TOWR Security Brief: 15 August 2016

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TOWR TECH & SECURITY

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TOWR Security Brief: 15 August 2016

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Kit Perez

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15 August 2016

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The privacy/tech world is constantly changing, and it’s important that you stay informed because any one of those changes may affect how you need to conduct yourself on the internet. Our briefs are designed to give you a short overview of the pertinent news items over the last week, and let you know what you need to do about them.

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In this week’s brief:

  • Democrat data got leaked by the infamous “Guccifer” over the weekend. Hypocrisy alert: They’re mad. Have fun with it.
  • The White House is considering sanctions against Russia for the DNC hacks. God forbid they deal with what was IN the hack.
  • Ever heard of video jacking? We hadn’t either, but here’s why you need to know about it.
  • For those of you with air-gapped machines that don’t connect to the internet…you’re still not totally safe.
  • Microsoft accidentally leaked the key to its Secure Boot for Windows. This is why mandating back doors is a bad idea.
  • The researchers doing a security audit on Veracrypt are seeing evidence that their audit is being spied on.
  • If you still think no one cares about your passwords…there’s a whole market on the darknet just for them.

 

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I’m sure you can think of a use for this data, right?

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Photograph by Shutterstock

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The big story over the weekend was that the hacker Guccifer released a whole list of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee member personal information.

The notorious hacker published several documents that include cell phone numbers, home addresses, official and personal e-mail addresses, names of staffers, and other personal information for the entire roster of Democratic representatives. The data dump also includes several memos from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s personal computer, detailing fundraisers and campaign overviews.

With absolutely no sense of irony, had this to say:

Really, Adam? Never? I remember when the names and addresses of gun owners got published and no one did a thing about it. At any rate, certainly we shouldn’t let a crisis go to waste (to take another point out of the Democrat playbook). Certainly there are those among us who could think of a use for this windfall of information.

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“Who cares what evidence of criminal activity was in the DNC leaks? What matters is WHO DID IT.” — Democrats

 

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Speaking of leaks, the DNC leak–in which we all got vindicated for believing that the election machine is as corrupt as ever–was done by the Russians. That’s what the Dems want you to think, at least. The White House is “considering sanctions” for it. Maybe the administration will send some really pointed tweets.

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Some of the equipment used in the “video jacking” demonstration at the DEF CON security conference last week in Las Vegas.

 

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Photo by Brian Markus

 

 

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Ever heard of “video jacking?” It’s yet another way someone can take control of your device.  Here’s how it works:

Dubbed “video jacking” by its masterminds, the attack uses custom electronics hidden inside what appears to be a USB charging station. As soon as you connect a vulnerable phone to the appropriate USB charging cord, the spy machine splits the phone’s video display and records a video of everything you tap, type or view on it as long as it’s plugged in — including PINs, passwords, account numbers, emails, texts, pictures and videos.

Is your phone on the vulnerable list? You can find out here and here.

 

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“DiskFiltration” siphons data even when computers are disconnected from the Internet.

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Photo from Cyber Security Labs.

 

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One of the things that we have advised people to do if they’re working with highly secure or sensitive information is to use an “airgapped” machine in addition to your regular computer. This means not only do you not ever connect it to your home or work wi-fi, you’ve actually removed all possibility of it ever connecting to any wi-fi or internet connection because you’ve physically removed the capability. (For info on how to actually create that machine, check out our Paranoid PC series.)

In another episode of “mouse vs. mousetrap,” researchers have figured out a way to breach an airgapped machine. This isn’t news in and of itself, since it’s already been done. This is just the latest way to do it.

The method has been dubbed “DiskFiltration” by its creators because it uses acoustic signals emitted from the hard drive of the air-gapped computer being targeted. It works by manipulating the movements of the hard drive’s actuator, which is the mechanical arm that accesses specific parts of a disk platter so heads attached to the actuator can read or write data. By using so-called seek operations that move the actuator in very specific ways, it can generate sounds that transfer passwords, cryptographic keys, and other sensitive data stored on the computer to a nearby microphone.

Now, before you throw out your computers, or worse yet, give up on privacy and security because you think there’s no point and no hope, consider this:

  • This technique has a range of six feet. That’s it. This means, as long as you continue to be aware of your surroundings, and use best practices with ALL of your devices, you’re fine.
  • In order for this technique (and others like it) to work, the computer in question has to be infected with malware. Since an airgapped machine by default isn’t connected to the internet to get malware, it’d have to be infected in person by someone with access–another point in your favor.

Simply keep your airgapped machine away from devices with a microphone (including your own smartphone!) and you should be just fine.

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Security experts have constantly warned about the government’s desire to have backdoors built into everything “just in case” they “need it.” Having the backdoor automatically means the encryption or security is pointless. as Microsoft just illustrated to everyone. They accidentally leaked the key protecting their UEFI Secure boot feature. So much for ‘secure boot’ and all.

(Keep in mind that the situation is more complex than just leaking a key, as you’ll see in the comments on the Schneier article. There are techie explanations for those wanting to understand the full extent. For the rest of us, however, it’s close enough.)

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Speaking of encryption and whatnot, researchers who are doing an independent audit of VeraCrypt are finding that someone (or someones, plural) are interested enough in their work that they’re spying on it. Graham Cluley writes:

Now, the bad news… OSTIF says that its confidential PGP-encrypted communications with QuarkLabs about the VeraCrypt security audit may be being mysteriously intercepted:

We have now had a total of four email messages disappear without a trace, stemming from multiple independent senders. Not only have the emails not arrived, but there is no trace of the emails in our “sent” folders. In the case of OSTIF, this is the Google Apps business version of Gmail where these sent emails have disappeared.

This suggests that outside actors are attempting to listen in on and/or interfere with the audit process.

We are setting up alternate means of encrypted communications in order to move forward with the audit project.

If nation-states are interested in what we are doing we must be doing something right. Right?

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Our last item for today is this. No matter how much people get harped on about using secure passwords and not reusing the same ones on multiple sites, people still do it. Who could possibly want your Netflix password, right? Actually, you’d be surprised. There’s an entire market for logins on the dark net, where your logins for everything from Netflix to Paypal to Gmail are being bought and sold at a blinding rate.

The adversaries we have to worry about when we’re choosing our Twitter or eBay passwords are in it for the money and their approach isn’t so much cyber-fencing as carpet bombing – it’s untargeted and it doesn’t matter who gets hit because it’s “how many?” that matters.

Our accounts aren’t compromised one by one, they’re cracked en masse or exfiltrated in the millions and then bought and sold online.

[…]

While Paypal has, and still dominates … it is now possible to find Amazon, Uber, eBay, Netflix, Twitter, Dell and many more … Any account that can generate fraudsters money, or even help them receive a service for free, has a demand in the cyber underground.

…Uber, for example, are sought after by fraudsters simply because they provide “free taxi rides”. Demand for adult entertainment accounts is high due to interest for self ­consumption.

…eBay and Amazon are sought after … to steal money or credits from these accounts … Compromised dating site accounts are also often exploited for romance scams.

How much is your account worth?

 

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Basic Privacy and Anonymity Part 2 Webinar, 31 August 2016

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Description

This class is geared to those who either need to learn the basics of privacy and anonymity, or who would like a refresher. Everyone has the right to conduct their affairs in private, and this Basic Privacy and Anonymity webinar class will show you how to start doing that. Whether you’re a total beginner who’s never heard of any of this, or someone who’s dabbled but doesn’t feel comfortable with it, or even if you do it all the time and just want to double check and make sure you’re doing it right, this class is for you.

 

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These skills will help you protect not only you, but the people you talk to and work with.

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This is Part 2 of a two-session class. In this first session, we’ll cover the following:

  • Secure messaging – which ones are best for privacy?
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN) – how to connect to the internet anonymously.
  • Bitcoin Basics – how to buy and sell cryptocurrency for anonymous purchases.
  • Best practices for online activities – how to evade digital surveillance and protect your metadata.

(Check out the agenda for Part 1 here.)

Both sessions will have a question and answer period as well. Sessions are limited to 25 people so everyone gets a chance to ask questions.

We recently offered this class in-person as a one-day event, and it was a huge success. We had so many requests from outside the Pacific Northwest for this kind of training that we have broken the class up into two sessions, two hours each, and are offering them as a live webinar. (It’ll also be available later as an archive.)

This is an overview class, meant to introduce you to the concepts of privacy and why they’re so critical to Three Percenters and patriots. It’ll also set you up for more advanced classes we will be giving this fall that deal with more advanced functions and operations. If any of the following statements have ever come out of your mouth….

  • I’m not doing anything illegal.
  • There’s no point in any of this; the government can see you no matter what you do.
  • Go ahead and let them look!
  • If you try to be private you’re just making yourself more of a target.

you need to be in this class. You will have your eyes opened.

You get access to BOTH sessions–a total of four hours of live instruction—for $25. That not only includes both webinar sessions live, but access to them later as well so you can go back over the material.

Session 2 is August 31, from 6:30-8:30PM Pacific time. You can reserve your place and get payment info by contacting us here.

Don’t miss your chance to learn how to protect yourself and your group.

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TOWR Security Brief – 08 August 2016

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TOWR TECH & SECURITY

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TOWR Security Brief: 08 August 2016

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Kit Perez

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08 August 2016

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Welcome to the first installment of TOWR Security Briefs. The privacy/tech world is constantly changing, and it’s important that you stay informed because any one of those changes may affect how you need to conduct yourself on the internet. Our briefs are designed to give you a short overview of the pertinent news items over the last week, and let you know what you need to do about them.

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In this week’s brief:

  • So-called “secure” messaging app Telegram was caught with a big data leak problem.
  • As we’ve mentioned, just using Tor isn’t enough. A federal judge has let slip some interesting info.
  • Android users aren’t safe either: Almost 900 MILLION users are affected by a new security hole found.
  • If that’s not enough, now your monitor can be hacked too.
  • All Delta flights got grounded this morning because of an IT problem. But sure, our infrastructure is safe.

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Telegram claims to be a secure messaging app, but there are a lot of issues—enough to pass on it completely.

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Photograph by Shutterstock

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So called secure messaging app Telegram ran into (another) snag last week, as it was discovered that the app leaks anything that’s pasted into it.

In the OS X version, text that was copied-and-pasted into the app was also written to the file /var/log/system.log, better known as the syslog, creating a sort of ad-hoc and unnoticed backup of any private conversations or notes.

The app’s founder replied on Twitter that “any app can read your clipboard,” but Telegram quickly released a patch to fix the leak. Even so, there are far better apps to use if you’re looking for secure communications (at least, as secure as you can get using digital means).

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“With all of Telegram’s problems thus far, it’s safe to say there are much better apps out there.”

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The Tor browser took a hit lately as well. Recently, Ovie Carroll, who is with the Cybercrime Laboratory of the Department of Justice, advised a roomful of about 100 federal judges to use Tor because of data leaks and security problems on the ‘regular’ internet. Before you nod sagely and point to your own Tor install, take note of the second half of this story. A federal judge in Tacoma, WA who was present at that event had this to say:

I was surprised to hear him urge the federal judges present, a hundred or so of them, that they should use the Tor network to protect their personal information on their computers, like work or home computers, against data breaches and the like.

I did not respond to that. I almost felt like saying, “That’s not a good way to protect stuff, because the FBI can go through that like eggshells.”

What would make him say that? Here’s where it gets shady. That particular federal judge is the same one who “suppressed the FBI’s evidence in a recent child abuse case – evidence that was acquired even though the defendants allegedly used Tor to “protect” themselves from being tracked down.” Part of the reason that there was a controversy about that evidence at all was because the FBI didn’t want to reveal their Network Investigative Technique (NIT) that was used, which would have exposed their method of getting around Tor’s anonymity to begin with.

Naked Security asks some pointed yet valid questions:

Did the FBI hack the child abuse website and implant its NIT in a fake video on that very site, and thereby reveal a list of IP numbers that could be used to establish probably cause for a bunch of search warrants?

Or did it exploit a general security hole in Tor itself, and therefore perhaps pick up accidental visitors during the investigation?

Those of who you are still claiming “but I’m not doing anything illegal” would do very well to remember this story, and the questions it raises. If you think the government is above such conduct, think again.

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Over 900 million Android users are affected by the latest security hole in Qualcomm chips.

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You do have a burner phone or five, right?

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A new set of vulnerabilities affecting Android phones was revealed at this year’s DEFCON. Named Quadrooter, the vulnerabilities are in the microchip at the heart of the Android device, and would give unfettered, complete access to a target’s phone.

An attacker can exploit these vulnerabilities using a malicious app. Such an app would require no special permissions to take advantage of these vulnerabilities, alleviating any suspicion users may have when installing.

So far the phones affected include:

  • BlackBerry Priv
  • Blackphone 1 and Blackphone 2
  • Google Nexus 5X, Nexus 6 and Nexus 6P
  • HTC One, HTC M9 and HTC 10
  • LG G4, LG G5, and LG V10
  • New Moto X by Motorola
  • OnePlus One, OnePlus 2 and OnePlus 3
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung S7 Edge
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Check Point, the group responsible for discovering Quadrooter, has released a free scanner app to help Android users know if their personal devices are at risk.

 

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This is a monitor. This kind of monitor does not get hacked. Be like this monitor.

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No, really.

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As if finding out that your phone has a new security hole in it isn’t bad enough, your monitor can also be hacked. In fact, this particular vulnerability also targets almost one billion devices.

if a hacker can get you to visit a malicious website or click on a phishing link, they can then target the monitor’s embedded computer, specifically its firmware…the computer that controls the menu to change brightness and other simple settings on the monitor. The hacker can then put an implant there programmed to wait…for commands sent over by a blinking pixel, which could be included in any video or a website. Essentially, that pixel is uploading code to the monitor. At that point, the hacker can mess with your monitor…

[T]his could be used to both spy on you, but also show you stuff that’s actually not there. A scenario where that could dangerous is if hackers mess with the monitor displaying controls for a power plant, perhaps faking an emergency. The researchers warn that this is an issue that could potentially affect one billion monitors, given that the most common brands all have processors that are vulnerable…

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And one more item for those blissfully ignorant souls that think a massive power outage wouldn’t reduce American society to a bunch of feral animals… This morning Delta airlines experienced a fire in their data center, resulting in a loss of power that took down all flight operations and bookings. All flights were grounded for several hours.  If there’s anything that can drive a group of people to feral behavior, it’s a FUBAR situation at the airport.  Remember this story from Southwest a few weeks ago?

This is the second severe IT-induced travel disruption in recent weeks. On July 20, Southwest Airlines lost a router in its Dallas data center, which resulted in 2,300 flight cancellations. Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly described that event as a “once-in-thousand-year flood.”

Think about the ripple effect from these incidents. These aren’t just people going on vacation or going to see Grandma (and even cancelling or grounding their flights causes financial hardship, issues with work, etc). These are business professionals, packages, documents, you name it. A disruption in U.S. air travel affects industries all over the world.

We included this story in this week’s brief to get you thinking. What if you were the one stranded someplace other than home due to a natural disaster or power grid attack? How would you get home? Could you get home? Do you have a plan in place for that scenario? Does your family know what to do if they’re in that situation? These types of scenarios are exactly why we train and prepare.

That’s it for this week. Feel free to discuss these stories in the comments!

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Basic Privacy and Anonymity Part 1 Live Webinar, 24 August 2016

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Description

This class is geared to those who either need to learn the basics of privacy and anonymity, or who would like a refresher. Everyone has the right to conduct their affairs in private, and this Basic Privacy and Anonymity webinar class will show you how to start doing that. Whether you’re a total beginner who’s never heard of any of this, or someone who’s dabbled but doesn’t feel comfortable with it, or even if you do it all the time and just want to double check and make sure you’re doing it right, this class is for you.

 

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These skills will help you protect not only you, but the people you talk to and work with.

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This is Part 1 of a two-session class. In this first session, we’ll cover the following:

  • Why all of this is necessary: who wants your data, why do they want it, and what’s “data” even refer to?
  • How the Internet of Things (IoT) has made it possible for your electronic devices to track you, listen to you, and record you.
  • the Tor Browser – how to browse the clearnet and darkweb anonymously.
  • TAILS operating system
  • PGP/GPG email – the basics of sending encrypted emails and why you should “encrypt all the things!”

In the second session, here’s what we’ll be going over:

  • Secure messaging – which ones are best for privacy?
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN) – how to connect to the internet anonymously.
  • Bitcoin Basics – how to buy and sell cryptocurrency for anonymous purchases.
  • Best practices for online activities – how to evade digital surveillance and protect your metadata.

Both sessions will have a question and answer period as well. Sessions are limited to 25 people so everyone gets a chance to ask questions.

We recently offered this class in-person as a one-day event, and it was a huge success. We had so many requests from outside the Pacific Northwest for this kind of training that we have broken the class up into two sessions, two hours each, and are offering them as a live webinar. (It’ll also be available later as an archive.)

This is an overview class, meant to introduce you to the concepts of privacy and why they’re so critical to Three Percenters and patriots. It’ll also set you up for more advanced classes we will be giving this fall that deal with more advanced functions and operations. If any of the following statements have ever come out of your mouth….

  • I’m not doing anything illegal.
  • There’s no point in any of this; the government can see you no matter what you do.
  • Go ahead and let them look!
  • If you try to be private you’re just making yourself more of a target.

you need to be in this class. You will have your eyes opened.

You get access to BOTH sessions–a total of four hours of live instruction—for $25. That not only includes both webinar sessions live, but access to them later as well so you can go back over the material.

Session 1 is August 24, from 6:30-8:30PM Pacific time. You can reserve your place and get payment info by contacting us here.

Don’t miss your chance to learn how to protect yourself and your group.

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Classes update 02 AUG 2016

Hello Patriots!

As our Facebook post a few days ago hinted, we are currently developing some new classes for you.

The first will be a two part webinar of the “Basic Privacy and Anonymity” class that we first ran back in June.  This will be our first webinar experience and will be co-taught by Kit and Steve.  Since this is our first time delivering with this method, we will only be charging $25.  We’re tentatively looking at 8/24 for part 1 and 8/31 for part 2.

For the details from the last class, see: https://www.whiterose.us/privacy-anonymity-basics-class/

The second class is a new one we’re putting on, answering the call for more focused communications training to help you get comfortable around radios.  We’ll be putting a heavy emphasis on listening, small group communications, and just enough theory to get you started.  This is *not* a Technician or General class, although we cover a few of the same topics.  The details are still being worked out, but it will be co-taught by Mike and Steve.  The cost will be $50 and will be at the Kingsgate Library north of Seattle on 9/17 from 1015 to 1645.  Bring your comms gear and time allowing we’ll have show-and-tell with the class.

To sign up, please contact us at TOWR@hushmail.com.  We’re still working on a way to do online payments and signup without it being a burden.