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Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

STEAL THIS SHOW | About - 0 views

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    "STEAL THIS SHOW is a collaboration between TorrentFreak and STEAL THIS FILM's Jamie King. For more than a decade, TorrentFreak has covered the latest in filesharing and copyright news. After making STEAL THIS FILM, Jamie, started VODO, to help artists use P2p to get their work out and experiment with new business models. (Recently, Jamie has started working on a new project, Emergents, which you are welcome to check out.)"
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Reminder 1: Copyright Monopoly Infringement Isn't Stealing (Says The US Supreme Court) - Falkvinge on Infopolicy - 0 views

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    "Over the Yule holidays, I'll be running a series of reminders of some of the most useful talkbacks. We open with one of the more common ones: copyright industry lawyers tend to insist that violation of the copyright monopoly is "stealing". But in the judicial field, lawyers always go by what the courts say, and the US Supreme Court says it isn't."
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    "Over the Yule holidays, I'll be running a series of reminders of some of the most useful talkbacks. We open with one of the more common ones: copyright industry lawyers tend to insist that violation of the copyright monopoly is "stealing". But in the judicial field, lawyers always go by what the courts say, and the US Supreme Court says it isn't."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Steal This Show S02E05: Trolling For Justice - TorrentFreak - 1 views

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    " By J.J. King on November 3, 2016 C: 0 News Bits Today we bring you the next episode of the Steal This Show podcast, discussing renegade media and the latest file-sharing and copyright news. In this episode we talk to The Yes Men's Mike Bonanno, aka Igor Vamos."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Steal This Show S02E02: 'The Platform Is You' - TorrentFreak - 1 views

  • J.J. King on September 14, 2016 C: 3 News Bits Today we bring you the next episode of the Steal This Show podcast, discussing the latest file-sharing and copyright trends and news. In this episode we talk to returning guest Holmes Wilson, co-founder of Fight For The Future.
Gary Edwards

Red 4.0 - A Full Ruby Runtime in Your Browser « Trek - 0 views

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    Javascript has a major advantage of being (likely) the most installed programming language in history. It's experiencing a renaissance lately where people actually learning it, not just copying code found on someone's website. ECMAScript Harmony will bring some much needed fixes to the language (although I think ECMAScript 4 would have been a true game-changer for the web). Regardless, until we have more mature tools for sever- and DB-side javascript, Javascript is really a browser language (and faces an army of entrenched programmers who'd rather use some other language). To the second argument, I say: Javascript is an amazing language, but you can't declare it off limits to people who prefer other languages. Programming is about choice. On the server we get to use whatever combinations of web server, database, programming language, and development environment we like. Not so for the browser. We're stuck with Javascript whether we like it or not. We can't stay away from it, we can't use something else. Everyone who dislikes working in Javascript is perfectly justified because he has no other avenue. When all browsers support and are prepackaged with VMs for many languages, I'll be the first to sound the clarion: if you don't like JS, get the hell away from it. Until then, you're stuck with us and we're stuck with you. To the third: again, it's really all about to choice. If you prefer Javascript keep using it, make it better, steal ideas from other languages, and seed the community with new ideas of your own. Nobody will complain about a better overall development community. If you'd like to see Red in Python, PHP, C#, or language X then steal Jesse's code. Red was a herculean effort on Jesse's part. I know he's worked on nothing else for two months and future ports of Red to other languages will benefit from this effort.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Steal This Show S01E02: Rebel Librarians & Pirate Academics - TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " By Ernesto on December 5, 2015 C: 1 Opinion Today we bring you the second episode of the Steal This Show podcast, discussing the latest file-sharing and copyright news. In this episode we talk about anti-piracy campaigns and why a group of academics are promoting file-sharing, among other things."
Paul Merrell

Did NSA, GCHQ steal the secret key in YOUR phone SIM? It's LIKELY * The Register - 0 views

  • The NSA and Britain's GCHQ hacked the world's biggest SIM card maker to harvest the encryption keys needed to silently and effortlessly eavesdrop on potentially millions of people. That's according to documents obtained by surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden and leaked to the web on Thursday. "Wow. This is huge – it's one of the most significant findings of the Snowden files so far," computer security guru Bruce Schneier told The Register this afternoon. "We always knew that they would occasionally steal SIM keys. But all of them? The odds that they just attacked this one firm are extraordinarily low and we know the NSA does like to steal keys where it can." The damning slides, published by Snowden's chums at The Intercept, detail the activities of the as-yet unheard-of Mobile Handset Exploitation Team (MHET), run by the US and UK. The group targeted Gemalto, which churns out about two billion SIM cards each year for use around the world, and targeted it in an operation dubbed DAPINO GAMMA.
  • Gemalto's hacking may also bring into question some of its other security products as well. The company supplies chips for electronic passports issued by the US, Singapore, India, and many European states, and is also involved in the NFC and mobile banking sector. It's important to note that this is useful for tracking the phone activity of a target, but the mobile user can still use encryption on the handset itself to ensure that some communications remain private. "Ironically one of your best defenses against a hijacked SIM is to use software encryption," Jon Callas, CTO of encrypted chat biz Silent Circle told The Register. "In our case there's a TCP/IP cloud between Alice and Bob and that can deal with compromised routers along the path as well as SIM issues, and the same applies to similar mobile software."
  • On Wednesday the UK government admitted that its intelligence agencies had in fact broken the ECHR when spying on communications between lawyers and those suing the British state, so GCHQ might want to reconsider that statement.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

New Report Says How Much Advertising Is Going to Piracy Sites | Adweek - 1 views

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    "In the longstanding fight to combat online piracy, there's been growing pressure on the advertisers whose ads appear on sites that steal copyrighted material. The Obama administration has called for private-sector actions to reduce piracy. The 4As and ANA have adopted best practices to keep their members' ads off such sites, and industry leaders have spoken forcefully on the subject. "
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    "In the longstanding fight to combat online piracy, there's been growing pressure on the advertisers whose ads appear on sites that steal copyrighted material. The Obama administration has called for private-sector actions to reduce piracy. The 4As and ANA have adopted best practices to keep their members' ads off such sites, and industry leaders have spoken forcefully on the subject. "
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

What's Your Threat Score? | Alternet [Via] - 1 views

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    "it's a computer algorithm that steals your data and calculates your likelihood of risk and threat for the fuzz." [# Via Janet Innes-Kirkwood https://www.linkedin.com/in/janet-innes-kirkwood-23669b64]
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    "it's a computer algorithm that steals your data and calculates your likelihood of risk and threat for the fuzz." [# Via Janet Innes-Kirkwood https://www.linkedin.com/in/janet-innes-kirkwood-23669b64]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

EU vice-president: Copyright legislation is "pushing people to steal" | Ars Technica UK - 1 views

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    "Ansip says people will pay for legal services if they are made available. by Glyn Moody - Jun 9, 2015 6:53pm CEST"
Paul Merrell

The New Snowden? NSA Contractor Arrested Over Alleged Theft Of Classified Data - 0 views

  • A contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) was arrested by the FBI following his alleged theft of “state secrets.” More specifically, the contractor, Harold Thomas Martin, is charged with stealing highly classified source codes developed to covertly hack the networks of foreign governments, according to several senior law enforcement and intelligence officials. The Justice Department has said that these stolen materials were “critical to national security.” Martin was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, the company responsible for most of the NSA’s most sensitive cyber-operations. Edward Snowden, the most well-known NSA whistleblower, also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton until he fled to Hong Kong in 2013 where he revealed a trove of documents exposing the massive scope of the NSA dragnet surveillance. That surveillance system was shown to have targeted untold numbers of innocent Americans. According to the New York Times, the theft “raises the embarrassing prospect” that an NSA insider managed to steal highly damaging secret information from the NSA for the second time in three years, not to mention the “Shadow Broker” hack this past August, which made classified NSA hacking tools available to the public.
  • Snowden himself took to Twitter to comment on the arrest. In a tweet, he said the news of Martin’s arrest “is huge” and asked, “Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports [that the] NSA sat on huge flaws in US products?” It is currently unknown if Martin was connected to those reports as well.
  • It also remains to be seen what Martin’s motivations were in removing classified data from the NSA. Though many suspect that he planned to follow in Snowden’s footsteps, the government will more likely argue that he had planned to commit espionage by selling state secrets to “adversaries.” According to the New York Times article on the arrest, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are named as examples of the “adversaries” who would have been targeted by the NSA codes that Martin is accused of stealing. However, Snowden revealed widespread US spying on foreign governments including several US allies such as France and Germany. This suggests that the stolen “source codes” were likely utilized on a much broader scale.
Paul Merrell

DropSmack: Using Dropbox to steal files and deliver malware | TechRepublic - 0 views

  • I was perusing the seminar briefing website from this year’s Black Hat EU, fishing for potential article topics, when I came across a briefing note titled “DropSmack: How cloud synchronization services render your corporate firewall worthless.” Feeling a nibble, I read the briefing. Right away, I knew I hooked a keeper: “The contributions of this presentation are threefold. First, we show how cloud-based synchronization solutions in general, and Dropbox in particular, can be used as a vector for delivering malware to an internal network.” The other two contributions were as eye-opening: Show how the Dropbox synchronization service can be used as a Command and Control (C2) channel. Demonstrate how functioning malware is able to use Dropbox to smuggle out data from exploited remote computers.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Wix gets caught "stealing" GPL code from WordPress | Ars Technica UK [# ! Note] - 0 views

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    "In which Wix forgets what happens when you add GPL code to your closed-source app. Sean Gallagher (US) - Nov 2, 2016 6:10 am UTC"
Paul Merrell

Google Wants to Write Your Social Media Messages For You - Search Engine Watch (#SEW) - 0 views

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    Visions of endless conversations between different people's bots with no human participation. Then a human being reads a reply and files a libel lawsuit against the human whose bot posted the reply. Can the defendant obtain dismissal on grounds that she did not write the message herself; her Google autoresponder did and therefore if anyone is liable it is Google?  Our Brave New (technological) World does and will pose many novel legal issues. My favorite so far: Assume that genetics have progressed to the point that unknown to Bill Gates, someone steals a bit of his DNA and implants it in a mother-to-be's egg. Is Bill Gates as the biological father liable for child support? Is that child an heir to Bill Gates' fortune? The current state of law in the U.S. would suggest that the answer to both questions is almost certainly "yes." The child itself is blameless and Bill Gates is his biological father.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

EU: Copyright Legislation is Pushing People to Piracy | TorrentFreak - 0 views

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    " By Andy on June 9, 2015 C: 0 Breaking Speaking at Midem yesterday, Andrus Ansip of the European Commission shared his vision for the Digital Single Market. Noting that geo-blocking is bad for business, Ansip said that opening up content across borders and providing good legal options is the best way to tackle piracy. "Our legislation is pushing people to steal," he said."
Paul Merrell

Operation Socialist: How GCHQ Spies Hacked Belgium's Largest Telco - 0 views

  • When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies. It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”
  • The full story about GCHQ’s infiltration of Belgacom, however, has never been told. Key details about the attack have remained shrouded in mystery—and the scope of the attack unclear. Now, in partnership with Dutch and Belgian newspapers NRC Handelsblad and De Standaard, The Intercept has pieced together the first full reconstruction of events that took place before, during, and after the secret GCHQ hacking operation. Based on new documents from the Snowden archive and interviews with sources familiar with the malware investigation at Belgacom, The Intercept and its partners have established that the attack on Belgacom was more aggressive and far-reaching than previously thought. It occurred in stages between 2010 and 2011, each time penetrating deeper into Belgacom’s systems, eventually compromising the very core of the company’s networks.
  • Snowden told The Intercept that the latest revelations amounted to unprecedented “smoking-gun attribution for a governmental cyber attack against critical infrastructure.” The Belgacom hack, he said, is the “first documented example to show one EU member state mounting a cyber attack on another…a breathtaking example of the scale of the state-sponsored hacking problem.”
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  • When the incoming emails stopped arriving, it seemed innocuous at first. But it would eventually become clear that this was no routine technical problem. Inside a row of gray office buildings in Brussels, a major hacking attack was in progress. And the perpetrators were British government spies. It was in the summer of 2012 that the anomalies were initially detected by employees at Belgium’s largest telecommunications provider, Belgacom. But it wasn’t until a year later, in June 2013, that the company’s security experts were able to figure out what was going on. The computer systems of Belgacom had been infected with a highly sophisticated malware, and it was disguising itself as legitimate Microsoft software while quietly stealing data. Last year, documents from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed that British surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters was behind the attack, codenamed Operation Socialist. And in November, The Intercept revealed that the malware found on Belgacom’s systems was one of the most advanced spy tools ever identified by security researchers, who named it “Regin.”
  • The revelations about the scope of the hacking operation will likely alarm Belgacom’s customers across the world. The company operates a large number of data links internationally (see interactive map below), and it serves millions of people across Europe as well as officials from top institutions including the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council. The new details will also be closely scrutinized by a federal prosecutor in Belgium, who is currently carrying out a criminal investigation into the attack on the company. Sophia in ’t Veld, a Dutch politician who chaired the European Parliament’s recent inquiry into mass surveillance exposed by Snowden, told The Intercept that she believes the British government should face sanctions if the latest disclosures are proven.
  • Publicly, Belgacom has played down the extent of the compromise, insisting that only its internal systems were breached and that customers’ data was never found to have been at risk. But secret GCHQ documents show the agency gained access far beyond Belgacom’s internal employee computers and was able to grab encrypted and unencrypted streams of private communications handled by the company. Belgacom invested several million dollars in its efforts to clean-up its systems and beef-up its security after the attack. However, The Intercept has learned that sources familiar with the malware investigation at the company are uncomfortable with how the clean-up operation was handled—and they believe parts of the GCHQ malware were never fully removed.
  • What sets the secret British infiltration of Belgacom apart is that it was perpetrated against a close ally—and is backed up by a series of top-secret documents, which The Intercept is now publishing.
  • Between 2009 and 2011, GCHQ worked with its allies to develop sophisticated new tools and technologies it could use to scan global networks for weaknesses and then penetrate them. According to top-secret GCHQ documents, the agency wanted to adopt the aggressive new methods in part to counter the use of privacy-protecting encryption—what it described as the “encryption problem.” When communications are sent across networks in encrypted format, it makes it much harder for the spies to intercept and make sense of emails, phone calls, text messages, internet chats, and browsing sessions. For GCHQ, there was a simple solution. The agency decided that, where possible, it would find ways to hack into communication networks to grab traffic before it’s encrypted.
  • The Snowden documents show that GCHQ wanted to gain access to Belgacom so that it could spy on phones used by surveillance targets travelling in Europe. But the agency also had an ulterior motive. Once it had hacked into Belgacom’s systems, GCHQ planned to break into data links connecting Belgacom and its international partners, monitoring communications transmitted between Europe and the rest of the world. A map in the GCHQ documents, named “Belgacom_connections,” highlights the company’s reach across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, illustrating why British spies deemed it of such high value.
  • Documents published with this article: Automated NOC detection Mobile Networks in My NOC World Making network sense of the encryption problem Stargate CNE requirements NAC review – October to December 2011 GCHQ NAC review – January to March 2011 GCHQ NAC review – April to June 2011 GCHQ NAC review – July to September 2011 GCHQ NAC review – January to March 2012 GCHQ Hopscotch Belgacom connections
Paul Merrell

European Lawmakers Demand Answers on Phone Key Theft - The Intercept - 0 views

  • European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday. The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys. The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.” “Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal. Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”
  • “If the average IT whizzkid breaks into a company system, he’ll end up behind bars,” In ’t Veld added in a tweet Friday. The EU itself is barred from undertaking such investigations, leaving individual countries responsible for looking into cases that impact their national security matters. “We even get letters from the U.K. government saying we shouldn’t deal with these issues because it’s their own issue of national security,” Albrecht said. Still, lawmakers in the Netherlands are seeking investigations. Gerard Schouw, a Dutch member of parliament, also with the D66 party, has called on Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of the interior, to answer questions before parliament. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament will debate Schouw’s request. Additionally, European legal experts tell The Intercept, public prosecutors in EU member states that are both party to the Cybercrime Convention, which prohibits computer hacking, and home to Gemalto subsidiaries could pursue investigations into the breach of the company’s systems.
  • According to secret documents from 2010 and 2011, a joint NSA-GCHQ unit penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and infiltrated the private communications of its employees in order to steal encryption keys, embedded on tiny SIM cards, which are used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the world. Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. The company’s clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers. “[We] believe we have their entire network,” GCHQ boasted in a leaked slide, referring to the Gemalto heist.
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  • While Gemalto was indeed another casualty in Western governments’ sweeping effort to gather as much global intelligence advantage as possible, the leaked documents make clear that the company was specifically targeted. According to the materials published Thursday, GCHQ used a specific codename — DAPINO GAMMA — to refer to the operations against Gemalto. The spies also actively penetrated the email and social media accounts of Gemalto employees across the world in an effort to steal the company’s encryption keys. Evidence of the Gemalto breach rattled the digital security community. “Almost everyone in the world carries cell phones and this is an unprecedented mass attack on the privacy of citizens worldwide,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit that advocates for digital privacy and free online expression. “While there is certainly value in targeted surveillance of cell phone communications, this coordinated subversion of the trusted technical security infrastructure of cell phones means the US and British governments now have easy access to our mobile communications.”
  • For Gemalto, evidence that their vaunted security systems and the privacy of customers had been compromised by the world’s top spy agencies made an immediate financial impact. The company’s shares took a dive on the Paris bourse Friday, falling $500 million. In the U.S., Gemalto’s shares fell as much 10 percent Friday morning. They had recovered somewhat — down 4 percent — by the close of trading on the Euronext stock exchange. Analysts at Dutch financial services company Rabobank speculated in a research note that Gemalto could be forced to recall “a large number” of SIM cards. The French daily L’Express noted today that Gemalto board member Alex Mandl was a founding trustee of the CIA-funded venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Mandl resigned from In-Q-Tel’s board in 2002, when he was appointed CEO of Gemplus, which later merged with another company to become Gemalto. But the CIA connection still dogged Mandl, with the French press regularly insinuating that American spies could infiltrate the company. In 2003, a group of French lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to create a commission to investigate Gemplus’s ties to the CIA and its implications for the security of SIM cards. Mandl, an Austrian-American businessman who was once a top executive at AT&T, has denied that he had any relationship with the CIA beyond In-Q-Tel. In 2002, he said he did not even have a security clearance.
  • AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon could not be reached for comment Friday. Sprint declined to comment. Vodafone, the world’s second largest telecom provider by subscribers and a customer of Gemalto, said in a statement, “[W]e have no further details of these allegations which are industrywide in nature and are not focused on any one mobile operator. We will support industry bodies and Gemalto in their investigations.” Deutsche Telekom AG, a German company, said it has changed encryption algorithms in its Gemalto SIM cards. “We currently have no knowledge that this additional protection mechanism has been compromised,” the company said in a statement. “However, we cannot rule out this completely.”
  • Update: Asked about the SIM card heist, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not expect the news would hurt relations with the tech industry: “It’s hard for me to imagine that there are a lot of technology executives that are out there that are in a position of saying that they hope that people who wish harm to this country will be able to use their technology to do so. So, I do think in fact that there are opportunities for the private sector and the federal government to coordinate and to cooperate on these efforts, both to keep the country safe, but also to protect our civil liberties.”
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    Watch for massive class action product defect litigation to be filed against the phone companies.and mobile device manufacturers.  In most U.S. jurisdictions, proof that the vendors/manufacturers  knew of the product defect is not required, only proof of the defect. Also, this is a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to get out of a pricey cellphone contract, since providing a compromised cellphone is a material breach of warranty, whether explicit or implied..   
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

How browser extensions steal logins & browsing habits; conduct corporate espionage / Boing Boing - 0 views

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    "Seemingly harmless browser extensions that generate emojis, enlarge thumbnails, help you debug Javascript errors and other common utilities routinely run secret background processes that collect and retransmit your login credentials, private URLs that grant access to sensitive files, corporate secrets, full PDFs and other personally identifying, potentially compromising data."
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 FBI, 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.
Gary Edwards

20 Great Ideas For You To Steal -- Great Ideas -- InformationWeek - 0 views

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