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Privacy

Tor Onion Browser's Creator Explains Free Version For iOS (mike.tig.as) 25

The free iOS version of the Tor browser "sparked a tidal wave of interest" after its release in December, according to Silicon.co. Mickeycaskill writes: The cost has been scrapped due to developer Mike Tigas' worries that the price was limiting access to anonymous browsing for those who need it most. "Given recent events, many believe it's more important than ever to exercise and support freedom of speech, privacy rights, and digital security," Tigas wrote in a blog post. "I think now is as good a time as ever to make Onion Browser more accessible to everyone."
"I'm still a little terrified that I've made this change," Tigas adds. For four years the Tor Onion browser was available on the Apple App Store for $0.99, the lowest non-free price allowed by Apple, providing a "reliable" income to Tigas which helped him move to New York for a new job while allowing him "the economic freedom to continue working on side projects that have a positive impact in the world." Tigas also writes that "there's now a Patreon page and other ways to support the project."

Last month the Tor Project also released the first alpha version of the sandboxed Tor Browser.
Security

Security Experts Rebut The Guardian's Report That Claimed WhatsApp Has a Backdoor (gizmodo.com) 111

William Turton, writing for Gizmodo: This morning, the Guardian published a story with an alarming headline: "WhatsApp backdoor allows snooping on encrypted messages." If true, this would have massive implications for the security and privacy of WhatsApp's one-billion-plus users. Fortunately, there's no backdoor in WhatsApp, and according to Alec Muffett, an experienced security researcher who spoke to Gizmodo, the Guardian's story is a "major league fuckwittage." [...] Fredric Jacobs, who was the iOS developer at Open Whisper Systems, the collective that designed and maintains the Signal encryption protocol, and who most recently worked at Apple, said, "Nothing new. Of course, if you don't verify keys Signal/WhatsApp/... can man-in-the-middle your communications." "I characterize the threat posed by such reportage as being fear and uncertainty and doubt on an 'anti-vaccination' scale," Muffett, who previously worked on Facebook's engineering security infrastructure team, told Gizmodo. "It is not a bug, it is working as designed and someone is saying it's a 'flaw' and pretending it is earth shattering when in fact it is ignorable." The supposed "backdoor" the Guardian is describing is actually a feature working as intended, and it would require significant collaboration with Facebook to be able to snoop on and intercept someone's encrypted messages, something the company is extremely unlikely to do. "There's a feature in WhatsApp that -- when you swap phones, get a new phone, factory reset, whatever -- when you install WhatsApp freshly on the new phone and continue a conversation, the encryption keys get re-negotiated to accommodate the new phone," Muffett told Gizmodo. Other security experts and journalists have also criticized The Guardian's story.
Bug

Buggy Domain Validation Forces GoDaddy To Revoke SSL Certificates (threatpost.com) 33

msm1267 quotes a report from Threatpost: GoDaddy has revoked, and begun the process of re-issuing, new SSL certificates for more than 6,000 customers after a bug was discovered in the registrar's domain validation process. The bug was introduced July 29 and impacted fewer than two percent of the certificates GoDaddy issued from that date through yesterday, said vice president and general manager of security products Wayne Thayer. "GoDaddy inadvertently introduced the bug during a routine code change intended to improve our certificate issuance process," Thayer said in a statement. "The bug caused the domain validation process to fail in certain circumstances." GoDaddy said it was not aware of any compromises related to the bug. The issue did expose sites running SSL certs from GoDaddy to spoofing where a hacker could gain access to certificates and pose as a legitimate site in order to spread malware or steal personal information such as banking credentials. GoDaddy has already submitted new certificate requests for affected customers. Customers will need to take action and log in to their accounts and initiate the certificate process in the SSL Panel, Thayer said.
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Was 2016's Best-Performing Currency (newsweek.com) 104

The co-founder of Blockchain published an opinion piece in Newsweek today mocking predictions about the death of bitcoin, saying "each is more wrong than the last... Bitcoin was again declared the world's best performing currency in 2016 by Bloomberg. In fact, it's held that title every year since 2010, with the notable exception of 2014, when it was the worst." An anonymous reader writes: Bitcoin president Nicolas Cary writes that bitcoin has become more stable than many of the world's top currencies, while the British pound "has dropped by more than 17% in a colossal collapse of confidence... In Africa, the Egyptian pound dropped 59% and the Nigerian naira fell 37%. In South America, the Argentine peso plummeted over 17% and the Venezuelan bolivar tumbled so far off a cliff it's difficult to measure -- even bricks of cash are worthless for everyday purchases there. Perhaps most dramatically of all, India, the world's second most populated country, introduced a stunning policy of demonetization declaring banknotes illegal overnight...

"During this time period, and partially in response to it, the price of bitcoin surged... Bitcoin also trounced the stock market from a performance perspective. Brand names like McDonald's, Home Depot and Disney grew at a paltry 1.6% or less; bitcoin outpaced them by over 70 times."

In 2009 one man in Norway bought $27 worth of bitcoin while writing a thesis on encryption, then forgot about them. Six years later, he discovered they were worth nearly $500,000.
Encryption

Koolova Ransomware Decrypts For Free If You Read Two Articles About Ransomware (bleepingcomputer.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: We have a new in-development variant of the Koolova Ransomware that will decrypt your files for free if you educate yourself about ransomware by reading two articles. Discovered by security researcher Michael Gillespie, this in-development ransomware is not ready for prime time. In fact, I had to mess with it a bit and setup a local http server to even get it to display the ransom screen. In its functional state, Koolova will encrypt a victim's files and then display a screen similar to the Jigsaw Ransomware where the text is slowly shown on the screen. This text will tell the victim that they must read two articles before they can get a decryption key. It then tells you that if you are too lazy to read two articles before the countdown gets to zero, like Jigsaw, it will delete the encrypted files. This is not an idle threat as it actually does delete the files. The articles that Koolova wants you to read are an article from Google Security Blog called Stay safe while browsing and BleepingComputer's very own Jigsaw Ransomware Decrypted: Will delete your files until you pay the Ransom article. Once you read both articles, the Decripta i Miei File, or Decrypt My Files, button becomes available. Once you click on this button, Koolova will connect to the Command and Control server and retrieve the victim's decryption key. It will then display it in a message box labeled "Nice Jigsaw," in reference to the Jigsaw Ransomware, that displays your decryption key. A victim will then be able to take that key and enter it into the key field in order to decrypt files.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

2016 Saw A Massive Increase In Encrypted Web Traffic (eff.org) 91

EFF's "Deeplinks" blog has published nearly two dozen "2016 in Review" posts over the last nine days, one of which applauds 2016 as "a great year for adoption of HTTPS encryption for secure connections to websites." An anonymous reader writes: In 2016 most pages viewed on the web were encrypted. And over 21 million web sites obtained security certificates -- often for the first time -- through Let's Encrypt. But "a sizeable part of the growth in HTTPS came from very large hosting providers that decided to make HTTPS a default for sites that they host, including OVH, Wordpress.com, Shopify, Tumblr, Squarespace, and many others," EFF writes. Other factors included the support of Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3 by Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
Other "2016 in Review" posts from EFF include Protecting Net Neutrality and the Open Internet and DRM vs. Civil Liberties. Click through for a complete list of all EFF "2016 in Review" posts.
Science

Let's Raise A Glass To The Many Tech Pioneers Who Died In 2016 (slashdot.org) 64

In technology, you're always "standing on the shoulders" of those who came before you -- and together, each individual's contribution becomes part of a larger ongoing story. So as this year finally winds to a close, click through to see our list of some of the pioneers who left us in 2016. And feel free to share any memories and reflections of your own in the comments.
Bitcoin

Destructive KillDisk Malware Turns Into Ransomware (securityweek.com) 56

wiredmikey writes from a report via SecurityWeek: A recently discovered variant of the KillDisk malware encrypts files and holds them for ransom instead of deleting them. Since KillDisk has been used in attacks aimed at industrial control systems (ICS), experts are concerned that threat actors may be bringing ransomware into the industrial domain. CyberX VP of research David Atch told SecurityWeek that the KillDisk variant they have analyzed is a well-written piece of ransomware, and victims are instructed to pay 222 bitcoins ($210,000) to recover their files, which experts believe suggests that the attackers are targeting "organizations with deep pockets." From the report: "The ransomware is designed to encrypt various types of files, including documents, databases, source code, disk images, emails and media files. Both local partitions and network folders are targeted. The contact email address provided to affected users is associated with Lelantos, a privacy-focused email provider only accessible through the Tor network. The Bitcoin address to which victims are told to send the ransom has so far not made any transactions. Atch pointed out that the same RSA public key is used for all samples, which means that a user who receives a decryptor will likely be able to decrypt files for all victims. According to CyberX, the malware requires elevated privileges and registers itself as a service. The threat terminates various processes, but it avoids critical system processes and ones associated with anti-malware applications, likely to avoid disrupting the system and triggering detection by security products."
Encryption

US Congressional Committee Concludes Encryption Backdoors Won't Work (betanews.com) 98

"Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest," reports a bipartisan committee in the U.S. Congress. Mark Wilson quotes Beta News: The Congressional Encryption Working Group (EWG) was set up in the wake of the Apple vs FBI case in which the FBI wanted to gain access to the encrypted contents of a shooter's iPhone. The group has just published its end-of-year report summarizing months of meetings, analysis and debate. The report makes four key observations, starting off with: "Any measure that weakens encryption works against the national interest".

This is certainly not a new argument against encryption backdoors for the likes of the FBI, but it is an important one... The group says: "Congress should not weaken this vital technology... Cryptography experts and information security professionals believe that it is exceedingly difficult and impractical, if not impossible, to devise and implement a system that gives law enforcement exceptional access to encrypted data without also compromising security against hackers, industrial spies, and other malicious actors...

The report recommends that instead, Congress "should foster cooperation between the law enforcement community and technology companies," adding "there is already substantial cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement." [PDF] It also suggests that analyzing the metadata from "our digital 'footprints'...could play a role in filling in the gap. The technology community leverages this information every day to improve services and target advertisements. There appears to be an opportunity for law enforcement to better leverage this information in criminal investigations."
Encryption

Russian Authorities Are Trying To Unlock iPhone 4S From Russian Ambassador's Killer (techcrunch.com) 106

The off-duty police officer who killed the Russian ambassador in Turkey was shot by Turkish special forces minutes after the crime. He had an iPhone 4S on him, and now, Haberturk, Turkish authorities asked for Russia's help to unlock the iPhone. From a report: Given that it's an iPhone 4S and it has a 4-digit passcode, it should be quite easy to unlock the device. There are many solutions out there to do this and authorities don't even need to ask for Apple's help. The iPhone 4S is quite old now and it was a much less secure device. First, the iPhone 4S runs iOS 5 to iOS 9, but many iPhone 4S owners didn't update to recent iOS versions. If the device runs iOS 7 or earlier, getting the content of the device is a piece of cake. The content of the device isn't encrypted as Apple started encrypting all data with iOS 8. Authorities can access this data quite easily. Second, if the iPhone is running iOS 8, remember that the iPhone 4S didn't have a Secure Enclave and Touch ID sensor. The Secure Enclave is a coprocessor that utilizes a secure boot process to make sure that it's uncompromized. It has a secret unique ID not accessible by the rest of the phone, Apple or anyone -- it's like a private key. The phone generates ephemeral keys (think public keys) to talk with the Secure Enclave. They only work with the unique ID to encrypt and decrypt the data on the coprocessor.
Encryption

Leaked Files Reveal Scope of Cellebrite's Smartphone-Cracking Technology (zdnet.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Earlier this year, we were sent a series of large, encrypted files purportedly belonging to a U.S. police department as a result of a leak at a law firm, which was insecurely synchronizing its backup systems across the internet without a password. Among the files was a series of phone dumps created by the police department with specialist equipment, which was created by Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that provides phone-cracking technology. We obtained a number of these so-called extraction reports. One of the more interesting reports by far was from an iPhone 5 running iOS 8. The phone's owner didn't use a passcode, meaning the phone was entirely unencrypted. The phone was plugged into a Cellebrite UFED device, which in this case was a dedicated computer in the police department. The police officer carried out a logical extraction, which downloads what's in the phone's memory at the time. (Motherboard has more on how Cellebrite's extraction process works.) In some cases, it also contained data the user had recently deleted. To our knowledge, there are a few sample reports out there floating on the web, but it's rare to see a real-world example of how much data can be siphoned off from a fairly modern device. We're publishing some snippets from the report, with sensitive or identifiable information redacted.
Encryption

Encrypted Messaging App Signal Uses Google To Bypass Censorship (pcworld.com) 87

Developers of the popular Signal secure messaging app have started to use Google's domain as a front to hide traffic to their service and to sidestep blocking attempts. Bypassing online censorship in countries where internet access is controlled by the government can be very hard for users. It typically requires the use of virtual private networking (VPN) services or complex solutions like Tor, which can be banned too. From a report on PCWorld: Open Whisper Systems, the company that develops Signal -- a free, open-source app -- faced this problem recently when access to its service started being censored in Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Some users reported that VPNs, Apple's FaceTime and other voice-over-IP apps were also being blocked. The solution from Signal's developers was to implement a censorship circumvention technique known as domain fronting that was described in a 2015 paper by researchers from University of California, Berkeley, the Brave New Software project and Psiphon. The technique involves sending requests to a "front domain" and using the HTTP Host header to trigger a redirect to a different domain. If done over HTTPS, such redirection would be invisible to someone monitoring the traffic, because the HTTP Host header is sent after the HTTPS connection is negotiated and is therefore part of the encrypted traffic.
Encryption

NIST Asks Public For Help With Quantum-Proof Cryptography (securityledger.com) 138

chicksdaddy quotes a report from The Security Ledger: With functional, quantum computers on the (distant?) horizon, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is asking the public for help heading off what it calls "a looming threat to information security:" powerful quantum computers capable of breaking even the strongest encryption codes used to protect the privacy of digital information. In a statement Tuesday, NIST asked the public to submit ideas for "post-quantum cryptography" algorithms that will be "less susceptible to a quantum computer's attack." NIST formally announced its quest in a publication on The Federal Register. Dustin Moody, a mathematician at NIST said the Institute's main focus is developing new public key cryptography algorithms, which are used today to protect both stored and transmitted information. "We're looking to replace three NIST cryptographic standards and guidelines that would be the most vulnerable to quantum computers," Moody said. They are FIPS 186-4, NIST SP 800-56A and NIST SP 800-56B. Researchers have until November, 2017 to submit their ideas. After the deadline, NIST will review the submissions. Proposals that meet the "post-quantum crypto" standards set up by NIST will be invited to present their algorithms at an open workshop in early 2018.
Encryption

Egypt Has Blocked Encrypted Messaging App Signal (engadget.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: Egypt has blocked its residents from accessing encrypted messaging app Signal, according to the application's developer. Mada Masr, an Egypt-based media organization, reported yesterday that several users took to Twitter over the weekend to report that they could no longer send or receive messages while on Egyptian IP addresses. Open Whisper Systems, the team behind the app, told a user asking about a situation that everything was working just as intended on their end. Now that the company has confirmed that the country is blocking access to Edward Snowden's preferred messaging app, it has begun working on a way to circumvent the ban. They intend to deploy their solution over the next few weeks.
Security

Aircraft Entertainment Systems Hacks Are Back (threatpost.com) 56

Reader msm1267 writes: Researchers at IOActive today disclosed vulnerabilities in Panasonic Avionics In-Flight Entertainment Systems that were reported to the manufacturer close to two years ago. The flaws could be abused to manipulate in-flight data shown to passengers, or access personal information and credit card data swiped at the seat for premium entertainment or Internet access. Given that the firmware is customizable and used by dozens airlines in hundreds of aircraft models, the researchers said it's almost impossible to determine whether the vulnerabilities no longer exist across the board. IOActive said that segmentation between aircraft control and information services that oversee avionics and operational control of a plane should isolate these vulnerabilities to passenger entertainment domains. Whether an attacker could cross those domains and affect critical avionics systems would depend on specific devices and configurations, IOActive said, given that a physical path could exist that connects those systems through satellite communications terminals that provide in-flight updates to critical systems. The concern is that whether in some configurations, IFEs would share access to these devices and provide the physical path an attacker would need to reach critical systems. As for the vulnerabilities in passenger systems, IOActive said there is a lack of authentication and encryption between an on-board server and clients at passenger seats. This could allow an attacker on board to send commands to the IFE system to manipulate what's displayed to passengers, or read payment card data swiped at seats.
Bug

Google Releases Tool To Find Common Crypto Bugs (onthewire.io) 22

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: Google has released a new set of tests it uses to probe cryptographic libraries for vulnerabilities to known attacks. The tests can be used against most kinds of crypto algorithms and the company already has found 40 new weaknesses in existing algorithms. The tests are called Project Wycheproof, and Google's engineers designed them to help developers implement crypto libraries without having to become experts. Cryptographic libraries can be quite difficult to implement and making errors can lead to serious security problems. Attackers often will look for weak crypto implementations as a means of circumventing strong encryption in a target app. Among the issues that Google's engineers found with the Project Wycheproof tests is one in ECDH that allows an attacker to recover the private key in some circumstances. The bug is the result of some libraries not checking the elliptic curve points that they get from outside sources. "In cryptography, subtle mistakes can have catastrophic consequences, and mistakes in open source cryptographic software libraries repeat too often and remain undiscovered for too long. Good implementation guidelines, however, are hard to come by: understanding how to implement cryptography securely requires digesting decades' worth of academic literature. We recognize that software engineers fix and prevent bugs with unit testing, and we found that many cryptographic issues can be resolved by the same means," Daniel Bleichenbacher and Thai Duong, security engineers at Google, said in a post announcing the tool release. "Encodings of public keys typically contain the curve for the public key point. If such an encoding is used in the key exchange then it is important to check that the public and secret key used to compute the shared ECDH secret are using the same curve. Some libraries fail to do this check," Google's documentation says.
Encryption

Evernote Reverses Course On Opt-out Privacy Policy That Would've Exposed Users' Content To Employees (venturebeat.com) 52

Evernote has withdrawn planned changes to its privacy policy that would have permitted some employees to view the content of users' note, as the company works on new features that rely on machine-learning technology. From a report on VentureBeat: The company caused an uproar earlier this week when news emerged of the pending changes, which were due to take effect on January 23. Even if users were to opt out of allowing their information to be viewed by employees, the planned changes drew attention to the company's existing policy that permitted employees to look at users' content "for other reasons stated in our Privacy Policy," which included quite a few vague reasons, including "to maintain and improve the service." Evernote CEO Chris O'Neill issued an apology of sorts yesterday for the company's "poor communication" around the policy, and pointed out that users' information would be anonymized. But today the company has gone one step further by announcing that it's no longer implementing the planned changes in their current form .
Desktops (Apple)

A $300 Device Can Steal Mac FileVault2 Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: Swedish hardware hacker Ulf Frisk has created a device that can extract Mac FileVault2 (Apple's disk encryption utility) passwords from a device's memory before macOS boots and anti-DMA protections kick in. The extracted passwords are in cleartext, and they also double as the macOS logon passwords. The attack requires physical access, but it takes less than 30 seconds to carry out. A special device is needed, which runs custom software (available on GitHub), and uses hardware parts that cost around $300. Apple fixed the attack in macOS 10.12.2. The device is similar to what Samy Kamker created with Poison Tap.
Advertising

Malvertising Campaign Infects Your Router Instead of Your Browser (bleepingcomputer.com) 137

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Malicious ads are serving exploit code to infect routers, instead of browsers, in order to insert ads in every site users are visiting. Unlike previous malvertising campaigns that targeted users of old Flash or Internet Explorer versions, this campaign focused on Chrome users, on both desktop and mobile devices. The malicious ads included in this malvertising campaign contain exploit code for 166 router models, which allow attackers to take over the device and insert ads on websites that didn't feature ads, or replace original ads with the attackers' own. Researchers haven't yet managed to determine an exact list of affected router models, but some of the brands targeted by the attackers include Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Comtrend, Pirelli, and Zyxel. Because the attack is carried out via the user's browser, using strong router passwords or disabling the administration interface is not enough. The only way users can stay safe is if they update their router's firmware to the most recent versions, which most likely includes protection against the vulnerabilities used by this campaign. The "campaign" is called DNSChanger EK and works when attackers buy ads on legitimate websites and insert malicious JavaScript in these ads, "which use a WebRTC request to a Mozilla STUN server to determine the user's local IP address," according to BleepingComputer. "Based on this local IP address, the malicious code can determine if the user is on a local network managed by a small home router, and continue the attack. If this check fails, the attackers just show a random legitimate ad and move on. For the victims the crooks deem valuable, the attack chain continues. These users receive a tainted ad which redirects them to the DNSChanger EK home, where the actual exploitation begins. The next step is for the attackers to send an image file to the user's browser, which contains an AES (encryption algorithm) key embedded inside the photo using the technique of steganography. The malicious ad uses this AES key to decrypt further traffic it receives from the DNSChanger exploit kit. Crooks encrypt their operations to avoid the prying eyes of security researchers."
Sony

150 Filmmakers and Photojournalists Call On Nikon, Sony, and Canon To Build in Encryption (zdnet.com) 229

Some of the world's leading photojournalists and filmmakers are calling on the manufacturers of the cameras they use to add encryption to their products, as the number of threats they face from having their devices seized is "literally too high to count." From a ZDNet report: Over 150 documentary makers and reporters signed an open letter by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, asking for camera makers -- including Nikon, Sony, and Canon -- to ensure that their work is protected while often "attempting to uncover wrongdoing in the interests of justice." "Documentary filmmakers and photojournalists work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, often risking their lives to get footage of newsworthy events to the public," said Trevor Timm, the foundation's executive director. But, he said, "they face a variety of threats from border security guards, local police, intelligence agents, terrorists, and criminals when attempting to safely return their footage so that it can be edited and published." The filmmakers say that camera security has lagged behind the rest of the industry, leaving their work "dangerously vulnerable."

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