The Privacy BlogPrivacy, Security, Cryptography, and Anonymity

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Apple is getting taken to task for a couple of security issues.

First, their recently announced “Random MAC address” feature does not appear to be as effective as expected. The idea is that the iOS 8 device will use randomly generated MAC addresses to ping WiFi base stations when it is not actively connected to a WiFi network. This allows your phone to identify known networks and to use WiFi for enhanced location information without revealing your identity or allowing you to be tracked. Unfortunately the MAC only changes when the phone is sleeping, which is really rare with all the push notifications happening all the time. The effect is that the “random” MAC addresses are changed relatively infrequently. The feature is still good, but needs some work to be actually very useful.

Second, people are noticing their passwords showing up in Apples iOS 8 predictive keyboard. The keyboard is designed to recognize phrases you type frequently so it can propose them to you as you type, thus speeding message entry. The problem is that passwords often follow user names, and may be typed frequently. Research is suggesting that the problem is from websites that fail to mark their password fields. Apple is smart enough to ignore text in known password fields, but if it does not know that it is a password, then the learning happens. It is not clear that this is Apple’s fault, but it is still a problem for users. Auto-fill using the latest version of 1Password should protect against this.

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

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Standard-Profile-Picture.jpgIn episode 21 of our podcast for July, I talk about:

  • A decision giving Canadians more rights to Anonymity
  • Iraq’s recent blocking of social media and more
  • Iran’s outright criminalization of social media
  • A court decision requiring warrants to access cell tower location data
  • Another court stating that irrelevant seized data needs to be deleted after searches
  • A massive failure of data anonymization in New York City
  • A court requiring a defendant to decrypt his files so they can be searched
  • The Supreme Court ruling protecting cellphones from warrantless search.
  • Phone tracking streetlights in Chicago
  • And a small change for iPhones bringing big privacy benefits

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IOS8 MAC Randomization

News just broke of a new feature in iOS 8 announced at Apple’s WWDC which was not covered in the big keynote. Advertisers and retail outlets have been using Wi-Fi to track mobile devices for some time. I talked about a network of Wi-Fi tracking trashcans last year in the podcast.

This works because, by default, most mobile devices are constantly on the lookout for Wi-Fi networks. The device communicates with visible base stations to see if they are known, if they are secure, and what they are called. That communication reveals the MAC address of the device’s Wi-Fi.

Like the address on your house, your phone number, or IP addresses, MAC addresses are globally unique identifiers. Everything that can speak Wi-Fi has its own individual MAC address. This makes it a great hook for tracking. If someone sets up a bunch of Wi-Fi base stations, most mobile devices going by will try to connect, giving it their MAC address. By looking at the pattern of those connections, the device can be tracked. 

More sophisticated solutions have even used signal strength to triangulate the location of devices within a small area.

The big news is that Apple is going to randomize the MAC addresses of iOS 8 devices when they are probing for networks. If the device were to probe network base stations A, B, and C they would all see different MAC addresses and think that they were tracking different devices. The iPhone or iPad would still use its real MAC when establishing a full connection, but would not provide it to all of the networks it only probes but never actually uses.

This is a really small change which provides significant privacy gains. It is similar to the decision Apple made to use randomized IPv6 addresses by default, rather than ones which uniquely identify the computer or mobile device.

Of course, Apple is also working hard to track us all with iBeacons at the same time….

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

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Standard-Profile-Picture.jpgIn episode 18 of The Privacy Blog Podcast for March 2014 I talk about:

  • Zombie iPhone Bluetooth settings
  • Proposed Australian encryption regulations
  • More from the Mt. Gox and bitcoin saga
  • The cat and mouse of censorship and circumvention in Turkey

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Mar/14

19

Check your phone for evil Tor app

TorAppLogo

Fake Tor browser for iOS laced with adware, spyware, members warn | Ars Technica

There are a number of different Tor anonymity service apps in the Apple iOS app store. According to several people at Tor, one of them is unofficial and loaded with adware and spyware.

The bad one is “Tor Browser”. If you have it, you should un-install it immediately.

Apple has been requested to remove the app from the store, but no action has been taken so far.

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

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In the March episode of The Privacy Blog Podcast, I’ll run down some of the major privacy news events of the last month. Learn how Facebook “Likes” can paint an extremely detailed and eerie picture of your real-life character traits. I’ll provide my take on Google’s Street View Wi-Fi sniffing controversy along with how “Do Not Track” flags are affecting the everyday Internet user. We’ll then touch on the implementation of the “Six Strikes” copyright alert system that was recently adopted by all five major ISP providers.

Stay tuned until the end of the episode to hear about Anonymizer’s exciting new beta program for Android and iOS devices. Thanks for listening!

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Dictionary apps post false piracy confessions on Twitter – Crave

The Oxford Deluxe dictionary app requests access to your twitter account when it is installed. In some cases it then uses that account to post hundreds of identical tweets saying that you will pledge to stop pirating software.

It is not exactly clear what criteria the software uses, but obviously there is a lot of backlash going on.

Another argument for taking great care about what applications and services you allow to take control of your social media accounts.

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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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