Posts Tagged ‘security breach’

I have recently started using the WhiteHat Aviator browser, which uses the anonymous search engine Disconnect. It is available for Windows and Mac here. It works pretty well (although it is sometimes slow). When I use it for sites like Gmail where I use two-factor authentication, I do have to enter both the second factor and the password every time I load the website. It will not save the code like Firefox can for thirty days.

I am planning on installing Disconnect on my phone next. If that works out, I will try the premium version, which includes encrypted Internet, safe browsing, and location control.

Another anonymous search engine is DuckDuckGo.

I also use Firefox with extensions NoScript, Ghostery, Adblock Plus, and Lightbeam. Lightbeam is particularly fascinating to look at; it shows all the sites that track me, even after all those add-ons. NoScript can be painful to use because you have to enable every single site.

After the last set of Adobe Flash 0days (two in a week!), I uninstalled Adobe Flash and Air. After all, if I really need Flash, I can always use Google Chrome, where Flash is built in.

I rarely use Internet Explorer any more.

And while you are updating your browser, make sure your Java version is current.

Trading convenience for security

Posted: December 22, 2014 by IntentionalPrivacy in Tips
Tags: , , , ,

These are some great tips from Gary Miliefsky at SnoopWall. You can either watch his video or read the interview. I just installed his SnoopWall Privacy app on my Android phone. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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.

On 11/24/2014, the Guardians of Peace (#GOP) announced on Reddit that they had hacked Sony Pictures Entertainment’s network, alleging that #GOP had stolen 100 terabytes of data. The stolen data laid out for public consumption in various data dumps around the Internet included both employee information—social security numbers, dates of birth, medical records, salary information—and corporate information—spreadsheets containing Sony layoff information, business plans, their network architecture, movie scripts, and even actual movies—and other confidential information. Then the attackers destroyed data to emphasize that their demands were serious.

While Sony has not commented much publicly except to yank The Interview (formerly scheduled to be released on Christmas Day), there has been considerable speculation on the person or groups responsible. The story—as we know it at this moment—sounds like a movie plot. (Are you listening Sony? When ya gonna make this movie?) There are spies, hacking, extortion … all the elements of a great plot … except a hero/heroine.

Sony, you get to play the whimpering coward sniveling in the corner. Who is going to step up to be the hero or heroine? That is the real question. Bonnie Tyler says it best, I am holding out for a hero/heroine.

As I see it there are four possible hacker group combinations:

  • The North Koreans hacked Sony because of the movie Sony produced called The Interview. It’s a comedy, and probably not a very good one.
  • One or more disgruntled Sony employees took the data. To look for possible disgruntled employees, let’s count: How many people has Sony laid-off?
  • The North Koreans and the disgruntled employees (and possibly other groups) separately hacked Sony.
  • The North Koreans managed to get someone inside Sony.

In my opinion, stealing 100 terabytes of data took some time and someone inside Sony had to help. How did they get the data out? USB drives? According to Numion.com, to download 100 terabytes at 10 Gbps with 50% overhead would take over 33 hours! Also, the data sounds like it’s very organized. Whoever stole it knew where to look and what to take and what to post first to make it hurt. It has a personal feel to it. No, it’s more than the North Koreans.

For a more in-depth analysis of the hackers, read Why the Sony hack is unlikely to be the work of North Korea.

North Korea: if you’re reading this, it’s just a movie. Get a sense of humor! Americans have made several movies about US presidents getting assassinated; here’s a few examples:

And of course, Wag the Dog cannot be left out of any movie list that discusses the death of a president’s political life.

I agree with President Obama that pulling the movie was a mistake. This is not a movie that I would have wanted to see, much less paid for. If you’d let it run, it would have been a brief news article, a week or two in the theaters and then … consigned to the $5 bin in Walmart. Now I want to see it!

However, there are some lessons we can all learn here:

  • Email is not private. Before you send any email, decide how you would feel if it ended up on the front page of the New York Times.
  • This is not the first time Sony has been publicly hacked. Remember the PlayStation Network debacle in April 2011, which affected 77 million customer accounts? This was followed by an attack May 2, 2011, on 24.5 million accounts at Sony Online Entertainment. Did Sony learn anything from those two incidents? Apparently not.
  • Compliance is not security! Doing the minimum necessary to comply with a law or laws is not enough to keep your corporate or personal information safe.
  • Just because you have a security breach doesn’t mean you have to lose a 100 terabytes of data. What were Sony’s security people doing?
  • If the company you work for does not take information security and privacy seriously, find someplace else to work. According to Forbes.com, Sony has had 195 security breaches from September 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, according to leaked emails. However, it’s hard to determine the seriousness of the incidents from the information presented in the article. Were any of these breaches about tons of data spewing from Sony?

How can you tell if your employer is taking information security and privacy seriously? Do they say “information security is important” but cut the budget? Do they train employees on information security and privacy? Do they patch their systems and keep their software updated? Have they had a breach? What did they do?

  • If the company that you buy goods or services from does not protect your information, take your business elsewhere.

Vote with your feet and your money! Protect your information; there’s no one that it matters more to than you.

My bottom line? I’m outraged—both at Sony’s sloppy information security practices and their cowardice.

Do you check your child’s credit reports?

It’s really important that you check your child’s credit report while he or she is a child because a child whose identity is stolen can have problems finding a job, getting credit, or renting a place to live after they become an adult. The older the records, the more difficult they are to clean up. How can someone get credit in the name of a juvenile? Credit reporting agencies do not have a foolproof way to check age when financial information is posted, so it is difficult for them to know that the victim is a child.

And what if your school has a data breach? Yes, that happens. You can check different types of breaches that have been made public at http://www.privacyrights.org/data-breach

Also think about what information you allow to be public about your children … on Facebook, at schools or school events, through Twitter.

For more information about protecting your child’s identity, consult the Identity Theft Resource Center article on “Identity Theft and Children.” http://www.idtheftcenter.org/artman2/publish/v_fact_sheets/Fact_Sheet_120.shtml The FTC also has a very good article on child identity theft at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft

Thieves hacked into Barnes and Noble credit card swipe machines to steal credit and debit card data. According to http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/barnes-noble-customer-credit-card-info-stolen-17557470 B&N has removed all swipe machines from their stores nationwide.

This is not the first time such a theft has occurred. Last year, Michaels crafts stores were hit by a similar scam.

The FBI is investigating.