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

CAT | Physical Security

The Chaos Computer Club (CCC) in Germany recently announced its successful bypassing of the new iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner.

Despite many media claims that the new scanner worked on deep layers in the skin, and was not vulnerable to simple fingerprint duplication, that is exactly what succeeded. 

The CCC used a high resolution photo of a fingerprint on glass to create a latex duplicate, which unlocked the phone. It strikes me as particularly problematic that the glass surface of an iPhone is the perfect place to find really clear fingerprints of the owner.

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It has long been known in security circles that many printers embed nearly invisible watermarks in all printed documents which uniquely identify the printer used.

SpringyLeaks reports that a recent FOIA request revealed the names of printer companies who embed such markings and have worked with law enforcement to identify the printers used in various cases.

The article also suggest that these watermarks can be used to aid reconstruction of shredded documents.

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The FBI in conjunction with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Joint Regional Intelligence Center have produced a number of fliers to help the public identify possible terrorists. While some of the points have merit, it is very likely that this will generate an extremely high proportion of false alerts based on perfectly reasonable and legal behaviors.

A big red flag for me were the fliers for cyber cafes and electronics stores. These suggest that the use of privacy protecting services, like Anonymizer, should be deemed suspicious. They also call out Encryption, VoIP, and communicating through video games.

In almost all of the fliers they suggest that wanting to pay cash (legal tender for all debts public and private) is suspicious.

Thanks to Public Intelligence for pulling together PDFs of the documents.

Internet Cafe flier.

Electronics Store flier.

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This makes a good case for why it concerns me that we seem to be willing to automate all kinds of things that can really impact us without including real security.

‘War Texting’ Attack Hacks Car Alarm System – Dark Reading

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Last week I did an interview on a San Diego news program about issues with many cameras and smart phones in particular embedding very accurate location information in your pictures. If your camera (smart phone or whatever) has GPS, then the EXIF meta data in the picture will contain your location to within about 20 feet. This can be disabled, but is typically on by default.

While this can be useful when you are trying to sort and organize the pictures on your computer, the risk shows up when you start to share the pictures. By combining date and time information in the pictures I can tell if they are recent. If you are on vacation and posting on the road, an attacker can tell that you are away from home and your home probably unguarded. Pictures of your home and family can provide the exact location of your house as well.

The good news is that major sites for sharing pictures like Facebook and Flickr seem to strip out that information from the photos. It is unclear if that is intentional or just a byproduct of how they are processing and displaying the images. In any case, the data is certainly available to the sites themselves.

I strongly encourage everyone to download an EXIF editor to be able to strip this information from pictures before uploading, and to turn off location tracking in their cameras and mobile phone photo applications to prevent the capture of that information in the first place.

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