Tag Archives: The New York Times

Accessing Cell Phone Location Information

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

The New York Times is reporting about a company called Securus Technologies that gives police the ability to track cell phone locations without a warrant:

The service can find the whereabouts of almost any cellphone in the country within seconds. It does this by going through a system typically used by marketers and other companies to get location data from major cellphone carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, documents show.

Another article.

Boing Boing post.

DeleteFacebook

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

DeleteFacebook

Когато започнах рубриката си „Аз, киборгът“ в Тоест, имах в главата си две идеи. Едната е да обяснявам на човешки и нетехнически език важни неща от света на технологиите, а другата – постепенно да разказвам за възможните злоупотреби с данните, които безразсъдно сеем из т.нар. социални мрежи и най-вече Facebook.

Междувременно журналисти на The Guardian и The Observer, заедно с The New York Times и Channel 4 са работили цяла година по разследване, което потвърждава всички опасения, че данните, които Facebook е трупал с доброволното съучастие на потребителите си, са използвани безцеремонно за мръсни и подмолни манипулации от компанията Cambridge Analytica, която е превърнала това в свой бизнес.

В името на коректността е редно да се отбележи, че темата сама по себе си не е новина. Още преди една година разследване на The Intercept извади на повърхността мащаба на проблема – че данните на 30 милиона потребители във Facebook са използвани за предизборни манипулации в полза на Доналд Тръмп. Сега обаче разполагаме със свидетелствата на whistleblower (бивш ключов служител на Cambridge Analytica), който разказва с детайли как се е случвало всичко и още купчина самопризнания за детайли и пикантерии лично от мениджмънта на компанията, записани със скрита камера, докато ухажват мним потенциален нов клиент.


Компанията Cambridge Analytica, извличайки данни от подбрана извадка потребители на Facebook и свързаните с тях лица, създава огромна мрежа за влияние, есплоатирайки страховете и слабостите на хората. Така е манипулирала обществената среда и общественото мнение в полза на клиентите си. Прецизно е оценявала психологическите профили на хората, търсейки техни слабости и възползвайки се от податливостта им на влияния. Оценявала е личните профили, фокусирайки се внимателно върху трите критерия, които в психологията са наречени „черната триада” или „тъмната тройка” – макиавелизъм, психопатия и нарцисизъм.

Предоставяли са услугите си и през фирми-посредници, за да не бъдат уличени в директни връзки с политическите кампании, за които са работили. А за Източна Европа изпускат интересна самохвална реплика, че толкова потайно са си свършили работата, че никой дори не е разбрал…

Извън скандала с Cambridge Analytica обаче е важно да се осъзнае, че те не са единственият злодей в историята. Всичко това се случва, защото просто така работи Facebook. Това, което днес наричаме социални медии, всъщност са инструменти за събиране на данни. И не трябва да има никаква дискусия чии са тези данни и на кого принадлежат. Наши са! Не допускайте други тълкувания! Във времето, в което живеем, данните ни са проекция на самите нас. Данните ни, това сме ние! Допускайки друг да разполага с тях, позволяваме да ни застигат такива скандали, като не на шега ни заплашва някаква форма на дигитален феодализъм или дигитално робство.

Важен е и друг детайл. Всичко това излиза наяве благодарение на свободната преса. Ето защо тя е толкова важна за демокрацията. А със социалните мрежи е свършено! Би трябвало! Поне в този им вид.

Cambridge Analytica е злодеят, който се е възползвал от това, което е свършил друг по-страшен злодей, а именно Facebook. И не на последно място от наивността на всички ни, които още не сме си затворили акаунтите там. Facebook трябва да понесат всички последствия и цялата отговорност, защото направиха възможно всичко това. И не заслужават никаква милост!

DeleteFacebook

P.S. В европейски контекст е важно да отбележим, че е по-разумно да изтрием Facebook акаунта си след 25 май 2018 г. След тази дата GDPR ще бъде в пълна сила и Facebook са длъжни да го спазват, а той изисква ако потребителят пожелае неговият профил да бъде заличен, това наистина да бъде направено. А не просто замразен, както е било досега.

DeleteFacebook

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

DeleteFacebook

Когато започнах рубриката си „Аз, киборгът“ в Тоест, имах в главата си две идеи. Едната е да обяснявам на човешки и нетехнически език важни неща от света на технологиите, а другата – постепенно да разказвам за възможните злоупотреби с данните, които безразсъдно сеем из т.нар. социални мрежи и най-вече Facebook.

Междувременно журналисти на The Guardian и The Observer, заедно с The New York Times и Channel 4 са работили цяла година по разследване, което потвърждава всички опасения, че данните, които Facebook е трупал с доброволното съучастие на потребителите си, са използвани безцеремонно за мръсни и подмолни манипулации от компанията Cambridge Analytica, която е превърнала това в свой бизнес.

В името на коректността е редно да се отбележи, че темата сама по себе си не е новина. Още преди една година разследване на The Intercept извади на повърхността мащаба на проблема – че данните на 30 милиона потребители във Facebook са използвани за предизборни манипулации в полза на Доналд Тръмп. Сега обаче разполагаме със свидетелствата на whistleblower (бивш ключов служител на Cambridge Analytica), който разказва с детайли как се е случвало всичко и още купчина самопризнания за детайли и пикантерии лично от мениджмънта на компанията, записани със скрита камера, докато ухажват мним потенциален нов клиент.


Компанията Cambridge Analytica, извличайки данни от подбрана извадка потребители на Facebook и свързаните с тях лица, създава огромна мрежа за влияние, есплоатирайки страховете и слабостите на хората. Така е манипулирала обществената среда и общественото мнение в полза на клиентите си. Прецизно е оценявала психологическите профили на хората, търсейки техни слабости и възползвайки се от податливостта им на влияния. Оценявала е личните профили, фокусирайки се внимателно върху трите критерия, които в психологията са наречени „черната триада” или „тъмната тройка” – макиавелизъм, психопатия и нарцисизъм.

Предоставяли са услугите си и през фирми-посредници, за да не бъдат уличени в директни връзки с политическите кампании, за които са работили. А за Източна Европа изпускат интересна самохвална реплика, че толкова потайно са си свършили работата, че никой дори не е разбрал…

Извън скандала с Cambridge Analytica обаче е важно да се осъзнае, че те не са единственият злодей в историята. Всичко това се случва, защото просто така работи Facebook. Това, което днес наричаме социални медии, всъщност са инструменти за събиране на данни. И не трябва да има никаква дискусия чии са тези данни и на кого принадлежат. Наши са! Не допускайте други тълкувания! Във времето, в което живеем, данните ни са проекция на самите нас. Данните ни, това сме ние! Допускайки друг да разполага с тях, позволяваме да ни застигат такива скандали, като не на шега ни заплашва някаква форма на дигитален феодализъм или дигитално робство.

Важен е и друг детайл. Всичко това излиза наяве благодарение на свободната преса. Ето защо тя е толкова важна за демокрацията. А със социалните мрежи е свършено! Би трябвало! Поне в този им вид.

Cambridge Analytica е злодеят, който се е възползвал от това, което е свършил друг по-страшен злодей, а именно Facebook. И не на последно място от наивността на всички ни, които още не сме си затворили акаунтите там. Facebook трябва да понесат всички последствия и цялата отговорност, защото направиха възможно всичко това. И не заслужават никаква милост!

#DeleteFacebook

P.S. В европейски контекст е важно да отбележим, че е по-разумно да изтрием Facebook акаунта си след 25 май 2018 г. След тази дата GDPR ще бъде в пълна сила и Facebook са длъжни да го спазват, а той изисква ако потребителят пожелае неговият профил да бъде заличен, това наистина да бъде направено. А не просто замразен, както е било досега.

#DeleteFacebook

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

Когато започнах рубриката си „Аз, киборгът“ в Тоест, имах в главата си две идеи. Едната е да обяснявам на човешки и нетехнически език важни неща от света на технологиите, а другата – постепенно да разказвам за възможните злоупотреби с данните, които безразсъдно сеем из т.нар. социални мрежи и най-вече Facebook.

Междувременно журналисти на The Guardian и The Observer, заедно с The New York Times и Channel 4 са работили цяла година по разследване, което потвърждава всички опасения, че данните, които Facebook е трупал с доброволното съучастие на потребителите си, са използвани безцеремонно за мръсни и подмолни манипулации от компанията Cambridge Analytica, която е превърнала това в свой бизнес.

В името на коректността е редно да се отбележи, че темата сама по себе си не е новина. Още преди една година разследване на The Intercept извади на повърхността мащаба на проблема – че данните на 30 милиона потребители във Facebook са използвани за предизборни манипулации в полза на Доналд Тръмп. Сега обаче разполагаме със свидетелствата на whistleblower (бивш ключов служител на Cambridge Analytica), който разказва с детайли как се е случвало всичко и още купчина самопризнания за детайли и пикантерии лично от мениджмънта на компанията, записани със скрита камера, докато ухажват мним потенциален нов клиент.

Компанията Cambridge Analytica, извличайки данни от подбрана извадка потребители на Facebook и свързаните с тях лица, създава огромна мрежа за влияние, есплоатирайки страховете и слабостите на хората. Така е манипулирала обществената среда и общественото мнение в полза на клиентите си. Прецизно е оценявала психологическите профили на хората, търсейки техни слабости и възползвайки се от податливостта им на влияния. Оценявала е личните профили, фокусирайки се внимателно върху трите критерия, които в психологията са наречени „черната триада” или „тъмната тройка” – макиавелизъм, психопатия и нарцисизъм.

Предоставяли са услугите си и през фирми-посредници, за да не бъдат уличени в директни връзки с политическите кампании, за които са работили. А за Източна Европа изпускат интересна самохвална реплика, че толкова потайно са си свършили работата, че никой дори не е разбрал…

Извън скандала с Cambridge Analytica обаче е важно да се осъзнае, че те не са единственият злодей в историята. Всичко това се случва, защото просто така работи Facebook. Това, което днес наричаме социални медии, всъщност са инструменти за събиране на данни. И не трябва да има никаква дискусия чии са тези данни и на кого принадлежат. Наши са! Не допускайте други тълкувания! Във времето, в което живеем, данните ни са проекция на самите нас. Данните ни, това сме ние! Допускайки друг да разполага с тях, позволяваме да ни застигат такива скандали, като не на шега ни заплашва някаква форма на дигитален феодализъм или дигитално робство.

Важен е и друг детайл. Всичко това излиза наяве благодарение на свободната преса. Ето защо тя е толкова важна за демокрацията. А със социалните мрежи е свършено! Би трябвало! Поне в този им вид.

Cambridge Analytica е злодеят, който се е възползвал от това, което е свършил друг по-страшен злодей, а именно Facebook. И не на последно място от наивността на всички ни, които още не сме си затворили акаунтите там. Facebook трябва да понесат всички последствия и цялата отговорност, защото направиха възможно всичко това. И не заслужават никаква милост!

#DeleteFacebook

P.S. В европейски контекст е важно да отбележим, че е по-разумно да изтрием Facebook акаунта си след 25 май 2018 г. След тази дата GDPR ще бъде в пълна сила и Facebook са длъжни да го спазват, а той изисква ако потребителят пожелае неговият профил да бъде заличен, това наистина да бъде направено. А не просто замразен, както е било досега.

Оригинален линк: “#DeleteFacebook” • Някои права запазени

What John Oliver gets wrong about Bitcoin

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2018/03/what-john-oliver-gets-wrong-about.html

John Oliver covered bitcoin/cryptocurrencies last night. I thought I’d describe a bunch of things he gets wrong.

How Bitcoin works

Nowhere in the show does it describe what Bitcoin is and how it works.
Discussions should always start with Satoshi Nakamoto’s original paper. The thing Satoshi points out is that there is an important cost to normal transactions, namely, the entire legal system designed to protect you against fraud, such as the way you can reverse the transactions on your credit card if it gets stolen. The point of Bitcoin is that there is no way to reverse a charge. A transaction is done via cryptography: to transfer money to me, you decrypt it with your secret key and encrypt it with mine, handing ownership over to me with no third party involved that can reverse the transaction, and essentially no overhead.
All the rest of the stuff, like the decentralized blockchain and mining, is all about making that work.
Bitcoin crazies forget about the original genesis of Bitcoin. For example, they talk about adding features to stop fraud, reversing transactions, and having a central authority that manages that. This misses the point, because the existing electronic banking system already does that, and does a better job at it than cryptocurrencies ever can. If you want to mock cryptocurrencies, talk about the “DAO”, which did exactly that — and collapsed in a big fraudulent scheme where insiders made money and outsiders didn’t.
Sticking to Satoshi’s original ideas are a lot better than trying to repeat how the crazy fringe activists define Bitcoin.

How does any money have value?

Oliver’s answer is currencies have value because people agree that they have value, like how they agree a Beanie Baby is worth $15,000.
This is wrong. A better way of asking the question why the value of money changes. The dollar has been losing roughly 2% of its value each year for decades. This is called “inflation”, as the dollar loses value, it takes more dollars to buy things, which means the price of things (in dollars) goes up, and employers have to pay us more dollars so that we can buy the same amount of things.
The reason the value of the dollar changes is largely because the Federal Reserve manages the supply of dollars, using the same law of Supply and Demand. As you know, if a supply decreases (like oil), then the price goes up, or if the supply of something increases, the price goes down. The Fed manages money the same way: when prices rise (the dollar is worth less), the Fed reduces the supply of dollars, causing it to be worth more. Conversely, if prices fall (or don’t rise fast enough), the Fed increases supply, so that the dollar is worth less.
The reason money follows the law of Supply and Demand is because people use money, they consume it like they do other goods and services, like gasoline, tax preparation, food, dance lessons, and so forth. It’s not like a fine art painting, a stamp collection or a Beanie Baby — money is a product. It’s just that people have a hard time thinking of it as a consumer product since, in their experience, money is what they use to buy consumer products. But it’s a symmetric operation: when you buy gasoline with dollars, you are actually selling dollars in exchange for gasoline. That you call one side in this transaction “money” and the other “goods” is purely arbitrary, you call gasoline money and dollars the good that is being bought and sold for gasoline.
The reason dollars is a product is because trying to use gasoline as money is a pain in the neck. Storing it and exchanging it is difficult. Goods like this do become money, such as famously how prisons often use cigarettes as a medium of exchange, even for non-smokers, but it has to be a good that is fungible, storable, and easily exchanged. Dollars are the most fungible, the most storable, and the easiest exchanged, so has the most value as “money”. Sure, the mechanic can fix the farmers car for three chickens instead, but most of the time, both parties in the transaction would rather exchange the same value using dollars than chickens.
So the value of dollars is not like the value of Beanie Babies, which people might buy for $15,000, which changes purely on the whims of investors. Instead, a dollar is like gasoline, which obey the law of Supply and Demand.
This brings us back to the question of where Bitcoin gets its value. While Bitcoin is indeed used like dollars to buy things, that’s only a tiny use of the currency, so therefore it’s value isn’t determined by Supply and Demand. Instead, the value of Bitcoin is a lot like Beanie Babies, obeying the laws of investments. So in this respect, Oliver is right about where the value of Bitcoin comes, but wrong about where the value of dollars comes from.

Why Bitcoin conference didn’t take Bitcoin

John Oliver points out the irony of a Bitcoin conference that stopped accepting payments in Bitcoin for tickets.
The biggest reason for this is because Bitcoin has become so popular that transaction fees have gone up. Instead of being proof of failure, it’s proof of popularity. What John Oliver is saying is the old joke that nobody goes to that popular restaurant anymore because it’s too crowded and you can’t get a reservation.
Moreover, the point of Bitcoin is not to replace everyday currencies for everyday transactions. If you read Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper, it’s only goal is to replace certain types of transactions, like purely electronic transactions where electronic goods and services are being exchanged. Where real-life goods/services are being exchanged, existing currencies work just fine. It’s only the crazy activists who claim Bitcoin will eventually replace real world currencies — the saner people see it co-existing with real-world currencies, each with a different value to consumers.

Turning a McNugget back into a chicken

John Oliver uses the metaphor of turning a that while you can process a chicken into McNuggets, you can’t reverse the process. It’s a funny metaphor.
But it’s not clear what the heck this metaphor is trying explain. That’s not a metaphor for the blockchain, but a metaphor for a “cryptographic hash”, where each block is a chicken, and the McNugget is the signature for the block (well, the block plus the signature of the last block, forming a chain).
Even then that metaphor as problems. The McNugget produced from each chicken must be unique to that chicken, for the metaphor to accurately describe a cryptographic hash. You can therefore identify the original chicken simply by looking at the McNugget. A slight change in the original chicken, like losing a feather, results in a completely different McNugget. Thus, nuggets can be used to tell if the original chicken has changed.
This then leads to the key property of the blockchain, it is unalterable. You can’t go back and change any of the blocks of data, because the fingerprints, the nuggets, will also change, and break the nugget chain.
The point is that while John Oliver is laughing at a silly metaphor to explain the blockchain becuase he totally misses the point of the metaphor.
Oliver rightly says “don’t worry if you don’t understand it — most people don’t”, but that includes the big companies that John Oliver name. Some companies do get it, and are producing reasonable things (like JP Morgan, by all accounts), but some don’t. IBM and other big consultancies are charging companies millions of dollars to consult with them on block chain products where nobody involved, the customer or the consultancy, actually understand any of it. That doesn’t stop them from happily charging customers on one side and happily spending money on the other.
Thus, rather than Oliver explaining the problem, he’s just being part of the problem. His explanation of blockchain left you dumber than before.

ICO’s

John Oliver mocks the Brave ICO ($35 million in 30 seconds), claiming it’s all driven by YouTube personalities and people who aren’t looking at the fundamentals.
And while this is true, most ICOs are bunk, the  Brave ICO actually had a business model behind it. Brave is a Chrome-like web-browser whose distinguishing feature is that it protects your privacy from advertisers. If you don’t use Brave or a browser with an ad block extension, you have no idea how bad things are for you. However, this presents a problem for websites that fund themselves via advertisements, which is most of them, because visitors no longer see ads. Brave has a fix for this. Most people wouldn’t mind supporting the websites they visit often, like the New York Times. That’s where the Brave ICO “token” comes in: it’s not simply stock in Brave, but a token for micropayments to websites. Users buy tokens, then use them for micropayments to websites like New York Times. The New York Times then sells the tokens back to the market for dollars. The buying and selling of tokens happens without a centralized middleman.
This is still all speculative, of course, and it remains to be seen how successful Brave will be, but it’s a serious effort. It has well respected VC behind the company, a well-respected founder (despite the fact he invented JavaScript), and well-respected employees. It’s not a scam, it’s a legitimate venture.

How to you make money from Bitcoin?

The last part of the show is dedicated to describing all the scam out there, advising people to be careful, and to be “responsible”. This is garbage.
It’s like my simple two step process to making lots of money via Bitcoin: (1) buy when the price is low, and (2) sell when the price is high. My advice is correct, of course, but useless. Same as “be careful” and “invest responsibly”.
The truth about investing in cryptocurrencies is “don’t”. The only responsible way to invest is to buy low-overhead market index funds and hold for retirement. No, you won’t get super rich doing this, but anything other than this is irresponsible gambling.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, because everyone is telling you the opposite. The entire channel CNBC is devoted to day traders, who buy and sell stocks at a high rate based on the same principle as a ponzi scheme, basing their judgment not on the fundamentals (like long term dividends) but animal spirits of whatever stock is hot or cold at the moment. This is the same reason people buy or sell Bitcoin, not because they can describe the fundamental value, but because they believe in a bigger fool down the road who will buy it for even more.
For things like Bitcoin, the trick to making money is to have bought it over 7 years ago when it was essentially worthless, except to nerds who were into that sort of thing. It’s the same tick to making a lot of money in Magic: The Gathering trading cards, which nerds bought decades ago which are worth a ton of money now. Or, to have bought Apple stock back in 2009 when the iPhone was new, when nerds could understand the potential of real Internet access and apps that Wall Street could not.
That was my strategy: be a nerd, who gets into things. I’ve made a good amount of money on all these things because as a nerd, I was into Magic: The Gathering, Bitcoin, and the iPhone before anybody else was, and bought in at the point where these things were essentially valueless.
At this point with cryptocurrencies, with the non-nerds now flooding the market, there little chance of making it rich. The lottery is probably a better bet. Instead, if you want to make money, become a nerd, obsess about a thing, understand a thing when its new, and cash out once the rest of the market figures it out. That might be Brave, for example, but buy into it because you’ve spent the last year studying the browser advertisement ecosystem, the market’s willingness to pay for content, and how their Basic Attention Token delivers value to websites — not because you want in on the ICO craze.

Conclusion

John Oliver spends 25 minutes explaining Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies, and the Blockchain to you. Sure, it’s funny, but it leaves you worse off than when it started. It admits they “simplify” the explanation, but they simplified it so much to the point where they removed all useful information.

Cabinet of Secret Documents from Australia

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/02/cabinet_of_secr.html

This story of leaked Australian government secrets is unlike any other I’ve heard:

It begins at a second-hand shop in Canberra, where ex-government furniture is sold off cheaply.

The deals can be even cheaper when the items in question are two heavy filing cabinets to which no-one can find the keys.

They were purchased for small change and sat unopened for some months until the locks were attacked with a drill.

Inside was the trove of documents now known as The Cabinet Files.

The thousands of pages reveal the inner workings of five separate governments and span nearly a decade.

Nearly all the files are classified, some as “top secret” or “AUSTEO”, which means they are to be seen by Australian eyes only.

Yes, that really happened. The person who bought and opened the file cabinets contacted the Australian Broadcasting Corp, who is now publishing a bunch of it.

There’s lots of interesting (and embarassing) stuff in the documents, although most of it is local politics. I am more interested in the government’s reaction to the incident: they’re pushing for a law making it illegal for the press to publish government secrets it received through unofficial channels.

“The one thing I would point out about the legislation that does concern me particularly is that classified information is an element of the offence,” he said.

“That is to say, if you’ve got a filing cabinet that is full of classified information … that means all the Crown has to prove if they’re prosecuting you is that it is classified ­ nothing else.

“They don’t have to prove that you knew it was classified, so knowledge is beside the point.”

[…]

Many groups have raised concerns, including media organisations who say they unfairly target journalists trying to do their job.

But really anyone could be prosecuted just for possessing classified information, regardless of whether they know about it.

That might include, for instance, if you stumbled across a folder of secret files in a regular skip bin while walking home and handed it over to a journalist.

This illustrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the threat. The Australian Broadcasting Corp gets their funding from the government, and was very restrained in what they published. They waited months before publishing as they coordinated with the Australian government. They allowed the government to secure the files, and then returned them. From the government’s perspective, they were the best possible media outlet to receive this information. If the government makes it illegal for the Australian press to publish this sort of material, the next time it will be sent to the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, or Wikileaks. And since people no longer read their news from newspapers sold in stores but on the Internet, the result will be just as many people reading the stories with far fewer redactions.

The proposed law is older than this leak, but the leak is giving it new life. The Australian opposition party is being cagey on whether they will support the law. They don’t want to appear weak on national security, so I’m not optimistic.

EDITED TO ADD (2/8): The Australian government backed down on that new security law.

EDITED TO ADD (2/13): Excellent political cartoon.

Bitcoin: In Crypto We Trust

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/12/bitcoin-in-crypto-we-trust.html

Tim Wu, who coined “net neutrality”, has written an op-ed on the New York Times called “The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust“. He is wrong about “code”.

The wrong “trust”

Wu builds a big manifesto about how real-world institutions can’t be trusted. Certainly, this reflects the rhetoric from a vocal wing of Bitcoin fanatics, but it’s not the Bitcoin manifesto.

Instead, the word “trust” in the Bitcoin paper is much narrower, referring to how online merchants can’t trust credit-cards (for example). When I bought school supplies for my niece when she studied in Canada, the online site wouldn’t accept my U.S. credit card. They didn’t trust my credit card. However, they trusted my Bitcoin, so I used that payment method instead, and succeeded in the purchase.

Real-world currencies like dollars are tethered to the real-world, which means no single transaction can be trusted, because “they” (the credit-card company, the courts, etc.) may decide to reverse the transaction. The manifesto behind Bitcoin is that a transaction cannot be reversed — and thus, can always be trusted.

Deliberately confusing the micro-trust in a transaction and macro-trust in banks and governments is a sort of bait-and-switch.

The wrong inspiration

Wu claims:

“It was, after all, a carnival of human errors and misfeasance that inspired the invention of Bitcoin in 2009, namely, the financial crisis.”

Not true. Bitcoin did not appear fully formed out of the void, but was instead based upon a series of innovations that predate the financial crisis by a decade. Moreover, the financial crisis had little to do with “currency”. The value of the dollar and other major currencies were essentially unscathed by the crisis. Certainly, enthusiasts looking backward like to cherry pick the financial crisis as yet one more reason why the offline world sucks, but it had little to do with Bitcoin.

In crypto we trust

It’s not in code that Bitcoin trusts, but in crypto. Satoshi makes that clear in one of his posts on the subject:

A generation ago, multi-user time-sharing computer systems had a similar problem. Before strong encryption, users had to rely on password protection to secure their files, placing trust in the system administrator to keep their information private. Privacy could always be overridden by the admin based on his judgment call weighing the principle of privacy against other concerns, or at the behest of his superiors. Then strong encryption became available to the masses, and trust was no longer required. Data could be secured in a way that was physically impossible for others to access, no matter for what reason, no matter how good the excuse, no matter what.

You don’t possess Bitcoins. Instead, all the coins are on the public blockchain under your “address”. What you possess is the secret, private key that matches the address. Transferring Bitcoin means using your private key to unlock your coins and transfer them to another. If you print out your private key on paper, and delete it from the computer, it can never be hacked.

Trust is in this crypto operation. Trust is in your private crypto key.

We don’t trust the code

The manifesto “in code we trust” has been proven wrong again and again. We don’t trust computer code (software) in the cryptocurrency world.

The most profound example is something known as the “DAO” on top of Ethereum, Bitcoin’s major competitor. Ethereum allows “smart contracts” containing code. The quasi-religious manifesto of the DAO smart-contract is that the “code is the contract”, that all the terms and conditions are specified within the smart-contract code, completely untethered from real-world terms-and-conditions.

Then a hacker found a bug in the DAO smart-contract and stole most of the money.

In principle, this is perfectly legal, because “the code is the contract”, and the hacker just used the code. In practice, the system didn’t live up to this. The Ethereum core developers, acting as central bankers, rewrote the Ethereum code to fix this one contract, returning the money back to its original owners. They did this because those core developers were themselves heavily invested in the DAO and got their money back.

Similar things happen with the original Bitcoin code. A disagreement has arisen about how to expand Bitcoin to handle more transactions. One group wants smaller and “off-chain” transactions. Another group wants a “large blocksize”. This caused a “fork” in Bitcoin with two versions, “Bitcoin” and “Bitcoin Cash”. The fork championed by the core developers (central bankers) is worth around $20,000 right now, while the other fork is worth around $2,000.

So it’s still “in central bankers we trust”, it’s just that now these central bankers are mostly online instead of offline institutions. They have proven to be even more corrupt than real-world central bankers. It’s certainly not the code that is trusted.

The bubble

Wu repeats the well-known reference to Amazon during the dot-com bubble. If you bought Amazon’s stock for $107 right before the dot-com crash, it still would be one of wisest investments you could’ve made. Amazon shares are now worth around $1,200 each.

The implication is that Bitcoin, too, may have such long term value. Even if you buy it today and it crashes tomorrow, it may still be worth ten-times its current value in another decade or two.

This is a poor analogy, for three reasons.

The first reason is that we knew the Internet had fundamentally transformed commerce. We knew there were going to be winners in the long run, it was just a matter of picking who would win (Amazon) and who would lose (Pets.com). We have yet to prove Bitcoin will be similarly transformative.

The second reason is that businesses are real, they generate real income. While the stock price may include some irrational exuberance, it’s ultimately still based on the rational expectations of how much the business will earn. With Bitcoin, it’s almost entirely irrational exuberance — there are no long term returns.

The third flaw in the analogy is that there are an essentially infinite number of cryptocurrencies. We saw this today as Coinbase started trading Bitcoin Cash, a fork of Bitcoin. The two are nearly identical, so there’s little reason one should be so much valuable than another. It’s only a fickle fad that makes one more valuable than another, not business fundamentals. The successful future cryptocurrency is unlikely to exist today, but will be invented in the future.

The lessons of the dot-com bubble is not that Bitcoin will have long term value, but that cryptocurrency companies like Coinbase and BitPay will have long term value. Or, the lesson is that “old” companies like JPMorgan that are early adopters of the technology will grow faster than their competitors.

Conclusion

The point of Wu’s paper is to distinguish trust in traditional real-world institutions and trust in computer software code. This is an inaccurate reading of the situation.

Bitcoin is not about replacing real-world institutions but about untethering online transactions.

The trust in Bitcoin is in crypto — the power crypto gives individuals instead of third-parties.

The trust is not in the code. Bitcoin is a “cryptocurrency” not a “codecurrency”.

Long Article on NSA and the Shadow Brokers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/11/long_article_on_1.html

The New York Times just published a long article on the Shadow Brokers and their effects on NSA operations. Summary: it’s been an operational disaster, the NSA still doesn’t know who did it or how, and NSA morale has suffered considerably.

This is me on the Shadow Brokers from last May.

Some notes about the Kaspersky affair

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.

The press

Before we address Kaspersky, we need to talk about how the press covers this.
The mainstream media’s stories have been pure government propaganda, like this one from the New York Times. It garbles the facts of what happened, and relies primarily on anonymous government sources that cannot be held accountable. It’s so messed up that we can’t easily challenge it because we aren’t even sure exactly what it’s claiming.
The Society of Professional Journalists have a name for this abuse of anonymous sources, the “Washington Game“. Journalists can identify this as bad journalism, but the big newspapers like The New York Times continues to do it anyway, because how dare anybody criticize them?
For all that I hate the anti-American bias of The Intercept, at least they’ve had stories that de-garble what’s going on, that explain things so that we can challenge them.

Our Government

Our government can’t tell us everything, of course. But at the same time, they need to tell us something, to at least being clear what their accusations are. These vague insinuations through the media hurt their credibility, not help it. The obvious craptitude is making us in the cybersecurity community come to Kaspersky’s defense, which is not the government’s aim at all.
There are lots of issues involved here, but let’s consider the major one insinuated by the NYTimes story, that Kaspersky was getting “data” files along with copies of suspected malware. This is troublesome if true.
But, as Kaspersky claims today, it’s because they had detected malware within a zip file, and uploaded the entire zip — including the data files within the zip.
This is reasonable. This is indeed how anti-virus generally works. It completely defeats the NYTimes insinuations.
This isn’t to say Kaspersky is telling the truth, of course, but that’s not the point. The point is that we are getting vague propaganda from the government further garbled by the press, making Kaspersky’s clear defense the credible party in the affair.
It’s certainly possible for Kaspersky to write signatures to look for strings like “TS//SI/OC/REL TO USA” that appear in secret US documents, then upload them to Russia. If that’s what our government believes is happening, they need to come out and be explicit about it. They can easily setup honeypots, in the way described in today’s story, to confirm it. However, it seems the government’s description of honeypots is that Kaspersky only upload files that were clearly viruses, not data.

Kaspersky

I believe Kaspersky is guilty, that the company and Eugene himself, works directly with Russian intelligence.
That’s because on a personal basis, people in government have given me specific, credible stories — the sort of thing they should be making public. And these stories are wholly unrelated to stories that have been made public so far.
You shouldn’t believe me, of course, because I won’t go into details you can challenge. I’m not trying to convince you, I’m just disclosing my point of view.
But there are some public reasons to doubt Kaspersky. For example, when trying to sell to our government, they’ve claimed they can help us against terrorists. The translation of this is that they could help our intelligence services. Well, if they are willing to help our intelligence services against customers who are terrorists, then why wouldn’t they likewise help Russian intelligence services against their adversaries?
Then there is how Russia works. It’s a violent country. Most of the people mentioned in that “Steele Dossier” have died. In the hacker community, hackers are often coerced to help the government. Many have simply gone missing.
Being rich doesn’t make Kaspersky immune from this — it makes him more of a target. Russian intelligence knows he’s getting all sorts of good intelligence, such as malware written by foreign intelligence services. It’s unbelievable they wouldn’t put the screws on him to get this sort of thing.
Russia is our adversary. It’d be foolish of our government to buy anti-virus from Russian companies. Likewise, the Russian government won’t buy such products from American companies.

Conclusion

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.

More on Kaspersky and the Stolen NSA Attack Tools

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/10/more_on_kaspers.html

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting that Israel has penetrated Kaspersky’s network and detected the Russian operation.

From the New York Times:

Israeli intelligence officers informed the NSA that, in the course of their Kaspersky hack, they uncovered evidence that Russian government hackers were using Kaspersky’s access to aggressively scan for American government classified programs and pulling any findings back to Russian intelligence systems. [Israeli intelligence] provided their NSA counterparts with solid evidence of the Kremlin campaign in the form of screenshots and other documentation, according to the people briefed on the events.

Kaspersky first noticed the Israeli intelligence operation in 2015.

The Washington Post writes about the NSA tools being on the home computer in the first place:

The employee, whose name has not been made public and is under investigation by federal prosecutors, did not intend to pass the material to a foreign adversary. “There wasn’t any malice,” said one person familiar with the case, who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing case. “It’s just that he was trying to complete the mission, and he needed the tools to do it.

I don’t buy this. People with clearances are told over and over not to take classified material home with them. It’s not just mentioned occasionally; it’s a core part of the job.

More news articles.

Friday Squid Blogging: Giant Squids Have Small Brains

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/07/friday_squid_bl_586.html

New research:

In this study, the optic lobe of a giant squid (Architeuthis dux, male, mantle length 89 cm), which was caught by local fishermen off the northeastern coast of Taiwan, was scanned using high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging in order to examine its internal structure. It was evident that the volume ratio of the optic lobe to the eye in the giant squid is much smaller than that in the oval squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) and the cuttlefish (Sepia pharaonis). Furthermore, the cell density in the cortex of the optic lobe is significantly higher in the giant squid than in oval squids and cuttlefish, with the relative thickness of the cortex being much larger in Architeuthis optic lobe than in cuttlefish. This indicates that the relative size of the medulla of the optic lobe in the giant squid is disproportionally smaller compared with these two cephalopod species.

From the New York Times:

A recent, lucky opportunity to study part of a giant squid brain up close in Taiwan suggests that, compared with cephalopods that live in shallow waters, giant squids have a small optic lobe relative to their eye size.

Furthermore, the region in their optic lobes that integrates visual information with motor tasks is reduced, implying that giant squids don’t rely on visually guided behavior like camouflage and body patterning to communicate with one another, as other cephalopods do.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.

AWS Hot Startups – July 2017

Post Syndicated from Tina Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-hot-startups-july-2017/

Welcome back to another month of Hot Startups! Every day, startups are creating innovative and exciting businesses, applications, and products around the world. Each month we feature a handful of startups doing cool things using AWS.

July is all about learning! These companies are focused on providing access to tools and resources to expand knowledge and skills in different ways.

This month’s startups:

  • CodeHS – provides fun and accessible computer science curriculum for middle and high schools.
  • Insight – offers intensive fellowships to grow technical talent in Data Science.
  • iTranslate – enables people to read, write, and speak in over 90 languages, anywhere in the world.

CodeHS (San Francisco, CA)

In 2012, Stanford students Zach Galant and Jeremy Keeshin were computer science majors and TAs for introductory classes when they noticed a trend among their peers. Many wished that they had been exposed to computer science earlier in life. In their senior year, Zach and Jeremy launched CodeHS to give middle and high schools the opportunity to provide a fun, accessible computer science education to students everywhere. CodeHS is a web-based curriculum pathway complete with teacher resources, lesson plans, and professional development opportunities. The curriculum is supplemented with time-saving teacher tools to help with lesson planning, grading and reviewing student code, and managing their classroom.

CodeHS aspires to empower all students to meaningfully impact the future, and believe that coding is becoming a new foundational skill, along with reading and writing, that allows students to further explore any interest or area of study. At the time CodeHS was founded in 2012, only 10% of high schools in America offered a computer science course. Zach and Jeremy set out to change that by providing a solution that made it easy for schools and districts to get started. With CodeHS, thousands of teachers have been trained and are teaching hundreds of thousands of students all over the world. To use CodeHS, all that’s needed is the internet and a web browser. Students can write and run their code online, and teachers can immediately see what the students are working on and how they are doing.

Amazon EC2, Amazon RDS, Amazon ElastiCache, Amazon CloudFront, and Amazon S3 make it possible for CodeHS to scale their site to meet the needs of schools all over the world. CodeHS also relies on AWS to compile and run student code in the browser, which is extremely important when teaching server-side languages like Java that powers the AP course. Since usage rises and falls based on school schedules, Amazon CloudWatch and ELBs are used to easily scale up when students are running code so they have a seamless experience.

Be sure to visit the CodeHS website, and to learn more about bringing computer science to your school, click here!

Insight (Palo Alto, CA)

Insight was founded in 2012 to create a new educational model, optimize hiring for data teams, and facilitate successful career transitions among data professionals. Over the last 5 years, Insight has kept ahead of market trends and launched a series of professional training fellowships including Data Science, Health Data Science, Data Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence. Finding individuals with the right skill set, background, and culture fit is a challenge for big companies and startups alike, and Insight is focused on developing top talent through intensive 7-week fellowships. To date, Insight has over 1,000 alumni at over 350 companies including Amazon, Google, Netflix, Twitter, and The New York Times.

The Data Engineering team at Insight is well-versed in the current ecosystem of open source tools and technologies and provides mentorship on the best practices in this space. The technical teams are continually working with external groups in a variety of data advisory and mentorship capacities, but the majority of Insight partners participate in professional sessions. Companies visit the Insight office to speak with fellows in an informal setting and provide details on the type of work they are doing and how their teams are growing. These sessions have proved invaluable as fellows experience a significantly better interview process and companies yield engaged and enthusiastic new team members.

An important aspect of Insight’s fellowships is the opportunity for hands-on work, focusing on everything from building big-data pipelines to contributing novel features to industry-standard open source efforts. Insight provides free AWS resources for all fellows to use, in addition to mentorships from the Data Engineering team. Fellows regularly utilize Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, Amazon Kinesis, Amazon EMR, AWS Lambda, Amazon Redshift, Amazon RDS, among other services. The experience with AWS gives fellows a solid skill set as they transition into the industry. Fellowships are currently being offered in Boston, New York, Seattle, and the Bay Area.

Check out the Insight blog for more information on trends in data infrastructure, artificial intelligence, and cutting-edge data products.

 

iTranslate (Austria)

When the App Store was introduced in 2008, the founders of iTranslate saw an opportunity to be part of something big. The group of four fully believed that the iPhone and apps were going to change the world, and together they brainstormed ideas for their own app. The combination of translation and mobile devices seemed a natural fit, and by 2009 iTranslate was born. iTranslate’s mission is to enable travelers, students, business professionals, employers, and medical staff to read, write, and speak in all languages, anywhere in the world. The app allows users to translate text, voice, websites and more into nearly 100 languages on various platforms. Today, iTranslate is the leading player for conversational translation and dictionary apps, with more than 60 million downloads and 6 million monthly active users.

iTranslate is breaking language barriers through disruptive technology and innovation, enabling people to translate in real time. The app has a variety of features designed to optimize productivity including offline translation, website and voice translation, and language auto detection. iTranslate also recently launched the world’s first ear translation device in collaboration with Bragi, a company focused on smart earphones. The Dash Pro allows people to communicate freely, while having a personal translator right in their ear.

iTranslate started using Amazon Polly soon after it was announced. CEO Alexander Marktl said, “As the leading translation and dictionary app, it is our mission at iTranslate to provide our users with the best possible tools to read, write, and speak in all languages across the globe. Amazon Polly provides us with the ability to efficiently produce and use high quality, natural sounding synthesized speech.” The stable and simple-to-use API, low latency, and free caching allow iTranslate to scale as they continue adding features to their app. Customers also enjoy the option to change speech rate and change between male and female voices. To assure quality, speed, and reliability of their products, iTranslate also uses Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, and Amazon Route 53.

To get started with iTranslate, visit their website here.

—–

Thanks for reading!

-Tina

Ransomware and the Internet of Things

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/05/ransomware_and_.html

As devastating as the latest widespread ransomware attacks have been, it’s a problem with a solution. If your copy of Windows is relatively current and you’ve kept it updated, your laptop is immune. It’s only older unpatched systems on your computer that are vulnerable.

Patching is how the computer industry maintains security in the face of rampant Internet insecurity. Microsoft, Apple and Google have teams of engineers who quickly write, test and distribute these patches, updates to the codes that fix vulnerabilities in software. Most people have set up their computers and phones to automatically apply these patches, and the whole thing works seamlessly. It isn’t a perfect system, but it’s the best we have.

But it is a system that’s going to fail in the “Internet of things”: everyday devices like smart speakers, household appliances, toys, lighting systems, even cars, that are connected to the web. Many of the embedded networked systems in these devices that will pervade our lives don’t have engineering teams on hand to write patches and may well last far longer than the companies that are supposed to keep the software safe from criminals. Some of them don’t even have the ability to be patched.

Fast forward five to 10 years, and the world is going to be filled with literally tens of billions of devices that hackers can attack. We’re going to see ransomware against our cars. Our digital video recorders and web cameras will be taken over by botnets. The data that these devices collect about us will be stolen and used to commit fraud. And we’re not going to be able to secure these devices.

Like every other instance of product safety, this problem will never be solved without considerable government involvement.

For years, I have been calling for more regulation to improve security in the face of this market failure. In the short term, the government can mandate that these devices have more secure default configurations and the ability to be patched. It can issue best-practice regulations for critical software and make software manufacturers liable for vulnerabilities. It’ll be expensive, but it will go a long way toward improved security.

But it won’t be enough to focus only on the devices, because these things are going to be around and on the Internet much longer than the two to three years we use our phones and computers before we upgrade them. I expect to keep my car for 15 years, and my refrigerator for at least 20 years. Cities will expect the networks they’re putting in place to last at least that long. I don’t want to replace my digital thermostat ever again. Nor, if I ever need one, do I want a surgeon to ever have to go back in to replace my computerized heart defibrillator in order to fix a software bug.

No amount of regulation can force companies to maintain old products, and it certainly can’t prevent companies from going out of business. The future will contain billions of orphaned devices connected to the web that simply have no engineers able to patch them.

Imagine this: The company that made your Internet-enabled door lock is long out of business. You have no way to secure yourself against the ransomware attack on that lock. Your only option, other than paying, and paying again when it’s reinfected, is to throw it away and buy a new one.

Ultimately, we will also need the network to block these attacks before they get to the devices, but there again the market will not fix the problem on its own. We need additional government intervention to mandate these sorts of solutions.

None of this is welcome news to a government that prides itself on minimal intervention and maximal market forces, but national security is often an exception to this rule. Last week’s cyberattacks have laid bare some fundamental vulnerabilities in our computer infrastructure and serve as a harbinger. There’s a lot of good research into robust solutions, but the economic incentives are all misaligned. As politically untenable as it is, we need government to step in to create the market forces that will get us out of this mess.

This essay previously appeared in the New York Times. Yes, I know I’m repeating myself.

The TSA’s Selective Laptop Ban

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/03/the_tsas_select.html

Last Monday, the TSA announced a peculiar new security measure to take effect within 96 hours. Passengers flying into the US on foreign airlines from eight Muslim countries would be prohibited from carrying aboard any electronics larger than a smartphone. They would have to be checked and put into the cargo hold. And now the UK is following suit.

It’s difficult to make sense of this as a security measure, particularly at a time when many people question the veracity of government orders, but other explanations are either unsatisfying or damning.

So let’s look at the security aspects of this first. Laptop computers aren’t inherently dangerous, but they’re convenient carrying boxes. This is why, in the past, TSA officials have demanded passengers turn their laptops on: to confirm that they’re actually laptops and not laptop cases emptied of their electronics and then filled with explosives.

Forcing a would-be bomber to put larger laptops in the plane’s hold is a reasonable defense against this threat, because it increases the complexity of the plot. Both the shoe-bomber Richard Reid and the underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab carried crude bombs aboard their planes with the plan to set them off manually once aloft. Setting off a bomb in checked baggage is more work, which is why we don’t see more midair explosions like Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Security measures that restrict what passengers can carry onto planes are not unprecedented either. Airport security regularly responds to both actual attacks and intelligence regarding future attacks. After the liquid bombers were captured in 2006, the British banned all carry-on luggage except passports and wallets. I remember talking with a friend who traveled home from London with his daughters in those early weeks of the ban. They reported that airport security officials confiscated every tube of lip balm they tried to hide.

Similarly, the US started checking shoes after Reid, installed full-body scanners after Abdulmutallab and restricted liquids in 2006. But all of those measure were global, and most lessened in severity as the threat diminished.

This current restriction implies some specific intelligence of a laptop-based plot and a temporary ban to address it. However, if that’s the case, why only certain non-US carriers? And why only certain airports? Terrorists are smart enough to put a laptop bomb in checked baggage from the Middle East to Europe and then carry it on from Europe to the US.

Why not require passengers to turn their laptops on as they go through security? That would be a more effective security measure than forcing them to check them in their luggage. And lastly, why is there a delay between the ban being announced and it taking effect?

Even more confusing, the New York Times reported that “officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.” The Department of Homeland Security FAQ page makes this general statement, “Yes, intelligence is one aspect of every security-related decision,” but doesn’t provide a specific security threat. And yet a report from the UK states the ban “follows the receipt of specific intelligence reports.”

Of course, the details are all classified, which leaves all of us security experts scratching our heads. On the face of it, the ban makes little sense.

One analysis painted this as a protectionist measure targeted at the heavily subsidized Middle Eastern airlines by hitting them where it hurts the most: high-paying business class travelers who need their laptops with them on planes to get work done. That reasoning makes more sense than any security-related explanation, but doesn’t explain why the British extended the ban to UK carriers as well. Or why this measure won’t backfire when those Middle Eastern countries turn around and ban laptops on American carriers in retaliation. And one aviation official told CNN that an intelligence official informed him it was not a “political move.”

In the end, national security measures based on secret information require us to trust the government. That trust is at historic low levels right now, so people both in the US and other countries are rightly skeptical of the official unsatisfying explanations. The new laptop ban highlights this mistrust.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

EDITED TO ADD: Here are two essays that look at the possible political motivations, and fallout, of this ban. And the EFF rightly points out that letting a laptop out of your hands and sight is itself a security risk — for the passenger.

More on the CIA Document Leak

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/03/more_on_the_cia.html

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.

James Lewis agrees:

But James Lewis, an expert on cybersecurity at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, raised another possibility: that a foreign state, most likely Russia, stole the documents by hacking or other means and delivered them to WikiLeaks, which may not know how they were obtained. Mr. Lewis noted that, according to American intelligence agencies, Russia hacked Democratic targets during the presidential campaign and gave thousands of emails to WikiLeaks for publication.

To be sure, neither of us has any idea. We’re all guessing.

To the documents themselves, I really liked these best practice coding guidelines for malware, and these crypto requirements.

I am mentioned in the latter document:

Cryptographic jargon is utilized throughout this document. This jargon has precise and subtle meaning and should not be interpreted without careful understanding of the subject matter. Suggested reading includes Practical Cryptography by Schneier and Ferguson, RFCs 4251 and 4253, RFCs 5246 and 5430, and Handbook of Applied Cryptography by Menezes, van Oorschot, and Vanstone.

EDITED TO ADD: Herbert Lin comments.

The most damning thing I’ve seen so far is yet more evidence that — despite assurances to the contrary — the US intelligence community hoards vulnerabilities in common Internet products and uses them for offensive purposes.

EDITED TO ADD (3/9): The New York Times is reporting that the CIA suspects an insider:

Investigators say that the leak was the work not of a hostile foreign power like Russia but of a disaffected insider, as WikiLeaks suggested when it released the documents Tuesday. The F.B.I. was preparing to interview anyone who had access to the information, a group likely to include at least a few hundred people, and possibly more than a thousand.

An intelligence official said the information, much of which appeared to be technical documents, may have come from a server outside the C.I.A. managed by a contractor. But neither he nor a former senior intelligence official ruled out the possibility that the leaker was a C.I.A. employee.

EDITED TO ADD (3/9): WikiLeaks said that they have published less than 1% of what they have, and that they are giving affected companies an early warning of the vulnerabilities and tools that they’re publishing.

Commentary from The Intercept.

Uber Uses Ubiquitous Surveillance to Identify and Block Regulators

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/03/uber_uses_ubiqu.html

The New York Times reports that Uber developed apps that identified and blocked government regulators using the app to find evidence of illegal behavior:

Yet using its app to identify and sidestep authorities in places where regulators said the company was breaking the law goes further in skirting ethical lines — and potentially legal ones, too. Inside Uber, some of those who knew about the VTOS program and how the Greyball tool was being used were troubled by it.

[…]

One method involved drawing a digital perimeter, or “geofence,” around authorities’ offices on a digital map of the city that Uber monitored. The company watched which people frequently opened and closed the app — a process internally called “eyeballing” — around that location, which signified that the user might be associated with city agencies.

Other techniques included looking at the user’s credit card information and whether that card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union.

Enforcement officials involved in large-scale sting operations to catch Uber drivers also sometimes bought dozens of cellphones to create different accounts. To circumvent that tactic, Uber employees went to that city’s local electronics stores to look up device numbers of the cheapest mobile phones on sale, which were often the ones bought by city officials, whose budgets were not sizable.

In all, there were at least a dozen or so signifiers in the VTOS program that Uber employees could use to assess whether users were new riders or very likely city officials.

If those clues were not enough to confirm a user’s identity, Uber employees would search social media profiles and other available information online. Once a user was identified as law enforcement, Uber Greyballed him or her, tagging the user with a small piece of code that read Greyball followed by a string of numbers.

When Edward Snowden exposed the fact that the NSA does this sort of thing, I commented that the technologies will eventually become cheap enough for corporations to do it. Now, it has.

One discussion we need to have is whether or not this behavior is legal. But another, more important, discussion is whether or not it is ethical. Do we want to live in a society where corporations wield this sort of power against government? Against individuals? Because if we don’t align government against this kind of behavior, it’ll become the norm.

Attributing the DNC Hacks to Russia

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2017/01/attributing_the_1.html

President Barack Obama’s public accusation of Russia as the source of the hacks in the US presidential election and the leaking of sensitive e-mails through WikiLeaks and other sources has opened up a debate on what constitutes sufficient evidence to attribute an attack in cyberspace. The answer is both complicated and inherently tied up in political considerations.

The administration is balancing political considerations and the inherent secrecy of electronic espionage with the need to justify its actions to the public. These issues will continue to plague us as more international conflict plays out in cyberspace.

It’s true that it’s easy for an attacker to hide who he is in cyberspace. We are unable to identify particular pieces of hardware and software around the world positively. We can’t verify the identity of someone sitting in front of a keyboard through computer data alone. Internet data packets don’t come with return addresses, and it’s easy for attackers to disguise their origins. For decades, hackers have used techniques such as jump hosts, VPNs, Tor and open relays to obscure their origin, and in many cases they work. I’m sure that many national intelligence agencies route their attacks through China, simply because everyone knows lots of attacks come from China.

On the other hand, there are techniques that can identify attackers with varying degrees of precision. It’s rarely just one thing, and you’ll often hear the term “constellation of evidence” to describe how a particular attacker is identified. It’s analogous to traditional detective work. Investigators collect clues and piece them together with known mode of operations. They look for elements that resemble other attacks and elements that are anomalies. The clues might involve ones and zeros, but the techniques go back to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The University of Toronto-based organization Citizen Lab routinely attributes attacks against the computers of activists and dissidents to particular Third World governments. It took months to identify China as the source of the 2012 attacks against the New York Times. While it was uncontroversial to say that Russia was the source of a cyberattack against Estonia in 2007, no one knew if those attacks were authorized by the Russian government — until the attackers explained themselves. And it was the Internet security company CrowdStrike, which first attributed the attacks against the Democratic National Committee to Russian intelligence agencies in June, based on multiple pieces of evidence gathered from its forensic investigation.

Attribution is easier if you are monitoring broad swaths of the Internet. This gives the National Security Agency a singular advantage in the attribution game. The problem, of course, is that the NSA doesn’t want to publish what it knows.

Regardless of what the government knows and how it knows it, the decision of whether to make attribution evidence public is another matter. When Sony was attacked, many security experts — myself included­ — were skeptical of both the government’s attribution claims and the flimsy evidence associated with it. I only became convinced when the New York Times ran a story about the government’s attribution, which talked about both secret evidence inside the NSA and human intelligence assets inside North Korea. In contrast, when the Office of Personnel Management was breached in 2015, the US government decided not to accuse China publicly, either because it didn’t want to escalate the political situation or because it didn’t want to reveal any secret evidence.

The Obama administration has been more public about its evidence in the DNC case, but it has not been entirely public.

It’s one thing for the government to know who attacked it. It’s quite another for it to convince the public who attacked it. As attribution increasingly relies on secret evidence­ — as it did with North Korea’s attack of Sony in 2014 and almost certainly does regarding Russia and the previous election — ­the government is going to have to face the choice of making previously secret evidence public and burning sources and methods, or keeping it secret and facing perfectly reasonable skepticism.

If the government is going to take public action against a cyberattack, it needs to make its evidence public. But releasing secret evidence might get people killed, and it would make any future confidentiality assurances we make to human sources completely non-credible. This problem isn’t going away; secrecy helps the intelligence community, but it wounds our democracy.

The constellation of evidence attributing the attacks against the DNC, and subsequent release of information, is comprehensive. It’s possible that there was more than one attack. It’s possible that someone not associated with Russia leaked the information to WikiLeaks, although we have no idea where that someone else would have obtained the information. We know that the Russian actors who hacked the DNC­ — both the FSB, Russia’s principal security agency, and the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence unit — ­are also attacking other political networks around the world.

In the end, though, attribution comes down to whom you believe. When Citizen Lab writes a report outlining how a United Arab Emirates human rights defender was targeted with a cyberattack, we have no trouble believing that it was the UAE government. When Google identifies China as the source of attacks against Gmail users, we believe it just as easily.

Obama decided not to make the accusation public before the election so as not to be seen as influencing the election. Now, afterward, there are political implications in accepting that Russia hacked the DNC in an attempt to influence the US presidential election. But no amount of evidence can convince the unconvinceable.

The most important thing we can do right now is deter any country from trying this sort of thing in the future, and the political nature of the issue makes that harder. Right now, we’ve told the world that others can get away with manipulating our election process as long as they can keep their efforts secret until after one side wins. Obama has promised both secret retaliations and public ones. We need to hope they’re enough.

This essay previously appeared on CNN.com.

EDITED TO ADD: The ODNI released a declassified report on the Russian attacks. Here’s a New York Times article on the report.

And last week there were Senate hearings on this issue.

EDITED TO ADD: A Washington Post article talks about some of the intelligence behind the assessment.

EDITED TO ADD (1/10): The UK connection.