SHODAN related infosec assortment

wiki defcon 2

The other Defcon

I never attended DEFCON, though it remains a dream I hope to realize one day, soon. It may soon become too logistically awkward due to increasing numbers of attendees.

Shodan is a remarkable search engine. Traditional search engines use “spiders” to crawl websites. Shodan culls data from ports. It was created by John Matherly in 2007. He continues to develop it.

Shodan is helpful for locating web server vulnerabilities. It is available as a free service, for up to 50 searches. Query syntax includes searches by country, host name, operating system and port. Shodan can search for software AND hardware. It has been acknowledged by mainstream media. The most prominent coverage was in early June, via The Washington Post, when Stuxnet received so much press attention.

Me and Shodan

Next is my Scribd infosec collection. It isn’t exclusively Shodan-related. This is why. (more…)

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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Zanran is a new data search engine

Something new and different in search has appeared.

Zanran is an internet start-up company that hails from somewhere other than Mountain View or Sunnyvale, California. Nor is it in “Silicon Valley East”, the new incubator of technology ventures otherwise known as the Borough of Manhattan. Zanran is farther than farthest Fishkill, across a span greater than even the Tappan-Zee can bridge. Zanran is a U.K. domiciled company in Islington, London.

Not a Google Universal Search 2.0 competitor

Zanran seems to be more of a database searching tool. It would probably be best classified as a specialized search engine.

Zanran Data Search

Zanran Search Beta screen shot

Zanran’s search method is described as patented but based on open-source programs. The actual patent, which I only glanced at, A Method and System of Indexing Historical Data, should help in clarifying. Zanran distinguishes itself because it is particularly well-suited to web search for information that has embedded numerical or graphical data:

Zanran helps you to find ‘semi-structured’ data on the web… numerical data e.g. a graph in a PDF report, or a table in an Excel spreadsheet, or a bar chart shown as an image in an HTML page. This huge amount of information can be difficult to find using conventional search engines, which are focused primarily on finding text… Put more simply: Zanran is Google for data.

Zanran is not a search engine with obvious uses in text or sentiment analysis. The beta website has a long page of examples demonstrating the speed (fast), breadth (across a very diverse assortment of scientific and analytic use cases) and quality of results.

Arthur Weiss, a competitive analyst and former long-time employee of Dun & Bradstreet UK, did a very thorough review of Zanran Search (April 2011):

I’ve been playing with a new data search engine called Zanran… The site is in an early beta. Nevertheless my initial tests brought up material that would only have been found using an advanced search on Google – if you were lucky. As such, Zanran promises to be a great addition for advanced data searching.

Zanran enters the marketplace

Zanran appears to have retained Mallard Digital Marketing. Mallard Digital’s hallmarks are “Authenticity, Transparency and Engagement”. Mallard features an attractive duck in the company logo, and in this rather engaging 15-second video. I base my conjecture about Mallard and Zanran upon three pieces of evidence:

  1. Mallard’s recent announcement, about the acquisition of a search engine as a new client on 29 March 2011
  2. The fact that Mallard likes Zanran and Zanran likes Mallard on the Facebook pages of each company
  3. The Zanran company dog enjoyed playing with Mallard’s Labrador retriever in March 2011 (also via Facebook)

Analogy and Digression: SHODAN

As a very general analogy, Zanran functionality reminds me of Google Code Search or SHODAN computer search. SHODAN is a search engine that can be used to:

find specific computers (routers, servers, etc.) … [it is] a search engine of banners. Google and Bing are great for finding websites. But what if you’re interested in finding computers running a certain piece of software (such as Apache)?  Maybe a new vulnerability came out and you want to see how many hosts it could infect?

Here’s a screen shot of the main query page:

SHODAN specialized search

SHODAN screen shot

I am impressed to no end with SHODAN. It is quite clever, and remains very low profile, much like my blog.


I drafted this on 12 May 2011 but failed to actually post due to my insatiable need to excessively fuss and play with WordPress functionality. In the interim, others (most notably Search Engine Journal) have also found the subject of the following post, the Zanran data search engine. I mention this not as self-promotion, but rather, to emphasize that Zanran may be of greater significance than my casual tone indicates.

Published in: on June 21, 2011 at 11:20 am  Comments (5)  
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Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

This paraphrased list of “Do and Don’t” was targeted specifically to secure exchange of sensitive financial information. However, these are generally applicable suggestions for law-abiding people who don’t want to blather their personal business all over the internet:

  1. Don’t email directly from work.
  2. If emailing using work resources does not violate your employer’s network security policies, use a web mail provider that offers SSL encrypted browsing. Ever heard of
  3. Don’t use your employer’s resources for personal communications of a sensitive nature e.g. to your attorney.
  4. Use robust encryption, such as PGP keys for email (PGP = Pretty Good Privacy?)
  5. If you use Instant Message, a secure chat client will give peace of mind.

How to [ Read/ Tip Off ] Zero Hedge Without Attracting The Interest Of [ Human Resources / The Treasury / Black Helicopters ]

Also recommended for those considering front-running of frozen orange-juice futures.

Published in: on October 5, 2010 at 6:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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Random Numbers in Java

This post is about alternatives to the java.util.Random class, the most commonly used method to generate random numbers in Java.

Dice players of antiquity

Random: Playing the odds in Ancient Rome Osteria della Via de Mercurio


This class generates “random enough” values, which are described as having an informal level of randomness. Such numbers have a superficial appearance of randomness to an observer, usually a human observer, not a machine. These are considered low-quality random numbers. They should never be used in any security application.

True randomly-generated numbers must have the following characteristics:

  • Any number is equally likely to be generated on every iteration. This is also known as a uniformly distributed series of numbers.
  • The second criterion follows directly: No dependency exists between successive numbers as they are generated.

Alternatives to better match your random needs

Neil Coffey of Javamex describes three alternative random number generation methods. Each approach continues to use class java.util.Random, while replacing the underlying algorithm. The first, called the XORShift generator, produces medium-quality random numbers very quickly, with only a single state variable and very simple code. This method is very well suited to J2ME games.

The next algorithm generates much higher-quality random numbers. It is a combined generator, using two XORShift generators of the sort described above. Mr. Coffey provides the code and explanation for the algorithm. This combined XORShift yields good-quality random numbers. It is suitable for non-gambling games and simulations, although it runs slightly slower than java.util.Random.

A cryptographic quality random number generator should have the following properties:

  1. It should be impossible to predict prior and future numbers from any number generated;
  2. The numbers should have no discernible biases;
  3. The generator has a large period;
  4. The generator can seed itself at any position within that period with equal probability.

A cryptographically secure random number generator is appropriate for security applications such as producing a web-server session id or picking encryption keys. Very high-quality random numbers are generated using as the replacement for java.util.Random. The trade-off in quality versus CPU cycle consumption is hardly surprising. runs 20 to 30 times slower than any of the other algorithms.

Relative comparison between the methods

Here is a very simplified way of understanding the difference between each algorithm.

Let’s say that we need to generate a 128-bit encryption key. actually picks from a pool of 2 raised to the 127th power number of possible keys. Of course java.util.Random can also be used to generate a 128-bit key. However, the values will be selected from a smaller pool of numbers, on the order of 2 raised to the 47th power number of possible keys. This is because java.util.Random has a much shorter period, equal to 2 raised to the 48th power.

The single XORShift generator method falls between the two, as it has a slightly longer period, of 2 raised to the 64th power. The combined XORShift generator approach extends the period a bit further.

Note than neither java.util.Random nor either of the XORShift generators are seeded randomly. This is why, with a machine-generated and much more truly random random seed, is superior.

* The machine-generated random seed is what is called entropy in random number generators.