Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2019/11/iran_has_shut_o.html
Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/10/was_the_triton_.html
I don’t know. FireEye likes to attribute all sorts of things to Russia, but the evidence here look pretty good.
Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/06/the_effects_of_4.html
The Center for Human Rights in Iran has released a report outlining the effect’s of that country’s ban on Telegram, a secure messaging app used by about half of the country.
The ban will disrupt the most important, uncensored platform for information and communication in Iran, one that is used extensively by activists, independent and citizen journalists, dissidents and international media. It will also impact electoral politics in Iran, as centrist, reformist and other relatively moderate political groups that are allowed to participate in Iran’s elections have been heavily and successfully using Telegram to promote their candidates and electoral lists during elections. State-controlled domestic apps and media will not provide these groups with such a platform, even as they continue to do so for conservative and hardline political forces in the country, significantly aiding the latter.
From a Wired article:
Researchers found that the ban has had broad effects, hindering and chilling individual speech, forcing political campaigns to turn to state-sponsored media tools, limiting journalists and activists, curtailing international interactions, and eroding businesses that grew their infrastructure and reach off of Telegram.
It’s interesting that the analysis doesn’t really center around the security properties of Telegram, but more around its ubiquity as a messaging platform in the country.
Post Syndicated from Ben Nuttall original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/big-birthday-weekend-2018-find-a-jam-near-you/
We’re just over three weeks away from the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend 2018, our community celebration of Raspberry Pi’s sixth birthday. Instead of an event in Cambridge, as we’ve held in the past, we’re coordinating Raspberry Jam events to take place around the world on 3–4 March, so that as many people as possible can join in. Well over 100 Jams have been confirmed so far.
Find a Jam near you
There are Jams planned in Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and Zimbabwe.
We had some special swag made especially for the birthday, including these T-shirts, which we’ve sent to Jam organisers:
There is also a poster with a list of participating Jams, which you can download:
Raspberry Jam photo booth
I created a Raspberry Jam photo booth that overlays photos with the Big Birthday Weekend logo and then tweets the picture from your Jam’s account — you’ll be seeing plenty of those if you follow the #PiParty hashtag on 3–4 March.
Check out the project on GitHub, and feel free to set up your own booth, or modify it to your own requirements. We’ve included text annotations in several languages, and more contributions are very welcome.
There’s still time…
If you can’t find a Jam near you, there’s still time to organise one for the Big Birthday Weekend. All you need to do is find a venue — a room in a school or library will do — and think about what you’d like to do at the event. Some Jams have Raspberry Pis set up for workshops and practical activities, some arrange tech talks, some put on show-and-tell — it’s up to you. To help you along, there’s the Raspberry Jam Guidebook full of advice and tips from Jam organisers.
The packed. And they packed. And they packed some more. Who’s expecting one of these #rjam kits for the Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend?
Download the Raspberry Jam branding pack, and the special birthday branding pack, where you’ll find logos, graphical assets, flyer templates, worksheets, and more. When you’re ready to announce your event, create a webpage for it — you can use a site like Eventbrite or Meetup — and submit your Jam to us so it will appear on the Jam map!
We are six
We’re really looking forward to celebrating our birthday with thousands of people around the world. Over 48 hours, people of all ages will come together at more than 100 events to learn, share ideas, meet people, and make things during our Big Birthday Weekend.
Since we released the first Raspberry Pi in 2012, we’ve sold 17 million of them. We’re also reaching almost 200000 children in 130 countries around the world through Code Club and CoderDojo, we’ve trained over 1500 Raspberry Pi Certified Educators, and we’ve sent code written by more than 6800 children into space. Our magazines are read by a quarter of a million people, and millions more use our free online learning resources. There’s plenty to celebrate and even more still to do: we really hope you’ll join us from a Jam near you on 3–4 March.
Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/10/some-notes-about-kaspersky-affair.html
I thought I’d write up some notes about Kaspersky, the Russian anti-virus vendor that many believe has ties to Russian intelligence.
There’s two angles to this story. One is whether the accusations are true. The second is the poor way the press has handled the story, with mainstream outlets like the New York Times more intent on pushing government propaganda than informing us what’s going on.
I have enormous disrespect for mainstream outlets like The New York Times and the way they’ve handled the story. It makes me want to come to Kaspersky’s defense.
I have enormous respect for Kaspersky technology. They do good work.
But I hear stories. I don’t think our government should be trusting Kaspersky at all. For that matter, our government shouldn’t trust any cybersecurity products from Russia, China, Iran, etc.
Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/05/who_are_the_sha.html
In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of NSA secrets. Since last summer, they’ve been dumping these secrets on the Internet. They have publicly embarrassed the NSA and damaged its intelligence-gathering capabilities, while at the same time have put sophisticated cyberweapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble. And they gave the authors of the WannaCry ransomware the exploit they needed to infect hundreds of thousands of computer worldwide this month.
After the WannaCry outbreak, the Shadow Brokers threatened to release more NSA secrets every month, giving cybercriminals and other governments worldwide even more exploits and hacking tools.
Who are these guys? And how did they steal this information? The short answer is: we don’t know. But we can make some educated guesses based on the material they’ve published.
The Shadow Brokers suddenly appeared last August, when they published a series of hacking tools and computer exploits — vulnerabilities in common software — from the NSA. The material was from autumn 2013, and seems to have been collected from an external NSA staging server, a machine that is owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by the US, but with no connection to the agency. NSA hackers find obscure corners of the Internet to hide the tools they need as they go about their work, and it seems the Shadow Brokers successfully hacked one of those caches.
In total, the group has published four sets of NSA material: a set of exploits and hacking tools against routers, the devices that direct data throughout computer networks; a similar collection against mail servers; another collection against Microsoft Windows; and a working directory of an NSA analyst breaking into the SWIFT banking network. Looking at the time stamps on the files and other material, they all come from around 2013. The Windows attack tools, published last month, might be a year or so older, based on which versions of Windows the tools support.
The releases are so different that they’re almost certainly from multiple sources at the NSA. The SWIFT files seem to come from an internal NSA computer, albeit one connected to the Internet. The Microsoft files seem different, too; they don’t have the same identifying information that the router and mail server files do. The Shadow Brokers have released all the material unredacted, without the care journalists took with the Snowden documents or even the care WikiLeaks has taken with the CIA secrets it’s publishing. They also posted anonymous messages in bad English but with American cultural references.
Given all of this, I don’t think the agent responsible is a whistleblower. While possible, it seems like a whistleblower wouldn’t sit on attack tools for three years before publishing. They would act more like Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, collecting for a time and then publishing immediately — and publishing documents that discuss what the US is doing to whom. That’s not what we’re seeing here; it’s simply a bunch of exploit code, which doesn’t have the political or ethical implications that a whistleblower would want to highlight. The SWIFT documents are records of an NSA operation, and the other posted files demonstrate that the NSA is hoarding vulnerabilities for attack rather than helping fix them and improve all of our security.
I also don’t think that it’s random hackers who stumbled on these tools and are just trying to harm the NSA or the US. Again, the three-year wait makes no sense. These documents and tools are cyber-Kryptonite; anyone who is secretly hoarding them is in danger from half the intelligence agencies in the world. Additionally, the publication schedule doesn’t make sense for the leakers to be cybercriminals. Criminals would use the hacking tools for themselves, incorporating the exploits into worms and viruses, and generally profiting from the theft.
That leaves a nation state. Whoever got this information years before and is leaking it now has to be both capable of hacking the NSA and willing to publish it all. Countries like Israel and France are capable, but would never publish, because they wouldn’t want to incur the wrath of the US. Country like North Korea or Iran probably aren’t capable. (Additionally, North Korea is suspected of being behind WannaCry, which was written after the Shadow Brokers released that vulnerability to the public.) As I’ve written previously, the obvious list of countries who fit my two criteria is small: Russia, China, and — I’m out of ideas. And China is currently trying to make nice with the US.
It was generally believed last August, when the first documents were released and before it became politically controversial to say so, that the Russians were behind the leak, and that it was a warning message to President Barack Obama not to retaliate for the Democratic National Committee hacks. Edward Snowden guessed Russia, too. But the problem with the Russia theory is, why? These leaked tools are much more valuable if kept secret. Russia could use the knowledge to detect NSA hacking in its own country and to attack other countries. By publishing the tools, the Shadow Brokers are signaling that they don’t care if the US knows the tools were stolen.
Sure, there’s a chance the attackers knew that the US knew that the attackers knew — and round and round we go. But the “we don’t give a damn” nature of the releases points to an attacker who isn’t thinking strategically: a lone hacker or hacking group, which clashes with the nation-state theory.
This is all speculation on my part, based on discussion with others who don’t have access to the classified forensic and intelligence analysis. Inside the NSA, they have a lot more information. Many of the files published include operational notes and identifying information. NSA researchers know exactly which servers were compromised, and through that know what other information the attackers would have access to. As with the Snowden documents, though, they only know what the attackers could have taken and not what they did take. But they did alert Microsoft about the Windows vulnerability the Shadow Brokers released months in advance. Did they have eavesdropping capability inside whoever stole the files, as they claimed to when the Russians attacked the State Department? We have no idea.
So, how did the Shadow Brokers do it? Did someone inside the NSA accidentally mount the wrong server on some external network? That’s possible, but seems very unlikely for the organization to make that kind of rookie mistake. Did someone hack the NSA itself? Could there be a mole inside the NSA?
If it is a mole, my guess is that the person was arrested before the Shadow Brokers released anything. No country would burn a mole working for it by publishing what that person delivered while he or she was still in danger. Intelligence agencies know that if they betray a source this severely, they’ll never get another one.
That points to two possibilities. The first is that the files came from Hal Martin. He’s the NSA contractor who was arrested in August for hoarding agency secrets in his house for two years. He can’t be the publisher, because the Shadow Brokers are in business even though he is in prison. But maybe the leaker got the documents from his stash, either because Martin gave the documents to them or because he himself was hacked. The dates line up, so it’s theoretically possible. There’s nothing in the public indictment against Martin that speaks to his selling secrets to a foreign power, but that’s just the sort of thing that would be left out. It’s not needed for a conviction.
If the source of the documents is Hal Martin, then we can speculate that a random hacker did in fact stumble on it — no need for nation-state cyberattack skills.
The other option is a mysterious second NSA leaker of cyberattack tools. Could this be the person who stole the NSA documents and passed them on to someone else? The only time I have ever heard about this was from a Washington Post story about Martin:
There was a second, previously undisclosed breach of cybertools, discovered in the summer of 2015, which was also carried out by a TAO employee [a worker in the Office of Tailored Access Operations], one official said. That individual also has been arrested, but his case has not been made public. The individual is not thought to have shared the material with another country, the official said.
Of course, “not thought to have” is not the same as not having done so.
It is interesting that there have been no public arrests of anyone in connection with these hacks. If the NSA knows where the files came from, it knows who had access to them — and it’s long since questioned everyone involved and should know if someone deliberately or accidentally lost control of them. I know that many people, both inside the government and out, think there is some sort of domestic involvement; things may be more complicated than I realize.
It’s also not over. Last week, the Shadow Brokers were back, with a rambling and taunting message announcing a “Data Dump of the Month” service. They’re offering to sell unreleased NSA attack tools — something they also tried last August — with the threat to publish them if no one pays. The group has made good on their previous boasts: In the coming months, we might see new exploits against web browsers, networking equipment, smartphones, and operating systems — Windows in particular. Even scarier, they’re threatening to release raw NSA intercepts: data from the SWIFT network and banks, and “compromised data from Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or North Korean nukes and missile programs.”
Whoever the Shadow Brokers are, however they stole these disks full of NSA secrets, and for whatever reason they’re releasing them, it’s going to be a long summer inside of Fort Meade — as it will be for the rest of us.
Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/05/some-notes-on-trumps-cybersecurity.html
President Trump has finally signed an executive order on “cybersecurity”. The first draft during his first weeks in power were hilariously ignorant. The current draft, though, is pretty reasonable as such things go. I’m just reading the plain language of the draft as a cybersecurity expert, picking out the bits that interest me. In reality, there’s probably all sorts of politics in the background that I’m missing, so I may be wildly off-base.
Nobody cares about cybersecurity. Instead, it’s a thing people exploit in order to increase their budget. Instead of doing the best security with the budget they have, they insist they can’t secure the network without more money.
An alternate way to address gaps in cybersecurity is instead to do less. Reduce exposure to the web, provide fewer services, reduce functionality of desktop computers, and so on. Insisting that more money is the only way to address unmet needs is the strategy of the incompetent.
Yes, you can point to individual organizations that do things poorly, but what you are ignoring is the organizations that do it well. When you make them all share a solution, it’s going to be the average of all these things — meaning those who do something well are going to move to a worse solution.
But frankly, botnets don’t even make the top 10 list of problems they should be addressing. Number #1 is clearly “phishing” — you know, the attack that’s been getting into the DNC and Podesta e-mails, influencing the election. You know, the attack that Gizmodo recently showed the Trump administration is partially vulnerable to. You know, the attack that most people blame as what probably led to that huge OPM hack. Replace the entire Executive Order with “stop phishing”, and you’d go further fixing federal government security.
But solving phishing is tough. To begin with, it requires a rethink how the government does email, and how how desktop systems should be managed. So the government avoids complex problems it can’t understand to focus on the simple things it can — botnets.
Dealing with “prolonged power outage associated with a significant cyber incident”
Nation-wide attacks aren’t really a threat, yet, in America. We have 10,000 different companies involved with different systems throughout the country. Trying to hack them all at once is unlikely. What’s funny is that it’s the government’s attempts to standardize everything that’s likely to be our downfall, such as sticking Einstein sensors everywhere.
What they should be doing is instead of trying to make the grid unhackable, they should be trying to lessen the reliance upon the grid. They should be encouraging things like Tesla PowerWalls, solar panels on roofs, backup generators, and so on. Indeed, rather than industrial system blackout, industry backup power generation should be considered as a source of grid backup. Factories and even ships were used to supplant the electric power grid in Japan after the 2011 tsunami, for example. The less we rely on the grid, the less a blackout will hurt us.
“cybersecurity risks facing the defense industrial base, including its supply chain”
So “supply chain” cybersecurity is increasingly becoming a thing. Almost anything electronic comes with millions of lines of code, silicon chips, and other things that affect the security of the system. In this context, they may be worried about intentional subversion of systems, such as that recent article worried about Kaspersky anti-virus in government systems. However, the bigger concern is the zillions of accidental vulnerabilities waiting to be discovered. It’s impractical for a vendor to secure a product, because it’s built from so many components the vendor doesn’t understand.
“strategic options for deterring adversaries and better protecting the American people from cyber threats”
Deterrence is a funny word.
Rumor has it that we forced China to backoff on hacking by impressing them with our own hacking ability, such as reaching into China and blowing stuff up. This works because the Chinese governments remains in power because things are going well in China. If there’s a hiccup in economic growth, there will be mass actions against the government.
But for our other cyber adversaries (Russian, Iran, North Korea), things already suck in their countries. It’s hard to see how we can make things worse by hacking them. They also have a strangle hold on the media, so hacking in and publicizing their leader’s weird sex fetishes and offshore accounts isn’t going to work either.
Also, deterrence relies upon “attribution”, which is hard. While news stories claim last year’s expulsion of Russian diplomats was due to election hacking, that wasn’t the stated reason. Instead, the claimed reason was Russia’s interference with diplomats in Europe, such as breaking into diplomat’s homes and pooping on their dining room table. We know it’s them when they are brazen (as was the case with Chinese hacking), but other hacks are harder to attribute.
Deterrence of nation states ignores the reality that much of the hacking against our government comes from non-state actors. It’s not clear how much of all this Russian hacking is actually directed by the government. Deterrence polices may be better directed at individuals, such as the recent arrest of a Russian hacker while they were traveling in Spain. We can’t get Russian or Chinese hackers in their own countries, so we have to wait until they leave.
Anyway, “deterrence” is one of those real-world concepts that hard to shoe-horn into a cyber (“cyber-deterrence”) equivalent. It encourages lots of bad thinking, such as export controls on “cyber-weapons” to deter foreign countries from using them.
“educate and train the American cybersecurity workforce of the future”
The problem isn’t that we lack CISSPs. Such blanket certifications devalue the technical expertise of the real experts. The solution is to empower the technical experts we already have.
In other words, mandate that whoever is the “cyberczar” is a technical expert, like how the Surgeon General must be a medical expert, or how an economic adviser must be an economic expert. For over 15 years, we’ve had a parade of non-technical people named “cyberczar” who haven’t been experts.
Once you tell people technical expertise is valued, then by nature more students will become technical experts.
BTW, the best technical experts are software engineers and sysadmins. The best cybersecurity for Windows is already built into Windows, whose sysadmins need to be empowered to use those solutions. Instead, they are often overridden by a clueless cybersecurity consultant who insists on making the organization buy a third-party product instead that does a poorer job. We need more technical expertise in our organizations, sure, but not necessarily more cybersecurity professionals.
This is really a government document, and government people will be able to explain it better than I. These are just how I see it as a technical-expert who is a government-outsider.
My guess is the most lasting consequential thing will be making everyone following the NIST Framework, and the rest will just be a lot of aspirational stuff that’ll be ignored.
Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/05/who_is_publishi.html
There’s something going on inside the intelligence communities in at least two countries, and we have no idea what it is.
Consider these three data points. One: someone, probably a country’s intelligence organization, is dumping massive amounts of cyberattack tools belonging to the NSA onto the Internet. Two: someone else, or maybe the same someone, is doing the same thing to the CIA.
Three: in March, NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett described how the NSA penetrated the computer networks of a Russian intelligence agency and was able to monitor them as they attacked the US State Department in 2014. Even more explicitly, a US ally — my guess is the UK — was not only hacking the Russian intelligence agency’s computers, but also the surveillance cameras inside their building. “They [the US ally] monitored the [Russian] hackers as they maneuvered inside the U.S. systems and as they walked in and out of the workspace, and were able to see faces, the officials said.”
Countries don’t often reveal intelligence capabilities: “sources and methods.” Because it gives their adversaries important information about what to fix, it’s a deliberate decision done with good reason. And it’s not just the target country who learns from a reveal. When the US announces that it can see through the cameras inside the buildings of Russia’s cyber warriors, other countries immediately check the security of their own cameras.
With all this in mind, let’s talk about the recent leaks at NSA and the CIA.
Last year, a previously unknown group called the Shadow Brokers started releasing NSA hacking tools and documents from about three years ago. They continued to do so this year — five sets of files in all — and have implied that more classified documents are to come. We don’t know how they got the files. When the Shadow Brokers first emerged, the general consensus was that someone had found and hacked an external NSA staging server. These are third-party computers that the NSA’s TAO hackers use to launch attacks from. Those servers are necessarily stocked with TAO attack tools. This matched the leaks, which included a “script” directory and working attack notes. We’re not sure if someone inside the NSA made a mistake that left these files exposed, or if the hackers that found the cache got lucky.
That explanation stopped making sense after the latest Shadow Brokers release, which included attack tools against Windows, PowerPoint presentations, and operational notes — documents that are definitely not going to be on an external NSA staging server. A credible theory, which I first heard from Nicholas Weaver, is that the Shadow Brokers are publishing NSA data from multiple sources. The first leaks were from an external staging server, but the more recent leaks are from inside the NSA itself.
So what happened? Did someone inside the NSA accidentally mount the wrong server on some external network? That’s possible, but seems very unlikely. Did someone hack the NSA itself? Could there be a mole inside the NSA, as Kevin Poulsen speculated?
If it is a mole, my guess is that he’s already been arrested. There are enough individualities in the files to pinpoint exactly where and when they came from. Surely the NSA knows who could have taken the files. No country would burn a mole working for it by publishing what he delivered. Intelligence agencies know that if they betray a source this severely, they’ll never get another one.
That points to two options. The first is that the files came from Hal Martin. He’s the NSA contractor who was arrested in August for hoarding agency secrets in his house for two years. He can’t be the publisher, because the Shadow Brokers are in business even though he is in prison. But maybe the leaker got the documents from his stash: either because Martin gave the documents to them or because he himself was hacked. The dates line up, so it’s theoretically possible, but the contents of the documents speak to someone with a different sort of access. There’s also nothing in the public indictment against Martin that speaks to his selling secrets to a foreign power, and I think it’s exactly the sort of thing that the NSA would leak. But maybe I’m wrong about all of this; Occam’s Razor suggests that it’s him.
The other option is a mysterious second NSA leak of cyberattack tools. The only thing I have ever heard about this is from a Washington Post story about Martin: “But there was a second, previously undisclosed breach of cybertools, discovered in the summer of 2015, which was also carried out by a TAO employee, one official said. That individual also has been arrested, but his case has not been made public. The individual is not thought to have shared the material with another country, the official said.” But “not thought to have” is not the same as not having done so.
On the other hand, it’s possible that someone penetrated the internal NSA network. We’ve already seen NSA tools that can do that kind of thing to other networks. That would be huge, and explain why there were calls to fire NSA Director Mike Rogers last year.
The CIA leak is both similar and different. It consists of a series of attack tools from about a year ago. The most educated guess amongst people who know stuff is that the data is from an almost-certainly air-gapped internal development wikia Confluence server — and either someone on the inside was somehow coerced into giving up a copy of it, or someone on the outside hacked into the CIA and got themselves a copy. They turned the documents over to WikiLeaks, which continues to publish it.
This is also a really big deal, and hugely damaging for the CIA. Those tools were new, and they’re impressive. I have been told that the CIA is desperately trying to hire coders to replace what was lost.
For both of these leaks, one big question is attribution: who did this? A whistleblower wouldn’t sit on attack tools for years before publishing. A whistleblower would act more like Snowden or Manning, publishing immediately — and publishing documents that discuss what the US is doing to whom, not simply a bunch of attack tools. It just doesn’t make sense. Neither does random hackers. Or cybercriminals. I think it’s being done by a country or countries.
My guess was, and is still, Russia in both cases. Here’s my reasoning. Whoever got this information years before and is leaking it now has to 1) be capable of hacking the NSA and/or the CIA, and 2) willing to publish it all. Countries like Israel and France are certainly capable, but wouldn’t ever publish. Countries like North Korea or Iran probably aren’t capable. The list of countries who fit both criteria is small: Russia, China, and…and…and I’m out of ideas. And China is currently trying to make nice with the US.
Last August, Edward Snowden guessed Russia, too.
So Russia — or someone else — steals these secrets, and presumably uses them to both defend its own networks and hack other countries while deflecting blame for a couple of years. For it to publish now means that the intelligence value of the information is now lower than the embarrassment value to the NSA and CIA. This could be because the US figured out that its tools were hacked, and maybe even by whom; which would make the tools less valuable against US government targets, although still valuable against third parties.
The message that comes with publishing seems clear to me: “We are so deep into your business that we don’t care if we burn these few-years-old capabilities, as well as the fact that we have them. There’s just nothing you can do about it.” It’s bragging.
Which is exactly the same thing Ledgett is doing to the Russians. Maybe the capabilities he talked about are long gone, so there’s nothing lost in exposing sources and methods. Or maybe he too is bragging: saying to the Russians that he doesn’t care if they know. He’s certainly bragging to every other country that is paying attention to his remarks. (He may be bluffing, of course, hoping to convince others that the US has intelligence capabilities it doesn’t.)
What happens when intelligence agencies go to war with each other and don’t tell the rest of us? I think there’s something going on between the US and Russia that the public is just seeing pieces of. We have no idea why, or where it will go next, and can only speculate.
This essay previously appeared on Lawfare.com.
Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/04/surveillance_an_2.html
Since Edward Snowden revealed to the world the extent of the NSA’s global surveillance network, there has been a vigorous debate in the technological community about what its limits should be.
Less discussed is how many of these same surveillance techniques are used by other — smaller and poorer — more totalitarian countries to spy on political opponents, dissidents, human rights defenders; the press in Toronto has documented some of the many abuses, by countries like Ethiopia , the UAE, Iran, Syria, Kazakhstan , Sudan, Ecuador, Malaysia, and China.
That these countries can use network surveillance technologies to violate human rights is a shame on the world, and there’s a lot of blame to go around.
We can point to the governments that are using surveillance against their own citizens.
We can certainly blame the cyberweapons arms manufacturers that are selling those systems, and the countries — mostly European — that allow those arms manufacturers to sell those systems.
There’s a lot more the global Internet community could do to limit the availability of sophisticated Internet and telephony surveillance equipment to totalitarian governments. But I want to focus on another contributing cause to this problem: the fundamental insecurity of our digital systems that makes this a problem in the first place.
IMSI catchers are fake mobile phone towers. They allow someone to impersonate a cell network and collect information about phones in the vicinity of the device and they’re used to create lists of people who were at a particular event or near a particular location.
Fundamentally, the technology works because the phone in your pocket automatically trusts any cell tower to which it connects. There’s no security in the connection protocols between the phones and the towers.
IP intercept systems are used to eavesdrop on what people do on the Internet. Unlike the surveillance that happens at the sites you visit, by companies like Facebook and Google, this surveillance happens at the point where your computer connects to the Internet. Here, someone can eavesdrop on everything you do.
This system also exploits existing vulnerabilities in the underlying Internet communications protocols. Most of the traffic between your computer and the Internet is unencrypted, and what is encrypted is often vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks because of insecurities in both the Internet protocols and the encryption protocols that protect it.
There are many other examples. What they all have in common is that they are vulnerabilities in our underlying digital communications systems that allow someone — whether it’s a country’s secret police, a rival national intelligence organization, or criminal group — to break or bypass what security there is and spy on the users of these systems.
These insecurities exist for two reasons. First, they were designed in an era where computer hardware was expensive and inaccessibility was a reasonable proxy for security. When the mobile phone network was designed, faking a cell tower was an incredibly difficult technical exercise, and it was reasonable to assume that only legitimate cell providers would go to the effort of creating such towers.
At the same time, computers were less powerful and software was much slower, so adding security into the system seemed like a waste of resources. Fast forward to today: computers are cheap and software is fast, and what was impossible only a few decades ago is now easy.
The second reason is that governments use these surveillance capabilities for their own purposes. The FBI has used IMSI-catchers for years to investigate crimes. The NSA uses IP interception systems to collect foreign intelligence. Both of these agencies, as well as their counterparts in other countries, have put pressure on the standards bodies that create these systems to not implement strong security.
Of course, technology isn’t static. With time, things become cheaper and easier. What was once a secret NSA interception program or a secret FBI investigative tool becomes usable by less-capable governments and cybercriminals.
Man-in-the-middle attacks against Internet connections are a common criminal tool to steal credentials from users and hack their accounts.
IMSI-catchers are used by criminals, too. Right now, you can go onto Alibaba.com and buy your own IMSI catcher for under $2,000.
Despite their uses by democratic governments for legitimate purposes, our security would be much better served by fixing these vulnerabilities in our infrastructures.
These systems are not only used by dissidents in totalitarian countries, they’re also used by legislators, corporate executives, critical infrastructure providers, and many others in the US and elsewhere.
That we allow people to remain insecure and vulnerable is both wrongheaded and dangerous.
Earlier this month, two American legislators — Senator Ron Wyden and Rep Ted Lieu — sent a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, demanding that he do something about the country’s insecure telecommunications infrastructure.
They pointed out that not only are insecurities rampant in the underlying protocols and systems of the telecommunications infrastructure, but also that the FCC knows about these vulnerabilities and isn’t doing anything to force the telcos to fix them.
Wyden and Lieu make the point that fixing these vulnerabilities is a matter of US national security, but it’s also a matter of international human rights. All modern communications technologies are global, and anything the US does to improve its own security will also improve security worldwide.
Yes, it means that the FBI and the NSA will have a harder job spying, but it also means that the world will be a safer and more secure place.
This essay previously appeared on AlJazeera.com.
Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2016/08/another-lesson-in-confirmation-bias.html
The biggest problem with hacker attribution is the confirmation bias problem. Once you develop a theory, your mind shifts to distorting evidence trying to prove the theory. After a while, only your theory seems possible as one that can fit all your carefully selected evidence.
You can watch this happen in two recent blogposts   by Krypt3ia attributing bitcoin payments to the Shadow Broker hackers as coming from the government (FBI, NSA, TAO). These posts are absolutely wrong. Nonetheless, the press has picked up on the story and run with it [*]. [Note: click on the pictures in this post to blow them up so you can see them better].
The Shadow Brokers published their bitcoin address (19BY2XCgbDe6WtTVbTyzM9eR3LYr6VitWK) asking for donations to release the rest of their tools. They’ve received 66 transactions so far, totally 1.78 bitcoin, or roughly $1000 at today’s exchange rate.
Bitcoin is not anonymous by pseudonymous. Bitcoin is a public ledger with all transaction visible by everyone. Sometimes we can’t tie addresses back to people, but sometimes we can. There are a lot of researchers who spent a lot of time on “taint anlysis” trying to track down the real identity of evildoers. Thus, it seems plausible that we might be able to discover the identities of those people making contributions to Shadow Brokers.
The first of Krypt3ia’s errant blogposts tries to use the Bitcoin taint analysis plugin within Maltego in order to do some analysis on the Shadow Broker address. What he found was links to the Silk Road address — the address controlled by the FBI since they took down that darknet marketplace several years ago. Therefore, he created the theory that the government (FBI? NSA? TAO?) was up to some evil tricks, such as trying to fill the account with money so that they could then track where the money went in the public blockchain.
But he misinterpreted the links. (He was wrong.) There were no payments from the Silk Road accounts to the Shadow Broker account. Instead, there were people making payments to both accounts. As a prank.
To demonstrate how this prank wors, I made my own transaction, where I pay money to the Shadow Brokers (19BY2…), to Silk Road (1F1A…), and to a few other well-known accounts controlled by the government.
The point here is that anybody can do these shenanigans. That government controlled addresses are involved means nothing. They are public, and anybody can send coin to them.
That blogpost points to yet more shenanigans, such as somebody “rick rolling”, to confirm that TAO hackers were involved. What you see in the picture below is a series of transactions using bitcoin addresses containing the phrase “never gonna give you up“, the title of Rich Astley’s song (I underlined the words in red).
Far from the government being involved, somebody else took credit for the hack, with the Twitter handle @MalwareTechBlog. In a blogpost [*], he describes what he did. He then proves his identity by signing a message at the bottom of his post, using the same key (the 1never…. key above) in his tricks. Below is a screenshot of how I verified (and how anybody can verify) the key.
Moreover, these pranks should be seen in context. Goofball shenanigans on the blockchain are really, really common. An example is the following transaction:
Notice the vanity bitcoin address transfering money to the Silk Road account. There is also a “Public Note” on this transaction, a feature unique to BlockChain.info — which recently removed the feature because it was so extensively abused.
Bitcoin also has a feature where 40 bytes of a message can be added to transactions. The first transaction sending bitcoins to both Shadow Brokers and Silk Road was this one. If you tell it to “show scripts”, you see that it contains an email address for Cryptome, the biggest and oldest Internet leaks site (albeit not as notorious as Wikileaks).
The point is this: shenanigans and pranks are common on the Internet. What we see with Shadow Brokers is normal trickery. If you are unfamiliar with Bitcoin culture, it may look like some extra special trickery just for Shadow Brokers, but it isn’t.
After much criticism why his first blogpost was wrong, Krypt3ia published a second. The point of the second was to lambaste his critics — just because he jotted down some idle thoughts in a post doesn’t make him responsible for journalists like ZDnet picking up as a story that’s now suddenly being passed around.
But his continues with the claim that there is somehow evidence of government involvement, even though his original claim of payments from Silk Road were wrong. As he says:
However, my contention still stands that there be some fuckery going on here with those wallet transactions by the looks of it and that the likely candidate would be the government
Krypt3ia goes onto then claim, about the Rick Astley trick:
So yeah, these accounts as far as I can tell so far without going and spending way to many fucking hours on bitcoin.ifo or some such site, were created to purposely rick roll and fuck with the ShadowBrokers. Now, they may be fractions of bitcoins but I ask you, who the fuck has bitcoin money to burn here? Any of you out there? I certainly don’t and the way it was done, so tongue in cheek kinda reminds me of the audacity of TAO…
Who has bitcoin money to burn? The answer is everyone. Krypt3ia obvious isn’t paying attention to the value of bitcoin here, which are pennies. Each transaction of 0.0001337 bitcoins is worth about 10 cents at current exchange rates, meaning this Rick Roll was less than $1. It takes minutes to open an account (like at Circle.com) and use your credit card (or debit card) to $1 worth of bitcoin and carry out this prank.
He goes on to say:
If you also look at the wallets that I have marked with the super cool “Invisible Man” logo, you can see how some of those were actually transfering money from wallet to wallet in sequence to then each post transactions to Shadow. Now what is that all about huh? More wallets acting together? As Velma would often say in Scooby Doo, JINKY’S! Something is going on there.
Well, no, it’s normal bitcoin transactions. (I’ve made this mistake too — learned about it, then forgot about it, then had to relearn about it). A Bitcoin transaction needs to consume all the previous transactions that it refers to. This invariably leaves some bitcoin left over, so has to be transferred back into the user’s wallet. Thus, on my hijinx at the top of this post, you see the address 1HFWw… receives most of the bitcoin. That was a newly created by my wallet back in 2014 to receive the unspent portions of transactions. While it looks strange, it’s perfectly normal.
It’s easy to point out that Krypt3ia just doesn’t understand much about bitcoin, and is getting excited by Maltego output he doesn’t understand.
But the real issue is confirmation bias. He’s developed a theory, and searches for confirmation of that theory. He says “there are connections that cannot be discounted”, when in fact all the connections can easily be discounted with more research, with more knowledge. When he gets attacked, he’s becomes even more motivated to search for reasons why he’s actually right. He’s not motivated to be proven wrong.
And this is the case of most “attribution” in the cybersec issue. We don’t have smoking guns (such as bitcoin coming from the Silk Road account), and must make do with flimsy data (like here, bitcoin going to the Silk Road account). Sometimes our intuition is right, and this flimsy data does indeed point us to the hacker. In other cases, it leads us astray, as I’ve documented before in this blog. The less we understand something, the more it confirms our theory rather than conforming we just don’t understand. That “we just don’t know” is rarely an acceptable answer.
I point this out because I’m always the skeptic when the government attributes attacks to North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, and so on. I’ve seen them be right sometimes, and I’ve seem them be absolutely wrong. And when they are wrong, it’s easy figuring out why — because of things like confirmation bias.
|Maltego plugin showing my Bitcoin hijinx transaction from above|
|Creating vanity addresses, for rickrolling or other reasons|
Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/08/how_the_iranian.html
Citizen Lab has a new report on an Iranian government hacking program that targets dissidents. From a Washington Post op-ed by Ron Deibert:
Al-Ameer is a net savvy activist, and so when she received a legitimate looking email containing a PowerPoint attachment addressed to her and purporting to detail “Assad Crimes,” she could easily have opened it. Instead, she shared it with us at the Citizen Lab.
As we detail in a new report, the attachment led our researchers to uncover an elaborate cyberespionage campaign operating out of Iran. Among the malware was a malicious spyware, including a remote access tool called “Droidjack,” that allows attackers to silently control a mobile device. When Droidjack is installed, a remote user can turn on the microphone and camera, remove files, read encrypted messages, and send spoofed instant messages and emails. Had she opened it, she could have put herself, her friends, her family and her associates back in Syria in mortal danger.
FOSS.in was one of the best conferences I have ever
been to, and a lot of fun. The organization was flawless and I can
only heartily recommend everyone to send in a presentation proposal for next year’s
iteration. I certainly hope the commitee is going to accept my proposals next year again. Especially the food was gorgeous.