The Privacy BlogThoughts on privacy, security, and other stuff.

HiRes

When you think your phone is connected to your wireless provider, you might actually be connected to a rogue tower set up to capture your data.

Such devices have been demonstrated at the Black Hat security conference and a law enforcement fake tower called “Stingray” has been known for some time. Recently sophisticated secure phones have been able to detect these fake towers and people are starting to map them. Popular Science covered it here, and here.

There is very little transparency around law enforcement or US Intelligence use of such devices, so the could just as easily be operated by foreign intelligence services, criminals, or hackers. If we had strong end to end encryption there would be little to worry about, but many Internet connections and all phone calls are vulnerable to this attack.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Hide head behind laptop

In many cases, a false sense of security causes people to put themselves at much greater risk.

The following article describes a “burner” phone service that re-uses the temporary phone numbers. It appears that number a security researcher received was previously used by a sex worker, who’s customers continued to send pictures and messages to the number after it had been re-assigned.

DOH!

 

Recycled ‘burner’ number sends sex worker’s clients to security researcher | ZDNet

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Sep/14

5

The Privacy Blog Podcast – Ep. 23

Play

Standard Profile PictureIn episode 23 of our podcast for August 2014, I talk about:

  • The absurd alarmism over the new Facebook Messenger App’s privacy settings
  • Brazil’s move to ban anonymity
  • How the secrecy of the secret app has been compromised
  • and finally how Tor users were put at risk by a fake website

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FISA court order cropped

Here is a new “as a service” offering I had never considered. Companies are supporting ISPs in responding to classified FISA court search warrants for the ISPs, including helping to capture the data and deciding if the request is proper.

Meet the shadowy tech brokers that deliver your data to the NSA | ZDNet

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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HiRes

The Internet is on fire with discussions of the recent release of stolen nude photos of over 100 female celebrities. This is a massive invasion of their privacy, and it says something sad about our society that there is an active market for such pictures. While this particular attack was against the famous, most of us have information in the cloud that we would like to stay secret.

While there is not a definitive explanation of the breach the current consensus is that it was probably caused by a vulnerability in Apple’s “Find My iPhone” feature. Apparently the API interface to this service did not check for multiple password failures, a standard security practice. This allowed attackers to test effectively unlimited numbers of passwords for each of the accounts they wanted to access.

Because most people use relatively weak passwords, this attack is quite effective. Once they gained access to the accounts, they could sync down photos or any other information stored in iCloud.

Of course, the first rule of secrecy is: If it does not exist, it can’t be discovered.

If you do want to create something that you would be pained to see released publicly, then make sure you keep close control of it. Store it locally, and encrypted.

Wherever you keep it, make sure it has a strong password. Advice for strong passwords has changed over time because of the increasing speed of computers. It used to be that fancy pneumonics would do the trick but now the fundamental truth is: if you can remember it, it is too weak.

This is particularly true because you need to be using completely different passwords for every website. Changing a good password in a simple obvious way for every website is obvious. It might prevent brute force attacks but if some other attack gives access to your password, the attacker will be able to easily guess your password on all other websites.

You need to be using a password manager like 1Password (Mac), LastPass, Dashlane, etc. Let the password manager generate your passwords for you. This is what a good password should look like: wL?7mpEyfpqs#kt9ZKVvR

Obviously I am never going to remember that, but I don’t try. I have one good password that I have taken the time to memorize, and it unlocks the password manager which has everything else.

UPDATE: There appears to be some question about whether this vulnerability is actually to blame.

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