Tuesday, January 26, 2016

OpenStack 01/26/2016 (p.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, zero-day-exploits, FOIA, litigation

    • Until just last week, the U.S. government kept up the charade that its use of a stockpile of security vulnerabilities for hacking was a closely held secret.1 In fact, in response to EFF’s FOIA suit to get access to the official U.S. policy on zero days, the government redacted every single reference to “offensive” use of vulnerabilities. To add insult to injury, the government’s claim was that even admitting to offensive use would cause damage to national security. Now, in the face of EFF’s brief marshaling overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the charade is over.

      In response to EFF’s motion for summary judgment, the government has disclosed a new version of the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, minus many of the worst redactions. First and foremost, it now admits that the “discovery of vulnerabilities in commercial information technology may present competing ‘equities’ for the [government’s] offensive and defensive mission.” That might seem painfully obvious—a flaw or backdoor in a Juniper router is dangerous for anyone running a network, whether that network is in the U.S. or Iran. But the government’s failure to adequately weigh these “competing equities” was so severe that in 2013 a group of experts appointed by President Obama recommended that the policy favor disclosure “in almost all instances for widely used code.” [.pdf].

    • The newly disclosed version of the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) also officially confirms what everyone already knew: the use of zero days isn’t confined to the spies. Rather, the policy states that the “law enforcement community may want to use information pertaining to a vulnerability for similar offensive or defensive purposes but for the ultimate end of law enforcement.” Similarly it explains that “counterintelligence equities can be defensive, offensive, and/or law enforcement-related” and may “also have prosecutorial responsibilities.” Given that the government is currently prosecuting users for committing crimes over Tor hidden services, and that it identified these individuals using vulnerabilities called a “Network Investigative Technique”, this too doesn’t exactly come as a shocker.

      Just a few weeks ago, the government swore that even acknowledging the mere fact that it uses vulnerabilities offensively “could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.” That’s a standard move in FOIA cases involving classified information, even though the government unnecessarily classifies documents at an astounding rate. In this case, the government relented only after nearly a year and a half of litigation by EFF. The government would be well advised to stop relying on such weak secrecy claims—it only risks undermining its own credibility.

    • The new version of the VEP also reveals significantly more information about the general process the government follows when a vulnerability is identified. In a nutshell, an agency that discovers a zero day is responsible for invoking the VEP, which then provides for centralized coordination and weighing of equities among all affected agencies. Along with a declaration from an official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, this new information provides more background on the reasons why the government decided to develop an overarching zero day policy in the first place: it “recognized that not all organizations see the entire picture of vulnerabilities, and each organization may have its own equities and concerns regarding the prioritization of patches and fixes, as well as its own distinct mission obligations.” We now know the VEP was finalized in February 2010, but the government apparently failed to implement it in any substantial way, prompting the presidential review group’s recommendation to prioritize disclosure over offensive hacking.

      We’re glad to have forced a little more transparency on this important issue, but the government is still foolishly holding on to a few last redactions, including refusing to name which agencies participate in the VEP. That’s just not supportable, and we’ll be in court next month to argue that the names of these agencies must be disclosed. 


Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

OpenStack 01/25/2016 (p.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, encryption, NSA, Comey

      • NSA Director Finally Admits Encryption Is Needed to Protect Public’s Privacy

        The new stance denotes a growing awareness within the government that Americans are not comfortable with the State’s grip on their data.
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      • At the same hearing, Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch declined to comment on whether they had proof the Paris attackers used encryption. Even so, Comey recently lobbied for tech companies to do away with end-to-end encryption.

        However, his crusade has fallen on unsympathetic ears, both from the private companies he seeks to control — and from the NSA. Prior to Rogers’ statements in support of encryption Thursday, former NSA chief Michael Hayden said, “I disagree with Jim Comey. I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America.”

        Still another former NSA chair has criticized calls for backdoor access to information. In October, Mike McConnell told a panel at an encryption summit that the United States is “better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption.” Former Department of Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff, has also spoken out against government being able to bypass encryption.

      • Regardless of these individual defenses of encryption, the Intercept explained why these statements may be irrelevant:

        Left unsaid is the fact that the FBI and NSA have the ability to circumvent encryption and get to the content too — by hacking. Hacking allows law enforcement to plant malicious code on someone’s computer in order to gain access to the photos, messages, and text before they were ever encrypted in the first place, and after they’ve been decrypted. The NSA has an entire team of advanced hackers, possibly as many as 600, camped out at Fort Meade.”

      • Rogers statements, of course, are not a full-fledged endorsement of privacy, nor can the NSA be expected to make it a priority. Even so, his new stance denotes a growing awareness within the government that Americans are not comfortable with the State’s grip on their data.

        So spending time arguing about ‘hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it’ … that’s a waste of time to me,” Rogers said Thursday. “So what we’ve got to ask ourselves is, with that foundation, what’s the best way for us to deal with it? And how do we meet those very legitimate concerns from multiple perspectives?


    Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

OpenStack 01/05/2016 (p.m.)

  • Tags: internet-security, email, Microsoft, penetration-attempts

    • Microsoft Corp. has agreed to change its policies and always tell email customers when it suspects there has been a government hacking attempt after widespread hacking by Chinese authorities was exposed.

      Microsoft experts concluded several years ago that Chinese authorities had hacked into more than a thousand Hotmail email accounts, targeting international leaders of China's Tibetan and Uighur minorities in particular — but it decided not to tell the victims, allowing the hackers to continue their campaign, according to former employees of the company.

      On Wednesday, after a series of requests for comment from Reuters, Microsoft said it would change its policy on notifying customers.

      Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said the company was never certain of the origin of the Hotmail attacks.

    • The company also confirmed for the first time that it had not called, emailed or otherwise told the Hotmail users that their electronic correspondence had been collected. The company declined to say what role the exposure of the Hotmail campaign played in its decision to make the policy shift.

      The first public signal of the attacks came in May 2011, though no direct link was immediately made with the Chinese authorities.

    • That's when security firm Trend Micro Inc announced it had found an email sent to someone in Taiwan that contained a miniature computer program.

      The program took advantage of a previously undetected flaw in Microsoft's own web pages to direct Hotmail and other free Microsoft email services to secretly forward copies of all of a recipient's incoming mail to an account controlled by the attacker.

      Trend Micro found more than a thousand victims, and Microsoft patched the vulnerability before the security company announced its findings publicly


Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.

Monday, December 28, 2015

OpenStack 12/29/2015 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, online-security, panopticlick, EFF

    • When you visit a website, online trackers and the site itself may be able to identify you – even if you’ve installed software to protect yourself. It’s possible to configure your browser to thwart tracking, but many people don’t know how.

      Panopticlick will analyze how well your browser and add-ons protect you against online tracking techniques. We’ll also see if your system is uniquely configured—and thus identifiable—even if you are using privacy-protective software.

    • Only anonymous data will be collected through this site.

      Panopticlick is a research project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Learn more


Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

OpenStack 12/25/2015 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, China, Sesame-credit, social-control, Big-Data

    • As if further proof were needed Orwell’s dystopia is now upon us, China has now gamified obedience to the State. Though that is every bit as creepily terrifying as it sounds, citizens may still choose whether or not they wish to opt-in — that is, until the program becomes compulsory in 2020. “Going under the innocuous name of ‘Sesame Credit,’ China has created a score for how good a citizen you are,” explains Extra Credits’ video about the program. “The owners of China’s largest social networks have partnered with the government to create something akin to the U.S. credit score — but, instead of measuring how regularly you pay your bills, it measures how obediently you follow the party line.
    • In the works for years, China’s ‘social credit system’ aims to create a docile, compliant citizenry who are fiscally and morally responsible by employing a game-like format to create self-imposed, group social control. In other words, China gamified peer pressure to control its citizenry; and, though the scheme hasn’t been fully implemented yet, it’s already working — insidiously well.
    • The system is run by two companies, Alibaba and Tencent, which run all the social networks in China and therefore have access to a vast amount of data about people’s social ties and activities and what they say. In addition to measuring your ability to pay, as in the United States, the scores serve as a measure of political compliance. Among the things that will hurt a citizen’s score are posting political opinions without prior permission, or posting information that the regime does not like, such as about the Tiananmen Square massacre that the government carried out to hold on to power, or the Shanghai stock market collapse. It will hurt your score not only if you do these things, but if any of your friends do them.” And, in what appears likely the goal of the entire program, added, “Imagine the social pressure against disobedience or dissent that this will create.”
    • As Creemers described to Dutch news outlet, de Volkskrant, “With the help of the latest internet technologies, the government wants to exercise individual surveillance. The Chinese aim […] is clearly an attempt to create a new citizen.”


Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

OpenStack 12/23/2015 (p.m.)


Posted from Diigo. The rest of Open Web group favorite links are here.