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Google's new Pixelbook ad is a hard jab at Windows

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Windows is the most popular operating system in the world and Google will naturally target it, in an attempt to win new customers for its upmarket Pixelbook offering.

Statistic: Global market share held by operating systems for desktop PCs, from January 2013 to January 2019 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

January 2019, according to Statistica:

  • Windows market share 75.47%

  • MacOS market share 12.33%

  • Linux market share 1.61%

  • ChromeOS market share 1.17%

Google released a one-minute promo video entitles “If you want a laptop you can count on. You Chromebook. “ .

Truth be told the latest version of Windows 10 has been incredibly stable but this ad will be fun to watch for any Windows user annoyed with constant forced patches, badly designed progress bars and the infamous Blue Screen of Death.

This is an exaggeration of issues users experience but does highlight the main reason why many security professionals have moved to Chromebooks. Patching is almost seamless, the device is normally very stable (except v 72.x has introduced some bugs Google does need to fix) and security is on by default.

Current belief is that on a Chromebook, you have no regular maintenance, no need for an antivirus, no big bang updates that take 30-45 minutes to complete, etc.

Let’s just say Google got even with Microsoft for running the Scrooggled campaign years ago.

Google One finally available to all US customers

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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I first wrote about Google One in May 2018, when it was still shrouded in secrecy.  The new storage program with improved storage capacities was an invitation-only program until today (for US residents anyway).

Per the original (Google Drive) model, storage is shared across all of the Google properties you use (GMAIL, Photos stored in full resolution, Drive, etc.)

  • 100 GB for $1.99
  • 200 GB for $2.99 (New)
  • 2 TB for $9.99 (2TB for the price of 1TB on the old plan)
  • 10 TB for $99.99
  • 20 TB for $199.99
  • 30 TB for $299.99
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If you use the Google Family sharing program (not available to Google Apps accounts, unfortunately), you can share your Google One storage with up to 5 family members. In addition to storage, Google is offering Google Play credit to Google One subscribers and promises to add even more benefits (24x7 support is now also included).

Many still see the Google One page as invitation only but expect this to change shortly. Rolling this new program out to its millions of customers is likely being undertaken in stages.

As a Canadian, I anxiously await any indication about when it will open for us.

US bans use of Huawei technology through Defense Authorization Act

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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US President Donald Trump has signed the Defense Authorization Act into law. Section 889 ( PROHIBITION ON CERTAIN TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND VIDEO SURVEILLANCE SERVICES OR EQUIPMENT) bans use by government agencies and contractors of Huawei or ZTE technologies. 

The language of the act is ambiguous and doesn't clearly list what technology is or isn't covered by the prohibition. 

procure or obtain or extend or renew a contract to procure or obtain any equipment, system, or service that uses covered telecommunications equipment or services as a substantial or essential component of any system, or as critical technology as part of any system

ZTE and Huawei should not be used to access government systems that display personal data, therefore it is safe to assume that most agencies and contractors will purge their networks of systems designed or that use these technologies.

I have not yet seen an official response from either of the tech complanies.

Stay tuned. 

OPSEC : What should I include in my bug-out bag

GeneralEdward Kiledjian1 Comment
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Search Google for "Bug-out bag," and you will get 137M results. YouTube has a 144K videos discussing it. A Bug-out bag (also called Go Bag, BOB, 72-hour kit, grab bag, a battle box, personal emergency relocation kit) is a small personal maintenance kit that would allow you to survive 72-hours when faced with an emergency. 

Most emergency agencies reconnect you prepare some kind of emergency kit. Emergency Preparedness Canada has a website dedicated to building basic bug-out kits. The US Department of Homeland security offers similar suggestions on their website

Without going overboard, the purpose of this article is to provide general guidelines for the average Joe interested in being better prepared (not for a survivalist or extreme prepper).

Where should I keep it?

Location, location, location... You Bug-out bag is useless if you cannot quickly grab it during an emergency and quickly leave the risk region. 

Your bug-out bag should be kept close to the main exit for your dwelling so you can grab it and go. 

An operational security expert will typically run several scenarios to evaluate possible calamities and what the best exits would be (it isn't always your front door). Spent some time thinking about this and place your bug-out bag close to the exit you are most likely to use (garage, front door, back door, bedroom windows, etc).

Basic bug-out bag items

In security, you can spend a little or a lot, it really depends on your level of paranoia. Most people don't need a 200lb bug-out bag that contains $500 of survival items. So here are the basic everyone should have in their kit:

Documents

  1. National identification documents (originals or copies). These can include drivers licenses, passports, medical identification cards, etc
  2. Keep a couple hundred dollars of cash money in different denominations (assume the electronic payment networks may be unavailable)
  3. A printed list of emergency contacts (local hospitals, police stations, family members, friends, etc) 

Personal Items

  1. A basic $20 first aid kit (from the pharmacy or Costco)
  2. A couple of litres of drinking water in sealed containers
  3. High calorie easy to eat snacks (that do not require preparation)
  4. Head covering (in case you have to walk in the sun, rain or snow), I keep a buff multiuse scarf
  5. Bug repellent
  6. Sunblock
  7. Prescription medication, glasses and contact lenses

Communication Gear

  1. A mobile phone (if possible an extra pre-paid SIM on a different network)
  2. Hand crank powered emergency radio 
  3. Small notebook, pen and pencil
  4. Printed local maps (street and topographic)
  5. A large (at least 20,000 mAh) external battery to charge your electronic gear. My battery of choice right now is the OmniChage Pro

General Gear

  1. A multipurpose knife (my choice is the Victorinox SwissChamp)
  2. Flashlight (ideally something that can be charged with your external battery via USB).
  3. "Normal" candle and weather resistant matches
  4. 550-lb paracord
  5. Handheld mirror
  6. Phrasebook if travelling abroad

The Pack

Talking about Bug-out bags is like discussing religion. Everyone has strong opinions about that the "best" bag is. My recommendation is to choose a backpack (since these balance the weight better and are easier to carry over long distances). 

My only recommendation is to choose something that is as light as possible while being resistant.

How to fix issues at hotels, airports and other public WIFI hotspots

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

A captive portal is the intercept page you see when trying to log into most free public WIFI hotspots (e.g. airport, restaurant, hotel, etc.) You are normally shown a page that collects your email and then asks you to agree to the provider's terms of conditions. 

As browsers adopt more secure protocols by defaults (iPhone, Android, Windows, Mac, iPad, etc.) there are situations when your device may not trigger the portal webpage correctly. The browser may block redirection to the portal page because it is typically transmitted using unsecured HTTP. 

In some cases, devices will attempt to detect and open an unencrypted webpage to allow the public WIFI router to inject a redirect URL. WirelessPhreak has a good technical article that discusses why new more secure tech is causing this issue. 

Each smartphone manufacturer uses a different non-SSL webpage to detect a captive portal:

  • Google Android: http://connectivitycheck.gstatic.com/generate_204
  • Apple iPhone & iPad: http://captive.apple.com/hotspot-detect.html

What do you do if that automated portal detection doesn't work? How to you trigger the captive portal?

Enter the webpage Never SSL. If you are connected to a public WIFI (that should work) but are not seeing the captive portal, open your browser of choice and navigate to http://neverssl.com/
 

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This will fix your issue and you should be bathed in warm loving WIFI Internet.