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The dark web is nothing fancy: It’s just a different set of protocols – like Tor

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Dark web criminals are selling tools to help target your firm’s data
Dark web listings of malware aimed at companies are on the rise.

Commonly when surfing the web, Transport Layer Security (TLS) is the cryptographic protocol that provides confidentiality for your communication with the server. The green lock on your URL bar is an assurance, but not a guarantee, that you’re communicating confidentially with the entity you think you are. While TLS is designed to provide confidentiality and identity, dark web protocols are designed to provide confidentiality and anonymity. There are many of these dark net protocols, but Tor is by far the most common, likely because of its use of exit nodes to allow a user to obtain anonymity on the public internet by routing traffic across the Tor network. 

On Anonymous Networks, Reputation Is Everything 

The quality of your collection strategy dictates how confident you can be in your analysis. Garbage in, garbage out. This is an often-ignored part of dark web marketing. Anonymous networks help segment your actual identity from the persona (or avatar) you develop on these dark nets. Because of this, the reputation of your developed persona is the only currency you truly have. Also remember that there’s no guarantee the person behind the persona you are interacting with isn’t a criminal, a threat intel company, or possibly even law enforcement! The story of the Besa Mafia is a great example of criminals scamming criminals, getting hacked themselves, and then law enforcement arresting people who were trying to hire these fake hitmen. It’s also not uncommon when law enforcement takes control of a hidden site only for them to continue hosting it in hopes of deanonymizing the users of the site. Basically, trust nothing. 

I Registered For Access, And All I Got Was This Low-Confidence Assessment 

Developing personas to obtain and, more importantly, maintain access is time-consuming and most of the work involved with good tradecraft on the dark web. Be wary that some “dark web intelligence” offerings skip the hard part and are just using technical collection to scrape information from essentially public markets and forums. To say this is a commodity capability would be a major understatement, as the ability to automate the scraping of websites is as old as the internet, and as we’ve established, dark networks really just reflect a difference in protocol selection. The use of the iceberg metaphor is a clever bit of psychological warfare . . . ahem, marketing . . . to remind you that they have access to all this stuff under the surface that you don’t. As someone who evaluates these vendors, many of them don’t either. 

Any Company Selling You On “Dark Web Intelligence” Is Only Talking About Its Collection Strategy . . . And There’s Big Problems With That 

After collection, the next challenge would be processing and exploitation. Processing is frequently discussed as stripping out things like HTML tags from the raw data that’s been collected. If you think that is a big deal, I have a regular expression (regex) to sell you. Where things get interesting is trying to exploit this data to get something useful on an analyst’s desk. Here’s a few examples: 

  • Very few, if any, public sector vendors have swaths of analysts translating everything on the dark web on a daily basis from languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin. How is this being done at the same scale as collection? 

  • How does your translation software handle slang? Without specific knowledge of a particular group, you would have no idea they are using the code name “Iowa” when describing a target in Iran. Keep this in mind if someone mentions they are going to Iowa next month; it might be a lot more exciting than it sounds. 

  • Then there’s something I call “the Target problem.” Target is a retail chain with stores in the United States, Canada, and India — many of you may be familiar with the brand. Now, imagine the data problem created in attempting to parse out relevant chatter about the Target brand from the rest of the noise on the internet. Incidentally, the string “target” appears five times in this blog post and only three times in the context of the retailer. 

A vendor cannot have an appreciation of these problems and not talk about their solution to them. If they are just trying to sell you on their ability to collect data from the dark web and then show you their platform, you don’t need to see the platform. 

Finally, There’s Some Really Bad Stuff On Dark Nets, But They Also Are A Critical Resource For The Oppressed 

I’m going to wrap this blog with a bit of a personal appeal. Anonymous networks are critical to journalists, whistleblowers, survivors of domestic abuse, people with sensitive medical conditions, the politically oppressed, and more. Please consider supporting projects such as the Tor Project or Tails — and if you’re in a decision-making position at an organization where people might assemble or seek to obtain information, please ensure that your site is usable when coming from a Tor exit node with JavaScript turned off. Unlike so much that we do in the cyberdomain, this can actually save lives. 

Must read: Revolutionize your security strategy by applying Zero Trust to your business.        

This blog was written by Senior Analyst Josh Zelonis and originally appeared here. 

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Nissan gives its new Note e-POWER a smart hybrid upgrade

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Nissan has revealed its newest electrified model, with the 2020 Note e-POWER tapping the second-generation of the automaker’s gas-electric hybrid drivetrain. Headed to Japanese dealerships next month, the new Note previews some of the new Nissan design language we’re expecting to see on the all-electric Ariya crossover next year.

Unlike the Ariya, however, the e-POWER system in the 2020 Note isn’t entirely electric. Instead it relies on electric drive for the wheels, but a gas engine that’s brought along to act as a mobile generator. With e-POWER cars, the combustion engine isn’t directly connected to the wheels, but Nissan can also use a smaller – thus lighter and cheaper – battery than in an all-electric model like the Leaf.

Now in its second-generation, in the case of this new Note the e-POWER system has a more powerful motor and an improved inverter. The motor gets 10-percent more torque and 6-percent greater output, Nissan says, for improved perkiness from a standing start. It should also be smoother in acceleration, and quieter in the cabin.

As for the inverter, that’s 40-percent smaller than the old model, and 30-percent lighter. Combined with a more efficient gas engine, e-POWER as a whole is more economical; Nissan says it also should be quieter, since the engine runs at a lower RPM than before, and requires fewer engagements. Nissan even tracks road noise to decide when to turn the gas engine on, picking times when background sounds from the road surface conditions and vehicle speed are louder.

There’ll be both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions of the car, the latter using a second electric motor. Both have a new aesthetic which Nissan is calling “Timeless Japanese Futurism”: think a bigger grille, lots of “V”-shaped style elements, and sharper crease lines. LED projector lamps are used at the front, while 16-inch alloy wheels are standard.

Inside, there are Nissan’s favorite Zero Gravity seats, with larger armrests. The rear bench gets reclining seat-backs. A new dashboard design features a larger digital display, and options like wireless phone charging and ProPILOT with Navi-link. That taps the navigation system to monitor for upcoming bends on the highway, and automatically adjust the adaptive cruise control settings appropriately.

What we shouldn’t expect, though, is the new Note e-POWER in the US. Nissan decided to discontinue sales of the model here in favor of the Kicks crossover, and shows no indication of changing that decision even with this new version. Pricing will kick off in Japan at just over $19k, but while we may not get the new Note, it’s likely that more e-POWER models will make it to the US.

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2021 Mercedes-Benz Metris returns with better safety features and more standard kit

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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz Metris is returning next year with a bevy of new standard kit. Also known as the Vito, V-Class, or Viano in some markets, the Metris is a tad smaller than the full-size Sprinter van, but it’s significantly larger than other midsize vans like the Ford Transit Connect, Ram ProMaster City, and Nissan NV200.

New for the 2021 Metris is Mercedes-Benz’s 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic gearbox, which is now standard across all variants. It replaces the old seven-speed auto shifter of the outgoing model, and it still comes with Dynamic Select driving programs like Sport and Comfort modes. Additionally, the new gearbox has a new manual mode, and you can toggle between the gears using the standard steering-mounted paddle shifters.

All variants of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz Metris remain powered by a turbocharged and direct-injected 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine – the same as the outgoing model. It still produces 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, sending power to the rear wheels via its new nine-speed transmission.

Similar to the outgoing model, the new Metris will be sold in two wheelbase options. The standard variant has a 126-inch wheelbase, while the longer versions have a stretched 135-inch wheelbase. Meanwhile, the passenger variant has the same 126-inch wheelbase as the base cargo version and can be fitted with up to eight seats.

As such, the Metris can be optioned with a myriad of door and window configurations including a sliding passenger door, swing-out rear doors, and a rear liftgate. The cargo variant can be fitted with an optional plastic floor while some models have wooden floors. Regardless, the load compartment comes fitted with lashing rails on the sidewall and interior panels. The floor even has a rail system for easier load anchoring.

Style-wise, the new Metris is different from the outgoing model with a new front grille and optional painted bumpers. Customers have the option of choosing a chromed front grille with shiny louvers for a distinctive and more refined look. The expanded range of paint hues now includes two shades of gray (Graphite Gray and Selenite Gray) and a new Steel Blue paint job.

As expected from a Mercedes-Benz, the 2021 Metris is loaded with advanced safety kit. Standard equipment includes attention assist, headlamp assist, crosswind assist, tire pressure monitoring, trailer brake control, and hill start assist. For the first time, active brake assist and active distant assist DISTRONIC is available, while all trim models receive a digital rearview mirror for better rear visibility even when fully loaded with cargo or passengers.

Inside, Metris has a restyled dashboard with new ‘turbine’ air vents. The seat materials are also new, while the driver gets to fiddle with a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth connectivity. Meanwhile, the popular Metris Getaway Camper Van has privacy curtains, a pop-top roof, an integrated table, and optional solar panels among many others.

You can expect the new Mercedes-Benz Metris van to arrive at U.S. dealerships in mid-2021. Pricing will be announced next year, but we’re expecting the new Metris to cost more than its direct competitors in exchange for better versatility and enhanced refinement.

2021 Mercedes-Benz Metris Gallery

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Porsche Taycan sets a Guinness World Record for drifting

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Porsche has set a Guinness World Record for the longest drift using an electric vehicle. The EV the sports car maker used to set the record was the popular Porsche Taycan. The record was set at the Porsche Experience Center Hockenheimring.

Porsche instructor Dennis Retera did 210 laps drifting around a 200 meter-long drift circle to set the record. For the entire 210 laps, the front wheels never pointed in the same direction as the curve. After spending 55 minutes sideways around the track, the driver covered 42.171 kilometers.

That distance was enough to allow Retera to grab the world record for the longest continuous drift in an electric car. His average speed was 46 km/h, and a rear-wheel-drive Taycan was used, which is already available in China. Porsche did have to switch the driving stability program off and says that drifting the car was very easy once that was turned off.

The driver says that the vehicle had sufficient power to move around the circle sideways and was stable thanks to its low center of gravity and long wheelbase. Retera is currently the Chief Instructor at the Porsche Experience Center Hockenheimring. Previously, he was a competitor in carting, single-seat racecars, and endurance racing.

He says that it was tiring to keep his concentration high for 210 laps. He also said that the wet asphalt of the drip circuit doesn’t give the same grip everywhere, so he concentrated on controlling the drift with steering rather than the accelerator pedal to reduce the risk of spinning. Guinness World Record official Joanne Brent meticulously documented the record attempt. She’s been supervising record attempts for Guinness World Records for over five years. The video above shows parts of the record-setting run.

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