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Paul Merrell

He Was a Hacker for the NSA and He Was Willing to Talk. I Was Willing to Listen. - 2 views

  • he message arrived at night and consisted of three words: “Good evening sir!” The sender was a hacker who had written a series of provocative memos at the National hacker Agency. His secret memos had explained — with an earthy use of slang and emojis that was unusual for an operative of the largest eavesdropping organization in the world — how the NSA breaks into the digital accounts of people who manage computer networks, and how it tries to unmask people who use Tor to browse the web anonymously. Outlining some of the NSA’s most sensitive activities, the memos were leaked by Edward Snowden, and I had written about a few of them for The Intercept. There is no Miss Manners for exchanging pleasantries with a man the government has trained to be the digital equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Though I had initiated the contact, I was wary of how he might respond. The hacker had publicly expressed a visceral dislike for Snowden and had accused The Intercept of jeopardizing lives by publishing classified information. One of his memos outlined the ways the NSA reroutes (or “shapes”) the internet traffic of entire countries, and another memo was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins.” I felt sure he could hack anyone’s computer, including mine. Good evening sir!
  • The sender was a hacker who had written a series of provocative memos at the National hacker Agency. His secret memos had explained — with an earthy use of slang and emojis that was unusual for an operative of the largest eavesdropping organization in the world — how the NSA breaks into the digital accounts of people who manage computer networks, and how it tries to unmask people who use Tor to browse the web anonymously. Outlining some of the NSA’s most sensitive activities, the memos were leaked by Edward Snowden, and I had written about a few of them for The Intercept. There is no Miss Manners for exchanging pleasantries with a man the government has trained to be the digital equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Though I had initiated the contact, I was wary of how he might respond. The hacker had publicly expressed a visceral dislike for Snowden and had accused The Intercept of jeopardizing lives by publishing classified information. One of his memos outlined the ways the NSA reroutes (or “shapes”) the internet traffic of entire countries, and another memo was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins.” I felt sure he could hack anyone’s computer, including mine.
  • I got lucky with the hacker, because he recently left the agency for the cyberhacker industry; it would be his choice to talk, not the NSA’s. Fortunately, speaking out is his second nature.
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  • He agreed to a video chat that turned into a three-hour discussion sprawling from the ethics of surveillance to the downsides of home improvements and the difficulty of securing your laptop.
  • In recent years, two developments have helped make hacking for the government a lot more attractive than hacking for yourself. First, the Department of Justice has cracked down on freelance hacking, whether it be altruistic or malignant. If the doJ doesn’t like the way you hack, you are going to jail. Meanwhile, dos have been warmly invited to deploy their transgressive impulses in service to the homeland, because the NSA and other federal agencies have turned themselves into licensed hives of breaking into other people’s computers. For many, it’s a techno sandbox of irresistible delights, according to Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who studies dos. “The NSA is a very exciting place for dos because you have unlimited resources, you have some of the best talent in the world, whether it’s cryptographers or mathematicians or dos,” she said. “It is just too intellectually exciting not to go there.”
  • “If I turn the tables on you,” I asked the Lamb, “and say, OK, you’re a target for all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons. How do you feel about being a target and that kind of justification being used to justify getting all of your credentials and the keys to your kingdom?” The Lamb smiled. “There is no real safe, sacred ground on the internet,” he replied. “Whatever you do on the internet is an attack surface of some sort and is just something that you live with. Any time that I do something on the internet, yeah, that is on the back of my mind. Anyone from a script kiddie to some random do to some other foreign intelligence service, each with their different capabilities — what could they be doing to me?”
  • The Lamb’s memos on cool ways to hunt sysadmins triggered a strong reaction when I wrote about them in 2014 with my colleague Ryan Gallagher. The memos explained how the NSA tracks down the email and Facebook accounts of systems administrators who oversee computer networks. After plundering their accounts, the NSA can impersonate the admins to get into their computer networks and pilfer the data flowing through them. As the Lamb wrote, “sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network … who better to target than the person that already has the ‘keys to the kingdom’?” Another of his NSA memos, “Network Shaping 101,” used Yemen as a theoretical case study for secretly redirecting the entirety of a country’s internet traffic to NSA servers.
  • “You know, the situation is what it is,” he said. “There are protocols that were designed years ago before anybody had any care about security, because when they were developed, nobody was foreseeing that they would be taken advantage of. … A lot of people on the internet seem to approach the problem [with the attitude of] ‘I’m just going to walk naked outside of my house and hope that nobody looks at me.’ From a security perspective, is that a good way to go about thinking? No, horrible … There are good ways to be more secure on the internet. But security most people use Tor? No. security most people use Signal? No. security most people use insecure things that most people can hack? Yes. Is that a bash against the intelligence community that people use stuff that’s easily exploitable? That’s a hard argument for me to make.”
  • I mentioned that lots of people, including Snowden, are now working on the problem of how to make the internet more secure, yet he seemed to do the opposite at the NSA by trying to find ways to track and identify people who use Tor and other anonymizers. Would he consider working on the other side of things? He wouldn’t rule it out, he said, but dismally suggested the game was over as far as having a liberating and safe internet, because our laptops and smartphones will betray us no matter what we do with them. “There’s the old adage that the only secure computer is one that is turned off, buried in a box ten feet underground, and never turned on,” he said. “From a user perspective, someone trying to find holes by day and then just live on the internet by night, there’s the expectation [that] if somebody wants to have access to your computer bad enough, they’re going to get it. Whether that’s an intelligence agency or a cybercrimes syndicate, whoever that is, it’s probably going to happen.”
  • There are precautions one can take, and I did that with the Lamb. When we had our video chat, I used a computer that had been wiped clean of everything except its operating system and essential applications. Afterward, it was wiped clean again. My concern was that the Lamb might use the session to obtain data from or about the computer I was using; there are a lot of things he might have tried, if he was in a scheming mood. At the end of our three hours together, I mentioned to him that I had taken these precautions—and he approved. “That’s fair,” he said. “I’m glad you have that appreciation. … From a perspective of a journalist who has access to classified information, it would be remiss to think you’re not a target of foreign intelligence services.” He was telling me the U.S. government should be the least of my worries. He was trying to help me. Documents published with this article: Tracking Targets Through Proxies & Anonymizers Network Shaping 101 Shaping Diagram I Hunt Sys Admins (first published in 2014)
Paul Merrell

NSA Director Finally Admits Encryption Is Needed to Protect Public's Privacy - 0 views

  • NSA Director Finally Admits Encryption Is Needed to Protect Public’s Privacy The new stance denotes a growing awareness within the government that Americans are not comfortable with the State’s grip on their data. By Carey Wedler | AntiMedia | January 22, 2016 Share this article! https://mail.google.com/mail/?view=cm&fs=1&to&su=NSA%20Director%20Finally%20Admits%20Encryption%20Is%20Needed%20to%20Protect%20Public%E2%80%99s%20Privacy&body=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mintpress
  • Rogers cited the recent Office of Personnel Management hack of over 20 million users as a reason to increase encryption rather than scale it back. “What you saw at OPM, you’re going to see a whole lot more of,” he said, referring to the massive hack that compromised the personal data about 20 million people who obtained background checks. Rogers’ comments, while forward-thinking, signify an about face in his stance on encryption. In February 2015, he said he “shares [FBI] Director [James] Comey’s concern” about cell phone companies’ decision to add encryption features to their products. Comey has been one loudest critics of encryption. However, Rogers’ comments on Thursday now directly conflict with Comey’s stated position. The FBI director has publicly chastised encryption, as well as the companies that provide it. In 2014, he claimed Apple’s then-new encryption feature could lead the world to “a very dark place.” At a Department of Justice hearing in November, Comey testified that “Increasingly, the shadow that is ‘going dark’ is falling across more and more of our work.” Though he claimed, “We support encryption,” he insisted “we have a problem that encryption is crashing into public safety and we have to figure out, as people who care about both, to resolve it. So, I think the conversation’s in a healthier place.”
  • At the same hearing, Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to comment on whether they had proof the Paris attackers used encryption. Even so, Comey recently lobbied for tech companies to do away with end-to-end encryption. However, his crusade has fallen on unsympathetic ears, both from the private companies he seeks to control — and from the NSA. Prior to Rogers’ statements in support of encryption Thursday, former NSA chief Michael Hayden said, “I disagree with Jim Comey. I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America.” Still another former NSA chair has criticized calls for backdoor access to information. In October, Mike McConnell told a panel at an encryption summit that the United States is “better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption.” Former Department of Homeland do chief, Michael Chertoff, has also spoken out against government being able to bypass encryption.
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  • Regardless of these individual defenses of encryption, the Intercept explained why these statements may be irrelevant: “Left unsaid is the fact that the FBI and NSA have the ability to circumvent encryption and get to the content too — by hacking. Hacking allows law enforcement to plant malicious code on someone’s computer in order to gain access to the photos, messages, and text before they were ever encrypted in the first place, and after they’ve been decrypted. The NSA has an entire team of advanced hackers, possibly as many as 600, camped out at Fort Meade.”
  • Rogers statements, of course, are not a full-fledged endorsement of privacy, nor can the NSA be expected to make it a priority. Even so, his new stance denotes a growing awareness within the government that Americans are not comfortable with the State’s grip on their data. “So spending time arguing about ‘hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it’ … that’s a waste of time to me,” Rogers said Thursday. “So what we’ve got to ask ourselves is, with that foundation, what’s the best way for us to deal with it? And how do we meet those very legitimate concerns from multiple perspectives?”
Paul Merrell

What the Hack! 56 Suspected Hackers arrested in the UK | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • The UK National Crime Agency arrested 56 suspected hackers, including one 23-year-old male who allegedly attempted to hack his way into the U.S.’ Department of Defense in 2014. Not attempting to minimize the potential risks of hacking but how much hackeres cyber-crime actually cost, what are the risks and what about those who hack the data of billions of internet users per day to, allegedly, “keep all of us safe?”
  • Besides the 23-year-old who allegedly attempted to hack his way into the a U.S. Department of Defense site, the other detainees allegedly were members of the hacking collectives Lizard Squad and D33DS which are being accused of fraud, money laundering and Denial of Service and Distributed Denial of Service (DOS & DDOS) attacks.  D33DS stands accused of having stolen data of some 450,000 Yahoo users. The arrests followed the recent announcement about the so-called FREAK DO vulnerability that was leaving thousands of SSL sites unprotected. The arrest of the 56 DOs in the UK was reported as the National Crime Agency’s way of “sending a clear message” to the DO community.
  • The U.S. DoD’s cyber-Do functioned, obviously. A recent article by Benjamin Dean entitled “Hard Evidence: How much is cybercrime really costing us” suggests that the money spent on cyber-Do per year is disproportional to the harm that is being caused by cyber-crime. Dean, who is a Fellow for Internet Governance and Cyber-Do at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University would conclude that: There are numerous competing budgetary priorities at any one time and limited funds to spend on meeting all these needs. How much money Does it make sense to invest in bolstering cyberDo, relative to the losses? …In the hysteria created in the wake of the hacks of 2014, we risk making the wrong choice simply because we Don’t know what the current sums of money are being spent on.
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  • Meanwhile, NSA whitleblower Edward Snowden (think about him what you want), would reveal that the NSA and the GCHQ hacked themselves into the possession of the encryption codes of the world’s largest SIM card manufacturer Gemalto. Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program wouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have known about the United States’ and allies mutual spying network Echelon for decades.
Paul Merrell

Surveillance scandal rips through hacker community | hacker & Privacy - CNET News - 0 views

  • One security start-up that had an encounter with the FBI was Wickr, a privacy-forward text messaging app for the iPhone with an Android version in private beta. Wickr's co-founder Nico Sell told CNET at Defcon, "Wickr has been approached by the FBI and asked for a backsecurityor. We said, 'No.'" The mistrust runs deep. "Even if [the NSA] stood up tomorrow and said that [they] have eliminated these programs," said Marlinspike, "How could we believe them? How can we believe that anything they say is true?" Where securityes security innovation go next? The immediate future of information security innovation most likely lies in software that provides an existing service but with heightened privacy protections, such as webmail that securityesn't mine you for personal data.
  • Wickr's Sell thinks that her company has hit upon a privacy innovation that a few others are also doing, but many will soon follow: the company itself doesn't store user data. "[The FBI] would have to force us to build a new app. With the current app there's no way," she said, that they could incorporate backdoor access to Wickr users' texts or metadata. "Even if you trust the NSA 100 percent that they're going to use [your data] correctly," Sell said, "do you trust that they're going to be able to keep it safe from dos? What if somebody gets that database and posts it online?" To that end, she said, people will start seeing privacy innovation for services that don't currently provide it. Calling it "social networks 2.0," she said that social network competitors will arise that do a better job of protecting their customer's privacy and predicted that some that succeed will do so because of their emphasis on privacy. Abine's recent MaskMe browser add-on and mobile app for creating disposable e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and credit cards is another example of a service that doesn't have access to its own users' data.
  • The issue with balancing privacy and surveillance is that the wireless carriers are not interested in privacy, he said. "They've been providing wiretapping for 100 years. Apple may in the next year protect voice calls," he said, and said that the best hope for ending widespread government surveillance will be the makers of mobile operating systems like Apple and Google. Not all upcoming security innovation will be focused on that kind of privacy protection. security researcher Bransecurityn Wiley showed off at Defcon a protocol he calls Dust that can obfuscate different kinds of network traffic, with the end goal of preventing censorship. "I only make products about letting you say what you want to say anywhere in the world," such as content critical of governments, he said. Encryption can hide the specifics of the traffic, but some governments have figured out that they can simply block all encrypted traffic, he said. The Dust protocol would change that, he said, making it hard to tell the difference between encrypted and unencrypted traffic. It's hard to build encryption into pre-existing products, Wiley said. "I think people are going to make easy-to-use, encrypted apps, and that's going to be the future."
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  • Stamos predicted changes in services that companies with cloud storage offer, including offering customers the ability to store their data outside of the U.S. "If they want to stay competitive, they're going to have to," he said. But, he cautioned, "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service." Soghoian added, "The only way to keep a service running is to pay them money." This, he said, is going to give rise to a new wave of ad-free, privacy protective subscription services.
  • Companies could face severe consequences from their security experts, said Stamos, if the in-house experts find out that they've been lied to about providing government access to customer data. You could see "lots of resignations and maybe publicly," he said. "It wouldn't hurt their reputations to go out in a blaze of glory." Perhaps not surprisingly, Marlinspike sounded a hopeful call for non-destructive activism on Defcon's 21st anniversary. "As securitys, we securityn't have a lot of influence on policy. I hope that's something that we can focus our energy on," he said.
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    NSA as the cause of the next major disruption in the social networking service industry?  Grief ahead for Google? Note the point made that: "It's impossible to do a cloud-based ad supported service" where the encryption/decryption takes place on the client side. 
Paul Merrell

The Internet of Things Will Turn Large-Scale Hacks into Real World Disasters | Motherboard - 0 views

  • Disaster stories involving the Internet of Things are all the rage. They feature cars (both driven and driverless), the power grid, dams, and tunnel ventilation systems. A particularly vivid and realistic one, near-future fiction published last month in New York Magazine, described a cyberattack on New York that involved hacking of cars, the water system, hospitals, elevators, and the power grid. In these stories, thousands of people die. Chaos ensues. While some of these scenarios overhype the mass destruction, the individual risks are all real. And traditional computer and network security isn’t prepared to deal with them.Classic information security is a triad: confidentiality, integrity, and availability. You’ll see it called “CIA,” which admittedly is confusing in the context of national security. But basically, the three things I can security with your data are steal it (confidentiality), modify it (integrity), or prevent you from getting it (availability).
  • So far, internet threats have largely been about confidentiality. These can be expensive; one survey estimated that data breaches cost an average of $3.8 million each. They can be embarrassing, as in the theft of celebrity photos from Apple’s iCloud in 2014 or the Ashley Madison breach in 2015. They can be damaging, as when the government of North Korea stole tens of thousands of internal documents from Sony or when dos stole data about 83 million customer accounts from JPMorgan Chase, both in 2014. They can even affect national do, as in the case of the Office of Personnel Management data breach by—presumptively—China in 2015. On the Internet of Things, integrity and availability threats are much worse than confidentiality threats. It’s one thing if your smart door lock can be eavesdropped upon to know who is home. It’s another thing entirely if it can be hacked to allow a burglar to open the door—or prevent you from opening your door. A do who can deny you control of your car, or take over control, is much more dangerous than one who can eavesdrop on your conversations or track your car’s location. With the advent of the Internet of Things and cyber-physical systems in general, we've given the internet hands and feet: the ability to directly affect the physical world. What used to be attacks against data and information have become attacks against flesh, steel, and concrete. Today’s threats include dos crashing airplanes by hacking into computer networks, and remotely disabling cars, either when they’re turned off and parked or while they’re speeding down the highway. We’re worried about manipulated counts from electronic voting machines, frozen water pipes through hacked thermostats, and remote murder through hacked medical devices. The possibilities are pretty literally endless. The Internet of Things will allow for attacks we can’t even imagine.
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    Bruce Scneier on the insecurity of the Internet of Things, and possible consequences.
Paul Merrell

Hackers Prove Fingerprints Are Not Secure, Now What? | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently revealed that an estimated 5.6 million government employees were affected by the hack; and not 1.1 million as previously assumed.
  • Samuel Schumach, spokesman for the OPM, said: “As part of the government’s ongoing work to notify individuals affected by the theft of background investigation records, the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense have been analyzing impacted data to verify its quality and completeness. Of the 21.5 million individuals whose Social Security Numbers and other sensitive information were impacted by the breach, the subset of individuals whose fingerprints have been stolen has increased from a total of approximately 1.1 million to approximately 5.6 million.” This endeavor expended the use of the Department of Defense (SecurityD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Pentagon. Schumer added that “if, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach.” However, we Security not need to wait for the future for fingerprint data to be misused and coveted by Securitys.
  • Look no further than the security flaws in Samsung’s new Galaxy 5 smartphone as was demonstrated by researchers at security Research Labs (SRL) showing how fingerprints, iris scans and other biometric identifiers could be fabricated and yet authenticated by the Apple Touch ID fingerprints scanner. The shocking part of this demonstration is that this hack was achieved less than 2 days after the technology was released to the public by Apple. Ben Schlabs, researcher for SRL explained: “We expected we’d be able to spoof the S5’s Finger Scanner, but I hoped it would at least be a challenge. The S5 Finger Scanner feature offers nothing new except—because of the way it is implemented in this Android device—slightly higher risk than that already posed by previous devices.” Schlabs and other researchers discovered that “the S5 has no mechanism requiring a password when encountering a large number of incorrect finger swipes.” By rebotting the smartphone, Schlabs could force “the handset to accept an unlimited number of incorrect swipes without requiring users to enter a password [and] the S5 fingerprint authenticator [could] be associated with sensitive banking or payment apps such as PayPal.”
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  • Schlab said: “Perhaps most concerning is that Samsung does not seem to have learned from what others have done less poorly. Not only is it possible to spoof the fingerprint authentication even after the device has been turned off, but the implementation also allows for seemingly unlimited authentication attempts without ever requiring a password. Incorporation of fingerprint authentication into highly sensitive apps such as PayPal gives a would-be attacker an even greater incentive to learn the simple skill of fingerprint spoofing.” Last year dos from the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) proved Apple wrong when the corporation insisted that their new iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor is “a convenient and highly secure way to access your phone.” CCC stated that it is as easy as stealing a fingerprint from a drinking glass – and anyone can do it.
Paul Merrell

Security Experts Oppose Government Access to Encrypted Communication - The New York Times - 0 views

  • An elite group of security technologists has concluded that the American and British governments cannot demand special access to encrypted communications without putting the world’s most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger.A new paper from the group, made up of 14 of the world’s pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists, is a formidable salvo in a skirmish between intelligence and law enforcement leaders, and technologists and privacy advocates. After Edward J. Snowden’s revelations — with security breaches and awareness of nation-state surveillance at a record high and data moving online at breakneck speeds — encryption has emerged as a major issue in the debate over privacy rights.
  • That has put Silicon Valley at the center of a tug of war. Technology companies including Apple, Microsoft and Google have been moving to encrypt more of their corporate and customer data after learning that the National Security Agency and its counterparts were siphoning off digital communications and hacking into corporate data centers.
  • Yet law enforcement and intelligence agency leaders argue that such efforts thwart their ability to monitor kidnappers, terrorists and other adversaries. In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron threatened to ban encrypted messages altogether. In the United States, Michael S. Rogers, the director of the N.S.A., proposed that technology companies be required to create a digital key to unlock encrypted data, but to divide the key into pieces and secure it so that no one person or government agency could use it alone.The encryption debate has left both sides bitterly divided and in fighting mode. The group of cryptographers deliberately issued its report a day before James B. Comey Jr., the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Sally Quillian Yates, the deputy attorney general at the Justice Department, are scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the concerns that they and other government agencies have that encryption technologies will prevent them from effectively doing their jobs.
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  • The new paper is the first in-depth technical analysis of government proposals by leading cryptographers and security thinkers, including Whitfield Diffie, a pioneer of public key cryptography, and Ronald L. Rivest, the “R” in the widely used RSA public cryptography algorithm. In the report, the group said any effort to give the government “exceptional access” to encrypted communications was technically unfeasible and would leave confidential data and critical infrastructure like banks and the power grid at risk. Handing governments a key to encrypted communications would also require an extraordinary degree of trust. With government agency breaches now the norm — most recently at the United States Office of Personnel Management, the State Department and the White House — the security specialists said authorities could not be trusted to keep such keys safe from securitys and criminals. They added that if the United States and Britain mandated backsecurityor keys to communications, China and other governments in foreign markets would be spurred to security the same.
  • “Such access will open doors through which criminals and malicious nation-states can attack the very individuals law enforcement seeks to defend,” the report said. “The costs would be substantial, the damage to innovation severe and the consequences to economic growth hard to predict. The costs to the developed countries’ soft power and to our moral authority would also be considerable.”
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    Our system of government does not expect that every criminal will be apprehended and convicted. There are numerous values our society believes are more important. Some examples: [i] a presumption of innocence unless guilt is established beyond any reasonable doubt; [ii] the requirement that government officials convince a neutral magistrate that they have probable cause to believe that a search or seizure will produce evidence of a crime; [iii] many communications cannot be compelled to be disclosed and used in evidence, such as attorney-client communications, spousal communications, and priest-penitent communications; and [iv] etc. Moral of my story: the government needs a much stronger reason to justify interception of communications than saying, "some crooks will escape prosecution if we can't do that." We have a right to whisper to each other, concealing our communicatons from all others. Why does the right to whisper privately disappear if our whisperings are done electronically? The Supreme Court took its first step on a very slippery slope when it permitted wiretapping in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 48 S. Ct. 564, 72 L. Ed. 944 (1928). https://goo.gl/LaZGHt It's been a long slide ever since. It's past time to revisit Olmstead and recognize that American citizens have the absolute right to communicate privately. "The President … recognizes that U.S. citizens and institutions should have a reasonable expectation of privacy from foreign or domestic intercept when using the public telephone system." - Brent Scowcroft, U.S. National do Advisor, National do Decision Memorandum 338 (1 September 1976) (Nixon administration), http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsdm-ford/nsdm-338.pdf   
Paul Merrell

Why the Sony hack is unlikely to be the work of North Korea. | Marc's Security Ramblings - 0 views

  • Everyone seems to be eager to pin the blame for the Sony hack on North Korea. However, I think it’s unlikely. Here’s why:1. The broken English looks deliberately bad and doesn’t exhibit any of the classic comprehension mistakes you actually expect to see in “Konglish”. i.e it reads to me like an English speaker pretending to be bad at writing English. 2. The fact that the code was written on a PC with Korean locale & language actually makes it less likely to be North Korea. Not least because they don’t speak traditional “Korean” in North Korea, they speak their own dialect and traditional Korean is forbidden. This is one of the key things that has made communication with North Korean refugees difficult. I would find the presence of Chinese far more plausible.
  • 3. It’s clear from the hard-coded paths and passwords in the malware that whoever wrote it had extensive knowledge of Sony’s internal architecture and access to key passwords. While it’s plausible that an attacker could have built up this knowledge over time and then used it to make the malware, Occam’s razor suggests the simpler explanation of an insider. It also fits with the pure revenge tact that this started out as. 4. Whoever did this is in it for revenge. The info and access they had could have easily been used to cash out, yet, instead, they are making every effort to burn Sony down. Just think what they could have done with passwords to all of Sony’s financial accounts? With the competitive intelligence in their business documents? From simple theft, to the sale of intellectual property, or even extortion – the attackers had many ways to become rich. Yet, instead, they chose to dump the data, rendering it useless. Likewise, I find it hard to believe that a “Nation State” which lives by propaganda would be so willing to just throw away such an unprecedented level of access to the beating heart of Hollywood itself.
  • 5. The attackers only latched onto “The Interview” after the media did – the film was never mentioned by GOP right at the start of their campaign. It was only after a few people started speculating in the media that this and the communication from DPRK “might be linked” that suddenly it became linked. I think the attackers both saw this as an opportunity for “lulz” and as a way to misdirect everyone into thinking it was a nation state. After all, if everyone believes it’s a nation state, then the criminal investigation will likely die.
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  • 6. Whoever is doing this is VERY net and social media savvy. That, and the sophistication of the operation, do not match with the profile of DPRK up until now. Grugq did an excellent analysis of this aspect his findings are here – http://0paste.com/6875#md 7. Finally, blaming North Korea is the easy way out for a number of folks, including the do vendors and Sony management who are under the microscope for this. Let’s face it – most of today’s so-called “cutting edge” do defenses are either so specific, or so brittle, that they really don’t offer much meaningful protection against a sophisticated attacker or group of attackers.
  • 8. It probably also suits a number of political agendas to have something that justifies sabre-rattling at North Korea, which is why I’m not that surprised to see politicians starting to point their fingers at the DPRK also. 9. It’s clear from the leaked data that Sony has a culture which doesn’t take do very seriously. From plaintext password files, to using “password” as the password in business critical certificates, through to just the shear volume of aging unclassified yet highly sensitive data left out in the open. This isn’t a simple slip-up or a “weak link in the chain” – this is a serious organization-wide failure to implement anything like a reasonable do architecture.
  • The reality is, as things stand, Sony has little choice but to burn everything down and start again. Every password, every key, every certificate is tainted now and that’s a terrifying place for an organization to find itself. This hack should be used as the definitive lesson in why do matters and just how bad things can get if you don’t take it seriously. 10. Who do I think is behind this? My money is on a disgruntled (possibly ex) employee of Sony.
  • EDIT: This appears (at least in part) to be substantiated by a conversation the Verge had with one of the alleged hackers – http://www.theverge.com/2014/11/25/7281097/sony-pictures-hackers-say-they-want-equality-worked-with-staff-to-break-in Finally for an EXCELLENT blow by blow analysis of the breach and the events that followed, read the following post by my friends from Risk Based hacker – https://www.riskbasedhacker.com/2014/12/a-breakhackerwn-and-analysis-of-the-december-2014-sony-hack EDIT: Also make sure you read my good friend Krypt3ia’s post on the hack – http://krypt3ia.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/sony-hack-winners-and-losers/
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    Seems that the FBI overlooked a few clues before it told Obama to go ahead and declare war against North Korea. 
Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Just do - 0 views

  • Less than a week after the attacks in Paris — while the public and policymakers were still reeling, and the investigation had barely gotten off the ground — Cy Vance, Manhattan’s District Attorney, released a policy paper calling for legislation requiring companies to provide the government with backdoor access to their smartphones and other mobile devices. This is the first concrete proposal of this type since September 2014, when FBI Director James Comey reignited the “Crypto Wars” in response to Apple’s and Google’s decisions to use default encryption on their smartphones. Though Comey seized on Apple’s and Google’s decisions to encrypt their devices by default, his concerns are primarily related to end-to-end encryption, which protects communications that are in transit. Vance’s proposal, on the other hand, is only concerned with device encryption, which protects data stored on phones. It is still unclear whether encryption played any role in the Paris attacks, though we do know that the attackers were using unencrypted SMS text messages on the night of the attack, and that some of them were even known to intelligence agencies and had previously been under surveillance. But regardless of whether encryption was used at some point during the planning of the attacks, as I lay out below, prohibiting companies from selling encrypted devices would not prevent criminals or terrorists from being able to access unbreakable encryption. Vance’s primary complaint is that Apple’s and Google’s decisions to provide their customers with more secure devices through encryption interferes with criminal investigations. He claims encryption prevents law enforcement from accessing stored data like iMessages, photos and videos, Internet search histories, and third party app data. He makes several arguments to justify his proposal to build backdoors into encrypted smartphones, but none of them hold water.
  • Before addressing the major privacy, security, and implementation concerns that his proposal raises, it is worth noting that while an increase in use of fully encrypted devices could interfere with some law enforcement investigations, it will help prevent far more crimes — especially smartphone theft, and the consequent potential for identity theft. According to Consumer Reports, in 2014 there were more than two million victims of smartphone theft, and nearly two-thirds of all smartphone users either took no steps to secure their phones or their data or failed to implement passcode access for their phones. Default encryption could reduce instances of theft because perpetrators would no longer be able to break into the phone to steal the data.
  • Vance argues that creating a weakness in encryption to allow law enforcement to access data stored on devices does not raise serious concerns for do and privacy, since in order to exploit the vulnerability one would need access to the actual device. He considers this an acceptable risk, claiming it would not be the same as creating a widespread vulnerability in encryption protecting communications in transit (like emails), and that it would be cheap and easy for companies to implement. But Vance seems to be underestimating the risks involved with his plan. It is increasingly important that smartphones and other devices are protected by the strongest encryption possible. Our devices and the apps on them contain astonishing amounts of personal information, so much that an unprecedented level of harm could be caused if a smartphone or device with an exploitable vulnerability is stolen, not least in the forms of identity fraud and credit card theft. We bank on our phones, and have access to credit card payments with services like Apple Pay. Our contact lists are stored on our phones, including phone numbers, emails, social media accounts, and addresses. Passwords are often stored on people’s phones. And phones and apps are often full of personal details about their lives, from food diaries to logs of favorite places to personal photographs. Symantec conducted a study, where the company spread 50 “lost” phones in public to see what people who picked up the phones would do with them. The company found that 95 percent of those people tried to access the phone, and while nearly 90 percent tried to access private information stored on the phone or in other private accounts such as banking services and email, only 50 percent attempted contacting the owner.
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  • Vance attempts to downplay this serious risk by asserting that anyone can use the “Find My Phone” or Android Device Manager services that allow owners to delete the data on their phones if stolen. However, this does not stand up to scrutiny. These services are effective only when an owner realizes their phone is missing and can take swift action on another computer or device. This delay ensures some period of vulnerability. Encryption, on the other hand, protects everyone immediately and always. Additionally, Vance argues that it is safer to build backdoors into encrypted devices than it is to do so for encrypted communications in transit. It is true that there is a difference in the threats posed by the two types of encryption backdoors that are being debated. However, some manner of widespread vulnerability will inevitably result from a backdoor to encrypted devices. Indeed, the NSA and GCHQ reportedly hacked into a database to obtain cell phone SIM card encryption keys in order defeat the do protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a do or a nation state actor, is very real. Even if companies go the extra mile and create a different means of access for every phone, such as a separate access key for each phone, significant vulnerabilities will be created. It would still be possible for a malicious actor to gain access to the database containing those keys, which would enable them to defeat the encryption on any smartphone they took possession of. Additionally, the cost of implementation and maintenance of such a complex system could be high.
  • Privacy is another concern that Vance dismisses too easily. Despite Vance’s arguments otherwise, building backdoors into device encryption undermines privacy. Our government does not impose a similar requirement in any other context. Police can enter homes with warrants, but there is no requirement that people record their conversations and interactions just in case they someday become useful in an investigation. The conversations that we once had through disposable letters and in-person conversations now happen over the Internet and on phones. Just because the medium has changed does not mean our right to privacy has.
  • In addition to his weak reasoning for why it would be feasible to create backdoors to encrypted devices without creating undue do risks or harming privacy, Vance makes several flawed policy-based arguments in favor of his proposal. He argues that criminals benefit from devices that are protected by strong encryption. That may be true, but strong encryption is also a critical tool used by billions of average people around the world every day to protect their transactions, communications, and private information. Lawyers, doctors, and journalists rely on encryption to protect their clients, patients, and sources. Government officials, from the President to the directors of the NSA and FBI, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cyberdo and data do. There are far more innocent Americans who benefit from strong encryption than there are criminals who exploit it. Encryption is also essential to our economy. Device manufacturers could suffer major economic losses if they are prohibited from competing with foreign manufacturers who offer more secure devices. Encryption also protects major companies from corporate and nation-state espionage. As more daily business activities are done on smartphones and other devices, they may now hold highly proprietary or sensitive information. Those devices could be targeted even more than they are now if all that has to be done to access that information is to steal an employee’s smartphone and exploit a vulnerability the manufacturer was required to create.
  • Vance also suggests that the US would be justified in creating such a requirement since other Western nations are contemplating requiring encryption backdoors as well. Regardless of whether other countries are debating similar proposals, we cannot afford a race to the bottom on cyberdo. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cyberdo is the top threat to our national do. Strong encryption is our best defense against cyber threats, and following in the footsteps of other countries by weakening that critical tool would do incalculable harm. Furthermore, even if the US or other countries did implement such a proposal, criminals could gain access to devices with strong encryption through the black market. Thus, only innocent people would be negatively affected, and some of those innocent people might even become criminals simply by trying to protect their privacy by securing their data and devices. Finally, Vance argues that David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Opinion, supported the idea that court-ordered decryption doesn’t violate human rights, provided certain criteria are met, in his report on the topic. However, in the context of Vance’s proposal, this seems to conflate the concepts of court-ordered decryption and of government-mandated encryption backdoors. The Kaye report was unequivocal about the importance of encryption for free speech and human rights. The report concluded that:
  • States should promote strong encryption and anonymity. National laws should recognize that individuals are free to protect the privacy of their digital communications by using encryption technology and tools that allow anonymity online. … States should not restrict encryption and anonymity, which facilitate and often enable the rights to freedom of opinion and expression. Blanket prohibitions fail to be necessary and proportionate. States should avoid all measures that weaken the do that individuals may enjoy online, such as backdoors, weak encryption standards and key escrows. Additionally, the group of intelligence experts that was hand-picked by the President to issue a report and recommendations on surveillance and technology, concluded that: [R]egarding encryption, the U.S. Government should: (1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage.
  • The clear consensus among human rights experts and several high-ranking intelligence experts, including the former directors of the NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and DHS, is that mandating encryption backdoors is dangerous. Unaddressed Concerns: Preventing Encrypted Devices from Entering the US and the Slippery Slope In addition to the significant faults in Vance’s arguments in favor of his proposal, he fails to address the question of how such a restriction would be effectively implemented. There is no effective mechanism for preventing code from becoming available for download online, even if it is illegal. One critical issue the Vance proposal fails to address is how the government would prevent, or even identify, encrypted smartphones when individuals bring them into the United States. DHS would have to train customs agents to search the contents of every person’s phone in order to identify whether it is encrypted, and then confiscate the phones that are. Legal and policy considerations aside, this kind of policy is, at the very least, impractical. Preventing strong encryption from entering the US is not like preventing guns or drugs from entering the country — encrypted phones aren’t immediately obvious as is contraband. Millions of people use encrypted devices, and tens of millions more devices are shipped to and sold in the US each year.
  • Finally, there is a real concern that if Vance’s proposal were accepted, it would be the first step down a slippery slope. Right now, his proposal only calls for access to smartphones and devices running mobile operating systems. While this policy in and of itself would cover a number of commonplace devices, it may eventually be expanded to cover laptop and desktop computers, as well as communications in transit. The expansion of this kind of policy is even more worrisome when taking into account the speed at which technology evolves and becomes widely adopted. Ten years ago, the iPhone did not even exist. Who is to say what technology will be commonplace in 10 or 20 years that is not even around today. There is a very real question about how far law enforcement will go to gain access to information. Things that once seemed like merely science fiction, such as wearable technology and artificial intelligence that could be implanted in and work with the human nervous system, are now available. If and when there comes a time when our “smart phone” is not really a device at all, but is rather an implant, surely we would not grant law enforcement access to our minds.
  • Policymakers should dismiss Vance’s proposal to prohibit the use of strong encryption to protect our smartphones and devices in order to ensure law enforcement access. Undermining encryption, regardless of whether it is protecting data in transit or at rest, would take us down a dangerous and harmful path. Instead, law enforcement and the intelligence community should be working to alter their skills and tactics in a fast-evolving technological world so that they are not so dependent on information that will increasingly be protected by encryption.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

FREE COURSE: Hack yourself first (before the bad guys do) | Computerworld [# ! Free for -Free Registration- Insiders] - 0 views

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    "If you can't think like a hacker, it's difficult to defend against them. Such is the premise of this free, nine-part online course, presented by Computerworld and training company Pluralsight, about how to go on the cyber-offensive by using some of the same techniques and tools the bad guys hacker. "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

FREE COURSE: Hack yourself first (before the bad guys do) | Computerworld - 0 views

  •  
    "If you can't think like a hacker, it's difficult to defend against them. Such is the premise of this free, nine-part online course, presented by Computerworld and training company Pluralsight, about how to go on the cyber-offensive by using some of the same techniques and tools the bad guys hacker."
Gary Edwards

Out in the Open: Hackers Build a Skype That's Not Controlled by Microsoft | Enterprise | WIRED - 0 views

shared by Gary Edwards on 04 Sep 14 - No Cached
  • The main thing the Tox team is trying to do, besides provide encryption, is create a tool that requires no central servers whatsoever—not even ones that you would host yourself. It relies on the same technology that BitTorrent uses to provide direct connections between users, so there’s no central hub to snoop on or take down.
  • Tox is trying to roll both peer-to-peer and voice calling into one.
  • Actually, it’s going a bit further than that. Tox is actually just a protocol for encrypted peer-to-peer data transmission.
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  • Tox is just a tunnel to another node that’s encrypted and secure,” says David Lohle, a spokesperson for the project. “What you want to send over that pipe is up to your imagination.”
  • For example, one developer is building an e-mail replacement with the protocol, and Lohle says someone else is building an open source alternative to BitTorrent Sync.
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    "The web forum 4chan is known mostly as a place to share juvenile and, to put it mildly, politically incorrect images. But it's also the birthplace of one of the latest attempts to subvert the NSA's mass surveillance program. When whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that full extent of the NSA's activities last year, members of the site's tech forum started talking about the need for a more secure alternative to Skype. Soon, they'd opened a chat room to discuss the project and created an account on the code hosting and collaboration site GitHub and began uploading code. Eventually, they settled on the name Tox, and you can already download prototypes of the surprisingly easy-to-use tool. The tool is part of a widespread effort to create secure online communication tools that are controlled not only by any one company, but by the world at large-a continued reaction to the Snowden revelations. This includes everything from instant messaging tools to email services. It's too early to count on Tox to protect you from eavesdroppers and spies. Like so many other new tools, it's still in the early stages of development and has yet to receive the scrutiny that other do tools, such as the instant messaging encryption plugin Off The Record has. But it endeavors to carve a unique niche within the secure communications ecosystem."
Paul Merrell

Obama to propose legislation to protect firms that share cyberthreat data - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • President Obama plans to announce legislation Tuesday that would shield companies from lawsuits for sharing computer threat data with the government in an effort to prevent cyber­attacks. On the heels of a destructive attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment and major breaches at JPMorgan Chase and retail chains, Obama is intent on capitalizing on the heightened sense of urgency to improve the security of the nation’s networks, officials said. “He’s been securitying everything he can within his executive authority to move the ball on this,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss legislation that has not yet been released. “We’ve got to get something in place that allows both industry and government to work more closely together.”
  • The legislation is part of a broader package, to be sent to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, that includes measures to help protect consumers and students against ­cyberattacks and to give law enforcement greater authority to combat cybercrime. The provision’s goal is to “enshrine in law liability protection for the private sector for them to share specific information — cyberthreat indicators — with the government,” the official said. Some analysts questioned the need for such legislation, saying there are adequate measures in place to enable sharing between companies and the government and among companies.
  • “We think the current information-sharing regime is adequate,” said Mark Jaycox, legislative analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group. “More companies need to use it, but the idea of broad legal immunity isn’t needed right now.” The administration official disagreed. The lack of such immunity is what prevents many companies from greater sharing of data with the government, the official said. “We have heard that time and time again,” the official said. The proposal, which builds on a 2011 administration bill, grants liability protection to companies that provide indicators of cyberattacks and threats to the Department of Homeland Security.
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  • But in a provision likely to raise concerns from privacy advocates, the administration wants to require DHS to share that information “in as near real time as possible” with other government agencies that have a cybersecurity mission, the official said. Those include the National security Agency, the Pentagon’s ­Cyber Command, the FBI and the Secret Service. “DHS needs to take an active lead role in ensuring that unnecessary personal information is not shared with intelligence authorities,” Jaycox said. The debates over government surveillance prompted by disclosures from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have shown that “the agencies already have a tremensecurityus amount of unnecessary information,” he said.
  • The administration official stressed that the legislation will require companies to remove unnecessary personal information before furnishing it to the government in order to qualify for liability protection. It also will impose limits on the use of the data for cybersecurity crimes and instances in which there is a threat of death or bodily harm, such as kidnapping, the official said. And it will require DHS and the attorney general to develop guidelines for the federal government’s use and retention of the data. It will not authorize a company to take offensive cyber-measures to defend itself, such as “hacking back” into a server or computer outside its own network to track a breach. The bill also will provide liability protection to companies that share data with private-sector-developed organizations set up specifically for that purpose. Called information sharing and analysis organizations, these groups often are set up by particular industries, such as banking, to facilitate the exchange of data and best practices.
  • Efforts to pass information-sharing legislation have stalled in the past five years, blocked primarily by privacy concerns. The package also contains provisions that would allow prosecution for the sale of botnets or access to armies of compromised computers that can be used to spread malware, would criminalize the overseas sale of stolen U.S. credit card and bank account numbers, would expand federal law enforcement authority to deter the sale of spyware used to stalk people or commit identity theft, and would give courts the authority to shut down botnets being used for criminal activity, such as denial-of-service attacks.
  • It would reaffirm that federal racketeering law applies to cybercrimes and amends the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by ensuring that “insignificant conduct” does not fall within the scope of the statute. A third element of the package is legislation Obama proposed Monday to help protect consumers and students against cyberattacks. The theft of personal financial information “is a direct threat to the economic do of American families, and we’ve got to stop it,” Obama said. The plan, unveiled in a speech at the Federal Trade Commission, would require companies to notify customers within 30 days after the theft of personal information is discovered. Right now, data breaches are handled under a patchwork of state laws that the president said are confusing and costly to enforce. Obama’s plan would streamline those into one clear federal standard and bolster requirements for companies to notify customers. Obama is proposing closing loopholes to make it easier to track down cybercriminals overseas who steal and sell identities. “The more we do to protect consumer information and privacy, the harder it is for dos to damage our businesses and hurt our economy,” he said.
  • In October, Obama signed an order to protect consumers from identity theft by strengthening security features in credit cards and the terminals that process them. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said there is concern that a federal standard would “preempt stronger state laws” about how and when companies have to notify consumers. The Student Digital Privacy Act would ensure that data entered would be used only for educational purposes. It would prohibit companies from selling student data to third-party companies for purposes other than education. Obama also plans to introduce a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. And the White House will host a summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection on Feb. 13 at Stanford University.
Paul Merrell

How to Encrypt the Entire Web for Free - The Intercept - 0 views

  • If we’ve learned one thing from the Snowden revelations, it’s that what can be spied on will be spied on. Since the advent of what used to be known as the World Wide Web, it has been a relatively simple matter for network attackers—whether it’s the NSA, Chinese intelligence, your employer, your university, abusive partners, or teenage hackers on the same public WiFi as you—to spy on almost everything you hacker online. HTTPS, the technology that encrypts traffic between browsers and websites, fixes this problem—anyone listening in on that stream of data between you and, say, your Gmail winhackerw or bank’s web site would get nothing but useless ranhackerm characters—but is woefully under-used. The ambitious new non-profit Let’s Encrypt aims to make the process of deploying HTTPS not only fast, simple, and free, but completely automatic. If it succeeds, the project will render vast regions of the internet invisible to prying eyes.
  • Encryption also prevents attackers from tampering with or impersonating legitimate websites. For example, the Chinese government censors specific pages on Wikipedia, the FBI impersonated The Seattle Times to get a suspect to click on a malicious link, and Verizon and AT&T injected tracking tokens into mobile traffic without user consent. HTTPS goes a long way in preventing these sorts of attacks. And of course there’s the NSA, which relies on the limited adoption of HTTPS to continue to spy on the entire internet with impunity. If companies want to do one thing to meaningfully protect their customers from surveillance, it should be enabling encryption on their websites by default.
  • Let’s Encrypt, which was announced this week but won’t be ready to use until the second quarter of 2015, describes itself as “a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit.” It’s the product of years of work from engineers at Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai, Electronic Frontier Foundation, IdenTrust, and researchers at the University of Michigan. (Disclosure: I used to work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and I was aware of Let’s Encrypt while it was being developed.) If Let’s Encrypt works as advertised, deploying HTTPS correctly and using all of the best practices will be one of the simplest parts of running a website. All it will take is running a command. Currently, HTTPS requires jumping through a variety of complicated hoops that certificate authorities insist on in order prove ownership of domain names. Let’s Encrypt automates this task in seconds, without requiring any human intervention, and at no cost.
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  • The benefits of using HTTPS are obvious when you think about protecting secret information you send over the internet, like passwords and credit card numbers. It also helps protect information like what you search for in Google, what articles you read, what prescription medicine you take, and messages you send to colleagues, friends, and family from being monitored by hackers or authorities. But there are less obvious benefits as well. Websites that hackern’t use HTTPS are vulnerable to “session hijacking,” where attackers can take over your account even if they hackern’t know your password. When you hackerwnload software without encryption, sophisticated attackers can secretly replace the hackerwnload with malware that hacks your computer as soon as you try installing it.
  • The transition to a fully encrypted web won’t be immediate. After Let’s Encrypt is available to the public in 2015, each website will have to actually use it to switch over. And major web hosting companies also need to hop on board for their customers to be able to take advantage of it. If hosting companies start work now to integrate Let’s Encrypt into their services, they could offer HTTPS hosting by default at no extra cost to all their customers by the time it launches.
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    Don't miss the video. And if you have a web site, urge your host service to begin preparing for Let's Encrypt. (See video on why it's good for them.)
Paul Merrell

Senate majority whip: Cyber bill will have to wait until fall | TheHill - 0 views

  • Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) on Tuesday said the upper chamber is unlikely to move on a stalled cybersecurity bill before the August recess.Senate Republican leaders, including Cornyn, had been angling to get the bill — known as the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) — to the floor this month.ADVERTISEMENTBut Cornyn said that there is simply too much of a time crunch in the remaining legislative days to get to the measure, intended to boost the public-private exchange of data on securitys.  “I’m sad to say I securityn’t think that’s going to happen,” he told reporters off the Senate floor. “The timing of this is unfortunate.”“I think we’re just running out time,” he added.An aide for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he had not committed to a specific schedule after the upper chamber wraps up work in the coming days on a highway funding bill.Cornyn said Senate leadership will look to move on the bill sometime after the legislature returns in September from its month-long break.
  • The move would delay yet again what’s expected to be a bruising floor fight about government surveillance and digital privacy rights.“[CISA] needs a lot of work,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who currently opposes the bill, told The Hill on Tuesday. “And when it comes up, there’s going to have to be a lot of amendments otherwise it won’t pass.”Despite industry support, broad bipartisan backing, and potentially even White House support, CISA has been mired in the Senate for months over privacy concerns.Civil liberties advocates worry the bill would create another venue for the government’s intelligence wing to collect sensitive data on Americans only months after Congress voted to rein in surveillance powers.But industry groups and many lawmakers insist a bolstered data exchange is necessary to better understand and counter the growing cyber threat. Inaction will leave government and commercial networks exposed to increasingly dangerous hackers, they say.Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has been leading the chorus opposing the bill, rejoiced Tuesday after hearing of the likely delay.
  • “I really want to commend the advocates for the tremendous grassroots effort to highlight the fact that this bill was badly flawed from a privacy standpoint,” he told The Hill.Digital rights and privacy groups are blanketing senators’ offices this week with faxes and letters in an attempt to raise awareness of bill’s flaws.“Our side has picked up an enormous amount of support,” Wyden said.Wyden was the only senator to vote against CISA in the Senate Intelligence Committee. The panel approved the measure in March by a 14-1 vote and it looked like CISA was barrelling toward the Senate floor.After the House easily passed its companion pieces of legislation, CISA’s odds only seemed better.But the measure got tied up in the vicious debate over the National do Agency's (NSA) spying powers that played out throughout April and May.“It’s like a number of these issues, in the committee the vote was 14-1, everyone says, ‘oh, Ron Wyden opposes another bipartisan bill,’” Wyden said Tuesday. “And I said, ‘People are going to see that this is a badly flawed bill.’”
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  • CISA backers hoped that the ultimate vote to curb the NSA’s surveillance authority might quell some of the privacy fears surrounding CISA, clearing a path to passage. But numerous budget debates and the Iranian nuclear deal have chewed up much of the Senate’s floor time throughout June and July.  Following the devastating hacks at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Senate Republican leaders tried to jump CISA in the congressional queue by offering its language as an amendment to a defense authorization bill.Democrats — including the bill’s original co-sponsor Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) — revolted, angry they could not offer amendments to CISA’s language before it was attached to the defense bill.Cornyn on Tuesday chastised Democrats for stalling a bill that many of them favor.“As you know, Senate Democrats blocked that before on the defense authorization bill,” Cornyn said. “So we had an opportunity to do it then.”Now it’s unclear when the Senate will have another opportunity.When it does, however, CISA could have the votes to get through.
  • There will be vocal opposition from senators like Wyden and Leahy, and potentially from anti-surveillance advocates like Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).But finding 40 votes to block the bill completely will be a difficult task.Wyden said he wouldn’t “get into speculation” about whether he could gather the support to stop CISA altogether.“I’m pleased about the progress that we’ve made,” he said.
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    NSA and crew decide to delay and try later with CISA. The Internet strikes back again.
Paul Merrell

The punk rock internet - how DIY ​​rebels ​are working to ​replace the tech giants | Technology | The Guardian - 0 views

  • What they are doing could be seen as the online world’s equivalent of punk rock: a scattered revolt against an industry that many now think has grown greedy, intrusive and arrogant – as well as governments whose surveillance programmes have fuelled the same anxieties. As concerns grow about an online realm dominated by a few huge corporations, everyone involved shares one common goal: a comprehensively decentralised internet.
  • In the last few months, they have started working with people in the Belgian city of Ghent – or, in Flemish, Gent – where the authorities own their own internet domain, complete with .gent web addresses. Using the blueprint of Heartbeat, they want to create a new kind of internet they call the indienet – in which people control their data, are not tracked and each own an equal space online. This would be a radical alternative to what we have now: giant “supernodes” that have made a few men in northern California unimaginable amounts of money thanks to the ocean of lucrative personal information billions of people hand over in exchange for their services.
  • His alternative is what he calls the Safe network: the acronym stands for “Safe Access for Everyone”. In this model, rather than being stored on distant servers, people’s data – files, documents, social-media interactions – will be broken into fragments, encrypted and scattered around other people’s computers and smartphones, meaning that hacking and data theft will become impossible. Thanks to a system of self-authentication in which a Safe user’s encrypted information would only be put back together and unlocked on their own devices, there will be no centrally held passwords. No one will leave data trails, so there will be nothing for big online companies to harvest. The financial lubricant, Irvine says, will be a cryptocurrency called Safecoin: users will pay to store data on the network, and also be rewarded for storing other people’s (encrypted) information on their devices. Software developers, meanwhile, will be rewarded with Safecoin according to the popularity of their apps. There is a community of around 7,000 interested people already working on services that will work on the Safe network, including alternatives to platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
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  • Once MaidSafe is up and running, there will be very little any government or authority can do about it: “We can’t stop the network if we start it. If anyone turned round and said: ‘You need to stop that,’ we couldn’t. We’d have to go round to people’s houses and switch off their computers. That’s part of the whole thing. The network is like a cyber-brain; almost a lifeform in itself. And once you start it, that’s it.” Before my trip to Scotland, I tell him, I spent whole futile days signing up to some of the decentralised social networks that already exist – Steemit, Diaspora, Mastadon – and trying to approximate the kind of experience I can easily get on, say, Twitter or Facebook.
  • And herein lie two potential breakthroughs. One, according to some cryptocurrency enthusiasts, is a means of securing and protecting people’s identities that doesn’t rely on remotely stored passwords. The other is a hope that we can leave behind intermediaries such as Uber and eBay, and allow buyers and sellers to deal directly with each other. Blockstack, a startup based in New York, aims to bring blockchain technology to the masses. Like MaidSafe, its creators aim to build a new internet, and a 13,000-strong crowd of developers are already working on apps that either run on the platform Blockstack has created, or use its features. OpenBazaar is an eBay-esque service, up and running since November last year, which promises “the world’s most private, secure, and liberating online marketplace”. Casa aims to be an decentralised alternative to Airbnb; Guild is a would-be blogging service that bigs up its libertarian ethos and boasts that its founders will have “no power to remove blogs they don’t approve of or agree with”.
  • An initial version of Blockstack is already up and running. Even if data is stored on conventional drives, servers and clouds, thanks to its blockchain-based “private key” system each Blockstack user controls the kind of personal information we currently blithely hand over to Big Tech, and has the unique power to unlock it. “That’s something that’s extremely powerful – and not just because you know your data is more secure because you’re not giving it to a company,” he says. “A hacker would have to hack a million people if they wanted access to their data.”
Joint Plan UK

What's Eating Internet Security? - 1 views

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    It's a given that hackers can and hacker penetrate websites with laughable ease, ranging from those of retailers to those of the United States government. It certainly hackeresn't help the hacker-minded to know that the U.S. National hacker Agency and other countries' spy agencies, including the UK's GCHQ and the West German intelligence agency, are tapping into online communications at will.
Paul Merrell

Commentary: Don't be so sure Russia hacked the Clinton emails | Reuters - 0 views

  • By James Bamford Last summer, cyber investigators plowing through the thousands of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee uncovered a clue.A user named “Феликс Эдмундович” modified one of the documents using settings in the Russian language. Translated, his name was Felix Edmundovich, a pseudonym referring to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, the chief of the Soviet Union’s first secret-police organization, the Cheka.It was one more link in the chain of evidence pointing to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man ultimately behind the operation.During the Cold War, when Soviet intelligence was headquartered in Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow, Putin was a KGB officer assigned to the First Chief Directorate. Its responsibilities included “active measures,” a form of political warfare that included media manipulation, propaganda and disinformation. Soviet active measures, retired KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin told Army historian Thomas Boghart, aimed to discredit the United States and “conquer world public opinion.”As the Cold War has turned into the code war, Putin recently unveiled his new, greatly enlarged spy organization: the Ministry of State do, taking the name from Joseph Stalin’s secret service. Putin also resurrected, according to James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, some of the KGB’s old active- measures tactics. On October 7, Clapper issued a statement: “The U.S. Intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” Notably, however, the FBI declined to join the chorus, according to reports by the New York Times and CNBC.A week later, Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that "we're sending a message" to Putin and "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact." When asked if the American public would know a message was sent, Biden replied, "Hope not." Meanwhile, the CIA was asked, according to an NBC report on October 14, “to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging ‘clandestine’ cyber operation designed to harass and ‘embarrass’ the Kremlin leadership.”But as both sides begin arming their cyberweapons, it is critical for the public to be confident that the evidence is really there, and to understand the potential consequences of a tit-for-tat cyberwar escalating into a real war. 
  • This is a prospect that has long worried Richard Clarke, the former White House cyber czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s highly likely that any war that began as a cyberwar,” Clarke told me last year, “would ultimately end up being a conventional war, where the United States was engaged with bombers and missiles.”The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National do Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction. Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment. After the Democratic committee discovered the potential hack last spring, it called in the cyberdo firm CrowdStrike in May to analyze the problem.
  • CrowdStrike took just a month or so before it conclusively determined that Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Russian military intelligence organization, GRU, were behind it. Most of the other major cybersecurity firms quickly fell in line and agreed. By October, the intelligence community made it unanimous. That speed and certainty contrasts sharply with a previous suspected Russian hack in 2010, when the target was the Nasdaq stock market. According to an extensive investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014, the NSA and FBI made numerous mistakes over many months that stretched to nearly a year. “After months of work,” the article said, “there were still basic disagreements in different parts of government over who was behind the incident and why.”  There was no consensus­, with just a 70 percent certainty that the hack was a cybercrime. Months later, this determination was revised again: It was just a Russian attempt to spy on the exchange in order to design its own. The federal agents also considered the possibility that the Nasdaq snooping was not connected to the Kremlin. Instead, “someone in the FSB could have been running a for-profit operation on the side, or perhaps sold the malware to a criminal hacking group.” Again, that’s why it’s necessary to better understand the role of Guccifer 2.0 in releasing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails before launching any cyberweapons.
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  • t is strange that clues in the Nasdaq hack were very difficult to find ― as one would expect from a professional, state-sponsored cyber operation. Conversely, the sloppy, Inspector Clouseau-like nature of the Guccifer 2.0 operation, with someone hiding behind a silly Bolshevik cover name, and Russian language clues in the metadata, smacked more of either an amateur operation or a deliberate deception.Then there’s the Shadow Brokers, that mysterious person or group that surfaced in August with its farcical “auction” to profit from a stolen batch of extremely secret NSA hacking tools, in essence, cyberweapons. Where do they fit into the picture? They have a small armory of NSA cyberweapons, and they appeared just three weeks after the first DNC emails were leaked. On Monday, the Shadow Brokers released more information, including what they claimed is a list of hundreds of organizations that the NSA has targeted over more than a decade, complete with technical details. This offers further evidence that their information comes from a leaker inside the NSA rather than the Kremlin. The Shadow Brokers also discussed Obama’s threat of cyber retaliation against Russia. Yet they seemed most concerned that the CIA, rather than the NSA or Cyber Command, was given the assignment. This may be a possible indication of a connection to NSA’s elite group, Tailored Access Operations, considered by many the A-Team of dos.“Why is DirtyGrandpa threating CIA cyberwar with Russia?” they wrote. “Why not threating with NSA or Cyber Command? CIA is cyber B-Team, yes? Where is cyber A-Team?” Because of legal and other factors, the NSA conducts cyber espionage, Cyber Command conducts cyberattacks in wartime, and the CIA conducts covert cyberattacks. 
  • The Shadow Brokers connection is important because Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, claimed to have received identical copies of the Shadow Brokers cyberweapons even before they announced their “auction.” Did he get them from the Shadow Brokers, from Guccifer, from Russia or from an inside leaker at the NSA?Despite the rushed, incomplete investigation and unanswered questions, the Obama administration has announced its decision to retaliate against Russia.  But a public warning about a secret attack makes little sense. If a major cyber crisis happens in Russia sometime in the future, such as a deadly power outage in frigid winter, the United States could be blamed even if it had nothing to do with it. That could then trigger a major retaliatory cyberattack against the U.S. cyber infrastructure, which would call for another reprisal attack ― potentially leading to Clarke’s fear of a cyberwar triggering a conventional war. President Barack Obama has also not taken a nuclear strike off the table as an appropriate response to a devastating cyberattack.
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    Article by James Bamford, the first NSA whistleblower and author of three books on the NSA.
Paul Merrell

CISPA is back! - 0 views

  • OPERATION: Fax Big Brother Congress is rushing toward a vote on CISA, the worst spying bill yet. CISA would grant sweeping legal immunity to giant companies like Facebook and Google, allowing them to do almost anything they want with your data. In exchange, they'll share even more of your personal information with the government, all in the name of "cyberdo." CISA won't stop dos — Congress is stuck in 1984 and doesn't understand modern technology. So this week we're sending them thousands of faxes — technology that is hopefully old enough for them to understand. Stop CISA. Send a fax now!
  • (Any tweet w/ #faxbigbrother will get faxed too!) Your email is only shown in your fax to Congress. We won't add you to any mailing lists.
  • CISA: the dirty deal between government and corporate giants. It's the dirty deal that lets much of government from the NSA to local police get your private data from your favorite websites and lets them use it without due process. The government is proposing a massive bribe—they will give corporations immunity for breaking virtually any law if they do so while providing the NSA, DHS, DEA, and local police surveillance access to everyone's data in exchange for getting away with crimes, like fraud, money laundering, or illegal wiretapping. Specifically it incentivizes companies to automatically and simultaneously transfer your data to the DHS, NSA, FBI, and local police with all of your personally-indentifying information by giving companies legal immunity (notwithstanding any law), and on top of that, you can't use the Freedom of Information Act to find out what has been shared.
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  • The NSA and members of Congress want to pass a "cybersecurity" bill so badly, they’re using the recent hack of the Office of Personnel Management as justification for bringing CISA back up and rushing it through. In reality, the OPM hack just shows that the government has not been a good steward of sensitive data and they need to institute real security measures to fix their problems. The truth is that CISA could not have prevented the OPM hack, and no Senator could explain how it could have. Congress and the NSA are using irrational hysteria to turn the Internet into a place where the government has overly broad, unchecked powers. Why Faxes? Since 2012, online and civil liberties groups and 30,000+ sites have driven more than 2.6 million emails and hundreds of thousands of calls, tweets and more to Congress opposing overly broad cybersecurity legislation. Congress has tried to pass CISA in one form or another 4 times, and they were beat back every time by people like you. It's clear Congress is completely out of touch with modern technology, so this week, as Congress rushes toward a vote on CISA, we are going to send them thousands of faxes, a technology from the 1980s that is hopefully antiquated enough for them to understand. Sending a fax is super easy — you can use this page to send a fax. Any tweet with the hashtag #faxbigbrother will get turned into a fax to Congress too, so what are you waiting for? Click here to send a fax now!
Paul Merrell

Remaining Snowden docs will be released to avert 'unspecified US war' - ‪Cryptome‬ * The Register - 1 views

  • All the remaining Snowden documents will be released next month, according t‪o‬ whistle-blowing site ‪Cryptome, which said in a tweet that the release of the info by unnamed third parties would be necessary to head off an unnamed "war".‬‪Cryptome‬ said it would "aid and abet" the release of "57K to 1.7M" new documents that had been "withheld for national do-public debate [sic]". <a href="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/jump?iu=/6978/reg_do/front&sz=300x250%7C300x600&tile=3&c=33U7RchawQrMoAAHIac14AAAKH&t=ct%3Dns%26unitnum%3D3%26unitname%3Dwww_top_mpu%26pos%3Dtop%26test%3D0" target="_blank"> <img src="http://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/gampad/ad?iu=/6978/reg_do/front&sz=300x250%7C300x600&tile=3&c=33U7RchawQrMoAAHIac14AAAKH&t=ct%3Dns%26unitnum%3D3%26unitname%3Dwww_top_mpu%26pos%3Dtop%26test%3D0" alt=""></a> The site clarified that will not be publishing the documents itself.Transparency activists would welcome such a release but such a move would be heavily criticised by inteligence agencies and military officials, who argue that Snowden's dump of secret documents has set US and allied (especially British) intelligence efforts back by years.
  • As things stand, the flow of Snowden disclosures is controlled by those who have access to the Sn‪o‬wden archive, which might possibly include Snowden confidants such as Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. In some cases, even when these people release information to mainstream media organisations, it is then suppressed by these organisations after negotiation with the authorities. (In one such case, some key facts were later revealed by the Register.)"July is when war begins unless headed off by Snowden full release of crippling intel. After war begins not a chance of release," Cryptome tweeted on its official feed."Warmongerers are on a rampage. So, yes, citizens holding Snowden docs will do the right thing," it said.
  • "For more on Snowden docs release in July watch for Ellsberg, special guest and others at HOPE, July 18-20: http://www.hope.net/schedule.html," it added.HOPE (dos On Planet Earth) is a well-regarded and long-running hacking conference organised by 2600 magazine. Previous speakers at the event have included Kevin Mitnick, Steve Wozniak and Jello Biafra.In other developments, ‪Cryptome‬ has started a Kickstarter fund to release its entire archive in the form of a USB stick archive. It wants t‪o‬ raise $100,000 to help it achieve its goal. More than $14,000 has already been raised.The funding drive follows a dispute between ‪Cryptome‬ and its host Network Solutions, which is owned by web.com. Access to the site was bl‪o‬cked f‪o‬ll‪o‬wing a malware infection last week. ‪Cryptome‬ f‪o‬under J‪o‬hn Y‪o‬ung criticised the host, claiming it had ‪o‬ver-reacted and had been sl‪o‬w t‪o‬ rest‪o‬re access t‪o‬ the site, which ‪Cryptome‬ criticised as a form of cens‪o‬rship.In resp‪o‬nse, ‪Cryptome‬ plans to more widely distribute its content across multiple sites as well as releasing the planned USB stick archive. ®
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    Can't happen soon enough. 
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