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Hackaday Links: October 10, 2021

We have to admit, it was hard not to be insufferably smug this week when Facebook temporarily went dark around the globe. Sick of being stalked by crazy aunts and cousins, I opted out of that little slice of cyber-hell at least a decade ago, so Monday’s outage was no skin off my teeth. But it was nice to see that the world didn’t stop turning. More interesting are the technical postmortems on the outage, particularly this great analysis by the good folks at the University of Nottingham. Dr. Steve Bagley does a great job explaining how Facebook likely pushed a configuration change to the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) that propagated through the Internet and eventually erased all routes to Facebook’s servers from the DNS system. He also uses a graphical map of routes to show peer-to-peer connections to Facebook dropping one at a time, until their machines were totally isolated. He also offers speculation on why Facebook engineers were denied internal access, sometimes physically, to their own systems.

It may be a couple of decades overdue, but the US Federal Communications Commission finally decided to allow FM voice transmissions on Citizen’s Band radios. It seems odd to be messing around with a radio service whose heyday was in the 1970s, but Cobra, the CB radio manufacturer, petitioned for a rule change to allow frequency modulation in addition to the standard amplitude modulation that’s currently mandatory. It’s hard to say how this will improve the CB user experience, which last time we checked is a horrifying mix of shouting, screaming voices often with a weird echo effect, all put through powerful — and illegal — linear amps that distort the signal beyond intelligibility. We can’t see how a little less static is going to improve that.

Can you steal a car with a Game Boy? Probably not, but car thieves in the UK are using some sort of device hidden in a Game Boy case to boost expensive cars. A group of three men in Yorkshire used the device, which supposedly cost £20,000 ($27,000), to wirelessly defeat the security systems on cars in seconds. They stole cars for garages and driveways to the tune of £180,000 — not a bad return on their investment. It’s not clear how the device works, but we’d love to find out — for science, of course.

There have been tons of stories lately about all the things AI is good for, and all the magical promises it will deliver on given enough time. And it may well, but we’re still early enough in the AI hype curve to take everything we see with a grain of salt. However, one area that bears watching is the ability of AI to help fill in the gaps left when an artist is struck down before completing their work. And perhaps no artist left so much on the table as Ludwig von Beethoven, with his famous unfinished 10th Symphony. When the German composer died, he had left only a few notes on what he wanted to do with the four-movement symphony. But those notes, along with a rich body of other works and deep knowledge of the composer’s creative process, have allowed a team of musicologists and AI experts to complete the 10th Symphony. The article contains a lot of technical detail, both on the musical and the informatics sides. How will it sound? Here’s a preview:

And finally, Captain Kirk is finally getting to space. William Shatner, who played captain — and later admiral — James Tiberius Kirk from the 1960s to the 1990s, will head to space aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket on Tuesday. At 90 years old, Shatner will edge out Wally Funk, who recently set the record after her Blue Origin flight at the age of 82. It’s interesting that Shatner agreed to go, since he is said to have previously refused the offer of a ride upstairs with Virgin Galactic. Whatever the reason for the change of heart, here’s hoping the flight goes well.

This Week In Security: BGP Bogons, Chrome Zero Day, And Save Game Attacks

Our own [Pat Whetman] wrote about a clever technique published by the University of Michigan, where lasers can be used to trigger a home assistant device. It’s an interesting hack, and you should go read it.

Borrowing IP Addresses

We’ve lived through several IPv4 exhaustion milestones, and the lack of available addresses is really beginning to show, even for trolls and scammers. A new approach takes advantage of the weak security of the Border Gateway Protocol, and allows bad actors to temporarily take over reserved address blocks. These particular providers operate out of Russia, operating network services they advertise as “bulletproof”, or immune to takedown requests. What better way to sidestep takedowns than to use IP addresses that aren’t really yours to begin with?

BGP spoofing has been at the center of other types of attacks and incidents, like in 2018 when a misconfiguration in a Nigerian ISP’s BGP tables routed traffic intended for Google’s servers through Chinese and Russian infrastructure. In that case it appeared to be a genuine mistake, but little prevents malicious BGP table poisoning.

Chrome Zero-day

Google released an update to Chrome on the 31st that addresses two CVEs, one of which is being actively exploited. That vulnerability, CVE-2019-13720, is a race condition resulting in a potential use-after-free. Kaspersky Labs found this one being actively used on a Korean news site. The attack runs entirely from Javascript, and simply visiting a malicious site is enough for compromise, so update Chrome if it’s installed.


What do you do when you feel you’ve been unfairly targeted by an anti-doping investigation? Apparently hacking the investigating agency and releasing stolen information is an option. It seems like this approach is more effective when there are shenanigans revealed in the data dump. In this case, the data being released seems rather mundane.

Firefox Blocking Sideload Extensions

Mozilla made a controversial announcement on the 31st. They intend to block “sideload” browser extensions. Until this change, it was possible to install browser extensions by copying them to a particular folder on the computer. Some legitimate extensions used this installation method, but so did malware, adware, and other unwanted software. While this change will block some malicious add-ons, it does present a bit of a challenge to a user installing an extension that isn’t on the official Mozilla store or signed by Mozilla.

As you might imagine, the response has been… less than positive. While making malware harder to install is certainly welcome, this makes some use cases very difficult. An example that comes to mind is a Linux package that includes a browser extension. It remains to be seen exactly how this change will shake out.

Save Games as Attack Vector

An oddball vulnerability caught my eye, published by [Denis Andzakovic] over at Pulse Security. He discovered that a recent indy game, Untitled Goose Game, can be manipulated into running arbitrary code as a result of loading a maliciously modified save file. The vulnerability is rooted in a naive deserialization routine.

If you’re interested in a deeper dive into .net deserialization bugs, a great paper was submitted to Blackhat 2012 discussing the topic. The short version is that if a programmer isn’t careful, the deserialization routine can overwrite variables in unexpected ways, potentially leading to code execution.

At first glance, a vulnerability triggered by a malicious save file seems relatively harmless. The level of access needed to modify a save file on a hard drive is enough to compromise that computer in a multitude of better ways. Enter cloud save synchronization. Steam, for instance, will automatically sync save games across a user’s install locations. This is a very useful feature for those of us that might play the same game on a laptop and a desktop. Having the save game automatically synced to all your devices is quite useful, but if an attacker compromised your Steam account, your save games could be manipulated. This leads to the very real possibility that an attacker could use a save game vulnerability to turn a Steam account compromise into an attack on all your machines with Steam installs.

Learn About BGP With The Internet Of EvE

When we first saw [Ben Jojo’s] post about the Internet inside EvE Online, we didn’t think we’d be that interested. We don’t play EvE — a massively multiplayer game. But it turns out, the post is really about understanding BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) and how it helps route traffic in large networks. The best part? He actually simulates a network with 8,000 nodes to test out what he’s talking about.

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to fire up 8,000 Raspberry Pi computers for such an experiment. Using Buildroot, he set up a very small Linux image that had the bare minimum required to run the tests. The qemu provided virtualization, including an obscure feature that allows you to transfer data between virtual machines using UDP. The whole thing ran on some pretty beefy hardware in the cloud. Sure, you could have provisioned 8,000 cloud instances, but that would run into some serious money pretty fast, we imagine. As a wrap-up, he even uses BGP to model his local mass transit system.

Continue reading “Learn About BGP With The Internet Of EvE”

Battleships Over BGP

The Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is one of the foundations of the internet. It’s how the big routers that shift data around the Internet talk to each other, passing info on where they can send data to. It’s a simple protocol, with each router sending text messages that advertise the routes that they carry. The administrators of these routers create communities, each with an individual code, and this information is passed between routers. Most top-level ISPs don’t spread this data far, but [Ben Cox] realized that his ISP did. and that he could use this as an interesting way to transmit data over the Internet. What data to send? He decided to play battleships.

Continue reading “Battleships Over BGP”

Becoming Your Own ISP, Just For Fun

When moving into a new house, it’s important to arrange for the connection of basic utilities. Electricity, water, and gas are simple enough, and then it’s generally fairly easy to set up a connection to an ISP for your internet connection. A router plugs into a phone line, or maybe a fiber connection and lovely packets start flowing out of the wall. But if you’re connected to the internet through an ISP, how is the ISP connected? [Kenneth] answers this in the form of an amusing tale.

It was during the purchase of data centre rack space that [Kenneth]’s challenge was laid down by a friend. Rather then simply rely on the connection provided by the data centre, they would instead rely on forging their own connection to the ‘net, essentially becoming their own Internet Service Provider.

This is known as creating an Autonomous System. To do this involves several challenges, the first of which is understanding just how things work at this level of networking. [Kenneth] explains the vagaries of the Border Gateway Protocol, and why its neccessary to secure your own address space. There’s also an amusing discussion on the routing hardware required for such a feat and why [Kenneth]’s setup may fall over within the next two years or so.

It’s not for the faint hearted, and takes a fair bit of paperwork, but [Kenneth] has provided an excellent guide to the process if you really, really just need to own your own corner of the internet. That said, there are other networking tricks to cut your teeth on if you’d like a simpler challenge, like tunneling IP over ICMP.