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Censorship Communications Privacy Security The Internet Your Rights Online

Backdoor Found In Hacked Version of Anti-Censorship Tool Simurgh 32

Posted by timothy
from the so-how-do-you-trust-the-assurances? dept.
wiredmikey writes "Simurgh, a privacy tool used in Iran and Syria to bypass Internet censorship and governmental monitoring, is being circulated with a backdoor. The compromised version has been offered on P2P networks and via web searches. Research conducted by CitizenLab.org has shown that the malicious version isn't available from the original software source, only through third-party access, so it appears that Simurgh has been repackaged. The troubling aspect of the malicious version is that while it does install the proxy as expected, it then adds a keylogging component, and ships the recorded information off to a server hosted in the U.S. and registered to a person in Saudi Arabia. In response to this attack, the team that develops Simurgh has instituted a check that will warn the user if they are running a compromised version of the software. At present, it is unknown who developed the hijacked version of Simurgh, or why they did so."
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Backdoor Found In Hacked Version of Anti-Censorship Tool Simurgh

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  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:11PM (#40169055)

    Censorship is ultimately about breaking trust networks. Pro-censorship governments almost always want the citizens to trust them above all other sources. Cryptography, anti-censorship proxies, and other communication mediums provide an external point of view. This is only dangerous to governments that aren't telling the truth -- in which case, their reaction to such communication mediums is from an understanding of how much that trust would be damaged if word got out about what they're really doing. What this means is, it's obvious that such a government would poison pill any alternatives by making them appear (or interfering with them in such as a way as to cause them) to be untrustworthy. The malware may or may not have been released by the government; It's doubtful we'll ever know the truth, but it is obviously in the government's best interests to damage the reliability of any kind of 'bypass' software.

    Disclaimer: Many governments, including those who claim to be "free" engage in similar behavior. Your government is not exempt from this behavior.

    • by bughunter (10093)

      The malware may or may not have been released by the government; It's doubtful we'll ever know the truth...

      Well, if the keylogger sends its log to a server somewhere, perhaps there may be some useful evidence as to the authors' identity. I'm willing to wager that Citizen Lab and others are working on it now...

      • perhaps there may be some useful evidence as to the authors' identity. I'm willing to wager that Citizen Lab and others are working on it now

        Who cares, though, really? I mean, if the guy was in the US, I suppose you could prosecute him. Maybe. But in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty clear that Assad is using artillery against civilians on a regular basis, and the Green movement was put down in Iran by force. Given the international response we've seen for these things (I'm not implying that there was a clear course of action to take, just that there was a lot of inaction), who's gonna give a shit about a keylogger?

        Obviously, this is

        • by idontgno (624372)

          I suspect the security apparatuses of the countries you mentioned are working to catch the low-level under-the-table "sedition" with these monitoring tools so that they can prevent the next round of "artillery against civilians" and "put down by force".

          Far more effective to squash nascent rebellion while it's still a whispered conspiracy than try to crush it after it flares into open conflict.

          They're not fighting this war... they're fighting the next one. And, judging from the apparent ultimate destination

          • I think you're missing my point. Detecting that the tool is compromised is a good thing. I agree with you. It's important that people know it's compromised. But Trying very hard to figure out who did it isn't worth the effort, because it likely will just point back to the bad guys in the first place, who you already know are bad, and against whom you're already doing everything you think is practical. Or, alternatively, they're people like the Saudis, who you'll pretty much give a pass to anyway, becau
      • Too bad we don't know the address of the server receiving the keylogger data, I mean if their intention is to collect data, I'm sure I could send them a couple GB, with just a simple Perl script [slashdot.org]

    • Your government is not exempt from this behavior.

      But... land of the free! My government would never abuse its citizens! That's why censorship, the TSA, warrantless wiretapping, questionable wars, indefinite detainment, and torture are all perfectly acceptable. If they claim doing those will stop the terrorists or protect the children, of course.

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      Censorship is ultimately about breaking trust networks.

      Censorship only applies to public communications, and its goal is preventing the spread of propaganda.

      Personal communications at this point are completely irrelevant because anyone who has enough brain to hide anything important, uses encryption and secure authentication.

  • by Lucas123 (935744) on Thursday May 31, 2012 @01:14PM (#40169109) Homepage
    Mister Potato Head! Back doors are not secrets!
  • A backdoor was found in the 787 [chipsecurity.org]

  • Given the authoritarian control and censorship modern governments seem to be intent on imposing on the internet, this news should not surprise anyone.

    What does surprise me, only slightly, is how obvious the execution of this trojan version. I'm not trying to diminish Morgan Marquis-Boire's contribution to the international community; we owe people like him our gratitude and admiration. I just would have expected slightly better kung fu from a government censor... maybe I'm giving them too much credit.

    Kudo

  • server hosted in the U.S. and registered to a person in Saudi Arabia

    Wow, there's something you don't see every day. Usually it's exactly the opposite. Someone's got to have some serious balls and a serious lack of brains to host a malware control type server in the US!

    • I thought there were many servers (a lot in CA) that are merely in the US for foreign people. Since they had a US IP they were not blocked even though they are pushing the same crap as their foreign counterparts.

  • Seriously, do you have to ask or are you that naive?

  • In response to this attack, the team that develops Simurgh has instituted a check that will warn the user if they are running a compromised version of the software

    Ummm, and an attacker would be unable to modify the verifyIntegrity() function to return "I'm perfectly OK!"?

  • "At present, it is unknown who developed the hijacked version of Simurgh, or why they did so."

    The obvious answer would be that it was created to spy on dissidents and the like.

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      Well considering that it's being funneled to Saudi Arabia, my guess is. Is someone is, or a group of people are working as a group of brokers tipping off governments to various underground workings so they can pounce on them. The other possibility is, that Saudi Arabia(or one of the myriad of princes) authorized this in order to bolster the relations between the kingdom, and various arab countries.

      Or it's someone who wants to be paid for information. Infobrokers are real after all, and information does s

  • CIA must know what political movements to hijack, and whom to blackmail!

  • "it is unknown ... why they did so"

    No, really?

  • if anyone can provide a snippet of code to upload to the logging server, I would be willing to upload a manual or two, or maybe even a video. I could even share my latest copy of Fedora or Ubuntu with them since everyone knows Linux is best. Then again if the stuff is going over seas I should check the export restrictions. We can all help populate the logging server.

Man must shape his tools lest they shape him. -- Arthur R. Miller

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