Andrew Breese

Musings of a professional geek

New Firefox and Handy Chrome Extensions, bloat & Security.

Even after reading that my old favouraite browser Firefox is making a comeback, I think it will be a while before I try to abandon Chrome; and the reason is the integrations and extensions are great for security and quality of life. I also think it is best to keep the number of extensions limited, because that in-turn might keep memory bloat down and should limit unknown future vulnerabilities.

  • Fair AdBlocker – a browser ad blocking widget, which is mandatory to me; especially as there are websites where I am very happy to see their ads and you can choose what to see.
  • uMatrix – javascript controller, which lets me block/allow scripts specifically by page and domain. Javascript is a nightmare for good security as it is so easy to exploit, and I’m hoping this widget will make that less likely.
  • a few GoogleDoc related plugins, but not all of them, as each adds bloat. I do love GoogleDocs, sure they lack a few features, but they are pretty amazing.
  • a password manager, I’m not goiung to say which (because while everyone should be using one, I don’t think I should give a hacker an easy start), but its one of the big ones and is excellent in terms of features and ease of use UI.
  • HTTPS Everywhere – which tries to force your browser session to always use the https protocol; in plain terms that means your should be a little safer.

Thats it.

Understand too that enabling widgets and extensions also introduces risks too. Who created it, are they seeing your traffic in real time (like many of the spell-checkers)? What information of yours do they store externally? What if they are hacked? Recommend being smart and using as few as possible.

Back on browser choice – Chrome is plenty fast as is, has a linked ID to my home PC and phone so my bookmarks will sync between devices, and does not crash. The ad blocking and password manager are tools I cannot live without. And although I’ve ony be using uMatrix for a very short time it has already impressed.

One key feature I read about recently was having FireFox tell you if the site you are visiting is also listed on HaveIbeenPwned (via Lifehacker) – such a great widget idea, and one that has been written as a plug-in for Chrome and others for a long while.

I really recommend registering for HIBP too; in fact I registered my families accounts for them.

Happy & safe browsing folks.

Advertisements

Blockchain and Bitcoin Humble Bundle

The current Humble Bunddle is all about Bitcoin and Blockchain – two topics which are well understood in technical circles, but not well understood in many others. Like the post on Crypto and Cybersecurity with the Humble Bundle, I think this is worth seriously considering. At the $8 level it is good value and handy to have a handful of electronic textbooks. I’m no expert, but I plan to at least validate what I think I know against useful sources. Happy reading.

iPhone IOS 11 broke the podcast app

I’m angry enough to rant about how broken the Podcast app is now after the IOS 11 upgrade; it’s overflowed into this blog. Normally I’d try to hold my angst in check however Apple needs to see the feedback from multiple places.

Essentially the update to IOS 11 for the Podcast App has totally reworked the UI and very importantly removed the Unplayed list, the Mark as Played features, which makes it difficult to use. The UI changes are illogical and clunky – It’s horrid. 

I decided to post feedback direct to Apple via their feedback section and speak with my device – so I’ve converted to using Overcast. It’s free, logical, and has well thought out features. It’s good enough that I might subscribe to the paid version. 

/Grumble, /Adapt, /Replace

4GX Wifi Plus- How to reset the device

I’m using a Telstra 4GX wifi Plus hotspot widget when I ‘m the road at present, and the silly thing locked up while charging. It displayed the 4-5 power bars and little else on the lcd screen.

I started playing with it as I couldn’t find instructions online – it’s like an expensive figget-spinner. To reset the 4gx: Hold the Power and WPS buttons in for 10+ seconds and the device will shutdown. Then start-up and it *should* be back to normal.

Humble Bundle on Cybersecurity and Crypto

Heads-up on a great Humble Bundle on crypto, security, hacking, and all sorts of related topics. As a pay-what-you-like deal it’s amazing given these books are worth. I’m really keen to read Threat Modeling: Designing for Security and Cryptography Engineering: Design Principles and Practical Applications; that is my bed side reading set for months to come. Offer ends around the end of July, and found via Bruce Schneier’s blog.

An interesting Broadband modem with mobile backup

The Telstra Exchange news feed has a good post last week – a new broadband modem product which provides a fast connection with a mobile backup in case the connection drops; called Telstra Gateway Frontier, also hitting the news on via Gizmodo and CNet. Firstly let me state the design of this device is far better than most modem/router devices, and if you want a better look at it’s physical appearance browse through the product designer’s website. Its a nice looking piece of kit. It helps that its not a black and grey box with 6 antennas poking out.

telstragatewaymodemwhitelivingroom

That is the Gateway in the background of this image sitting stylishly on the shelf (never mind that it has no power cable or phone line plugged into it, this is a marketing image), in use there would be a few cables running up from the floor to the unit.

Two statements in the primary article stand out as interesting:

If there is an interruption to the home broadband such as planned network maintenance, the gateway will automatically switch over to the Telstra Mobile Network within minutes.

… and …

Featuring the latest in Wi-Fi technology (Wi-Fi 802.11ac 4X4) to increase in-home Wi-Fi speeds up to four times compared with the previous generation of our gateway technology (when using AC-compatible devices), to significantly boost signal reach as Australians embrace video streaming on smart TVs and mobile screens.

Well damn, that’s actually useful.

Why? Well when I was a techie many years ago one of my proud achievements was cobbling together a “hybrid internet connection” for the company which attenuated two aDSL connections, a load-balancer for them, with one having dial-up backup for email, then plonked a few wifi access points into the network for the IT staff. That might not seem like much these days, but in the early 2000’s there wasn’t the choice in providers or flexibility in hardware we have today. My old solution from 15 years ago used three modems, a load balancer, two wifi points, a dedicated firewall device, a secondary firewall for a secure network, a router, and a server to control the policies and monitor usage. It was complex enough to need diagrams and many pages of configuration notes to run, and still had multiple points of failure. This Gateway product looks like it will have one box and three cables (power, phone, and lan), and so a huge amount of what I needed a patch panel and a rack space to do. I’m happy to see this in the home market, but can also see a huge potential for small businesses who just want to get online and stay online. Read more of this post

Privacy Amendment Bill for Data Breech Notification has passed.

The Privacy Amendment Bill for Data Breech Notification has passed.

Implements recommendations of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security’s Advisory report on the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 and the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice by amending the Privacy Act 1988 to require agencies, organisations and certain other entities to provide notice to the Australian Information Commissioner and affected individuals of an eligible data breach.

What does it mean? Well practically it means that companies and organisations (including the government) who suffer a breech of information must notify the government, and therefore may as well tell the public too, in a certain time-frame. And that failing to do so suffers penalties. It encourages data security, privacy, literacy for cyber threats, and might also change the ways companies think about technical security and privacy more broadly.

Is it perfect? No. Is it better than hoping it does not happen, or trusting that companies might do the right thing anyway? Hell yes. Huzzah!

Telstra IP4 to IP6 mobile rollout – nice

ITNews has an article on Telstra’s improved capability to supply IPv6 addressing on devices on their mobile network – not revolutionary, but interesting because it demonstrates that they are genuinely seeking to move through to IPv6 and also putting material into the marketplace which is semi-technical and informative in nature. The IP address IPv4-IPv6 crisis was raised decades ago as a potential problem, and as a career techie I watch with interest when these things bubble to the surface in the general media.

As first spotted by CommsDay, the incumbent last month said it would introduce dual-stack IPv4 and IPv6 addresses on the Telstra.WAP and Telstra.Internet access point names from September.

Each device will be allocated a dynamic /64 IPv6 prefix, with access to the next-gen addressing scheme on Telstra’s network requiring further configuration on user devices.

Groovy. I like that. Many many folk bash Telstra, however if they do more network work, and communicate more about what the plans are and when they’re being deployed it will go a long way (for me) to gain faith in their wider capability as a premier telco vendor. Talking more about the technical issues and then extrapolating what that might mean to end users is useful – and for customers this means that the Telstra network will have breadth to meet addressing demand in the future. Internet-of-Things (IoT) is pushed in the hype cycle in universities, private companies, and the media – this means their mobile network should be “IoT Ready” (my words, not theirs though).

Something positive, lets get more of it.

…Disclaimer: these views are my own, of questionable accuracy, may be improved caffeine, may change with time, and are not representative of Telstra (duh), my employer (duh), my family, or anyone else…

Wartime Lorenz crypto machine

As a Crypto fan seeing a pic of the Lorenz is good, knowing its in a museum is even better (article from The Register). Cool.

Receiving the Lorenz machine, TNMOC’s Clark said: “We are enormously grateful to the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum for its generous loan. It completes a truly unique set at TNMOC and helps bring further life to the story that we have always wanted to tell as clearly and dynamically as possible.”

“The arrival of the Lorenz… brings into even sharper focus the astonishing achievements of those wartime code-breakers,” he added in a TNMOC statement.

Go on, geek it up with me. That is a fascinating mechanical beast.
%d bloggers like this: