"privacy" entries

Four short links: 19 December 2014

Four short links: 19 December 2014

Statistical Causality, Clustering Bitcoin, Hardware Security, and A Language for Scripts

  1. Distinguishing Cause and Effect using Observational Data — research paper evaluating effectiveness of the “additive noise” test, a nifty statistical trick to identify causal relationships from observational data. (via Slashdot)
  2. Clustering Bitcoin Accounts Using Heuristics (O’Reilly Radar) — In theory, a user can go by many different pseudonyms. If that user is careful and keeps the activity of those different pseudonyms separate, completely distinct from one another, then they can really maintain a level of, maybe not anonymity, but again, cryptographically it’s called pseudo-anonymity. […] It turns out in reality, though, the way most users and services are using bitcoin, was really not following any of the guidelines that you would need to follow in order to achieve this notion of pseudo-anonymity. So, basically, what we were able to do is develop certain heuristics for clustering together different public keys, or different pseudonyms.
  3. A Primer on Hardware Security: Models, Methods, and Metrics (PDF) — Camouflaging: This is a layout-level technique to hamper image-processing-based extraction of gate-level netlist. In one embodiment of camouflaging, the layouts of standard cells are designed to look alike, resulting in incorrect extraction of the netlist. The layout of nand cell and the layout of nor cell look different and hence their functionality can be extracted. However, the layout of a camouflaged nand cell and the layout of camouflaged nor cell can be made to look identical and hence an attacker cannot unambiguously extract their functionality.
  4. Prompter: A Domain-Specific Language for Versu (PDF) — literally a scripting language (you write theatrical-style scripts, characters, dialogues, and events) for an inference engine that lets you talk to characters and have a different story play out each time.
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Four short links: 18 December 2014

Four short links: 18 December 2014

Manufacturer Rootkits, Dangerous Dongle, Physical Visualisation, and Cryptoed Comms

  1. Popular Chinese Android Smartphone Backdoored By ManufacturerCoolpad is the third largest smartphone builder in China, and ranks sixth worldwide with 3.7 percent global market share. It trails only Lenovo and Xiaomi in China and is the leader of China’s 4G market with 16 percent market share. Coolpad outsells Samsung and Apple in China, and has said it plans to expand globally with a goal of 60 million phones worldwide. For now, its high-end Halo Dazen phones are the only ones containing the backdoor, Palo Alto said. Backdoor enabled installation of other apps, dial numbers, send messages, and report back to the mothership. The manufacturer even ran the command-and-control nodes for the malware.
  2. USB Driveby — dongle that plugs into USB, and tries to root the box. Specifically, when you normally plug in a mouse or keyboard into a machine, no authorization is required to begin using them. The devices can simply begin typing and clicking. We exploit this fact by sending arbitrary keystrokes meant to launch specific applications (via Spotlight/Alfred/Quicksilver), permanently evade a local firewall (Little Snitch), install a reverse shell in crontab, and even modify DNS settings without any additional permissions.
  3. Physical Data Visualisationsa chronological list of physical visualizations and related artifacts. (via Flowing Data)
  4. Dissentan anonymous communication substrate intended primarily for applications built on a broadcast communication model: for example, bulletin boards, wikis, auctions, or voting. Users of an online group obtain cryptographic guarantees of sender and receiver anonymity, message integrity, disruption resistance, proportionality, and location hiding. And a pony.
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Four short links: 17 December 2014

Four short links: 17 December 2014

Security Stick, Spyware Toy, Bezos Time, and Popular JavaScript

  1. USB Armory — another Linux-on-a-stick, but this one has some nifty dimensions and security applications in mind.
  2. Who’s the Boss?The Elf on the Shelf essentially teaches the child to accept an external form of non-familial surveillance in the home when the elf becomes the source of power and judgment, based on a set of rules attributable to Santa Claus. Excellent deconstruction of ludic malware. (via Washington Post)
  3. Bezos on Time (Business Insider) — Where you are going to spend your time and your energy is one of the most important decisions you get to make in life. We all have a limited amount of time, and where you spend it and how you spend it is just an incredibly levered way to think about the world. This (he says at 9 p.m. in the office, in a different city from his family!).
  4. libscore — popularity of JavaScript scripts and libraries in the top million sites. But remember, just because all the cool kids do it doesn’t make right for you. (via Medium)
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Four short links: 10 December 2014

Four short links: 10 December 2014

Clearing Tor, Offline Cookbook, Burning Great Things, and Batch Pipelines

  1. Clearing the Air Around Tor (Quinn Norton) — Occasionally the stars align between spooks and activists and governments and anarchists. Tor, like a road system or a telephone network or many pieces of public infrastructure, is useful to all of these people and more (hence the debate on child pornographers and drug markets) because it’s just such a general architecture of encryption. The FBI may want Tor to be broken, but I promise any spies who are counting on it for mission and life don’t.
  2. Offline Cookbook — how Chrome intends to solve the offline problem in general. I hope it works and takes off because offline is the bane of this webapp-user’s life.
  3. The Pirate Bay, Down Forever?As a big fan of the KLF I once learned that it’s great to burn great things up. At least then you can quit while you’re on top.
  4. Luigi (Github) — a Python module that helps you build complex pipelines of batch jobs. It handles dependency resolution, workflow management, visualization, etc. It also comes with Hadoop support built in. (via Asana engineering blog)

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Four short links: 25 November 2014

Four short links: 25 November 2014

NSA Playset, Open Access, XSS Framework, and Security Test Cases

  1. Michael Ossman and the NSA Playset — the guy who read the leaked descriptions of the NSA’s toolchest, built them, and open sourced the designs. One device, dubbed TWILIGHTVEGETABLE, is a knock off of an NSA-built GSM cell phone that’s designed to sniff and monitor Internet traffic. The ANT catalog lists it for $15,000; the NSA Playset researchers built one using a USB flash drive, a cheap SDR, and an antenna, for about $50. The most expensive device, a drone that spies on WiFi traffic called PORCUPINEMASQUERADE, costs about $600 to assemble. At Defcon, a complete NSA Playset toolkit was auctioned by the EFF for $2,250.
  2. Gates Foundation Announces World’s Strongest Policy on Open Access Research (Nature) — Once made open, papers must be published under a license that legally allows unrestricted re-use — including for commercial purposes. This might include ‘mining’ the text with computer software to draw conclusions and mix it with other work, distributing translations of the text, or selling republished versions. CC-BY! We believe that published research resulting from our funding should be promptly and broadly disseminated.
  3. Xenotixan advanced Cross Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability detection and exploitation framework. It provides Zero False Positive scan results with its unique Triple Browser Engine (Trident, WebKit, and Gecko) embedded scanner. It is claimed to have the world’s 2nd largest XSS Payloads of about 4700+ distinctive XSS Payloads for effective XSS vulnerability detection and WAF Bypass. Xenotix Scripting Engine allows you to create custom test cases and addons over the Xenotix API. It is incorporated with a feature-rich Information Gathering module for target Reconnaissance. The Exploit Framework includes offensive XSS exploitation modules for Penetration Testing and Proof of Concept creation.
  4. Firing Range — Google’s open source set of web security test cases for scanners.
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Four short links: 14 November 2014

Four short links: 14 November 2014

Completing Maps, ChatOps, Career Design, and Data Privacy

  1. Missing Maps Fill In the Blanks (New Scientist) — OpenStreetMap project to crowdmap slums around the world.
  2. Chatops — devops deployment chatter with Hubot.
  3. Alternatives to Tech Career Ladders — Spotify trying to figure out how to keep engineers challenged as they become more senior.
  4. Mozilla’s Data Privacy Principles — well-articulated and useful: without pre-defined principles, it’s so easy to accidentally collect or poorly protect data.
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Four short links: 11 November 2014

Four short links: 11 November 2014

High-Volume Logs, Regulated Broadband, Oculus Web, and Personal Data Vacuums

  1. Infrastructure for Data Streams — describing the high-volume log data use case for Apache Kafka, and how it plays out in storage and infrastructure.
  2. Obama: Treat Broadband and Mobile as Utility (Ars Technica) — In short, Obama is siding with consumer advocates who have lobbied for months in favor of reclassification while the telecommunications industry lobbied against it.
  3. MozVR — a website, and the tools that made it, designed to be seen through the Oculus Rift.
  4. All Cameras are Police Cameras (James Bridle) — how the slippery slope is ridden: When the Wall was initially constructed, the public were informed that this [automatic license plate recognition] data would only be held, and regularly purged, by Transport for London, who oversee traffic matters in the city. However, within less than five years, the Home Secretary gave the Metropolitan Police full access to this system, which allowed them to take a complete copy of the data produced by the system. This permission to access the data was granted to the Police on the sole condition that they only used it when National Security was under threat. But since the data was now in their possession, the Police reclassified it as “Crime” data and now use it for general policing matters, despite the wording of the original permission. As this data is not considered to be “personal data” within the definition of the law, the Police are under no obligation to destroy it, and may retain their ongoing record of all vehicle movements within the city for as long as they desire.
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Four short links: 30 October 2014

Four short links: 30 October 2014

Security and Privacy, ISP Measurement, Github for Education, and Mobile Numbers

  1. A Critique of the Balancing Metaphor in Privacy and SecurityThe arguments presented by this paper are built on two underlying assertions. The first is that the assessment of surveillance measures often entails a judgement of whether any loss in privacy is legitimised by a justifiable increase in security. However, one fundamental difference between privacy and security is that privacy has two attainable end-states (absolute privacy through to the absolute absence of privacy), whereas security has only one attainable end-state (while the absolute absence of security is attainable, absolute security is a desired yet unobtainable goal). The second assertion, which builds upon the first, holds that because absolute security is desirable, new security interventions will continuously be developed, each potentially trading a small measure of privacy for a small rise in security. When assessed individually each intervention may constitute a justifiable trade-off. However, when combined together, these interventions will ultimately reduce privacy to zero. (via Alistair Croll)
  2. ISP Interconnection and its Impact on Consumer Internet Performance (Measurement Lab) — In researching our report, we found clear evidence that interconnection between major U.S. access ISPs (AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon) and transit ISPs Cogent, Level 3, and potentially XO was correlated directly with degraded consumer performance throughout 2013 and into 2014 (in some cases, ongoing as of publication). Degraded performance was most pronounced during peak use hours, which points to insufficient capacity and congestion as a causal factor. Further, by noting patterns of performance degradation for access/transit ISP pairs that were synchronized across locations, we were able to conclude that in many cases degradation was not the result of major infrastructure failures at any specific point in a network, but rather connected with the business relationships between ISPs.
  3. The Emergence of Github as Collaborative Platform for Education (PDF) — We argue that GitHub can support much of what traditional learning systems do, as well as go beyond them by supporting collaborative activities.
  4. Mobile is Eating the World (A16Z) — mobile becoming truly ubiquitous, bringing opportunities to use the construct “X is eating Y.”
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Four short links: 20 October 2014

Four short links: 20 October 2014

Leaky Search, Conditional Javascript, Software Proofs, and Fake Identity

  1. Fix Mac OS Xeach time you start typing in Spotlight (to open an application or search for a file on your computer), your local search terms and location are sent to Apple and third parties (including Microsoft) under default settings on Yosemite (10.10). See also Net Monitor, an open source toolkit for finding phone-home behaviour.
  2. A/B Testing at Netflix (ACM) — Using a combination of static analysis to build a dependency tree, which is then consumed at request time to resolve conditional dependencies, we’re able to build customized payloads for the millions of unique experiences across Netflix.com.
  3. Leslie Lamport Interview SummaryOne idea about formal specifications that Lamport tries to dispel is that they require mathematical capabilities that are not available to programmers: “The mathematics that you need in order to write specifications is a lot simpler than any programming language […] Anyone who can write C code, should have no trouble understanding simple math, because C code is a hell of a lot more complicated than” first-order logic, sets, and functions. When I was at uni, profs worked on distributed data, distributed computation, and formal correctness. We have the first two, but so much flawed software that I can only dream of the third arriving.
  4. Fake Identity — generate fake identity data when testing systems.
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Four short links: 8 October 2014

Four short links: 8 October 2014

Tracking Awareness, Simple GUIs, Service Design, and Pull-Based Development

  1. Floodwatcha Chrome extension that tracks the ads you see as you browse the internet. It offers tools to help you understand both the volume and the types of ads you’re being served during the course of normal browsing, with the goal of increasing awareness of how advertisers track your browsing behavior, build their version of your online identity, and target their ads to you as an individual.
  2. slfsrvcreate simple, cross-platform GUI applications, or wrap GUIs around command-line applications, using HTML/JS/CSS and your own browser.
  3. Service Design Toolkit downloads — posters and templates for workshops, posters, and exercises.
  4. Work Practices and Challenges in Pull-Based Development: The Integrator’s Perspective (PDF) — Our key findings are that integrators struggle to maintain the quality of their projects and have difficulties with prioritizing contributions that are to be merged. To which every open-source project maintainer says, “no shit Sherlock” and “thank god it’s not just me” simultaneously.
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