical , the organization behind Ubuntu, today announce a collaboration to bring OpenStack to the world’s fastest supercomputer for high performance cloud environments.

The new collaboration with Canonical will enable Ubuntu Server, Ubuntu OpenStack and Ubuntu’s orchestration tool, Juju, to run Tienhe2.  Today, Ubuntu OpenStack is running on 256 high performance nodes and this will grow to over 6400 nodes in the coming months.  The nodes will be available to Government departments in Guangdong province as well as other NUDT partners for analysis, census, and eGovernment applications.

Both OpenStack and Ubuntu’s orchestration tool, Juju, will run on Tianhe-2 to enable NUDT partners and affiliate to rapidly deploy and manage very high performance cloud environments.  The Juju orchestration tool makes it easy to design, deploy, scale and manage cloud workloads in OpenStack (cloud) environments.  Workloads running on Tianhe-2 will enjoy higher inter-connect bandwidth and computing power for point heavy or memory intensive application.

Professor QingBo Wu at NUDT comments; “NUDT is a pioneer of technology, especially in the area of high performance.  Tianhe-2, the world’s fastest supercomputer runs on Ubuntu Kylin and now with OpenStack and Ubuntu Juju, we are able to deliver high performance OpenStack.”

“To see the fastest supercomputer running OpenStack is already a beautiful thing,” said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu.  “To see it running OpenStack with workloads orchestrated by Ubuntu Juju is incredibly powerful.  We can’t wait to see it rolled out further.”

NUDT designed and built Tianhe-2, which runs on its own Kylin Cloud Linux operating system and has held the record for the world’s fastest supercomputer since 2013, having recorded results of Linpack Performance (Rmax)33,862.7 TFlop/s.  The servers use Intel Xeon processors, Intel Xeon Phi co-processors and a 160Gb per second interconnect for super-fast data transfer between nodes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SECURITY - Comic Book With a Cybersecurity Theme as a Teaching Tool

"‘Cynja’ battles botnets and other cyber-scourges" by Larisa Epatko, PBS NewsHour 5/12/2014

The PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan speaks to co-authors Chase Cunningham and Heather Dahl about their new comic book, “The Cynja”.

Fictional character Grant Wiley, 11, is a wiz on computers.  One day, his favorite teacher disappears, leaving nothing at his desk but a smoldering USB stick.  Suspecting his help might be needed, Grant grabs the stick and plugs it into his computer at home.

He’s instantly sucked into the Internet and thus begins his adventures as a newly trained “cynja” fighting computer worms, hackers, malware … and worse.

Authored by Chase Cunningham and Heather Dahl, who both work for cybersecurity consulting firms, “The Cynja: Volume 1” aims to introduce children to the world of cybersecurity and teach them how to protect their computers.

Dahl said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan that she was motivated to take on the project when she tried to find a book to teach her young nephew about “the bad guys who live in our computers.”  But “I couldn’t find anything that showed the world I work in,” so she approached Cunningham to help fill the void.

Cunningham said his goal was to create a relatable character that could explain to children what people are doing to protect their cyber-future.  “I’ve worked in this industry for a long time and a lot of the guys that are out there doing what they can to protect the Internet and keep us safe, they don’t have badges and they’re not policemen or firemen or something like that.”

His hope is readers will better understand the role of these protectors and think, “You’re a cynja, you’re a cyberspace ninja — that’s cool.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

LINUX - Ubuntu 14.04 LTS

The latest Linux Distribution of Ubuntu is 14.04 (Ubuntu 14.04 LTS).  Note LTS = Long Term Service, which means five years of security and maintenance updates, guaranteed.

I upgraded (in place, via Ubuntu Software Update) from Ubuntu 13.10 with no problem, and only one minor utility did not work which is no problem (it is unsupported software).

My new laptop (which came with Ubuntu 13.10) is 64bit which means Ubuntu 14.04 is 64bit version.

My desktop:

Some features seen on desktop:
  • The orange Ubuntu icon on the top-right Title Bar is the treed Classic Menu add-on (I hate using search to find applications)
  • Note, you can get Steam for Ubuntu
  • The blue icon with the arrow in the Unity Bar (left side of desktop) is Krusader split-panel file manager, which has an option to run in Root Mode (Root is the equivalent of Windows Administrator mode)
  • As you can see Ubuntu comes with Firefox WEB browser
  • And my favorite Desktop Calendar "Rainlendar Lite" (free version) which I also have on my WinXP Desktop rig


Rainlendar is NOT included in the Ubuntu Software Center but can be downloaded from their site.

Rainlendar Home - Rainlendar all version download
The install package is a .deb file, I used the 64bit Debian/Ubuntu version.

WARNING:  Do NOT use Ubuntu Software Center to install! (which is the default installer)

Use the GDeb Package Installer, which comes with Ubuntu 14.  Recommend this installer for any Linux Debian software NOT found on Ubuntu Software Center or Synaptic Package Manager.