Tuesday, October 25, 2016

OpenStack 10/26/2016 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, CloudFlare, censorship

    • Re: Major net hack - its not necessarily off topic. .gov is herding web sites into it's own little DNS animal farms so it can properly protect the public from that dangerous 'information' stuff in time of emergency. CloudFlare is the biggest abattoir... er, animal farm.

      CloudFlare is kind of like a protection racket. If you pay their outrageous fees, you will be 'protected' from DDoS attacks. Since CloudFlare is the preferred covert .gov tool of censorship and content control (when things go south), they are trying to drive as many sites as possible into their digital panopticons.

      Who the hell is Cloudflare?


      On top of that, CloudFlare’s CEO Matthew Prince made a weird, glib admission that he decided to start the company only after the Department of Homeland Security gave him a call in 2007 and suggested he take the technology behind Project Honey Pot one step further…

      And that makes CloudFlare a whole different story: People who sign up for the service are allowing CloudFlare to monitor, observe and scrutinize all of their site’s traffic, which makes it much easier for intel or law enforcement agencies to collect info on websites and without having to hack or request the logs from each hosting company separately. But there’s more. Because CloudFlare doesn’t just passively monitor internet traffic but works like a dynamic firewall to selectively block traffic from sources it deems to be “hostile,” website operators are giving it a whole lotta power over who gets to see their content. The whole point of CloudFlare is to restrict access to websites from specific locations/IP addresses on the fly, without notifying or bothering the website owner with the details. It’s all boils down to a question of trust, as in: do you trust a shady company with known intel/law enforcement connections to make that decision?

    • And here is an added bonus for the paranoid: Because CloudFlare partially caches websites and delivers them to web surfers via its own servers, the company also has the power to serve up redacted versions of the content to specific users. CloudFlare is perfect: it can implement censorship on the fly, without anyone getting wise to it!

      Right now CloudFlare says it monitors nearly 1/5 of all Internet visits. [<-- this] An astounding claim for a company most people haven’t even heard of. And techie bloggers seem very excited about getting as much Internet traffic routed through them as possible!

      See? Plausable deniability. A couple of degrees of separation. Yet when the Borg Queen wants to start WWIII next year, she can order the DHS Stazi to order outfits like CloudFlare to do the proper 'shaping' of internet traffic to filter out unwanted information.

      How far is any expose of propaganda like Dusty Boy going to happen if nobody can get to sites like MoA? You'll be able to get to all kinds of tweets and NGO sites crying about Dusty Boy 2.0, but you won't see a tweet or a web site calling them out on their lies. Will you even know they interviewed Assad? Will you know the activist 'photographer' is a paid NGO shill or that he's pals with al Zenki? Nope, not if .gov can help it.

  • Tags: DDOS-attacks, Internet-of-things

    • Last month, we wrote about Bruce Schneier's warning that certain unknown parties were carefully testing ways to take down the internet. They were doing carefully configured DDoS attacks, testing core internet infrastructure, focusing on key DNS servers. And, of course, we've also been talking about the rise of truly massive DDoS attacks, thanks to poorly secured Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and ancient, unpatched bugs.

      That all came to a head this morning when large chunks of the internet went down for about two hours, thanks to a massive DDoS attack targeting managed DNS provider Dyn. Most of the down sites are back (I'm still having trouble reaching Twitter), but it was pretty widespread, and lots of big name sites all went down. Just check out this screenshot from Downdetector showing the outages on a bunch of sites:
    • You'll see not all of them have downtime (and the big ISPs, as always, show lots of complaints about downtimes), but a ton of those sites show a giant spike in downtime for a few hours.

      So, once again, we'd like to point out that this is as problem that the internet community needs to start solving now. There's been a theoretical threat for a while, but it's no longer so theoretical. Yes, some people point out that this is a difficult thing to deal with. If you're pointing people to websites, even if we were to move to a more distributed system, there are almost always some kinds of chokepoints, and those with malicious intent will always, eventually, target those chokepoints. But there has to be a better way -- because if there isn't, this kind of thing is going to become a lot worse.

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

OpenStack 10/25/2016 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, FISA-Court, opinions, disclosure, litigation, ACLU

    • The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a motion to reveal the secret court opinions with “novel or significant interpretations” of surveillance law, in a renewed push for government transparency.

      The motion, filed Wednesday by the ACLU and Yale Law School’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, asks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, which rules on intelligence gathering activities in secret, to release 23 classified decisions it made between 9/11 and the passage of the USA Freedom Act in June 2015.

      As ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Patrick Toomey explains, the opinions are part of a “much larger collection of hidden rulings on all sorts of government surveillance activities that affect the privacy rights of Americans.”

      Among them is the court order that the government used to direct Yahoo to secretly scanits users’ emails for “a specific set of characters.” Toomey writes:

      These court rulings are essential for the public to understand how federal laws are being construed and implemented. They also show how constitutional protections for personal privacy and expressive activities are being enforced by the courts. In other words, access to these opinions is necessary for the public to properly oversee their government.

    • Although the USA Freedom Act requires the release of novel FISA court opinions on surveillance law, the government maintains that the rule does not apply retroactively—thereby protecting the panel from publishing many of its post-9/11 opinions, which helped create an “unprecedented buildup” of secret surveillance laws.

      Even after National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the scope of mass surveillance in 2013, sparking widespread outcry, dozens of rulings on spying operations remain hidden from the public eye, which stymies efforts to keep the government accountable, civil liberties advocates say.

      “These rulings are necessary to inform the public about the scope of the government’s surveillance powers today,” the ACLU’s motion states.

      • Toomey writes that the rulings helped influence a number of novel spying activities, including:

        • The government’s use of malware, which it calls “Network Investigative Techniques”
        • The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to weaken or circumvent their own encryption protocols
        • The government’s efforts to compel technology companies to disclose their source code so that it can identify vulnerabilities
        • The government’s use of “cybersignatures” to search through internet communications for evidence of computer intrusions
        • The government’s use of stingray cell-phone tracking devices under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
        • The government’s warrantless surveillance of Americans under FISA Section 702—a controversial authority scheduled to expire in December 2017
        • The bulk collection of financial records by the CIA and FBI under Section 215 of the Patriot Act

        Without these rulings being made public, “it simply isn’t possible to understand the government’s claimed authority to conduct surveillance,” Toomey writes.

        As he told The Intercept on Wednesday, “The people of this country can’t hold the government accountable for its surveillance activities unless they know what our laws allow. These secret court opinions define the limits of the government’s spying powers. Their disclosure is essential for meaningful public oversight in our democracy.”

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

OpenStack 10/19/2016 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, Wikileaks, Assange, Ecuador, internet-access

    • Midway through releasing a series of damaging disclosures about U.S. presidential contender Hillary Clinton, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says his hosts at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London abruptly cut him off from the internet. The news adds another layer of intrigue to an extraordinary campaign.

      “We can confirm Ecuador cut off Assange’s internet access Saturday, 5pm GMT, shortly after publication of Clinton’s Goldman Sachs (speeches),” the group said in a message posted to Twitter late Monday.

  • Tags: surveillance state, fingerprints, phone-access, search-warrants, civil-liberties

    • Under the Fourth Amendment, Americans are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, but according to one group of federal prosecutors, just being in the wrong house at the wrong time is cause enough to make every single person inside provide their fingerprints and unlock their phones.

      Back in 2014, a Virginia Circuit Court ruled that while suspects cannot be forced to provide phone passcodes, biometric data like fingerprints doesn’t have the same constitutional protection. Since then, multiple law enforcement agencies have tried to force individual suspects to unlock their phones with their fingers, but none have claimed the sweeping authority found in a Justice Department memorandum recently uncovered by Forbes.

    • In the court document filed earlier this year, federal prosecutors in California argued that a warrant for a mass finger-unlocking was constitutionally sound even though “the government does not know ahead of time the identity of every digital device or every fingerprint (or indeed, every other piece of evidence) that it will find in the search” because “it has demonstrated probable cause that evidence may exist at the search location.” Criminal defense lawyer Marina Medvin, however, disagreed.



      “They want the ability to get a warrant on the assumption that they will learn more after they have a warrant,” Medvin told Forbes. “This would be an unbelievably audacious abuse of power if it were permitted.”

      Unfortunately, other documents related to the case were not publicly available, so its unclear if the search was actually executed. Even so, Medvin believes the memorandum sets a deeply troubling precedent, using older case law regarding the collection of fingerprint evidence to request complete access to the “amazing amount of information” found on a cellphone.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

OpenStack 10/18/2016 (a.m.)

  • Investigation was instigated by Sen. Ron Wyden after receiving constituent complaints.

    Tags: cable-ISPs, Comcast, Xfinity, FCC, penalties, excess-charges

    • Comcast is being forced to pay the largest fine the FCC has ever levied against a cable operator. Its offense: Charging customers for services and equipment they didn't ask for.

      The company agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty and to submit to a "compliance plan," in which regulators will monitor Comcast for the next five years to ensure it cleans up its act.

    • The FCC said it received over 1,000 complaints from customers, who said Comcast charged them for premium channels, cable boxes, DVRs or other products that they never ordered.

      In many cases, the FCC said, customers expressly told Comcast that they didn't want the add-on options, but they were charged anyway.

      Complaints also describe how customers spent "significant time and energy to attempt to remove the unauthorized charges" and get refunds, the commission said.

      The complaints spurred the FCC to launch an investigation nearly two years ago. Today's settlement marks the conclusion of the probe.

      Under the five-year compliance plan, Comcast must begin sending customers special notifications every time a new charge or service is added to their bill. The company also has to add a way for customers to easily "block the addition of new services or equipment to their accounts," according to an FCC press release.

    • Comcast (CMCSA) will also be required to compensate or address complaints from customers who have disputed charges, and it will be barred from referring an account to collections or suspending an account that has a disputed charge.

      Comcast agreed to the fine without admitting any guilt.

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

OpenStack 10/17/2016 (a.m.)

  • Bruce Schneier pointing to a massive security hole in the Internet of Things ("IoT").

    Tags: cybersecurity, Internet-of-things, DDOS

    • Brian Krebs is a popular reporter on the cybersecurity beat. He regularly exposes cybercriminals and their tactics, and consequently is regularly a target of their ire. Last month, he wrote about an online attack-for-hire service that resulted in the arrest of the two proprietors. In the aftermath, his site was taken down by a massive DDoS attack.

      In many ways, this is nothing new. Distributed denial-of-service attacks are a family of attacks that cause websites and other internet-connected systems to crash by overloading them with traffic. The "distributed" part means that other insecure computers on the internet—sometimes in the millions—are recruited to a botnet to unwittingly participate in the attack. The tactics are decades old; DDoS attacks are perpetrated by lone hackers trying to be annoying, criminals trying to extort money, and governments testing their tactics. There are defenses, and there are companies that offer DDoS mitigation services for hire.

      Basically, it's a size vs. size game. If the attackers can cobble together a fire hose of data bigger than the defender's capability to cope with, they win. If the defenders can increase their capability in the face of attack, they win.

      What was new about the Krebs attack was both the massive scale and the particular devices the attackers recruited. Instead of using traditional computers for their botnet, they used CCTV cameras, digital video recorders, home routers, and other embedded computers attached to the internet as part of the Internet of Things.

      Much has been written about how the IoT is wildly insecure. In fact, the software used to attack Krebs was simple and amateurish. What this attack demonstrates is that the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can't get fixed on its own.

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

Friday, October 07, 2016

OpenStack 10/07/2016 (p.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, NSA, zero-day-exploits, leak, arrest, prosecution, Martin

    • A contractor working for the National Security Agency (NSA) was arrested by the FBI following his alleged theft of “state secrets.” More specifically, the contractor, Harold Thomas Martin, is charged with stealing highly classified source codes developed to covertly hack the networks of foreign governments, according to several senior law enforcement and intelligence officials. The Justice Department has said that these stolen materials were “critical to national security.”

      Martin was employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, the company responsible for most of the NSA’s most sensitive cyber-operations. Edward Snowden, the most well-known NSA whistleblower, also worked for Booz Allen Hamilton until he fled to Hong Kong in 2013 where he revealed a trove of documents exposing the massive scope of the NSA dragnet surveillance. That surveillance system was shown to have targeted untold numbers of innocent Americans.

      According to the New York Times, the theft “raises the embarrassing prospect” that an NSA insider managed to steal highly damaging secret information from the NSA for the second time in three years, not to mention the “Shadow Broker” hack this past August, which made classified NSA hacking tools available to the public.

    • Snowden himself took to Twitter to comment on the arrest. In a tweet, he said the news of Martin’s arrest “is huge” and asked, “Did the FBI secretly arrest the person behind the reports [that the] NSA sat on huge flaws in US products?” It is currently unknown if Martin was connected to those reports as well.
    • It also remains to be seen what Martin’s motivations were in removing classified data from the NSA. Though many suspect that he planned to follow in Snowden’s footsteps, the government will more likely argue that he had planned to commit espionage by selling state secrets to “adversaries.”

      According to the New York Times article on the arrest, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are named as examples of the “adversaries” who would have been targeted by the NSA codes that Martin is accused of stealing. However, Snowden revealed widespread US spying on foreign governments including several US allies such as France and Germany. This suggests that the stolen “source codes” were likely utilized on a much broader scale.

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

Friday, September 16, 2016

OpenStack 09/16/2016 (p.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, FBI, Comey, webcam-intercepts

    • The head of the FBI on Wednesday defended putting a piece of tape over his personal laptop's webcam, claiming the security step was a common sense one that most should take.  

      “There’s some sensible things you should be doing, and that’s one of them,” Director James Comey said during a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

      “You go into any government office and we all have the little camera things that sit on top of the screen,” he added. “They all have a little lid that closes down on them.

      “You do that so that people who don’t have authority don’t look at you. I think that’s a good thing.”

      Comey was pilloried online earlier this year, after he revealed that he puts a piece of tape over his laptop camera to keep away prying eyes. The precaution is a common one among security advocates, given the relative ease of hacking laptop cameras.  

    • But many found it ironic for Comey, who this year launched a high profile battle against Apple to gain access to data locked inside of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists. Many viewed that fight as a referendum on digital privacy.

      Comey was “much mocked for that,” he acknowledged on Wednesday.

      But he still uses the tape on his laptop.

      “I hope people lock their cars,” he said. “Lock your doors at night… if you have an alarm system, you should use it.”

      “It’s not crazy that the FBI director cares about personal security as well,” the FBI director added. “So I think people ought to take responsibility for their own safety and security.”

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