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Paul Merrell

FBI Flouts Obama Directive to Limit Gag Orders on National FBI Letters - The Intercept - 0 views

  • Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter. Security agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national Security purposes. The Security at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day. The letters look like this:
  • Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:
  • That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well. More than a year ago, President Obama announced that he was ordering the Justice Department to terminate gag orders “within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.” And on Feb. 3, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a handful of baby steps resulting from its “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance [its] privacy and civil liberty protections” one of the most concrete was — finally — to cap the gag orders: In response to the President’s new direction, the FBI will now presumptively terminate National FBI Letter nondisclosure orders at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close. Continued nondisclosures orders beyond this period are permitted only if a Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant Director determines that the statutory standards for nondisclosure continue to be satisfied and that the case agent has justified, in writing, why continued nondisclosure is appropriate.
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  • Despite the use of the word “now” in that first sentence, however, the FBI has yet to do any such thing. It has not announced any such change, nor explained how it will implement it, or when. Media inquiries were greeted with stalling and, finally, a no comment — ostensibly on advice of legal counsel. “There is pending litigation that deals with a lot of the same questions you’re asking, out of the Ninth Circuit,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told me. “So for now, we’ll just have to decline to comment.” FBI lawyers are working on a court filing for that case, and “it will address” the new policy, he said. He would not say when to expect it.
  • There is indeed a significant case currently before the federal appeals court in San Francisco. Oral arguments were in October. A decision could come any time. But in that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is representing two unnamed communications companies that received NSLs, is calling for the entire NSL statute to be thrown out as unconstitutional — not for a tweak to the gag. And it has a March 2013 district court ruling in its favor. “The gag is a prior restraint under the First Amendment, and prior restraints have to meet an extremely high burden,” said Andrew Crocker, a legal fellow at EFF. That means going to court and meeting the burden of proof — not just signing a letter. Or as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez put it, “To have such a low bar for denying persons or companies the right to speak about government orders they have been served with is anathema. And it is not very good for accountability.”
  • In a separate case, a wide range of media companies (including First Look Media, the non-profit digital media venture that produces The Intercept) are supporting a lawsuit filed by Twitter, demanding the right to say specifically how many NSLs it has received. But simply releasing companies from a gag doesn’t assure the kind of accountability that privacy advocates are saying is required by the Constitution. “What the public has to remember is a NSL is asking for your information, but it’s not asking it from you,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “The vast majority of these things go to the very large telecommunications and financial companies who have a large stake in maintaining a good relationship with the government because they’re heavily regulated entities.”
  • So, German said, “the number of NSLs that would be exposed as a result of the release of the gag order is probably very few. The person whose records are being obtained is the one who should receive some notification.” A time limit on gags going forward also raises the question of whether past gag orders will now be withdrawn. “Obviously there are at this point literally hundreds of thousands of National Security Letters that are more than three years old,” said Sanchez. Individual review is therefore unlikely, but there ought to be some recourse, he said. And the further back you go, “it becomes increasingly implausible that a significant percentage of those are going to entail some dire national Security risk.” The NSL program has a troubled history. The absolute secrecy of the program and resulting lack of accountability led to systemic abuse as documented by repeated inspector-general investigations, including improperly authorized NSLs, factual misstatements in the NSLs, improper requests under NSL statutes, requests for information based on First Amendment protected activity, “after-the-fact” blanket NSLs to “cover” illegal requests, and hundreds of NSLs for “community of interest” or “calling circle” information without any determination that the telephone numbers were relevant to authorized national Security investigations.
  • Obama’s own hand-selected “Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” recommended in December 2013 that NSLs should only be issued after judicial review — just like warrants — and that any gag should end within 180 days barring judicial re-approval. But FBI director James Comey objected to the idea, calling NSLs “a very important tool that is essential to the work we do.” His argument evidently prevailed with Obama.
  • NSLs have managed to stay largely under the American public’s radar. But, Crocker says, “pretty much every time I bring it up and give the thumbnail, people are shocked. Then you go into how many are issued every year, and they go crazy.” Want to send me your old NSL and see if we can set a new precedent? Here’s how to reach me. And here’s how to leak to me.
Paul Merrell

Apple's New Challenge: Learning How the U.S. Cracked Its iPhone - The New York Times - 0 views

  • Now that the United States government has cracked open an iPhone that belonged to a gunman in the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooting without Apple’s help, the tech company is under pressure to find and fix the flaw.But unlike other cases where security vulnerabilities have cropped up, Apple may face a higher set of hurdles in ferreting out and repairing the particular iPhone hole that the government hacked.The challenges start with the lack of information about the method that the law enforcement authorities, with the aid of a third party, used to break into the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, an attacker in the San Bernardino rampage last year. Federal officials have refused to identify the person, or organization, who helped crack the device, and have declined to specify the procedure used to open the iPhone. Apple also cannot obtain the device to reverse-engineer the problem, the way it would in other hacking situations.
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    It would make a very interesting Freedom of Information Act case if Apple sued under that Act to force disclosure of the security hole iPhone product defect the security exploited. I know of no interpretation of the law enforcement FOIA exemption that would justify security disclosure of the information. It might be alleged that the information is the trade secret of the company that disclosed the defect and exploit to the the security, but there's a very strong argument that the fact that the information was shared with the security waived the trade secrecy claim. And the notion that government is entitled to collect product security defects and exploit them without informing the exploited product's company of the specific defect is extremely weak.  Were I Tim Cook, I would have already told my lawyers to get cracking on filing the FOIA request with the security to get the legal ball rolling. 
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 Security 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

Visit the Wrong Website, and the FBI Could End Up in Your Computer | Threat Level | WIRED - 0 views

  • Security experts call it a “drive-by download”: a hacker infiltrates a high-traffic website and then subverts it to deliver malware to every single visitor. It’s one of the most powerful tools in the black hat arsenal, capable of delivering thousands of fresh victims into a hackers’ clutches within minutes. Now the technique is being adopted by a different kind of a hacker—the kind with a badge. For the last two years, the Security has been quietly experimenting with drive-by hacks as a solution to one of law enforcement’s knottiest Internet problems: how to identify and prosecute users of criminal websites hiding behind the powerful Tor anonymity system. The approach has borne fruit—over a dozen alleged users of Tor-based child porn sites are now headed for trial as a result. But it’s also engendering controversy, with charges that the Justice Department has glossed over the bulk-hacking technique when describing it to judges, while concealing its use from defendants. Critics also worry about mission creep, the weakening of a technology relied on by human rights workers and activists, and the potential for innocent parties to wind up infected with government malware because they visited the wrong website. “This is such a big leap, there should have been congressional hearings about this,” says ACLU technologist Chris Soghoian, an expert on law enforcement’s use of hacking tools. “If Congress decides this is a technique that’s perfectly appropriate, maybe that’s OK. But let’s have an informed debate about it.”
  • The FBI’s use of malware is not new. The bureau calls the method an NIT, for “network investigative technique,” and the FBI has been using it since at least 2002 in cases ranging from computer hacking to bomb threats, child porn to extortion. Depending on the deployment, an NIT can be a bulky full-featured backdoor program that gives the government access to your files, location, web history and webcam for a month at a time, or a slim, fleeting wisp of code that sends the FBI your computer’s name and address, and then evaporates. What’s changed is the way the FBI uses its malware capability, deploying it as a driftnet instead of a fishing line. And the shift is a direct response to Tor, the powerful anonymity system endorsed by Edward Snowden and the State Department alike.
Paul Merrell

What to Do About Lawless Government Hacking and the Weakening of Digital Security | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • In our society, the rule of law sets limits on what government can and cannot do, no matter how important its goals. To give a simple example, even when chasing a fleeing murder suspect, the police have a duty not to endanger bystanders. The government should pay the same care to our safety in pursuing threats online, but right now we don’t have clear, enforceable rules for government activities like hacking and "digital sabotage." And this is no abstract question—these actions increasingly endanger everyone’s security
  • The problem became especially clear this year during the San Bernardino case, involving the FBI’s demand that Apple rewrite its iOS operating system to defeat FBI features on a locked iPhone. Ultimately the FBI exploited an existing vulnerability in iOS and accessed the contents of the phone with the help of an "outside party." Then, with no public process or discussion of the tradeoffs involved, the government refused to tell Apple about the flaw. Despite the obvious fact that the FBI of the computers and networks we all use is both collective and interwoven—other iPhones used by millions of innocent people presumably have the same vulnerability—the government chose to withhold information Apple could have used to improve the FBI of its phones. Other examples include intelligence activities like Stuxnet and Bullrun, and law enforcement investigations like the FBI’s mass use of malware against Tor users engaged in criminal behavior. These activities are often disproportionate to stopping legitimate threats, resulting in unpatched software for millions of innocent users, overbroad surveillance, and other collateral effects.  That’s why we’re working on a positive agenda to confront governmental threats to digital FBI. Put more directly, we’re calling on lawyers, advocates, technologists, and the public to demand a public discussion of whether, when, and how governments can be empowered to break into our computers, phones, and other devices; sabotage and subvert basic FBI protocols; and stockpile and exploit software flaws and vulnerabilities.  
  • Smart people in academia and elsewhere have been thinking and writing about these issues for years. But it’s time to take the next step and make clear, public rules that carry the force of law to ensure that the government weighs the tradeoffs and reaches the right decisions. This long post outlines some of the things that can be done. It frames the issue, then describes some of the key areas where EFF is already pursuing this agenda—in particular formalizing the rules for disclosing vulnerabilities and setting out narrow limits for the use of government malware. Finally it lays out where we think the debate should go from here.   
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    "In our society, the rule of law sets limits on what government can and cannot do, no matter how important its goals. "
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    It's not often that I disagree with EFF's positions, but on this one I do. The government should be prohibited from exploiting computer vulnerabilities and should be required to immediately report all vulnerabilities discovered to the relevant developers of hardware or software. It's been one long slippery slope since the Supreme Court first approved wiretapping in Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 438 (1928), https://goo.gl/NJevsr (.) Left undecided to this day is whether we have a right to whisper privately, a right that is undeniable. All communications intercept cases since Olmstead fly directly in the face of that right.
Paul Merrell

How an FBI informant orchestrated the Stratfor hack - 0 views

  • Sitting inside a medium-security federal prison in Kentucky, Jeremy Hammond looks defiant and frustrated.  “[The security] could've stopped me,” he told the Daily Dot last month at the Federal Correctional Institution, Manchester. “They could've. They knew about it. They could’ve stopped dozens of sites I was breaking into.” Hammond is currently serving the remainder of a 10-year prison sentence in part for his role in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the early 21st century. His 2011 breach of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (Stratfor) left tens of thousands of Americans vulnerable to identity theft and irrevocably damaged the Texas-based intelligence firm's global reputation. He was also indicted for his role in the June 2011 hack of an Arizona state law enforcement agency's computer servers.
  • There's no question of his guilt: Hammond, 29, admittedly hacked into Stratfor’s network and exfiltrated an estimated 60,000 credit card numbers and associated data and millions of emails, information that was later shared with the whistleblower organization WikiLeaks and the hacker collective Anonymous.   Sealed court documents obtained by the Daily Dot and Motherboard, however, reveal that the attack was instigated and orchestrated not by Hammond, but by an informant, with the full knowledge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  In addition to directly facilitating the breach, the FBI left Stratfor and its customers—which included defense contractors, police chiefs, and National FBI Agency employees—vulnerable to future attacks and fraud, and it requested knowledge of the data theft to be withheld from affected customers. This decision would ultimately allow for millions of dollars in damages.
Paul Merrell

FBI director: Cover up your webcam | TheHill - 0 views

  • The head of the FBI on Wednesday defended putting a piece of tape over his personal laptop's webcam, claiming the FBI step was a common sense one that most should take.  “There’s some sensible things you should be doing, and that’s one of them,” Director James Comey said during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.ADVERTISEMENT“You go into any government office and we all have the little camera things that sit on top of the screen,” he added. “They all have a little lid that closes down on them.“You do that so that people who don’t have authority don’t look at you. I think that’s a good thing.”Comey was pilloried online earlier this year, after he revealed that he puts a piece of tape over his laptop camera to keep away prying eyes. The precaution is a common one among FBI advocates, given the relative ease of hacking laptop cameras.  
  • But many found it ironic for Comey, who this year launched a high profile battle against Apple to gain access to data locked inside of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists. Many viewed that fight as a referendum on digital privacy.Comey was “much mocked for that,” he acknowledged on Wednesday.But he still uses the tape on his laptop.“I hope people lock their cars,” he said. “Lock your doors at night… if you have an alarm system, you should use it.”“It’s not crazy that the FBI director cares about personal FBI as well,” the FBI director added. “So I think people ought to take responsibility for their own safety and FBI.”
Paul Merrell

Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People | WIRED - 0 views

  • For most of the past six weeks, the biggest story out of Silicon Valley was Apple’s battle with the FBI over a federal order to unlock the iPhone of a mass shooter. The company’s refusal touched off a searing debate over privacy and FBI in the digital age. But this morning, at a small office in Mountain View, California, three guys made the scope of that enormous debate look kinda small. Mountain View is home to WhatsApp, an online messaging service now owned by tech giant Facebook, that has grown into one of the world’s most important applications. More than a billion people trade messages, make phone calls, send photos, and swap videos using the service. This means that only Facebook itself runs a larger self-contained communications network. And today, the enigmatic founders of WhatsApp, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, together with a high-minded coder and cryptographer who goes by the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, revealed that the company has added end-to-end encryption to every form of communication on its service.
  • This means that if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moving among them. And that’s true on any phone that runs the app, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows phones to old school Nokia flip phones. With end-to-end encryption in place, not even WhatsApp’s employees can read the data that’s sent across its network. In other words, WhatsApp has no way of complying with a court order demanding access to the content of any message, phone call, photo, or video traveling through its service. Like Apple, WhatsApp is, in practice, stonewalling the federal government, but it’s doing so on a larger front—one that spans roughly a billion devices.
  • The FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment for this story. But many inside the government and out are sure to take issue with the company’s move. In late 2014, WhatsApp encrypted a portion of its network. In the months since, its service has apparently been used to facilitate criminal acts, including the terrorist attacks on Paris last year. According to The New York Times, as recently as this month, the Justice Department was considering a court case against the company after a wiretap order (still under seal) ran into WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. “The government doesn’t want to stop encryption,” says Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in cybercrime and has represented various law enforcement agencies backing the Justice Department and the FBI in their battle with Apple. “But the question is: what do you do when a company creates an encryption system that makes it impossible for court-authorized search warrants to be executed? What is the reasonable level of assistance you should ask from that company?”
Paul Merrell

US pushing local cops to stay mum on surveillance - Yahoo News - 0 views

  • WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
  • One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances it's used, it's unclear whether the technology might violate a person's constitutional rights or whether it's a good investment of taxpayer dollars. Interviews, court records and public-records requests show the Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. That pushback has come in the form of FBI affidavits and consultation in local criminal cases.
  • "These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them." Harris Corp., a key manufacturer of this equipment, built a secrecy element into its authorization agreement with the Federal Communications Commission in 2011. That authorization has an unusual requirement: that local law enforcement "coordinate with the FBI the acquisition and use of the equipment." Companies like Harris need FCC authorization in order to sell wireless equipment that could interfere with radio frequencies. A spokesman from Harris Corp. said the company will not discuss its products for the Defense Department and law enforcement agencies, although public filings showed government sales of communications systems such as the Stingray accounted for nearly one-third of its $5 billion in revenue. "As a government contractor, our solutions are regulated and their use is restricted," spokesman Jim Burke said.
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  • Local police agencies have been denying access to records about this surveillance equipment under state public records laws. Agencies in San Diego, Chicago and Oakland County, Michigan, for instance, declined to tell the AP what devices they purchased, how much they cost and with whom they shared information. San Diego police released a heavily censored purchasing document. Oakland officials said police-secrecy exemptions and attorney-client privilege keep their hands tied. It was unclear whether the Obama administration interfered in the AP requests. "It's troubling to think the FBI can just trump the state's open records law," said Ginger McCall, director of the open government project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. McCall suspects the surveillance would not pass constitutional muster. "The vast amount of information it sweeps in is totally irrelevant to the investigation," she said.
  • A court case challenging the public release of information from the Tucson Police Department includes an affidavit from an FBI special agent, Bradley Morrison, who said the disclosure would "result in the FBI's inability to protect the public from terrorism and other criminal activity because through public disclosures, this technology has been rendered essentially useless for future investigations." Morrison said revealing any information about the technology would violate a federal homeland FBI law about information-sharing and arms-control laws — legal arguments that that outside lawyers and transparency experts said are specious and don't comport with court cases on the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The FBI did not answer questions about its role in states' open records proceedings.
  • But a former Justice Department official said the federal government should be making this argument in federal court, not a state level where different public records laws apply. "The federal government appears to be attempting to assert a federal interest in the information being sought, but it's going about it the wrong way," said Dan Metcalfe, the former director of the Justice Department's office of information and privacy. Currently Metcalfe is the executive director of American University's law school Collaboration on Government Secrecy project. A criminal case in Tallahassee cites the same homeland security laws in Morrison's affidavit, court records show, and prosecutors told the court they consulted with the security to keep portions of a transcript sealed. That transcript, released earlier this month, revealed that Stingrays "force" cellphones to register their location and identifying information with the police device and enables officers to track calls whenever the phone is on.
  • One law enforcement official familiar with the Tucson lawsuit, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak about internal discussions, said federal lawyers told Tucson police they couldn't hand over a PowerPoint presentation made by local officers about how to operate the Stingray device. Federal officials forwarded Morrison's affidavit for use in the Tucson police department's reply to the lawsuit, rather than requesting the case be moved to federal court. In Sarasota, Florida, the U.S. Marshals Service confiscated local records on the use of the surveillance equipment, removing the documents from the reach of Florida's expansive open-records law after the ACLU asked under Florida law to see the documents. The ACLU has asked a judge to intervene. The Marshals Service said it deputized the officer as a federal agent and therefore the records weren't accessible under Florida law.
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    The Florida case is particularly interesting because Florida is within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which has just ruled that law enforcement must obtain a search warrant from a court before using equipment to determine a cell phone's location.  
Paul Merrell

Even the Former Director of the NSA Hates the FBI's New Surveillance Push - The Daily Beast - 0 views

  • The head of the FBI has spent the last several months in something of a panic, warning anyone who will listen that terrorists are “going dark”—using encrypted communications to hide from the FBI—and insisting that the bureau needs some kind of electronic back door to get access to those chats.It’s an argument that civil libertarians and technology industry executives have largely rejected. And now, members of the national FBI establishment—veterans of both the Obama and Bush administrations—are beginning to speak out publicly against FBI Director Jim Comey’s call to give the government a skeleton key to your private talks.
  • The encryption issue was also one of several small, but telling, ways in which Comey seemed out of sync with some of his fellow members of the national security establishment here at the Aspen security Forum.
  • This isn’t the first intra-government fight over encryption, Chertoff noted. The last time an administration insisted on a technological back door—in the 1990s—Congress shot down the idea. And despite cries of “going dark” back then, the government found all kinds of new ways to spy. “We collected more than ever. We found ways to deal with that issue,” Chertoff told the forum.
Paul Merrell

Exclusive: How FBI Informant Sabu Helped Anonymous Hack Brazil | Motherboard - 0 views

  • In early 2012, members of the hacking collective Anonymous carried out a series of cyber attacks on government and corporate websites in Brazil. They did so under the direction of a hacker who, unbeknownst to them, was wearing another hat: helping the Federal Bureau of Investigation carry out one of its biggest cybercrime investigations to date. A year after leaked files exposed the National Security Agency's efforts to spy on citizens and companies in Brazil, previously unpublished chat logs obtained by Motherboard reveal that while under the Security's supervision, Hector Xavier Monsegur, widely known by his online persona, "Sabu," facilitated attacks that affected Brazilian websites. The operation raises questions about how the Security uses global internet vulnerabilities during cybercrime investigations, how it works with informants, and how it shares information with other police and intelligence agencies. 
  • After his arrest in mid-2011, Monsegur continued to organize cyber attacks while working for the FBI. According to documents and interviews, Monsegur passed targets and exploits to hackers to disrupt government and corporate servers in Brazil and several other countries. Details about his work as a federal informant have been kept mostly secret, aired only in closed-door hearings and in redacted documents that include chat logs between Monsegur and other hackers. The chat logs remain under seal due to a protective order upheld in court, but in April, they and other court documents were obtained by journalists at Motherboard and the Daily Dot. 
Paul Merrell

This Is the Real Reason Apple Is Fighting the FBI | TIME - 0 views

  • The first thing to understand about Apple’s latest fight with the FBI—over a court order to help unlock the deceased San Bernardino shooter’s phone—is that it has very little to do with the San Bernardino shooter’s phone. It’s not even, really, the latest round of the Crypto Wars—the long running debate about how law enforcement and intelligence agencies can adapt to the growing ubiquity of uncrackable encryption tools. Rather, it’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments. It’s also the public face of a conflict that will undoubtedly be continued in secret—and is likely already well underway.
  • Considered in isolation, the request seems fairly benign: If it were merely a question of whether to unlock a single device—even one unlikely to contain much essential evidence—there would probably be little enough harm in complying. The reason Apple CEO Tim Cook has pledged to fight a court’s order to assist the bureau is that he understands the danger of the underlying legal precedent the FBI is seeking to establish. Four important pieces of context are necessary to see the trouble with the Apple order.
Paul Merrell

Cy Vance's Proposal to Backdoor Encrypted Devices Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities | Just Security - 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 security 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 security protecting users’ communications and activities and to conduct surveillance. Clearly, the reality is that the threat of such a breach, whether from a hacker 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 security 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 security, and members of Congress, depend on strong encryption for cybersecurity and data security. 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 cybersecurity. Heads of the intelligence community regularly warn that cybersecurity is the top threat to our national security. 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 security 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.
Paul Merrell

Senate narrowly rejects new FBI surveillance | TheHill - 0 views

  • The Senate narrowly rejected expanding the FBI's surveillance powers Wednesday in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.  Senators voted 58-38 on a procedural hurdle, with 60 votes needed to move forward. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back The Trail 2016: Berning embers McConnell quashes Senate effort on guns MORE, who initially voted "yes," switched his vote, which allows him to potentially bring the measure back up. 
  • The Senate GOP proposal—being offered as an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill—would allow the FBI to use "national FBI letters" to obtain people's internet browsing history and other information without a warrant during a terrorism or federal intelligence probe.  It would also permanently extend a Patriot Act provision — currently set to expire in 2019 — meant to monitor "lone wolf" extremists.  Senate Republicans said they would likely be able to get enough votes if McConnell schedules a redo.
  • Asked if he anticipates supporters will be able to get 60 votes, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate to vote on two gun bills Senate Dems rip GOP on immigration ruling Post Orlando, hawks make a power play MORE (R-Texas) separately told reporters "that's certainly my expectation." McConnell urged support for the proposal earlier Wednesday, saying it would give the FBI to "connect the dots" in terrorist investigations.  "We can focus on defeating [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] or we can focus on partisan politics. Some of our colleagues many think this is all some game," he said. "I believe this is a serious moment that calls for serious solutions."  But Democrats—and some Republicans—raised concerns that the changes didn't go far enough to ensure Americans' privacy.  Sen. Ron WydenRon WydenPost Orlando, hawks make a power play Democrats seize spotlight with sit-in on guns Democrats stage sit-in on House floor to push for gun vote MORE (D-Ore.) blasted his colleagues for "hypocrisy" after a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens more during the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. "Due process ought to apply as it relates to guns, but due process wouldn't apply as it relates to the internet activity of millions of Americans," he said ahead of Wednesday's vote. "Supporters of this amendment...have suggested that Americans need to choose between protecting our FBI and protecting our constitutional right to privacy." 
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  • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also came out in opposition the Senate GOP proposal on Tuesday, warning it would urge lawmakers to vote against it. 
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    Too close for comfort and coming around the bernd again. 
Paul Merrell

FBI's secret method of unlocking iPhone may never reach Apple | Reuters - 0 views

  • The FBI may be allowed to withhold information about how it broke into an iPhone belonging to a gunman in the December San Bernardino shootings, despite a U.S. government policy of disclosing technology FBI flaws discovered by federal agencies. Under the U.S. vulnerabilities equities process, the government is supposed to err in favor of disclosing FBI issues so companies can devise fixes to protect data. The policy has exceptions for law enforcement, and there are no hard rules about when and how it must be applied.Apple Inc has said it would like the government to share how it cracked the iPhone FBI protections. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been frustrated by its inability to access data on encrypted phones belonging to criminal suspects, might prefer to keep secret the technique it used to gain access to gunman Syed Farook's phone. The referee is likely to be a White House group formed during the Obama administration to review computer FBI flaws discovered by federal agencies and decide whether they should be disclosed.
  • Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the NSA and now a lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson, said the review process could be complicated if the cracking method is considered proprietary by the third party that assisted the FBI.Several FBI researchers have pointed to the Israel-based mobile forensics firm Cellebrite as the likely third party that helped the FBI. That company has repeatedly declined comment.
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    The article is wide of the mark, based on analysis of Executive Branch policy rather than the governing law such as the Freedom of Information Act. And I still find it somewhat ludicrous that a third party with knowledge of the defect could succeed in convincing a court that knowledge of a defect in a company's product is trade-secret proprietary information. "Your honor, my client has discovered a way to break into Mr. Tim Cook's house without a key to his house. That is a valuable trade secret that this Court must keep Mr. Cook from learning." Pow! The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it a crime to access a computer that can connect to the Internet by exploiting a software bug. 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

FBI director to citizens: Let us spy on you | Ars Technica - 0 views

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    "The expanding options for communicating over the Internet and the increasing adoption of encryption technologies could leave law enforcement agents "in the dark" and unable to collect evidence against criminals, the Director of the FBI said in a speech on Thursday."
Paul Merrell

U.S. Says It Spied on 89,000 Targets Last Year, But the Number Is Deceptive | Threat Level | WIRED - 0 views

  • About 89,000 foreigners or organizations were targeted for spying under a U.S. surveillance order last year, according to a new transparency report. The report was released for the first time Friday by the Office of the Director of Intelligence, upon order of the president, in the wake of surveillance leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. But the report, which covers only surveillance orders issued in 2013, doesn’t tell the whole story about how many individuals the spying targeted or how many Americans were caught in the surveillance that targeted foreigners. Civil liberties groups say the real number is likely “orders of magnitude” larger than this. “Even if it was an honest definition of ‘target’—that is, an individual instead of a group—that also is not encompassing those who are ancillary to a target and are caught up in the dragnet,” says Kurt Opsahl, deputy general counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
  • The report, remarkably, shows that the government obtained just one order last year under Section 702 of FISA—which allows for bulk collection of data on foreigners—and that this one order covered 89,138 targets. But, as the report notes, “target” can refer to “an individual person, a group, an organization composed of multiple individuals or a foreign power that possesses or is likely to communicate foreign intelligence information.” Furthermore, Section 702 orders are actually certificates issued by the FISA Court that can cover surveillance of an entire facility. And since, as the government points out in its report, the government cannot know how many people use a facility, the figure only “reflects an estimate of the number of known users of particular facilities (sometimes referred to as selectors) subject to intelligence collection under those Certifications,” the report notes.
  • “If you’re actually trying to get a sense of the number of human beings affected or the number of Americans affected, the number of people affected is vastly, vastly larger,” says Julian Sanchez, senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “And how many of those are Americans is impossible to say. But [although] you may not think you are routinely communicating with foreign persons, [this] is not any kind of assurance that your communications are not part of the traffic subject to interception.” Sanchez points out that each individual targeted is likely communicating with dozens or hundred of others, whose communications will be picked up in the surveillance. “And probably a lot of these targets are not individuals but entire web sites or companies. While [a company like the Chinese firm] Huawei might be a target, thousands of emails used by thousands of employees will be swept up.” How many of those employees might be American or communicating with Americans is unknown.
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  • Also revealed in today’s report is the number of times the government has queried the controversial phone records database it created by collecting the phone records of every subscriber from U.S. providers. According to the report, the government used 423 “selectors” to search its massive phone records database, which includes records going back to at least 2006 when the program began. A search involves querying a specific phone number or device ID that appears in the database. The government has long maintained that its collection of phone records isn’t a violation of its authority, since it only views the records of specific individuals targeted in an investigation. But such searches, even if targeted at phone numbers used by foreigners, would include calls made to and from Americans as well as calls exchanged with people two or three hops out from the targeted number.
  • In its report, the government indicated that the 423 selectors involved just 248 “known or presumed” Americans whose information was collected by the agency in the database. But Opsahl says that both of these numbers are deceptive given what we know about the database and how it’s been used. “We know it’s affecting millions of people,” he points out. But “then we have estimated numbers of affected people [that are just] in the three digits. That requires some effort [on the government's part] to find a way to do the definition of the number [in such a way] to make it as small as possible.”
  • One additional figure today’s report covers is the number of National Security Letters the government issued last year to businesses to obtain data on accountholders and users—19,212. NSLs are written demands from the Security that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and others to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited, and more. These letters are a powerful tool because they do not require court approval, and they come with a built-in gag order, preventing recipients from disclosing to anyone that they have received an NSL. An Security agent looking into a possible anti-terrorism case can self-issue an NSL to a credit bureau, ISP, or phone company with only the sign-off of the Special Agent in Charge of their office. The Security has merely to assert that the information is “relevant” to an investigation into international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.
  • The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs over the years and has been reprimanded for abusing them. Last year a federal judge ruled that the use of NSLs is unconstitutional, due to the gag order that accompanies them, and ordered the government to stop using them. Her ruling, however, was stayed pending the government’s appeal.
  • According to the government’s report today, the 19,000 NSLs issued last year involved more than 38,000 requests for information.
Paul Merrell

FBI Got Into San Bernardino Killer's iPhone Without Apple's Help - 0 views

  • AFTER MORE THAN a month of insisting that Apple weaken its security to help the security break into San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone, the government has dropped its legal fight. “The government has now successfully accessed the data stored on Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires the assistance from Apple,” wrote attorneys for the Department of Justice on Monday evening. It’s not yet known if anything valuable was stored on the phone, however. “The security is currently reviewing the information on the phone, consistent with standard investigatory procedures,” said Department of Justice spokesperson Melanie Newman in a statement.
Paul Merrell

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

  • One security start-up that had an encounter with the security 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 security and asked for a backdoor. 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 does 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 doesn'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 hackers? 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 Brandon 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 hackers, we don'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

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 security vendors and Sony management who are under the microscope for this. Let’s face it – most of today’s so-called “cutting edge” security 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 security 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 security 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 security 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 Security – https://www.riskbasedSecurity.com/2014/12/a-breakdown-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. 
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