Colonial, is this your puddle?

Don’t weep for Colonial … 

naked capitalism:

Cyber attack shuts down U.S. fuel pipeline ‘jugular,’ Biden briefed Reuters. Oddly, Colonial’s enormous leak hasn’t generated the same level of coverage.

If you’re not hip to the ransomware story, ZDNet has a decent writeup.

As to more on the pipeline leak that started August 2020 in Huntersville, North Carolina: WCNC MSN Charlotte Observer

And CNBC has a fascinating eye-opening timeline about the company’s travails. Wow. If it wasn’t for back luck, Colonial wouldn’t have no luck at all. (h/t Cream)

At least the profit seekers behind the ransomware apologized. Right?

Dear HR, please don’t ask me to celebrate my boss

My new boss must be coming up on his 5 year anniversary. I got an email inviting me to:

“Make this milestone memorable – and contribute today!”

By contribute, I’m encouraged to click a link that takes me to a website (authenticated: I’m greeted by name) where I can do …  performative things.

“Don’t know what to write? Share a photo, a quick story or favorite memory about [manager]. Or just write a few words that best describe them. It doesn’t have to be long—thoughtfulness is what counts.”

Thank goodness length isn’t required but how thoughtful I am is.

My new boss came into being for me about 14 days ago. While we traveled in some of the same work circles we did not meet until recently – when he became my boss. Thus I have zero to submit to his anniversary fete. He seems like a good guy, but seems is the operative word. I don’t know, and he was told I might not be working for him very long.

Interesting that this is the first time in over 6 years with this employer that I’ve been asked to provide glowing words for the person in whose hands my future with the company resides. Apparently, I should not worry about it:

Your colleague’s network (manager, peers and direct
reports) have already been invited to contribute. But you can invite
other [employees] who are close to the honoree and non-[employees] (clients,
former colleagues, family and friends) to contribute—the more the
merrier! Just send them an invite from the contribution page. (Please do
not forward this personalized e-mail to them because it is linked to
your contribution.)

Wait … what?!?!?! If I understand this dynamic properly, I can:

  1. Submit something nice so my manager sees I submitted something nice; or
  2. Submit something not nice so my manager sees I submitted something not nice; or
  3. I don’t submit anything and my manager gets to deduce that I submitted nothing.

HR can’t be this …  stupid (I don’t know how else to describe it), can they?

p.s. – I will not submit anything.

p.p.s. – I have a whole rant about corporate anniversary celebrations like this one. Tl;dr: I’m not a fan.

p.p.p.s. – I tried to raise this with corporate HR and their internal website is down. Coincidence? Ehh, probably totally unrelated.

p.p.p.p.s. – This stuff is managed by an outside firm. It’s been outsourced. Got a problem with it? Go talk with the outsourcer.

Alerting resembles action

Let’s talk about security fatigue for a minute.

Korean COVID-19 text alerts to be reduced amid public weariness:

This undated image shows multiple coronavirus-related emergency text messages sent out from the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters and local governments. (Yonhap)
This undated image shows multiple coronavirus-related emergency text messages sent out from the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters and local governments. (Yonhap)
The central and local governments will reduce their emergency coronavirus text alerts amid mounting complaints that frequent arrivals of such messages have increased the public weariness in the prolonged pandemic, the interior ministry said Wednesday.
The revised guidelines for coronavirus-related text alerts, which go into effect Thursday, require only essential information to be sent out to the public and for the alert system to be turned off between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

To deal with growing public fatigue on the matter, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety specifically banned releasing information such as detailed reports on new patients and their itineraries, already widely known virus rules and promotions of local governments’ virus responses.The emergency notification system has played a key role in containing COVID-19 by swiftly delivering relevant information, including details on new infection cases and antivirus measures.

There was one day last week where I received 7 alerts across my iPhone and Apple Watch. That’s 14 unactionable alerts, many of them coming stacked like in the image above.

More than 15,500 such messages were sent out by state authorities from January to February, which translates into a daily average of 263, according to data compiled by the ministry.

The figure jumped six times from 2,711 recorded in the same period last year when the country was at the early stage of the pandemic.

Never mind the fact that they are only in Korean. Most often the alerts are purely informational. They would often include a URL that pointed to the same data on-line.

But at the same time, more people have complained of its excessiveness and redundancy, with the same information available on the central and provincial governments’ websites and social media pages.

… “It is time to shift how the text alert system works considering the persistence and routinization of the pandemic,” Interior Minister Jeon Hae-cheol said, asking people to better utilize online information made available by authorities. (Yonhap)

I work with customers who have their Security Operations Center (SOC) set up to do the above – alert excessively on things that are informational or aren’t actionable or have relatively low impact to the customer. Why?

Alerting resembles action.

The go Language is Google's Own

I’m baffled as to why programmers put their trust in this advertising company to do the right thing, or why companies would stake their reputation on go. Several people tell me that Google handed over control to open source, but the main landing page for go, golang.com, the place were everyone needs to go to program in the language, says:

The Go website (the “Website”) is hosted by Google. By using and/or visiting the Website, you consent to be bound by Google’s general Terms of Service and Google’s general Privacy Policy.

Go the go privacy policy page, and you’re sent to Google’s own privacy policy page.
The copyright page, which a lot of folks point to, actually says:

Except as noted, the contents of this site are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, and code is licensed under a BSD license.

… which means Google can exempt whatever it wants from the CC & BSD licenses. A good legal argument could be made about the BSD license for the code as the commas make things more open to interpretation. The term “code” could include HTML and other markup. But IANAL
Back to my main point, Google’s reputation is not good based on their behavior. I would not want to stake my company or my coding on them.
(Picture via Roman Synkevych (@synkevych) on Unsplash)

The End of Reputation

AI can now easily (8 seconds) change the identity of someone in a film or video.
Multiple services can now scan a few hours of someone’s voice and then fake any sentence in that person’s voice. […]
Don’t buy anything from anyone who calls you on the phone. Careful with your prescriptions. Don’t believe a video or a photo and especially a review. Luxury goods probably aren’t. That fish might not even be what it says it is.
But we need reputation. The people who are sowing the seeds of distrust almost certainly don’t have your best interests in mind-we’ve all been hacked. Which means that a reshuffling is imminent, one that restores confidence so we can be sure we’re seeing what we think we’re seeing. But it’s not going to happen tomorrow, so now, more than ever, it seems like we have to assume we’re being conned.
Sad but true.
What happens after the commotion will be a retrenchment, a way to restore trust and connection, because we have trouble thriving without it.

(Via The end of reputation; photo via Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash)
Apologies to Seth for quoting nearly his whole post, but it’s important and scary.
Neal Stephenson, in his book Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell 🇺🇸 🇯🇵, addresses this very issue of reputation and authenticity. In very simplistic & basic terms, it involves leveraging something like blockchain to “check in” or “sign in” to legitimate things by you or things you control. He also talks about Editors, who are human professional social media filters, which takes us down a different rabbit hole.
As I move my on-line life as much on to platforms I control or trust, I am thinking about how to validate “me” outside of that without that validation coming back to bite me later, assuming such a thing is possible.
What do you think?

Bruce Schneier on The Myth of Consumer Security

The Department of Justice wants access to encrypted consumer devices, but promises not to infiltrate business products or affect critical infrastructure. Yet that’s not possible, because there is no longer any difference between those categories of devices. Consumer devices are critical infrastructure. They affect national security. And it would be foolish to weaken them, even at the request of law enforcement.

(Via The Myth of Consumer Security – Lawfare)

Relying on bug bounties 'not appropriate risk management': Katie Moussouris

I love this article. Katie, as usual, is on point.

The vast majority of bugs found via bug bounty programs are cross-site scripting [XSS] bugs, a known class of bugs that are easy to detect, and easy to fix.
“Why would organised crime or nation-states pay for simple classes of bugs that they can find themselves? They’re not going to pay some random researcher to tell them about cross-site scripting bugs,” Moussouris said.

Amen! I want to hand out tee shirts with a snappier phrase to organizations.

“You should be finding those bugs easily yourselves too.”
Moussouris is a huge supporter of bug bounties, having run both the Hack the Pentagon and Hack the Army programs for the US military. But she says that relying on a public bug bounty program just creates the “appearance of diligence”.
“This is not appropriate risk management. This is not getting better when it comes to security vulnerability management,” she said.
Moussouris told the story of one security researcher who’d made $119,000 within four hours in a bug bounty program. That’s more than $29,000 per hour to find simple bugs in a known class.
“That’s a great ROI [return on investment] for that researcher. It’s a terrifying ROI for the organisation that paid him,” she said. …
Simple bugs can be found way, way more cheaply.

Bug bounties are a tool, but only one tool. And it’s a game, so people will look to take advantage.

Then there’s the eternal problem of basic cyber hygiene. Moussouris says we “struggle as an industry” to deal with the last-kilometre problem of actually applying the patches.
“A lot of the patterns [have] not actually shifted that much from where we were when I started out professionally 20 years ago as a penetration tester,” she said.
“We’ve created a $170 billion industry, which, we’re really good at a few things, security not exactly being one of them. Marketing, definitely.”

(Via Relying on bug bounties ‘not appropriate risk management’: Katie Moussouris; picture Via Caleb Bryan on Unsplash)

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CloudFlare Did the Right Thing the Wrong Way

But I don’t know what the right way is:

Networking and web security giant Cloudflare says the recent 8chan controversy may be an ongoing “risk factor” for its business on the back of its upcoming initial public offering. […]
8chan became the second customer to have its service cut off by Cloudflare in the aftermath of the attacks. The first and other time Cloudflare booted one of its customers was neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer in 2017, after it claimed the networking giant was secretly supportive of the website.
Cloudflare, which provides web security and denial-of-service protection for websites, recognizes those customer cut-offs as a risk factor for investors buying shares in the company’s common stock. […]
Cloudflare had long taken a stance of not policing who it provides service to, citing freedom of speech. In a 2015 interview with ZDNet, chief executive Matthew Prince said he didn’t ever want to be in a position where he was making “moral judgments on what’s good and bad,” and would instead defer to the courts. […]
Cloudflare has also come under fire in recent months for allegedly supplying web protection services to sites that promote and support terrorism, including al-Shabaab and the Taliban, both of which are covered under U.S. Treasury sanctions.
In response, the company said it tries “to be neutral,” but wouldn’t comment specifically on the matter.

(Via Cloudflare says cutting off customers like 8chan is an IPO ‘risk factor’ by Zack Whittaker)
I am mixed on this takedown even after a solid week of reflection. There is no doubt in my mind that 8chan is toxic and a blight on humanity, and the same with The Daily Stormer. I’m happy they aren’t being protected by CloudFlare.
However, I don’t like that:
– there’s no oversight into these takedowns;
– CloudFlare acted from public pressure (well, social media pressure), and the mob is oft not rational (or real);
– and, from a technical perspective, these instances offer a problematic precedence.
CloudFlare and similar companies are almost as core to the Internet’s function these days as DNS and NTP. My site is protected by CloudFlare, in fact (and in full disclosure, etc.). They and their competitors are akin to an active Internet insurance policy. Denying core-adjacent functionality and insurance to sites because the sites are reprehensible in giving the dregs of society a place to congregationally amplify their hate seems a no-brainer on first blush. But it also helps lay out a blueprint for blocking sites for far less.
Sadly, I don’t know how I would feel better about or how I would solve this. I’m open to constructive discussion.
To be clear: I agree wth CloudFlare on their actions in regard to 8chan and The Daily Stormer. I would like the actions to get codified into a documented policy.

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Gettin’ ZIPpy w/ It

Today I learned that ZIP Codes do not strictly represent geographic areas but rather “address groups or delivery routes”.
> Despite the geographic derivation of most ZIP Codes, the codes themselves do not represent geographic regions; in general, they correspond to address groups or delivery routes. As a consequence, ZIP Code “areas” can overlap, be subsets of each other, or be artificial constructs with no geographic area (such as 095 for mail to the Navy, which is not geographically fixed). In similar fashion, in areas without regular postal routes (rural route areas) or no mail delivery (undeveloped areas), ZIP Codes are not assigned or are based on sparse delivery routes, and hence the boundary between ZIP Code areas is undefined. […]
ZIP Codes are therefore not that reliable when doing geospatial analysis of data:
> Even though there are different place associations that probably mean more to you as an individual, such as a neighborhood, street, or the block you live on, the zip code is, in many organizations, the geographic unit of choice. It is used to make major decisions for marketing, opening or closing stores, providing services, and making decisions that can have a massive financial impact.
> The problem is that zip codes are not a good representation of real human behavior, and when used in data analysis, often mask real, underlying insights, and may ultimately lead to bad outcomes. To understand why this is, we first need to understand a little more about the zip code itself.

(Via The Bear with Its Own ZIP Code by Jason Kottke)
I ran into this a decade ago, plus or minus a few years, when trying to come up with a good mechanism for imprecisely denoting the general location of network equipment. One idea had been to use the ZIP code or outside-of-the-US postal equivalent in device naming or SNMP strings. I determined ZIP codes and their analog are useful in postal delivery but are not good for asset and information management. I think there was a substantial cost for a database with every possible Earthly postal code, which would have been a massive overkill for the need.

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