Tag Archives: snowden

Japan’s Directorate for Signals Intelligence

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/japans_director.html

The Intercept has a long article on Japan’s equivalent of the NSA: the Directorate for Signals Intelligence. Interesting, but nothing really surprising.

The directorate has a history that dates back to the 1950s; its role is to eavesdrop on communications. But its operations remain so highly classified that the Japanese government has disclosed little about its work ­ even the location of its headquarters. Most Japanese officials, except for a select few of the prime minister’s inner circle, are kept in the dark about the directorate’s activities, which are regulated by a limited legal framework and not subject to any independent oversight.

Now, a new investigation by the Japanese broadcaster NHK — produced in collaboration with The Intercept — reveals for the first time details about the inner workings of Japan’s opaque spy community. Based on classified documents and interviews with current and former officials familiar with the agency’s intelligence work, the investigation shines light on a previously undisclosed internet surveillance program and a spy hub in the south of Japan that is used to monitor phone calls and emails passing across communications satellites.

The article includes some new documents from the Snowden archive.

Supply-Chain Security

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/05/supply-chain_se.html

Earlier this month, the Pentagon stopped selling phones made by the Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei on military bases because they might be used to spy on their users.

It’s a legitimate fear, and perhaps a prudent action. But it’s just one instance of the much larger issue of securing our supply chains.

All of our computerized systems are deeply international, and we have no choice but to trust the companies and governments that touch those systems. And while we can ban a few specific products, services or companies, no country can isolate itself from potential foreign interference.

In this specific case, the Pentagon is concerned that the Chinese government demanded that ZTE and Huawei add “backdoors” to their phones that could be surreptitiously turned on by government spies or cause them to fail during some future political conflict. This tampering is possible because the software in these phones is incredibly complex. It’s relatively easy for programmers to hide these capabilities, and correspondingly difficult to detect them.

This isn’t the first time the United States has taken action against foreign software suspected to contain hidden features that can be used against us. Last December, President Trump signed into law a bill banning software from the Russian company Kaspersky from being used within the US government. In 2012, the focus was on Chinese-made Internet routers. Then, the House Intelligence Committee concluded: “Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

Nor is the United States the only country worried about these threats. In 2014, China reportedly banned antivirus products from both Kaspersky and the US company Symantec, based on similar fears. In 2017, the Indian government identified 42 smartphone apps that China subverted. Back in 1997, the Israeli company Check Point was dogged by rumors that its government added backdoors into its products; other of that country’s tech companies have been suspected of the same thing. Even al-Qaeda was concerned; ten years ago, a sympathizer released the encryption software Mujahedeen Secrets, claimed to be free of Western influence and backdoors. If a country doesn’t trust another country, then it can’t trust that country’s computer products.

But this trust isn’t limited to the country where the company is based. We have to trust the country where the software is written — and the countries where all the components are manufactured. In 2016, researchers discovered that many different models of cheap Android phones were sending information back to China. The phones might be American-made, but the software was from China. In 2016, researchers demonstrated an even more devious technique, where a backdoor could be added at the computer chip level in the factory that made the chips ­ without the knowledge of, and undetectable by, the engineers who designed the chips in the first place. Pretty much every US technology company manufactures its hardware in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Taiwan.

We also have to trust the programmers. Today’s large software programs are written by teams of hundreds of programmers scattered around the globe. Backdoors, put there by we-have-no-idea-who, have been discovered in Juniper firewalls and D-Link routers, both of which are US companies. In 2003, someone almost slipped a very clever backdoor into Linux. Think of how many countries’ citizens are writing software for Apple or Microsoft or Google.

We can go even farther down the rabbit hole. We have to trust the distribution systems for our hardware and software. Documents disclosed by Edward Snowden showed the National Security Agency installing backdoors into Cisco routers being shipped to the Syrian telephone company. There are fake apps in the Google Play store that eavesdrop on you. Russian hackers subverted the update mechanism of a popular brand of Ukrainian accounting software to spread the NotPetya malware.

In 2017, researchers demonstrated that a smartphone can be subverted by installing a malicious replacement screen.

I could go on. Supply-chain security is an incredibly complex problem. US-only design and manufacturing isn’t an option; the tech world is far too internationally interdependent for that. We can’t trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. Our phones, computers, software and cloud systems are touched by citizens of dozens of different countries, any one of whom could subvert them at the demand of their government. And just as Russia is penetrating the US power grid so they have that capability in the event of hostilities, many countries are almost certainly doing the same thing at the consumer level.

We don’t know whether the risk of Huawei and ZTE equipment is great enough to warrant the ban. We don’t know what classified intelligence the United States has, and what it implies. But we do know that this is just a minor fix for a much larger problem. It’s doubtful that this ban will have any real effect. Members of the military, and everyone else, can still buy the phones. They just can’t buy them on US military bases. And while the US might block the occasional merger or acquisition, or ban the occasional hardware or software product, we’re largely ignoring that larger issue. Solving it borders on somewhere between incredibly expensive and realistically impossible.

Perhaps someday, global norms and international treaties will render this sort of device-level tampering off-limits. But until then, all we can do is hope that this particular arms race doesn’t get too far out of control.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.

Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018

Post Syndicated from Dan Fisher original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/bett-2018/

If you’re an educator from the UK, chances are you’ve heard of Bett. For everyone else: Bett stands for British Education Technology Tradeshow. It’s the El Dorado of edtech, where every street is adorned with interactive whiteboards, VR headsets, and new technologies for the classroom. Every year since 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has been going to the event hosted in the ExCeL London to chat to thousands of lovely educators about our free programmes and resources.

Raspberry Pi Bett 2018

On a mission

Our setup this year consisted of four pods (imagine tables on steroids) in the STEAM village, and the mission of our highly trained team of education agents was to establish a new world record for Highest number of teachers talked to in a four-day period. I’m only half-joking.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Educators with a mission

Meeting educators

The best thing about being at Bett is meeting the educators who use our free content and training materials. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday tasks of the office without stopping to ask: “Hey, have we asked our users what they want recently?” Events like Bett help us to connect with our audience, creating some lovely moments for both sides. We had plenty of Hello World authors visit us, including Gary Stager, co-author of Invent to Learn, a must-read for any computing educator. More than 700 people signed up for a digital subscription, we had numerous lovely conversations about our content and about ideas for new articles, and we met many new authors expressing an interest in writing for us in the future.

BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi
BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi
BETT 2018 Hello World Raspberry Pi

We also talked to lots of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators who we’d trained in our free Picademy programme — new dates in Belfast and Dublin now! — and who are now doing exciting and innovative things in their local areas. For example, Chris Snowden came to tell us about the great digital making outreach work he has been doing with the Eureka! museum in Yorkshire.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Chris Snowden

Digital making for kids

The other best thing about being at Bett is running workshops for young learners and seeing the delight on their faces when they accomplish something they believed to be impossible only five minutes ago. On the Saturday, we ran a massive Raspberry Jam/Code Club where over 250 children, parents, and curious onlookers got stuck into some of our computing activities. We were super happy to find out that we’d won the Bett Kids’ Choice Award for Best Hands-on Experience — a fantastic end to a busy four days. With Bett over for another year, our tired and happy ‘rebel alliance’ from across the Foundation still had the energy to pose for a group photo.

Bett 2018 Raspberry Pi

Celebrating our ‘Best Hands-on Experience’ award

More events

You can find out more about starting a Code Club here, and if you’re running a Jam, why not get involved with our global Raspberry Jam Big Birthday Weekend celebrations in March?

Raspberry Pi Big Birthday Weekend 2018. GIF with confetti and bopping JAM balloons

We’ll be at quite a few events in 2018, including the Big Bang Fair in March — do come and say hi.

The post Four days of STEAM at Bett 2018 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

After Section 702 Reauthorization

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/after_section_7.html

For over a decade, civil libertarians have been fighting government mass surveillance of innocent Americans over the Internet. We’ve just lost an important battle. On January 18, President Trump signed the renewal of Section 702, domestic mass surveillance became effectively a permanent part of US law.

Section 702 was initially passed in 2008, as an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. As the title of that law says, it was billed as a way for the NSA to spy on non-Americans located outside the United States. It was supposed to be an efficiency and cost-saving measure: the NSA was already permitted to tap communications cables located outside the country, and it was already permitted to tap communications cables from one foreign country to another that passed through the United States. Section 702 allowed it to tap those cables from inside the United States, where it was easier. It also allowed the NSA to request surveillance data directly from Internet companies under a program called PRISM.

The problem is that this authority also gave the NSA the ability to collect foreign communications and data in a way that inherently and intentionally also swept up Americans’ communications as well, without a warrant. Other law enforcement agencies are allowed to ask the NSA to search those communications, give their contents to the FBI and other agencies and then lie about their origins in court.

In 1978, after Watergate had revealed the Nixon administration’s abuses of power, we erected a wall between intelligence and law enforcement that prevented precisely this kind of sharing of surveillance data under any authority less restrictive than the Fourth Amendment. Weakening that wall is incredibly dangerous, and the NSA should never have been given this authority in the first place.

Arguably, it never was. The NSA had been doing this type of surveillance illegally for years, something that was first made public in 2006. Section 702 was secretly used as a way to paper over that illegal collection, but nothing in the text of the later amendment gives the NSA this authority. We didn’t know that the NSA was using this law as the statutory basis for this surveillance until Edward Snowden showed us in 2013.

Civil libertarians have been battling this law in both Congress and the courts ever since it was proposed, and the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities even longer. What this most recent vote tells me is that we’ve lost that fight.

Section 702 was passed under George W. Bush in 2008, reauthorized under Barack Obama in 2012, and now reauthorized again under Trump. In all three cases, congressional support was bipartisan. It has survived multiple lawsuits by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the ACLU, and others. It has survived the revelations by Snowden that it was being used far more extensively than Congress or the public believed, and numerous public reports of violations of the law. It has even survived Trump’s belief that he was being personally spied on by the intelligence community, as well as any congressional fears that Trump could abuse the authority in the coming years. And though this extension lasts only six years, it’s inconceivable to me that it will ever be repealed at this point.

So what do we do? If we can’t fight this particular statutory authority, where’s the new front on surveillance? There are, it turns out, reasonable modifications that target surveillance more generally, and not in terms of any particular statutory authority. We need to look at US surveillance law more generally.

First, we need to strengthen the minimization procedures to limit incidental collection. Since the Internet was developed, all the world’s communications travel around in a single global network. It’s impossible to collect only foreign communications, because they’re invariably mixed in with domestic communications. This is called “incidental” collection, but that’s a misleading name. It’s collected knowingly, and searched regularly. The intelligence community needs much stronger restrictions on which American communications channels it can access without a court order, and rules that require they delete the data if they inadvertently collect it. More importantly, “collection” is defined as the point the NSA takes a copy of the communications, and not later when they search their databases.

Second, we need to limit how other law enforcement agencies can use incidentally collected information. Today, those agencies can query a database of incidental collection on Americans. The NSA can legally pass information to those other agencies. This has to stop. Data collected by the NSA under its foreign surveillance authority should not be used as a vehicle for domestic surveillance.

The most recent reauthorization modified this lightly, forcing the FBI to obtain a court order when querying the 702 data for a criminal investigation. There are still exceptions and loopholes, though.

Third, we need to end what’s called “parallel construction.” Today, when a law enforcement agency uses evidence found in this NSA database to arrest someone, it doesn’t have to disclose that fact in court. It can reconstruct the evidence in some other manner once it knows about it, and then pretend it learned of it that way. This right to lie to the judge and the defense is corrosive to liberty, and it must end.

Pressure to reform the NSA will probably first come from Europe. Already, European Union courts have pointed to warrantless NSA surveillance as a reason to keep Europeans’ data out of US hands. Right now, there is a fragile agreement between the EU and the United States ­– called “Privacy Shield” — ­that requires Americans to maintain certain safeguards for international data flows. NSA surveillance goes against that, and it’s only a matter of time before EU courts start ruling this way. That’ll have significant effects on both government and corporate surveillance of Europeans and, by extension, the entire world.

Further pressure will come from the increased surveillance coming from the Internet of Things. When your home, car, and body are awash in sensors, privacy from both governments and corporations will become increasingly important. Sooner or later, society will reach a tipping point where it’s all too much. When that happens, we’re going to see significant pushback against surveillance of all kinds. That’s when we’ll get new laws that revise all government authorities in this area: a clean sweep for a new world, one with new norms and new fears.

It’s possible that a federal court will rule on Section 702. Although there have been many lawsuits challenging the legality of what the NSA is doing and the constitutionality of the 702 program, no court has ever ruled on those questions. The Bush and Obama administrations successfully argued that defendants don’t have legal standing to sue. That is, they have no right to sue because they don’t know they’re being targeted. If any of the lawsuits can get past that, things might change dramatically.

Meanwhile, much of this is the responsibility of the tech sector. This problem exists primarily because Internet companies collect and retain so much personal data and allow it to be sent across the network with minimal security. Since the government has abdicated its responsibility to protect our privacy and security, these companies need to step up: Minimize data collection. Don’t save data longer than absolutely necessary. Encrypt what has to be saved. Well-designed Internet services will safeguard users, regardless of government surveillance authority.

For the rest of us concerned about this, it’s important not to give up hope. Everything we do to keep the issue in the public eye ­– and not just when the authority comes up for reauthorization again in 2024 — hastens the day when we will reaffirm our rights to privacy in the digital age.

This essay previously appeared in the Washington Post.

NSA Morale

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/nsa_morale.html

The Washington Post is reporting that poor morale at the NSA is causing a significant talent shortage. A November New York Times article said much the same thing.

The articles point to many factors: the recent reorganization, low pay, and the various leaks. I have been saying for a while that the Shadow Brokers leaks have been much more damaging to the NSA — both to morale and operating capabilities — than Edward Snowden. I think it’ll take most of a decade for them to recover.

Tamper-Detection App for Android

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/01/tamper-detectio.html

Edward Snowden and Nathan Freitas have created an Android app that detects when it’s being tampered with. The basic idea is to put the app on a second phone and put the app on or near something important, like your laptop. The app can then text you — and also record audio and video — when something happens around it: when it’s moved, when the lighting changes, and so on. This gives you some protection against the “evil maid attack” against laptops.

Micah Lee has a good article about the app, including some caveats about its use and security.

ISO Rejects NSA Encryption Algorithms

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/iso_rejects_nsa.html

The ISO has decided not to approve two NSA-designed block encryption algorithms: Speck and Simon. It’s because the NSA is not trusted to put security ahead of surveillance:

A number of them voiced their distrust in emails to one another, seen by Reuters, and in written comments that are part of the process. The suspicions stem largely from internal NSA documents disclosed by Snowden that showed the agency had previously plotted to manipulate standards and promote technology it could penetrate. Budget documents, for example, sought funding to “insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems.”

More than a dozen of the experts involved in the approval process for Simon and Speck feared that if the NSA was able to crack the encryption techniques, it would gain a “back door” into coded transmissions, according to the interviews and emails and other documents seen by Reuters.

“I don’t trust the designers,” Israeli delegate Orr Dunkelman, a computer science professor at the University of Haifa, told Reuters, citing Snowden’s papers. “There are quite a lot of people in NSA who think their job is to subvert standards. My job is to secure standards.”

I don’t trust the NSA, either.

A Hardware Privacy Monitor for iPhones

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/a_hardware_priv.html

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.

ShadowBrokers Releases NSA UNITEDRAKE Manual

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/09/shadowbrokers_r.html

The ShadowBrokers released the manual for UNITEDRAKE, a sophisticated NSA Trojan that targets Windows machines:

Able to compromise Windows PCs running on XP, Windows Server 2003 and 2008, Vista, Windows 7 SP 1 and below, as well as Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, the attack tool acts as a service to capture information.

UNITEDRAKE, described as a “fully extensible remote collection system designed for Windows targets,” also gives operators the opportunity to take complete control of a device.

The malware’s modules — including FOGGYBOTTOM and GROK — can perform tasks including listening in and monitoring communication, capturing keystrokes and both webcam and microphone usage, the impersonation users, stealing diagnostics information and self-destructing once tasks are completed.

More news.

UNITEDRAKE was mentioned in several Snowden documents and also in the TAO catalog of implants.

And Kaspersky Labs has found evidence of these tools in the wild, associated with the Equation Group — generally assumed to be the NSA:

The capabilities of several tools in the catalog identified by the codenames UNITEDRAKE, STRAITBAZZARE, VALIDATOR and SLICKERVICAR appear to match the tools Kaspersky found. These codenames don’t appear in the components from the Equation Group, but Kaspersky did find “UR” in EquationDrug, suggesting a possible connection to UNITEDRAKE (United Rake). Kaspersky also found other codenames in the components that aren’t in the NSA catalog but share the same naming conventions­they include SKYHOOKCHOW, STEALTHFIGHTER, DRINKPARSLEY, STRAITACID, LUTEUSOBSTOS, STRAITSHOOTER, and DESERTWINTER.

ShadowBrokers has only released the UNITEDRAKE manual, not the tool itself. Presumably they’re trying to sell that

The NSA’s 2014 Media Engagement and Outreach Plan

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/08/the_nsas_2014_m.html

Interesting post-Snowden reading, just declassified.

(U) External Communication will address at least one of “fresh look” narratives:

  1. (U) NSA does not access everything.
  2. (U) NSA does not collect indiscriminately on U.S. Persons and foreign nationals.
  3. (U) NSA does not weaken encryption.
  4. (U) NSA has value to the nation.

There’s lots more.

A kindly lesson for you non-techies about encryption

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/a-kindly-lesson-for-you-non-techies.html

The following tweets need to be debunked:

The answer to John Schindler’s question is:

every expert in cryptography doesn’t know this

Oh, sure, you can find fringe wacko who also knows crypto that agrees with you but all the sane members of the security community will not.

Telegram is not trustworthy because it’s partially closed-source. We can’t see how it works. We don’t know if they’ve made accidental mistakes that can be hacked. We don’t know if they’ve been bribed by the NSA or Russia to put backdoors in their program. In contrast, PGP and Signal are open-source. We can read exactly what the software does. Indeed, thousands of people have been reviewing their software looking for mistakes and backdoors. Being open-source doesn’t automatically make software better, but it does make hiding secret backdoors much harder.

Telegram is not trustworthy because we aren’t certain the crypto is done properly. Signal, and especially PGP, are done properly.

The thing about encryption is that when done properly, it works. Neither the NSA nor the Russians can break properly encrypted content. There’s no such thing as “military grade” encryption that is better than consumer grade. There’s only encryption that nobody can hack vs. encryption that your neighbor’s teenage kid can easily hack. Those scenes in TV/movies about breaking encryption is as realistic as sound in space: good for dramatic presentation, but not how things work in the real world.

In particular, end-to-end encryption works. Sure, in the past, such apps only encrypted as far as the server, so whoever ran the server could read your messages. Modern chat apps, though, are end-to-end: the servers have absolutely no ability to decrypt what’s on them, unless they can get the decryption keys from the phones. But some tasks, like encrypted messages to a group of people, can be hard to do properly.

Thus, in contrast to what John Schindler says, while we techies have doubts about Telegram, we don’t have doubts about Russia authorities having access to Signal and PGP messages.

Snowden hatred has become the anti-vax of crypto. Sure, there’s no particular reason to trust Snowden — people should really stop treating him as some sort of privacy-Jesus. But there’s no particular reason to distrust him, either. His bland statements on crypto are indistinguishable from any other crypto-enthusiast statements. If he’s a Russian pawn, then so too is the bulk of the crypto community.

With all this said, using Signal doesn’t make you perfectly safe. The person you are chatting with could be a secret agent — especially in group chat. There could be cameras/microphones in the room where you are using the app. The Russians can also hack into your phone, and likewise eavesdrop on everything you do with the phone, regardless of which app you use. And they probably have hacked specific people’s phones. On the other hand, if the NSA or Russians were widely hacking phones, we’d detect that this was happening. We haven’t.

Signal is therefore not a guarantee of safety, because nothing is, and if your life depends on it, you can’t trust any simple advice like “use Signal”. But, for the bulk of us, it’s pretty damn secure, and I trust neither the Russians nor the NSA are reading my Signal or PGP messages.

At first blush, this @20committee tweet appears to be non-experts opining on things outside their expertise. But in reality, it’s just obtuse partisanship, where truth and expertise doesn’t matter. Nothing you or I say can change some people’s minds on this matter, no matter how much our expertise gives weight to our words. This post is instead for bystanders, who don’t know enough to judge whether these crazy statements have merit.


So let’s talk about “every crypto expert“. It’s, of course, impossible to speak for every crypto expert. It’s like saying how the consensus among climate scientists is that mankind is warming the globe, while at the same time, ignoring the wide spread disagreement on how much warming that is.

The same is true here. You’ll get a widespread different set of responses from experts about the above tweet. Some, for example, will stress my point at the bottom that hacking the endpoint (the phone) breaks all the apps, and thus justify the above tweet from that point of view. Others will point out that all software has bugs, and it’s quite possible that Signal has some unknown bug that the Russians are exploiting.

So I’m not attempting to speak for what all experts might say here in the general case and what long lecture they can opine about. I am, though, pointing out the basics that virtually everyone agrees on, the consensus of open-source and working crypto.

NSA Insider Security Post-Snowden

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/06/nsa_insider_sec.html

According to a recently declassified report obtained under FOIA, the NSA’s attempts to protect itself against insider attacks aren’t going very well:

The N.S.A. failed to consistently lock racks of servers storing highly classified data and to secure data center machine rooms, according to the report, an investigation by the Defense Department’s inspector general completed in 2016.


The agency also failed to meaningfully reduce the number of officials and contractors who were empowered to download and transfer data classified as top secret, as well as the number of “privileged” users, who have greater power to access the N.S.A.’s most sensitive computer systems. And it did not fully implement software to monitor what those users were doing.

In all, the report concluded, while the post-Snowden initiative — called “Secure the Net” by the N.S.A. — had some successes, it “did not fully meet the intent of decreasing the risk of insider threats to N.S.A. operations and the ability of insiders to exfiltrate data.”

Marcy Wheeler comments:

The IG report examined seven of the most important out of 40 “Secure the Net” initiatives rolled out since Snowden began leaking classified information. Two of the initiatives aspired to reduce the number of people who had the kind of access Snowden did: those who have privileged access to maintain, configure, and operate the NSA’s computer systems (what the report calls PRIVACs), and those who are authorized to use removable media to transfer data to or from an NSA system (what the report calls DTAs).

But when DOD’s inspectors went to assess whether NSA had succeeded in doing this, they found something disturbing. In both cases, the NSA did not have solid documentation about how many such users existed at the time of the Snowden leak. With respect to PRIVACs, in June 2013 (the start of the Snowden leak), “NSA officials stated that they used a manually kept spreadsheet, which they no longer had, to identify the initial number of privileged users.” The report offered no explanation for how NSA came to no longer have that spreadsheet just as an investigation into the biggest breach thus far at NSA started. With respect to DTAs, “NSA did not know how many DTAs it had because the manually kept list was corrupted during the months leading up to the security breach.”

There seem to be two possible explanations for the fact that the NSA couldn’t track who had the same kind of access that Snowden exploited to steal so many documents. Either the dog ate their homework: Someone at NSA made the documents unavailable (or they never really existed). Or someone fed the dog their homework: Some adversary made these lists unusable. The former would suggest the NSA had something to hide as it prepared to explain why Snowden had been able to walk away with NSA’s crown jewels. The latter would suggest that someone deliberately obscured who else in the building might walk away with the crown jewels. Obscuring that list would be of particular value if you were a foreign adversary planning on walking away with a bunch of files, such as the set of hacking tools the Shadow Brokers have since released, which are believed to have originated at NSA.

Read the whole thing. Securing against insiders, especially those with technical access, is difficult, but I had assumed the NSA did more post-Snowden.

What about other leaked printed documents?

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/what-about-other-leaked-printed.html

So nat-sec pundit/expert Marci Wheeler (@emptywheel) asks about those DIOG docs leaked last year. They were leaked in printed form, then scanned in an published by The Intercept. Did they have these nasty yellow dots that track the source? If not, why not?

The answer is that the scanned images of the DIOG doc don’t have dots. I don’t know why. One reason might be that the scanner didn’t pick them up, as it’s much lower quality than the scanner for the Russian hacking docs. Another reason is that the printer used my not have printed them — while most printers do print such dots, some printers don’t. A third possibility is that somebody used a tool to strip the dots from scanned images. I don’t think such a tool exists, but it wouldn’t be hard to write.

Scanner quality

The printed docs are here. They are full of whitespace where it should be easy to see these dots, but they appear not to be there. If we reverse the image, we see something like the following from the first page of the DIOG doc:

Compare this to the first page of the Russian hacking doc which shows the blue dots:

What we see in the difference is that the scan of the Russian doc is much better. We see that in the background, which is much noisier, able to pick small things like the blue dots. In contrast, the DIOG scan is worse. We don’t see much detail in the background.

Looking closer, we can see the lack of detail. We also see banding, which indicates other defects of the scanner.

Thus, one theory is that the scanner just didn’t pick up the dots from the page.

Not all printers

The EFF has a page where they document which printers produce these dots. Samsung and Okidata don’t, virtually all the other printers do.

The person who printed these might’ve gotten lucky. Or, they may have carefully chosen a printer that does not produce these dots.

The reason Reality Winner exfiltrated these documents by printing them is that the NSA had probably clamped down on USB thumb drives for secure facilities. Walking through the metal detector with a chip hidden in a Rubic’s Cube (as shown in the Snowden movie) will not work anymore.

But, presumably, the FBI is not so strict, and a person would be able to exfiltrate the digital docs from FBI facilities, and print elsewhere.


By pure chance, those DIOG docs should’ve had visible tracking dots. Either the person leaking the docs knew about this and avoided it, or they got lucky.

How The Intercept Outed Reality Winner

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/06/how-intercept-outed-reality-winner.html

Today, The Intercept released documents on election tampering from an NSA leaker. Later, the arrest warrant request for an NSA contractor named “Reality Winner” was published, showing how they tracked her down because she had printed out the documents and sent them to The Intercept. The document posted by the Intercept isn’t the original PDF file, but a PDF containing the pictures of the printed version that was then later scanned in.

As the warrant says, she confessed while interviewed by the FBI. Had she not confessed, the documents still contained enough evidence to convict her: the printed document was digitally watermarked.

The problem is that most new printers print nearly invisibly yellow dots that track down exactly when and where documents, any document, is printed. Because the NSA logs all printing jobs on its printers, it can use this to match up precisely who printed the document.

In this post, I show how.

You can download the document from the original article here. You can then open it in a PDF viewer, such as the normal “Preview” app on macOS. Zoom into some whitespace on the document, and take a screenshot of this. On macOS, hit [Command-Shift-3] to take a screenshot of a window. There are yellow dots in this image, but you can barely see them, especially if your screen is dirty.

We need to highlight the yellow dots. Open the screenshot in an image editor, such as the “Paintbrush” program built into macOS. Now use the option to “Invert Colors” in the image, to get something like this. You should see a roughly rectangular pattern checkerboard in the whitespace.

It’s upside down, so we need to rotate it 180 degrees, or flip-horizontal and flip-vertical:

Now we go to the EFF page and manually click on the pattern so that their tool can decode the meaning:

This produces the following result:

The document leaked by the Intercept was from a printer with model number 54, serial number 29535218. The document was printed on May 9, 2017 at 6:20. The NSA almost certainly has a record of who used the printer at that time.

The situation is similar to how Vice outed the location of John McAfee, by publishing JPEG photographs of him with the EXIF GPS coordinates still hidden in the file. Or it’s how PDFs are often redacted by adding a black bar on top of image, leaving the underlying contents still in the file for people to read, such as in this NYTime accident with a Snowden document. Or how opening a Microsoft Office document, then accidentally saving it, leaves fingerprints identifying you behind, as repeatedly happened with the Wikileaks election leaks. These sorts of failures are common with leaks. To fix this yellow-dot problem, use a black-and-white printer, black-and-white scanner, or convert to black-and-white with an image editor.

Copiers/printers have two features put in there by the government to be evil to you. The first is that scanners/copiers (when using scanner feature) recognize a barely visible pattern on currency, so that they can’t be used to counterfeit money, as shown on this $20 below:

The second is that when they print things out, they includes these invisible dots, so documents can be tracked. In other words, those dots on bills prevent them from being scanned in, and the dots produced by printers help the government track what was printed out.

Yes, this code the government forces into our printers is a violation of our 3rd Amendment rights.

While I was writing up this post, these tweets appeared first:


Who Are the Shadow Brokers?

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.

This essay previously appeared in the Atlantic, and is an update of this essay from Lawfare.

WannaBark (at the Moon)

Post Syndicated from Йовко Ламбрев original https://yovko.net/wannabark/

Не. Няма да пиша за ИскаПлаче. Вече много се изписа – и както обикновено малка част си струваше четенето.

Проблемът е много по-голям от раздуханата случка. А резюмето е, че сме прецакани. Генерално сме прецакани! Нещо, което си повтаряме от време на време из технологичните среди, но е крайно време да го обясним с човешки думи на всички и да започнем някак да поправяме нещата.

Интернет е лабораторно чедо. Няма някакъв съвършен имунитет. Роди се и проходи в среда на академична романтика, обгрижвано с наивната добронамереност на първосъздателите и първопотребителите си. До скоро (в Интернет) все още беше донякъде вярно, че мнозинството по принцип е рационално, що-годе грамотно, а полезното и смисленото естествено ще надделяват над глупостта и враждебността. Вече не е така. Приказката свърши!

Време е да се събудим и да признаем, че доброто няма да победи злото по подразбиране, без да му помогнем.

Свързани сме. Всички. Повече от всякога. И затова трябва да осъзнаваме отговорността си един към друг. Както когато сме пипнали грип, не си стоим вкъщи само за да се излекуваме по-бързо, а и за да ограничим заразата сред останалите – така и не можем в наши дни да си позволим да ползваме компютър, смартфон и софтуер, който е стар и изоставен от поддръжка – защото сме уязвими не само ние, но застрашаваме и останалите.

Както някой сполучливо обобщи тези дни в twitter: „Не е вярно, че не можеш да си позволиш да обновяваш. Не можеш да си позволиш да не обновяваш!“

Системите, които ползваме явно или невидимо около нас, ще стават все по-свързани и отговорността да ги опазим е обща. Тя включва и да изискваме отговорност – от себе си, от операторите, от правителствата.

WannaCry нямаше да има този ефект, ако пострадалите бяха обновили софтуера си. Затова, когато на телефона или какъвто и да е компютър или умно устройство изгрее обновление, за бога, не го пренебрегвайте! Да, понякога може да е досадно. Не е много забавно и да си миеш зъбите, но е силно препоръчително и полезно за здравето.

Но… дори и от утре всички да започнем стриктно да спазваме това, то пак няма да е достатъчно, ако срещу себе си имаме правителства и организации, които злоупотребяват. WannaCry е производна на уязвимост в Windows, която Агенцията за сигурност на Съединените щати е открила, но вместо да уведоми за това Microsoft, неясно колко време се е възползвала от нея, за да прониква в чужди системи и да проследява и краде данни от тях. Кракерска групировка ги открадна пък от тях преди време, публикува присвоения арсенал – и ето – бързо се намери някой, който да го използва с користна цел.

Такива случки тепърва ще зачестяват. И ако правителствата ни играят срещу нас… няма да е никак весело.

Нужна е глобална, масова и упорита съпротива срещу практиката да се пазят в тайна уязвимости.

Играем и една друга рискована игра. Ежедневно. С великодушно безразличие за мащаба и ефекта на проблема. Смартфоните и таблетите ни също са компютри, а огромна част от производителите им, увлечени от стремежа за повече продажби на нови модели, бързат да „пенсионират“ старите, спирайки обновленията за тях, притискайки клиентите си да сменят устройството си. Това обаче не се случва така, както на производителите им се иска, и по-старите устройства продължават да бъдат ползвани без обновления, с уязвимости, препродават се на вторичен пазар, преотстъпват се на деца, роднини или по-възрастни хора. Докато един ден… нещо като WannaCry ще направи и от това новина… или тихо ще отмъква данни – телефонни номера, съобщения, снимки, пароли, кредитни карти, всевъзможна лична информация… И понеже сме толкова свързани – ще пострадат не само притежателите на пробити устройства, а косвено и тези, с които те са в някакви взаимоотношения.

Най-лошият пример са старите телефони и таблети с Android, за които Google няма механизъм да принуди производителите им да се грижат по-добре и по-адекватно и продължително за тях.

Огледайте се около себе си и вижте колко ваши познати използват много стари устройства.

За кошмарната сигурност на доста IoT джаджи за автоматизация и управление на умни домове и производства дори не ми се отваря тема.

Но като споменах Google… Необходим ни е нов, променен Интернет!

Централизираният модел на гигантски силози с информация, които пълним всички, но контрол върху тях имат малцина, е фундаментално сбъркан.

И тук проблемът не опира само до сигурност, защото пробив в такава система директно се проектира върху много хора, които разчитат на нея. Имаме и вторичен, но много сериозен проблем, свързан със зависимостта ни от нея и злоупотребата с данните ни там.

Подхлъзвайки ни да ползваме „безплатните“ услуги на Google, Facebook и подобните им… те ни обричат на зависимост и контрол. Елегантно се оказва, че данните, които им поверяваме, не са наши данни, а техни. Те ги използват, за да ни профилират, да отгатват интересите ни, темите към които имаме чувствителност, манипулират ни с тях, продават ги, за да ни манипулират и други. Това е цената на „безплатното“.

Както казва Aral Balkan (вече два пъти беше и в България) – това не е data farming, а people farming, защото нашите данни това сме самите ние. А пренебрежителното махване с ръка, че няма какво да крием, е престъпление към общността ни (пак да акцентирам) в нашия свързан свят, защото пък както казва Edward Snowden: „Да нямаш нужда от лична неприкосновеност, защото нямало какво да криеш, е като да нямаш нужда от право на свободна воля, защото няма какво да кажеш.“

Права = Сила

И борбата за тях (трябва да) е непрекъсната.

  • Трябва да си върнем контрола върху дигиталното ни Аз в Интернет. Да редуцираме до минимум използването на безплатни услуги, които събират данни.
  • Да приемем грижата за сигурността на софтуера и устройствата ни като част от личната ни хигиена.
  • Да възпитаваме чувствителност към манипулациите в Интернет и особено към фалшивите новини и некачествената журналистика.
  • Да настояваме за прозрачност от правителствата, организациите, политиците и корпорациите.
  • Да предпочитаме децентрализирани или фокусирани (в едно нещо) услуги, вместо глобални конгломерати със стремеж към монопол в колкото се може повече теми (напр. ProtonMail или FastMail вместо Gmail, собствени блогове вместо Facebook и др.)
  • Да използваме по-малки, децентрализирани платформи (медийни, за услуги, за комуникация) и да ги подкрепяме финансово, а когато можем – и да стартираме собствени такива.
  • Да надвиваме индивидуализма си и да се подкрепяме взаимно в общността си.
  • Да обучаваме и призоваваме повече хора да правят същото…

Бъдещето принадлежи не на големите мастодонти, а на мрежи от малки, взаимносвързани, независими и подкрепящи се проекти, които случваме заедно. Колкото по-рано осъзнаем тенденцията и силата си, толкова по-добре.

Снимка: Markus Spiske

FBI’s Comey dangerous definition of "valid" journalism

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/05/fbis-comey-dangerous-definition-of.html

The First Amendment, the “freedom of speech” one, does not mention journalists. When it says “freedom of the press” it means the physical printing press. Yes, that does include newspapers, but it also includes anybody else publishing things, such as the famous agitprop pamphlets published by James Otis, John Dickinson, and Thomas Paine. There was no journalistic value to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. The pamphlet argued for abolishing the monarchy and for American independence.

Today in testimony before congress, FBI directory James Comey came out in support of journalism, pointing out that they would not prosecute journalists doing their jobs. But he then modified his statement, describing “valid” journalists as those who in possession of leaks would first check with the government, to avoid publishing anything that would damage national security. It’s a power the government has abused in the past to delay or censor leaks. It’s specifically why Edward Snowden contacted Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras — he wanted journalists who would not kowtow the government on publishing the leaks.

Comey’s testimony today was in regards to prosecuting Assange and Wikileaks. Under the FBI’s official “journalist” classification scheme, Wikileaks are not real journalists, but instead publish “intelligence porn” and are hostile to America’s interests.

To be fair, there may be good reasons to prosecute Assange. Publishing leaks is one thing, but the suspicion with Wikileaks is that they do more, that they actively help getting the leaks in the first place. The original leaks that started Wikileaks may have come from hacks by Assange himself. Assange may have helped Manning grab the diplomatic cables. Wikileaks may have been involved in hacking the DNC and Podesta emails, more than simply receiving and publishing the information.

If that’s the case, then the US government would have good reason to prosecute Wikileaks.

But that’s not what Comey said today. Instead, Comey referred only to Wikileaks constitutionally protected publishing activities, and how since they didn’t fit his definition of “journalism”, they were open to prosecution. This is fundamentally wrong, and a violation of the both the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment. The FBI should not have a definition of “journalism” it thinks is valid. Yes, Assange is an anti-American douchebag. Being an apologist for Putin’s Russia disproves his claim of being a neutral journalist targeting the corrupt and powerful. But these activities are specifically protected by the Constitution.

If this were 1776, Comey would of course be going after Thomas Paine, for publishing “revolution porn”, and not being a real journalist.

Who is Publishing NSA and CIA Secrets, and Why?

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.

Surveillance and our Insecure Infrastructure

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.

Fourth WikiLeaks CIA Attack Tool Dump

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/04/fourth_wikileak.html

WikiLeaks is obviously playing their Top Secret CIA data cache for as much press as they can, leaking the documents a little at a time. On Friday they published their fourth set of documents from what they call “Vault 7”:

27 documents from the CIA’s Grasshopper framework, a platform used to build customized malware payloads for Microsoft Windows operating systems.

We have absolutely no idea who leaked this one. When they first started appearing, I suspected that it was not an insider because there wasn’t anything illegal in the documents. There still isn’t, but let me explain further. The CIA documents are all hacking tools. There’s nothing about programs or targets. Think about the Snowden leaks: it was the information about programs that targeted Americans, programs that swept up much of the world’s information, programs that demonstrated particularly powerful NSA capabilities. There’s nothing like that in the CIA leaks. They’re just hacking tools. All they demonstrate is that the CIA hoards vulnerabilities contrary to the government’s stated position, but we already knew that.

This was my guess from March:

If I had to guess right now, I’d say the documents came from an outsider and not an insider. My reasoning: One, there is absolutely nothing illegal in the contents of any of this stuff. It’s exactly what you’d expect the CIA to be doing in cyberspace. That makes the whistleblower motive less likely. And two, the documents are a few years old, making this more like the Shadow Brokers than Edward Snowden. An internal leaker would leak quickly. A foreign intelligence agency — like the Russians — would use the documents while they were fresh and valuable, and only expose them when the embarrassment value was greater.

But, as I said last month, no one has any idea: we’re all guessing. (Well, to be fair, I hope the CIA knows exactly who did this. Or, at least, exactly where the documents were stolen from.) And I hope the inability of either the NSA or CIA to keep its own attack tools secret will cause them to rethink their decision to hoard vulnerabilities in common Internet systems instead of fixing them.

News articles.

EDITED TO ADD (4/12): An analysis.