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

TAG | security

Sochi passport stampsSochi visitors entering hacking ‘minefield’ by firing up electronics | Security & Privacy – CNET News

UPDATE: According to Errata security the NBC story about the hacking in Sochi total BS. Evidently: They were in Moscow, not Sochi. The hack was from sites they visited, not based on their location. They intentionally downloaded malware to their Android phone. So, as a traveler you are still at risk, and my advice still stands, but evidently the environment is not nearly as hostile as reported.

According to an NBC report, the hacking environment at Sochi is really fierce. After firing up a couple of computers at a cafe, they were both attacked within a minute, and within a day, both had been thoroughly compromised.

While you are vulnerable anywhere you use the Internet, it appears that attackers are out in force looking for unwary tourists enjoying the olympics.

Make sure you take precautions when you travel, especially to major events like the Sochi Olympics.

  • Enable whole disk encryption on your laptop (FileVault for Mac and TrueCrypt for Windows), and always power off your computer when you are done, rather than just putting it to sleep.
  • Turn off all running applications before you connect to any network, particularly email. That will minimize the number of connections your computer tries to make as soon as it gets connectivity.
  • Enable a VPN like Anonymizer Universal the moment you have Internet connectivity, and use it 100% of the time.
  • If you can, use a clean computer with a freshly installed operating system.
  • Set up a new Email account which you will only use during the trip. Do not access your real email accounts.
  • Any technology you can leave behind should be left back at home.

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

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Nov/13

19

The paradox of irresponsible responsibility

This article got me thinking: People’s ignorance of online privacy puts employers at risk – Network World

There is an interesting paradox for security folks. On the one hand, almost two thirds of people feel that security is a matter of personal responsibility. On the other hand, few are actually doing very much to protect themselves.

In the workplace we see this manifest in the BYOD (bring your own device) trend. Workers want to use their own phones, tablets, and often laptops. Because it is their personal device, they don’t think the company has any business telling them how to secure it, or what they can or can’t do with it. Yet they want to be able to work with the company’s documents and intellectual property, and access company sensitive networks from that device.

When that trend intersects with the poor real-world security practiced by most people, the security perimeter of businesses just got both larger and weaker.

Realistically, it is too much to expect that users will be able to fully secure their devices, or that security professionals will be able to do it for them. The productivity impact of locking users out of the devices they use (whether BYOD or company provided) is often too high, especially in the case of technical workers. Spear Phishing attacks eventually penetrate a very high fraction of targets, even against very sophisticated users. How then can we expect average, or below average, users to catch them, and catch them all.

Increasing use of sandboxing and virtualization is allowing a change in the security model. Rather than assuming the user will detect attacks, the attack is encapsulated in a very small environment where it can do little or no damage, and from which it is quickly eliminated and prevented from spreading. The trick will be to get people to actually use these tools on their own devices.

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

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OS News has an interesting article: The second operating system hiding in every mobile phone

It discusses the security implications of the fact that all cell phones run two operating systems. One is the OS that you see and interact with: Android, iOS, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, etc. The other is the OS running on the baseband processor. It is responsible for everything to do with the radios in the phone, and is designed to handle all the real time processing requirements.

The baseband processor OS is generally proprietary, provided by the maker of the baseband chip, and generally not exposed to any scrutiny or review. It also contains a huge amount of historical cruft. For example, it responds to the old Hays AT command set. That was used with old modems to control dialing, answering the phone, and setting up the speed, and other parameters required to get the devices to handshake.

It turns out that if you can feed these commands to many baseband processors, you can tell them to automatically and silently answer the phone, allowing an attacker to listen in on you.

Unfortunately the security model of these things is ancient and badly broken. Cell towers are assumed to be secure, and any commands from them are trusted and executed. As we saw at Def Con in 2010, it is possible for attackers to spoof those towers.

The baseband processor, and its OS, is generally superior to the visible OS on the phone. That means that the visible OS can’t do much to secure the phone against these vulnerabilities.

There is not much you can do about this as an end user, but I thought you should know. :)

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

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Play

Welcome to the 12th episode of The Privacy Blog Podcast brought to you by Anonymizer.

In September’s episode, I will talk about a court ruling against Google’s Wi-Fi snooping and the vulnerabilities in the new iPhone 5s fingerprint scanner. Then, I’ll provide some tips for securing the new iPhone/iOS 7 and discuss the results of a recent Pew privacy study.

Hope you enjoy – feel free to add questions and feedback in the comments section.

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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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