Dropbox changes their ToS, all hell broke loose

On the 1st of July 2011, Dropbox changed their ToS (Terms of Service) to make them clearer and easier to understand for the layman. The result of these changes was an uproar from many users, some of whom removed personal data, all data and in some cases closed their accounts.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I am not providing legal advice, I am purely stating my interpretation of Dropbox’s  ToS.

First of all, let’s look at the ToS as it stands on 4th July 2011:

You retain ownership to your stuff. You are also solely responsible for your conduct, the content of your files and folders, and your communications with others while using the Services.

 

We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.

So what is getting users so worked up?

One line: “By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff …”

 

People are concerned that they are handing over copyright and IP rights and that their data will be used to make a profit for Dropbox, either by sale of the files or their derivatives. However, what these people are failing to do is to read the first paragraph and the remainder of the “problematic line”.

Let’s take a look at the first paragraph:

You retain ownership to your stuff. You are also solely responsible for your conduct, the content of your files and folders, and your communications with others while using the Services.

Interesting, it says quite plainly that you retain ownership. This implies that you keep your copyright and your IP rights.

Now we shall take a look at the remaining part of the “problematic line”, as it is very important and most people skip over it:

… to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.

Hmm, to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. Is it reasonable or necessary for Dropbox to sell access to, copies of or derivatives of your work? No. So what is the problem?

 

Looking at what Dropbox is requesting we can see “worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to”:

  • use
  • copy
  • distribute
  • prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of
  • perform, or publicly display

What does it mean to “use”? Personally I interpret that to mean they can store it and modify it.

What does it mean to “copy”? If you have, for example a desktop and laptop computer, you save a file into your Dropbox folder on your desktop. Dropbox needs your permission to duplicate your work onto their servers/the servers of Amazon and then to duplicate it onto your laptop.

“Distribute”, like “copy” implies the movement of the data from one computer to another. You may have a device in another country, or a shared folder with a friend or business associate; Dropbox needs your permission to distribute your files to these locations.

Why would Dropbox “prepare derivative works”? Those of you familiar with the “Get Shareable Link” feature may have noticed that it can display the contents of the file(s). In the case of a PDF, it is displayed not as a PDF, but as a Flash file, similar to a Youtube video. For an example, take a look here: http://db.tt/r3PGk1T

What about this “perform, or publicly display” stuff? If I send a shareable link to a friend and that friend posts the link on the internet, as a result, my file will be shared publicly. Dropbox needs your permission to do this, whether you intended to publicly share the file or not.

 

In short, Dropbox’s ToS allows Dropbox to operate and provide the functionality we all enjoy.

Will I continue to use and recommend Dropbox? Absolutely.

 

[Update 10/7/2011]

Dropbox updated their ToS again on the 6/7/2011, in an effort to clear up people’s misconceptions; it now clearly says what I have been saying all along.

 

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Riven crash on save/load

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After completing realMyst (and enjoying it a lot), I decided to get the sequal, Riven.

Riven was originally written for Windows 98 and has a number of known problems running on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Most of the problems have been fixed through patches, changes to settings or other work-arounds.

At first Riven wouldn’t launch, so I tried changing compatibility mode to Windows 95 – which sorted that problem out. The next problem I encountered after playing for a while; I decided it would be a good idea to save the game, which is exactly when disaster struck. Riven packed up completely, no error dialogues, no crash dumps, it just disappeared from the screen and returned me to the desktop.

I tried to save and load a few more times but each time the same result, so I did a bit of Googling and discovered a few people with a similar problem on various forums. Some people had managed to fix their problem simply by creating a new game folder and and copying the files across, as follows:

  1. Navigate to C:\program files\
  2. Create a new Riven directory.
  3. Copy the contents of the old Riven directory (except the “data” folder) to the new Riven directory.
  4. In the new Riven directory create a new folder named “data”.
  5. Copy the contents of the old “data” folder into the new one.

This particular procedure didn’t work for me, so I decided to investigate further and fired up my favourite debugger, OlyDbg; as riven needed to be run in compatibility mode, I decided to run OllyDbg in the same mode and then launch Riven from there. Unexpectedly, however, as soon as I clicked”File>Open”, OllyDbg crashed, leading me to believe there was perhaps a problem with the GetOpenFileName API in compatibility mode.

Changing tack, I launched Riven in compatibility mode and OllyDbg in “ordinary” mode and attached the debugger. I then set a breakpoint on Comdlg32.dll’s GetOpenFileName export and proceeded to attempt to open a saved game in Riven. The breakpoint triggered, indicating that the program was crashing after the call, not before – this was a good sign as it meant that there was probably an unhandled return value or something similar.

After setting a breakpoint on the ret instruction at the end of the API stub, I pressed Run and Olly immediately returned with an access violation (attempting to access 0x000004). I tried repeating the steps a few times to see if it was always the same error – it was. I decided the best course of action was to look at the parameters being passed in via pOpenfilename and check that the structure was valid, when I noticed that the current module was “GrooveUT”. Bringing up the Executable Modules window, I quickly spotted “c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12\GrooveUtil.dll”.

Why is an office component loaded into Riven?  GroveUtil is a shell extension that can be used for syncing files and is part of the Groove application, but for some unknown reason it is loaded into every running application.


Since I don’t use Groove I decided to uninstall it:

  1. Open “Control Panel”.
  2. Open “Add or Remove Programs”.
  3. Scroll down to “Microsoft Office” (I am using 2007).
  4. Click “Change”.
  5. Remove the component “Microsoft Office Groove”.
  6. Restart your computer.
  7. Enjoy Riven.

Update: This fixed the OllyDbg crashing under compatibility mode bug also.
Update 2: Official Microsoft instructions for uninstalling Groove: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/907504 – Thanks to Paul W.

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WMP Hotkey Handler

Windows Media Player Hotkey Handler

Windows Media Player Hotkey Handler (phew, that was a mouthful!) is a small app that runs in the background of your system and listens for particular hotkeys, which it uses to control Windows Media Player. It was originally written so I could control my music whilst playing Counter-Strike 1.6, mainly so I could control the volume without switching windows and without adjusting the entire system volume.

WMP Hotkey Handler recognises the following shortcuts:
CTRL + SHIFT + /                  Pause/Play
CTRL + SHIFT + <                 Previous track
CTRL + SHIFT + >                 Next track
CTRL + SHIFT + UP              Volume up
CTRL + SHIFT + DOWN       Volume down

Features

  • Low memory profile (1,08KB)
  • Low CPU Usage (0%)
  • Can be dropped in the Start Menu Startup folder and left running all the time
  • Compatible with WMP 9, 10, 11, 12 (and possibly others too!)

Drawbacks

  • Unable to stop a track ( I could add this, but have not had any real use for it)
  • Unable to start WMP (again, this could be added)
  • Hotkeys can’t be customised (once more, this could be added)

The drawbacks are few, but they have not really been a problem for me; if I get enough/any requests then I will add new features to mitigate these drawbacks.

WMP Hotkey Handler was written in Visual Basic 6.
WMP Hotkey Handler can be downloaded here.
The source code is currently unavailable.

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File Encryptor

File Encryptor

Do you have the need to protect your documents from prying eyes? If so, this may be the tool for you!

File Encryptor takes any file and uses a simple, yet effective encryption method to protect your files with the password/encryption key of your choice; simply tell it which file you want to encrypt, enter a password and press encrypt. The file will then be encrypted using XOR encryption and a new, encrypted file will be generated with a .enc extension.

eg myfile.jpg -> myfile.jpg.enc

Decrypting is just as simple, select a .enc file, enter the password and press decrypt; the file will be decrypted and the original restored.

Features

  • Quickly encrypts/decrypts files.
  • Uses a non standard algorithm.
  • Allows you to choose if the original is deleted when the file is encrypted.
  • Allows you to choose if the encrypted file is deleted when the file is decrypted.
  • Brute force protection (If the password is not correct there is no warning, the output will be garbage.)
  • Case sensitive.

Drawbacks

  • If you forget your password you may never be able to decrypt your file.
  • It may still be possible to use frequency analysis to calculate the password.
  • Palindromic passwords will not work. eg. ‘abcba’, ‘ABBA’, ‘glenelg’.
    Passwords such as ‘race car’ and ‘go hang a salami im a lasagna hog’ are fine as they do not reverse perfectly due to spaces.

File Encryptor was written in Visual Basic 6.
File Encryptor can be downloaded here.
The source code is available here.

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AutoRun Disabler

AutoRun Disabler

Ever inserted a software CD and had it automatically open up an installer or menu screen? Perhaps you have inserted a USB drive or external hard drive and had a similar thing happen?

This automated action can be very useful and time saving, especially for the inexperienced computer user, however, it presents a very real and easy to exploit security risk.

When you insert a CD, connect an external drive or open a network share, Windows automatically looks for a file called Autorun.inf; this file contains a set of plain text instructions that tell windows what icon to give the drive and which programs to execute immediately and can even add new menu items when you right click the drive in Explorer.

The contents of Autorun.inf generally look something like this:
[AutoRun]
icon=setup.ico                                 ;choose an icon to use for the drive
open=setup.exe                                 ;automatically run setup.exe
shell\readme = &Read Me                        ;add a Read Me option to the right-click menu
shell\readme\command = notepad readme.txt      ;when Read Me is pressed open the file readme.txt using notepad

It should be immediately obvious to most people that it would take no effort at all for a virus to copy itself and an Autorun.inf to your portable devices, which you no doubt will connect to other computers, whether they be at home, school or in the office or visiting an important client to give a presentation. Once the device is connected to another computer, Windows will unwittingly run the virus, which will proceed to install itself on the system and likewise copy itself to all portable devices and where possible network shares.

These tactics are already very common with malware and viruses and are only increasing in use.

To help protect my own computers from other peoples portable drives and my own portable drives I have used in other computers, I have written AutoRun Disabler.

AutoRun Disabler does exactly what the title suggests, it disables all Autorun files across the system and allows for them to be re-enabled easily when necessary. While there are many methods for doing this, the one I chose to use is virtually fool proof. Windows does allow Autoruns to be disabled through device manager, however, on some systems it does not honour the setting; while Microsoft has released a patch for this, there is no guarantee that the feature will not be broken in future or that you have the patch installed on your system.

Simply click the Protect button and all Autoruns will immediately disabled. To re-enable Autoruns, simpy click the Unprotect button; some times it is necessary to restart your computer after clicking Unprotect.

How does it work?

Windows provides an easy way of remapping ini files to registry keys; by using this, we can map all Autorun.inf to effectively nothing. Now, when you insert your external storage device, Windows will look for Autorun.inf, and if it finds it, it will go to the registry to check if it has been remapped, upon doing so it will see the mapping, determine there are no instructions to carry out and do nothing.

The registry key for remapping ini files is located in:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\IniFileMapping\

All we need to do now is add in an entry for Autorun.inf:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\IniFileMapping\Autorun.inf

Lastly, we add a Default string value:
@SYS:DoesNotExist

AutoRun Disabler was written in Visual Basic 6.
AutoRun Disabler can be downloaded here.
The source code is available here.

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MSN Virus Remover

MSN Virus Remover

MSN Virus Remover is a tool that removes annoying MSN viruses from your computer. I started developing in December 2007 after a few of my contacts contracted MSN viruses and I could put up with it no longer.

For those of you who don’t know what an MSN virus is, they are generally simple programs which install themselves on your computer and connect you to a botnet and proceed to attempt to steal passwords, banking details, CD keys from the registry, have capabilities to launch DDOS attacks, can update themselves and of course spread through a variety of means including, but not limited to dropping themselves in the shared folders of P2P applications (such as Limewire, Emule, Ares, etc) and spamming your MSN contacts with messages such as:

  • do you think my picture is too kinky for myspace?
  • check out my new photos, i just scanned them

These messages are generally followed by a link of file transfer request.

MSN Virus Remover was written in Visual Basic 6.
More information about MSN Virus Remover and a download link can be found here.
This project is closed source.

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