From Schneier on Security: Stuxnet:

Computer security experts are often surprised at which stories get picked up by the mainstream media. Sometimes it makes no sense. Why this particular data breach, vulnerability, or worm and not others? Sometimes its obvious. In the case of Stuxnet, theres a great story.

As the story goes, the Stuxnet worm was designed and released by a government--the U.S. and Israel are the most common suspects--specifically to attack the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. How could anyone not report that? It combines computer attacks, nuclear power, spy agencies and a country thats a pariah to much of the world. The only problem with the story is that its almost entirely speculation.

What strikes me about the Stuxnet story is that it's really "nothing new." Yes there were some new zero-day vulnerabilities found. However, a virus that propagates by rogue USB keys? Didn't we learn anything from the 1980s when viruses propagated by floppy disks?

While I am sympathetic to people who would like some of the functionality that jailbreaking your iPhone provides--heck, I wouldn't mind some of it myself--anyone who is calling upon Apple to "call off the dogs" on jailbreakers clearly doesn't understand what they are asking Apple to do.

Jailbreaking is a process by which you can run programs on the iPhone that did not come from the App Store--apps that are not Steve Jobs approved, so to speak. Seems fairly straightforward, right? I mean, who is Apple to tell me what I can run on my phone, right?

The problem is: every single one of these jailbreaks is performed by exploiting a security vulnerability in the phone's software. Every single one. The most recent example of this was the Jailbreak Me website that, by simply visiting a web page and sliding a slider, would trigger an exploit in your phone that would cause it to execute the necessary code to jailbreak the device.

Of course, if the jailbreakers can cause your phone to execute arbitrary code, so can a bad guy. And that's the point behind Apple "stopping" the jailbreakers. It's not really to stop them, it's to stop the bad guys who can use the same vulnerabilities to do worse things.

Instead of being critical to Apple for stopping jailbreakers, how about we be critical to Apple for not allowing us to run software of our choosing on our own device, even if Apple doesn't approve of it? That's the real problem, and that's what we should be focusing on.

In my last post, I told people how to turn off your friend's ability to check you in via Facebook Places, the new location-based feature that Facebook made available this week. Of course, in typical Facebook fashion, they left the default settings wide open, potentially exposing users to potential privacy violations! In practical terms, this means:

  • When you check in some place via Facebook Places, your friends will see it in their Facebook timeline.
  • Your checkins at this location are logged and can be seen by people checking in there later on.
  • Friends can check you in places if they are at or near that place.
  • Third party Facebook applications your friends might use can access places you (or your friends) check you into.

This begs the question: how can you (or your friend) check into a location on Facebook? Right now, checkins are limited to mobile phones with GPS and you must be physically near the location that you check into (or your friend must be). So I can't, for instance, check my friends into someplace near their hometown unless I happen to be in their hometown near the location in question. Knowing Facebook, though, they could change this later on.

You probably don't want your friends checking you in places. Or maybe you don't want to use Facebook Places at all. Here how to adjust your settings for Facebook Places so you can stay as off the grid as you'd like. Note you can click on each image to get a full-size version.

First off, go to Account > Privacy Settings in Facebook:

From the next screen, choose Customize Settings:

First look under Things I Share:

If you want to opt out of Facebook Places. set Places I check In To to Only Me"and uncheck the Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in. Otherwise, adjust these settings as you see fit. If you want to prevent people from checking you into places (whether or not you want to opt out), look under Things Others Share. Set the Friends can check me into Places option to Disabled.

You may also need to go back and prevent third party applications from accessing your Facebook Places checkin data. Click on the Back to Privacy button on top and then click on the Edit your settings link under Applications and Websites.

Make sure to uncheck the Places I check in to option (and any other ones you want to uncheck) and click Save Changes.

If you have set these options to their most restrictive setting, congratulations, you have opted out of Facebook Places (as much as you can, anyway).

Go to Account > Privacy Settings, click Customize Settings. Under "Things others share", set "Friends can check me in to Places" to Disabled. Otherwise, your less scrupulous friends can check you into potentially embarrassing locations.

Optionally, under "Things I share", adjust the "Include me in "People Here Now" after I check in" and "Places I check in to" settings accordingly.

Update: you should see my more complete guide to changing your Facebook Places settings.

Crossbeam has issued a press release about their expanded strategic partnership with my employer, Check Point Software Technologies. The key paragraph in that press release:

Customers can now purchase integrated solutions from Check Point, complete with maintenance and support delivered by Check Point’s award-winning global service organization. Check Point will provide support for both its software products and Crossbeam’s X-Series platform. This simplifies the ordering process and promotes closer product, sales and technical collaboration between Crossbeam and Check Point to support customer needs.

The kind of customers that will buy Crossbeam X-Series platforms are the kinds of customers who want what we used to call "first call, final resolution" back at Nokia. This is exactly what this provides: a single point of contact for purchasing and support of Check Point software on Crossbeam hardware. What's not to like?

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