Tag Archives: tracking

Detecting Malicious Trackers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/05/detecting-malicious-trackers.html

From Slashdot:

Apple and Google have launched a new industry standard called “Detecting Unwanted Location Trackers” to combat the misuse of Bluetooth trackers for stalking. Starting Monday, iPhone and Android users will receive alerts when an unknown Bluetooth device is detected moving with them. The move comes after numerous cases of trackers like Apple’s AirTags being used for malicious purposes.

Several Bluetooth tag companies have committed to making their future products compatible with the new standard. Apple and Google said they will continue collaborating with the Internet Engineering Task Force to further develop this technology and address the issue of unwanted tracking.

This seems like a good idea, but I worry about false alarms. If I am walking with a friend, will it alert if they have a Bluetooth tracking device in their pocket?

Friday Squid Blogging: Squid Trackers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/04/friday-squid-blogging-squid-trackers.html

A new bioadhesive makes it easier to attach trackers to squid.

Note: the article does not discuss squid privacy rights.

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.

Facebook’s Extensive Surveillance Network

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/02/facebooks-extensive-surveillance-network.html

Consumer Reports is reporting that Facebook has built a massive surveillance network:

Using a panel of 709 volunteers who shared archives of their Facebook data, Consumer Reports found that a total of 186,892 companies sent data about them to the social network. On average, each participant in the study had their data sent to Facebook by 2,230 companies. That number varied significantly, with some panelists’ data listing over 7,000 companies providing their data. The Markup helped Consumer Reports recruit participants for the study. Participants downloaded an archive of the previous three years of their data from their Facebook settings, then provided it to Consumer Reports.

This isn’t data about your use of Facebook. This data about your interactions with other companies, all of which is correlated and analyzed by Facebook. It constantly amazes me that we willingly allow these monopoly companies that kind of surveillance power.

Here’s the Consumer Reports study. It includes policy recommendations:

Many consumers will rightly be concerned about the extent to which their activity is tracked by Facebook and other companies, and may want to take action to counteract consistent surveillance. Based on our analysis of the sample data, consumers need interventions that will:

  • Reduce the overall amount of tracking.
  • Improve the ability for consumers to take advantage of their right to opt out under state privacy laws.
  • Empower social media platform users and researchers to review who and what exactly is being advertised on Facebook.
  • Improve the transparency of Facebook’s existing tools.

And then the report gives specifics.

Identifying the Idaho Killer

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/06/identifying-the-idaho-killer.html

The New York Times has a long article on the investigative techniques used to identify the person who stabbed and killed four University of Idaho students.

Pay attention to the techniques:

The case has shown the degree to which law enforcement investigators have come to rely on the digital footprints that ordinary Americans leave in nearly every facet of their lives. Online shopping, car sales, carrying a cellphone, drives along city streets and amateur genealogy all played roles in an investigation that was solved, in the end, as much through technology as traditional sleuthing.

[…]

At that point, investigators decided to try genetic genealogy, a method that until now has been used primarily to solve cold cases, not active murder investigations. Among the growing number of genealogy websites that help people trace their ancestors and relatives via their own DNA, some allow users to select an option that permits law enforcement to compare crime scene DNA samples against the websites’ data.

A distant cousin who has opted into the system can help investigators building a family tree from crime scene DNA to triangulate and identify a potential perpetrator of a crime.

[…]

On Dec. 23, investigators sought and received Mr. Kohberger’s cellphone records. The results added more to their suspicions: His phone was moving around in the early morning hours of Nov. 13, but was disconnected from cell networks ­- perhaps turned off—in the two hours around when the killings occurred.

Fines as a Security System

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/02/fines-as-a-security-system.html

Tile has an interesting security solution to make its tracking tags harder to use for stalking:

The Anti-Theft Mode feature will make the devices invisible to Scan and Secure, the company’s in-app feature that lets you know if any nearby Tiles are following you. But to activate the new Anti-Theft Mode, the Tile owner will have to verify their real identity with a government-issued ID, submit a biometric scan that helps root out fake IDs, agree to let Tile share their information with law enforcement and agree to be subject to a $1 million penalty if convicted in a court of law of using Tile for criminal activity. So although it technically makes the device easier for stalkers to use Tiles silently, it makes the penalty of doing so high enough to (at least in theory) deter them from trying.

Interesting theory. But it won’t work against attackers who don’t have any money.

Hulls believes the approach is superior to Apple’s solution with AirTag, which emits a sound and notifies iPhone users that one of the trackers is following them.

My complaint about the technical solutions is that they only work for users of the system. Tile security requires an “in-app feature.” Apple’s AirTag “notifies iPhone users.” What we need is a common standard that is implemented on all smartphones, so that people who don’t use the trackers can be alerted if they are being surveilled by one of them.

Identifying People Using Cell Phone Location Data

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2023/01/identifying-people-using-cell-phone-location-data.html

The two people who shut down four Washington power stations in December were arrested. This is the interesting part:

Investigators identified Greenwood and Crahan almost immediately after the attacks took place by using cell phone data that allegedly showed both men in the vicinity of all four substations, according to court documents.

Nowadays, it seems like an obvious thing to do—although the search is probably unconstitutional. But way back in 2012, the Canadian CSEC—that’s their NSA—did some top-secret work on this kind of thing. The document is part of the Snowden archive, and I wrote about it:

The second application suggested is to identify a particular person whom you know visited a particular geographical area on a series of dates/times. The example in the presentation is a kidnapper. He is based in a rural area, so he can’t risk making his ransom calls from that area. Instead, he drives to an urban area to make those calls. He either uses a burner phone or a pay phone, so he can’t be identified that way. But if you assume that he has some sort of smart phone in his pocket that identifies itself over the Internet, you might be able to find him in that dataset. That is, he might be the only ID that appears in that geographical location around the same time as the ransom calls and at no other times.

There’s a whole lot of surveillance you can do if you can follow everyone, everywhere, all the time. I don’t even think turning your cell phone off would help in this instance. How many people in the Washington area turned their phones off during exactly the times of the Washington power station attacks? Probably a small enough number to investigate them all.

Apple’s Device Analytics Can Identify iCloud Users

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/11/apples-device-analytics-can-identify-icloud-users.html

Researchers claim that supposedly anonymous device analytics information can identify users:

On Twitter, security researchers Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry have found that Apple’s device analytics data includes an iCloud account and can be linked directly to a specific user, including their name, date of birth, email, and associated information stored on iCloud.

Apple has long claimed otherwise:

On Apple’s device analytics and privacy legal page, the company says no information collected from a device for analytics purposes is traceable back to a specific user. “iPhone Analytics may include details about hardware and operating system specifications, performance statistics, and data about how you use your devices and applications. None of the collected information identifies you personally,” the company claims.

Apple was just sued for tracking iOS users without their consent, even when they explicitly opt out of tracking.

Critical Vulnerabilities in GPS Trackers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/07/critical-vulnerabilities-in-gps-trackers.html

This is a dangerous vulnerability:

An assessment from security firm BitSight found six vulnerabilities in the Micodus MV720, a GPS tracker that sells for about $20 and is widely available. The researchers who performed the assessment believe the same critical vulnerabilities are present in other Micodus tracker models. The China-based manufacturer says 1.5 million of its tracking devices are deployed across 420,000 customers. BitSight found the device in use in 169 countries, with customers including governments, militaries, law enforcement agencies, and aerospace, shipping, and manufacturing companies.

BitSight discovered what it said were six “severe” vulnerabilities in the device that allow for a host of possible attacks. One flaw is the use of unencrypted HTTP communications that makes it possible for remote hackers to conduct adversary-in-the-middle attacks that intercept or change requests sent between the mobile application and supporting servers. Other vulnerabilities include a flawed authentication mechanism in the mobile app that can allow attackers to access the hardcoded key for locking down the trackers and the ability to use a custom IP address that makes it possible for hackers to monitor and control all communications to and from the device.

The security firm said it first contacted Micodus in September to notify company officials of the vulnerabilities. BitSight and CISA finally went public with the findings on Tuesday after trying for months to privately engage with the manufacturer. As of the time of writing, all of the vulnerabilities remain unpatched and unmitigated.

These are computers and computer vulnerabilities, but because the computers are attached to cars, the vulnerabilities become potentially life-threatening. CISA writes:

These vulnerabilities could impact access to a vehicle fuel supply, vehicle control, or allow locational surveillance of vehicles in which the device is installed.

I wouldn’t have buried “vehicle control” in the middle of that sentence.

Facebook Is Now Encrypting Links to Prevent URL Stripping

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/07/facebook-is-now-encrypting-links-to-prevent-url-stripping.html

Some sites, including Facebook, add parameters to the web address for tracking purposes. These parameters have no functionality that is relevant to the user, but sites rely on them to track users across pages and properties.

Mozilla introduced support for URL stripping in Firefox 102, which it launched in June 2022. Firefox removes tracking parameters from web addresses automatically, but only in private browsing mode or when the browser’s Tracking Protection feature is set to strict. Firefox users may enable URL stripping in all Firefox modes, but this requires manual configuration. Brave Browser strips known tracking parameters from web addresses as well.

Facebook has responded by encrypting the entire URL into a single ciphertext blob.

Since it is no longer possible to identify the tracking part of the web address, it is no longer possible to remove it from the address automatically. In other words: Facebook has the upper hand in regards to URL-based tracking at the time, and there is little that can be done about it short of finding a way to decrypt the information.

Tracking People via Bluetooth on Their Phones

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/06/tracking-people-via-bluetooth-on-their-phones.html

We’ve always known that phones—and the people carrying them—can be uniquely identified from their Bluetooth signatures, and that we need security techniques to prevent that. This new research shows that that’s not enough.

Computer scientists at the University of California San Diego proved in a study published May 24 that minute imperfections in phones caused during manufacturing create a unique Bluetooth beacon, one that establishes a digital signature or fingerprint distinct from any other device. Though phones’ Bluetooth uses cryptographic technology that limits trackability, using a radio receiver, these distortions in the Bluetooth signal can be discerned to track individual devices.

[…]

The study’s scientists conducted tests to show whether multiple phones being in one place could disrupt their ability to track individual signals. Results in an initial experiment showed they managed to discern individual signals for 40% of 162 devices in public. Another, scaled-up experiment showed they could discern 47% of 647 devices in a public hallway across two days.

The tracking range depends on device and the environment, and it could be several hundred feet, but in a crowded location it might only be 10 or so feet. Scientists were able to follow a volunteer’s signal as they went to and from their house. Certain environmental factors can disrupt a Bluetooth signal, including changes in environment temperature, and some devices send signals with more power and range than others.

One might say “well, I’ll just keep Bluetooth turned off when not in use,” but the researchers said they found that some devices, especially iPhones, don’t actually turn off Bluetooth unless a user goes directly into settings to turn off the signal. Most people might not even realize their Bluetooth is being constantly emitted by many smart devices.

Apple Mail Now Blocks Email Trackers

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/05/apple-mail-now-blocks-email-trackers.html

Apple Mail now blocks email trackers by default.

Most email newsletters you get include an invisible “image,” typically a single white pixel, with a unique file name. The server keeps track of every time this “image” is opened and by which IP address. This quirk of internet history means that marketers can track exactly when you open an email and your IP address, which can be used to roughly work out your location.

So, how does Apple Mail stop this? By caching. Apple Mail downloads all images for all emails before you open them. Practically speaking, that means every message downloaded to Apple Mail is marked “read,” regardless of whether you open it. Apples also routes the download through two different proxies, meaning your precise location also can’t be tracked.

Crypto-Gram uses Mailchimp, which has these tracking pixels turned on by default. I turn them off. Normally, Mailchimp requires them to be left on for the first few mailings, presumably to prevent abuse. The company waived that requirement for me.

AirTags Are Used for Stalking Far More than Previously Reported

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/04/airtags-are-used-for-stalking-far-more-than-previously-reported.html

Ever since Apple introduced AirTags, security people have warned that they could be used for stalking. But while there have been a bunch of anecdotal stories, this is the first vaguely scientific survey:

Motherboard requested records mentioning AirTags in a recent eight month period from dozens of the country’s largest police departments. We obtained records from eight police departments.

Of the 150 total police reports mentioning AirTags, in 50 cases women called the police because they started getting notifications that their whereabouts were being tracked by an AirTag they didn’t own. Of those, 25 could identify a man in their lives — ex-partners, husbands, bosses — who they strongly suspected planted the AirTags on their cars in order to follow and harass them. Those women reported that current and former intimate partners­ — the most likely people to harm women overall — ­are using AirTags to stalk and harass them.

Eight police departments over eight months yielded fifty cases. And that’s only where the victim (1) realized they were being tracked by someone else’s AirTag, and (2) contacted the police. That’s going to multiply out to a lot of AirTag stalking in the country, and the world.

EDITED TO ADD (4/13): AirTags are being used by Ukrainians to track goods stolen by Russians and, as a nice side effect, to track the movements of Russian troops.

Stalking with an Apple Watch

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/03/stalking-with-an-apple-watch.html

The malicious uses of these technologies are scary:

Police reportedly arrived on the scene last week and found the man crouched beside the woman’s passenger side door. According to the police, the man had, at some point, wrapped his Apple Watch across the spokes of the woman’s passenger side front car wheel and then used the Watch to track her movements. When police eventually confronted him, he admitted the Watch was his. Now, he’s reportedly being charged with attaching an electronic tracking device to the woman’s vehicle.

Bypassing Apple’s AirTag Security

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2022/02/bypassing-apples-airtag-security.html

A Berlin-based company has developed an AirTag clone that bypasses Apple’s anti-stalker security systems. Source code for these AirTag clones is available online.

So now we have several problems with the system. Apple’s anti-stalker security only works with iPhones. (Apple wrote an Android app that can detect AirTags, but how many people are going to download it?) And now non-AirTags can piggyback on Apple’s system without triggering the alarms.

Apple didn’t think this through nearly as well as it claims to have. I think the general problem is one that I have written about before: designers just don’t have intimate threats in mind when building these systems.

Apple AirTags Are Being Used to Track People and Cars

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/12/apple-airtags-are-being-used-to-track-people-and-cars.html

This development suprises no one who has been paying attention:

Researchers now believe AirTags, which are equipped with Bluetooth technology, could be revealing a more widespread problem of tech-enabled tracking. They emit a digital signal that can be detected by devices running Apple’s mobile operating system. Those devices then report where an AirTag has last been seen. Unlike similar tracking products from competitors such as Tile, Apple added features to prevent abuse, including notifications like the one Ms. Estrada received and automatic beeping. (Tile plans to release a feature to prevent the tracking of people next year, a spokeswoman for that company said.)

[…]

A person who doesn’t own an iPhone might have a harder time detecting an unwanted AirTag. AirTags aren’t compatible with Android smartphones. Earlier this month, Apple released an Android app that can scan for AirTags — but you have to be vigilant enough to download it and proactively use it.

Apple declined to say if it was working with Google on technology that would allow Android phones to automatically detect its trackers.

People who said they have been tracked have called Apple’s safeguards insufficient. Ms. Estrada said she was notified four hours after her phone first noticed the rogue gadget. Others said it took days before they were made aware of an unknown AirTag. According to Apple, the timing of the alerts can vary depending on the iPhone’s operating system and location settings.

Thieves Using AirTags to “Follow” Cars

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/12/thieves-using-airtags-to-follow-cars.html

From Ontario and not surprising:

Since September 2021, officers have investigated five incidents where suspects have placed small tracking devices on high-end vehicles so they can later locate and steal them. Brand name “air tags” are placed in out-of-sight areas of the target vehicles when they are parked in public places like malls or parking lots. Thieves then track the targeted vehicles to the victim’s residence, where they are stolen from the driveway.

Thieves typically use tools like screwdrivers to enter the vehicles through the driver or passenger door, while ensuring not to set off alarms. Once inside, an electronic device, typically used by mechanics to reprogram the factory setting, is connected to the onboard diagnostics port below the dashboard and programs the vehicle to accept a key the thieves have brought with them. Once the new key is programmed, the vehicle will start and the thieves drive it away.

I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done:

When Apple first released AirTags earlier this year, concerns immediately sprung up about nefarious use cases for the covert trackers. Apple responded with a slew of anti-stalking measures, but those are more intended for keeping people safe than cars. An AirTag away from its owner will sound an alarm, letting anyone nearby know that it’s been left behind, but it can take up to 24 hours for that alarm to go off — more than enough time to nab a car in the dead of night.

Tracking People by their MAC Addresses

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2021/09/tracking-people-by-their-mac-addresses.html

Yet another article on the privacy risks of static MAC addresses and always-on Bluetooth connections. This one is about wireless headphones.

The good news is that product vendors are fixing this:

Several of the headphones which could be tracked over time are for sale in electronics stores, but according to two of the manufacturers NRK have spoken to, these models are being phased out.

“The products in your line-up, Elite Active 65t, Elite 65e and Evolve 75e, will be going out of production before long and newer versions have already been launched with randomized MAC addresses. We have a lot of focus on privacy by design and we continuously work with the available security measures on the market,” head of PR at Jabra, Claus Fonnesbech says.

“To run Bluetooth Classic we, and all other vendors, are required to have static addresses and you will find that in older products,” Fonnesbech says.

Jens Bjørnkjær Gamborg, head of communications at Bang & Olufsen, says that “this is products that were launched several years ago.”

“All products launched after 2019 randomize their MAC-addresses on a frequent basis as it has become the market standard to do so,” Gamborg says.

EDITED TO ADD (9/13): It’s not enough to randomly change MAC addresses. Any other plaintext identifiers need to be changed at the same time.