Tag Archives: Eavesdropping

Does Legislation Stifle Innovation?

(From an article originally published in July 2017 on my peerlyst blog)

Does legislation stifle innovation? No. Why? Because it legislates in “catch up mode” mostly and on those rare occasions when the legislators do see something coming in advance (examples? I don’t have any actually) – then they fail to implement the legislation or put in place checks and balances to monitor compliance.

Legislators are better at legislating for the abuse of data – the IP Act in the UK – in favour of mass surveillance and warrantless omnipresent spying and eavesdropping. It’s a catch all bucket – much easier than putting your back into it and figuring it out with Privacy, Civil Liberty and Human Rights in mind.

Legislators are looking to heavily regulate IoT. One wonders what their approach will be since they have failed or chose to ignore (more likely), it would appear, to legislate and police the most basic elements of Data Protection despite some of the first statutes being enacted (in Europe) as far back as 1986.

Now we have the kerfuffle of the NIS Directive (compelling member states to “be appropriately equipped, e.g. via a Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) and a competent national NIS authority” – another agency just when we thought that the ones that we had were as bad as the disjointed un-joined up implementation of policy could get) and GDPR (which contains the bizarrely general statement in Clause 4 that “The processing of personal data should be designed to serve mankind”) – good luck implementing that.

Data Protection legislation for much of the intervening period was “lip-service” and PR driven. The DATA PROTECTION ACT, 1988 was publicised by the Irish government as an innovative “first of its kind” legislation that would set the Republic of Ireland apart and create a “privacy regulated” USP for RoI as an FDI (foreign direct investment) destination.

The IDA boasts on their website “We favour green lights over red tape, which is why we are one of the best countries in the world for ease of doing business (Forbes). New business is welcomed and supported by the flow of talent coming from our schools, universities and abroad, to work for high-performing companies across a range of cutting-edge sectors.”

What this really means is that regulation in Ireland with respect to Data Protection and Central Bank governance (both having a direct impact on the operations of the likes of EU headquartered tech giants based in Ireland – Google, eBay,Facebook, Twitter, HubSpot etc … pick a name – they are based in Ireland somewhere) was all about accommodating whatever these firms asked for, with scant or little regard to what the privacy protections in the legislation actually dictated in terms of consumer / end user protection.

Put the following statement in front of your local Data Protection commission and ask them to respond with respect to their view on the best way to protect the consumer while enabling innovation – prepare for an answer characterised by vanilla, non-committal prose peppered with out of context TLA’s.

“Dear Data Protection Commissioner, How Does Your Office Propose To Balance Classically-Conceived Privacy Concepts In Light Of The Business Imperative Of Providing The End User With Contextual Richness?”

The Office of the Data Protection Commission and the Central Bank of Ireland are widely regarded as complicit in the wholesale abuse of the data protection, privacy and tax obligations of tech companies operating in the country.

Understaffed, under-skilled and under-whelming, these outfits have presided over some of the most spectacular breaches of these obligations.

Now, they seek to add to their NP-Complete task and their ever expanding skills gap – the area of IoT regulation.

They will be tasked with creating law to govern how companies should implement security protocols and data protection measures to control the people who use the information generated by IoT (or those who seek to illegally acquire it) and the application of Big Data, IoT, AI, data analytics, and machine learning.

I have no faith that Ireland or Europe will stay on the edge of the curve of innovation in order to regulate its expansion in a controlled and understood manner. But I could be wrong. Do you think that I am wrong? I would love to hear counter arguments to my usual cynical stance on these issues.

ENDS

“Bypassing” Encryption is the same as “Breaking” Encryption

According to the Vault 7 WikiLeaks data the CIA made phone malware that can read your private chats without breaking encryption.

Anyone with half a clue always knew that the best way to subvert encryption was to bypass encryption as we at TMG Corporate Services have always done. From our blog post Am I Being Surveilled? on 29th March 2016:

Still – the point is made I think – visual intercepts are economically viable even for local LE – it’s just an ultra low light wifi enabled pin-hole snake camera in the right spot. One above the driver and passenger seat belt brackets in a private vehicle is a good location (easy access to and plenty of space behind the plastic covering the B pillar to store the bits).

Five uninterrupted minutes and both are installed. Just wait for the target to take a Sunday drive and game on. Most people rest the handset on their lap while typing stationary in traffic or better still upright and in front or on top of the wheel when driving – using one hand – which gives a nice unobstructed keystroke by keystroke view of their typing activities.

Most successful hacks are low tech

Today I have seen a bunch of publications and experts trying to assure people that this is nothing to worry about. The purity of encryption is in tact. It is an academic point.

If you are in the business of handling sensitive data then don’t use your cell phone to transmit it. It’s that simple.

* In the hours since the documents were made available by WikiLeaks, a misconception was developed, making people believe the CIA “cracked” the encryption used by popular secure messaging software including Signal and WhatsApp.

WikiLeaks asserted that: “These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloakman by hacking the “smart” phones that they run on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

This statement by WikiLeaks made most people think that the encryption used by end-to-end encrypted messaging clients such as Signal and WhatsApp has been broken. No, it hasn’t. Instead, the CIA has tools to gain access to entire phones, which would of course “bypass” encrypted messaging apps because it fails all other security systems virtually on the phone, granting total remote access to the agency.

The WikiLeaks documents do not show any attack particular against Signal or WhatsApp, but rather the agency hijacks the entire phone and listens in before the applications encrypt and transmit information.

It’s like you are sitting in a train next to the target and reading his 2-way text conversation on his phone or laptop while he’s still typing, this doesn’t mean that the security of the app the target is using has any issue.

In that case, it also doesn’t matter if the messages were encrypted in transit if you are already watching everything that happens on the device before any security measure comes into play.

But this also doesn’t mean that this makes the issue lighter, as noted by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, “This incorrectly implies CIA hacked these apps/encryption. But the docs show iOS/Android are what got hacked—a much bigger problem.”

* From The Hacker News

ENDS

“All uR devICE r belong 2 US”, Vault 7, Weeping Angel, the CIA & Your Samsung TV

CIA malware and hacking tools are built by EDG (Engineering Development Group), a software development group within CCI (Center for Cyber Intelligence), a department belonging to the CIA’s DDI (Directorate for Digital Innovation). The DDI is one of the five major directorates of the CIA.

The attack against Samsung smart TVs was developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s MI5/BTSS.

The EDG is responsible for the development, testing and operational support of all backdoors, exploits, malicious payloads, trojans, viruses and any other kind of malware used by the CIA in its covert operations world-wide.

The increasing sophistication of surveillance techniques has drawn comparisons with George Orwell’s 1984, but “Weeping Angel”, developed by the CIA’s Embedded Devices Branch (EDB), which infests smart TVs, transforming them into covert microphones, is it’s most emblematic realization.

After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a ‘Fake-Off’ mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on.

In ‘Fake-Off’ mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.

ENDS

Extracted entirely from Vault 7: CIA Hacking Tools Revealed