Kahomono - It Means Lucky

Random musings on whatever subject strikes my fancy that day.

Tag: security (Page 1 of 4)

Back Doors are for Bad Guys

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, says he’s going to ban strong encryption within his country. Somehow this is going to make everyone safe from terrorists. I have some questions:

  • Are terrorists the ones who will abide by such a law, first and foremost?
  • Is it your intention to shut down all  e-Commerce in the UK?
  • How will it improve the welfare of British citizens to have the UK cut off from the rest of the Internet?

When that notoriously left-wing publication, Forbes, caught up with Internet security expert Bruce Schneier for his reaction, he was uncharacteristically hyperbolic: “My immediate reaction was disbelief, followed by confusion and despair.”  It makes no sense even to try this, according to Schneier.

Technically, there is no such thing as a “backdoor to law enforcement.” Backdoor access is a technical requirement, and limiting access to law enforcement is a policy requirement. As an engineer, I cannot design a system that works differently in the presence of a particular badge or a signed piece of paper. I have two options. I can design a secure system that has no backdoor access, meaning neither criminals nor foreign intelligence agencies nor domestic police can get at the data. Or I can design a system that has backdoor access, meaning they all can.

So try, and join the rogues’ gallery of China, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, who have all tried to censor the Internet and have all failed.

Cameron and Xi Jinping, censorship BFFs

It is worth remembering that the internet was designed beginning in the 1960s as a project of the Advanced Research Projects Administration, a DoD agency.  The original idea was to have a digital communications network with enough redundancy and resiliency that nuclear strikes would not disable it, merely slow it down.

The millions of routers that run the Internet are designed to have a primary way to get the next unit of data where it needs to go, and one or more backup ways if the primary fails (yes that’s a vast oversimplification).  More to the point, there is no truly central controller.  Every node in the network shares routing information and rules on how to apply it with every other node.  To kill “the Internet” you would have to kill so many nodes, you might as well be planning to end civilization.

Network architect John Gilmore pointed out an interesting consequence of this design.  He said, “The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

Cameron’s try at the Great Firewall has the stated goal of making us safer from terrorists.  This objective is so far beyond the reach of his proposal as to be simply ludicrous.   The real result would either be as porous as China’s and the rest, or would take his country to the information-economy status of North Korea.  In any case, Cameron, or someone advising him, must know this.

So which one is the one that he wants?

Spoiler Alert: Government Spy Agencies Might Be Lying

UK intelligence agencies are claiming that they are having to move agents who are endangered in the field, and according to this report the reason is… Edward Snowden!

I must say, this has the stink of the barnyard.  Information about the nature of surveillance programs, which is what Snowden revealed, is so far from operational info about field agents that it might as well be the 1997 Minnesota Twins’ box scores.  If agencies are having their networks compromised they should look to the flaws in their protocols that allowed Snowden to take any files out, not to the actual files Snowden took out.

Assuming they are not flat-out lying about having to roll up field networks (a BIG-ass-umption), they are simply scapegoating the man they love to hate.

The Chinese just breached a carload of US government data from security clearance applications. So now they know:

  • Who has clearance
  • At what level
  • What is all the garbage those people had in their background that had to be vetted out to give them the clearance.

Now which one is more likely to have compromised field agents?  That?  Or a detailed description of how Verizon rolls over and gives the gov’t all your call data?

But wait – what could the government POSSIBLY want with distracting you from the Chinese breach and turning attention back on Snowden?  Such a mystery.

Why Security on the Internet is an Afterthought

This WaPo article gives us an historical perspective on why the Internet was designed to operate mostly with no encryption.  The money quote:

“Back in those days, the NSA still had the ability to visit a professor and say, ‘Do not publish that paper on cryptography.’ ”
As the ’70s wound down, [Vint] Cerf and [Robert] Kahn abandoned their efforts to bake cryptography into TCP/IP, bowing to what they considered insurmountable barriers.

This is really a great piece on how the internet morphed from an academic & defense research project to the collective nervous system of humanity.  I came into the field during the second decade of the Internet and it was not really a part of my life until about four or five years in.  I really enjoyed the insight into the earlier days.  Note the role Richard Stallman took back then – it hasn’t really changed much, at its core.

h/t to Rob Slade via CISSPForum.

Do you own your car?

Or does GM?  I’m not referring here to leasing vs. buying.  I am referring to the fact that GM has recently declared that only mechanics they license are allowed to work on “your” car.  And if you take it to another mechanic, or use less-expensive after-market parts, or connect the car’s diagnostic port to a home-brew or third-party device, the issue is not merely the possibility of voiding the warranty.  The issue is, GM can more or less unilaterally declare you to be in violation of the Anti-Circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).  You can be charged with a crime at the Federal level.


Here is where the evils of DRM (that I started to write about here) intersect with the entertainment industry lobbyists’ power to get stuff enacted into laws, and affect how we can use technology we think we own.  These laws have effects on our lives that are not at all well-understood, not even by the content-industry monopolists who paid to have them enacted.

Do farmers own their tractors?  According to comments filed by John Deere with the Copyright Office, they do not.  They are not allowed to modify any aspect of “their” tractor that is mediated by software, which is pretty much anything useful.  This article in Wired brings up a case of a farmer — a neighbor of the author — who cannot get his transplanter fixed because he is not given access to the correct diagnostic software.  And so he has a six-figure barn ornament.

In their comments in support of this policy, Deere points out that if they were allowed to tinker with the tractors’ software, farmers might change the engine tuning to violate the EPA pollution regulations.  Well, OK, but then they would owe the EPA a fine, not John Deere.  They might even use the in-cab entertainment system to pirate music.  (Roll that around in your brain for a minute.) Yes, that’s why the farmer spends half a million bucks on a harvester — to evade paying $9.99 for a Taylor Swift CD.

 

Convenience

Wireless Car Locks are designed for convenience.  Yours, and also car thieves’.

In this NYT story, the author describes why he now keeps his car keys in the freezer:

He explained it like this: In a normal scenario, when you walk up to a car with a keyless entry and try the door handle, the car wirelessly calls out for your key so you don’t have to press any buttons to get inside. If the key calls back, the door unlocks. But the keyless system is capable of searching for a key only within a couple of feet. 

Mr. Danev said that when the teenage girl turned on her device, it amplified the distance that the car can search, which then allowed my car to talk to my key, which happened to be sitting about 50 feet away, on the kitchen counter. And just like that, open sesame.

He’s now using the freezer as a Faraday cage to prevent this – his Prius had been broken into three times as of the writing.  This method is less useful for stealing the car than for entering it, because once it’s driven away there will be obvious difficulties without the key.

I think my plan will involve two things, none of them below room temperature.  One, we will no longer keep ANYTHING of value in the car.  And two, we will get Faraday bags similar to those that protect your new “secure” passports and keep our key fobs in there when not driving.

Page 1 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén