Category Archives: Security

Gangsters with Blackberry’s & the Upsurge in “Intelligence Led” Busts

A sensational story about the criminal use of encryption appeared across social media this week like it was a scoop. It wasn’t. But that’s the way it was portrayed.

For the uninformed it played directly into the narrative that encryption is bad and overwhelmingly used by those withquestionable motives or downright evil intentions.

So What Happened?

The headlines varied but basically Vincent Ramos the boss of Phantom Secure, a company whose website declares that it supplies “THE WORLDS MOST TRUSTED COMMUNICATION SERVICE” was arrested in California.

The company supplies or supplied a modded and allegedly zero knowledge handset which is or was it claimed “Simple, effective and easy to use while highly secure, … recognized by government agencies and cyber experts as “Uncrackable” “.

All utter rubbish of course but if you are selling a high performance sports car to a guy who struggles with a gear change on a bicycle then who is to contradict you?

Imagine! Organised crime were using encrypted phones to communicate and those encrypted phones were being supplied by commercial outfits who knew.

Scoop? No.

“Buyer Beware” — What Did Phantom Secure Sell?

Phantom

The sales bumf declared that the “Classic Phantom Secure Encrypted BlackBerry Device”, apparently proven “year after year”, (by whom is unstated) was light weight and easy to use and provided end to end encrypted messaging, in theory. The package included:

  1. Modified and Locked Down Device
  2. Secure Encrypted Device to Device Encrypted Messaging
  3. Anonymous Communication
  4. International Roaming
  5. 6 months Subscription Included

The “Phantom Secure Android Edition” made the laughable statement that it provided unmatched secure enterprise mobility from BlackBerry and the “best at rest” security on an Android KNOX device, which communicated over the Phantom Secure service.

Summarising, the company promised “totally anonymous, device-to-device encrypted communications, brought to you by a globally trusted and recognized secure communications service.

The problem with that is that it was not brought to the companies customers by anything approaching a globally trusted and recognized secure communications service because it was hosted on Blackberry Enterprise Service servers.

Blackberry executive chairman and chief executive officer John Chen recently said “Today’s encryption has got to the point where it’s rather difficult, even for ourselves, to break it, to break our own encryption… it’s not an easily breakable thing. We will only attempt to do that if we have the right court order. The fact that we will honor the court order doesn’t imply we could actually get it done.

This Phantom Secure Android version included:

  1. Modified and Locked Down Device
  2. Secure Encrypted Device to Device Encrypted Messaging
  3. Anonymous Communication
  4. KNOX hardware and software integrated device security
  5. Prive Encrypted Chat
  6. Compatible messaging with BB7 Devices
  7. International Roaming
  8. 6 months Subscription Included

Worthless Disclaimers & Hollow Promises

Phantom Secure, and many like them, take care to make various disclaimers which they seem to think are a get out of jail freecard and state in their “Legal Compliance” section that:

We are a law-abiding company that is permitted to deliver encrypted communication services to our clients in order for them to protect their communications, without having the ability to decrypt their communications.”

The statement in no way ensures that these kind of suppliers cannot be indicted on charges. What it does do is give the impression to prospective customers that the company can in some way guarantee that even in the face of a warrant they do not possess the ability to compromise the historic or future communications of their customer base either intentionally or unintentionally.

But in the case of Blackberry that is just not true. It is public knowledge since 2016 that Operation Clemenza by the RCMP allowed Canadian investigators to access consumer-grade phones from Blackberry where the decryption key is in the company’s (RIM) possession.

BlackBerry, however, also offers the option to run their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which allows clients to run their own network of phones, and keep possession of their own decryption key. And this is what Phantom Secure were doing but as far back as January 2016 Dutch police said that they were able to read encrypted messages sent on the custom, security-focused BlackBerry devices.

Also in December 2015 in the article “The Encryption Debate: a Way Forward,” on the official Blackberry blog INSIDE Blackberry the company wrote that “privacy and security form the crux of everything we do. However,our privacy commitmentdoes not extend to criminals.”

But isn’t criminality established after due process has taken place? Warrants do not prove criminality even if there is probable cause? Are RIM Blackberry qualified to make the distinctions?

Regardless they sold their BES products based on the claim that they would never be called upon to make the distinction because they had designed a product that was totally secure.

There are products which can guarantee this and even in the face of warrants are unable to provide logs, metadata, or encryption keys. But BES cannot. There lies one of the many significant problems that Mr. Ramos faces.

The disclaimer continues …

“Our service does not require personal information and has no back doors. In providing such a service we do understand that there will be a very small number of people that may use our service to do activities we do not support. We do not condone the use of our service for any type of illegal activities and if known we will terminate the use of our service without notice.”

“Considering this, requests for the contents of communications may arise from government agencies, which would require a valid search warrant from an agency with proper jurisdiction over Phantom Secure.”

“However, our response to such requests will be the content and identity of our clients are not stored on our server and that the content is encrypted data, which is indecipherable.”

“Our company was founded as a means to provide businesses and people the opportunity to communicate in private in this modern technological age. Unfortunately there will be people that will use this technology for acts we do not condone but this should not be the reason why our universal human right to privacy should be taken away.

Mr. Ramos & Explaining the Unexplainable

The very unlucky or very silly Mr. Ramos, depending on which way you look at it, has now been charged with racketeering activity involving gambling, money laundering, and drug trafficking. I hope Mr. Ramos enjoyed the spoils while he could because he is in a very tight spot now, one way or the other.

US authorities have argued that Phantom Secure operated explicitly to enable organised crime groups to evade detection while planning major crimes. Phantom allegedly built an international client base of criminals by taking BlackBerry devices, stripping out the camera, microphone, GPS navigation and other features, and installing encryption software, making them difficult for law enforcement to crack. He was arrested in California, amid claims that his firms products’ were allegedly linked to Australian murders and drug trafficking.” [This extract is from “Phantom Secure boss arrested in US, amid products’ suspected links to Australian murders” By Dan Oakes, ABC Australia, Monday 12th March 2018]

Think about that statement “Making them difficult for law enforcement to crack.”. Hmmmm. If Mr. Ramos makes bail I predict that one of the first questions that he will be asked by some of his more colourful customers is how exactly does that statement sit with the claims the company made on their website. At best he over-promised and under-delivered. [For posterity I have preserved the Phantom Secure website before it inevitably goes dark.]

These dog and bones went for between USD1500–USD2000 a piece with 6 months shelf life and Phantom Secure had 20k subscribers. Do the figures! If you lost one then you had to buy a new one, no discounts.

Isn’t it amazing that a market segment of normally paranoid individuals are willing to buy an expensive technology that they do not understand from a supplier that they do not know and then proceed to drop all normal “opsec”, if you could call it that, and openly plan the spectaculars that led to these arrests.

The Recent Upsurge in Success for “Intelligence Led” Operations

In the fullness of time it will be very interesting to see how the evidence to construct this indictment was acquired, what paper trail was left by the company showing their modus operandi, the promises versus the actual reality of what the company claimed it could deliver, and whether these claims as and of themselves are seen by the Courts as a marketing tool solely intended to appeal specifically to a certain base, namely those with criminal intentions, and how that can be proven.

The story also raises interesting questions on a topic that I have been researching now for some time – parallel construction. Over the last three years there has been a staggering increase in seizures of drug shipments and the foiling of multiple gangland assassinations attributed to “intelligence led” operations.

Since the late noughties Blackberry handsets have been the comms weapon of choice for organised crime even though they have been widely discredited. There is a school of thought that outfits such as Phantom Secure have been tolerated and let exist by law enforcement because they were such a rich source of warrantless intel.

But now that even the most clueless crims are moving away from the platform it seems that it has been decided that it is time to bring in all the “CEO’s” of these secure comms companies. Their usefulness has been exhausted.

Some of the coverage in recent days has claimed that Ramos is co-operating. My guess is that LE wish to use his arrest to turn him into a “co-operating witness” and as such provide them with what looks like legal access to the Phantom Secureservers.

In that way all of that juicy warrantless surveillance can be seen to have been legitimately obtained intelligence and the clientbase, big fish and small, can be hoovered up en-masse or turned into assets.

As for the stuff that has gone before — well, it didn’t become an issue at the trials so no need to revisit that. It was credited to HUMINT in the shape of informants who could not be named in order to protect their identity.

The Inevitability of Licensing

I have no particular insight into the innocence or guilt of Mr. Ramos in this case. I do not know whether he overtly solicited criminal clients in the full knowledge of their business and their need for secure comms in order to evade detection in a criminal enterprise.

What I do know is that if you are legally recorded saying:

“Hey man, I sell these phones that are bullet proof and can’t be hacked or eavesdropped (“even though that is not the case”) and I know you value your security and privacy because your foe is law enforcement and your trade is illegal and I can sell you these phones for $$$$’s and you can ply your trade without fear of discovery

….. then you are nicked mate.

Mr. Ramos is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. He is finished every which way he turns.

The movie Layer Cake has a rich seam of relevant content to illustrate my point. In that movie Colm Meaney explains to Daniel Craig’s character XXXX his Cornelian dilemma as a result of being present during an incident:

“Listen, son. Let me explain something to you. Freddie’s in intensive care with a bit of a brain haemorrhage. You were there at the scene. That’s called joint venture. Now, if Freddie dies, you’re either in the dock with Morty… …or you’re in the witness box putting him away. Think about that.

The outcome of this matter is likely to produce significant and wider repercussions for the providers of secure communications solutions in general.

This case and those to follow are a preparatory step for compulsory licensing for purveyors of private encryption systems. They offer an antidote to the privacy objections about backdoors and present a far more pragmatic solution to giving law enforcement access to encrypted communications than systems that are “thoughtfully design” as was recently and ridiculously suggested by FBI Director, Christopher Wray.

The provision of private secure comms solutions will evolve to the same standard of licensing as is applied to firearms sales. Such companies will be required to be licensed before offering the service and when selling licenses I guess that pre-qualification checks on the purchaser will be required too. Purchasing a license will probably be enough to claim “probable cause” under FISA rules in the US. It takes little enough justification to eavesdrop as it stands.

Undermining the Argument for Un-Compromised Encryption

The arguments in support of generally available un-compromised encryption services are devalued by the incorrect parallels that the opponents of encryption make between them and the Phantom Secure case.

It plays directly into the narrative that the host of encryption luddites in law enforcement, government, and the intelligence community peddle daily as they seek to justify back-dooring or banning encryption products.

Those who oppose encryption use illogical extrapolations when making their arguments — “the bad guy used encryption … therefore the crime was committed because of encryption”. They use the special case to undermine the general case.

The Phantom Secure case will be used as another example of why encryption is bad. But the Phantom Secure case is not about privacy or encryption rights or freedom of speech.

If there is even the slightest question that the provider of hardware, software, and any other “wares” knowingly supplies them for assisting the commission of an offence or even suspects that they will be used in one then it is aiding and abetting and all the other bits and pieces that have been included on Mr. Ramos’s much publicised indictment.

References and Bibliography

  1. https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/chief-executive-and-four-associates-indicted-conspiring-global-drug-traffickers
  2. https://motherboard.vice.com/amp/en_us/article/a34b7b/phantom-secure-sinaloa-drug-cartel-encrypted-blackberry?__twitter_impression=true
  3. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bme5w3/customer-data-from-encrypted-phone-company-ciphr-has-been-dumped-online
  4. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43425333
  5. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/mbpyea/encrochat-secure-phone-hacking-video
  6. https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/state-secrets-privilege
  7. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/the-rogues-gallery-of-encryption-luddites-graham-penrose
  8. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/peertalk-tm-privacy-vs-national-security-panel-questions-for-session-1-graham-penrose
  9. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/all-blackberry-messages-can-be-decrypted-using-global-encryption-key-valery-marchuk
  10. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/would-you-hire-a-locksmith-you-dont-trust
  11. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/boss-of-a-company-that-supplied-encrypted-phones-arrested-andrew-commons
  12. https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/01/09/dark-side/secret-origins-evidence-us-criminal-cases
  13. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/canadian-law-enforcement-obtained-blackberry-global-encryption-key-hega-geoffroy
  14. https://www.peerlyst.com/posts/android-blackberry-spyware-used-in-india-attacks-or-securityweek-com-hega-geoffroy
  15. https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/01/13/police-say-they-can-crack-blackberry-pgp-encrypted-email/
  16. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/01/13/blackbery_pgp_riddle/
  17. https://www.v3.co.uk/v3-uk/news/2441666/blackberry-pgp-handsets-cracked-by-dutch-cyber-cops
  18. https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/one-reason-get-blackberry-2016-security/
  19. https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2016/04/26/police-seize-network-behind-encrypted-blackberry-pgp-devices/
  20. https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/blog/phone-evidence-remotely-wiped-in-police-stations/
  21. http://www.zdnet.com/article/police-hack-pgp-server-with-3-6-million-messages-from-organized-crime-blackberrys/
  22. https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160118/07441433368/blackberry-which-said-it-wouldnt-protect-criminals-assures-criminals-phones-are-still-secure.shtml
  23. https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/are-encrypted-phones-allowing-criminals-to-get-away-with-murder-20150523-gh82gv.html
  24. http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/criminals-love-the-blackberry-s-wiretap-proof-ways-police-1.815031
  25. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/crime/cops-struggling-crack-encrypted-phones-6962815
  26. https://www.thedailybeast.com/meet-danny-the-guy-selling-encrypted-phones-to-organized-crime
  27. https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2018/03/the-fbi-busts-phantom-secure-ceo-for-allegedly-selling-encrypted-phones-to-gangs-drug-cartels/
  28. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/crime/cops-struggling-crack-encrypted-phones-6962815
  29. http://uk.businessinsider.com/methods-that-police-use-to-catch-deep-web-drug-dealers-2016-8?r=UK&IR=T
  30. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/oct/30/metropolitan-police-mobile-phone-surveillance
  31. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38183819
  32. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/fbi-nabs-ceo-of-encrypted-phone-company-for-sales-to-cartels-gangs/
  33. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/nz7e3z/decrypted-pgp-blackberry-messages-helped-convict-uk-gun-smugglers
  34. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/03/fbi-again-calls-for-magical-solution-to-break-into-encrypted-phones/
  35. http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/1758/
  36. https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/phantom-secure-ceo-arrested/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

ENDS.

Snapchat and Skype have huge security breaches

Looking back at the Syrian Electronic Army hack of Skype in 2014 – Microsoft’s video calling service Skype was hacked by a group identifying themselves as the Syrian Electronic Army, and they used their hacking opportunity to claim that Skype, along with Microsoft’s other apps such as Outlook, were spying on its users and giving information to the government. An article was posted on Skype’s official blog with the title “Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army.. Stop Spying!” Skype’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts were also breached.

Nick Irving PR

Late Tuesday night, the wildly-popular social network Snapchat was hacked, and several million usernames and phone numbers were leaked online. According to Snapchat, an estimated 4.6 million usernames were stolen and posted as a downloadable file on an open website for anyone to look through. As of this time, the hackers are still anonymous, and it comes as horrible news to anyone who had their information posted online without their consent.

Snapchat had alerted its users of the situation a few days prior in a blog post, in which it announced a new feature allowing Snapchat users to upload their phone’s contacts into the app in order to find friends easier. Snapchat explained the potential problem to their users:

Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a…

View original post 336 more words

“A Song for the Deaf” (and the Blind)

Songs for the Deaf, released on August 27 2002, was the third studio album by Queens of the Stone Age. There is a track on there called “A Song for the Deaf” with a line in the lyrics:

No talk will cure what’s lost, or save what’s left

That line does just fine at summing up my attitude to the long term prospects for the privacy of our data and our privacy rights as individuals. The multiplicity of additional data points that will become available with the mainstream adoption of wearables, AR, and VR squares the circle by adding kinematic fingerprinting and emotion detection to the digital surveillance arsenal.

The concerted effort by “authority” to normalise the invasion of our privacy as citizens of democracies will succeed. It is worth noting at this point that the historic permission to look at our (non-US citizens) data is for the most part secretively mandated or just plain illegal.

In the interim I simply see it as my hobby to be a contrarian and frankly I do not give one iota what that looks like to prospective employers, clients, or colleagues. Too many people look at you sideways these days when you seek to insist that we are throwing away our rights in favour of some US manufactured bogey-man fear figure.

But despite the ever increasing powers granted there are far too many people gainfully employed in law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the cottage industries and corporates that serve them to hope that one day their combined efforts might actually result in an improvement in the threat landscape.

Narrowing the Debate

One of the methods often used to divert attention from the overall issues that present themselves with respect to mass surveillance is to seek to narrow the debate. Some people will say that debating each element in isolation is enough. It is not.

The police-intelcom barrier or rather the lack of a barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations or the illegal overriding of such barriers is one of the reasons why. Too many blurred lines exist. Mass surveillance data acquired for national security purposes now routinely ends up in the hands of local law enforcement investigating matters unrelated to national security.

The opacity of US laws and SIGINT collection methods is potentially an abuse of the rights of every defendant that comes in front of their Courts. Increasingly, that is just about anybody that they can lay their hands on, from anywhere. The US position on most of these matters is ephemeral. [Max Schrems maintains the main protections provided by the US for data privacy rights of EU citizens have no statutory basis and “could be altered tomorrow”]

To suggest that one can compartmentalise each different element of the mass surveillance equation and debate each piece of legislation on its own merits, to the exclusion of the others, is a fallacy.

They all add up to the same thing in the hands of the governments or organisations that possess the resources, access, and “authority” (normally self granted) to mine the data.

This post was prompted by Chris Gebhardt‍ and the article he penned on Peerlyst‍ titled “The US Government Should Have Access to All Encrypted Devices of US Citizens“.

I commented “I utterly disagree with your thesis on every level. I disagree with you on the basis that I do not accept your segmentation of rights and protections in statute that govern legacy personal freedoms, due process, habeas corpus, et al. and the stratagem that you have employed to roll them up into an argument for weakened privacy (encryption). I believe that your reliance on these legacy instruments makes the flawed assumption that they were correct. In my view, they were not.

Chris was keen to keep the debate focussed on the US. So I asked:

Maybe we can circumvent the specifics of either geography and focus the discussion on a universal question which is capable of also addressing the specifics of your argument. The US does not respect digital borders and engages in frequent – and as policyillegal searches and seizures in a clandestine manner for non natsec matters and “ordinary” criminal matters. Now the US having weathered the outrage storm is legislating vigourously for the normalisation of these abnormalities which were in fact illegal under traditional law also.

The debate between us therefore could be something like – to date have existing laws and the application and oversight of the powers granted by those laws served us well and if so are they also suited for export to the digital domain. If not, then why should those who currently enjoy freedoms in the digital domain subject themselves to laws that they disagreed with in the real world context or were shown to have been widely abused, and more specifically how can a body of agencies who gladly engaged in widespread illegal activities expect people to surrender to their request?

Chris replied:

That is fine but I believe it is a separate post. Perhaps you should start one. I started this one to specifically target the US privacy issue under Constitutional authority. International expectations are a completely different matter.

So here it is.

Image: Screen grab from the QOTSA video “Go With The Flow

ENDS

PODCAST Panel #1: PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security

 

Since mid December 2017 our panel was preparing for this first in the series of discussions regarding Privacy -vs- National Security hosted by and drawn from Peerlystcommunity members.

The panel was drawn from a range of disciplines and interests but what united all of the participants was that we are people who are passionate about infosec, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

This series is primarily concerned with how we might align the privacy rights of citizens with the imperatives of predicting, preventing, and reacting to internal & external national security threats.

Our objective was to deliver an opening discussion on the subject matter that would compel further debate and interest, but also attempt to compartmentalise the discrete elements, for discussion on future panels , while at the same time demonstrating the scale of the issues involved with practical real world, non-theoretical examples.

Over the preparation period several pieces were authored on the subject of Privacy -vs- National Security. The links to these associated posts are:

  1. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: One Post To Rule Them All
  2. Video Introduction to Podcast #1 of the PeerTalk™ Privacy -v- National Security Podcast Panel Series
  3. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: Preserve Peace Through (Cyber & Intelligence) Strength
  4. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security Sources: In Isolation & Where They Intersect
  5. PeerTalk™ Peerlyst Panel: Privacy vs National Security
  6. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: Gülen FETÖ/PDY, Millî İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) & ByLock
  7. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: You (encryption advocates) are “jerks”, “evil geniuses”, and “pervert facilitators”
  8. PeerTalk™ Privacy -vs- National Security: The Rogues Gallery of Encryption Luddites (Updated 01.16.2018)
  9. Also included below were two essays from panel member Geordie B Stewart MSc CISSP
    1. Polluting the Privacy Debate
    2. Ethical Compromises in the Name of National Security

The questions to the panel in preparation for the discussion were these:

  1. Are recent actions by the Turkish intelligence community reasonable with the backdrop of an alleged serious threat to the security of the state?
  2. Could one ever imagine a similar scenario in the West and if so would it ever be justified?
  3. Does the panel think that while broad brush application of these types of tools and methods by law enforcement and the intelligence community does not happen in the West, does it happen on a case by case basis?
  4. If so, is protecting one person from a miscarriage of justice using illegally obtained surveillance data more important than allowing warrantless mass surveillance and trusting that the intelligence community and political / commercial interests will not abuse the knowledge yielded from the data and rather use it for the national interest?
  5. Finally, does the panel have faith in the oversight and governance mechanism looking to protect citizens of Western nations whose data is acquired by programs such as PRISM and queried using tools such as XKeyscore?”

The panellists were:

Graham Joseph Penrose‍ (Moderator), Interim Manager in a range of Startups, Privacy Advocate, Avid Blogger, and Homeless Activist. I began my career in IT 30 years ago in Banking and in the intervening period I have applied technology and in particular secure communications to assist me in various roles but most aggressively as the owner of a Private MilitarySecurity Company operating in High Risk Areas globally. I am apparently a Thought Leader and Authority in the Privacy space according to various independent third party research organisations and I am member of the IBM Systems Innovators Program.

Kim Crawley‍, Cybersecurity Journalist. A respected and valued contributor to Peerlyst and publications including Cylance,AlienVault, Tripwire, and Venafi.

Emily Crose‍, Network Security Researcher with 10 years experience in both offensive and defensive security roles, 7 of those years were spent in the service of the United States Intelligence Community. She is currently the director of the Nemesis projectand works for a cyber security startup in the Washington DC area.

Lewis De Payne‍, Board Member, Vice President & CTO/CISO of medical diagnostics company aiHEALTH, LLC. CTO/CIIO of a social commerce startup and a founding shareholder in Keynetics responsible for the patented online fraud control tools known as Kount. Lewis has had some adversarial contacts with the FBI that are documented in several of Kevin Mitnick’s (and other writers’) books. Lewis electronically wiretapped the FBI and other law enforcement bureaus, and recorded some of their activities (which included having informants perform illegal wiretaps, so they could gain probable cause to obtain search warrants). In his younger days, Lewis took the US government to court several times In one case his proceedings set legalprecedent when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard his Jencks Action and ruled in his favour causing the FBI to have to return all seized property (and computers) to him, and others.

Geordie B Stewart MSc CISSP‍, Director at Risk Intelligence which company provides a range of specialist infosec services to organisations including risk analysis, policy development, security auditing and compliance, education, training, and continuity planning. Geordie writes and speaks frequently on the topics of Privacy, Ethics and National Security. Partly because he thinks they are important topics, but partly to increase his embarrassment when his web history eventually leaks. Geordie also writes the security awareness column for the ISSA Journal and works in senior security leadership roles for large organisations.

Dean Webb‍, Network Security Specialist. Dean has 12 years of experience in IT and IT Security, as well as over two decades as an instructor and journalist with particular focus on national security issues, espionage, and civil rights.

We enjoyed a wide ranging and informative discussion over the course of the 90 minutes and while we were not in a position to cover all of the material it was a very acceptable starting point and a stake in the ground with respect to what the community can expect from this series of panels.

I opened the discussion with the question:

“Where do the panellists believe that the line should be drawn between what are personal privacy rights versus the needs of national security and do the panellists think that in recent years the public in an atmosphere of “fear” has too easily surrendered a range of privacy rights in favour of national security?”

Please enjoy the recording below which we hope you will find compelling enough to share with your community. We are looking forward to your feedback and we would be very pleased to have your comments, suggestions, and questions. (Don’t forget to subscribe to the Peerlyst YouTube channel so as not to miss the next in our series and also recordings of all of the other panels coming out of the PeerTalk™ initiative.)

ENDS

Top Cybersecurity Threats in Sport (2025)

On October 10th, 2017 at a panel discussion about “Cybersecurity of the Olympic Games” at the University Club, California Memorial Stadium – Missy Franklin, (five-time Olympic medalist) said “We constantly get new technology thrown at us. It’s crazy, but that’s where sports are going.”

Extract:Digital technologies pose an increasingly diverse set of threats to Olympic events, and the newer forms of threat are likely to have more serious consequences. While most hacks today focus on sports stadium IT systems and ticket operations, future risks will include hacks that cut to the integrity of the sporting event results, as well as to core stadiums operations.”

The study The Cybersecurity of Olympic Sports: New Opportunities, New Risks identifies eight key areas of risk for future sporting events:

  1. Stadium system hacks
  2. Scoring system hacks
  3. Photo and video replay hacks
  4. Athlete care hacks
  5. Entry manipulation
  6. Transportation hacks
  7. Hacks to facilitate terrorism or kidnapping
  8. Panic-inducing hacks

Key Olympic sports technology trends that represent several vectors of additional risk:

  1. Gymnastics
    1. Artificial intelligence in scoring
    2. Possible Surprises: Embedded tracking in gymnastics equipment
  2. Swimming
    1. Automated start/finish technology
    2. Possible Surprises: Biometrics in swimsuits
  3. Rowing
    1. Drones above race
    2. GPS tracking of boats
    3. Possible Surprises: Virtual reality real-time viewing
  4. Track & Field
    1. Automatic field event measurement
    2. Possible Surprises: 3D images for track finishes

Selected known cybersecurity incidents from the last three summer Olympic Games include:

BEIJING:

  1. Ticket scamming
  2. DDoS and related attacks against IT infrastructure

LONDON OLYMPICS:

  1. Ticket scamming
  2. DDoS and related attacks against IT infrastructure
  3. False alarm threat to the electrical grid

RIO OLYMPICS:

  1. Ticket scamming
  2. DDoS and related attacks against IT infrastructure
  3. Athlete data hack

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Profile of “genius” Parscale, who “won” for Trump & the Facebook political influence juggernaut

Parscale — and every political consultant in a similar situation — is doing this interview to build his business. The introduction of sophisticated digital tools to the process of electing candidates has resulted in a bumper crop of people claiming that they have mastered this inscrutable system and that you should hire them.

Fleshed out, Parscale is the man behind the Trump campaign’s digital media efforts in 2016. He was hired to create a website for $1,500 (as he explained in that “60 Minutes” interview) and then his role expanded until he was managing tens of millions of dollars intended to promote the presidential candidate online.

The point of the interview was, in part, to serve as a profile of Parscale but, more broadly, to explain the primary way in which those millions were spent. Per Parscale’s accounting, that was largely on Facebook advertising. Trump’s team advertised on other platforms, too, but “Facebook was the 500-pound gorilla, 80 percent of the budget kind of thing,” Parscale said.

If you do a search for Brad Parscale’s appearance on “60 Minutes,” the first thing that pops up above the results as of Monday morning is an ad for Brad Parscale. And that, in a nutshell, is Brad Parscale.

Right after the campaign, it was the firm Cambridge Analytica that was making this case, arguing that its black-box analysis of the psychology of American voters allowed Trump to target specific sorts of people with ads that dug deep into their brains to trigger a response. The company (owned in part by the family of Robert Mercer, which was in other ways essential to Trump’s success) wanted to convince future candidates that they could work their magic to get them elected, too.

To “60 Minutes,” Parscale dismissed that claim — in part because he was in the midst of claiming that he was the one with the magic touch. He didn’t think Cambridge Analytica’s system of creating “psychographic” profiles of people was sinister, he said — he just didn’t think it worked.

Which is a simply bizarre claim in the broader context. It isn’t that Parscale doesn’t think that building profiles of people to target ads to them doesn’t work. It’s that Parscale doesn’t seem to realize that this is basically what Facebook was doing for him, in real-time.

By its very nature, Facebook does a more complete and more robust version of what Cambridge Analytica claims to accomplish. In 2014, we explained how Facebook’s political tools work, how it combines data about what you’ve clicked with outside consumer data to get as complete a picture of who you are and what you like as anything that exists. But then it overlays the ability to advertise specific things to specific people — and to test and refine and improve on those ads.

This is what Parscale was describing to “60 Minutes” — not his genius, but Facebook’s. He shows the nifty tricks that you can do with Facebook, A/B testing (as the process is known) different versions of ads with different photos and ads that allow the most effective to quickly rise to the surface. He clearly used all of those secret buttons, clicks and technology that he sought, leveraging Facebook’s deep sense of its individual users and tools to target them. Stepping back, Parscale comes off like the guy who hires LeBron James to play on his team in a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and then brags about his capable coaching. He’s an ad buyer, who lets the platform — say, on Google, when you search for his name — do the work.

The takeaway from the “60 Minutes” interview is simple. Facebook is a juggernaut that’s probably more influential in politics than it realizes itself. (See this New York magazine article to that end.)

Parscale says that his wife likes to say that “[he] was thrown into the Super Bowl, never played a game and won.” Right. It’s just that, in that example, he’s neither Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick. At best, he’s the guy who decided to hire them.

Full story ‘60 Minutes’ profiles the genius who won Trump’s campaign: Facebook https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/10/09/60-minutes-profiles-the-genius-who-won-trumps-campaign-facebook/?utm_term=.5c686f2463e8

Focus on Kaspersky hides facts of another NSA contractor theft

The Wall Street Journal based their story on the fact that another NSA contractor took classified documents home with him. Yet another Russian intelligence operation stole copies of those documents. The twist this time is that the Russians identified the documents because the contractor had Kaspersky Labs anti-virus installed on his home computer.

This is either an example of the Russians subverting a perfectly reasonable security feature in Kaspersky’s products, or Kaspersky adding a plausible feature at the request of Russian intelligence. In the latter case, it’s a nicely deniable Russian information operation. In either case, it’s an impressive Russian information operation.

This is a huge deal, both for the NSA and Kaspersky. The Wall Street Journal article contains no evidence, only unnamed sources. But I am having trouble seeing how the already embattled Kaspersky Labs survives this.

What’s getting a lot less press is yet another NSA contractor stealing top-secret cyberattack software. What is it with the NSA’s inability to keep anything secret anymore?

And it seems that Israeli intelligence penetrated the Kaspersky network and noticed the operation.

Full story on CRYPTO-GRAM October 15, 2017 by Bruce Schneier CTO, IBM Resilient schneier@schneier.com https://www.schneier.com

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