Friday, August 10, 2007

BSD is dying, security shot to hell, clamav wins and other tales of depravity and greed

It's been an interesting week, in several ways.

Yesterday's big item was the slashdotted report that BSD is dying, or rather, that some important security related software in among others OpenBSD may, according to a paper by University of Cambridge researcher (and FreeBSD core member) Robert Watson, be vulnerable to a previously unresearched class of vulnerabilities. This time we're talking about a really hard problem which I think hits a lot more than the ones they picked for the tests. Local privilege escalation only, so not the third remote hole in OpenBSD after all. The paper is well worth reading, and if you're a little short of time, the slides will give you the general drift and then some. The sky didn't fall this time either.

Actually totally unrelated, Jason Dixon's BSD is dying talk (see above) is worth a few chuckles. He gave it at BSDCan 2007 too.

Meanwhile, reports say that over at LinuxWorld in San Francisco, they put a ten popular antivirus packages through the paces, and according to this story the free (as in GPL) ClamAV came out on top. Nice to see that the free stuff (which we've been using for years here) is found by independent testing to be as good as we thought it was.

Continuing the "the free stuff is quite good" thread, when I found that I actually needed a Windows machine to do some work from home, I tried getting that Windows laptop to talk to my wireless network at home. Windows didn't recognize the integrated 11b wireless adapter at all, so I dug out the Atheros based DWL-AG650 I'd used with the machine and various BSDs.

No go. Windows did register a new PCCARD inserted, but did not have a usable driver available. The Control Panel showed a generous helping of question marks, with two 'Ethernet Class' devices among them, so it's quite possible that the integrated 11b unit was the other one.

I'm not one who gives up easily, so I went to the D-Link web site for a driver. They did not actually have one on tap (or at least not easily available), since the card is no longer in production, so via the well known search engine starting with G I found something that claimed to be the correct Windows driver. Which installed, but even after a reboot the card management software (why oh why a separate management app for each bit of hardware in your system?) still claimed that no compatible card was present.

A short string of unprintables and 22 minutes later, I had the machine working the-thing-that-needed-windows via Rdesktop on Ubuntu, remote controlling a machine at the office. The moral of the story: If you need Windows, you're better off with Linux and Rdesktop.

Certainly worth a read is the short paper by Sun's Jon Bosak on why Sun voted not to OOXML, at
Well researched and well written, and contains such nuggets as
"On the face of it, this astonishing provision would appear to indicate that the authors of the DIS did not understand the purpose of XML,"

"In practice, the effect of radical underspecification is to allow behavioral details to be determined on an ad hoc basis by the dominant software."

This somehow fails to surprise me, it's the story of RTF all over again. I'be been meaning to write about Microsoft vs standards, but in the meantime Jon's paper is well worth reading.

Back to the inevitable spam update (yes, elzapp, I do sometimes blog about something besides spam), the local traplist keeps growing. I sometimes wonder if they've actually looked at what we do here - this morning's batch of fake From: addresses had among them.

And accenting one of the points I made in the malware paper that we are making the spammers work ever harder to generally fail to deliver their crap, Bob Beck's traplist keeps growing and has now hit a new all-time high of 125,808 entries.

That number could grow a bit more before they're all done. I do pity those who get billed by unit of data transferred who still don't have a sensible setup in place.

And yes, the book is progressing.

UPDATE 2007-08-14: After a relatively quiet weekend spamwise (Bob Beck's list in the 65,000 to 85,000 range), activity seems to have reached another peak with a total of 141,892 entries trapped at 08:00 CEST this morning. I would have expected to see a corresponding surge in the number of new bogus addresses seen in our greylist, but they did not turn up. We can always hope that this is due to saner spam handling at sites which used to bounce spam back to the From: address.

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