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Why You Should Stop Using Telegram Right Now ( 53

Earlier this week, The Intercept evaluated the best instant messaging clients from the privacy standpoint. The list included Facebook's WhatsApp, Google's Allo, and Signal -- three apps that employ end-to-end encryption. One popular name that was missing from the list was Telegram. A report on Gizmodo sheds further light on the matter, adding that Telegram is riddled with a wide range of security issues, and "doesn't live up to its proclamations as a safe and secure messaging application." Citing many security experts, the report states:One major problem Telegram has is that it doesn't encrypt chats by default, something the FBI has advocated for. "There are many Telegram users who think they are communicating in an encrypted way, when they're not because they don't realize that they have to turn on an additional setting," Christopher Soghoian, Principal Technologist and Senior Policy Analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Gizmodo. "Telegram has delivered everything that the government wants. Would I prefer that they used a method of encryption that followed industry best practices like WhatsApp and Signal? Certainly. But, if it's not turned on by default, it doesn't matter."The other issue that security experts have taken a note of is that Telegram employs its own encryption, which according to them, "is widely considered to be a fatal flaw when developing encrypted messaging apps." The report adds:"They use the MTproto protocol which is effectively homegrown and I've seen no proper proofs of its security," Alan Woodward, professor at the University of Surrey told Gizmodo. Woodward criticized Telegram for their lack of transparency regarding their home cooked encryption protocol. "At present we don't know enough to know if it's secure or insecure. That's the trouble with security by obscurity. It's usual for cryptographers to reveal the algorithms completely, but here we are in the dark. Unless you have considerable experience, you shouldn't write your own crypto. No one really understands why they did that."The list goes on and on.

Russia Lawmakers Pass Spying Law That Requires Encryption Backdoors, Call Surveillance ( 106

A bill that was proposed recently in the Russian Duma to make cryptographic backdoors mandatory in all messaging apps, has passed. Patrick Howell O'Neill, reports for DailyDot:A massive surveillance bill is now on its way to becoming law in Russia. The "anti-terrorism" legislation includes a vast data-eavesdropping and -retention program so that telecom and internet companies have to record and store all customer communications for six months, potentially at a multitrillion-dollar cost. Additionally, all internet firms have to provide mandatory backdoor access into encrypted communications for the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency and successor to the KGB. The bill, with support from the ruling United Russia party, passed Friday in the Duma, Russia's lower legislative house, with 277 votes for, 148 against, and one abstaining. It now moves to Russia's Federal Council and the Kremlin, where it's expected to pass into law.

Comodo Attempting to Register 'Let's Encrypt' Trademarks, And That's Not Right ( 119

Let's Encrypt is a nonprofit aimed at encrypting the entire web. It provides free certificates, and its service is backed by EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai and others. Despite it being around for years, security firm Comodo, which as of 2015, was the largest issuer of SSL certificates with a 33.6% market share on 6.6% of all web domains, last year in October filed for the trademark Let's Encrypt. The team at Let's Encrypt wrote in a blog post today that they have asked Comodo to abandon its "Let's Encrypt" applications, directly but it has refused to do so. The blog post adds: We've forged relationships with millions of websites and users under the name Let's Encrypt, furthering our mission to make encryption free, easy, and accessible to everyone. We've also worked hard to build our unique identity within the community and to make that identity a reliable indicator of quality. We take it very seriously when we see the potential for our users to be confused, or worse, the potential for a third party to damage the trust our users have placed in us by intentionally creating such confusion. By attempting to register trademarks for our name, Comodo is actively attempting to do just that. Update: 06/23 22:25 GMT by M :Comodo CEO has addressed the issue on company's forum (screenshot).

Battle of the Secure Messaging Apps: Signal Triumphs Over WhatsApp, Allo ( 166

There is no shortage of messaging apps out there, so which one should you be using? If you care about your privacy, you would want your messaging client to be end-to-end encrypted. This narrows down the list to WhatsApp, Signal, and Allo. The Intercept has evaluated the apps to find which among the three is the best from the privacy standpoint. The publication says that while all the three aforementioned apps use the same secure messaging protocol (Open Whisper System's), they differ on exactly what information is encrypted, what metadata is collected, and what, precisely, is stored in the cloud.
WhatsApp:It's important to keep in mind that, even with the Signal protocol in place, WhatsApp's servers can still see messages that users send through the service. They can't see what's inside the messages, but they can see who is sending a message to whom and when.In addition, WhatsApp also retains your contact list -- provided you have shared it with the service. If government requests access to this data, WhatsApp could hand it over.
Allo:The first thing to understand about Google's forthcoming Allo app is that, by default, Google will be able to read all of your Allo messages. If you want end-to-end encryption via the Signal protocol, you need to switch to an "incognito mode" within the app, which will be secure but include fewer features. [...] Allo's machine learning features prevent Google from turning on end-to-end encryption for all messages, since Google needs to be able to ingest the content of messages for the machine learning to work, a Google spokesperson confirmed. Signal:The first thing that sets Signal apart from WhatsApp and Allo is that it is open source. The app's code is freely available for experts to inspect for flaws or back doors in its security. Another thing that makes Signal unique is its business model: There is none. In stark contrast to Facebook and Google, which make their money selling ads, Open Whisper Systems is entirely supported by grants and donations. With no advertising to target, the company intentionally stores as little user data as possible. Signal's privacy policy is short and concise. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal doesn't store any message metadata. [...] If you back up your phone to your Google or iCloud account, Signal doesn't include any of your messages in this backup.But what about Telegram, you ask? A Gizmodo report, also published on Wednesday, says that Telegram's default settings store your message on its unencrypted servers. "This is pretty much one of the worst things you could imagine when trying to send secure messages."

Mark Zuckerberg Tapes Over His Webcam. Should You? ( 289

Remember when FBI's director James Comey was spotted using a piece of tape over the camera on his laptop? At the time, Comey noted that he started doing it after he saw a person "smarter" than him do it as well. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg apparently also puts a tape over his webcam. Zuckerberg posted an image on Facebook yesterday, celebrating Instagram's big milestone of hitting 500 million monthly active users. In the background, we can see that his laptop has a tape over the webcam, as well as something around the microphone port. From a report on The Guardian: Even experts who don't cover their cameras think they should. Why doesn't Matthew Green, an encryption expert at Johns Hopkins University? "Because I'm an idiot," he said. "I have no excuse for not taking this seriously ... but at the end of the day, I figure that seeing me naked would be punishment enough." While Zuckerberg probably does have any number of advanced persistent threats trying to break his digital security, normal people shouldn't be too complacent either. Installing backdoors on compromised computers is a common way for some hackers to occupy their time.On an unrelated note, it appears, Zuckerberg uses Mozilla's Thunderbird as his primary email client.

Russian Bill Requires Encryption Backdoors In All Messenger Apps ( 202

Patrick O'Neill quotes a report from The Daily Dot: A new bill in the Russian Duma, the country's lower legislative house, proposes to make cryptographic backdoors mandatory in all messaging apps in the country so the Federal Security Service -- the successor to the KGB -- can obtain special access to all communications within the country. [Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram, all of which offer varying levels of encrypted security for messages, are specifically targeted in the "anti-terrorism" bill, according to the Russian-language media. Fines for the offending companies could reach 1 million rubles or about $15,000.] Russian Senator Elena Mizulina argued that the new bill ought to become law because, she said, teens are brainwashed in closed groups on the internet to murder police officers, a practice protected by encryption. Mizulina then went further. "Maybe we should revisit the idea of pre-filtering [messages]," she said. "We cannot look silently on this."

Smartphone Users Are Paying For Their Own Surveillance ( 85

Nicola Hahn writes: While top secret NSA documents continue to trickle into the public sphere, tech industry leaders have endeavored to reassure anxious users by extolling the benefits of strong encryption. Rising demand among users for better privacy protection signifies a growth market for the titans of Silicon Valley -- this results in a tendency to frame the issue of cybersecurity in terms of the latest mobile device. Yet whistleblowers from our intelligence services offer dire warnings that contrast sharply with feel good corporate talking points. Edward Snowden, for example, noted that under mass surveillance we're essentially "tagged animals" who pay for our own tags. There's an argument to be made that the vast majority of network-connected gadgets enable monitoring far more than they protect individual liberty. In some instances, the most secure option is to opt out.

Non-US Encryption Is 'Theoretical', Claims CIA Chief In Backdoor Debate ( 312

Iain Thomson, writing for The Register: CIA director John Brennan told U.S. senators they shouldn't worry about mandatory encryption backdoors hurting American businesses. And that's because, according to Brennan, there's no one else for people to turn to: if they don't want to use U.S.-based technology because it's been forced to use weakened cryptography, they'll be out of luck because non-American solutions are simply "theoretical." Thus, the choice is American-built-and-backdoored or nothing, apparently. The spymaster made the remarks at a congressional hearing on Thursday after Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) questioned the CIA's support for weakening cryptography to allow g-men to peek at people's private communications and data. Brennan said this was needed to counter the ability of terrorists to coordinate their actions using encrypted communications. The director denied that forcing American companies to backdoor their security systems would cause any commercial problems.

Hacker Steals 45 Million Accounts From Hundreds of Car, Tech, Sports Forums ( 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A hacker has stolen tens of millions of accounts from over a thousand popular forums, which host popular car, tech, and sports communities. The stolen database contains close to 45 million records from 1,100 websites and forums hosted by VerticalScope, a Toronto-based media company with dozens of major properties, including forums and sites run by,, and "We are aware of the possible issue and our internal security team has been investigating and will be collecting information to provide to the appropriate law enforcement agencies," said Jerry Orban, vice-president of corporate development, in an email. In a sample given to ZDNet, the database shows email addresses, passwords that were hashed and salted passwords with MD5 (an algorithm that nowadays is easy to crack), as well as a user's IP address (which in some cases can determine location), and the site that the record was taken from. LeakedSource, which confirmed the findings, said in its blog post that it was "likely that VerticalScope stored all of their data on interconnected or even the same servers as there is no other way to explain a theft on such a large scale." A LeakedSource group member said it was "not related" to the recent hacks against MySpace, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. The report goes on to say: "A cursory search of the list of domains caught up in the hack revealed that none of the sites [ZDNet] checked offered basic HTTPS website encryption, which would prevent usernames and passwords from being intercepted."

Apple Introduces New File System AFPS With Tons Of 'Solid' Features ( 295

On the sidelines of its Worldwide Developer's Conference, Apple also quietly unveiled a new file system dubbed APFS (Apple File System). Here's how the company describes it: HFS+ and its predecessor HFS are more than 30 years old. These file systems were developed in an era of floppy disks and spinning hard drives, where file sizes were calculated in kilobytes or megabytes. Today, solid-state drives store millions of files, accounting for gigabytes or terabytes of data. There is now also a greater importance placed on keeping sensitive information secure and safe from prying eyes. A new file system is needed to meet the current needs of Apple products, and support new technologies for decades to come.Ars Technica dived into the documentation to find that APFS comes with a range of "solid" features including support for 64-bit inode numbering, and improved granularity of object time-stamping. "APFS supports nanosecond time stamp granularity rather than the 1-second time stamp granularity in HFS+." It also supports copy-on-write metadata scheme which aims to ensure that file system commits and writes to the file system journal stay in sync even if "something happens during the write -- like if the system loses power." The new file system offers an improvement over Apple's previous full-disk encryption File Vault application. It also features Snapshots (that lets you throw off a read-only instant of a file system at any given point in time), and Clones. According to the documentation, APFS can create file or directory clones -- and like a proper next-generation file system, it does so instantly, rather than having to wait for data to be copied. From the report: Also interesting is the concept of "space sharing," where multiple volumes can be created out of the same chunk of underlying physical space. This sounds on first glance a lot like enterprise-style thin provisioning, where you can do things like create four 1TB volumes on a single 1TB disk, and each volume grows as space is added to it. You can add physical storage to keep up with the volume's growth without having to resize the logical volume.As the documentation notes, things are in early stage, so it might take a while before AFPS becomes available to general users.

Symantec Will Acquire Controversial Surveillance Firm Blue Coat Systems For $4.65 Billion ( 44

Reader LichtSpektren writes: Symantec will acquire Blue Coat for approximately $4.65 billion in cash, the security firm announced on Monday. The transaction has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies and is expected to close in the third calendar quarter of 2016. Greg Clark, CEO of Blue Coat, will be appointed CEO of Symantec and join the Symantec Board upon closing of the transaction.If Blue Coat name sounds familiar to you, it is because this controversial surveillance firm was recently in the news for receiving a grant for a powerful encryption certificate by its now-parent company Symantec.

Thousands of Email Addresses Accidentally Disclosed By Let's Encrypt ( 81

An anonymous reader writes "Let's Encrypt, the certificate authority best known for offering free SSL/TLS certificates, has reported that it accidentally disclosed thousands of user email addresses due to a bug with an automated emailing system." Executive Director Josh Aas posted this announcement: On June 11 2016 (UTC), we started sending an email to all active subscribers who provided an email address, informing them of an update to our subscriber agreement. This was done via an automated system which contained a bug that mistakenly prepended between 0 and 7,618 other email addresses to the body of the email... The problem was noticed and the system was stopped after 7,618 out of approximately 383,000 emails (1.9%) were sent. Each email mistakenly contained the email addresses from the emails sent prior to it, so earlier emails contained fewer addresses than later ones.

We take our relationship with our users very seriously and apologize for the error... If you received one of these emails we ask that you not post lists of email addresses publicly.


Twitter Denies Breach of 32 Million Accounts ( 28

An anonymous reader writes: "We have investigated reports of Twitter usernames/passwords on the dark web, and we're confident that our systems have not been breached," posted the company's security office, Michael Coates. In a blog post, he wrote that Twitter use HTTPS "everywhere" and secures account credentials with bcrypt, while also watching for suspicious account activity based on location, device type, and login history. Responding to recent reports of 32 million compromised accounts, he blamed malware and also recycled passwords, which mean "a breach of passwords associated with website X could result in compromised accounts at unrelated website Y."

"When so many breaches are announced in a short window of time, it may be natural to assume that any mention of 'another breach' is true and valid. Nefarious individuals leverage this environment in order to either bundle old breached data or repackage accounts from a variety of breaches, and then claim they have login information and passwords for website Z."

A security expert gave the same explanation to InformationWeek. And Brian Krebs recently pointed out that a Tweet claiming 73 million compromised Dropbox accounts was actually just recycling credentials from a 2013 breach at Tumblr. A recent breach of Mark Zuckerberg's Twitter account was attributed to a low-security password.

Bitdefender Finds 'Hypervisor Wiretap' For Reading TLS-Encrypted Communications ( 86

Orome1 quotes a report from HelpNetSecurity: Bitdefender has discovered that encrypted communications can be decrypted in real-time using a technique that has virtually zero footprint and is invisible to anyone except extremely careful security auditors. The technique, dubbed TeLeScope, has been developed for research purposes and proves that a third-party can eavesdrop on communications encrypted with the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol between an end-user and a virtualized instance of a server.
Bitdefender says the new technique "works to detect the creation of TLS session keys in memory as the virtual machine is running." According to HelpNetSecurity, this vulnerability "makes it possible for a malicious cloud provider, or one pressured into giving access to three-letter agencies, to recover the TLS keys used to encrypt every communication session between virtualized servers and customers. CIOs who are outsourcing their virtualized infrastructure to a third-party vendor should assume that all of the information flowing between the business and its customers has been decrypted and read for an undetermined amount of time."

BlackBerry Hands Over User Data To Help Police 'Kick Ass,' Insider Says ( 144

Reader Dr Caleb writes: A specialized unit inside mobile firm BlackBerry has for years enthusiastically helped intercept user data -- including BBM messages -- to help in hundreds of police investigations in dozens of countries, a CBC News investigation reveals. For instance, citing a number of sources, CBC says that BlackBerry intercepted messages to aid investigators probing the political scandals in Brazil that are dogging suspended President Dilma Rousseff. The company also helped authenticate BBM messages in Major League Baseball's drug investigation that saw New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez suspended in 2014. One document obtained by CBC News reveals how the Waterloo, Ont.-based company handles requests for information and co-operates with foreign law enforcement and government agencies, in stark contrast with many other tech companies. "We were helping law enforcement kick ass," said one person.

Password App Developer Overlooks Security Hole to Preserve Ads ( 96

An anonymous reader quotes this report from Engadget: Think it's bad when companies take their time fixing security vulnerabilities? Imagine what happens when they avoid fixing those holes in the name of a little cash. KeePass 2 developer Dominik Reichl has declined to patch a flaw in the password manager's update check as the 'indirect costs' of the upgrade (which would encrypt web traffic) are too high -- namely, it'd lose ad revenue...

To his credit, Reichl notes that he'd like to move to encryption as soon as he believes it's possible. You can also verify that you're getting a signed download, if you're worried. However, it's still contradictory to develop a security-centric app and decide that security should take a back seat.

An update on the site says the software's version information file is now digitally signed, adding that KeePass "neither downloads nor installs any new version automatically. Users have to do this manually... users should check whether the file is digitally signed... HTTPS cannot prevent a compromise of the download server; checking the digital signature does."

RSA Keys Can Be Harvested With Microphones ( 157

Researchers have now demonstrated that even with modern laptop, desktop, and server computers, an inexpensive attack can harvest 4,096-bit encryption keys using a parabolic microphone within 33 feet -- or even from 12 inches away, using a cellphone microphone. An anonymous reader quotes this article from The Register: In both cases it took an hour of listening to get the 4,096-bit RSA key... As a computer's processor churns through the encryption calculations, the machine emits a high-frequency "coil whine" from the changing electrical current flowing through its components... The team recommends encryption software writers build in "blinding" routines that insert dummy calculations into cryptographic operations. After discussions with the team, GNU Privacy Guard now does this.

93% Of Phishing Emails Are Now Ransomware ( 79

According to the latest data from security firm PhishMe, 93% of all phishing emails as of the end of March contained encryption ransomware. The numbers underscore a growing trend in the security space as ransomware instances in phishing emails grew up by 56% since December last year. From a report: The anti-phishing vendor also counted the number of different variants of phishing emails that it saw. Ransomware accounted for 51 percent of all variants in March, up from just 29 percent in February and 15 percent in January. The skyrocketing growth is due to that fact that ransomware is getting easier and easier to send and that it offers a quick and easy return on investment. Other types of cyberattacks typically take more work to monetize. Stolen credit card numbers have to be sold and used before the cards are canceled, for example. Identity theft takes even more of a time commitment.

Out-Of-the-Box Exploitation Possible On PCs From Top 5 OEMs ( 81

According to a report published by two-factor authentication service Duo Security, third-party updating tools installed by Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer, and Asus (the top five Windows PC OEMs) are exposing their devices to man-in-the-middle attacks. Dan Goodin, reports for Ars Technica: The updaters frequently expose their programming interfaces, making them easy to reverse engineer. Even worse, the updaters frequently fail to use transport layer security encryption properly, if at all. As a result, PCs from all five makers are vulnerable to exploits that allow attackers to install malware.Duo Security adds: Hacking in practice means taking the path of least resistance, and OEM software is often a weak link in the chain. All of the sexy exploit mitigations, desktop firewalls, and safe browsing enhancements can't protect you when an OEM vendor cripples them with pre-installed software.

Sirin Labs Launches Solarin, a $14,000 Privacy-Focused Smartphone ( 95

An anonymous reader writes from a report via VentureBeat: Sirin Labs has launched its high-end Android smartphone called Solarin. The company's mission is to create the Rolls-Royce of smartphones -- an advanced device that combines "the highest privacy settings, operated faster than any other phone, [and is] built with the best materials from around the world." Solarin promises "the most advanced privacy technology, currently unavailable outside the agency world." It has partnered with KoolSpan to integrate chip-to-chip 256-bit AES encryption, which is similar to what the military uses to protect its communications. As for the specs, Solarin features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, with support for 24 bands of LTE, and "far superior" Wi-Fi connectivity than standard mobile phones. There's a 23.8-megapixel rear camera sensor and a 5.5" IPS LED 2K resolution display. The phone goes on sale June 1st for nearly $14,000 ($13,800 to be exact).

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