Privacy

Privacy and anonymity

The speed of “social” …

I made a posting on the blog.

Then I moved on to checking news, which I do via Twitter.  And, suddenly, there in my stream was a “tweet” that, fairly obviously, referred to my posting.  By someone I didn’t know, and had never heard of.  From Indonesia.

This blog now has an RSS feed.  Apparently a few people are following that feed.  And, seemingly, every time something gets posted here, it gets copied onto their blogs.

And, in at least one case, that post gets automatically (and programmatically) posted on Twitter.

I would never have known any of this, except that the posting I had made was in reference to something I had found via those stalwarts at the Annals of Improbable Research.  I had made reference to that fact in the first line.  The application used to generate the Twitter posting copies roughly the first hundred characters of the blog post, so the Improbable Research account (pretty much automatically) retweeted the programmed tweet of the blog posting that copied my original blog posting.  I follow Improbable Research on Twitter, so I got the retweet.

This set me to a little exploration.  I found, checking trackbacks, that every one of my postings was being copied to seven different blogs.  Blogs run by people of whom I’d never heard.  (Most of whom don’t seem to have any particular interest in infosec, which is rather odd.)

Well, this blog is public, and my postings are public, so I really can’t complain when the material goes public, even if in a rather larger way than I originally thought.  But it does underline the fact that, once posted on the Internet, it is very unsafe to assume that any information is confidential.  You can’t delete data once it has passed to machines beyond your control.

And it passes very, very fast.

C-30

C. S. Lewis wrote some pretty good sci-fi, some excellent kids books (which Disney managed to ruin), and my favourite satire on the commercialization of Christmas.  Most people, though, would know him as a writer on Christianity.  So I wonder if Stephen Harper and Vic Toews have ever read him.  One of the things he wrote was, “It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”

Bill C-30 (sometimes known as the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act, sometimes known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act, and sometimes just known as “the online spy bill”) is heading for Committee of the Whole.  This means that some aspects of it may change.  But it’ll have to change an awful lot before it becomes even remotely acceptable.

It’s got interesting provisions.  Apparently, as it stands, it doesn’t allow law enforcement to actually demand access to information without a warrant.  But it allows the to request a “voluntary” disclosure of information.  Up until, law enforcement could request voluntary disclosure, of course.  But then the ISP would refuse pretty much automatically, since to provide that information would breach PIPEDA.  So now that automatic protection seems to be lost.

(Speaking of PIPEDA, there is this guy who is being tracked by who-knows-who.  The tracking is being done by an American company, so they can’t be forced by Canadian authorities to say who planted the bug.  But the data is being passed by a Canadian company, Kore Wireless.  And, one would think, they are in breach of PIPEDA, since they are passing personal information to a jurisdiction [the United States] which basically has no legal privacy protection at all.)

It doesn’t have to be law enforcement, either.  The Minister would have the right to authorize anyone his (or her) little heart desires to request the information.

Then there is good old Section 14, which allows the government to make ISPs install any kind of surveillance equipment the government wants, impose confidentiality on anything (like telling people they are being surveilled), or impose any other operational requirements they want.

Now, our Minister of Public Safety (doesn’t that name just make you feel all warm and 1984ish?), Vic Toews, has been promoting the heck out of the bill, even though he actually doesn’t know what it says or what’s in it.  He does know that if you oppose C-30 you are on the side of child pornographers.  This has led a large number of Canadians to cry out #DontToewsMeBro and to suggest that it might be best to #TellVicEverythingRick Mercer, Canada’s answer to Jon Stewart and famous for his “rants,” has weighed in on the matter.

As far as Toews and friends are concerned, the information that they are after, your IP address and connections, are just like a phone book.  Right.  Well, a few years back Google made their “phone book” available.  Given the huge volume of information, even though it was anonymized, researchers were able to aggregate information, and determine locations, names, interests, political views, you name it.  Hey, Google themselves admit that they can tell how you’re feeling.

But, hey, maybe I’m biased.  Ask a lawyer.  Michael Geist knows about these things, and he’s concerned.  (Check out his notes on the new copyright bill, too.

The thing is, it’s not going to do what the government says it’s going to do.  This will not automatically stop child pornography, or terrorism, or online fraudsters.  Hard working, diligent law enforcement officers are going to do that.  There are a lot of those diligent law enforcement officers out there, and they are doing a sometimes amazing job.  And I’d like to help.  But providing this sort of unfiltered data dump for them isn’t going to help.  It’s going to hurt.  The really diligent ones are going to be crowded out by lazy yahoos who will want to waltz into ISP offices and demand data.  And then won’t be able to understand it.

How do I know this?  It’s simple.  Anyone who knows about the technology can tell you that this kind of access is 1) an invasion of privacy, and 2) not going to help.  But this government is going after it anyway.  In spite of the fact that the Minister responsible doesn’t know what is in the bill.  (Or so he says.)  Why is that?  Is it because they are wilfully evil?  (Oh, the temptation.)  Well, no.  These situations tend to be governed by Hanlon’s Rzor which, somewhat modified, states that you should never attribute to malicious intent, that which can adequately explained by assuming pure, blind, pig-ignorant stupidity.

QED.

If you don’t want people to know, then shut up.

The CIA is complaining that news media and other entities are giving away information about it’s agents and operations.

Trouble is, the information being analysed has been provided by the CIA.

If the CIA is being too eager to promote themselves, or careless in censoring the material they do provide, is that the fault of the media?

In doing the CISSP seminars, I use lots of security war stories.  Some of them are from my own work.  Some of them I’ve collected from the attendees over the years.  It’s not hard to use the story to make a point, but leave absolutely no clues as to the company involved, let alone individuals.

Vodafone Hacked – Root Password published

Looks like a nice one:

The Hacker’s Choice announced a security problem
with Vodafone’s Mobile Phone Network today.

An attacker can listen to any UK Vodafone customer’s phone call.

An attacker can exploit a vulnerability in 3G/UMTS/WCDMA – the latest and most secure mobile phone standard in use today.

The technical details are available at http://wiki.thc.org/vodafone.

News article:
http://thcorg.blogspot.com/2011/07/vodafone-hacked-root-password-published.html