We need a “DO NOT TRACK” option for smart-phones!

smartphones tracking users

smartphones tracking users

Hey Apple, Google, when are you going to have a DO NOT TRACK option on your smartphones’ operating systems?
This is another idea, maybe RIM engineers can come up with a feature like that to give the BlackBerrys a fighting chance.

The fact that most of us carry (voluntarily) a tracking device should not be news for anybody. I guess the news-worthy part is that somebody expossed what Apple and Google where doing. I am not sure it is illegal, have you checked the small font bits of the contract you signed? Me neither.
Believe me, that Apple and Google know where you are and where you have been is not the biggest of our problems with privacy as discussed in here.

Related:

(h/t) Raymond who sent this link

More on Cyberwar

Cyber War: Is the Ultimate WMD For Sale at Best Buy?

Short Video from PJTV featuring an interview with Paul Rosenzweig.

Attacks on Cryptographic Systems (Part I)

  • Soft Attacks
    No matter how sophisticated the attack techniques become, one must not forget that when the ultimate goal is to obtain the secret message, coercion or social engineering are often the most effective attack techniques. These attacks are based on using physical or psychological threats, robbery, bribery, embezzlement, etc. The attacks are mostly directed to human links of the data security chain.
    Social Networks have become a launching pad for these kind of attacks. In a typical soft attack such as the so-called spear-phishing, e-mail addresses and information about the victims social circle is harvested from social networks and then used to send targeted e-mail with malware that cause to reveal secret information for access to secured systems.
  • Brute Force Attacks
    Assuming, as Kerchoff’s principle recommends, that the algorithm used for encryption and the general context of the message are known to the cryptanalyst, the brute-force attack involves the determination of the specific key being used to encrypt a particular text. When successful, the attacker will also be able to decipher all future messages until the keys are changed. One way to determine the key entails exhaustive search of the key-space (defined as the set of all possible valid keys for the particular crypto-system).
    Brute force is a passive, off-line attack in which the attacker Eve passively eavesdrops the communication channel and records cipher text exchanges for further analysis, without interacting with either Alice or Bob.
    To estimate the time that a successful brute-force attack will take we need to know the size of the key-space and the speed at which each key can be tested. If N_k is the number of valid keys and we can test N_s keys per second, it will take, on average \frac{1}{2}(\frac{N_k}{N_s}) seconds to find the proper key by brute-force.
    The threat that a brute-force attack poses cannot be underestimated in the real world. Most financial institutions use cipher-systems based on DES. Keys of length 56-bits, such as the one used by the
    standard implementation of DES, can be obtained by brute-force using computer hardware and software available since the late 1990’s. Indeed, to counter this possibility, most contemporary implementations of DES use a derivative known as Triple-DES (or 3-DES) which uses three different 56-bit keys instead of one. The effective key length for the combined 3-DES key is a more secure 168 bits.
    Brute force analysis have been used in combination with other attacks as was the case for the deciphering of the Enigma. The famous bombes were an example of the brute-force approach working in combination with a mathematical method that provided an important reduction of the key-space.

To be continued…..

Fingerprinting Computers – Part II – Hardware


The fingerprinting of a computer using data accessible or generated by software is subjected to a Replay attack or could be easily disrupted by malware. This method should not be used to authenticate the machine.
In order to defeat Replay attacks, the fingerprinting algorithm needs to generate a one time string, based on some unique property of the hardware and that can be used by the verifier to check the identity of the computer.
One example of such technology is the Intel IPT (Identity Protection Technology) that works by generating a unique 6 digit number every 30 seconds. This number is generated by a section of the chip that is inaccessible to the Operating system and holds some secret key shared with the validator/server. Once a particular processor is linked to a server, the server will be able to identify the CPU and validate the computer. Of course this does not imply user authentication and the intended use of this technology is as an additional factor on a multi-factor authentication scheme.
A Public Key infrastructure (Certificate Authority) is still needed to defeat the Man in the Middle attack.
Technologies that can identify hardware to the chip level are being developed to prevent counterfeiting. These are based on the PUF (Physically Unclonable Functions) that use physical variations of the circuit to extract certain parameters that are unique to each chip and cannot be reproduced nor manipulated without physically tampering with the circuit.
Related:
Power-up of a SRAM as a source of Entropy and Identification
Secure Processors, the ultimate battlefield
A PUF Design for Secure FPGA-Based Embedded Systems

Net Neutrality, another bad idea [Updated]

What can go wrong with the government dictating how much companies can charge for bandwidth on the internet?
They certainly have a very good track record regulating it.

Regulators are congenitally incapable of grasping that they create more problems than they solve

This is why I am always wary of attempts at regulation.

Fingerprinting Computers – Part I – Your browser.

Authentication is about the only big open problem in the practice of internet security. The existing encryption and hashing algorithms as well as the key generation/management protocols offer a high degree of security, barring programming/implementation errors.
Authentication technologies face serious challenges mainly because identity is difficult to establish with a 100% certainty even using physical characteristics, i.e., signatures and credentials can be forged, the physical appearance of people can be manipulated, etc.
Read more of this post

It didn’t take very long… [UPDATED]

for my prediction to become a reality.
PC world reported on Feb 18 that a bunch of websites, only 84,000, were taken down “accidentally” by the ICE.
I have zero sympathy for people who uses the web to steal or commit morally reprehensible acts, however, if I can anticipate the heavy damage that a government agency with the power to shut down internet domains can unleash on hardworking and honest people,you cannot convince me that the legislators cannot figure this was bound to happen. Obviously they don’t care about the consequences of their grandstanding have for the rest of us mortals. And at the end of the day, shutting down websites doesn’t stop the traffic of child pornography or stolen intellectual property, it is just a nuisance for the bad guys that now need to go and setup another channel.
The danger for the rest of us is this, if we trust the government, any government, with the switch to the Internet, how long before the shutting down of domains is used as a way to silence dissent?
Oh wait! It did already happened? That was another prediction that turned to be right!

UPDATE

Check this Hall of Shame page at the EFF

from Backdoor to Backdoor

While the FBI was accused to set a backdoor to OpenBSD, the NSA clears the record on DES.
There are many stories about sneaking sophisticated chunks of code that make perfectly good encryption system to leak information. Something like this is extremely difficult to do without nobody noticing it and I think that it must be considered as a lot of unnecessary trouble for the guys that rather will nicely ask for the keys to your front door.

The End Of IP As We Know It (from SANS website)

SANS Institute has the best article I’ve seen on the issue of IPv4 address space exhaustion. A good read, including the comments.

Today, IANA announced that it had handed out two more /8 IPv4 assignments to APNIC. As a result, IANA is down to 5 /8s, triggering its special policy to hand out one address to each regional registrar (RIR). The 5 RIRs are AFRNIC (Africa), APNIC (Asia Pacific), ARIN (North America), LACNIC (Latin

via The End Of IP As We Know It.

2011 at its Prime

The fact that 2011 is a prime number didn’t escape the mathematical inclined minds. Moreover, as tweeted @mathematicsprof 2011 can be expressed as the sum of the 11 consecutive primes 157+163+167+173+179+181+191+193+197+199+211.

This already sets the stage for a year that, I will dare to predict, will not be easily forgotten. A confluence of processes already in motion may result in drastic changes for the world and in particular the Internet. To wit:

  • Cyber-attacks can get ‘physical’ as the stuxnet virus proved,
  • There is a struggle to control the internet at all levels,
  • Privacy and mobile computers have compatiblility issues,
  • All this against the backdrop of economical and political turmoil.

 

As the Chinese say “May you live in interesting times” ….