Operating system

An Analog Charge Pump Fabrication-Time Attack Compromises A Processor

We will all be used to malicious software, computers and operating systems compromised by viruses, worms, or Trojans. It has become a fact of life, and a whole industry of virus checking software exists to help users defend against it.

Underlying our concerns about malicious software is an assumption that the hardware is inviolate, the computer itself can not be inherently compromised. It’s a false one though, as it is perfectly possible for a processor or other integrated circuit to have a malicious function included in its fabrication. You might think that such functions would not be included by a reputable chip manufacturer, and you’d be right. Unfortunately though because the high cost of chip fabrication means that the semiconductor industry is a web of third-party fabrication houses, there are many opportunities during which extra components can be inserted before the chips are manufactured. University of Michigan researchers have produced a paper on the subject (PDF) detailing a particularly clever attack on a processor that minimizes the number of components required through clever use of a FET gate in a capacitive charge pump.

On-chip backdoors have to…

Disable WPAD in Windows to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi Networks

Web Proxy Auto-Discovery (WPAD) gives organizations a way to automatically configure a proxy server on your system. Windows enables this setting by default. Here’s why that’s a problem.

WPAD is really useful when an organization like your company or school needs to configure a proxy server for your connection to their network. It saves you from having to set things up yourself. However, WPAD can cause problems should you connect to a malicious public Wi-FI network. With WPAD enabled, that Wi-Fi network can automatically configure a proxy server in Windows. All your web browsing traffic would be routed through the proxy server while you’re connected to the Wi-Fi network—potentially exposing sensitive data. Most operating systems support WPAD. The problem is that in Windows, WPAD is enabled by default. It’s a potentially dangerous setting, and it should not be enabled unless you really need it.

WPAD, Explained

Proxy servers—not to be confused with virtual private networks (VPNs)—are sometimes required to browse the web on some business or school networks. When you configure a proxy server on your system, your system will send your browsing traffic through the proxy server rather than directly to the websites you visit. This allows organizations to perform web filtering and caching, and may be necessary to bypass the firewalls on some networks.

The WPAD protocol is designed to allow organizations to easily provide proxy settings to all devices that connect to the network. The organization can place a WPAD configuration file in a standard place, and when WPAD is enabled, your computer or other device checks to see if there’s WPAD proxy information provided by the network. Your device then automatically uses whatever settings the proxy auto-configuration (PAC) file provides, sending all traffic on the current network through the proxy server.

Windows vs. Other Operating Systems

While WPAD might be a useful feature on some business and school networks, it can cause big problems on public Wi-Fi networks. You don’t want your computer to automatically configure a proxy…

Can You Game on a Mac?

Macs have a lot of advantages. Maybe you like the simplicity of macOS, the sexy industrial design, or work in a creative field where they’re pretty much a requirement. But if you’re also a gamer, you may be wondering: can they handle the games you want to play as well as Windows?

Can You Play Games on a Mac?

Macs are made of the same components as any other PC. They’re just an Intel x86 computer in a fancier case with a different operating system. This means there’s no real hardware barrier to gaming on a Mac. It’s not like a PC has some magic video game component that your Mac lacks.

However, Macs aren’t exactly designed for gaming. The discrete graphics cards used in the high-end Macs aren’t all that great, and you don’t have the choice of the more powerful graphics cards you would in some Windows PCs. The Mac Pro is an exception, which carries a decent graphics card inside, but it’ll cost you a lot more than a comparable Windows PC would.

These graphics cards are also soldered in, so there’s no way to upgrade them a year or two down the line—even on desktops like the iMac or Mac Pro. Windows desktops are more upgradeable in this respect.

Entry level Macs don’t have dedicated graphics cards at all—they have integrated graphics chips that are even more asthmatic. They might reach the absolute minimum requirements of some popular modern games, but just barely.

There’s no way you’ll be able to play new games at full resolution with all the detail settings cranked up, even with a specced-out iMac—but they are technically capable of playing many games. Even a MacBook Air can play Minecraft. But, although it’s possible, is it worth doing?

A Mac is never going to be as good for gaming as a dedicated Windows PC, especially for the price. Even a Mac Pro can’t compete with a gaming-focused rig that costs a quarter of the Mac Pro’s $2999 price tag. If you’re serious about having the best gaming experience, your Mac isn’t going to cut it. Build your own gaming PC or buy a console and be done with it!

If you’re looking to casually play the occasional game, though, a Mac may suffice. I travel a lot, and only have my MacBook with me when I do. I’m away from my beloved PlayStation 4 for months at a time. My MacBook is able to give me a small gaming fix. It might be more methadone than heroin, but it’s something.

What Games Are Available?

The biggest issue with gaming on a Mac, though, is game availability. Windows’ DirectX APIs are incredibly popular with game developers. They don’t have any equivalents on macOS, which makes it harder for developers to port their games. Because…