All posts by JenThorpe

The Sale of Corp.com Could Be Dangerous



Mike O’Connor bought the domain name corp.com in 1994. He is now interested in selling it, but has concerns that someone working with organized cybercriminals, or state-funded hacking groups, will buy it. If that happens, it could be devastating to corporations failed to update the name of their active directory path.

Krebs on Security has a detailed blog about exactly what the problem is. In short, the issue is a problem known as “namespace collision”. It is a situation where domain names intended to be used exclusively on an internal company network end up overlapping with domains that can resolve normally on the open Internet.

If I’m understanding this correctly, it appears that the instructions that Microsoft gave years ago were not entirely understood by people who set up a corporation’s IT system.

Krebs states that for early versions of Windows that supported Active Directory, the instructions gave the default example of a Active Directory path as “corp”. Unfortunately, many corporations quite literally named their Active Directory “corp” – and never bothered to change it to a domain name that they controlled. Then, these corporations built upon it – without renaming “corp” to something more secure.

I recommend that you read the article on Krebs on Security for full details. Tests were done to see what kind of traffic corp.com would receive. More than 375,000 Windows PCs tried to send corp.com information that it “had no business receiving”. Another test allowed corp.com to receive email, and the result of the experiment showed it was soon “raining credentials”.

The big concern right now is that “the bad guys” could buy corp.com and start harvesting the data that countless corporations unwittingly send to it.


Vodafone to Remove Huawei from European Networks



Vodafone is going to strip Huawei systems out of the core of its European network, according to Financial Times. Doing so will cost €200m as the European telecoms sector moves to adapt to new limits on the use Huawei’s equipment. Financial Times reported that Vodofone Chief executive Nick Read said the process would take five years because of the complexity of removing systems critical to its network.

The Guardian reported that Nick Read said the Huawei equipment replacement program would have “very limited financial impact” on its UK operations as they were already mostly compliant with the new government measures.

In January of 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson approved the use of equipment made by “high-risk vendors”, but restricted access to “sensitive core” parts of the network. It is understood that “high-risk vendors” was a reference to Huawei. The UK will exclude “high-risk vendors” from all “safety critical networks” in the UK.

Huawei posted a statement on its Twitter account about the UK’s 5G decision. The statement said:

“Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G roll-out on track. This evidence-based decision will result in a more advanced, more secure and more cost-effective telecoms infrastructure that is fit for the future. It gives the UK access to world-leading technology and ensures a competitive market.”

“We have supplies cutting-edge technology to telecoms operators in the UK for more than 15 years. We will build on this strong track record, supporting our customers as they invest in their 5G networks, boosting economic growth and helping the UK continue to compete globally.”

“We agree a diverse vendor market and fair competition are essential for network reliability and innovation, as well as ensuring consumers have access to the best possible technology.”

Also in January of 2020, the European Union unveiled security guidelines for next generation high-speed wireless networks. Their recommendations don’t specifically call for a ban on Huawei. Instead, its recommendations include blocking high-risk equipment suppliers from “critical and sensitive” parts of the network, including the core, which keeps track of data and authenticates smartphones connecting to cell towers.

That said, individual countries in the EU would be able to decide for themselves what kind of role Huawei will play in their own wireless network infrastructure.


Facebook has Acquired Scape Technologies



TechCrunch reported that Facebook has acquired Scape Technologies. The company was founded in 2016 and is located in Shoreditch, London. Scape Technologies is building a cloud-based Vision Engine that allows camera devices to understand their environment, using computer vision.

Rather than relying on 3D maps built and stored locally, Scape’s Vision Engine builds and references 3D maps in the cloud, allowing devices to tap into a ‘shared understanding’ of an environment.

Initially focused on augmented reality, Scape’s first product is an SDK that allows AR content to be anchored to specific locations, outside and at an unprecedented scale.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to both TechCrunch, and Engadget: “We acquire smaller tech companies from time to time. We don’t always discuss our plans.” As such, we are left to speculate about why Facebook wanted to acquire Scape Technologies, and what the companies will create together.

Scape Technologies describes its Vision Engine as being built from scratch to process imagery from any source, resulting in a 3D representation of the environment. After the Vision Engine has created a 3D map, their ‘Visual Positioning Service’ determines the precise position of the camera devices, in the cloud. This allows Scape Technologies to achieve higher scalability and performance than any other approach.

To me, it sounds like the Vision Engine could be used to make a virtual reality game of some kind. In 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion.

Or, maybe Vision Engine could be used for other purposes. Scape Technologies says that its visual positioning service is currently available within London, but more cities will be announced shortly. They are also working on a public API that will allow any device to determine its location, given an image as an input, regardless of what use-case or platform you are targeting.

To me, this sounds like the Vision Engine could potentially be used for surveillance or law enforcement. That makes me very uncomfortable. Again, this is all speculation, and we will have to wait and see what happens.


Instagram Might Let IGTV Video Makers Earn Money



TechCrunch reported that Instagram confirmed that it has internally prototyped an Instagram Partner Program that would let creators earn money by showing advertisements along with their videos. The goals seems to be to entice creators to put their videos on IGTV in the hopes of being able to earn money. It sounds like Instagram is hoping the potential for earning money might influence creators to bring more and higher quality content to Instagram.

The program could potentially work similarly to Facebook Watch, where video producers earn a 55% cut of revenue from “Ad Breaks” inserted into the middle of their content. There’s no word on what the revenue split would be for IGTV, but since Facebook tends to run all its ads across all its apps via the same buying interfaces, it might stick with the 55% approach that lets it say creators get the majority of cash earned.

I think the addition of ads, inserted into the middle of video content, could kill this project. The Coalition for Better Ads recently announced a Better Ads Standard for short-form video for desktop, mobile web, and in-app environments. The goal is to improve the online ad experience for consumers. This standard will apply to ads that appear in short-form video content that is defined as 8 minutes or less.

Three ad experiences fall beneath the Better Ads Standard for short-form video:

  •  mid-roll ads
  • pre-roll ads or pods longer than 31 seconds that cannot be skipped in the first 5 seconds
  • non-linear display ads that are in the middle 1/3 of a playing video or are larger than 20% of the video content

The Coalition’s Better Ads Standards identify the ad experiences that fall beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability and are most likely to drive consumers to install ad blockers. From this, is sounds to me like sticking an ad in the middle of a short video on IGTV will not be acceptable to most people. This could make them avoid watching videos on IGTV.

It should be noted that TechCrunch referred to this new IGTV program as something that Instagram internally prototyped. It doesn’t mean Instagram is absolutely going to release an Instagram Partner Program anytime soon.


U.S. Appeals Court Won’t Reconsider Net Neutrality



The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia decided not to reconsider an October ruling that upheld the repeal of net neutrality rules. The court declined without comment. Personally, I think the court’s lack of explanation as to why they chose to ignore the request from 15 states and several advocacy groups – is cowardly.

According to Reuters, petitions were filed by the Consumer & Communications Industry Association, internet trade group INCOMPAS, and others. Members of Amazon.com, Inc. Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc., and Google parent Alphabet also filed petitions.

Free Press, an advocacy group, posted a press release about the court’s denial of the request to rehear the courts decision in Mozilla v. FCC. It stated that in October of 2019, the court upheld the FCC’s Net Neutrality repeal and broadband classification order, but reversed the FCC’s in its attempt to preempt all state Net Neutrality laws.

The court remanded the case to the FCC because the agency failed to address how repeals would impact public safety, the Lifeline broadband-subsidy program for low-income people, and broadband providers’ access to public rights of way.

In December, Free Press filed a petition for the rehearing, along with New America’s Open Technology Institute, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Benton Institute for Broadband and Society and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

Free Press notes that the denial of rehearing that request “starts the clock on potential further appeals.” Parties have at least 90 days to consider seeking Supreme Court review. According to Reuters, Mozilla, who also fought the net neutrality repeal, said it was considering “next steps”.

In short, this isn’t over yet. But, personally, I’m not sure I trust the current Supreme Court to do the right thing and uphold net neutrality. Reuters notes that in April of 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to reinstate net neutrality protections, but the Republican-led Senate refused to consider it.

No matter what political party you prefer, there is one thing we all agree on. No one wants to have their internet throttled. It doesn’t make sense for the courts to go against the will of the American people regarding net neutrality protections.


Huawei Sues Verizon for Patent Infringement



In a press release posted today, Huawei announced that it filed patent infringement lawsuits against Verizon in the District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Texas. Huawei is seeking compensation for Verizon’s use of patented technology that is protected by 12 of Huawei’s US patents.

“Verizon’s products and services have benefited from patented technology that Huawei developed over many years of research and development,” said Dr. Song Liuping, Huawei’s Chief Legal Officer.

According to the press release, before filing the lawsuit, Huawei negotiated with Verizon for a significant period of time, during which the company provided a detailed list of patents and factual evidence of Verizon’s use of Huawei patents. The two parties were unable to reach an agreement on license terms.

“We invest heavily in R&D because we want to provide our customers with the best possible telecommunications solutions,” continued Dr. Song. “We share these innovations with the broader industry through license agreements.”

“For years now, we have successfully negotiated patent license agreements with many companies. Unfortunately, when no agreement can be reached, we have no choice but to seek a legal remedy.”

“This is the common practice in the industry. Huawei is simply asking that Verizon respect Huawei’s investment in research and development by either paying for the use of our patents, or refraining from using them in its products and services.”

Verizon responded with a press release of its own. “Huawei’s lawsuit filed overnight, in the very early morning, is nothing more than a PR stunt. The lawsuit is a sneak attack on our company and the entire tech ecosystem. Huawei’s real target is not Verizon; it is any country or company that defies it. The action lacks merit, and we look forward to vigorously defending ourselves.”


Chrome’s Ad Blocker will Expand to Target Disruptive Video Ads



Google announced on their Chromium Blog that they have been working on a common complaint among Chrome users: annoying, intrusive ads. In 2018, they started removing the ads from websites that continually show intrusive ads that violate industry standards. Google also updated their own advertising to ensure they are not selling or serving the kind of ads that users find the most annoying.

Today, the group responsible for developing the Better Ads Standards, the Coalition for Better Ads, announced a new set of standards for ads that show during video content, based on research from 45,000 consumers worldwide.

The Coalition found that three ad experiences that people find to be particularly disruptive on video content that is less than 8 minutes long. They include: long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and that cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds; Mid-roll ads of any duration that appear in the middle of a video, interrupting the user’s experience; and image or text ads that appear at the top of a playing video and are in the middle 1/3 of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the video content.

The Coalition has announced that website owners should stop showing these ads to their site visitors in the next four months. Beginning August 5, 2020, Chrome will expand its user protections and stop showing all ads on sites in any country that repeatedly show these disruptive ads. Google wants people to know that YouTube.com, like other websites with video content, will be reviewed for compliance with the Standards.

Google points those who operate a website that shows ads to the Ad Experience Report. It is a tool that you can use to review your site for compliance with the new ad protections, and that helps publishers to understand if Chrome identified any violating ad experiences on your site.

Overall, I think this change will likely have an effect on those who have ads on their YouTube videos, which could potentially affect their earnings. That said, it appears that these changes are designed to enhance the experience of people want to watch a video – on any website – without being annoyed by intrusive ads.