More than 90% of Americans believe that the US government is unduly influenced by money, and the Mayday.US super PAC is raising $5M to fund the election campaigns of politicians who’ll pledge to dismantle super PACs and enact other campaign finance reforms. They raised more than $1M in 30 days last month, and this month, the goal is $5M. It’s the brainchild of Lawrence Lessig, who’s going to run prototype the project by running five electoral campaigns in 2014, and use the lessons of those projects to win enough anti-corruption seats in 2016 to effect real change.
Again, I’m not able to contribute to Mayday.US, because I’m a Canadian and Briton. But I ask my American friends to put in $10, and promise that I’ll put CAD1000 into any comparable Canadian effort and/or £1000 into a comparable UK effort. We all win when countries embrace evidence-based policy guided by doing what’s best for its citizens, rather than lining the pockets of corrupting multinationals.
I was the 546th person to complete Stripe's web security CTF and again had a ton of fun applying my theoretical knowledge of web security issues to the (semi-)real world. As I went through the levels I thought about what red flags jumped out at me (or should have) that I could apply to future code reviews:
|Level||Issue||Code Review Red Flags|
|0||Simple SQL injection||No encoding when constructing SQL command strings. Constructing SQL command strings instead of SQL API|
|1||extract($_GET);||No input validation.|
|2||Arbitrary PHP execution||No input validation. Allow file uploads. File permissions modification.|
|3||Advanced SQL injection||Constructing SQL command strings instead of SQL API.|
|4||HTML injection, XSS and CSRF||No encoding when constructing HTML. No CSRF counter measures. Passwords stored in plain text. Password displayed on site.|
|5||Pingback server doesn't need to opt-in||n/a - By design protocol issue.|
|6||Script injection and XSS||No encoding while constructing script. Deny list (of dangerous characters). Passwords stored in plain text. Password displayed on site.|
|7||Length extension attack||Custom crypto code. Constructing SQL command string instead of SQL API.|
|8||Side channel attack||Password handling code. Timing attack mitigation too clever.|
More about each level in the future.
Stripe is running a web security capture the flag - a series of increasingly difficult web security exploit challenges. I've finished it and had a lot of fun. Working on a web browser I knew the theory of these various web based attacks, but this was my first chance to put theory into practice with:
Here's a blog post on the CTF behind the scenes setup which has many impressive features including phantom users that can be XSS/CSRF'ed.
I'll have another post on my difficulties and answers for the CTF levels after the contest is over on Wed, but if you're looking for hints, try out the CTF chatroom or the level specific CTF chatroom.
“Phil McCarthy’s Pareidoloop overlays randomly generated polygons on top of one another until facial recognition software recognizes a human face. Can’t sleep, at SIGGRAPH! [via @Brandonn]”
I keep seeing crowdsource projects with big names that I actually want to back:
As a professional URI aficionado I deal with various levels of ignorance on URI percent-encoding (aka URI encoding, or URL escaping).
Getting into the more subtle levels of URI percent-encoding ignorance, folks try to apply their knowledge of percent-encoding to URIs as a whole producing the concepts escaped URIs and unescaped URIs. However there are no such things - URIs themselves aren't percent-encoded or decoded but rather contain characters that are percent-encoded or decoded. Applying percent-encoding or decoding to a URI as a whole produces a new and non-equivalent URI.
Instead of lingering on the incorrect concepts we'll just cover the correct ones: there's raw unencoded data, non-normal form URIs and normal form URIs. For example:
In the above (A) is not an 'encoded URI' but rather a non-normal form URI. The characters of 'the' and 'path' are percent-encoded but as unreserved characters specific in the RFC should not be encoded. In the normal form of the URI (B) the characters are decoded. But (B) is not a 'decoded URI' -- it still has an encoded '?' in it because that's a reserved character which by the RFC holds different meaning when appearing decoded versus encoded. Specifically in this case, it appears encoded which means it is data -- a literal '?' that appears as part of the path segment. This is as opposed to the decoded '?' that appears in the URI which is not part of the path but rather the delimiter to the query.
Usually when developers talk about decoding the URI what they really want is the raw data from the URI. The raw decoded data is (C) above. The only thing to note beyond what's covered already is that to obtain the decoded data one must parse the URI before percent decoding all percent-encoded octets.
Of course the exception here is when a URI is the raw data. In this case you must percent-encode the URI to have it appear in another URI. More on percent-encoding while constructing URIs later.
From the document: ‘Appendix B. Implementation Report: The encoding defined in this document currently is used for two different HTTP header fields: “Content-Disposition”, defined in [RFC6266], and “Link”, defined in [RFC5988]. As the encoding is a profile/clarification of the one defined in [RFC2231] in 1997, many user agents already supported it for use in “Content-Disposition” when [RFC5987] got published.
Since the publication of [RFC5987], two more popular desktop user agents have added support for this encoding; see http://purl.org/
NET/http/content-disposition-tests#encoding-2231-char for details. At this time, only one major desktop user agent (Safari) does not support it.
Note that the implementation in Internet Explorer 9 does not support the ISO-8859-1 encoding; this document revision acknowledges that UTF-8 is sufficient for expressing all code points, and removes the requirement to support ISO-8859-1.’
Yay for UTF-8!
I like the idea of QR codes, encoding URLs and placing them on real world objects, but the QR codes themselves are kind of ugly. To make them less obvious I thought I could spray QR codes on to an object with an infrared reflective paint and shine infrared light on the QR codes, since most cameras, for instance the camera in my G1 phone, pick up infrared that our eyes do not.
In my search for infrared paint I've found a seller of IR ink (via programming forum) and an Infrared Paint Recipe (via IR FAQ).
In looking for this paint I've found that it comes up a lot in relation to the military for things like paint markers that are visible at night with proper equipment, and paint that absorbs IR light to make vehicles less obvious to night vision goggles. Even though the first reflects infrared light and the second absorbs it websites end up refering to both as infrared paint which made it difficult to search.
Additionally I found links to some other geeky infrared projects:
Looking at the HTTP traffic of Netflix under Fiddler I could see the HTTP request that added a movie to my queue and didn't see anything obvious that would prevent a CSRF. Sure enough its pretty easy to create a page that, if the user has set Netflix to auto-login, will add movies to the user's queue without their knowledge. I thought this was pretty neat, because I could finally get people to watch Primer. However, when I searched for Netflix CSRF I found that this issue has been known and reported to Netflix since 2006. Again my thoughts stolen from me and the theif doesn't even have the common decency to let me have the thought first!
With this issue known for nearly three years its hard to continue calling it an issue. Really they should just document it in their API docs and be done with it. Who knows what Netflix based web sites and services they'll break if they try to change this behavior? For instance, follow this link to add my Netflix recommended movies to your queue.
On the topic of made up words: I get made up words for made up things, but there's already a name for cell-phone in English: its "cell-phone". The narrator notes that the book has been translated into English so I guess I'll blame the fictional translator. Anyway, I wasn't bothered by the made up words nearly as much as some folk. Its a good thing I'm long out of college because I can easily imagine confusing the names of actual concepts and people with those from the book, like Hemn space for Hamming distance. Towards the beginning, the description of slines and the post-post-apocalyptic setting reminded me briefly of Idiocracy.
Recently, I've been reading everything of Charles Stross that I can, including about a month ago, The Jennifer Morgue from the surprisingly awesome amalgamation genre of spy thriller and Lovecraft horror. Its the second in a series set in a universe in which magic exists as a form of mathematics and follows Bob Howard programmer/hacker, cube dweller, and begrudging spy who works for a government agency tasked to suppress this knowledge and protect the world from its use. For a taste, try a short story from the series that's freely available on Tor's website, Down on the Farm.
Coincidentally, both Anathem and the Bob Howard series take an interest in the world of Platonic ideals. In the case of Anathem (without spoiling anything) the universe of Platonic ideals, under a different name of course, is debated by the characters to be either just a concept or an actual separate universe and later becomes the underpinning of major events in the book. In the Bob Howard series, magic is applied mathematics that through particular proofs or computations awakens/disturbs/provokes unnamed horrors in the universe of Platonic ideals to produce some desired effect in Bob's universe.
I've made an extension for Internet Explorer 8, FormToAccelerator which turns HTML forms on a web page into either an accelerator or a search provider. In the design of the accelerators format we intentionally had HTML forms in mind so that it would be easy to create accelerators for existing web services. Consequently, creating an accelerator from an HTML form is a natural concept and an extension I've been meaning to finish for many months now.
This is similar in concept to the Opera feature that lets you add a form as a search provider. The user experience is very rough and requires some knowledge of accelerator variables. If I can come up with a better interaction model I may update this in the future, but at the moment all the designs I can come up with require way too much effort. Install IE8 RC1 and then try out FormToAccelerator.