The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

Archive for September 2012

The Washington Post has a good article on social engineering attacks. It is a good treatment of the topic.

Short answer, humans are the weak link, and can be defeated with extremely high probability.

The take away from this whole thing is that we need to be building security systems that don’t rely on humans not being tricked into compromising their own security. A lot of security architects take a “blame the victim” stance. User’s have other things to worry about than security. We need to make sure security happens even if they are not paying attention to it.

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Picking Powerful Pins

Despite all the work on dual factor authentication and other new security methodologies, in general our passwords are the keys to the kingdom.

In many cases, such at ATMs, we are limited to 4 digit numeric PINs.

This post to DataGenetics does a good job of analyzing how bad we are at picking PINs and how easy we make things for the attackers.

It is worth a read.

Short answer: you can hack a over 10% of accounts by guessing “1234”.


The New Scientist has an article on the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) program.

It started out as a project to replace the old fingerprint database, but will now include biometrics, DNA, voice prints, and facial recognition.

The idea is to database all the mugshots so people can be quickly identified after arrest, or possibly so surveillance video could be compared to the database to identify possible suspects.

Obviously lots of civil liberties issues here, but still a very long way from the paranoid hollywood inspired rantings about real time global surveillance with integrated biometrics.

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NBC News is reporting that the iOS UDIDs leaked last week were actually stolen from Blue Toad publishing company. Comparing the leaked data with Blue Toad’s data showed 98% correlation which makes them almost certainly the source.

They checked the leaked data against their own after receiving a tip from an outside researcher who had analyzed the leaked data.

It is certainly possible that this data had been stolen earlier and that, in tracking that crime, the FBI had obtained the stolen information. This strongly suggests that this is not a case of the FBI conducting some kind of massive surveillance activity.

The other possibility is that Anonymous and Antisec are simply lying about the origin of the information as part of an anti-government propaganda campaign.

Either way, it is a big knock on their credibility, unless you think this whole thing is just a conspiracy to protect the FBI.

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In the tradition of Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” is “The Dictator’s Practical Guide to Internet Power Retention, Global Edition”.

Under the pretext of being a guide on how to crack down on Internet dissent for dictators, it does a nice job of analyzing how the Internet is used by dissidents, and the techniques used by governments to crack down on those practices.

Thanks to boingboing for bringing this to my attention.

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YouTube’s anti piracy filters automatically blocked the authorized video of First Lady Michelle Obama’s convention speech as infringing.

Evidently the algorithm automatically looks for content that matches content from their commercial partners. Since all the networks were re-broadcasting the convention speech, it got flagged. This is not the first time this has happened.

Wired article on this here.

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Forbs is reporting that Anonymous and Antisec have dropped a file with a million Unique Device ID (UDID) numbers for Apple iOS devices. They claim to have acquired an additional 11 million records which they may release later.

In addition to the identifiers, the file is said to also contain usernames, device names, cell numbers, and addresses. It is this additional personal information that seems to be the real threat here.

The Next Web has set up a tool for checking to see if your information is in the leaked data. You don’t need to enter your full UDID into the field, just the first 5 characters. That way you don’t need to trust them with your information either.

None of my iOS devices showed up on the list, so I downloaded the entire file to look it over. You can see the release and download instructions here.

Looking through the document, I don’t see any examples of particularly sensitive information. In the first field are the claimed UDID. The second field is a 64 digit hex string. After that is the name of the device, frequently something like “Lance’s iPad”. Finally is a description of the device itself: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch.

SHA hashes are 64 hex digits long, and are widely used in forensics to verify that captured evidence has not been changed. My intuition is something like that is what we are seeing in that second column.

I have no idea where the claims about addresses, and account names came from. I am not seeing anything like that.

It is interesting that Anonymous / Antisec claim that this data came from the hacked laptop of an FBI agent. This certainly raises big questions about why he would have this information on his laptop, and why the FBI has it at all.

While 12 million is a big number, it is a tiny fraction of the over 400 million iOS devices sold to date. Still, that would represent a shockingly wide dragnet if these are all being monitored in some way by law enforcement.

Of course, for all we know this list was captured evidence from some other group of hackers.

So, short answer (too late!), you probably don’t have anything to worry about here, but you might want to check to see if your device is in the database anyway.

UPDATE: It appears that the UDID may tie to more information that was immediately apparent. While Apple’s guidelines forbid tying UDIDs to specific account, of course that happens all the time. My friend Steve shared a link with me to an open API from OpenFeint which can tie a UDID to personal information. Certainly there are others which would reveal other information. The existence of these, and the leaked list of UDIDs would allow an app developer to tie a user’s real identity to their activity and use of the app on their iOS device.

UDATE 2: I find it impossible to actually read documents from Anonymous and Antisec, they are just so poorly written. It seems I missed their statement in lines 353,354 of the pastbin where they say that they stripped out the personal information. The 64 digit block is actually the “Apple Push Notification Service DevToken”. SCMagazine is reporting that the FBI is denying the laptop was hacked or that they have the UDIDs.

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