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Security: Updates, One Year With Spectre, Purism Librem Key and Lanner’s 'Security Appliances' With Back-Doored Chips

  • Security updates for Tuesday
  • A year with Spectre: a V8 perspective
    On January 3, 2018, Google Project Zero and others disclosed the first three of a new class of vulnerabilities that affect CPUs that perform speculative execution, dubbed Spectre and Meltdown. Using the speculative execution mechanisms of CPUs, an attacker could temporarily bypass both implicit and explicit safety checks in code that prevent programs from reading unauthorized data in memory. While processor speculation was designed to be a microarchitectural detail, invisible at the architectural level, carefully crafted programs could read unauthorized information in speculation and disclose it through side channels such as the execution time of a program fragment. When it was shown that JavaScript could be used to mount Spectre attacks, the V8 team became involved in tackling the problem. We formed an emergency response team and worked closely with other teams at Google, our partners at other browser vendors, and our hardware partners. In concert with them, we proactively engaged in both offensive research (constructing proof-of-concept gadgets) and defensive research (mitigations for potential attacks).
  • The Purism Librem Key
    The Librem Key is a new hardware token for improving Linux security by adding a physical authentication factor to booting, login and disk decryption on supported systems. It also has some features that make it a good general-purpose OpenPGP smart card. This article looks at how the Librem Key stacks up against other multi-factor tokens like the YubiKey 5 and also considers what makes the Librem Key a unique trusted-computing tool. Purism is a new player in the security key and multi-factor authentication markets. With the introduction of the Librem Key, Purism joins the ranks of other players—such as Yubico, Google, RSA and so on—in providing hardware tokens for multi-factor authentication. In addition, like the YubiKey 5 series, the Librem Key also provides OpenPGP support with cryptographic functions that take place securely on-key. This allows users to generate and use GnuPG public and private keys without exposing any secret key material to the host computer where the USB device is attached. The Librem Key is based on the German-manufactured Nitrokey Pro 2, but it has been modified to focus on "trusted boot" when used with Purism's Linux laptops. (I take a closer look at what the trusted boot process is and how the Librem Key fits into that process, later in this article.)
  • Atom-based network security appliances focus on industrial control
    Lanner’s Apollo Lake based “LEC-6041” and Bay Trail “LEC-6032” are Linux-supported network security appliances for industrial control monitoring with up to 7x GbE ports, including SFP ports, plus magnetic isolation and extended temp support.

Mozilla on Nuisance Videos and Servo Progress

Programming and HowTos: The Leftovers

Gustavo Silva: Disco Dingo Thoughts

Those already around me know I love Linux and my favourite linux distribuition is Ubuntu. One of the reasons Ubuntu is my favourite is how simple and compatible it is with pretty much all devices I have tried installing. Except my laptop, but that’s due to the graphics card. But hey, I fondly received the news that now we can select the option to automatically set nomodeset and other convenient tools when running the setup. For me, this means a major win. I previously had to set nomodeset manually and after installation I had to immediately modifiy some options in the grub’s defaults (namely set the acpi=force) but now, with this new option, the installation process which was already smooth, become (melted) butter. Thank you, honestly, person who remembered to include this option. This seems like a feature that will stick to Ubuntu 20.04, so I’m happy to now a LTS version will become even simpler to install too, so that’s great. The UI and custom-Gnome experience has been improved as well, in this custom flavour of Gnome. We now have a few more options for customization, including dark options of the themes but I am definitely pleased to say that the Gnome shell, in Ubuntu 19.04, really looks great. Read more