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RFC 7258: Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack 67

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the don't-be-so-nosy dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news that the IETF has adopted a policy of designing new protocols taking into account the need to mitigate pervasive monitoring of all traffic. From the article: "...RFC 7258, also known as BCP 188 (where BCP stands for 'Best Common Practice'); it represents Internet Engineering Task Force consensus on the fact that many powerful well-funded entities feel it is appropriate to monitor people's use of the Net, without telling those people. The consensus is: This monitoring is an attack and designers of Internet protocols must work to mitigate it."
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RFC 7258: Pervasive Monitoring Is an Attack

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  • Next step: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @09:28AM (#46998515)

    The NSA will try to infiltrate the IETF.

    • Re:Next step: (Score:4, Interesting)

      by StripedCow (776465) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @09:30AM (#46998535)

      Other option: they already have. It's a trick!

    • Re:Next step: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rabtech (223758) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:29AM (#46998985) Homepage

      The NSA will try to infiltrate the IETF.

      Some people may mod this as Funny, but I take it as completely serious.

      Even if it isn't the NSA, do you really think other state actors won't try to exert their influence?

      Expect lot of FUD around security issues by direct paid shills, or just "grass-roots" opposition indirectly fomented by various state security agencies.

      • Re:Next step: (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ArmoredDragon (3450605) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @04:16PM (#47002767)

        We've already seen this kind of FUD from foreign governments who want authority over ICANN and IANA. Basically they argue that by these being under the US Department of Commerce, which itself is technically run by Congress, the NSA can somehow spy on the world. Complete nonsense (regardless of who holds the keys, the NSA can always do what they do.)

        The real reason they want control over this is because it makes censorship a lot easier. Russia and China want to stop free speech, whereas Europe wants to kill anything they believe is "hate speech" (which technically almost anything can be called hate speech.) I distrust the feds as much as anybody, but IMO the US is the best holder of that because it doesn't do either.

      • Hmm. This reminds me of my mom's stories about someone infiltrating the local Green's group she was a member of some 20-30 years ago.
    • Re:Next step: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:43AM (#46999077) Homepage Journal

      The NSA will try to infiltrate the IETF.

      The NSA has already been participating in many standards bodies overtly and covertly. But that doesn't really matter. IETF protocols are designed in public, so backroom attempts to subvert them don't work. The only thing the NSA et al can do is to try to get the standards weakened in subtle, non-obvious ways they can exploit. But being able to do that effectively requires being significantly smarter than everyone else who is looking at and commenting on the designs so they can design and insert weaknesses which no one realizes are weaknesses.

      One ploy they can use that doesn't require super genius insight is to try to promote complexity in new standards. Complexity makes implementation harder and increases the probability of exploitable mistakes, in both design and implementation. That won't give them any guaranteed avenues of attack, but it will increase the odds of exploitable weaknesses. So we need to guard against excessive complexity in standards... but that's always been the case anyway.

      • Re:Next step: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @12:43PM (#47000243)

        A third way is to control positions responsible for communicating with other groups, which gives them more opportunities to influence the discussion or misrepresent consensus.

        See Trevor Perrin's request [ietf.org] to remove NSA employee Kevin Igoe from the position as co-chair of the Crypto Forum Research Group:

        Reasons for requesting Kevin's removal
        ----
        1) Kevin has provided the *ONLY* positive feedback for Dragonfly that
        can be found on the CFRG mailing list or meeting minutes. The
        contrast between Kevin's enthusiasm and the group's skepticism is
        striking [CFRG_SUMMARY]. It's unclear what this enthusiasm is based
        on. There's no record of Kevin making any effort to understand
        Dragonfly's unusual structure, compare it to alternatives, consider
        possible use cases, or construct a formal security analysis.

        2) Twice Kevin suggested a technique for deriving the Dragonfly
        password-based element which would make the protocol easy to break
        [IGOE_1, IGOE_2]. He also endorsed an ineffective attempt to avoid
        timing attacks by adding extra iterations to one of the loops [IGOE_3,
        IGOE_4]. These are surprising mistakes from an experienced
        cryptographer.

        3) Kevin's approval of Dragonfly to the TLS WG misrepresented CFRG
        consensus, which was skeptical of Dragonfly [CFRG_SUMMARY].

        4) Kevin's NSA affiliation raises unpleasant but unavoidable
        questions regarding these actions. It's entirely possible these are
        just mistakes by a novice chair who lacks experience in a particular
        sort of protocol and is being pressured by IETF participants to
        endorse something. But it's hard to escape an impression of
        carelessness and unseriousness in Kevin's work. One wonders whether
        the NSA is happy to preside over this sort of sloppy crypto design.

        While that's of course speculation, it remains baffling that an
        experienced cryptographer would champion such a shoddy protocol. The
        CFRG chairs have been silent for months, and haven't responded to
        attempts to clarify this.

        The request was reviewed and denied, so the crypto research group is still co-chaired by a NSA employee.

        • by swillden (191260)

          A third way is to control positions responsible for communicating with other groups, which gives them more opportunities to influence the discussion or misrepresent consensus.

          I don't think that really works, and the request you quote is evidence to support my belief.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I'm of the opposite opinion. The request and the follow-up is evidence that even an open process can and will be subverted if there is no will to actively deal with the issues.

            Note that nothing was done in response to that request. The CRFG is still co-chaired by a NSA employee. Trevor Perrin is unlikely to raise further issues in the future - why do so if there is no will to act on them? That's one less person to speak out the next time they try something.

            One of the reasons people gave for why it's okay to

        • Disband and reform? "The IEFT was compromised. We are the same people as before, minus the NSA employee. Let's get this done right." seems like a good press release.
      • One ploy they can use that doesn't require super genius insight is to try to promote complexity in new standards. Complexity makes implementation harder and increases the probability of exploitable mistakes, in both design and implementation.

        And yet despite this, SELinux remains installed by default on many distros. How long more is the NSA going to be allowed to live in our Kernels?

        • by swillden (191260)

          One ploy they can use that doesn't require super genius insight is to try to promote complexity in new standards. Complexity makes implementation harder and increases the probability of exploitable mistakes, in both design and implementation.

          And yet despite this, SELinux remains installed by default on many distros. How long more is the NSA going to be allowed to live in our Kernels?

          SELinux is good stuff, regardless of where it came from. I think we should extend its use, not remove it.

      • But being able to do that effectively requires being significantly smarter than everyone else who is looking at and commenting on the designs so they can design and insert weaknesses which no one realizes are weaknesses.

        Could see strategies focused on that same peer process. Less smart eyes on the subject is more opportunity. Keeping everyone involved surely is crucial.

      • I see where you're coming from, but you're acting like we live in a world where Dual_EC_DRBG didn't happen, where the heartbeat weakness in OpenSSL wasn't overlooked for years, and where the level of outrage or disagreement doesn't need rise to a level that outweighs the pain in the ass of changing something to change something. It doesn't require the NSA (or any determined, capable organization) being supergeniuses to subvert technology or processes. It just takes the trust and misplaced confidence of a
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @09:51AM (#46998691)

    The "pen register" part of the Smith v. Maryland makes their monitoring legal in this meta way. Even Hayden says they've killed people based on metadata alone.

    I don't see how you're going to "mitigate" anything until you get the 9 robed activists to pull heads out.

  • Who is the worst offender here (excluding "reasonable/expected" things like employers monitoring employees, parents monitoring their own kids, K-12 schools monitoring their own networks, etc.)?
    * The United States government (NSA, etc.)
    * The United States corporations (ISPs etc)
    * China's government
    * China's corporations (we'll pretend these aren't the government)
    * Russia's government
    * Russia's corporations (ditto)
    * North Korea's government (it's all government there!)
    * CowboyNeal, er, I mean Unknown Lamer [unknownlamer.org]**

    *

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      You are correct that it's both the ISP's and the governments.

    • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:19AM (#46998903) Homepage

      I think your question calls for a multi-context response:

      Greatest combined offensiveness and pervasiveness today: NSA, though GCHQ gets a solid nod for being more offensive and nearly as pervasive (especially if you count cooperation with NSA, but that cuts both ways).
      Most pervasive today / greatest potential psy-ops threat: US corporations (Google and Facebook so far out in front that it doesn't even look like a competition)
      Most offensive monitoring program today: Corporations monitoring public school students.
      Most scary if I thought they posed a credible threat: North Korea
      Most scary based on capability and recent offensive behavior: Russian government.
      Most scary based on capability and mid-term offensive behavior: Chinese government.
      Most scary based on capability and long-term offensive behavior: Russian government.

      I echo your sentiment about the difficulty of separating Chinese and Russian thugs/corporations/government.

  • Sometimes I test surveillance. I look at porno sites, for just that purpose. (Really! Okay, I also sometimes look at those sites for fun.) See if any agency is dumb enough to let me know they're spying on me by telling me what a naughty person I am for looking at such things. So far, no warnings about that.

    I also sometimes download content that may be copyrighted, again to test the temper. So far, my ISP has not sent me any warnings that they've detected piracy, no threats to cut my service. Nor hav

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You believe that Prodigy have (or had) enough spare time to read every comment a customer posts on the internet?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        As they post it?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Since 'mid 90s' was before the age of AJAX and constant communication, there is no possible way that Prodigy had any information other than 'bzipitidoo accessed the complaints page 3 minutes ago,' Only after hitting the submit button would you send anything back to the server. It is possible that there was some sort of 'auto-drop' feature if someone accessed the feedback page and then nothing else for 4 minutes, but that would be pretty odd of a policy to code. (the ranters could easily write up a 20 pag

        • by pla (258480)
          Since 'mid 90s' was before the age of AJAX and constant communication, there is no possible way that Prodigy had any information other than 'bzipitidoo accessed the complaints page 3 minutes ago,' Only after hitting the submit button would you send anything back to the server

          Although vaguely web-esque, back in the dark days before the modern internet, online services like Prodigy didn't run in standards compliant web browsers. They used dedicated proprietary thick-clients to establish the connection and
  • by id est (687803) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:16AM (#46998881)
    Not "Best Common Practice".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    of the Internet. The big corporations collect data of everyone and everything. Its too easy for an NSA to walk in at google and demand for their data. However, if they walk into your home, and ask politely to install a monitoring application on your computer, you will probably decline. They do exactly this thing with the corporations, but let them do the dirty work of getting the data from the people. It will be much harder for the NSA and alike if they have to face a truly decentralized internet.

    When you d

  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:31AM (#46998995) Homepage

    From the RFC, so delicious it must be fattening:

    In particular, the term "attack", used technically, implies nothing about the motivation of the actor mounting the attack. The motivation for PM can range from non-targeted nation-state surveillance, to legal but privacy-unfriendly purposes by commercial enterprises, to illegal actions by criminals. The same techniques to achieve PM can be used regardless of motivation. Thus, we cannot defend against the most nefarious actors while allowing monitoring by other actors no matter how benevolent some might consider them to be, since the actions required of the attacker are indistinguishable from other attacks. The motivation for PM is, therefore, not relevant for how PM is mitigated in IETF protocols.

    • by ememisya (1548255)

      to legal but privacy-unfriendly purposes by commercial enterprises

      How about we look at some ratios in statistics. How many people's "right to be left alone" have we violated vs. the good this has done? I bet you the number is staggeringly leaning towards violation of people's privacy and state of mind. If you want historical proof about how bothersome this might be, read about World War II Jewish survivors of Nazi Germany, and see how they rated lack of privacy in their list of uncomfortable things they were subject to. Citizen life isn't military, and I for one don't

  • "Monitoring" is an awfully loose term. Could this, for instance, apply to such things as the persistant port scanning (e.g. "monitoring" which ports a user has open on a given IP) and thus have implications for operations like Shodan HQ, or even the periodic scans of the entire Internet done by the likes of H.D. Moore and other companies or universities conducting research?

    Not that I'd be upset about seeing all that crap removed from my log files, mind you...
    • "Monitoring" is an awfully loose term. Could this, for instance, apply to such things as the persistant port scanning (e.g. "monitoring" which ports a user has open on a given IP) and thus have implications for operations like Shodan HQ, or even the periodic scans of the entire Internet done by the likes of H.D. Moore and other companies or universities conducting research?

      Research is conducted based on the data available. If stronger protocols reduce the amount of available data, research will continue with that reduced amount of data.

      If some research specifically requires more data, that's OK. That's called 'performing an experiment', and there are numerous procedures which can be followed to do this. One thing they all have in common is that if they involve people, like Internet monitoring does, then it must pass an ethics board and gain consent from all of the subjects in

    • by mellon (7048)

      Port scanning is already covered by existing IETF security standards. Pervasive monitoring is stuff like sniffing packet headers and keeping a database of them, looking at http traffic, and also attacks like the one slashdot still hasn't protected us against where GCHQ watched for people who surfed to slashdot and sent the ones from Belgacom maliciously hacked versions of the slashdot web site so that they could take over their work computers and use them as a stepping stone into the Belgacom network, on

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @10:40AM (#46999053) Homepage
    Open source community: this is excellent and we welcome the opportunity to enhance common protocols like smtp and http with this new mandate.
    Microsoft: we havent met an RFC we cant mangle. Exchange is so broken as to be unusable, Internet Explorer is more exploit than browser, and we hold patents on sharps and plusses for a clone of every major programming language in existence. dont expect this one to go anywhere fellas.
    Google: we'll add an option in chrome that you can click to disable monitoring. Clicking this option will cause a checkmark to appear. This checkmark will make the user feel feelings, and should probably do something with google plus. its a clickable option for google plus really. buy some of our neat glasses too.
    NSA: you realize Russ Housley and Brian Carpenter, both IETF former chairs, have worked with companies that rolled over when we asked for them to spy on you without telling anyone. Jari Arkko has only been around for a year, and we have enough IETF members in our pocket to keep it that way if we want. Go back to sleep, vote the two parties, and buy magnetic bumper ribbons during the next war to support what we tell you.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    People might not like it, but it is the law and has been deemed legal, especially if it's only foreigner being monitored. So move along. Nothing to see here.

    • You may not like it, but we live in a democracy, and the law is what the people say it is. We didn't know that this was in the law we passed, and now that we do, we are making our voice heard about it, the first step in the path to changing the law.

      -AndrewBuck

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Actually we live in an oligarchy. Here's a recent article [slashdot.org] in case you missed the interesting discussion.

        • by mellon (7048)

          If by "we" you mean U.S. citizens, we live in a representative democracy which we have allowed to become oligarchic by not exercising our duty as citizens to fucking pay attention to what our representatives are doing and fucking vote them out of office when they behave badly. Obscenities included to emphasize how annoying this is to citizens who do pay attention, and do vote accordingly. It's not a fucking popularity contest, kids.

  • by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Wednesday May 14, 2014 @11:25AM (#46999393)
    A glance is all that it takes to generate an attack by some animals. To notice is to challenge seems to be the idea in play. We see the same thing in ghetto youth when the words you noticed me are the opening salvo in a fight. This extends into conflicts such as stop and frisk laws. People walking can be "noticed". Therefore those who walk are more prone to police searches and arrests. The rich are not noticed as they use cars. Drug deals in a ghetto occur on sidewalks where people are noticed. Drug deals behind mansion walls are not noticed. So what we are really up against is just how can we observe and study the actions of every person without regard to economic status, race or other factors. The worst people often are never noticed at all until the damage is in great proportions with folks like bankers and Wall Street brokers.
    • If you think the central problem with stop&frisk is that its disproportionately unfair to poor people (pedestrians), then you are clearly a thought-criminal, and I'm going to need to see your papers.

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