You are your own privacy threat vector

In my last post I talked about securing your network for $35. With simple tools like Pi-Hole, it’s very easy to see what’s trying to leave your network. Just after installing the Pi-Hole I caught communication to a C2 server from my son’s computer. It had been infected with a java-based botnet agent thanks to a Minecraft modpack that included a little extra something something.

Something else that ends up being very easy to see is just how much privacy you are giving away to companies that want to hoover up your data. Have a look at this:

Among the top 5 blocked DNS domains on my home network, three of them have to do with Snapchat. That’d be my 16-year-old daughter’s handiwork. I imagine half of these queries involved duck lips of some manner.

You’ll also see other domains having to do with app analytics. Some seem innocuous like Crashytics but if you do a bit of poking around you’ll see that Crashlytics is owned by <drumroll please>…. Google.

Let’s dive deeper:

  • app-analytics.snapchat.com -> Snapchat domain that collects all kinds of app usage information
  • sc-analytics.appspot.com -> Snapchat’s analytics engine sending information to a Google service
  • graph.instagram.com -> Instagram’s API service
  • e.crashlytics.com -> Unsure what the service is (‘e’) but Crashlytics is owned by Google
  • usc.adserver.snapads.com -> Snapchat ad service
  • reports.crashlytics.com -> Google
  • news.iadsdk.apple.com -> ads served into Apple’s News app
  • googleapis.l.google.com -> Google
  • graph.facebook.com -> Facebook’s API service
  • s.youtube.com -> ad service for YouTube.

So, in the top 10 we have only 4 companies represented:

  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Apple

My goal here isn’t to say you shouldn’t use apps and services from these companies. My goal here is to open your eyes just a crack that with few exceptions, you really are the productFree services are great and all, but understand that you’re heavily trading information about you and your habits in order to use things like Snapchat, Facebook, Google, etc. These companies construct portfolios dossiers about their customers targets in order to sell it to advertisers. Google is an advertising company first and foremost. Consider whether this is a fair trade.

If the government was this intrusive into our lives, we’d probably all be yelling, “Stasi!!” Yet we give this information willingly to companies that we do not control, have no idea what happens to that information (lol ‘privacy policy.’), and given that these companies have ever increasing portfolios of services – particularly for app engine things like analytics and crash reporting – we cannot control where our data ends up.

Where does this end?

iPhone Xs, Xr, and the Death of my Ideal iPhone

I have an iPhone SE. I love it.

Before I get too far, I will admit that I am probably in the minority. I use my iPhone SE mostly for Messages, Reddit (Apollo, ftw), a bit of Instagram, playing music/podcasts, and for *gasp* phone calls. Sprinkle in some Yelp, Amazon, and two factor authentication and you’ve got about what I use my iPhone for 90% of the time.

I do not animoji. I have no desire to animoji. I don’t game. I don’t AR. I have no desire. None. This all probably makes me a curmudgeon, and I’m okay with that. (Get off my lawn.)

I also have little girly hands. Really. My wife’s hands? Just as big as mine. I don’t have big fat Tony Soprano fingers. They’re slim. As a result, with my iPhone SE, I can actually reach the opposite corner of the screen with the thumb of the hand that is holding my iPhone. I’ve owned larger iPhones – I came from an iPhone 6S. I despise Apple’s solution for getting to things out of reach – Reachability – by double-tapping on the home button. Awkward. For this reason – for me – the iPhone SE is the perfect size. I also love that I can put it in my pocket and it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall out.

It’s also super durable. I’ve never worn a case on this thing and it’s hit the floor/ground I don’t know how many times. It has an awesome Millennium Falcon patina to it. It looks great. I half expect this thing to make the Kessel run in 12 parsecs.

I also prefer to own my devices/things (including cars) outright. I don’t like monthly payments. I don’t like feeling like I’m renting something I use so frequently. It’s mine, damnit. My iPhone SE cost a reasonable (what I believe) amount of money when I bought it outright. I also prefer to have the ability to carrier-hop at any time. I’m one of those pre-paid whackos. (MetroPCS at the moment – super happy with it.)

What don’t I like about the iPhone SE? Truthfully, not much. Having had the iPhone 6S (briefly) I really liked the Taptic Engine. The simple vibration motor in the iPhone SE is dumb as a hammer. Very harsh. No nuance. I’d also like a better camera – you know, keep with the times. That’s all I’m after. Literally, that’s it, and I was holding out hope that Apple would update the iPhone SE with this event. But it seems to me that it wasn’t to be and my days of 4″ iPhone happiness are numbered.

With the introduction of the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr Apple has also stripped from their site the iPhone SE. Overnight, silently, Apple has bid the time of the 4″ iPhone farewell. It honestly makes me sad. During a time when Apple’s desktops aren’t what I’m after (come on, update the bloody Mac Mini and make it awesome – I’ve got cash at the ready) they now also don’t make an iOS device that I’m after. I don’t think my asks are too far out of the norm.

Seriously, I just want a simple iPhone that’s updated. I don’t want or even need the wizbang stuff. Sure, I can respect the technology involved, but it’s not what I need. Number 1, I love the security and privacy that Apple’s platform offers. I like the usability. I like the design.

What I don’t like is that there now are so few products from Apple that appeal to me. Not just Mac, but iPhone now too. Ever increasing iPhone prices for iPhones that I don’t even want. It’d be one thing if they appealed to me. They don’t.

Shame.

Deutschland Über Alles Once Again? | Bahrain Grand Prix Recap

There are glimmers of hope that a German in a Red Ferrari may once again be at the top of the motorsport world. Ever since moving to Ferrari in 2015, Sebastian Vettel has wanted to emulate his idol – Michael Schumacher – and bring home championship glory for the red cars from Maranello. A good sign is that since Alain Prost did it in 1982, nobody winning the first two grand prix has failed to secure the driver’s championship. Though, those were the days before 20 or 21 race seasons. A lot can happen between now and November.

That being said, the Bahrain Grand Prix was exceptional. Here’s the run down:

Red Bull

About the only significant thing missing this race was Red Bull. Max Verstappen got a bit big in his britches and tried to get round through Hamilton. The contact caused a puncture from which the imbalance caused his rear differential to get wrecked. This found him rocked up at the side of the track, unable to continue. Danny Ric inexplicably suffered a shutdown of his car. All of this happened within the first 2 laps and resulted in no points for the outfit from Milton Keynes.

Renault

The Hulk with a good solid drive for this race. Surely Sainz will be annoyed having ended up one place outside the points. While a move to Renault seems smart, my worry is that Hulkenberg just will never find room on a top tier team. He’ll forever be remembered as a reliable mid-field driver that should have been more.

Force India

If you’d have told me that FI ran this race, I wouldn’t have believed you. It seems to me that Renault is their main competition right now and if they don’t get some good development work in, that 4th place finish they’ve had the last couple seasons isn’t theirs any longer.

Haas

Well look at that – the wheels stayed on! Great race from Magnussen. K-Mag is definitely showing he’s got the fight should he find himself in a reliable car. Though full props on Grosjean for showing some muscle to his team mate during that scrap early on in the race as well. Unfortunately for RoGro, it would appear that K-Mag is emerging as the #1 driver, complete with an untimely pitstop that compromises your strategy. Though, from the team’s point of view, I could see wanting to split them up before it all ended in tears and a second race with no points.

Toro Rosso

Ho-lee-shit. From out of (basically) nowhere here comes Pierre Gasly. We knew he had some skill coming in, but nobody expects a 7th F1 race driver to score mega points. His drive could go down as heroic as Jules Bianchi’s finish at Monaco. I’m positive that Honda is going to get good and drunk to celebrate a race that their engine did not fuck up a good result for. Hartley also drove well though his 17th place doesn’t say so.

McLaren

Oddly enough, McLaren did quite well. Their qualifying session was basically awful but both Alonso and Vandoorne managed a great haul of points. I truly want to see McLaren keep going forward.

Sauber

Well fuck. I guess having scored points now for the first time in 50 races means that we keep seeing Eriksson around the paddock. Nice enough guy, shit driver. Fat wallets must be amazing – I wouldn’t know.

Mercedes

Seriously, all Valtteri Bottas needed was 1 more lap. One. More. Lap. and he’d have had that red Ferrari. It’s hard to remember that Bottas is still relatively new to the team. Mercedes has put in such dominant performances over the past few years that you just expect them to win with Hamilton at the front. Having Bottas bring home more points is a nice change of scenery and I rather enjoy it. Frankly, I want to see Lewis bin it into the wall at Turn 1 every damn race, but that’s just because I want to see something exciting vs him winning every damn Sunday. But, I’ll settle for Lewis in third.

Ferrari

Jesus Christ do the Italians have a flair for the drama.  Ferrari starting on pole and second? Drama and injury in the pit lane causing the retirement of a world champion driver? 10 laps to go, holding the lead, and tires just might fail? Coming up!

Wow, just wow. If these were the Pirelli tires of 2013 Vettel’s tires would have exploded with 15 laps to go and Bottas and Hamilton would have gone on to a 1-2 finish, potentially with Bottas letting Hamilton by at the end. More durable tires that can go 40 laps? Yes, please! Who says that’s not exciting – Ferrari and Pirelli just proved it to be so.

In sadder news, a failure of the pit release system caused Kimi Raikonnen to be prematurely released and drive into a mechanic who hadn’t finished changing tires. Mechanic Francesco Cigarini has had surgery to repair two broken bones in his leg and is on the mend. Looks like he’s out for the season, though. Best wishes that he recovers well.

If half the races to come are half as exciting as this one, we’re in for a great race season. See you in Shanghai.