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Comment: The biggest lies are immersed in true facts (Score 1) 339

by Burz (#49160753) Attached to: Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links

The mass media (aka 'infotainment complex') is a prime example that if you tell the facts all day about fires, robberies, weather, and (selectively) arrests... then you gain a certain credibility to use in starting a war, or to keep suggesting that everyone on the street is just a temporarily embarrassed billionaire (if only the government would stop this regulation stuff).

Its possible Google's new ranking idea could be a benefit to humanity IF they make the logic and the rankings transparent. That would at least allow the raters to be rated by watchdogs.

Comment: Re:We need hardware write-protect for firmware (Score 1) 297

by Burz (#49160467) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware?

A: Use an OS that cordons off any possibility of accessing the HD or other firmwares to begin with. The Xen hypervisor prides itself on being more secure than most, and its only about 1MB in size. Using that small and hardened attack surface as the gatekeeper to all hardware functions (including NIC and graphics), and as the means of silo-ing one's computing life into work, personal, misc online, etc., its perhaps the best defence out there for PCs. The Qubes GUI even lets you sequester USB controllers inside specific VMs and as such its a line of defence against badUSB. To top it off, it gives you facilities like splitGPG, isolated TorVM, and a means of sanitizing pdfs.

Even if you only use it to separate "online" from "offline" stuff (or even if you only use it as an untrusted "online" system), Qubes will protect the core system such as BIOS and other firmware.

FWIW & BTW, I've read parts of the OPAL 2 spec. for hard drives that states a drive manufacturer should make functions like firmware update conditional on successful authentication (no firmware update without the correct password). But it isn't clear to me whether OEMs are complying with what appears to be a recommendation.

OTOH, you could get a high-security flash drive (the kind with signed updates or read-only firmware) then put your Qubes boot partition on that and enable the Anti-Evil-Mail feature. I think Kanguru and IronKey are two such drive vendors.

Comment: Re:Some Real Advice (Score 1) 88

by Burz (#49159667) Attached to: OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee

I'm saying rooting a machine to the point that it can customize an arbitrary USB key plugged in by the legitimate operator of the machine is impractical.

Except that privilege escalation attacks against these multi-decade-old systems appear year after year. A well-funded state attacker (OP is about activists, after all) would certainly have some at their disposal.

Which gets back to the premise that monolithic kernels enforcing user privs is an outmoded form of security. Re-purpose the kernels as feature sets under an isolating hypervisor and security begins to look realistic.

Re: CD-R, lets assume I use an optical disk to move a quantity of email messages from a networked/untrusted machine to an airgapped one (both conventional architecture). If I export as .eml files, I have to archive them before burning them. So, over and above the risk from nasty email attachments, there is the risk the untrusted machine could use malformed email or archive format to perform an exploit. If you think that's far-fetched, consider how much more complex email and archive formats are compared to the .lnk files that were recently discovered as an NSA exploit.

Even so, the untrusted networked system could take a chance that you have automounting enabled or that you will inadvertently do something to mount a volume... it could write a malformed filesystem to the disc anyway.

Once an air-gapped system is compromised, it can alter the hard drive firmware to store passwords and keys in a format/cipher readable by the attacker who can later break-in to the premises and steal/confiscate the computer. In a Qubes non-networked vm, there is no out-of-band way to communicate or store info, and a compromised vm wouldn't have access to the disc encryption password in any case.

What you described #s 1-5 sounds much more complicated than using email in Qubes. And presumably this covers only email for one type of role (work, personal, etc); Covering all the roles means using many additional computers and burning many discs, and each role needs its own disc encryption passphrase.

If the email domain is untrusted, then create an untrusted Qubes vm for it. I could even create one vm for each role, plus one archival non-networked vm to store info, and even if the archival vm were compromised there's nothing it can really do except try to erase the data in that one vm. Securely copying between the vms is point-and-click (easier, in fact, than between user sandboxes on a regular system) or scriptable... one only needs to consider how risky the source and formats are to the destination vm. If there is a need to sanitize the info, its easy to do so in a Disposable vm (right now Qubes can sanitize pdf files, and other formats are expected). The only unintuitive caveat in such a virtualized setup is that sensitive asymmetric encryption (operations that use the private key) has to occur while untrusted VMs are not running in order to avoid side-channel attacks.

Comment: Re:Some Real Advice (Score 1) 88

by Burz (#49157193) Attached to: OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee

If the USB host controller firmware or any of the USB drivers available to the system are exploited, then malware delivered by the USB device may get use of the DMA channel between the host controller and RAM (if not simply gain root access). And calling customization of a device impractical is, I think, leaning a bit towards denial -- many hobbyists can do this now. Familiarity with common controller types used in consumer devices is also rising.

Its probably safer to bet security on a chokepoint like Xen hypervisor (which uses microkernel architecture and is only 1MB) than to use portable USB devices between air gapped machines. With the latter, any / all of the USB drivers plus a good chunk of the OS represent the attack surface.

The air gap user is relying on a riot of very disparate components, mostly authored by people who treat security as a mere buzzword.

If Internet security improves, we'll likely see more USB-based attacks in the wild. Sneaker-net may have high latency but its still a network.

Comment: Re:Some Real Advice (Score 1) 88

by Burz (#49153843) Attached to: OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee

You've got the wrong impression of BadUSB as impersonating a HID certainly isn't required. USB is fundamentally insecure in a number of ways...

When the USB drivers themselves can be attacked with malformed protocol data there is a fairly direct channel to gaining access to the whole system. Also a USB drive controller can make itself look like an internal drive, meaning that DMA (yes, USB supports DMA) restrictions get lifted and then you have a hole in security similar to Firewire.

As for filesystem attacks being 'rare', that's only because other attacks (esp. remote) have offered so much opportunity to attackers. If an attacker wants an offline mode of exploitation then filesystems -- being complex data formats themselves -- then filesystems are a wide-open field of opportunity.

Comment: Re:Some Real Advice (Score 1) 88

by Burz (#49148981) Attached to: OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee

Due to risks like BadUSB, or even attacks using the filesystem itself, those methods carry risk of exploiting the air-gapped system.

IMO, its actually better to use an isolating OS like Qubes because it uses a simplified and hardened protocol for data transfer between domains. Even copy-and-paste between domains has been hardened. It can isolate USB controllers and external disks at the hardware level using the IOMMU/VT-d feature in newer chipsets.

Comment: Re:Some Real Advice (Score 1) 88

by Burz (#49148705) Attached to: OPSEC For Activists, Because Encryption Is No Guarantee

- Firejail. Google it. Won't protect you against local kernel privilege escalation attacks, though.

Yes, contingency planning is good. Yes, single points of failure are bad. But you can get very, very good communication security if you really try.

Qubes OS should protect you against privilege escalation *and* VM breakout attacks where sandboxes like 'Firejail' do not. Its a hardened hypervisor-based desktop OS that isolates elements like graphics and network IO from each other using a system's IOMMU if necessary. Its single-user, and all security is implemented using the hypervisor.

Qubes is put out by white-hat hacker group Invisible Things Lab who switched their focus when they saw the need to do something about endpoint security. Their philosophy is to use the strongest means possible for isolation short of airgapping as a way to manage the complexity (large attack surface) of the personal computing environment; The security models of monolithic OS kernels

A bonus of isolating all the risky activities away from the graphics system is exposition: The windowing system becomes a reliable means to represent security context using window-frame colors and domain labels assigned by the user to the various VM domains.

Comment: Re:Moxie's security advice to me: (Score 2) 307

by Burz (#49129311) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

I'll grant that Enigmail rectifies the display problem ...but Enigmail is neither the OS nor the application. By default, the uninitiated will see gross text and that is because (as I said) crypto isn't given first-class treatment in UIs.

TB sans Enigmail could at a bare minimum parse the guard lines and fold the contents into something like the UI for attachments. Or it could just incorporate Enigmail functions in the main program.

Comment: Re:Moxie's security advice to me: (Score 2) 307

by Burz (#49125989) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

I'd like to add that I hate PGP signatures in email messages, too.

There is a lot that's wrong with the UI elements surrounding the crypto. For one, the operating systems and apps do not treat keys and sigs as first-class objects; they always end up looking like inlined ASCII barf, or little text files that have no informative icon + tooltips or associated apps. The presentation of crypto to the user practically begs the user to ignore it.

This is even true when you look as certs in web browsers. They are a monumental opportunity to educate people about crypto and give people the sense that crypto objects are tangible things, but the best we have seen are padlock icons in the address bar (while the handling of non-CA certs became fubar'ed with alarmist FUD warnings, further discouraging people from storing/managing public keys on their own).

With that said, I have to wonder if Moxie's outburst was somehow prompted by GPG's sudden funding windfall.

Comment: Moxie's security advice to me: (Score 4, Interesting) 307

by Burz (#49125897) Attached to: Moxie Marlinspike: GPG Has Run Its Course

I simply asked him -- in a private email -- if there was a signature for Convergence someplace because I didn't see any online.

He accused me of being "inflammatory" and stated it was necessary to "take a leap of faith" (i.e. download and run it without verification). This was back in 2012, mind you. He appeared to be oddly anti-PGP back then, too.

Frankly, after that I had no appetite for any more of his, erm, style and forgot about Convergence. Years later, I had to abandon DoNotTrackMe (by a Moxie-run company, Abine) nee 'Blur' for Ghostery instead when the former got an update that kept hogging the CPU. An email to Abine just yielded a response to keep updating Blur, but the problem never went away.

Comment: Actually (Score 2) 126

by Burz (#49125539) Attached to: Patent Troll Wins $15.7M From Samsung By Claiming To Own Bluetooth

Nurse Quarantined By Christie Comes Back To Haunt Him On Vaccines

Parents Fighting Against Gov't. Vaccination Agenda - The John Birch Society

Scott Brown Rents Out Email List To Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theorist

And lets not forget the John Birch-er conspiracy theory that fluoridated drinking water is a government attempt at mind control (whether or not certain fluoride compounds cause problems, the conspiracy angle is irrational).

And lets not forget that, in general, denial of medical care on religious grounds is far and away dominated by right wing religious affiliation.

So, by eliding the nuclear and GMO issues with vaccines (or other medical care) you're trying to erect a rather disingenuous straw man. If anything seems to go hand-in-hand with anti-vaccination sentiment, its freemarket ideology among the "sovereign individuals" crowd. I think Rand Paul would agree.

Have a nice day.

Comment: Mod Parent UP Please! (Score 1) 82

by Burz (#49117141) Attached to: Apple To Invest $2B Building Green Data Centers In Ireland and Denmark

You should read up on the irish-dutch sandwitch tax dodge. That is exactly what they are doing.

"DEFINITION of 'Double Irish With A Dutch Sandwich'

A tax avoidance technique employed by certain large corporations, involving the use of a combination of Irish and Dutch subsidiary companies to shift profits to low or no tax jurisdictions. The double Irish with a Dutch sandwich technique involves sending profits first through one Irish company, then to a Dutch company and finally to a second Irish company headquartered in a tax haven. This technique has allowed certain corporations to dramatically reduce their overall corporate tax rates."

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.