Security

Welcome to the sunlit uplands of HTTP/2, where a naughty request can send Microsoft's IIS into a spin

It's patching time again for Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10


Updated Oops! Microsoft has published an advisory on a bug in its Internet Information Services (IIS) product that allows a malicious HTTP/2 request to send CPU usage to 100 per cent.

An anonymous Reg reader tipped us off to the advisory, ADV190005, which warns that the condition can leave the system CPU usage pinned to the ceiling until IIS kills the connection.

In other words, a Denial Of Service (DOS).

HTTP/2 is a major update to the venerable HTTP protocol used by the World Wide Web and is geared toward improving performance, among other changes. Windows Server 2016 was the first Microsoft server product to support it, and Windows 10 (versions 1607 – 1803) is affected by the issue.

The problem, according to Microsoft, is that the HTTP/2 spec allows a client to specify any number of SETTINGS frames with any number of SETTINGS parameters. Those parameters usually include helpful stuff like the characteristics of the sending peer, and different values for the same parameter can be advertised by each peer.

Excessive settings can make things go a bit wobbly as IIS works on the request and sends the CPU usage sky high until a connection timeout is reached and the connection closed.

The good news is that this week's "non-security update" deals with the problem. Microsoft flung out patches on 19 February in the form of KB4487006, KB4487011, KB4487021 and KB4487029 to deal with it.

The company has added the ability to set thresholds on the number of HTTP/2 SETTINGS in a request but has declined to set any defaults, leaving it to the IIS Admin to configure.

This is assuming that administrators can actually find the setting. The link for the Knowledge Base article (KB4491420) that Microsoft suggested users review went nowhere at the time of writing, and the current documentation for IIS cheerfully tells admins that there are no new configuration settings specific to HTTP/2.

We've contacted Microsoft to learn more and will update with any response.

The issue itself was discovered by Gal Goldshtein of F5 Networks. ®

Updated to add at 15:13 UTC

After we brought the broken link to its attention, Microsoft posted the support article detailing defining those pesky thresholds.

Alas, there is no cosy GUI for admins. You'll need to edit a couple of registry entries and reboot to see the thresholds applied. As promised, Microsoft is not about to define any presets for the values. It's up to the admin to decide.

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Microsoft under fire again from open-source .NET devs: Hot Reload feature pulled for sake of Visual Studio sales

Windows giant has a funny way of 'loving' Free software

Microsoft has enraged the open-source .NET community by removing flagship functionality from open-source .NET to bolster the appeal of Visual Studio, not least against its cross-platform cousin Visual Studio Code.

The two key pieces in this latest unrest are this pull request in the open-source .NET SDK repository on GitHub, in which 2,500 lines of code implementing a feature called Hot Reload are removed from a tool called dotnet watch; and this blog post in which Principal Program Manager Dmitry Lyalin revealed "we’ve decided that starting with the upcoming .NET 6 GA release, we will enable Hot Reload functionality only through Visual Studio 2022."

Hot Reload is a feature whereby developers can modify source code while an application is running, apply the changes, and see the results in the running application. It speeds the development process because it is quicker than rebuilding the code, stopping the application, applying the changes, and then firing it up again.

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It's 'near-impossible to escape persistent surveillance' by American ISPs, says FTC

Watchdog finds dubious data gathering, illusory solicitations for consent

The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said many internet service providers are sharing data about their customers, in defiance of expectations, and are failing to give subscribers adequate choices about whether or how their data is shared.

The trade watchdog's findings arrived in the form of a report [PDF] undertaken in 2019 to examine the data and privacy practices of major US broadband providers, including AT&T Mobility, Charter Communications, Google Fiber, T-Mobile US, Verizon Wireless, and Comcast's Xfinity.

"[T]hese findings underscore deficiencies of the 'notice-and-consent' framework for privacy, especially in markets where users face highly limited choices among service providers," said FTC boss Lina Khan in a statement [PDF].

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While the iPhone's repairability is in the toilet, at least the Apple Watch 7 is as fixable as the previous model

Component swaps still a thing – for now

Apple's seventh-gen Watch has managed to maintain its iFixit repairability rating on a par with the last model – unlike its smartphone sibling.

The iFixit team found the slightly larger display of the latest Apple Watch a boon for removal via heat and a suction handle. Where the previous generation required a pair of flex folds in its display, the new version turned out to be simpler, with just the one flex.

Things are also slightly different within the watch itself. Apple's diagnostic port has gone and the battery is larger. That equates to a slight increase in power (1.094Wh from 1.024Wh between 40mm S6 and 41mm S7) which, when paired with the slightly hungrier display, means battery life is pretty much unchanged.

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Better late than never: Microsoft rolls out a public preview of E2EE in Teams calls

Only for one-to-one voice and video, mind

Microsoft has finally kicked off the rollout of end-to-end-encryption (E2EE) in its Teams collaboration platform with a public preview of E2EE for one-to-one calls.

It has been a while coming. The company made the promise of E2EE for some one-to-one Teams calls at its virtual Ignite shindig in March this year (https://www.theregister.com/2021/03/03/microsoft_ups_security/) and as 2021 nears its end appears to have delivered, in preview form at least.

The company's rival in the conference calling space, Zoom, added E2EE for all a year ago, making Microsoft rather late to the privacy party. COO at Matrix-based communications and collaboration app Element, Amandine Le Pape, told The Register that the preview, although welcome, was "long overdue."

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Recycled Cobalt Strike key pairs show many crooks are using same cloned installation

Researcher spots RSA tell-tale lurking in plain sight on VirusTotal

Around 1,500 Cobalt Strike beacons uploaded to VirusTotal were reusing the same RSA keys from a cracked version of the software, according to a security researcher who pored through the malware repository.

The discovery could make blue teams' lives easier by giving them a clue about whether or not Cobalt Strike traffic across their networks is a real threat or an action by an authorised red team carrying out a penetration test.

Didier Stevens, the researcher with Belgian infosec firm NVISO who discovered that private Cobalt Strike keys are being widely reused by criminals, told The Register: "While fingerprinting Cobalt Strike servers on the internet, we noticed that some public keys appeared often. The fact that there is a reuse of public keys means that there is a reuse of private keys too: a public key and a private key are linked to each other."

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Microsoft investor urges shareholders to vote for a deep dive into pay gap and harassment policies

More transparency and reporting needed, says Arunja Capital

Updated Accusations of harassment and concerns over pay gaps continue to dog Microsoft as shareholders were urged by investor Arunja Capital to vote for the software giant to release transparency reports.

The form PX14A6G filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission is sent to shareholders outlining why the sender wants them to vote a certain way. In this case, for a proposal to release a transparency report regarding the effectiveness of Microsoft's workplace sexual harassment policies, and another to have the company report on median pay gaps across race and gender.

Investment management firm Arunja Capital put forward the resolution earlier this year, stating: "Microsoft needs independent and transparent investigation of gender discrimination, [and alleged] sexual harassment by former CEO Gates and others."

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US drops tariff threat against nations who dished out digital taxes to American tech giants as OECD members hash out new deal

15% tax minimum to hit tech firms

The US government and administrations in Europe have come to an agreement that will drop the threat of tariffs in response to policies on digital services taxes (DSTs).

The Department of the Treasury announced the deal would mean Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom could keep their DSTs while multinational rules negotiated with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) were introduced.

Back in June, nations where digital services taxes were deemed to disproportionately affect the US tech industry were threatened with 25 per cent tariffs on up to $2bn of their goods by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). At the same time, it announced an immediate 180-day suspension of the tariffs so G20 and OECD nations had time to complete their negotiations on a global tax law, which would also hit tech companies.

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Nobody cares about DAB radio – so let's force it onto smart speakers, suggests UK govt review

Britain's anti Amazon and Google war gets a second front

The UK may require smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home devices to broadcast UK DAB radio stations, over government fears that Brits aren't consuming enough of the unloved radio tech.

Under the guise of "protecting UK radio stations' accessibility" the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published a report calling for smart speakers to rebroadcast domestic radio stations' output. The recommendation is as follows:

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IPSE: More than a third of freelancers have quit contracting since IR35 reforms

Exodus, movement of the people... to the Middle East or elsewhere

More than a third (35 per cent) of contractors in the UK have become permanent employees, retired, shifted to work overseas or are "simply not working" since IR35 tax legislation was revised earlier this year.

This is according to the Association of Independent Professionals (IPSE) which found 35 per cent fewer freelancers among those it surveyed since 6 April when the government pushed through the delayed reform.

"This research shows the devastating impact the changes to IR35 have had on contractors, needlessly compounding the financial damage of the pandemic," said Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE. "Now, just when contractors are needed the most - amid mounting labour shortages across the UK and particularly in haulage - government decisions have drive out a third of the sector."

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New Relic guzzles down CodeStream to help devs jump straight from app error telemetry to offending code

'I can debug production from the IDE,' said CS boss Peter Pezaris

Observability company New Relic has acquired CodeStream, specialists in developer collaboration, with the aim being to connect observability data with code in the development environment.

CodeStream, founded in 2017 by Peter Pezaris, adds instant developer communication to coding environments. For example, a developer puzzling over some code written by a colleague can click next to that code, type a message to the other dev, and they will receive it either in the IDE if they happen to be working on the same project, or in a messaging tool such as Slack, complete with a reference to the code in question. They reply, and a discussion begins.

Although it may seem a small thing, given that they could just use Slack (or any number of other messaging services) directly, the context and convenience makes it a worthwhile collaboration tool. CodeStream also integrates with pull requests from GitHub, GitLab, BitBucket, and issue management from Jira, Trello and others.

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Analogue tones of a ZX Spectrum Load set to ride again via podcast project

Remember the R Tape Loading Error?

The glory days of audio-cassette loading are set to return in the coming weeks, with retro fans to be treated to a broadcast for them to hit Play and Record to.

Audio cassettes were the medium of choice for software back when Sinclair and Commodore's 8-bit hardware ruled the roost. The floppy disk seemed impossibly glamorous for the average home computer user and code was instead delivered via audio.

While the sound of those files was unintelligible for most, for some enthusiasts it was possible to discern the type of data being loaded. Right up until the all-too-common R Tape Loading Error (which usually seemed to come right at the end of a lengthy period staring at a loading screen).

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