The IoT should really be IoSI (Internet of Security Issues)

The Internet of Things

So here I am seeing issues, reading about issues and trying to stop issues in the Internet of Things…  Everyday someone seems to be publishing articles on the issues, people are getting more aware (you’d think!) but there seems to be no real movement.

Some of my readers will know what I do for my day job, for those that don’t I wrote the SORBS Anti-spam system.. not quite the most hated, but some who should know better have said they just want me dead, then SORBS dead, then me killed again just to be sure I’m actually dead.  Several years ago I spent Christmas sitting in front of my computers rewriting part of the system, particularly that part that finds “bad stuff” and reports it (eg Open-Relay Servers) and whilst scanning hosts that were actively trying to send spam and/or viruses to me I came across the web page of a fridge.  The page half loaded before it became completely unresponsive and tracing it I found it on an IP address that appeared to be in Rome (Italy)….  When I reported my finding of a ‘Fridge Spamming’ to my boss all hell broke loose, blog articles were written, front pages were held and suddenly the world knew about ‘Fridges Spamming‘.  Shortly there after we got debunked by our main competitor of the time who asserted it wasn’t possible, the article however sparked off massive research and watching of the technology from a security stance.

In July of the same year a bunch of researchers at a University found that the premise of the ‘debunking’ was actually false and that with a specific sequence of commands it was possible to get the fridge concerned into a system ‘admin/debug’ mode that allowed a remote attacker to use the device as a simple proxy server and install other “apps”.  This largely went unnoticed in IoT industry with respect to the original report, I never understood why… perhaps someone can explain that to me? 🙂

3 years later…

One would think we have learned something, we certainly have seen more of these types of attacks, not always for spam but just as a device to get into a network, to provide the door way.  Indeed the attackers have pretty much made an art out of it, using combinations of direct hacks, social engineering to gain access or persuade users to install things and even stealing devices…  The lists and lengths seems endless, especially when you consider who is doing this sort of thing and even who is paying who…   We’ve all heard about Trump and Russia and the controversy, well there are teams of hackers in Russia who’s sole income is to break into systems and steal secrets.  Its not a stretch to imagine that they are not unconnected…  Personally I don’t go into the conspiracy theories but I can tell you there are companies and persons of interest that do pay for services of such teams and not just Russian ones, there are European teams, Chinese teams and American etc..

The result is a lot more tech out there, all with security issues and all trying to keep market share, by innovating or by destroying the competition.

So why are we helping these people along?  Why are we allowing companies to circumvent privacy laws?  Why are they even trying?  Why are there more and more companies dealing with security remediation rather than companies dealing with the actual problem…?

All questions for you the reader (and hopefully some people that can effect change.)

So what is this blog post about? Why did you write it?

Well quite simply I chase down security patches for my services…  You see I still manage SORBS and recently we moved some of the servers around to a new Datacenter and as a consequence I changed a lot of security settings to make the systems more secure.  The fall out of this was I completely re-wired my home office network and the only thing on my network now that is not ‘secured’ (ie may have issues) was my wireless network.

Originally I had an OpenVPN connection for every service over the wireless that was an ‘authorised machine’ and a straight session login for controlling access.  I deliberately set the whole network to ‘Open’ (ie unencrypted) to remind people using it that everything can be watched so if it’s important, use HTTPS (or use the OpenVPN) etc.

I decided to switch the network to WPA2-Enterprise for authorised users, and to use a Juniper NAC to provide a captive portal and control the logins etc…  I didn’t account for the ridiculous cost of the licenses of the Juniper NAC so even though I picked up a brand new IC4500 for less than €70 I couldn’t use it because the most basic license (to allow 25 devices to login) is over €1200 and using the Captive Portal aspect (which is what I actually wanted) it was going to cost over €4500…   I pulled it apart… I found that the IC4500 is just a Dual Core, 1-RU server with a couple of gigs of RAM, an 80G hard drive and 2 Gigabit Ethernet ports… so changing the drive to something larger and a bit of fiddling and I put the OS I have been developing on it (BSD Server UNIX -BSDSUX for short) and now I have a captive portal of my own making…  so last thing was to get the Access Points able to do both Open Security and WPA2-Enterprise at the same time, and when logged in get forced off the open wireless and allowed onto the secure wireless.

So finally to the point…

The Internet of Security Issues

Not so long ago a number of security vulnerabilities were hitting the headlines, and in particular ‘ShellShock’ so running Amped Wireless AP20000G‘s around my home which I happen to know run Linux I was a little concerned.  I had the latest firmware on the devices and this was dated  few years earlier (13 Dec 2012) so I emailed Amped Wireless about the issue and wasn’t actually told anything about the issue except they’d review the bug.  Time went by and more and more issues came up, and still no firmware… the latest one is CVE-2017-6074 which was introduced to the Linux Kernel way back in 2006, in fact the vulnerability description states this:

The oldest version that was checked is 2.6.18 (Sep 2006), which is
vulnerable. However, the bug was introduced before that, probably in the first release with DCCP support (2.6.14, Oct 2005).

Now the clueful of you would know that this is a local privilege escalation issue and when it comes to routers, APs etc you’d actually have to get on the device to exploit it.  The same clueful will know that’s not as difficult as it might sound.

So figuring that I’m never going to get the firmware update I need/want I might as well go about hacking the router myself and building my own firmware that can indeed work with the IC4500 and finally finish securing my network to the level I want.

(and for those fed up with reading… if you haven’t worked it out… it’s 2017, the Access Point is classed as one of the ‘Internet of Things’ it is vulnerable to hacking on multiple fronts and 5 years later and I can’t get an update to the firmware – even though they are still selling these devices in shops!!!! … the gory horror for the techs is coming, so keep reading if you want…)

First things first when going down this path… Research the hardware and see what’s available… the Website ‘WikiDevi‘ is great for this and provides the following details

CPU1: Realtek RTL8198 (620 MHz)
FLA1: 8 MiB (Macronix MX25L6406EM2I-12G)
RAM1: 64 MiB (Hynix H5PS5162GFR-S6C)

WI1 chip1: Realtek RTL8192DR
WI1 802dot11 protocols: an
WI1 MIMO config: 2×2:2
WI1 antenna connector: RP-SMA
WI2 chip1: Realtek RTL8192CE
WI2 802dot11 protocols: bgn
WI2 MIMO config: 2×2:2
WI2 antenna connector: RP-SMA

ETH chip1: Realtek RTL8198
Switch: Realtek RTL8198
LAN speed: 10/100/1000
LAN ports: 4
WAN speed: 10/100/1000
WAN ports: 1

Which also tells me that normal OpenWRT support is not available (they don’t support RealTek devices mostly).. but more looking (and the WikiDevi page now says it) there is RealTek support by some authors.  Looking up the chips I also get information there is JTAG support (which is basically a serial port for debugging) so I got to work with my screwdriver and soldering iron and this was the result…

Which applying power produced the following in a minicom session.

Booting...?
========== SPI =============
SDRAM CLOCK:181MHZ
 ------------------------- Force into Single IO Mode ------------------------ 
|No chipID  Sft chipSize blkSize secSize pageSize sdCk opCk      chipName    |
| 0 c22017h  0h  800000h  10000h   1000h     100h   86   30   MX6405D/05E/45E|
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
Reboot Result from Watchdog Timeout!

---RealTek(RTL8198)at 2012.04.12-16:11+0800 version v1.2 [16bit](620MHz)
no sys signature at 00010000!
no sys signature at 00020000!
no sys signature at 00030000!
no sys signature at 00140000!
no rootfs signature at 000E0000!
no rootfs signature at 000F0000!
no rootfs signature at 00130000!
no rootfs signature at 00240000!
Jump to image start=0x80500000...
decompressing kernel:
Uncompressing Linux... done, booting the kernel.
done decompressing kernel.
start address: 0x80003640
RTL8192C/RTL8188C driver version 1.6 (2011-07-18)



Probing RTL8186 10/100 NIC-kenel stack size order[3]...
chip name: 8196C, chip revid: 0
NOT YET
eth0 added. vid=9 Member port 0x1...
eth1 added. vid=8 Member port 0x10...
eth2 added. vid=9 Member port 0x2...
eth3 added. vid=9 Member port 0x4...
eth4 added. vid=9 Member port 0x8...
[peth0] added, mapping to [eth1]...
init started: BusyBox v1.13.4 (2012-12-13 11:08:29 CST)
Init Start...
Init bridge interface...
killall: smbd: no process killed
killall: nmbd: no process killed
basename(1)
basename(2 /sys/block/sda)
basename(2 /block/sda)
basename(2 /sda)
basename(3 sda)
basename(1)
basename(2 /sys/block/sda)
basename(2 /block/sda)
basename(2 /sda)
basename(3 sda)
basename(1)
basename(2 /sys/block/sda/sda1)
basename(2 /block/sda/sda1)
basename(2 /sda/sda1)
basename(2 /sda1)
basename(3 sda1)
basename(1)
basename(2 /sys/block/sda/sda1)
basename(2 /block/sda/sda1)
basename(2 /sda/sda1)
basename(2 /sda1)
basename(3 sda1)
try_mount(1) sda1, /var/tmp/usb/sda1
CMD: /bin/ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /var/tmp/usb/sda1 -o force

Error opening '/dev/sda1': No such device or address
Failed to mount '/dev/sda1': No such device or address
Either the device is missing or it's powered down, or you have
SoftRAID hardware and must use an activated, different device under
/dev/mapper/, (e.g. /dev/mapper/nvidia_eahaabcc1) to mount NTFS.
Please see the 'dmraid' documentation for help.
Init Wlan application...

WiFi Simple Config v2.3 (2011.11.08-13:04+0000).

Register to wlan0
Register to wlan1
route: SIOCDELRT: No such process
iwcontrol RegisterPID to (wlan0)
iwcontrol RegisterPID to (wlan1)
$$$ eth1 & eth0 up $$$
IEEE 802.11f (IAPP) using interface br0 (v1.7)
#

As one can see straight in at a root prompt (no login – but hey, needs to physically connect to it with a soldering iron…), and we can see it’s running BusyBox (which means it’s running ash not bash so not vulnerable to Shellshock – nice of the company to tell me!??!?!)…  But confirmed….

# x='() { :;}; echo VULNERABLE' ash -c : 
#

So what about the latest bug that goes back to 2006… well…

# cat /proc/version   
Linux version 2.6.30.9 (kevinlin@localhost.localdomain) (gcc version 3.4.6-1.3.6) #603 Thu Dec 13 15:14:20 CST 2012

That would be a yes then…  In fact we can see that this OS was made with the old version of the RealTek SDK

# cat /etc/version
RTL8198 v1.0 --  Thu Dec 13 15:13:43 CST 2012
The SDK version is: Realtek SDK v2.5-r7984
Ethernet driver version is: 7953-7929
Wireless driver version is: 7977-7977
Fastpath source version is: 7873-6572
Feature support version is: 7927-7480

So my next trick is to work out which GPIO pins I need to manipulate to get the power output control of the Skyworks (SiGe) SE5004L / 5004L power amplifiers under my control but that’s digressing from the topic of this post.  Poking around looking for the details and I found something else rather interesting…

# ps -ax
  PID USER       VSZ STAT COMMAND
    1 root      1576 S    init      
    2 root         0 SW<  [kthreadd]
    3 root         0 SW<  [ksoftirqd/0]
    4 root         0 SW<  [events/0]
    5 root         0 SW<  [khelper]
    8 root         0 SW<  [async/mgr]
   61 root         0 SW<  [kblockd/0]
   71 root         0 SW<  [khubd]
   88 root         0 SW   [pdflush]
   89 root         0 SW<  [kswapd0]
  649 root         0 SW<  [mtdblockd]
  870 root     13760 S    /bin/smbd -D -s /var/smb.conf 
  878 root     13808 S    /bin/smbd -D -s /var/smb.conf 
  882 root      6508 S    /bin/nmbd -D -s /var/smb.conf 
  902 root       960 S    iapp br0 wlan0 wlan1 
  913 root      1260 S    wscd -start -c /var/wsc-wlan1.conf -w wlan1 -fi /var/
  917 root       984 S    iwcontrol wlan0 wlan1 
  942 root      1008 S    dnrd --cache=off -s 168.95.1.1 
  951 root       956 S    reload -k /var/wlsch.conf 
  984 root      2168 S    webs 
  985 root      1584 S    -/bin/sh 
 1021 root      1576 R    ps -ax 
#

.. That little thing that says, “dnrd –cache=off -s 168.95.1.1” .. What this program is is a DNS relay server ie something to help you resolve addresses from the names we know and are used to like “www.microsoft.com” into the quad octet that the computers can deal with called an ‘IP Address’.  Now the reason I’m pointing it out is that 168.95.1.1 is not something I have configured and it is not something on my network, so it tweaked my curiosity.  Turns out it belongs to a Taiwanese company “Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd”

$ host 168.95.1.1
1.1.95.168.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer dns.hinet.net.
$ whois hinet.net

.
.
.

   Server Name: HINET.NET.TW
   Registrar: MELBOURNE IT, LTD. D/B/A INTERNET NAMES WORLDWIDE
   Whois Server: whois.melbourneit.com
   Referral URL: http://www.melbourneit.com.au


   Domain Name: HINET.NET
   Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
   Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 2
   Whois Server: whois.networksolutions.com
   Referral URL: http://networksolutions.com
   Name Server: ANS1.HINET.NET
   Name Server: ANS2.HINET.NET
   Status: ok https://icann.org/epp#ok
   Updated Date: 02-feb-2017
   Creation Date: 19-mar-1994
   Expiration Date: 20-mar-2018

.
.
.

Domain Name: HINET.NET
Registry Domain ID: 2854475_DOMAIN_NET-VRSN
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.networksolutions.com
Registrar URL: http://networksolutions.com
Updated Date: 2017-03-05T15:11:26Z
Creation Date: 1994-03-19T05:00:00Z
Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2018-03-20T04:00:00Z
Registrar: NETWORK SOLUTIONS, LLC.
Registrar IANA ID: 2
Registrar Abuse Contact Email: abuse@web.com
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.8003337680
Reseller: 
Domain Status: ok https://icann.org/epp#ok
Registry Registrant ID: 
Registrant Name: Internet Dept., DCBG, Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd.
Registrant Organization: Internet Dept., DCBG, Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd.
Registrant Street: Data-Bldg, No. 21 Sec.1, Hsin-Yi Rd.
Registrant City: Taipei
Registrant State/Province: Taiwan
Registrant Postal Code: 100
Registrant Country: TW
Registrant Phone: +886.223444720
Registrant Phone Ext: 
Registrant Fax: +886.223960399
Registrant Fax Ext: 
Registrant Email: vnsadm@hinet.net
Registry Admin ID: 
Admin Name: Internet Dept., DCBG, Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd.
Admin Organization: Internet Dept., DCBG, Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd.
Admin Street: Data-Bldg, No. 21 Sec.1, Hsin-Yi Rd.
Admin City: Taipei
Admin State/Province: Taiwan
Admin Postal Code: 100
Admin Country: TW
Admin Phone: +886.223444720
Admin Phone Ext: 
Admin Fax: +886.223960399
Admin Fax Ext: 
Admin Email: vnsadm@hinet.net

So the not only is this Access Point vulnerable to hacking it’s also sending details of every site I’m going to back to a server in Taiwan…  Well not quite, because unlike most home users I am using my own DNS servers and have specifically blocked the access points from talking to the Internet… I am not your average home user though.  That leads me to the following conclusion that some will find scary…

The Conclusion…

The biggest current threat to our networks, our privacy, and our electronic identities (including funds) is the threat of the Internet of Things that have not been patched. 

This threat is massive as the clueful people out there often can’t patch because the companies selling the devices are not providing security fixes because their profit is about getting new devices out there, not fixing old devices. 

It’s even bigger because most of the world are not techs, they don’t even know how to update the firmware or where it would even be available if they did. 

…Yet we’re all connecting up to the Internet, we’re all buying these boxes from household temperature controls available on your phone to Smart TVs and Fridges… even ‘Smart Bulbs‘!

All of which have the ability to run code, all of which have potential security issues, and all of which can provide the unethical people out there, ‘doorways into you home’.

 

Social Engineering on Social Networking…

Its been a long while since I’ve posted anything, but in todays news how many of you out there are on Facebook and how many of you like to respond to these little gems:

“Red mushroom burger”

Or perhaps statuses that ask you to cut/paste in your answers:

Thursday Night fun… Six names.

Real Name: Michelle Sullivan

Soap opera name (middle name and street you live on): Isabelle Hemel

Star Wars name (first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of middle, and last 2 of first): Sulisle

Superhero name (colour of shirt and item to your right): Grey mouse

Goth name (Black and pet name): Black Melody Pond

Rapper name (Lil and last thing you ate): Lil mushroom burger

Copy, paste and change if you wish to play too!

 

Both of these two things together often give enough information to people like me to enable me to steal from you, like stealing your Facebook account or your Hotmail account, or perhaps your iCloud account which then gives me access to your phone, location and photos… Maybe even your bank accounts….

Consider how many sites you visit and put in a load of details to ‘sign up’ and how many of those sites ask for additional security questions incase you forgot your password, then consider how much information you put in your Social Networking accounts that others can view…

One of the favourite questions always used to be ‘What is your mothers maiden name?’, and still is for many banks.  Here’s the problem in a nutshell: many people now have Facebook accounts and the parents of those people usually have Facebook accounts as well and how many of you have seen friends’ parents with names on Facebook such as, “Mary Johnson (nee Knowles)”.  Then how many look at the profile under the ‘About’ and see, “Sister, Dad, Mum” entries… because by default this information is viewable by fiends of friends….

Now taking all that in above along with friends posting “Happy Birthday, 40 today, can’t believe how old we all are now, congrats mate” etc (‘today’ being 24/2/2017) and that the ‘picture questions’ when shared from a page the answers are shared with the people on the page… consider what most people can see about you.  In the example I have written/posted above lets recap:

  • Real Name: Michelle Isabelle Sullivan
  • Date of birth: 24 Feb 1977
  • Favourite Colour: Red
  • My Address: Triq il-Hemel, Swieqi, Malta
  • My pets name: Melody Pond
  • What sort of pet: Cat
  • Mother’s Maiden name: Knowles
  • Brother’s Name: Stephen

Sound familiar?  What a bank might ask you on the phone for ‘confirming your identity’ by any chance?

How did I get all this you might ask… because not all is that obvious, well

“Name” is an easy one, but hey, need to know the full name, so my “Soap Opera name” gave me two details “Isabelle Hemel”, one of which was middle name.  That was verified because we also asked, the “Starwars Name” which use initials from each part of our name.

“Date of Birth”, easy but you might have missed it, I said I got wished a “Happy 40th Birthday” today (and probably got several hundred best wishes) all of which are posted with the permissions of the poster, *NOT* what permissions you have on your ‘Timeline’.  So being that I said “today” is 24th Feb 2017 and I’m getting “Happy 40” wishes that makes my Date of Birth 24 Feb 1977.

“My Favourite colour”, trivial, what was my “wand’s magic name” again? Oh that’s right, “Red mushroom burger“.

Social Engineering tip: ask other irrelevant details with the detail you want, people don’t spot they are giving something away that they might otherwise not, how many of you would answer truthfully if a stranger came up to you in the street and asked you, “What’s your favourite colour, and how old are you?”

“My Address” little more tricky this one, I’m sure you got the first one, my ‘Soap Opera name’ is “Isabelle Hemel but how did I get to “Triq il-Hemel, Swieqi, Malta”..?  Simple take a look at your timeline and look for the location information on most posts, on mine it says, “Swieqi” on a vast number of posts, if you look at Google maps and search for “Hemel Swieqi” that will give you the rest of the address (and even the postal code in many cases.)

How many of you have seen the “What’s your pet’s name?” as a ‘security question’ … well guess what… My “Goth Name” was “Black Melody Pond” and that just gave it to you!  How did I get to the pet being a “cat” though?  Well just go look at my photos, especially for ones with pets in them and you find I own a cat, and it takes very little to tie “Melody” to “a Cat“.

Mother’s Maiden name and Brother’s Name – well I told you that already, it’s on the “About” page of Facebook, not to mention that many people have mums that interact with them on Facebook and usually by sharing posts.  For example, how many of you have photos of you and your mum?  How many of those photos did you “tag” your mum in?

You might be asking, “But what about the ‘Rapper Name’ where does that fit in?” .. well remember what I said about, “ask other irrelevant details”.  It is bogus information, but it makes you feel better about giving me details you wouldn’t normally share…

Some of these details Facebook encourage setting better permissions on, but even with these ‘security checkups’ often the details are already leaked or are available to ‘Friends of Friends’… A study a while ago found most people in the world are 7 people away. What that means is if you go down 5 levels of ‘Friends of Friends’ (ie “Friends of Friends of Friends of Friends of Friends of Friends”) you will be linked to most people in the world

2015 Now that’s done, what happened and where to now?

So at the beginning of last year I made some resolutions… well not so much resolutions but goals (New Year’s resolutions tend to last only a few hours-days so I don’t do that…)

The …umm.. goals:

  • To cut down on Facebook usage.
    • Wish a ‘Happy Birthday’ personally not using Facebook.
    • Not to sit reading ‘Newfeeds’.
    • Not to post when I’m going to the toilet, or blowing my nose.
  • To cut down on helping others before looking after myself.
    • In past years I have run myself to the point of getting sick taking photos, helping people out, etc.
    • This year only doing stuff for people that look after me and are concerned with my health.
    • To allow people to join me in my life (share my life) rather than follow everyone else in theirs.
  • To treat everyone with the respect and attitude that they treat me (for better or for worse.)
  • To cut down the amount of time that I work (for my employer) to something closer to resembling the actual times/hours I am supposed to work (using the hours to look after my family and friends.)

So how did it all go?  Well a mix of both success and failure, the easier ones were a complete success, the more difficult and controversial not so much. ie Facebook a no brainer, some took offence, some didn’t realise, some followed suit.  Some people treated me with complete disrespect and bad (awful) attitude, but I couldn’t bring myself to return the feelings no matter how much I wanted to.

2015 In Review…

Michelle Proposes to Gabie
The proposal…

The beginning of the year began with a proposal just a few seconds into the new year…  I tried to make it the stroke of midnight but this in reality was never going to happen, so it happened with the first minute of the new year.  This I think is how everyone should start a new year…  Not a proposal of marriage, but to start it with a happy note: Start in the way which you intend on going on.

I find in my life that no matter how hard you will try to keep everything on a positive note, there will always be those who try and spoil things, there will always be a negative, 2015 was no different.  Within a few weeks we (Gabie and I) lost a bunch of friends.  Some closer than others.  Some didn’t like the fact we were getting married.  Some didn’t like to see us happy. Some people just have to ensure everyone else is as miserable as they are in their lives.  Some people are just unfathomable and are just better left to wallow in their own self pity.  The result was after a great deal of stress and angst Gabie changed jobs to avoid someone who was poisonous in our lives, not to forget she hated the job.

After that little upset was dealt with, Gabie set her heart, with my full support, on pursuing an ambition of hers… To teach again.  For this she needed a TELT (Test for English Language Teachers) course to begin the process and in February she took the course, she thoroughly enjoyed it, at least until the exam and the early start preceded by an anxious and therefore sleepless night.  We found later, as I expected, she had passed it.  We booked the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course so that she may continue with the dream.

Michael, his lovely wife Anna, and the two beautiful children with us in their garden at Easter.
The family… Michael’s.

Easter was the next point in the year when things happened and fortunately it was also good.  We headed to the UK to visit my family, first my mother in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, then later my brother and his family in Mirfield, Leeds.  My sister came for Easter Sunday dinner with Mum so Gabie got to meet her then.

The Easter trip was a really good one as we found a great hotel, the Holiday Inn, Leeds-Brighouse… definitely on the list of places to stay!  (In fact we went back there at Christmas 2015 – more on that later.)

Next event was Gabie’s course, the May 2015 TEFL course and the resulting certificate (for those successful.)  A potentially stressful time, but  with the exception of Wedding plans I had managed to remove as many as possible sources of stress for Gabie, and this paid off as she also aced the course and got her certificate.

Attacked by a bouncer..

You’ll note at this point I haven’t mentioned a lot about me or what I have done, well that’s because there is not a lot to tell.  After a number of court events the case against the bouncers that had attacked me  was dropped because I couldn’t identify him as the attacker (when you’re attacked from behind and kicked in the back of the head it’s a tad difficult to identify the attacker) and it was obvious that he had friends as none of the witnesses – even the police witness – stepped up to identify him and the CCTV footage was mysteriously absent… apparently for the hour when the attack happened… apparently the system malfunctioned… as is often observed when its the staff being prosecuted.

On the work side of things I was not following my goal and was doing many many hours fighting to get things working correctly at the OS level, leaving me to blog a warning about FreeBSD particularly for production use…

So towards the end of May we had good news and bad news in the papers, first was Ireland who became the first country to approve same sex marriage by popular vote.  The local papers reported on the problems in Swieqi started happening again, this time not only vandalism but also thieves… and again it was my CCTV video that resulted in the capture…  Much to the annoyance of some people, but the residents were very happy which is all that matters.

July would mark one of my few photographic events of the year where I covered XMA 2015, it also marked the ‘full steam ahead’ on the wedding plans.  It also made for a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to visit the good people from ‘Your GP‘ who wrote medical reports that resulted (eventually) in me obtaining my GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) which also gave me my new Birth Certificate…. all of which was a pre-requisit to getting approved for marriage in Malta.

August went with a blur, and was marred by an insult or two.  Won’t go into the details of who here, but suffice it to say, if you’re invited to someone’s Wedding it is polite to either attend or at least say that you can’t.  Similarly if you’re invited to a stag or hen night and you don’t want to deliver one of the biggest insults in Malta, you tell people you can’t make it, you don’t just not show up.  Lastly for the wedding you don’t tell people you never received the invite “a week before and it was too late” if you’re going to show it to other people who might actually tell the happy couple two-three weeks before!!!  Weddings in Malta are a personal thing and the bride side of the event is very very personal.

So September and the wedding itself, well what more is there to say…?

The vows captured by The Malta Independent.
The vows captured by the photographer from The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Well quite a lot, but not for this post.  Things didn’t go according to our desire, but according to the wedding planners design, despite our being quite specific.  The important thing though was we got married, and most of those people important to us were there to witness it.

Our honeymoon took us to Iceland, mainly chosen as a location as its spectacular and very difficult/expensive to get to if you live in Australia.

Panoramic View of Iceland on the way back to the Airport
Panoramic View of Iceland on the way back to the Airport

Iceland was rather different and brought some disappointments, it was very expensive for a lot less… especially considering it is ‘part of Europe’ .. the year before I spent less money on our holiday for more days in the Seychelles than our fleeting visit to Iceland where we seemed to spend all the time driving from place to place.  What topped off the whole experience was getting back to Malta and having Europcar Iceland try and accuse us of putting a massive dent in the roof of the car and try to charge us an addition €3500 to have it repaired….!  Worst part of the whole ordeal is that we had already read about various rental companies trying this on in Iceland, so we went with Europcar because we figured “Big well known name, will be reputable” … how wrong we were.  Result was we informed the bank they had no permission to make such a withdrawal and told them to take us to court.  They no doubt figured with me having photos of the vehicle before and after they would end up with a fraud charge in court and I haven’t heard from them since.  My advice in all such cases, always get evidence, and always stand your ground.  In most countries if you are innocent you can claim all costs associated with a lawsuit (legal fees, flights, hotels etc)…

So skipping to Christmas 2015, for the first time in many years, I did not put up the Christmas decorations, we knew we were going away and the house was a bit of a mess with everything that has been going on renovations wise so figured ‘why bother’.  That said, lights went up on the outside of the house, though in a diminished set.

So at the end of 2015, despite haven attended court several times against both defendants, “Sean Borg” and “Xelinu” nothing has progressed, every time the case has been adjourned, quite literally. So I am no further forward in reclaiming either my truck or bike, though I have a new lawyer on the team.  For those who have forgotten what this is about… A previous blog entry…

The ARMS saga is still going on, they finally just 3-4 weeks before our wedding decided they want to talk to me about the rates.  They had to wait until I got back from honeymoon as I was way too busy to deal, and they agreed I should be on commercial rate but insisted only from the point of the March 2012 telephone call… some 18 months (and €15,000 later.)  They have told me that if I supply paperwork on older forms than I have currently found then they will reconsider… I have so far found 8 forms of various different revisions (though plenty from 2011 and 2013) .. and have 3 more boxes of paperwork to review.  The problem being there, is that there is half a tonne of concrete slabs in front of the boxes which was supposed to have been removed already.. didn’t stop them threatening to cut the power over Christmas, or adding nearly €300 in ‘other charges’ which in the fine print was for ‘legal services’… next thing for me is to charge them for the legal services relating to the fact they *still* are billing me on the incorrect rate and charging me interest on the invalid bill, and without a credit contract or credit control…. and they have the audacity to threaten me when they are illegally charging fees against an account they have failed to bill.  (Note: a judge confirmed my case as stated in December 2013, they are trying to negotiate a change to that judgement.)

Anyhow so there you go 2015 in a nutshell, the only thing I haven’t covered is I’ve changed from doing 70(ish) hours per week for my employer to more like 45 hours per week this has had a *massive* difference… nothing new has been developed by me, my paperwork has been done when other things have gone the wayside, and visa versa.  Finally with all the failures of the network most of the time I have had has been wasted trying to fix other peoples’ problems just so I can actually do my job.  Good job the service I am responsible for is in my control and not the control of others or the entire service would be long dead and gone by now.

Here’s hoping 2016 will bring more success.

Musings on Copyright theft… well Torrenting and other things…

So here I am in Malta, where the local channels on TV are mostly in Maltese, all two of them (unless you want to include the political ones)… The DVDs and Blu-Ray available are a small selection of what is out there (and none of what I want)… So what’s a girl to do..?

Well 4 years ago I got a Dreambox and pointed the dish at Astra (28.2E)… and got British TV… well until they put Astra 2d up then I had to move to Sky channels (also British) but upon trying to get a Sky card to legitimately pay for what I was watching I was refused… point blank… so I upgraded to a motorised unit and a 1.2m dish and had a look at Europe….. Oh the channels it opened up.. I continued….

Fast forward to Sept 29, 2013 and Astra 2e was launched, and predictably in early 2014 channels started getting migrated to the new satellite… Of course I still can’t buy a card without a UK address (as if I would want to live there with the current political climate!)… So I did the next best thing… Meet “Colossus” my 48T storage server… I started torrenting…..

Not something I wanted to do, but it fit the bill, I was able to watch my favourite TV programs in English, when and where I want… I still watched FTA British TV with the 2.4m dish “upgrade” I treated myself to along with a number of Sky channels including the movie channels using card-sharing…. something I don’t actually want to do, but it is the only option.

Fast forward to March 2015, Astra 2e is put into full service and movie channels and most of the FTA channels are now on the Northern footprint and “sex hotlines” seem to be the order of the day for the European footprint, so now I am virtually completely reliant on Torrents for all my TV and Movies… Guess I finally succumbed to the dark side (well is it really “Dark”? given that I wanted to pay, and I was denied, then after I found a solution, that has been denied now, I went to the “Dark Side” and joined the P2P cloud and now with my 100M Ethernet to the ‘Net’ I share and share alike to see the programs I’m happy to pay for….n Is that really “Dark”…?)

So what’s this post about, well some (DMCA/MPAA idiots) will consider it a confession of a criminal….? Really is it though?

I want a service, I was denied that service, so I found the next best thing, and because it is a “soft” target “illegal” service it was also denied to me by technical means (I’m not going to put a 4.3m dish on the roof!).. so I went to do what everyone else does (you know what they say, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” not because I want to but because it’s my only option… and guess what… it’s better than the “Sky” service I was willing to pay some £70+ per month for!

Now when I want something, I just download it, because it’s a hell of a lot less hassle than flying to the UK to go watch it.

So my message:

Take note DMCA/MPAA/Sky and other providers, if you want to stop the pirates stop making more of them by blocking those who would pay for the service!

Oh and Foxtel, take note: Limiting Grimm and the likes to those who get “Full Subscription” is doing the same thing, people will download it because they *can’t afford* to pay you for your top subscription (and in reality if they only want one particular program, why the f**k would they pay for it?)

Give the people what they want for a reasonable price and pirating will go away… Screw every last $0.01 in profit and people will find alternatives they can afford.

(even Microsoft worked out they couldn’t stop the pirates and in the end it was causing them more trouble than the lost revenue through reputation issues!)

Comments welcome!