Motherboard Digital Security Guide

This digital security guide by Motherboard is very good. I put alongside EFF’s "Surveillance Self-Defense" and John Scott-Railton’s "Digital Security Low Hanging Fruit." There’s also "Digital Security and Privacy for Human Rights Defenders." There are too many of these…….

This digital security guide by Motherboard is very good. I put alongside EFF's "Surveillance Self-Defense" and John Scott-Railton's "Digital Security Low Hanging Fruit." There's also "Digital Security and Privacy for Human Rights Defenders."

There are too many of these....

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

Security Flaws in Children’s Smart Watches

The Norwegian Consumer Council has published a report detailing a series of security and privacy flaws in smart watches marketed to children. Press release. News article. This is the same group that found all those security and privacy vulnerabilities in smart dolls. EDITED TO ADD (10/21): Slashdot thread….

The Norwegian Consumer Council has published a report detailing a series of security and privacy flaws in smart watches marketed to children.

Press release. News article.

This is the same group that found all those security and privacy vulnerabilities in smart dolls.

EDITED TO ADD (10/21): Slashdot thread.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

Technology to Out Sex Workers

Two related stories: PornHub is using machine learning algorithms to identify actors in different videos, so as to better index them. People are worried that it can really identify them, by linking their stage names to their real names. Facebook somehow managed to link a sex worker’s clients under her fake name to her real profile. Sometimes people have legitimate…

Two related stories:

PornHub is using machine learning algorithms to identify actors in different videos, so as to better index them. People are worried that it can really identify them, by linking their stage names to their real names.

Facebook somehow managed to link a sex worker's clients under her fake name to her real profile.

Sometimes people have legitimate reasons for having two identities. That is becoming harder and harder.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

What the NSA Collects via 702

New York Times reporter Charlie Savage writes about some bad statistics we’re all using: Among surveillance legal policy specialists, it is common to cite a set of statistics from an October 2011 opinion by Judge John Bates, then of the FISA Court, about the volume of internet communications the National Security Agency was collecting under the FISA Amendments Act ("Section…

New York Times reporter Charlie Savage writes about some bad statistics we're all using:

Among surveillance legal policy specialists, it is common to cite a set of statistics from an October 2011 opinion by Judge John Bates, then of the FISA Court, about the volume of internet communications the National Security Agency was collecting under the FISA Amendments Act ("Section 702") warrantless surveillance program. In his opinion, declassified in August 2013, Judge Bates wrote that the NSA was collecting more than 250 million internet communications a year, of which 91 percent came from its Prism system (which collects stored e-mails from providers like Gmail) and 9 percent came from its upstream system (which collects transmitted messages from network operators like AT&T).

These numbers are wrong. This blog post will address, first, the widespread nature of this misunderstanding; second, how I came to FOIA certain documents trying to figure out whether the numbers really added up; third, what those documents show; and fourth, what I further learned in talking to an intelligence official. This is far too dense and weedy for a New York Times article, but should hopefully be of some interest to specialists.

Worth reading for the details.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

On the Equifax Data Breach

Last Thursday, Equifax reported a data breach that affects 143 million US customers, about 44% of the population. It’s an extremely serious breach; hackers got access to full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers — exactly the sort of information criminals can use to impersonate victims to banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, and other businesses…

Last Thursday, Equifax reported a data breach that affects 143 million US customers, about 44% of the population. It's an extremely serious breach; hackers got access to full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver's license numbers -- exactly the sort of information criminals can use to impersonate victims to banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, and other businesses vulnerable to fraud.

Many sites posted guides to protecting yourself now that it's happened. But if you want to prevent this kind of thing from happening again, your only solution is government regulation (as unlikely as that may be at the moment).

The market can't fix this. Markets work because buyers choose between sellers, and sellers compete for buyers. In case you didn't notice, you're not Equifax's customer. You're its product.

This happened because your personal information is valuable, and Equifax is in the business of selling it. The company is much more than a credit reporting agency. It's a data broker. It collects information about all of us, analyzes it all, and then sells those insights.

Its customers are people and organizations who want to buy information: banks looking to lend you money, landlords deciding whether to rent you an apartment, employers deciding whether to hire you, companies trying to figure out whether you'd be a profitable customer -- everyone who wants to sell you something, even governments.

It's not just Equifax. It might be one of the biggest, but there are 2,500 to 4,000 other data brokers that are collecting, storing, and selling information about you -- almost all of them companies you've never heard of and have no business relationship with.

Surveillance capitalism fuels the Internet, and sometimes it seems that everyone is spying on you. You're secretly tracked on pretty much every commercial website you visit. Facebook is the largest surveillance organization mankind has created; collecting data on you is its business model. I don't have a Facebook account, but Facebook still keeps a surprisingly complete dossier on me and my associations -- just in case I ever decide to join.

I also don't have a Gmail account, because I don't want Google storing my e-mail. But my guess is that it has about half of my e-mail anyway, because so many people I correspond with have accounts. I can't even avoid it by choosing not to write to gmail.com addresses, because I have no way of knowing if newperson@company.com is hosted at Gmail.

And again, many companies that track us do so in secret, without our knowledge and consent. And most of the time we can't opt out. Sometimes it's a company like Equifax that doesn't answer to us in any way. Sometimes it's a company like Facebook, which is effectively a monopoly because of its sheer size. And sometimes it's our cell phone provider. All of them have decided to track us and not compete by offering consumers privacy. Sure, you can tell people not to have an e-mail account or cell phone, but that's not a realistic option for most people living in 21st-century America.

The companies that collect and sell our data don't need to keep it secure in order to maintain their market share. They don't have to answer to us, their products. They know it's more profitable to save money on security and weather the occasional bout of bad press after a data loss. Yes, we are the ones who suffer when criminals get our data, or when our private information is exposed to the public, but ultimately why should Equifax care?

Yes, it's a huge black eye for the company -- this week. Soon, another company will have suffered a massive data breach and few will remember Equifax's problem. Does anyone remember last year when Yahoo admitted that it exposed personal information of a billion users in 2013 and another half billion in 2014?

This market failure isn't unique to data security. There is little improvement in safety and security in any industry until government steps in. Think of food, pharmaceuticals, cars, airplanes, restaurants, workplace conditions, and flame-retardant pajamas.

Market failures like this can only be solved through government intervention. By regulating the security practices of companies that store our data, and fining companies that fail to comply, governments can raise the cost of insecurity high enough that security becomes a cheaper alternative. They can do the same thing by giving individuals affected by these breaches the ability to sue successfully, citing the exposure of personal data itself as a harm.

By all means, take the recommended steps to protect yourself from identity theft in the wake of Equifax's data breach, but recognize that these steps are only effective on the margins, and that most data security is out of your hands. Perhaps the Federal Trade Commission will get involved, but without evidence of "unfair and deceptive trade practices," there's nothing it can do. Perhaps there will be a class-action lawsuit, but because it's hard to draw a line between any of the many data breaches you're subjected to and a specific harm, courts are not likely to side with you.

If you don't like how careless Equifax was with your data, don't waste your breath complaining to Equifax. Complain to your government.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

EDITED TO ADD: In the early hours of this breach, I did a radio interview where I minimized the ramifications of this. I didn't know the full extent of the breach, and thought it was just another in an endless string of breaches. I wondered why the press was covering this one and not many of the others. I don't remember which radio show interviewed me. I kind of hope it didn't air.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

A Hardware Privacy Monitor for iPhones

Andrew "bunnie" Huang and Edward Snowden have designed a hardware device that attaches to an iPhone and monitors it for malicious surveillance activities, even in instances where the phone’s operating system has been compromised. They call it an Introspection Engine, and their use model is a journalist who is concerned about government surveillance: Our introspection engine is designed with the…

Andrew "bunnie" Huang and Edward Snowden have designed a hardware device that attaches to an iPhone and monitors it for malicious surveillance activities, even in instances where the phone's operating system has been compromised. They call it an Introspection Engine, and their use model is a journalist who is concerned about government surveillance:

Our introspection engine is designed with the following goals in mind:

  1. Completely open source and user-inspectable ("You don't have to trust us")

  2. Introspection operations are performed by an execution domain completely separated from the phone"s CPU ("don't rely on those with impaired judgment to fairly judge their state")

  3. Proper operation of introspection system can be field-verified (guard against "evil maid" attacks and hardware failures)

  4. Difficult to trigger a false positive (users ignore or disable security alerts when there are too many positives)

  5. Difficult to induce a false negative, even with signed firmware updates ("don't trust the system vendor" -- state-level adversaries with full cooperation of system vendors should not be able to craft signed firmware updates that spoof or bypass the introspection engine)

  6. As much as possible, the introspection system should be passive and difficult to detect by the phone's operating system (prevent black-listing/targeting of users based on introspection engine signatures)

  7. Simple, intuitive user interface requiring no specialized knowledge to interpret or operate (avoid user error leading to false negatives; "journalists shouldn't have to be cryptographers to be safe")

  8. Final solution should be usable on a daily basis, with minimal impact on workflow (avoid forcing field reporters into the choice between their personal security and being an effective journalist)

This looks like fantastic work, and they have a working prototype.

Of course, this does nothing to stop all the legitimate surveillance that happens over a cell phone: location tracking, records of who you talk to, and so on.

BoingBoing post.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

Journalists Generally Do Not Use Secure Communication

This should come as no surprise: Alas, our findings suggest that secure communications haven’t yet attracted mass adoption among journalists. We looked at 2,515 Washington journalists with permanent credentials to cover Congress, and we found only 2.5 percent of them solicit end-to-end encrypted communication via their Twitter bios. That’s just 62 out of all the broadcast, newspaper, wire service, and…

This should come as no surprise:

Alas, our findings suggest that secure communications haven't yet attracted mass adoption among journalists. We looked at 2,515 Washington journalists with permanent credentials to cover Congress, and we found only 2.5 percent of them solicit end-to-end encrypted communication via their Twitter bios. That's just 62 out of all the broadcast, newspaper, wire service, and digital reporters. Just 28 list a way to reach them via Signal or another secure messaging app. Only 22 provide a PGP public key, a method that allows sources to send encrypted messages. A paltry seven advertise a secure email address. In an era when anything that can be hacked will be and when the president has declared outright war on the media, this should serve as a frightening wake-up call.

[...]

When journalists don't step up, sources with sensitive information face the burden of using riskier modes of communication to initiate contact­ -- and possibly conduct all of their exchanges­ -- with reporters. It increases their chances of getting caught, putting them in danger of losing their job or facing prosecution. It's burden enough to make them think twice about whistleblowing.

I forgive them for not using secure e-mail. It's hard to use and confusing. But secure messaging is easy.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/

How ‘Doxxing’ Became a Tool for Outing Extremists

The term originated among hackers who posted private documents about a rival or enemy. But doxxing is now being used on social media to publicly identify extremists who participate in events such as the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month.

Online vigilantism has been around since the early days of the internet, notes the New York Times. So has “doxxing” — originally a slang term among hackers for obtaining and posting private documents about an individual, usually a rival or enemy. To hackers, who prized their anonymity, it was considered a cruel attack. But doxxing has emerged from subculture websites like 4Chan and Reddit to become something of a mainstream phenomenon since a white supremacist march on Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month. “Originally it was little black-hat hacker crews who were at war with each other — they would take docs, like documents, from a competing group and then claim they had ‘dox’ on them,” said Gabriella Coleman, author of a book about the hacker vigilante group Anonymous. “There was this idea that you were veiled and then uncovered.”

Now the online hunt to reveal extremists has raised concerns about unintended consequences, or even collateral damage. A few individuals have been misidentified, including a professor from Arkansas who was wrongly accused of participating in the neo-Nazi march. The ethics — and even the definition — of doxxing is murky. It is the dissemination of often publicly available information. And are you really doxxing a person if he or she is marching on a public street, face revealed and apparently proud? It is not as though they are hiding their identities.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Your Personal Bodycam

Shonin is a personal bodycam up on Kickstarter. There are a lot of complicated issues surrounding bodycams — for example, it’s obvious that police bodycams reduce violence — but the one thing everyone is certain about is that they will proliferate. I’m not sure society is fully ready for the ramifications of this level of recording….

Shonin is a personal bodycam up on Kickstarter.

There are a lot of complicated issues surrounding bodycams -- for example, it's obvious that police bodycams reduce violence -- but the one thing everyone is certain about is that they will proliferate. I'm not sure society is fully ready for the ramifications of this level of recording.

from https://www.schneier.com/blog/