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Audits explained

Audits explained

A pentest is like going to the GP for a check-up. An audit is like having a month-long colonoscopy.

from copilot import vulnerabilities

Not your grandfather's MVC

This was perfectly predictable. CoPilot generates insecure code, as expected.

Machine Learning, the magic pixie dust of the past decade, is all about volume. And writing secure code is harder than writing insecure code. So by sheer volume there will be a lot more insecure code around.

Given that a lot of code in the wild is essentially a minimum viable copypaste from the highest scoring answer on StackOverflow, teaching the code generator model has obviously consumed a lot of insecure code. Since SO rewards speed, the answers that take the least time to write will receive most points.

Writing secure code takes more time and more space - so by the time someone submits an answer that considers security aspects, the person asking the question has already accepted (and ran with) the first and shortest working answer instead.

StackOverflow has redefined the MVC programming model. It now stands for Minimum Viable Copypaste.

Getting home for plague'mas

Be honest

Planning to travel to visit your family in these plague-ridden times, you're really saying:

"I miss my family so much they will see me if it's the last thing they do."

It's that time of the year again

Page from an undated journal

Daddy's crying. Mommy has a black eye. Little sister's hiding under her bed.

Yep, it's christmas.

Perception is almost everything

Misunderstood Indexing

Holding the number-one spot on Corruption Perceptions Index tells nothing about how well a country is doing.

It merely highlights how bad the situation is even for the runner-up.

Dear online surveillance addicts

Ground rules for acceptable ads online

The following is an edit of a piece originally written in November 2015.

The pinnacle of non-intrusive online ads were the original Google search ads. They were out of the way, clearly marked as ads - and hence could be visually filtered out. They were pure text, so could be neatly included as elements on the rendered page. And they were always targeting an INTEREST. Not an individual.

I will take that as the minimum acceptable advertising behaviour. I'm not implying it's perfect, but at least we set a clear set of ground rules. With that in mind, my ideal, non-intrusive ads mechanism builds on the following rules:

  • Ads must never be inline to page content.
  • Even when clearly out of the way, ads must not be allowed to mimic page content; they must be clearly marked as ads.
  • Text only.
  • I might accept an image within the ad, provided it was always served from the content provider's system.
  • As an extension to previous point: if the served image size would exceed a notable fraction of the page size, it must not be included in the output.
  • No user tracking of any kind.
  • No third-party javascript. Ever.
  • At most 15% of display real estate allowed to be used by ads. Including the padding in the UI. (It all counts as space denied from content.)
  • Not allowed to affect page content load times. Ad material must be included at the end of the page code. If your service pushes ads from internal and separate system, hard timeouts must be imposed: if the internal system cannot serve an ad within an allotted time, the frontend must never be forced to wait. You just missed an ad impression. Tough.
  • If clicking an ad takes a user through a bounce page, all identifiable information from the user must be stripped. Bounce page or redirect must not impose any further page loading delay.
  • No beacons.

Breaking even one of the rules automatically disqualifies you.

If you, as an advertiser, find these rules unacceptable - well, then we are in mutual disagreement. I find your ads equally unacceptable and will treat them as a form of cancer.

However, as a genuine service to the user... please allow the users to search for ads that have been displayed to them. Preferably by display context. I would be glad to return to a subject at a later date and search for something I remember seeing earlier.

The above set of rules is still not ideal, but everything that behaved according to them would at least be palatable.

So many edges

Random musings, part [REDACTED]

Software is like a diamond ...

... the better it glistens, the more edges there are.

... the toughest substance on planet, yet can shatter from a single impact.

... creating one can destroy your tools.

... no matter how well it wears, it'll still burn.

Your passwords have been compromised

Another blog post at $dayjob

So I wrote another one at work. After explaining to various parties how and why password cracking attempts happen, I felt it was prudent to write the whole thing down for future reference outside the corporate walls.

With that in mind, your passwords have almost certainly been compromised

TL;DR: use high-entropy passwords, a password manager, and proper 2-Factor authentication.

Presentation slides - Intended Consequences

DC4420 Presentation: Intended Consequences

Faithful to habits, I found myself with a presentation at dc4420. Lessons of usability and search for sanity gave rise to a talk on how deal with conflicting auditing demands.

The talk was geared towards industry long-timers who have, for reasons only marginally in their control, found themselves appeasing externalities and ticking boxes. I wanted to highlight that hope is not lost.

You can find the slides here: Intended Consequences

Evolution of debugging prowess

Evolution and progression of debugging prowess

When things break in mysterious ways, developers tend to go through a familiar series of increasingly demanding steps. As experience, skills and even personal networks grow, we can find ourselves diving ever further in the following chain:

  1. "It must be in my code." -- hours of debugging
  2. "Okay, it must be somewhere in our codebase." -- days of intense debugging and code spelunking
  3. "It HAS TO be in the third party libraries" -- days of issue tracker excavations and never-before-enabled profiling runs
  4. "It can't possibly be in stdlib..." -- more of the same, but now profiling the core runtime libraries
  5. "Please let this not be a compiler bug" -- we become intensely familiar with mailing list archives
  6. "I will not debug drivers. I will not debug drivers. I will not debug drivers."
  7. "I don't even know anyone who could help me figure out the kernel innards."
  8. "NOBODY understands filesystems!"
  9. "What do you mean 'firmware edge case'?"
  10. "Where is my chip lab grade oscilloscope?"

How far have you found yourself?