The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

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Russia whitehouse gate

On September 24, the Russian Duma passed a bill moving the date on which all Internet services must host local data locally from Sept 1, 2016 to Jan 1, 2015. That is an effectively impossible timeline for international Internet companies, which is probably the whole point.

While the bill has not been finally passed, the remaining steps are mostly formality.

Russia is suggesting that foreign firms could rent infrastructure, if they will have no time to build, giving Russia even stronger leverage.

My original post on the law was back in July, and I talked about other Russian Internet control and censorship activity here.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Sauron-BrazilA Brazilian court is enforcing a constitutional ban on anonymity by requiring Apple and Google to remove Secret, an anonymous social network chatting app from their app stores. Microsoft is being required to remove Cryptic, a similar windows phone app.

In addition to that, they have been ordered to remove the app from the phones of all users who have installed it. These kinds of retroactive orders to have companies intrusively modify the contents of all of their customer’s devices are concerning. At least these apps are free, if users had paid for them, that would introduce another complication.

One wonders how this will apply to tourists or business travelers visiting Brazil. Will their phones be impacted as well?

The law exists to allow victims of libel or slander to identify and confront their those speakers.

While this ruling only applies to Apple, Google, and Microsoft, and only with respect to the Secret and Cryptic apps, the underlying principle extends much further. There are still final rulings to come, so this is not the last word on this situation.

Anonymizer has had a great many Brazilian customers for many years. Anonymizer provides those users important protections which are well established in international human rights law. We certainly hope that they will continue to be allowed to use our services.

Brazil Court Issues Injunction Against Secret And Calls For App To Be Remotely Wiped | TechCrunch

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Broken cyber lock

Fake Google Digital Certificates Found & Confiscated

On July 2, Google engineers discovered unauthorized certificates for Google domains in circulation. They had been issued by the National Informatics Center in India. They are a trusted sub-authority under the Indian Controller of Certifying Authorities (CCA). They in turn are part of the Microsoft Root Store of certificates, so just about any program running on Windows, including Explorer and Chrome, will trust the unauthorized certificates.

The power of this attack is that the holder of the private key to the certificate can impersonate secure Google servers. Your browser would not report any security alerts because the certificate is “properly” signed and trusted within the built in trust hierarchy.

Firefox does not have the CCA in its root certificate list and so is not affected. Likewise Mac OS, iOS, Android, and Chrome OS are safe from this particular incident as well.

It is not known exactly why these certificates were issued, but the obvious use would be national surveillance.

While this attack seems to be targeted to India and only impacts the Microsoft ecosystem, the larger problem is much more general. There is a long list of trusted certificate authorities, which in turn delegate trust to a vast number of sub-authorities, any of whom can trivially create certificates for any domain which would be trusted by your computer.

In this case the attack was detected quickly, but if it had been very narrowly targeted detection would have been very unlikely and monitoring could have continued over very long periods.

As an end user, you can install Certificate Patrol in Firefox to automatically detect when a website’s certificate is changed. This would detect this kind of attack.

On Chrome you should enable “Check for server certificate revocation” in advanced settings. That will at least allow quick protection once a certificate is compromised.

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Update: Microsoft has issued an emergency patch removing trust from the compromised authority.

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Russia Flag Keyboard

Continuing the pattern of Internet restrictions I talked about before, Russia has passed a new law requiring Internet companies to keep the personal data of Russians in data centers within the country. The ostensible reason for this is to protect Russians against US Government snooping (in the wake of the Snowden leaks), and against other outside threats.

The law requires that companies doing business in Russia must open data centers within the borders by 2016 or be blocked.

There are many ways for people motivated to bypass these restriction to access whatever they want, but most people will just use what is available, giving the Russian government more ability to monitor the activities of their citizens themselves. 

Russia passes law requiring online personal data to be stored inside its borders | The Verge

Lance Cottrell is the Founder and Chief Scientist of Anonymizer. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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The South China Morning Post reports that the ban on Facebook, Twitter, the New York Times, and many other sites, will be lifted, but only in the Shanghai free-trade zone.

The information came from anonymous government sources within China. The purpose is to make the zone more attractive to foreign companies and workers who expect open Internet access. The sources say that the more open access may be expanded into the surrounding territory if the experiment is successful.

It will be interesting to see if this actually comes to pass.

Two questions occur to me. First, will the free-trade zone be considered to be outside the firewall, and hard to access from within the rest of China? Second, is this as much about surveillance of activity on those websites as it is about providing free access?

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Wired reports on a move by the Japanese government to ask websites to block users who “abuse” TOR. 

I assume that TOR is being used as an example, and it would apply to any secure privacy tool.

The interesting question is whether this is simply a foot in the door on the way to banning anonymity, or at least making its use evidence of evil intent.

Currently, public privacy services make little effort to hide themselves. Traffic from them is easily detected as being from an anonymity system. If blocking becomes common, many systems may start implementing more effective stealth systems, which would make filtering anonymity for security reasons even harder.

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Play

Welcome to episode 7 of The Privacy Blog Podcast.

In April’s episode, we’ll be looking at the blacklisting of SSL certificate authorities by Mozilla Firefox – Specifically, what this complex issue means and why Mozilla chose to start doing this.

In more breaking online privacy news, I will be discussing the security implications of relying on social media following the hacking of the Associated Press Twitter account earlier this week.

Next, I’ll chat about the “right to be forgotten” on the Internet, which hinges on the struggle between online privacy and free speech rights. In a closely related topic and following Google’s release of the new “Inactive Account Manager,” I will discuss what happens to our social media presence and cloud data when we die. It’s a topic none of us likes to dwell on, but it’s worth taking the time to think about our digital afterlife.

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For years I have been telling people to be especially careful when they venture into the dark back alleys of the Internet. My thinking was that these more “wild west” areas would be home to most of the malware and other attacks.

Dark Reading analyzes a Cisco report which says that online shopping sites and search engines are over 20 times more likely to deliver malware than counterfeit software sites. Advertisers are 182 times more dangerous than pornography sites.

So, I guess I need to change my tune. Be careful when you are going about your daily business, and have fun in those dark alleys!

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Gigaom reports on a major security issue at Nokia, first announced in the “Treasure Hunt” blog.

Their Asha and Lumia phones come with something they call the “Xpress Browser”. To improve the browser experience, the web traffic is proxies and cached. That is a fairly common and accepted practice.

Where Nokia has stepped into questionable territory is when it does this for secure web traffic (URLs starting with HTTPS://). Ordinarily it is impossible to cache secure web pages because the encryption key is unique and used only for a single session, and is negotiated directly between the browser and the target website. If it was cached no one would be able to read the cached data.

Nokia is doing a “man in the middle attack” on the user’s secure browser traffic. Nokia does this by having all web traffic sent to their proxy servers. The proxy then impersonate the intended website to the phone, and set up a new secure connection between the proxy and the real website.

Ordinarily this would generate security alerts because the proxy would not have the real website’s cryptographic Certificate. Nokia gets around this by creating new certificates which are signed by a certificate authority they control and which is pre-installed and automatically trusted by the phone.

So, you try to go to Gmail. The proxy intercepts that connection, and gives you a fake Gmail certificate signed by the Nokia certificate authority. Your phone trusts that so everything goes smoothly. The proxy then securely connects to Gmail using the real certificate. Nokia can cache the data, and the user gets a faster experience.

All good right?

The fly in the ointment is that Nokia now has access to all of your secure browser traffic in the clear, including email, banking, etc.

They claim that they don’t look at this information, and I think that is probably true. The problem is that you can’t really rely on that. What if Nokia gets a subpoena? What about hackers? What about accidental storage or logging?

This is a significant breaking of the HTTPS security model without any warning to end users.

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It looks like Syria is back on the Internet again.
I have not seen any indications of unusual atrocities the, so why the short outage?

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