FBI-Apple showdown ends

Just before a court hearing schedule for Tuesday, the FBI decided to pursue and attack method that would not require Apple’s assistance. This effectively put the FBI’s case on pause, and created an anti-climactic end to the battle between the government and the tech giant over hacking into the San Bernardino shooters iPhone. A U.S. District Court in California ruled that good cause had been shown by the government for the delay and ordered it to file a status report with the court on April 5.

Originally the FBI had wanted Apple to write software that would change the amount of password attempts that could be made before the phone erased itself. Currently, an iPhone will be erased after 10 unsuccessful attempts with the wrong passcode. The FBI stated that it would need Apple’s help to get around this hurdle, but apparently that has changed. This leave many to wonder how to agency might defeat the phone’s security.

“You can always attack the phone while it’s running. There are hundreds of people in the world, if not more, who can do that,” said Rod Schultz, vice president of product at Rubicon Labs.”They can attach a debugger to the device, and modify the instructions that are doing the policy check,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The password also could be recovered through a technique known as NAND mirroring. It requires making a copy of the iPhone’s memory. Then, after 10 wrong password guesses erased the phone’s contents, the memory would be reloaded into the phone and the FBI could take 10 more tries at cracking it. That process would be repeated several times until the FBI was able to hack into the phone. The downside is that it takes a long time, and that is most why the FBI didn’t want to do it.

The is some skepticism about the reasons why the FBI asked for the delay. “Those of us who are watching both the technology arguments and the legal arguments are somewhat skeptical of the claim that the FBI suddenly discovered they could get into the phone,” said Mike Godwin, general counsel and director of innovation policy at the R Street Institute.

“The legal arguments that Apple produced were quite strong,” Godwin told TechNewsWorld. “I think the FBI was worried it was going to lose based on the legal arguments.”

As for Apple, its public stance is that the issue must be settled outside the courts. “Tim Cook has never said Apple will never cooperate with the FBI,” observed R Street’s Godwin.

Article via TechNewsWorld, 23 March 2016

Photo: The Apple – FBI Electronic Encryption Fight RGB Triptych v1.3 by Surian Soosay [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Internet of Things makes hackers jobs easier

Every day, more and more digitally-connected devices are being integrated into our daily lives. In fact, researchers predict that there will be more than 40 billion devices wirelessly connected to the internet by the year 2020. This surge in the number of devices we use has led us into an era known as the Internet of Things, or IoT. Although there are many advantages to being able to utilize the internet in so many different ways, the more devices one has, the more paths a hacker can take to steal information. Recently, reports have come to light that internet-enabled cars could be turned off remotely by a hacker, and certain baby monitors could be hacked to monitor individuals without their knowledge. And as the medical field release technology that fits into the Internet of Things, the potential problems only become more worrisome; hackers could potentially have control over someone’s health or even their life.

Thankfully, companies are trying to find solutions to make their Internet of Things devices safer to use. For example, digital security companies such as Gemalto are offering their experience to car manufacturers, and Microsoft has promised to add extra encryption and security software to their new Windows 10 IoT, their operating system for all of the Internet of Things devices Microsoft produces. Additionally, multiple tech firms have come together to form the Internet of Things Security Foundation, which will review devices that connect to the internet and offer support and advice to tech companies. In time, manufacturers of Internet of Things devices will need to determine how to make sure each device that an individual owns is continually updated and protected from hackers.

Article: TechCrunchOctober 24, 2015

Photo: Internet of Things World Forum via Schneider Electric España [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

 


Countries using spyware exposed

A Citizen Lab report released Thursday revealed that 33 countries are likely using FinFisher, a prominent spyware program. Many of these countries—including Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Egypt—have suspect human rights standards.

FinFisher enables an organization or government to capture the keystrokes of a computer, as well as use the device’s microphone and camera to surreptitiously eavesdrop on a target. This type of surveillance tool was once only used by advanced governments, but is now available to anyone willing to invest in the service. In the U.S., journalists and dissidents are especially targeted.

Hackings in the past two years have informed researchers about the mechanics of spyware companies. FinFisher was hacked last year, revealing confidential company logistics, and its competitor Hacking Team was hacked this past year, exposing vital emails and files. Errors in spyware servers help Citizen Lab researchers figure out which governments are using the services of companies like FinFisher or Hacking Team.

Spyware servers used by governments often infect and control target computers with malware disguised behind proxies. Researchers found that 135 servers matched the “technical fingerprint” of shady spyware after scanning the Internet, yet they were always directed to a decoy page after typing the server’s Internet address into a Web browser. The decoy pages were most often www.google.com or www.yahoo.com.

However, the decoy sites showed local search results of the server’s origin, and not of the location that the researchers were in when they used the site. One proxy server seemed to be from the United States, then returned an IP address from Indonesia, indicating that the country’s government may be using FinFisher’s services.

Article via The Washington Post, 16 October 2015

Photo: Patrons use computers in an internet cafe via World Bank Photo Collection [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Hackings in healthcare, education, and government

Recent hackings have been found to especially target three main platforms: healthcare, education, and government. This has compromised the security of healthcare provider Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, the Cal State University System, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

It was discovered last week that over 10 million people are at risk due to a Excellus computer system hacking that’s been occurring since December of 2013. It doesn’t appear that the hackers stole or utilized any important personal information, though they were able to access and view customer names, birth dates, social security numbers, and financial claims. The attack was one of the worst 20 breaches in healthcare of all time. The hacking also parallels recent incidences at Anthem, Office of personnel Management, Sony and Ashley Madison. In all cases, the attacks were committed by people disguised as employees, using stolen credentials to gain access to corporate networks.

Roughly 80,000 students from the Cal State University System lost general information after enrolling in a class on sexual harassment. Their names, numbers, emails, gender, race, and relationship status were provided to a contractor as part of a program on sexual harassment. The contractor, “We End Violence” was hacked, as reported in the Los Angeles Times earlier this month.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s computer systems were attacked 159 times between 2010 and 2014. Officials declined to comment, however, on the nature of what was accessed by hackers or whether any foreign governments were responsible.

Article via ECT News NetworkSeptember 16, 2015

Photo: Longmont Power and Communications-3 via You Belong in Longmont [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Hacking Team’s clientele- corrupt governments

In July of 2015, 400 gigabytes of documents outlining the dealings of spyware company Hacking Team were released. The for-profit surveillance firm was found to work with oppressive regimes across the globe, including those of Russia, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. Also benefiting from the company’s exploitive surveillance tools is the US Bureau of Investigation, which has spent $775,000 on Hacking Team tools since 2011.

Hacking Team’s abilities are expansive. The firm can steal pre-encrypted data and passwords typed in Web browsers, as well as activate the microphone and camera on a target device. Users of Google Play and Apple stores may also be activating surveillance malware coded by Hacking Team.

Privacy and human rights advocates are outraged by the lack of legislation regulating firms like Hacking Team and its rival Gamma International, but regulation can be tricky. Badly drafted export controls could create red tape for journalists to circumvent when trying to access communications mechanisms or antivirus software. Syrian activists, for example, have cited American export controls as one of the leading obstacles of installing anti-surveillance software on phones and computers to protect their communications from the Assad regime.

The discussion is subtle, as it must take into account the personal liberties of global citizens, the dynamic nature of the technology industry, and the diverse interests of country governments.

Article via Committee to Protect JournalistsJuly 13, 2015

Photo: On the Phone via Artform Canada [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]