TAG | Privacy
Recently a colleague was reading a blog post by a Russian based VPN provider which talked about their privacy stance. He was incredulous. “Why would anyone trust a Russian VPN company?!?!”
It is a reasonable question about many locations. Russia, China, Iran, and many other companies are justifiably known for Internet monitoring and censorship. Of course, in the post Snowden era, a lot of attention has been focused on US surveillance as well.
I think that many people have the feeling that they should trust anyone but their own governments. After all, foreign intelligence services are unlikely to do anything about any intercepts unless they see some kind of global doomsday scenario. You might worry that your local intelligence agency could pass along information to local law enforcement, but that too seems generally unlikely. Exposing such intercepts would also expose sources and methods, which are some of the most highly protected secrets out there.
To me the question is what the VPN / Privacy provider is ALLOWED to keep private. It is clear that many governments put a huge amount of pressure, or actually pass laws, on companies to keep all kinds of user activity records. Interestingly that is not the case in the United States.
Anonymizer has no requirement to keep any records about what our users do through our service, or any way to identify associate any activity with a given user. Our systems are architected so that we don’t need to refuse to provide any of that information, we are simply incapable of doing so.
The recent incident where attackers posted usernames and passwords for compromised Dropbox accounts really shows the importance of practicing good password hygiene.
GigaOm has one of many articles describing the actual events. The short version is that some hackers have been posting usernames and passwords to Dropbox accounts on a Pastebin page. Dropbox says that they have not been compromised, and that the passwords were actually taken from other websites or through other methods.
If this is true, and it seems reasonable, then those who have been compromised became victims because they reused their passwords across multiple websites. That is probably a bigger security error than choosing weak passwords in the first place.
The security at websites varies widely, usually based on the sensitivity of the information on that site. Banks tend to have better security than news sites or discussion sites. If you use the same password with all these sites, then if any of them is compromised the attacker can simply try your username / password on every other interesting website to see if they work there too.
The solution is to use a different password on every website. They should not be simply modifications of each other but actually completely different passwords. Additionally they should be long and random. This means that they will be impossible to remember, but a password manager or password vault can take care of that for you. It will generate the strong random passwords, fill in the forms for you, and sync between your various computers and other devices. There is no excuse not to use unique and strong passwords with every website, and you will be much safer if you do.
In the article below Attorney General Eric Holder said ““It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy”
This is simply not true, and harkens back to the discredited arguments made by the FBI in the 1990’s about the Clipper Chip. It is hard enough to make secure computing systems, and we are not very good at it as all the breaches demonstrate. Intentionally introducing a vulnerability, which is the essential nature of back door or law enforcement access, is madness. If there is a back door, then keys exist, and can be compromised or reverse engineered. It is an added complexity to the system, which is almost certain to introduce other vulnerabilities. Its use would not be restricted to the US. Once it exists every government will demand access.
Social media and the cloud have tilted the balance of power absurdly towards law enforcement. This argument that they must retain access to encrypted cell phones is fatuous.
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.
In a brilliant campaign, IO9 and the EFF is having cosplayers pose with pro-anonymity, pro-privacy, and pro-pseudonymity signs. See the whole set here. The most popular seems to be “I have a right to a Secret Identity!”.