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Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

I like my privacy a lot, and anyone checking out my blog or the apps on my computers great and small will see proof of that. That also explains why I have a ProtonMail account, although I must admit that I don’t use it very often – to make full use of it, you need correspondents that use the same tool.

To make the use of the ProtonMail service easier, the company makes a new tool available:

The ProtonMail Bridge is an application for paid users that runs on your computer in the background and seamlessly encrypts and decrypts your mail as it enters and leaves your computer. It allows for full integration of your ProtonMail account with any program that supports IMAP and SMTP such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird and Apple Mail.

(Click the image to read ProtonMail’s blog post on the subject)

Compared to the hoops you had to jump through in the past if you wanted to encrypt your email with PGP, this looks like a dream!

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Yesterday morning, if started snowing here in Belgium. And then in the afternoon, temperatures started rising and the snow started to melt. It was nice to see how the traffic conditions reported by Google Maps accurately reflected the road conditions during the day (or at least during the start of the afternoon, which is when I took these screen shots).

The situation at 12:45 in Belgium

The same area at 15:29

You don’t even have to look up the precipitation radar logs to see that the (wet) snow zone clearly moved in a north-eastern direction:

(Image taken from http://www.buienradar.be)

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Since a few days I’m using the latest version of Firefox as my main browser on Mac OS X, Windows 10 and Xubuntu. Why? Because it’s a new version of a tool I used many years ago, and which I left behind when it got slow, compared to Chrome.

But since a few weeks, there’s a new version, and I want to try it out. So far, my conclusions are that it is fast and sleek, just as Ars technica reports:

The version of the browser coming out today has a sleek new interface and, under the hood, major performance enhancements, with Mozilla claiming that it’s as much as twice as fast as it was a year ago. Not only should it be faster to load and render pages, but its user interface should remain quick and responsive even under heavy load with hundreds of tabs.

Well done, Mozilla!

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A few (5 or more?) years ago, I was looking into PGP as a way to encrypt email. At some point, I bookmarked the Keybase homepage… and then forgot about that link, just like so many other URLs about PGP – PGP was pretty hard to use in those days. At that time, if I remember correctly, Keybase promised a way to store (and publish?) PGP keys.

While cleaning up the bookmarks section of my browsers I stumbled upon that URL again, and, unlike many other websites, Keybase is still up and running. Better yet, they seem to have succeeded in making a tool that could actually be useful and uncomplicated at the same time. In their own words:

Keybase is for anyone. Imagine a Slack for the whole world, except end-to-end encrypted across all your devices. Or a Team Dropbox where the server can’t leak your files or be hacked.

(Click to go to the Keybase website)

Creating an account and adding a device to your account is a simple and painless procedure. Why would you do so? Well, I’m still exploring the possibilities. One thing to do with Keybase is to authenticate accounts on systems like Twitter and Github. Keybase allows you to store (and share) files in an encrypted format over an encrypted channel. And the (encrypted) chat function has recently been extended with a Team chat that is supposed to resemble Slack. “Supposed”, because I haven’t been able to check that out – you need multiple members to make up a team ;-)

Anyway, it’s certainly an interesting product, and I intend to do more than keep an eye on Keybase!

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A lava lamp is something from the late 1960’s – they were quite a rage when when I was a teenager. Today, lava lamps are a tool for cryptographers – at least at Cloudflare, a provider of a significant piece of Internet infrastructure.

In their blog post “Randomness 101: LavaRand in Production“, Cloudflare explains how they use a collection of lava lamps to generate random numbers.

LavaRand is a system that uses lava lamps as a secondary source of randomness for our production servers. A wall of lava lamps in the lobby of our San Francisco office provides an unpredictable input to a camera aimed at the wall. A video feed from the camera is fed into a CSPRNG, and that CSPRNG provides a stream of random values that can be used as an extra source of randomness by our production servers. Since the flow of the “lava” in a lava lamp is very unpredictable, “measuring” the lamps by taking footage of them is a good way to obtain unpredictable randomness. Computers store images as very large numbers, so we can use them as the input to a CSPRNG just like any other number.

If you don’t want to read the whole blog post, just have a look at this video on Youtube:

Click the image to go to Youtube

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I do not want to pretend to fully understand the exact nature of the so-called KRACK Attack vulnerability in many implementations of the WPA2 protocol that is supposed to make WiFi network connections secure. All details about the KRACK Attack can be found on the webpages of the (Belgian) researcher that found the issue.

I do worry about the fact that MacOS and Android are both mentioned as being particularly vulnerable to this issue. On October 31, 2017, Apple released updates for MacOS EL Capitan, Sierra and High Sierra to solve the problem (at least, that’s how I interpret their report on the subject).

Samsung, however, hasn’t published any updates to their Android version for my Galaxy S7 since August 1st. Perhaps there is no problem on the SGS7? Or is Samsung just being lazy – after all, my phone is still running Android 7.0 – no word on 7.1, let alone 8.0…

And how about all those other devices, IoT and others, that use WiFi connections? Have you already updated your router? How about the wireless hard disk vaults that photographers use? Or the photo cameras themselves? Etcetera.

Matters such as this will need to resolved on a large scale before I will put my trust in the “Internet of Things”, no matter the type of connection used to talk to each other.

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Julia Reda is a member of the European Parlement. In a recent publication she writes about an important subject that has just become part of a recommendation by the European Commission: “automated upload filters” should be used, according to the Commission, to stop illegal uploads and copyright infringement.

Click to read the full communication by Julia Reda

Julia Reda first clearly states what that means:

Installing censorship infrastructure that surveils everything people upload and letting algorithms make judgement calls about what we all can and cannot say online is an attack on our fundamental rights.

I agree with that: in a democracy, there is no place for preemptive censorship.

In addition, she gives 9 clear reasons why it is silly to think that that automated filters will be able to achieve what the Commission wants: those filters don’t work very well. Unless you think cats can sing pop songs, or unless you’re OK with the voice of war victims in Syria being stifled, etc…

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