A report over at ProPublica
breathlessly proclaims this week that there's a new advertising and tracking system that's "virtually impossible to block." The technology, being developed by a company called AddThis
, utilizes something called "canvas fingerprinting." Canvas fingerprinting, first discussed in a 2012 paper by Keaton Mowery and Hovav Shacham
(pdf), uses your computer's unique graphics rendering capabilities (graphics card, browser, driver variant) to track your movements across the Internet --without storing any data locally.
Reliability of canvas fingerprinting has been somewhat iffy; especially on wireless networks (where device hardware and software is far more uniform), and large scale Internet use is far off if it happens at all. Still, the ProPublica report paints canvas fingerprinting as a pretty immediate threat to user privacy, and claims that tools like AdBlock won't work:
Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them. But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.
Not so fast, argues AdBlock's Wladimir Palant in a blog post
. Palant reiterates that canvas fingerprinting isn't really reliable enough to replace cookies, and even if it does see widespread adoption, AdBlock Plus should be able to block it just fine:
...what we have here is a potential (but not too reliable it seems) way to track users who clear cookies or block third-party cookies completely. And what about Adblock Plus? When you add the EasyPrivacy filter list in Adblock Plus this won’t make Adblock Plus block tracking cookies directly. Instead, Adblock Plus will block the script that would try to set these cookies. And guess what: blocking that script doesn’t just prevent cookie-based tracking, it also lets you deal with canvas fingerprinting or evercookie or any other tracking approach. In particular, the rules to prevent AddThis tracking were added to EasyPrivacy almost five years ago.
Even AdThis, the company that is working on the technology, states they may drop the effort because it may not be "uniquely identifying enough." As such, this new "unstoppable" and "impossible to block" ad technology doesn't appear to be much of any immediate threat.
A notice being sent to more than 500 AT&T users
informs them that "intruders" managed to view their personal information, including social security numbers and dates of birth, back in April. Unlike most intruders they weren't trying to steal personal information, they were AT&T vendors pretending to be customers simply so they could unlock user phones, notes the letter.
In what's not exactly a ringing endorsement of Comcast's real-time monitoring for their security services, the Consumerist
notes that Comcast failed to notice that an alarm system installed by the company hadn't been operational -- for seven years. Comcast didn't appear to have problems collecting payments for the service for those seven years according to Houston's KRPC
. Comcast offered a $20 credit for the inconvenience, and is quick to point out the user didn't adhere to the user agreement by testing the system on a regular basis.
One of the official webpages for the widely used TrueCrypt encryption program suddenly this week warned users that the decade-old encryption program is no longer safe to use. "WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues," the webpage warns visitors
Late last year security researcher Eloi Vanderbeken exposed a backdoor in a 24 different older DSL modem gateways
made by both Netgear and Linksys that allowed an intruder to reset a machine's configuration and gain access to the devices' administrative control panel. While the companies originally claimed the problem had been patched, Vanderbeken is back with a new report that notes the backdoor wasn't really patched -- it was simply hidden from view
. Vanderbeken's full Powerpoint presentation
(pdf) offers significantly more detail and insists that the backdoor isn't a coding error -- it's "deliberate."
Google executives and employees were a little annoyed
at recent revelations that the NSA was hacking into data centers to grab user data, in addition to being given user data directly by the company. As such they've made it a priority to encrypt as much of the traffic moving between data centers as possible. Now a report by the Wall Street Journal
suggests to speed up encryption adoption overall, the search giant is considering giving search result priority to websites that utilize encryption:
Google is considering giving a boost in its search-engine results to websites that use encryption, the engineer in charge of fighting spam in search results hinted at a recent conference...Cutts also has spoken in private conversations of Google’s interest in making the change, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person says Google’s internal discussions about encryption are still at an early stage and any change wouldn’t happen soon.
It seems fairly unlikely that this would ever come to fruition, given that while well-intentioned, it would compromise the purity of the results, something Google consistently professes to hold to a high standard.
Back in June of 2010
, you might recall that a security hole in AT&T's website allowed two individuals to gain access to the e-mail addresses of 114,000 owners of 3G Apple iPads, including "dozens of CEOs, military officials, and top politicians." A group calling itself Goatse Security at the time claimed responsibility for the "hack," which in addition to e-mail addresses resulted the group obtaining user ICC-IDs -- used to identify their specific iPad on the AT&T network.
One of those two individuals responsible for obtaining the data was Andrew Auernheimer (aka "Weev") an Internet-famous troll who was recently convicted of accessing a computer without authorization and identity fraud, and sentenced to serve 41 months in prison.
News emerged this week that the Internet's most popular implementation of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol has contained a bug that allows a hacker to siphon all manner of private data, including passwords and authentication cookies, from many websites server memory. Dubbed "Heartbleed" by the researchers that unveiled the massive bug this week, major online service providers and websites are scrambling to deploy a new patch for the vulnerability. story continues..
With a growing number of ISPs playing content nanny (as seen in the "six strikes" copyright warning system), an equally growing number of users are turning to VPNs and proxies to hide their behavior from the ever-watchful eye of their Internet service provider. Others simply have on eye squarely fixed on true security. Torrent Freak has been taking an annual look
at which VPN services retain user information and logs, how they handle DMCA takedown notices, under which conditions they share user data with third parties, which payment systems they use and more. It's a pretty handy breakdown for VPN users and worth a read.
Snowden leaks had already indicated that the NSA had been busy hacking into Yahoo servers
(and Google, Microsoft), obtaining data via the back door in addition to PRISM data they were collecting up front. Now another Guardian release of Snowden documents
indicates that UK intelligence agency GCHQ, with help from the NSA, intercepted and stored webcam content from millions of Yahoo users, regardless of whether or not they had been suspected of any wrong doing:
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
Yahoo, one of the few companies to try and stand up to PRISM data collection in court, unsurprisingly wasn't pleased with the revelations, calling project optic nerve "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy."
A malicious worm has been detected on roughly 1,000 different Linksys branded routers, according to a statement from SANS ISC
. According to the report, "TheMoon" worm takes advantage of a CGI script within the administration interface of multiple Linksys’ E-Series router models. An exploit writer has published a proof of concept exploit
, also noting that some older Wireless-N access points and routers may also be impacted. "The exploit to bypass the admin authentication used by the worm only works when the Remote Management Access feature is enabled," Linksys says. "Linksys ships these products with the Remote Management Access feature turned off by default."
In April of last year, wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal is to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
NBC has received a lot of attention this week for a story
that proclaims that visitors to the Sochi games will immediately find that every device they own -- from laptop to phone -- will be hacked immediately upon stepping outside at the games. NBC reporter Richard Engel worked with a "security expert" and claimed that, while sitting at a cafe in Russia, hackers had compromised his devices "before we even finished our coffee" -- "giving hackers the option to tap or even record my phone calls."
Except according to a blog post by Errata Security
, the story is "100% fabricated." Notes Errata's Robert Graham:
•They aren't in Sochi, but in Moscow, 1007 miles away.
For a long time Verizon was dead silent regarding their cooperation with the NSA, with the only public comment at one point being to mock Yahoo and Google
for demanding greater government transparency. Recently Verizon has been more chatty; issuing their first ever transparency report
, and even blogging about intelligence issues.
The government has reached a settlement with several of the nation's biggest Internet companies (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple) which had (to various degrees) to be able to reveal more information on how many data requests they receive from government. While the government has allowed increased disclosure on national security letters (NSLs, or gag letters), companies have been restricted to only stating a range of numbers of such letters they've received (see Verizon's recent transparency report
that the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), a state-run department, blamed a "malfunction in root servers" for a massive, 8 hour Internet failure that occurred on Tuesday across the giant country. Security analysts quoted by the official Xinhua news agency said this could have been the result of a cyber attack by hackers -- though this has yet to be proven.
The New York Times
notes that whatever happened, much of China's Internet traffic was instead amusingly routed to a small, 1,700-square-foot house in Cheyenne, Wyoming:
The China Internet Network Information Center, a state-run agency that deals with Internet affairs, said it had traced the problem to the country’s domain name system...Those servers, which act as a switchboard for Internet traffic behind China’s Great Firewall, routed traffic from some of China’s most popular sites, including Baidu and Sina, to a block of Internet addresses registered to Sophidea Incorporated, a mysterious company housed on a residential street in Cheyenne, Wyo.
While speculation was originally focused on hackers or cyberattacks, the Times notes that speculation has since shifted to a problem caused by China's massive Internet censorship systems.
Karsten Nohl, chief scientist with Berlin's Security Research Labs, tells Reuters
that cell carriers worldwide aided the NSA's data collection capabilities by failing to implement relatively basic and long-available security updates, SIM and encryption improvements, and hardware and software patches. "I couldn't imagine it is complicity. I think it is negligence," he said. "I don't want to believe in a worldwide conspiracy across all worldwide network operators. I think it is individual laziness and priority on network speed and network coverage and not security." Nohl helps maintain GSMMap.org
, which evaluates the security of mobile operators around the globe.
While the shift to faster and more reliable wireless network technology has paid very obvious dividends, new analysis by Heavy Reading suggests that wireless carriers lose $15 billion to network outages annually. According to the study
, carriers say physical link failures and network congestion are primary causes of these outages, though few report network attacks as prominent causes; though that may be because many wireless carriers aren't aware of them. "Part of the reason for that is many operators actually have little or no visibility of the malicious traffic in the network," says researcher Patrick Donegan. "When they do have incidents, often they are not actually aware if it may have been a malicious attack that caused it."
Reddit users point out
that security researcher Eloi Vanderbeken has posted documentation to GitHub
indicating they've found an exploit in a number of older DSL modem gateways made by both Netgear and Linksys. Vanderbeken posted uh, creative Powerpoint presentations and sample code
highlighting how the exploits allow an intruder to reset a machine's configuration and gain access to the devices' administrative control panel. So far, he's confirmed the backdoor is present in the Linksys WAG200G, Netgear DM111Pv2, Linksys WAG320N, Linksys WAG54G2, DGN1000 Netgear N150, Netgear DG834G, and Diamond DSL642WLG. The (sort of) good news? It requires the attacker be on your local network.
Jacob Appelbaum made waves yesterday with a piece over at Der Spiegel
highlighting the catalog of 50 different options (some rather amazing) that the NSA has at their disposal when snooping on individuals or organizations.
Speaking at the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg, Appelbaum shared a few more nifty details provided by Edward Snowden, including the NSA's use of pre-packaged exploits that allowed control over iOS devices and any phone communicating through GSM.
Der Spiegel has since added this interactive graphic
that is worth taking a look at.
Applebaum also highlighted how the NSA's own slides claim the agency has the ability to use Wi-Fi to seed exploits via packet injection from up to eight miles away
, purportedly using this tool
"under ideal environmental conditions."
Granted the documents revealing this are from 2007, so things have likely evolved since then.
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