Microsoft Partners with Signal to Bring End-To-End Encryption to Skype ( 64

Microsoft and Open Whisper Systems (makers of the Signal app) surprised many on Thursday when they said they are partnering to bring support for end-to-end (E2E) encrypted conversations to Skype. From a report: The new feature, called Skype Private Conversations has been rolled out for initial tests with Skype Insider builds. Private Conversations will encrypt Skype audio calls and text messages. Images, audio or video files sent via Skype's text messaging feature will also be encrypted. Microsoft will be using the Signal open-source protocol to encrypt these communications. This is the same end-to-end encryption protocol used by Facebook for WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, and by Google for the Allo app.

FBI Calls Apple 'Jerks' and 'Evil Geniuses' For Making iPhone Cracks Difficult ( 348

troublemaker_23 shares a report from iTWire: A forensics expert from the FBI has lashed out at Apple, calling the company's security team a bunch of "jerks" and "evil geniuses" for making it more difficult to circumvent the encryption on its devices. Stephen Flatley told the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York on Wednesday that one example of the way that Apple had made it harder for him and his colleagues to break into the iPhone was by recently making the password guesses slower, with a change in hash iterations from 10,000 to 10,000,000. A report on the Motherboard website said Flatley explained that this change meant that the speed at which one could brute-force passwords went from 45 attempts a second to one every 18 seconds. "Your crack time just went from two days to two months," he was quoted as saying. "At what point is it just trying to one up things and at what point is it to thwart law enforcement? Apple is pretty good at evil genius stuff," Flatley added.

WhatsApp Security Flaws Could Be Exploited To Covertly Add Members To Group Chats ( 29

A group of crytopgraphers from Germany's Ruhr University Bochum have uncovered flaws in WhatsApp's security that compromise the instant messaging service's end-to-end encryption. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has over one billion active users. In a paper published last week, "More is Less: On the End-to-End Security of Group Chats in Signal, WhatsApp, and Threema," anyone who controls WhatsApp's servers, including company employees, can covertly add members to any group -- a claim that might not bode well with privacy enthusiasts. From the paper: The described weaknesses enable attacker A, who controls the WhatsApp server or can break the transport layer security, to take full control over a group. Entering the group however leaves traces since this operation is listed in the graphical user interface. The WhatsApp server can therefore use the fact that it can stealthily reorder and drop messages in the group. Thereby it can cache sent messages to the group, read their content first and decide in which order they are delivered to the members. Additionally the WhatsApp server can forward these messages to the members individually such that a subtly chosen combination of messages can help it to cover the traces. Further reading: Wired.
Wireless Networking

With WPA3, Wi-Fi Security is About To Get a Lot Tougher ( 121

One of the biggest potential security vulnerabilities -- public Wi-Fi -- may soon get its fix. From a report: The Wi-Fi Alliance, an industry body made up of device makers including Apple, Microsoft, and Qualcomm, announced Monday its next-generation wireless network security standard, WPA3. The standard will replace WPA2, a near-two decades-old security protocol that's built in to protect almost every wireless device today -- including phones, laptops, and the Internet of Things.

One of the key improvements in WPA3 will aim to solve a common security problem: open Wi-Fi networks. Seen in coffee shops and airports, open Wi-Fi networks are convenient but unencrypted, allowing anyone on the same network to intercept data sent from other devices. WPA3 employs individualized data encryption, which scramble the connection between each device on the network and the router, ensuring secrets are kept safe and sites that you visit haven't been manipulated.
Further reading: WPA3 WiFi Standard Announced After Researchers KRACKed WPA2 Three Months Ago

FBI Chief Calls Unbreakable Encryption 'Urgent Public Safety Issue' ( 442

The inability of law enforcement authorities to access data from electronic devices due to powerful encryption is an "urgent public safety issue," FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday in remarks that sought to renew a contentious debate over privacy and security. From a report: The FBI was unable to access data from nearly 7,800 devices in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 with technical tools despite possessing proper legal authority to pry them open, a growing figure that impacts every area of the agency's work, Wray said during a speech at a cyber security conference in New York. "This is an urgent public safety issue," Wray added, while saying that a solution is "not so clear cut."

After Intel ME, Researchers Find Security Bug In AMD's SPS Secret Chip-on-Chip ( 76

An anonymous reader writes: AMD has fixed, but not yet released BIOS/UEFI/firmware updates for the general public for a security flaw affecting the AMD Secure Processor. This component, formerly known as AMD PSP (Platform Security Processor), is a chip-on-chip security system, similar to Intel's much-hated Management Engine (ME). Just like Intel ME, the AMD Secure Processor is an integrated coprocessor that sits next to the real AMD64 x86 CPU cores and runs a separate operating system tasked with handling various security-related operations.

The security bug is a buffer overflow that allows code execution inside the AMD SPS TPM, the component that stores critical system data such as passwords, certificates, and encryption keys, in a secure environment and outside of the more easily accessible AMD cores. Intel fixed a similar flaw last year in the Intel ME.


Google's Project Zero Team Discovered Critical CPU Flaw Last Year ( 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: In a blog post published minutes ago, Google's Security team announced what they have done to protect Google Cloud customers against the chip vulnerability announced earlier today. They also indicated their Project Zero team discovered this vulnerability last year (although they weren't specific with the timing). The company stated that it informed the chip makers of the issue, which is caused by a process known as "speculative execution." This is an advanced technique that enables the chip to essentially guess what instructions might logically be coming next to speed up execution. Unfortunately, that capability is vulnerable to malicious actors who could access critical information stored in memory, including encryption keys and passwords. According to Google, this affects all chip makers, including those from AMD, ARM and Intel (although AMD has denied they are vulnerable). In a blog post, Intel denied the vulnerability was confined to their chips, as had been reported by some outlets. The Google Security team wrote that they began taking steps to protect Google services from the flaw as soon as they learned about it.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Applauds 'Massive Change' to HTTPS ( 214

"The movement to encrypt the web reached milestone after milestone in 2017," writes the EFF, adding that "the web is in the middle of a massive change from non-secure HTTP to the more secure, encrypted HTTPS protocol." In February, the scales tipped. For the first time, approximately half of Internet traffic was protected by HTTPS. Now, as 2017 comes to a close, an average of 66% of page loads on Firefox are encrypted, and Chrome shows even higher numbers. At the beginning of the year, Let's Encrypt had issued about 28 million certificates. In June, it surpassed 100 million certificates. Now, Let's Encrypt's total issuance volume has exceeded 177 million certificates...

Browsers have been pushing the movement to encrypt the web further, too. Early this year, Chrome and Firefox started showing users "Not secure" warnings when HTTP websites asked them to submit password or credit card information. In October, Chrome expanded the warning to cover all input fields, as well as all pages viewed in Incognito mode. Chrome has eventual plans to show a "Not secure" warning for all HTTP pages... The next big step in encrypting the web is ensuring that most websites default to HTTPS without ever sending people to the HTTP version of their site. The technology to do this is called HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), and is being more widely adopted. Notably, the registrar for the .gov TLD announced that all new .gov domains would be set up with HSTS automatically...

The Certification Authority Authorization (CAA) standard became mandatory for all CAs to implement this year... [And] there's plenty to look forward to in 2018. In a significant improvement to the TLS ecosystem, for example, Chrome plans to require Certificate Transparency starting next April.


Why Linux HDCP Isn't the End of the World ( 136

"There is no reason for the open-source community to worry..." writes Daniel Stone, who heads the graphics team at open-source consultancy Collabora. mfilion quotes Recently, Sean Paul from Google's ChromeOS team, submitted a patch series to enable HDCP support for the Intel display driver. HDCP is used to encrypt content over HDMI and DisplayPort links, which can only be decoded by trusted devices... However, if you already run your own code on a free device, HDCP is an irrelevance and does not reduce freedom in any way....

HDCP support is implemented almost entirely in the hardware. Rather than adding a mandatory encryption layer for content, the HDCP kernel support is dormant unless userspace explicitly requests an encrypted link. It then attempts to enable encryption in the hardware and informs userspace of the result. So there's the first out: if you don't want to use HDCP, then don't enable it! The kernel doesn't force anything on an unwilling userspace.... HDCP is only downstream facing: it allows your computer to trust that the device it has been plugged into is trusted by the HDCP certification authority, and nothing more. It does not reduce user freedom, or impose any additional limitations on device usage.


US Says It Doesn't Need a Court Order To Ask Tech Companies To Build Encryption Backdoors ( 249

schwit1 shares a report from Gizmodo: According to statements from July released this weekend, intelligence officials told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that there's no need for them to approach courts before requesting a tech company help willfully -- though they can always resort to obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order if the company refuses. The documents show officials testified they had never needed to obtain such an FISC order, though they declined to tell the committee whether they had "ever asked a company to add an encryption backdoor," per ZDNet. Other reporting has suggested the FISC has the power to authorize government personnel to compel such technical assistance without even notifying the FISC of what exactly is required. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives authorities additional powers to compel service providers to build backdoors into their products.

PHP Now Supports Argon2 Next-Generation Password Hashing Algorithm ( 94

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: PHP got a whole lot more secure this week with the release of the 7.2 branch, a version that improves and modernizes the language's support for cryptography and password hashing algorithms.

Of all changes, the most significant is, by far, the support for Argon2, a password hashing algorithm developed in the early 2010s. Back in 2015, Argon2 beat 23 other algorithms to win the Password Hashing Competition, and is now in the midst of becoming a universally recognized Internet standard at the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the reward for winning the contest. The algorithm is currently considered to be superior to Bcrypt, today's most widely used password hashing function, in terms of both security and cost-effectiveness, and is also slated to become a favorite among cryptocurrencies, as it can also handle proof-of-work operations.

The other major change in PHP 7.2 was the removal of the old Mcrypt cryptographic library from the PHP core and the addition of Libsodium, a more modern alternative.


Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica' ( 77

dmoberhaus writes: Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus spoke to Denver Gingerich, the programmer behind Sopranica, a DIY, community-oriented cell phone network. "Sopranica is a project intended to replace all aspects of the existing cell phone network with their freedom-respecting equivalents," says Gingerich. "Taking out all the basement firmware on the cellphone, the towers that track your location, the payment methods that track who you are and who owns the number, and replacing it so we can have the same functionality without having to give up all the privacy that we have to give up right now. At a high level, it's about running community networks instead of having companies control the cell towers that we connect to." Motherboard interviews Gingerich and shows you how to use the network to avoid cell surveillance. According to Motherboard, all you need to do to join Sopranica is "create a free and anonymous Jabber ID, which is like an email address." Jabber is slang for a secure instant messaging protocol called XMPP that let's you communicate over voice and text from an anonymous phone number. "Next, you need to install a Jabber app on your phone," reports Motherboard. "You'll also need to install a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) app, which allows your phone to make calls and send texts over the internet instead of the regular cellular network." Lastly, you need to get your phone number, which you can do by navigating to Sopranica's JMP website. (JMP is the code, which was published by Gingerich in January, and "first part of Sopranica.") "These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica's Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet. Click whichever number you want to be your new number on the Sopranica network and enter your Jabber ID. A confirmation code should be sent to your phone and will appear in your Jabber app." As for how JMP protects against surveillance, Gingerich says, "If you're communicating with someone using your JMP number, your cell carrier doesn't actually know what your JMP number is because that's going over data and it's encrypted. So they don't know that that communication is happening."

66 Percent of Popular Android Cryptocurrency Apps Don't Use Encryption ( 32

An anonymous reader shares a report: High-Tech Bridge used its free mobile app analysis software, called Mobile X-Ray, to peek under the hood of the top 30 cryptocurrency apps in the Google Play store at three different popularity levels: apps with up to 100,000 downloads, up to 500,000 downloads, and apps with more than 500,000 downloads. So, a total of 90 apps altogether. Of the most popular apps, 94 percent used outdated encryption, 66 percent didn't use HTTPS to encrypt user information in transit, 44 percent used hard-coded default passwords (stored in plain text in the code), and overall 94 percent of the most popular apps were found to have "at least three medium-risk vulnerabilities."

Linux 4.14 Has Been Released ( 89

diegocg quotes Kernel Newbies: Linux 4.11 has been released. This release adds support for bigger memory limits in x86 hardware (128PiB of virtual address space, 4PiB of physical address space); support for AMD Secure Memory Encryption; a new unwinder that provides better kernel traces and a smaller kernel size; support for the zstd compression algorithm has been added to Btrfs and Squashfs; support for zero-copy of data from user memory to sockets; support for Heterogeneous Memory Management that will be needed in future GPUs; better cpufreq behaviour in some corner cases; faster TBL flushing by using the PCID instruction; asynchronous non-blocking buffered reads; and many new drivers and other improvements.
Phoronix has more on the changes in Linux 4.14 -- and notes that its codename is still "Fearless Coyote."

iPhone Encryption Hampers Investigation of Texas Shooter, Says FBI ( 240

"FBI officials said Tuesday they have been stymied in their efforts to unlock the cellphone of the man who shot and killed at least 26 people at a church here on Sunday," reports the Houston Chronicle. Slashdot reader Anon E. Muss writes: The police obtained a search warrant for the phone, but so far they've been unable to unlock it. The phone has been sent to the FBI, in the hope that they can break in... If it is secure, and the FBI can't open it, expect all hell to break loose. The usual idiots (e.g. politicians) will soon be ranting hysterically about the evil tech industry, and how they're refusing to help law enforcement.
FBI special agent Christopher Combs complained to the Chronicle that "law enforcement increasingly cannot get in to these phones."

A law professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology argues there's other sources of information besides a phone, and police officers might recognize this with better training. As just one example, Apple says the FBI could've simply just used the dead shooter's fingerprint to open his iPhone. But after 48 hours, the iPhone's fingerprint ID stops working.

Following Equifax Breach, CEO Doesn't Know If Data Is Encrypted ( 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechTarget: Equifax alerted the public in September 2017 to a massive data breach that exposed the personal and financial information -- including names, birthdays, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers -- of approximately 145 million customers in the United States to hackers. Following the Equifax breach, the former CEO Richard Smith and the current interim CEO Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. were called to testify before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation this week for a hearing titled "Protecting Consumers in the Era of Major Data Breaches." During the hearing, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) questioned Smith and Barros about Equifax's use of -- or lack of -- encryption for customer data at rest. Smith confirmed that the company was not encrypting data at the time of the Equifax breach, and Gardner questioned whether or not that was intentional. "Was the fact that [customer] data remained unencrypted at rest the result of an oversight, or was that a decision that was made to manage that data unencrypted at rest?" Gardner asked Smith. Smith pointed out that encryption at rest is just one method of security, but eventually confirmed that a decision was made to leave customer data unencrypted at rest. "So, a decision was made to leave it unencrypted at rest?" Gardner pushed. "Correct," Smith responded.

Gardner moved on to Barros and asked whether he has implemented encryption for data at rest since he took over the position on Sept. 26. Barros began to answer by saying that Equifax has done a "top-down review" of its security, but Gardner interrupted, saying it was a yes or no question. Barros stumbled again and said it was being reviewed as part of the response process and Gardner pushed again. "Yes or no, does the data remain unencrypted at rest?" "I don't know at this stage," Barros responded. "Senator, if I may. It's my understanding that the entire environment [in] which this criminal attack occurred is much different; it's a more modern environment with multiple layers of security that did not exist before. Encryption is only one of those layers of security," Smith said.


After Outrage, Logitech Gives Free Upgrade To Owners of Soon To Be Obsolete Device ( 105

It looks like Logitech didn't anticipate the barrage of criticism it received after announcing this week that it would be intentionally bricking its Harmony Link hub next March. The company is now reversing course. Its Harmony Link will still die next summer, but if you own one, the company is happy to give you a free upgrade to the more recent Harmony Hub model. From a report: Originally, Logitech planned to only offer Harmony Link owners with active warranties free upgrades to its new Harmony Hub devices. But for people out of warranty -- possibly the majority of Harmony Link users, as the devices were last sold in 2015 -- they would just get a one-time, 35 percent discount on a new $100 Harmony Hub. However, after customer outrage, Logitech revised it plans and announced that the company will give every Harmony Link owner a new Hub for free. Additionally, users who had already used the coupon to purchase a new Hub will also be able to contact Logitech in order to obtain a refund for the difference in price. However, Logitech is still not planning to extend support for the Harmony Link. The company says, "We made the business decision to end the support and services of the Harmony Link when the encryption certificate expires in the spring of 2018 -- we would be acting irresponsibly by continuing the service knowing its potential/future vulnerability."

DOJ: Strong Encryption That We Don't Have Access To Is 'Unreasonable' ( 510

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Just two days after the FBI said it could not get into the Sutherland Springs shooter's seized iPhone, Politico Pro published a lengthy interview with a top Department of Justice official who has become the "government's unexpected encryption warrior." According to the interview, which was summarized and published in transcript form on Thursday for subscribers of the website, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein indicated that the showdown between the DOJ and Silicon Valley is quietly intensifying. "We have an ongoing dialogue with a lot of tech companies in a variety of different areas," he told Politico Pro. "There's some areas where they are cooperative with us. But on this particular issue of encryption, the tech companies are moving in the opposite direction. They're moving in favor of more and more warrant-proof encryption." "I want our prosecutors to know that, if there's a case where they believe they have an appropriate need for information and there is a legal avenue to get it, they should not be reluctant to pursue it," Rosenstein said. "I wouldn't say we're searching for a case. I''d say we're receptive, if a case arises, that we would litigate."

In the interview, Rosenstein also said he "favors strong encryption." "I favor strong encryption, because the stronger the encryption, the more secure data is against criminals who are trying to commit fraud," he explained. "And I'm in favor of that, because that means less business for us prosecuting cases of people who have stolen data and hacked into computer networks and done all sorts of damage. So I'm in favor of strong encryption." "This is, obviously, a related issue, but it's distinct, which is, what about cases where people are using electronic media to commit crimes? Having access to those devices is going to be critical to have evidence that we can present in court to prove the crime. I understand why some people merge the issues. I understand that they're related. But I think logically, we have to look at these differently. People want to secure their houses, but they still need to get in and out. Same issue here." He later added that the claim that the "absolutist position" that strong encryption should be by definition, unbreakable, is "unreasonable." "And I think it's necessary to weigh law enforcement equities in appropriate cases against the interest in security," he said.


Flaw Crippling Millions of Crypto Keys Is Worse Than First Disclosed ( 76

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A crippling flaw affecting millions -- and possibly hundreds of millions -- of encryption keys used in some of the highest-stakes security settings is considerably easier to exploit than originally reported, cryptographers declared over the weekend. The assessment came as Estonia abruptly suspended 760,000 national ID cards used for voting, filing taxes, and encrypting sensitive documents. The critical weakness allows attackers to calculate the private portion of any vulnerable key using nothing more than the corresponding public portion. Hackers can then use the private key to impersonate key owners, decrypt sensitive data, sneak malicious code into digitally signed software, and bypass protections that prevent accessing or tampering with stolen PCs. When researchers first disclosed the flaw three weeks ago, they estimated it would cost an attacker renting time on a commercial cloud service an average of $38 and 25 minutes to break a vulnerable 1024-bit key and $20,000 and nine days for a 2048-bit key. Organizations known to use keys vulnerable to ROCA—named for the Return of the Coppersmith Attack the factorization method is based on—have largely downplayed the severity of the weakness.

On Sunday, researchers Daniel J. Bernstein and Tanja Lange reported they developed an attack that was 25 percent more efficient than the one created by original ROCA researchers. The new attack was solely the result of Bernstein and Lange based only on the public disclosure information from October 16, which at the time omitted specifics of the factorization attack in an attempt to increase the time hackers would need to carry out real-world attacks. After creating their more efficient attack, they submitted it to the original researchers. The release last week of the original attack may help to improve attacks further and to stoke additional improvements from other researchers as well.


How Cloudflare Uses Lava Lamps To Encrypt the Internet ( 110

YouTuber Tom Scott was invited to visit Cloudflare's San Francisco headquarters to check out the company's wall of lava lamps. These decorative novelty items -- while neat to look at -- serve a special purpose for the internet security company. Cloudflare takes pictures and video of the lava lamps to turn them into "a stream of random, unpredictable bytes," which is used to help create the keys that encrypt the traffic that flow through Cloudflare's network. ZDNet reports: Cloudflare is a DNS service which also offers distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack protection, security, free SSL, encryption, and domain name services. Cloudflare is known for providing good standards of encryption, but it seems the secret is out -- this reputation is built in part on lava lamps. Roughly 10 percent of the Internet's traffic passes through Cloudflare, and as the firm deals with so much encrypted traffic, many random numbers are required. According to Nick Sullivan, Cloudfare's head of cryptography, this is where the lava lamps shine. Instead of relying on code to generate these numbers for cryptographic purposes, the lava lamps and the random lights, swirling blobs and movements are recorded and photographs are taken. The information is then fed into a data center and Linux kernels which then seed random number generators used to create keys to encrypt traffic. "Every time you take a picture with a camera there's going to be some sort of static, some sort of noise," Sullivan said. "So it's not only just where the bubbles are flowing through the lava lamp; it is the state of the air, the ambient light -- every tiny change impacts the stream of data." Cloudflare also reportedly uses a "chaotic pendulum" in its London office to generate randomness, and in Singapore, they use a radioactive source.

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