Archive for the ‘free speech’ Category

Part 1 explains why you might decide to use secure messaging.

If you decide you want to use a secure messaging app, here are some factors you might consider:

  • How secure is the program? Does it send your messages in plaintext or does it encrypt your communications?
  • How user friendly is it?
  • How many people overall use it? A good rule for security and privacy: do not be an early adapter! Let somebody else work the bugs out. The number of users should be at least several thousand.
  • What do users say about using it? Make sure you read both positive and negative comments. Test drive it before you trust it.
  • How many people do you know who use it? Could you persuade your family and friends to use it?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What happens to the message if the receiver is not using the same program as the sender?
    • Does it notify you first and offer other message delivery options or does the message encryption fail?
    • For those cases where the encryption fails, does the message not get sent or is it sent and stored unencrypted on the other end?
  • Will it work on other platforms besides yours? Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows, etc.
  • Does the app include an anonymizer, such as Tor?
  • While the app itself may not cost, consider whether the messages will be sent using data or SMS? Will it cost you money from that standpoint?

The Electronic Freedom Foundation recently published an article called “The Secure Messaging Scorecard” that might help you find an app that meets your needs. Here are a few of the protocols used by the applications listed in the article:

I picked out a few apps that met all of their parameters, and put together some notes on cost, protocols, and platforms. While I have not used any of them, I am looking forward to testing them, and will let you know how it goes.


App Name Cost Platforms Protocol Notes
ChatSecure + Orbot Free; open source; GitHub iOS, Android OTR, XMPP, Tor, SQLCipher
CryptoCat Free; open source; GitHub Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, OS X, iPhone; Facebook Messsenger OTR – single conversations; XMPP – group conversations Group chat, file sharing; not anonymous
Off-The-Record Messaging for Windows (Pidgin) Free Windows, GNOME2, KDE 3, KDE 4 OTR, XMPP, file transfer protocols
Off-The-Record Messaging for Mac (Adium) Free Adium 1.5 or later runs on Mac OS X 10.6.8 or newer OTR, XMPP, file transfer protocols No recent code audit
Signal (iPhone) / RedPhone (Android) Free iPhone, Android, and the browser ZTRP
Silent Phone / Silent Text Desktop: Windows ZRTP, SCIMP Used for calling, texting, video chatting, or sending files
Telegram (secret chats) Free Android, iPhone / iPad, Windows Phone, Web- version, OS X (10.7 up), Windows/Mac/Linux Mproto Cloud-based; runs a cracking contest periodically
TextSecure Free Android Curve25519, AES-256, HMAC-SHA256.


When you send a message, who controls your messages? You write them and you get them, but what happens in the middle? Where are they stored? Who can read them? Email, texts, instant messaging and Internet relay chat (IRC), videos, photos, and (of course) phone calls all require software. Those programs are loaded on your phone or your tablet by the device manufacturer and the service provider. However, you can choose to use other – more secure – programs.

In the old days of the 20th century, a landline telephone call (or a fax) was an example of point-to-point service. Except for wiretaps or party lines, or situations where you might be overheard or the fax intercepted, that type of messaging was reasonably secure. Today, messaging does not usually go from your device—whether it is a cell phone, laptop, computer, or tablet—directly to the receiver’s device. Landlines are becoming scarcer, as digital phones using Voice over IP (VoIP) are becoming more prevalent. Messages are just like any other Internet activities: something (or someone) is in the middle.

It’s a lot like the days when an operator was necessary to connect your call. You are never really sure if someone is listening to your message.

What that means is that a digital message is not be secure without taking extra precautions. It may go directly from your device to your provider’s network or it may be forwarded from another network; it often depends on where you are located in relation to a cell phone tower and how busy it is. Once the message has reached your provider’s network, it may bounce to a couple of locations on their network, and then—depending on whether your friend is a subscriber of the same provider—the message may stay on the same network or it may hop to another provider’s network, where it will be stored on their servers, and then finally be delivered to the recipient.

Understand that data has different states and how the data is treated may be different depending on the state. Data can be encrypted when it is transmitted and it can be encrypted when it is stored, or it can remain unencrypted in either state.

Everywhere it stops on the path from your device to the destination, the message is stored. The length of time it is kept in storage depends on the provider’s procedures, and it could be kept for weeks or even years. It gets backed up and it may be sent to offsite storage. At any time along its travels, it can be lost, stolen, intercepted or subpoenaed. If the message itself is encrypted, it cannot be read without access to the key. If the application is your provider’s, they may have access to the message even if it is encrypted if they have access to the key.

Is the message sent over an encrypted channel or is it sent in plain text? If you are sending pictures of LOLZ cats, who cares? But if you are discussing, say, a work-related topic, or a medical or any other confidential issue, you might not want your messages available on the open air. In fact, it’s better for you and your employer if you keep your work and personal information separated on your devices. This can happen by carrying a device strictly for work or maybe through a Mobile Device Management application your employer installed that is a container for your employer’s information. If you do not keep your information separate and your job suddenly comes to an end, they may have the right to wipe your personal device or you may not be able to retrieve any personal information stored on a work phone. Those policies you barely glanced at before you signed them when you started working at XYZ Corporation? It is a good idea to review them at least once a year and have a contingency plan! I have heard horror stories about baby pictures and novels that were lost forever after a job change.

Are you paranoid yet? If not, I have not explained this very well!

A messaging app that uses encryption can protect your communications with the following disclaimers. These apps cannot protect you against a key logger or malware designed to intercept your communications. They cannot protect you if someone has physical or root access to your phone. That is one of the reasons that jail-breaking your phone is such a bad idea—you are breaking your phone’s built-in security protections.

An app also cannot protect you against leaks by someone you trusted with your information. Remember: If you do not want the files or the texts you send to be leaked by someone else, do not send the information.

If you decide that you want to try one or more messaging applications, it is really important to read the documentation thoroughly so you understand what the app does and what it does not do and how to use it correctly. And, finally: Do not forget your passphrase!! Using a password manager such as KeePass or LastPass is a necessity today. Also back up your passwords regularly and put a copy—digital and/or paper—of any passwords you cannot afford to lose in a safe deposit box or cloud storage. If you decide to use cloud storage, make sure you encrypt the file before you upload it. Cloud storage is a term that means you are storing your stuff on someone else’s computer.

Part 2

Data-Privacy-Day-2015roundInternational Data Privacy Day—called Data Protection Day in Europe—is celebrated in the US, Canada, and 27 European countries every year on January 28. It started on January 28, 1981, when the members of the Council of Europe signed the Convention for Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. In the US, Data Privacy Day is sponsored by StaySafeOnline.

Ever thought, why should I protect my information? Listen to Glenn Greenwald’s Ted Talk on Why Privacy Matters. Not only will it help you understand, but it might galvanize you to action!

Some tips on how to better protect your data include:

  • Use “Do Not Track” on your browser. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) explains how to turn on “Do Not Track” in some common browsers here. The EFF is a great resource about how to better protect your personal information.
  • Think before you share personal information, whether through email, on social media sites, or over the phone. Once you share information, you have no control over what happens to it. Help your children learn what is okay for them to share.
  • Check the privacy settings on social media sites you use on a regular basis. Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, … privacy policies change, which may impact your privacy settings.
  • Protect your computer by keeping your operating system and applications updated. On Windows, Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector helps me keep my applications current.
  • Create strong, unique passwords for every important site. Have a problem remembering all those passwords? Me too! Use a password manager like KeePass or LastPass. If you want to protect your information more, use two-factor authentication for email and social media site log-ins.
    • Help setting up Google’s Two-Factor Authentication
    • Help setting up Microsoft’s Two-Factor Authentication
  • Back up your important data regularly—pictures, documents, music, videos, or whatever is important to you—at least once a week. If you use a physical device, disconnect it between backups. To ensure that your information is safe, use two physical backup devices, alternate them, and keep one someplace safe like a safe deposit box. If you use a cloud backup, use a physical back up as well. Online services can go offline temporarily or even go out of business, while devices break, become corrupted, lost, stolen, or infected by malware. Periodically try to recover documents to ensure that your backups are functional.

Other tips

  • Mozilla’s Get Smart on Privacy
  • FTC’s Consumer Information
  • Check out DuckDuckGo, a search engine that doesn’t track you. Want to see how much tracking happens in your browser? Check out the Firefox Lightbeam addin.
  • Try WhiteHat Security Lab’s Aviator browser. Note: if you use two-factor authentication, you will need to enter a code every time you open up a site that uses it.

For whom the bell tolls

Posted: January 7, 2015 by IntentionalPrivacy in free speech

“Any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde” … and so, #Je Suis Charlie.

Reason says it better than I can, “Today is an awful day for the basic project of free inquiry. Do you really wanna be Charlie Hebdo? Then get on out there, live and speak bravely. And God help you.”


The number of independent theaters showing The Interview has been updated at Variety. Although not in the main list, Michael Moore’s theater, The Bijou, in Traverse City, Michigan, and George RR Martin’s theater, Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will also be showing the film.

You can also stream the video in HD on Google Play, YouTube Movies, Microsoft’s Xbox Video and  Sony’s own website, A forty-eight hour rental is $5.99, while buying the movie costs $14.99.

David Drummond,

Christmas Present: The Interview

Posted: December 23, 2014 by IntentionalPrivacy in free speech, Security Breach
Tags: , , ,

The Art House Convergence  offered Sony a way to distribute The Interview, so there will be limited showings of the movie starting on Christmas Day. Here is a list of theaters currently showing the movie according to Variety, which they will continue to update.

In a statement released on Tuesday, 12/23/2014, President Obama praised Sony’s decision to release the movie.

In other news, North Korea experienced massive Internet outages for much of Monday, but Internet access was restored on Tuesday according to Reuters.

I still think this story would make a great plot.

Happy holidays!


On December 17, Matt Mason (@MattMason), chief content officer at BitTorrent, tweeted that “Sony should release The Interview as a BitTorrent Bundle. This is the very thing the platform is designed for.”

Okay! An unlikely hero rides to the forefront!

What is BitTorrent?

BitTorrent is file-sharing software that uses a peer-to-peer computer model. Peer-to-peer means that files transfer from device to device instead of getting them from a centralized server.

How it works: The hoster of a file breaks a large file into smaller, equal-sized pieces and stores the pieces on seed computers. Then the hoster creates a small torrent descriptor file that they advertise. The torrent software is installed on a client computer. When the client decides to download a file, the software locates the pieces on seed computers and starts transferring pieces. The pieces typically arrive out of order and are re-arranged into the proper order when the transfer of all the pieces completes. That means the download can be stopped at any time and re-started without having to start the download over. When the file has been completely downloaded, the client with the completed file becomes a seed computer for other clients to download the pieces.

According to Wikipedia, an estimate of monthly BitTorrent users was about 250 million in January 2012. That means that as the file pieces are distributed to seed computers and downloaded by client computers who then become seed computers, the speed of file distribution increases.

You may even have been using BitTorrent already and didn’t know it. It is a component in Amazon S3 Simple Storage Service, an online service providing cloud applications, backup, and content distribution. Open source and free software projects use it to distribute downloads. Blizzard Entertainment’s Blizzard Downloader client (Diablo III, Starcraft II, and World of Warcraft) uses it for games, content, and patches. Universities sponsoring BOINC distributed computing projects often offer BitTorrent to reduce bandwidth costs. It supports Facebook and Twitter.

Why could BitTorrent release The Interview when the major theater chains couldn’t?

The peer-to-peer model would make it difficult for the attackers to stop downloads of the file.

And, “BitTorrent Bundle is a safe and legal way for Sony to release this film, and they would join the nearly 20,000 creators and rights holders now using the Bundle publishing platform,” said BitTorrent according to VentureBeat.

Why does BitTorrent think it is better to release the movie through them instead of through Sony’s own online video channels?

According to BitTorrent, by “using the paygate option, Sony are able to set the price for the film and release it widely without implicating anyone or exposing any third party to a terrorist threat,” and “it would strike a strong note for free speech.”

Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Linton told CNN on December 19th that “no ‘major video on demand distributor’ has been ‘willing to distribute’ the film. ‘We don’t have that direct interface with the American public, so we need to go through an intermediary to do that.’”

Sony, meet BitTorrent.