Privacy

Privacy and anonymity

Modern tech and news

About an hour ago, we started to be very annoyed by a helicopter circling overhead.  It was starting to get dark, and, when I saw it, it didn’t have anything particular in the way of searchlights on.

So, I got onto Twitter and started looking up items.  It was just after peak for rush hour, so I checked http://twitter.com/AM730Traffic  They didn’t have anything showing in our area, so it wasn’t their chopper.

I “follow” a number of news media, some in the local area.  Didn’t take too long before I hit http://twitter.com/ctvbcbreaking/status/32975300048461824  (It must be their helicopter.  They got three usable pictures, and kept the thing up there for over an hour.  I guess it’s a slow news day, locally.)  Since the murder is nearby, we recognized the location.  In fact, from the pattern of identifiable stones, I was able to pinpoint the location as http://is.gd/neJzfP  It’s about a block from our church.  (The youth group is meeting tonight.)  Subsequently, there were other reports from other sources.

(Like http://bit.ly/f3wVVX.  Yeah, you could probably say that this is suspicious.)

Is SetFsb a Trojan?

This was sent to me by a friend who wanted to stay anonymous:

There’s a utility called SetFSB which tweaks the clock speed for overclocking stuff.
It was written in Japan, and is used for many years already.
Recently it came to me that I can speed up my old machine by 25% so I dl’ed it as well,
however, when running, I discovered that upon termination, the .exe creates 2 files,
1 batch file and 1 executable.
The batch file is being spawned, and starts a loop trying to delete the original executable, and continues indefinitely until it’s deleted. after that it will rename the new .exe to the be the same name as the old one.
Now, isn’t that suspicious?
I’ve tried googling it, and just found 1 reference in PCTool’s ThreatFire, but the shmucks just got the threat and couldn’t see the .exe and .bat, so they just decided it’s a false alarm and whitelisted the utility.
I thought it would be a good idea to contact the author, give him a chance to explain, and this is message train, which I find very funny:

there’s a uility called SetFSB which tweeks the clock speed for overclocking stuff.
It was written by some Jap, and is used for many years already.
Recently it came to me that I can speed up my old machine by 25% so I dl’ed it as well,
however, when running, I discovered that upon termination, the .exe creates 2 files,
1 batch file and 1 executable,
the batch file is being spawned, and starts a loop trying to delete the original executable, and continues indefinitely until it’s deleted. after that it will rename the new .exe to the be the same name as the old one.
Now, isn’t that suspicious?
I’ve tried googling it, and just found 1 reference in PCTool’s ThreatFire, but the shmucks just got the threat and couldn’t see the .exe and .bat, so they just decided it’s a false alaram and whitelisted the utility.
I thought it would be a good idea to contact the author, give him a chance to explain, and this is message train, which I find very funny:

ME>>>

Dear Mr.

Why after exiting SetFsb, it will create a .bat and new .exe
the .bat will loop to try delete the old .exe, and rename the new .exe to old .exe ?

Thanks!

HIM>>>

Hi,

Yes,

abo

ME>>>

Hello.

Yes… good…

but WHY???
is it a VIRUS?

thanks!

HIM>>> (here comes the good part :))

I do not have a lot of free time too much.
Why do you think that i support you free of charge?

ME>>>

to make viruses?

HIM>>> (this is the original font color and size he used!!!)

I do not have a lot of free time too much!

ME>>> (trying to hack his japanese moralOS v0.99)

Please, dear Abo,

You must understand. People start to be VERY worried about your software,
because it behave like a virus.
If you will not give a good explanation to WHY it behave like this,
then people will stop using it, and stop trusting you forever.
Then your name will become bad, and you will have a lot of shame.
I only try to help you.

I hope you understand!

HIM>>>

It is unnecessary. Please do not use SetFSB if you are worried.

Personally, I’m not sure who’s more weird: my friend, overclocking his computer in 2011, or the Japanese programmer not willing to explain if his downloadble program is a Trojan or not.

The List Of A 100 Million Facebook Usernames.

By now you’ve probably all heard about the security researcher Ron Bowes, who wrote a script to grab the list of usernames from Facebook’s public directly. You probably also know that the torrent containing all these unique usernames is available as a torrent to download.

You may not know though that at present, on just one torrent site there are currently 4248 people who have downloaded this list, and that there’s a further 8141 currently downloading this list, that’s a hell of a lot of people that are interested in complete strangers personal information and lives.

Let me just set the record straight here as there are quite a few rumors on the Internet at the moment, this was NOT a hack people. The information is publicly available, via Facebook’s directory page. Some say that the users are to blame for not setting their privacy settings securely, others say that Facebook’s convoluted way of implementing user security settings is too complicated for most common users. Me, personally, I’m a member of the latter camp, security settings should be easy for users to apply, not difficult, a simple “Security Yes/No” would be sufficient for most users.

The social engineering possibilities that you could use this list for are just amazing, and you never know when it may come in handy, or is that just me?
Anyway, what’s done is done now.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, if you want the torrent, well, that can be found right about here, here, or on pretty much any torrent site at the moment, please remember though, if you do download it………..please seed.

Reflections on Trusting Trust goes hardware

A recent Scientific American article does point out that is is getting increasingly difficult to keep our Trusted Computing Base sufficiently small.

For further information on this scenario, see: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0436339/  [1]

We actually discussed this in the early days of virus research, and sporadically since.  The random aspect (see Dell problems with bad chips) (the stories about malware on the boards is overblown, since the malware was simply stored in unused memory, rather than being in the BIOS or other boot ROM) is definitely a problem, but a deliberate attack is problematic.  The issue lies with hundreds of thousands of hobbyists (as well as some of the hackers) who poke and prod at everything.  True, the chance of discovering the attack is random, but so is the chance of keeping the attack undetected.  It isn’t something that an attacker could rely upon.

Yes, these days there are thousands of components, being manufactured by hundreds of vendors.  However, note various factors that need to be considered.

First of all, somebody has to make it.  Most major chips, like CPUs, are a combined effort.  Nobody would be able to make and manufacture a major chip all by themselves.  And, in these days of tight margins and using every available scrap of chip “real estate,” someone would be bound to notice a section of the chip labeled “this space intentionally left blank.”  The more people who are involved, the more likely someone is going to spill the beans, at the very least about an anomaly on the chip, whether or not they knew what it did.  (Once the word is out that there is an anomaly, the lifespan of that secret is probably about three weeks.)

Secondly, there is the issue of the payload.  What can you make it do?  Remember, we are talking components, here.  This means that, in order to make it do anything, you are generally going to have to rely on whatever else is in the device or system in which your chip has been embedded.  You cannot assume that you will have access to communications, memory, disk space, or pretty much anything else, unless you are on the CPU.  Even if you are on the CPU, you are going to be limited.  Do you know what you are?  Are you a computer? Smartphone?  iPod?  (If the last, you are out of luck, unless you want to try and drive the user slowly insane by refusing to play anything except Barry Manilow.)  If you are a computer, do you know what operating system you are running?  Do you know the format of any disk connected to you?  The more you have to know how to deal with, the more programming has to be built into you, and remember that real estate limitation.  Even if all you are going to do is shut down, you have to have access to communications, and you have to a) be able to watch all the traffic, and b) watch all the traffic, without degrading performance while doing so.  (OK, true, it could just be a timer.  That doesn’t allow the attacker a lot of control.)

Next, you have to get people to use your chips.  That means that your chips have to be as cheap as, or cheaper than, the competition.  And remember, you have to use up chip real estate in order to have your payload on the chip.  That means that, for every 1% of chip space you use up for your programming, you lose 1% of manufacturing capacity.  So you have to have deep pockets to fund this.  Your chip also has to be at least as capable as the competition.  It also has to be as reliable as the competition.  You have to test that the payload you’ve put in place does not adversely affect performance, until you tell it to.  And you have to test it in a variety of situations and applications.  All the while making sure nobody finds out your little secret.

Next, you have to trigger your attack.  The trigger can’t be something that could just happen randomly.  And remember, traffic on the Internet, particularly with people streaming videos out there, can be pretty random.  Also remember that there are hundreds of thousands of kids out there with nothing better to do than try to use their computers, smartphones, music players, radio controlled cars, and blenders in exactly the way they aren’t supposed to.  And several thousand who, as soon as something odd happens, start trying to figure out why.

Bad hardware definitely is a threat.  But the largest part of that threat is simply the fact that cheap manufacturers are taking shortcuts and building unreliable components.  If I was an attacker, I would definitely be able to find easier ways to mess up the infrastructure than by trying to create attack chips.

[1] Get it some night when you can borrow it, for free, from your local library DVD collection.  On an evening when you don’t want to think too much.  Or at all.  WARNING: contains jokes that six year olds, and most guys, find funny.

REVIEW: “The Design of Rijndael”, Joan Daemen/Vincent Rijmen

BKDRJNDL.RVW   20091129

“The Design of Rijndael”, Joan Daemen/Vincent Rijmen, 2002, 3-540-42580-2
%A   Joan Daemen
%A   Vincent Rijmen
%C   233 Spring St., New York, NY   10013
%D   2002
%G   3-540-42580-2
%I   Springer-Verlag
%O   212-460-1500 800-777-4643 service-ny@springer-sbm.com
%O  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/3540425802/robsladesinterne
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/3540425802/robsladesinte-21
%O   http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/3540425802/robsladesin03-20
%O   Audience s- Tech 3 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P   238 p.
%T   “The Design of Rijndael: AES – The Advanced Encryption Standard”

This book, written by the authors of the Rijndael encryption algorithm, (the engine underlying the Advanced Encryption Standard) explains how Rijndael works, discusses some implementation factors, and presents the approach to its design.  Daemen and Rijmen note the linear and differential cryptanalytic attacks to which DES (the Data Encryption Standard) was subject, the design strategy that resulted from their analysis, the possibilities of reduce round attacks, and the details of related ciphers.

Chapter one is a history of the AES assessment and decision process.  It is interesting to note the requirements specified, particularly the fact that AES was intended to protect “sensitive but unclassified” material.  Background in regard to mathematical and block cipher concepts is given in chapter two.  The specifications of Rijndael sub-functions and rounds are detailed in chapter three.  Chapter four notes implementation considerations in small platforms and dedicated hardware.  The design philosophy underlying the work is outlined in chapter five: much of it concentrates on simplicity and symmetry.
Differential and linear cryptanalysis mounted against DES is examined in chapter six.  Chapter seven reviews the use of correlation matrices in cryptanalysis.  If differences between pairs of plaintext can be calculated as they propagate through the boolean functions used for intermediate and resultant ciphertext, then chapter eight shows how this can be used as the basis of differential cryptanalysis.  Using the concepts from these two chapters, chapter nine examines how the wide trail design diffuses cipher operations and data to prevent strong linear correlations or differential propagation.  There is also formal proof of Rijndael’s resistant construction.  Chapter ten looks at a number of cryptanalytic attacks and problems (including the infamous weak and semi-weak keys of DES) and notes the protections provided in the design of Rijndael.  Cryptographic algorithms that made a contribution to, or are descended from, Rijndael are described in chapter eleven.

This book is intended for serious students of cryptographic algorithm design: it is highly demanding text, and requires a background in the formal study of number theory and logic.  Given that, it does provide some fascinating examination of both the advanced cryptanalytic attacks, and the design of algorithms to resist them.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2009    BKDRJNDL.RVW   20091129

Caller-ID spoof and voicemail

It’s easy to spoof caller-ID with some VoIP systems.  There are a few Websites that specifically allow it.  It’s a little harder, but geekier, to spoof or overflow caller-ID with a simple Bell 212A modem: it’s transmitted with that tech between the first and second rings of the phone.  (Since most people have caller-ID these days, many telcos don’t play you the first ring.  Since we don’t have caller-ID, we often get accused of answering the phone before it rings.)  (Of course, the rings you hear on the calling side aren’t necessarily the rings heard on the other end, but …)

Apparently AT&T allows immediate access to voicemail on the basis of caller-ID.

Apparently, with Android phones, it’s also gotten even easier to spoof caller-ID.

REVIEW: “SSL and TLS: Theory and Practice”, Rolf Oppliger

BKSSLTTP.RVW   20091129

“SSL and TLS: Theory and Practice”, Rolf Oppliger, 2009, 978-1-59693-447-4
%A   Rolf Oppliger rolf.oppliger@esecurity.ch
%C   685 Canton St., Norwood, MA   02062
%D   2009
%G   978-1-59693-447-4 1-59693-447-6
%I   Artech House/Horizon
%O   617-769-9750 800-225-9977 artech@artech-house.com
%O   http://books.esecurity.ch/ssltls.html
%O  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1596934476/robsladesinterne
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1596934476/robsladesinte-21
%O   http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1596934476/robsladesin03-20
%O   Audience i+ Tech 3 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P   257 p.
%T   “SSL and TLS: Theory and Practice”

The preface states that the book is intended to update the existing literature on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security), and to provide a design level understanding of the protocols.  (Oppliger does not address issues of implementation or specific products.)  The work assumes a basic understanding of TCP/IP, the Internet standards process, and cryptography, altough some fundamental cryptographic principles are given.

Chapter one is a basic introduction to security and some related concepts.  The author uses the definition of security architecture from RFC 2828 to provide a useful starting point and analogy.  The five security services listed in ISO 7498-2 and X.800 (authentication, access control, confidentiality, integrity, and nonrepudiation) are clearly defined, and the resultant specific and pervasive security mechanisms are mentioned.  In chapter two, Oppliger gives a brief overview of a number of cryptologic terms and concepts, but some (such as steganography) may not be relevant to examination of the SSL and TLS protocols.  (There is also a slight conflict: in chapter one, a secure system is defined as one that is proof against a specific and defined threat, whereas, in chapter two, this is seen as conditional security.)  The author’s commentary is, as in all his works, clear and insightful, but the cryptographic theory provided does go well beyond what is required for this topic.

Chapter three, although entitled “Transport Layer Security,” is basically a history of both SSL and TLS.  SSL is examined in terms of the protocols, structures, and messages, in chapter four.  There is also a quick analysis of the structural strength of the specification.
Since TLS is derived from SSL, the material in chapter five concentrates on the differences between SSL 3.0 and TLS 1.0, and then looks at algorithmic options for TLS 1.1 and 1.2.  DTLS (Datagram Transport Layer Security), for UDP (User Datagram Protocol), is described briefly in chapter six, and seems to simply add sequence numbers to UDP, with some additional provision for security cookie exchanges.  Chapter seven notes the use of SSL for VPN (virtual private network) tunneling.  Chapter eight reviews some aspects of
public key certificates, but provides little background for full implementation of PKI (Public Key Infrastructure).  As a finishing touch, chapter nine notes the sidejacking attacks, concerns about man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks (quite germane, at the moment), and notes that we should move from certificate based PKI to a trust and privilege management infrastructure (PMI).

In relatively few pages, Oppliger has provided background, introduction, and technical details of the SSL and TLS variants you are likely to encounter.  The material is clear, well structured, and easily accessible.  He has definitely enhanced the literature, not only of TLS, but also of security in general.

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2009    BKSSLTTP.RVW   20091129