How Profiling Has Weakened National Security

My wife and I drove up through Canada on the 4th of July weekend, for a pleasant time in Montreal and Niagara Falls. The falls, Niagara on the Lake, a wine trial you can get lost in, and a romantic French town made for a wonderful time. On the way in, however, the Canadian border crossing proved gloriously ignorant of American gun crime when they searched our vehicle on the sole premise that I own a concealed carry permit in my state. The whole experience got me thinking quite a bit about the pitfalls of profiling, and in Canada’s too-liberal-to-use-common-sense case, their poor profiling practices have likely left them in a position of being even less secure.

Canada has been attempting to crack down on gun violence over the past few years by profiling individuals with conceal carry permits, and/or admit to owning guns at home. Some states are rumored to share this information with Canada; no doubt they likely at least flag passports based on intel from prior trips. The border patrol agents are quite intrusive, asking how many guns you own, what kind, and etcetera. Even if your visit shows a number of good indicators (such as traveling with a companion that you are related to), merely owning a firearms is enough to bump you to the top of their suspect list. Canada claims that they’ve confiscated around 1,400 firearms from visiting Americans every year, and of course that is the metric they use to quantify their profiling efforts. In a nutshell, having a carry permit makes you a violent felon in Canada’s eyes. Not surprisingly, Canada’s inexplicable fear of guns has left them more vulnerable to gun violence by senselessly tainting their profiling capabilities.

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Let’s Stop Being so Pious on Gay Marriage

After a week of listening to fellow Christians groan on about gay marriage, our government, and morality, whether it’s in church on Sundays or the pundits on Fox News, one thing has become quite apparent to me: even if you disagree with gay marriage, we (as Christians) are in no moral position to defend the sanctity of marriage. The church can’t even hold its own marriages together, so what makes us think we have any grounds to dictate standards for marriage to anyone else?

A 2008 study by The Barna Group put the numbers for divorce from 1-in-2 to down to 1-in-3, both for the entire nation as well as for Christians. According to the study, the national average appears to be about 33%, and not the 50% that everyone had long assumed. Similarly, however, Christian marriages suffered from a dismal 26-28% divorce rate; a statistically insignificant difference. The fact is that 1-in-3 of all marriages both within the church and without – end in divorce. It’s a truly heartbreaking number. It does highlight, however, the systemic problem with taking a moral position on marriage: Christians are simply not an authority, or even an example, of marriage on any level. To quote SCOTUS (out of context), “Just who do we think we are?”

The church’s failure to hold marriages together has caused her to start losing what she would view as her position of leadership in the world regarding this topic. From a Christian perspective, one might say that God is judging the church, or even removing her lampstand. On a more general level, morality overall in the church has fallen greatly. However you want to look at it, in this broken world, the church has not lived up to its own standards, and you can’t have leadership when you don’t even play by your own rules. There is certainly forgiveness for this, but there must first be repentance and I have yet to see very much of that in the church overall. 

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Tl;Dr Notes on iOS 8 PIN / File System Crypto

Here’s iOS file system / PIN encryption as I understand it. I originally pastebin’d this but folks thought it was worth keeping around. (Thanks to Andrey Belenko for his suggestions for edits).

Block 0 of the NAND is used as effaceable storage and a series of encryption “lockers” are stored on it. This is the portion that gets wiped when a device is erased, as this is the base of the key hierarchy. These lockers are encrypted with a hardware key that is derived from a unique hardware id fused into the secure space of the chip (secure enclave, etc). Only the hardware AES routines have access to this key, and there is no known way to extract it without chip deconstruction.

One specific locker, called BAGI, contains an encryption key that encrypts what’s called the system keybag. The keybag contains a number of encryption “class keys” that ultimately protect files in the file system; they’re locked and unlocked at different times, depending on user activity. This lets developers choose if files should get locked when the device is locked, or stay unlocked after they enter their PIN, and so on. Every file on the file system has its own random file key, and that key is encrypted with a class key from the keybag. The keybag keys are encrypted with a combination of the key in the BAGI locker and the user’s PIN.

There’s another locker in the NAND (what Apple calls the class 4 key, and what we call the Dkey). The Dkey is not encrypted with the user PIN, and in previous versions of iOS (<8), was used as the foundation for encryption of any files that were not specifically protected with “data protection”. Most of the file system at the time used the Dkey instead of a class key, by design. Because the PIN wasn’t involved in the crypto (like it is with the class keys in the keybag), anyone with root level access (such as Apple) could easily open that Dkey locker, and therefore decrypt the vast majority of the file system that used it for encryption. The only files that were protected with the PIN up until iOS 8 were those with data protection explicitly enabled, which did not include a majority of Apple’s files storing personal data. In iOS 8, Apple finally pulled the rest of the file system out of the Dkey locker and now virtually the entire file system is using class keys from the keybag that *are* protected with the user’s PIN. The hardware-accelerated AES crypto functions allow for very fast encryption and decryption of the entire hard disk making this technologically possible since the 3GS, however for no valid reason whatsoever (other than design decisions), Apple decided not to properly encrypt the file system until iOS 8.
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Open Letter to the Commerce Department and Legislators, Regarding Wassenaar

To Whom it May Concern,

I am a published and respected forensics expert who pioneered the very first forensic techniques to extract data from the iPhone as early as 2008.. Since then, I have spend several years, and much of my time, assisting numerous law enforcement and military agencies around the world, including our own. I’ve trained government agencies in the US, Canada, and UK, and trained law enforcement from dozens of our allies here at home in the US. My work has been validated by the NIJ/NIST. I have invested my time in providing free assistance to many US-based federal and state agencies who have flown personnel into my small town for help in the middle of the night. Because of my research and hard work, I’ve provided the necessary information to the rest of the industry to be able to perform iOS forensics, and a vast majority of today’s forensics solutions are founded upon my techniques.

I did all of this on my own personal time, and in many cases on my own dime. The tools and techniques I have developed are by no means “intrusion” tools, however due to the excessively broad nature of the Wassenaar proposal, would fall under its regulations as they bypass security mechanisms of devices and collect information from them. As all of my research is done personally, I have no large company with lawyers to address the impossible spider web of export regulations that would be introduced by Wassenaar. The current proposal as is would harm far more than simply the information security industry, but would also greatly damage the forensics industry and ultimately limit the quality of tools available to law enforcement agencies for conducting lawful forensics. My tools, as well as many commercial solutions, employ the use of exploits to collect information from devices for purposes that serve law enforcement and the greater good. I sometimes only privately release the source code to my own tools, as many commercial forensics manufacturers have stolen it in the past, yet I continue to help the law enforcement community. Wassenaar will do little to accomplish the goals it set out to, and instead make it impossible for security researchers like myself to further expand the base of knowledge by contributing openly to the community – which goes far beyond this country’s borders.

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Enabling Awesome Hidden Screens on Your New Chevrolet

I was recently T-boned in a high speed crash, and only walked away by a miracle. After seeing how my Dodge RAM buckled, I came to abandon Chrysler completely. The side curtain airbags failed to deploy, and in spite of the outright lies they publish on the sticker for safety ratings, my 2010 RAM actually only had a three-star rating from the independent test labs, which became dreadfully apparent in the incredible amount of damage caused to the truck.

Enter my 2015 Silverado Z71. The truck is, as the commercials say, pretty boss, and this is by far the best truck I’ve ever owned. I initially looked at it only because Silverado/Sierra presently dominates the top spots on KBB’s truck safety ratings for 2015… as soon as I saw what Chevy had done with their trucks, though, all they had to do was shut up and take my money. The new engines are more powerful and fuel efficient than the old Vortec. The suspension is a dream. The triple sealed interior is unusually quiet, not to mention wrapped in leather and completely redesigned. USB ports everywhere, Siri Eyes-Free, Pandora, and flawless BT integration make the electronics in my pocket very happy. It seems as though Chevy has reinvented everything about themselves.

In spite of the fact that they use a cheesy name like “infotainment system”, the MyLink system is very high tech. In the process of geeking out over all of its capabilities, I came across several hidden screens that are not active by default. I didn’t see these documented or discussed anywhere, so thought I’d mention them; some may exist on other Chevy models, too, so it’s worth a look.

On Pilots and Mental Health

The recent airline tragedy involving a pilot who, suffering from mental illness, crashed his plane killing about 150 passengers, has got me thinking about a mental health crisis in my family about seven years ago. Due to strict medical privacy legislation layered on top of antiquated mental health treatment laws, this tragedy has proven yet again how easy it is for the government to enable the mentally ill to isolate themselves and hide their illness – even when they are in a very high risk position that can affect hundreds of lives.

I’ve written about this in an article some seven years ago, titled How Medical Privacy Laws Destroyed My Dad’s Mental Health. Read it. You may be surprised to find how government control of who your doctor is allowed to talk to can further deteriorate a patient’s mental state and lead to harmful outcomes. This may have been similar to what happened in this recent airline tragedy. My belief is that the choice of who a doctor can talk to is best left up to their discretion, not the government, and opening that communication between family can potentially prevent such tragedies, as well as avoid a worsening overall condition. I’m speaking this from experience.

My heart and prayers go out to the victims’ families.

Running Invisible in the Background in iOS 8

Since iOS 8’s release, a number of security improvements have been made since publishing my findings last July. Many services that posed a threat to user privacy have been since closed off, and are only open in beta versions of iOS. One small point I made in the paper was the threat that invisible software poses on the operating system:

“Malicious software does not require a device be jail- broken in order to run. … With the simple addition of an SBAppTags property to an application’s Info.plist (a required file containing descriptive tags iden- tifying properties of the application), a developer can build an application to be hidden from the user’s GUI (SpringBoard). This can be done to a non-jailbroken device if the attacker has purchased a valid signing certificate from Apple. While advanced tools, such as Xcode, can detect the presence of such software, the application is invisible to the end-user’s GUI, as well as in iTunes. In addition to this, the capability exists of running an application in the background by masquerading as a VoIP client (How to maintain VOIP socket connection in background) or audio player (such as Pandora) by add- ing a specific UIBackgroundModes tag to the same property list file. These two features combined make for the perfect skeleton for virtually undetectable spyware that runs in the background.”

As of iOS 8, Apple has closed off the SBAppTags feature set so that applications cannot use that to hide applications, however it looks like there are still some ways to manipulate the operating system into hiding applications on the device. I have contacted Apple with the specific technical details and they have assured me that the problem has been fixed in iOS 8.3. As for now, however, it looks like iOS 8.2 and lower are still vulnerable to this attack. The attack allows for software to be loaded onto a non-jailbroken device (which typically requires a valid pairing, or physical possession of the device) that runs in the background and invisibly to the SpringBoard user interface.

The presence of a vulnerability such as this should heighten user awareness that invisible software may still be installed on a non-jailbroken device, and would be capable of gathering information that could be used to track the user over a period of time. If you suspect that malware may be running on your device, you can view software running invisibly with a copy of Xcode. Unlike the iPhone’s UI and iTunes, invisible software that is installed on the device will show up under Xcode’s device organizer.

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Testing for the Strawhorse Backdoor in Xcode

In the previous blog post, I highlighted the latest Snowden documents, which reveal a CIA project out of Sandia National Laboratories to author a malicious version of Xcode. This Xcode malware targeted App Store developers by installing a backdoor on their computers to steal their private codesign keys.

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So how do you test for a backdoor you’ve never seen before? By verifying that the security mechanisms it disables are working correctly. Based on the document, the malware apparently infects Apple’s securityd daemon to prevent it from warning the user prior to exporting developer keys:

“… which rewrites securityd so that no prompt appears when exporting a developer’s private key”

A good litmus test to see if securityd has been compromised in this way is to attempt to export your own developer keys and see if you are prompted for permission.

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The Implications of CIA’s Jamboree

Early this morning, The Intercept posted several documents pertaining to CIA’s research into compromising iOS devices (along with other things) through Sandia National Laboratories, a major research and development contractor to the government. The documents outlined a number of project talks taking place at a closed government conference referred to as the Jamboree in 2012. The projects listed in the documents included the following pieces.


Rocoto, a chip-like implant that would likely be soldered to the 30-pin connector on the main board, and act like a flasher box that performs the task of jailbreaking a device using existing public techniques. Once jailbroken, a chip like Rocoto could easily install and execute code on the device for persistent monitoring or other forms of surveilance. Upon firmware restore, a chip like Rocoto could simply re-jailbreak the device. Such an implant could have likely worked persistently on older devices (like the 3G mentioned), however the wording of the document (“we will discuss efforts”) suggests the implant was not complete at the time of the talk. This may, however, have later been adopted into the DROPOUTJEEP implant, which was portrayed as an operational product in the NSA’s catalog published several months ago. The DROPOUTJEEP project, however, claimed to be software-based, where Rocoto seems to have involved a physical chip implant.


Strawhorse, a malicious implementation of Xcode, where App Store developers (likely not suspected of any crimes) would be targeted, and their dev machines backdoored to give CIA injection capabilities into compiled applications. The malicious Xcode variant was capable of stealing the developer’s private codesign keys, which would be smuggled out with compiled binaries. It would also disable securityd so that it would not warn the developer that this was happening. The stolen keys could later be used to inject and sign payloads into the developer’s own products without their permission or knowledge, which could then be widely disseminated through the App Store channels. This could include trojans or watermarks, as the document suggests. With the developer keys extracted, binary modifications could also be made at a later time, if such an injection framework existed.

In spite of what The Intercept wrote, there is no evidence that Strawhorse was slated for use en masse, or that it even reached an operational phase.

NOTE: At the time these documents were reportedly created, a vast majority of App Store developers were American citizens. Based on the wording of the document, this was still in the middle stages of development, and an injection mechanism (the complicated part) does not appear to have been developed yet, as there was no mention of it.

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Trolls, Bullies, and CEOs: Dealing With the Dumbest People on Twitter

The following is based on my own personal experience with Twitter’s security team. Your mileage may vary.

I have some of the thickest skin around; that’s probably what makes Twitter work for me. The company itself, though, seems to be intentionally leaning in favor of supporting criminals and that’s not only ignorant, but incredibly self defeating. I spent a day in January entertained by a couple idiots who claim to be part of Lizard squad, but I have my doubts, as they have no technical skill whatsoever. They did the absolute most laughable job of trying to dox me, and failed miserably. As is the case with this type of harassment, they made the typical death threats you see them making everyone else: trying to incite fear by claiming a hit man is on his way to (what they thought) was my address, followed by a cheap public records search, which in my case had all wrong addresses dating back over 20 years. Even sadder is what was missing from the dox: they didn’t even know where I worked, or have any real accurate information about me to present. The photo they even posted of me while “doxxing” me was an old O’Reilly Media photo, about 50lb heavier, that I had released when I published my first book. (O’Reilly has a better one of me now, that’s only a couple years old). Other photos (like some old wedding photos) were ones I’d posted myself on my website; ironically only a couple IPs dug back that far in my weblogs and none of them were Tor (idiots). It was a truly amateur attempt to release information on me that I not only knew was already publicly available, but even released myself.

There is really no better word to describe these kids than “dipshits”.

This group of kindergarteners got other information wrong too that I won’t disclose. Sorry, guys, but there actually is more than one Jonathan Zdziarski in the world. Their sad sad doxxing skills aren’t the only point I want to make, though. My other point here is to explain what Twitter did: absolutely nothing. That’s right. Not even suspended an account and in some cases just stopped responding to me.

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 9.25.44 PMIt’s these same kids who doxxed the person behind SwiftOnSecurity, and even claimed responsibility for hacking the real Taylor Swift’s account. These are the same ones who’ve made vicious death threats too, against myself, SwiftOnSecurity, and many others including some prominent feminists and gamers, using public records to look up addresses. Some people on Twitter became scared enough to actually leave their homes and contact the police after receiving personalized threats. Twitter is the chosen medium for instant fame and large follower counts; that’s why it is so good at attracting psychopaths. The only way it works is by allowing bullies to build a large follower base for popularity and by allowing users to create a set of [trackable] social connections.

Doxxing is kind of like asking the Internet for your FOIA record. It’s good to know what other people know about you, and what’s out there, and what’s not. Pretending your information isn’t out there is naive; it’s better to know, and even be able to point to screenshots of leaked data in the event that it’s ever used. Of course when it escalates to death threats and harassment, you have to at least go through the process of treating it seriously, even if you know the people behind it are powerless.

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Lenovo’s Domain Record Appears Jacked

Early reports came in from Verge that Lenovo was hacked, however upon visiting the website, many reported no problems. Lenovo servers were not, in fact hacked, however it appears that the domain record may have been hijacked. Two whois queries below show that the domain was updated today and its name servers were changed over from Lenovo’s own to CloudFlare.

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Given recent DDoS attempts against Lenovo lately, it’s not entirely impossible that Lenovo decided to host with CloudFlare, however given their own massive infrastructure, I’d call this extremely unlikely; in that event, the transition went quite miserable from Verge’s point of view. What most likely is happening is the hacked site being hosted behind CloudFlare, and the name records simply have been hijacked.

Lenovo uses an obscure Chinese registrar (, so it’s foreseeable that the registrar could have been socially engineered to gain control of the domain. How ironic would it be, though, if the credentials to Lenovo’s account were stolen by decrypting Lenovo traffic using Superfish certs? Perhaps poetic justice?

It looks as though the domain may have even been deleted from, or transferred out of webnic. If this is the case (and not just a malfunction), then it could take even longer for Lenovo to get the domain back.

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Naturally, as DNS takes time to propagate, more and more people will see the hacked version (sitting on some other server not at Lenovo), and when Lenovo finally regains control, it will take up to 24 hours or so for users to start seeing the DNS switch back.

This smells more of an amateur stunt rather than a good old fashioned hacking. No zero-days were harmed in the making of this defacement. In fact, Lenovo’s servers seem to be completely intact. Just another day at the zoo.

Speaking With a Vocabulary of Color

A wise woman once told me, “it takes a long time to learn how to play like yourself”, referring to my music. This was actually Vic Wooten’s mom, an amazing woman, who I had the pleasure of meeting during a three week retreat at Victor’s camp to learn more about music. I find the same is true in photography. Every photographer has a unique look and feel, and much of it is more than just camera technique. Technique is really only maybe 1/10th of the overall photo, just like technique is only about 1/10th of what makes music what it is.

Image toning and contrast plays a big role in how you communicate your photo to someone. In music, we have dynamics and tone to communicate emphasis, emotion, and even mood; the same is true in photography: color is emphasis, emotion, and mood. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then tone and contrast help determine whether those words are screaming in all caps (which is entirely appropriate sometimes), soft gentle words, or void of emotion completely. When you risk getting into trouble is when you’re trying to convey one emotion in your photograph, but the colors and contrast are conveying another, usually clashing, emotion. On one extreme, you’ve likely seen the outright blatant vibrance control abuse that can happen on sites like 500px. On the other end, some fantastic black and white photography conveys deeper meaning, but the emotion of color is lost.

Ocean Titan

Ocean Titan

Snæfellsness Peninsula, Iceland. (Nikon D800E, 24mm, f/13)

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CVF: SPF as a Certificate Validator for SSL

In light of recent widespread MiTM goings on with Superfish and Lenovo products, I dusted off an old technique introduced in the anti-spam communities several years ago that would have prevented this, and could more importantly put a giant dent in the capabilities of government sponsored SSL MiTM.

The Core Problem

The core of the problem with SSL is twofold; after all these years, thousands of Snowden documents, and more reason to distrust governments and be paranoid about hackers more than ever, we’re still putting an enormous amount of trust into certificate authorities to:

  1. Play by the rules according to their own verification policies and never be socially engineered
  2. Never honor any secret FISA court order to issue a certificate for a targeted organization
  3. Be secure enough to never be compromised, or to always know when they’ve been compromised
  4. Never hire any rogue employees who would issue false certificates

Not only are we putting an immense trust in our CAs, but we’re also putting even more trust into our own computers, and that the root certificates loaded into our trust store are actually trustworthy. Superfish proved that to not be the case, however Superfish has only done what we’ve been doing in the security community for years to conduct pen-tests: insert a rogue certificate into the trust store of a device. We’ve done this with iOS, OSX, Windows PCs, and virtually every other operating system as well in conducting pen-tests and security audits.

Sure, there is cert pinning, you say… however in most cases, when it comes to web browsers at least, cert pinning only pins your certificate to a trusted certificate authority. In the case of Superfish’s malware, cert pinning doesn’t appear to have prevented the interception of SSL traffic whatsoever. In fact, Superfish broke the root store so badly, that in some cases, self-signed certificates could even validate! In the case of CAs that have been compromised (either by an adversary, or via secret court orders), cert pinning can also be rendered ineffective, because it still primarily depends on trusting the CA and the root store.

We have existing solid means of validating the chain of trust, but SSL is still missing one core component, and that’s a means of validating with the (now trusted) host itself, to ensure that it thinks there’s nothing fishy about your connection. Relying on the trust store alone is why, after potentially tens of thousands of website visits, none of the web browsers thought to ask, “hey why am I seeing the same cert on every website I visit?”

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Superfish Spyware Also Available for iOS and Android

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 3.52.37 PMFor those watching the Superfish debacle unfold, you may also be interested to note that Superfish has an app titled LikeThat available for iOS and Android. The app is a visual search tool apparently for finding furniture that you like (whatever). They also have other visual search apps for pets and other idiotic things, all of which seem to be quite popular. Taking a closer look at the application, it appears as though they also do quite a bit of application tracking, including reporting your device’s unique identifier back to an analytics company. They’ve also taken some rather sketchy approaches to how they handle photos so as to potentially preserve the EXIF data in them, which can include your GPS position and other information.

To get started, just taking a quick look at the binary using ‘strings’ can give you some sketchy information. Here are some of the URLs in the binary:

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Tone and Drama


First Snow SMDark Kings
Nikon D800E, 14mm, f/9, 15s

After developing several dozen photographs of Kirkjufell, they all started to look alike. If you’re putting a gallery together, this isn’t really a good thing. Even at different angles, different times of day, etc., each photo needs to be able to stand out on its own. Add to that, some website communities prefer different things (for example, 500px prefers either surrealistic landscapes, or large breasts). I took a couple photos that I had developed the same as the others, then decided to have some fun with them (no, I didn’t paste breasts onto either of them).

The first big change I made was to adjust the tone of the photo. The tone is the overall color rendering and tonal range. While I still do my best to stay true to the photo, adjusting the tone can still be done in a tasteful and realistic way. DxO Optics Pro offers an expansion Film Pack kit, which allows me to take a photo and apply it to different types of analog film; old school film came in many different types and depending on the chemical makeup, ISO, and other properties, you’d get a different tonal presentation depending on what film you used. The film I chose was Lomography Redscale ISO 100. This added a much warmer cast to the photo, and really brought out the reds. There are many other ways to alter the overall tone of a photo, too. Photoshop CC itself provides white balance, HSL sliders, color balance controls, and HDR toning options all within the software.

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Lenovo Enabled Wiretapping of Your Computer

Robert Graham recently uncovered software that came preinstalled on Lenovo computers hiding under the guide of advertising-ware. While the media rushes to understand the technical details behind this, many are making the mistake of chocking it up to some poorly designed advertising / malvertising software with vulnerabilities. This is not the case at all, and it’s important to note that what’s been done here by Lenovo and SuperFish by all accounts is far more serious: a very intentionally designed eavesdropping / surveillance mechanism that allows Lenovo PCs’ encrypted traffic to be wiretapped anywhere it travels on the Internet. We’ll never know the true motives behind the software, but someone went to great lengths to maliciously transform encrypted traffic in a way that allows this electronic wiretapping, then bundled it with new Lenovo computers.

Based on Graham’s notes, and what the media is reporting is commonly referred to as a Man-in-the-Middle attack on the victim’s computer; this is only where the trouble begins. When the user goes to establish an encrypted connection with, say, Bank of America, the SuperFish software pretends that it’s Bank of America right on your computer, by using a phony certificate to masquerade as if it were actually the bank. SuperFish then talks to the real Bank of America using its own private keys to decrypt traffic coming back to it. Where this becomes dangerous is that this transforms the traffic while it’s in transit across the Internet, so that data coming back to the PC is encrypted with a key that SuperFish can decrypt and read.

The threat here goes far beyond that of just the victim’s computer or advertisements: by design, this allows for wiretapping of the PC’s traffic from anywhere it travels on the Internet. In addition to the local MiTM / advertising concerns the media is focusing on, it appears as though the way SuperFish designed their software allows anyone who has either licensed or stolen SuperFish’s private key to intercept and read any encrypted traffic from any affected Lenovo PC across the Internet, without ever having access to the computer. How is this possible? Because SuperFish appears to use the same private keys on every reported installation of the software, according to what Graham’s observed so far.

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Well Written Piece on Crowd Shaming

How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco’s Life isn’t just a piece about Justine Sacco, it’s a piece about the depravity of society and how the ferocity in shaming has evolved over a few hundred years. The nature of instantly rewarding those who essentially bully others creates a rather compound effect. The way social networks react today in this practice feels very Hitler-esque. While I’ve never been crowd shamed for anything, I have witnessed it in disgust several times. I often question if those who crowd shame are the same archetype who would have fit right into Hitler’s Nazi regime. The principles are the same: the instant gratification and reward of attention and acceptance by a crowd for destroying another human; scale is the only thing that’s really any different. I suspect those who would intentionally seek out the former would also seek out the latter, and those that would ignorantly go along with the former would likewise, under the right conditions, also be weak minded enough to ignorantly go along with the latter.

Waze: Google’s New Spying Tool

In 2013, Google acquired Waze, a tool designed to find you the best route while driving. Upon hearing of the application, I thought I’d check it out. Unfortunately, I didn’t get past the privacy policy, which was updated only six months ago. While Waze’s policy begins with “Waze Mobile Limited respects your privacy”, reading the policy demonstrates that they do no such thing.

Interesting note: Waze will not let you view the privacy policy inside the app until you’ve already agreed to let it track your location.

Unique Tracking Identifiers

The first thing I immediately noticed about Waze is that they function in the same way Whisper does: under the false guise of anonymity. The average user would wrongly assume that by not registering an account, their identity remains unknown. Even if you don’t create an account in Waze, the privacy policy states that their software creates a unique identifier on your device to track you; to my knowledge, this is a violation of Apple’s own App Store guidelines, but it seems that Google (and Whisper) have gotten a free pass on this. From the policy:

“If you choose to use the Services without setting up a username you may do so by skipping the username setup stage of the application installation process. Waze will still link all of your information with your account and a unique identifier generated by Waze in accordance with this Privacy Policy.”

I’ve previously written about Whisper and how this technique, combined with multiple GPS data points, can easily identify who you are and where you live, even if the GPS queries are fuzzed. With Google as a parent company, not only is your location information particularly identifying, but cross-referenced with Google data and their massive analytics, could easily determine a complete profile about you including your web search history (interests, fetishes, etc). Even if you don’t have a Google account, any Google searches you’ve done through local IP addresses or applications that track your geolocation can easily be used to link your Waze data to your search history, to your social networking profiles, to virtually any other intelligence Google or its subsidiaries are collecting about you. Simply by using Waze just once, you’ve potentially granted Google license to identify you by GPS or geolocation, and associate an entire web search history with your identity, to de-anonymize you to Google.

Of course, Waze doesn’t come out and admit this; if you read their privacy policy, however, you see that they’ve granted themselves a number of interesting (some nonconventional) rights to your data that make this possible. Perhaps this is why company may have been worth over a billion dollars to Google.

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Pawn Storm Fact Check

Fortinet recently published a blog entry analyzing the Pawn Storm malware for iOS. There were some significant inaccuracies, however, and since Fortinet seems to be censoring website comments, I thought I’d post my critique here. Here are a few things important to note about the analysis that were grossly inaccurate.

First of important note is the researcher’s claim that the LSRequiresIPhoneOS property indicates that iPads are not targeted, but that the malware only runs on iPhone. Anyone who understands the iOS environment knows that the LSRequiresIPhoneOS tag simply indicates that the application is an iOS application; this tag can be set to true, and an application can still support iPad and any other iOS based devices (iPod, whatever). I mention this because anyone reading this article may assume that their iPad or iPod is not a potential target, and therefore never check it. If you suspect you could be a target of Pawn Storm, you should check all of your iOS based devices.

Second important thing to note: Most of the information the researcher claims the application gathers can only be gathered on jailbroken devices. This is because the jailbreak process in and of itself compromises Apple’s own sandbox in order to allow applications to continue to run correctly after Cydia has relocated crucial operating system files onto the user data partition. When running Cydia for the first time, several different folders get moved to the /var/stash folder on the user partition. Since this folder normally would not be accessible outside of Apple’s sandbox, the geniuses writing jailbreaks decided to break Apple’s sandbox so that you could run your bootleg versions of Angry Birds. Smart, huh?

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Three Lenses That Outperform Nikon’s

Every time I hear pro photographers drone on about what’s in their bag, it almost always gravitates solely around Nikon, Canon, or  whatever brand they’re being sponsored by. This, in my opinion, is their handicap, and why so many “pro” photographers end up looking just like all the other noise out there. Lenses are like wine, each one has a different personality. Just because brand X happens to be made by Nikon, or have the sharpest center, doesn’t mean that it’s going to necessarily give you the best results.

There’s a lot to consider in lens selection. Overall sharpness is certainly one of them, but in addition to that, there is color rendering, contrast (and micro-contrast), bokeh, sharpness at desired apertures, vignetting, compression, flaring and plenty other things. If you want to stand out as a photographer, getting that different look and feel in your photos can – to some degree – be determined by which lenses you choose to shoot with. Here are a few lenses that I keep in my bag, and why you might consider them as good alternatives to whatever camera brand you’re currently using.

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