Encryption

FBI Repeatedly Overstated Encryption Threat Figures To Congress, Public (techcrunch.com) 145

mi shares a report from The Washington Post (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000.

Over a period of seven months, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray cited the inflated figure as the most compelling evidence for the need to address what the FBI calls "Going Dark" -- the spread of encrypted software that can block investigators' access to digital data even with a court order. "The FBI's initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,'' the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. The bureau said the problem stemmed from the use of three distinct databases that led to repeated counting of phones. Tests of the methodology conducted in April 2016 failed to detect the flaw, according to people familiar with the work.

Encryption

IBM Warns Quantum Computing Will Break Encryption (zdnet.com) 197

Long-time Slashdot reader CrtxReavr shares a report from ZDNet: Quantum computers will be able to instantly break the encryption of sensitive data protected by today's strongest security, warns the head of IBM Research. This could happen in a little more than five years because of advances in quantum computer technologies. "Anyone that wants to make sure that their data is protected for longer than 10 years should move to alternate forms of encryption now," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research... Quantum computers can solve some types of problems near-instantaneously compared with billions of years of processing using conventional computers... Advances in novel materials and in low-temperature physics have led to many breakthroughs in the quantum computing field in recent years, and large commercial quantum computer systems will soon be viable and available within five years...

In addition to solving tough computing problems, quantum computers could save huge amounts of energy, as server farms proliferate and applications such as bitcoin grow in their compute needs. Each computation takes just a few watts, yet it could take several server farms to accomplish if it were run on conventional systems.

The original submission raises another possibility. "What I wonder is, if encryption can be 'instantly broken,' does this also mean that remaining crypto-coins can be instantly discovered?"
Encryption

Encrypted Email Has a Major, Divisive Flaw (wired.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Wired: The ubiquitous email encryption schemes PGP and S/MIME are vulnerable to attack, according to a group of German and Belgian researchers who posted their findings on Monday. The weakness could allow a hacker to expose plaintext versions of encrypted messages -- a nightmare scenario for users who rely on encrypted email to protect their privacy, security, and safety. The weakness, dubbed eFail, emerges when an attacker who has already managed to intercept your encrypted emails manipulates how the message will process its HTML elements, like images and multimedia styling. When the recipient gets the altered message and their email client -- like Outlook or Apple Mail -- decrypts it, the email program will also load the external multimedia components through the maliciously altered channel, allowing the attacker to grab the plaintext of the message.

The eFail attack requires hackers to have a high level of access in the first place that, in itself, is difficult to achieve. They need to already be able to intercept encrypted messages, before they begin waylaying messages to alter them. PGP is a classic end-to-end encryption scheme that has been a go-to for secure consumer email since the late 1990s because of the free, open-source standard known as OpenPGP. But the whole point of doing the extra work to keep data encrypted from the time it leaves the sender to the time it displays for the receiver is to reduce the risk of access attacks -- even if someone can tap into your encrypted messages, the data will still be unreadable. eFail is an example of these secondary protections failing.

AMD

AMD Integrates Ryzen PRO and Radeon Vega Graphics In Next-Gen APUs (zdnet.com) 76

The three biggest PC OEMs -- Dell, HP, and Lenovo -- are now offering AMD Ryzen PRO mobile and desktop accelerated processing units (APUs) with built-in Radeon Vega graphics in a variety of commercial systems. There are a total of seven new APUs -- three for the mobile space and four for the desktop. As AMD notes in its press release, the first desktops to ship with these latest chips include: the HP Elitedesk G4 and 285 Desktop, the Lenovo ThinkCentre M715, and the Dell Optiplex 5055. ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes about what makes Ryzen PRO so appealing: Ryzen PRO has been built from the ground up to focus on three pillars -- power, security and reliability. Built-in security means integrated GuardMI technology, an AES 128-bit encryption engine, Windows 10 Enterprise Security support, and support for fTPM/TPM 2.0 Trusted Platform Module. One of the features of Ryzen PRO that AMD hopes will appeal to commercial users is the enterprise-grade reliability that the chips come backed with, everything from 18-moths of planned software availability, 24-months processor availability, a commercial-grade QA process, 36-moth warranty, and enterprise-class manageability.

There are no worries on the performance front either, with the Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics being the world's fastest processor currently available for ultrathin commercial notebooks, with the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 2700U offering up to 22 percent more productivity performance than Intel's 8th-generation Core i7-8550U in testing carried out by AMD. AMD has also designed the Ryzen PRO processors to be energy-efficient, enabling up to 16 hours of battery life in devices, or 10.5 hours of video playback. The Ryzen PRO with Vega Graphics desktop processors are also no slouches, opening up a significant performance gap when compared to Intel Core i5 8400 and Core i3 8100 parts.
AMD also announced that it is sampling its second-generation Threadripper 2900X, 2920X and 2950X products. "For Threadripper Gen2 you can expect a refresh of the current line-up; an 8-core Threadripper 2900X, a 12-core Threadripper 2920X and of course a 16-core Threadripper 2950X," reports Guru3D.com. "AMD will apply the same Zen+ tweaks to the processors; including memory latency optimizations and higher clock speeds."

AMD has something for the datacenter enthusiasts out there too. Epyc, AMD's x86 server processor line based on the company's Zen microarchitecture, has a new promo video, claiming more performance, more security features, and more value than Intel Xeon. The company plans to market Epyc in an aggressive head-to-head format similar to how T-Mobile campaigns against Verizon and AT&T. Given Intel Xeon's 99% market share, they sort of have to...
Encryption

Lawmakers Move To Block Government From Ordering Digital 'Back Doors' (thehill.com) 87

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers have introduced legislation that would block the federal government from requiring technology companies to design devices with so-called "back doors" to allow law enforcement to access them. From a report: The bill represents the latest effort by lawmakers in Congress to wade into the battle between federal law enforcement officials and tech companies over encryption, which reached a boiling point in 2015 as the FBI tussled with Apple over a locked iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terror attack case.

Top FBI and Justice Department officials have repeatedly complained that they have been unable to access devices for ongoing criminal investigations because of encryption. FBI Director Christopher Wray has suggested that devices could be designed to allow investigators to access them, though he insists the bureau is not looking for a "back door." The bipartisan bill introduced Thursday would prohibit federal agencies from requiring or requesting that firms "design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product" by the government.

Encryption

Tech Giants Hit by NSA Spying Slam Encryption Backdoors (zdnet.com) 129

A coalition of Silicon Valley tech giants has doubled down on its criticism of encryption backdoors following a proposal that would give law enforcement access to locked and encrypted devices. From a report: The group, which focuses on efforts to reform government surveillance, said in a statement that it continues to advocate for strong encryption, and decried attempts to undermine the technology. "Recent reports have described new proposals to engineer vulnerabilities into devices and services -- but they appear to suffer from the same technical and design concerns that security researchers have identified for years," the statement read. The renewed criticism follows a lengthy Wired article, in which former Microsoft software chief Ray Ozzie proposed a new spin on key escrow. Device encryption has hampered police investigations, and law enforcement officials have pushed tech companies to fix the problem -- even by way of suing them.
Bug

GitHub Accidentally Exposes Some Plaintext Passwords In Its Internal Logs (zdnet.com) 151

GitHub has sent an email to some of its 27 million users alerting them of a bug that exposed some user passwords in plaintext. "During the course of regular auditing, GitHub discovered that a recently introduced bug exposed a small number of users' passwords to our internal logging system," said the email. "We have corrected this, but you'll need to reset your password to regain access to your account." ZDNet reports: The email said that a handful of GitHub staff could have seen those passwords -- and that it's "unlikely" that any GitHub staff accessed the site's internal logs. It's unclear exactly how this bug occurred. GitHub's explanation was that it stores user passwords with bcrypt, a stronger password hashing algorithm, but that the bug "resulted in our secure internal logs recording plaintext user passwords when users initiated a password reset." "Rest assured, these passwords were not accessible to the public or other GitHub users at any time," the email said. GitHub said it "has not been hacked or compromised in any way."
Censorship

Amazon Tells Signal's Creators To Stop Using Anti-Censorship Tool (theverge.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The team behind secure messaging app Signal says Amazon has threatened to kick the app off its CloudFront web service unless Signal drops the anti-censorship practice known as domain-fronting. Google recently banned the practice, which lets developers disguise web traffic to look like it's coming from a different source, allowing apps like Signal to evade country-level bans. As a result, Signal moved from Google to the Amazon-owned Souq content delivery network. But Amazon implemented its own ban on Friday. In an email that Moxie Marlinspike -- founder of Signal developer Open Whisper Systems -- posted today, Amazon orders the organization to immediately stop using domain-fronting or find another web services provider. Signal used the system to provide service in Egypt, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it's officially banned. It got around filters by making traffic appear to come from a huge platform, since countries weren't willing to ban the entirety of a site like Google to shut down Signal. "The idea behind domain fronting was that to block a single site, you'd have to block the rest of the internet as well. In the end, the rest of the internet didn't like that plan," Marlinspike writes. "We are considering ideas for a more robust system, but these ecosystem changes have happened very suddenly. [...] In the meantime, the censors in these countries will have (at least temporarily) achieved their goals. Sadly, they didn't have to do anything but wait."
Facebook

WhatsApp Founder Plans To Leave After Broad Clashes With Parent Facebook (washingtonpost.com) 29

Elizabeth Dwoskin, reporting for Washington Post: The billionaire chief executive of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is planning to leave the company after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service's strategy and Facebook's attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption, according to people familiar with internal discussions. Koum, who sold WhatsApp to Facebook for more than $19 billion in 2014, also plans to step down from Facebook's board of directors, according to these people. The date of his departure isn't known. He has been informing senior executives at Facebook and WhatsApp of his decision, and in recent months has been showing up less frequently to WhatsApp's offices on Facebook's campus in Silicon Valley, according to the people. The independence and protection of its users' data is a core tenet of WhatsApp that Koum and his co-founder, Brian Acton, promised to preserve when they sold their tiny startup to Facebook. It doubled down on its pledge by adding encryption in 2016. The data clash took on additional significance in the wake of revelations in March that Facebook had allowed third parties to mishandle its users' personal information. The move comes weeks after Brian Acton, the other co-founder of WhatsApp, urged people to delete their Facebook accounts.
Google

Google Accused of Showing 'Total Contempt' for Android Users' Privacy (bleepingcomputer.com) 100

On the heels of a terse privacy debate, Google may have found another thing to worry about: its attempt to rethink the traditional texting system. From a report: Joe Westby is Amnesty International's Technology and Human Rights researcher. Recently, in response to Google's launch of a new messaging service called "Chat", Westby argued that Google, "shows total contempt for Android users' privacy."

"With its baffling decision to launch a messaging service without end-to-end encryption, Google has shown utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, allowing them easy access to the content of Android users' communications. Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognized as an essential safeguard for protecting people's privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers," Westby contended. Westby continued, saying: "In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Google's decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy."

Censorship

Google Is Shuttering Domain Fronting, Creating a Big Problem For Anti-Censorship Tools (theverge.com) 59

"The Google App Engine is discontinuing a practice called domain fronting, which lets services use Google's network to get around state-level internet blocks," reports The Verge. While the move makes sense from a cybersecurity perspective as domain fronting is widely used by malware to evade network-based detection, it will likely frustrate app developers who use it to get around internet censorship. From the report: First spotted by Tor developers on April 13th, the change has been rolling out across Google services and threatens to disrupt services for a number of anti-censorship tools, including Signal, GreatFire.org and Psiphon's VPN services. Reached by The Verge, Google said the changes were the result of a long-planned network update. "Domain fronting has never been a supported feature at Google," a company representative said, "but until recently it worked because of a quirk of our software stack. We're constantly evolving our network, and as part of a planned software update, domain fronting no longer works. We don't have any plans to offer it as a feature."

Domain-fronting allowed developers to use Google as a proxy, forwarding traffic to their own servers through a Google.com domain. That was particularly important for evading state-level censorship, which might try to block all the traffic sent to a given service. As long as the service was using domain-fronting, all the in-country data requests would appear as if they were headed for Google.com, with encryption preventing censors from digging any deeper.
We do not yet know exactly why and when Google is shutting down the practice, but will update this post once we learn more.
The Internet

Russia Admits To Blocking Millions of IP Addresses (sfgate.com) 73

It turns out, the Russian government, in its quest to block Telegram, accidentally shut down several other services as well. From a report: The chief of the Russian communications watchdog acknowledged Wednesday that millions of unrelated IP addresses have been frozen in a so-far futile attempt to block a popular messaging app. Telegram, the messaging app that was ordered to be blocked last week, was still available to users in Russia despite authorities' frantic attempts to hit it by blocking other services. The row erupted after Telegram, which was developed by Russian entrepreneur Pavel Durov, refused to hand its encryption keys to the intelligence agencies. The Russian government insists it needs them to pre-empt extremist attacks but Telegram dismissed the request as a breach of privacy. Alexander Zharov, chief of the Federal Communications Agency, said in an interview with the Izvestia daily published Wednesday that Russia is blocking 18 networks that are used by Amazon and Google and which host sites that they believe Telegram is using to circumvent the ban.
Communications

France is Building Its Own Encrypted Messaging Service To Ease Fears That Foreign Entities Could Spy on Private Conversations (reuters.com) 87

The French government is building its own encrypted messenger service to ease fears that foreign entities could spy on private conversations between top officials, the digital ministry said on Monday. From a report: None of the world's major encrypted messaging apps, including Facebook's WhatsApp and Telegram -- a favorite of President Emmanuel Macron -- are based in France, raising the risk of data breaches at servers outside the country.

About 20 officials and top civil servants are testing the new app which a state-employed developer has designed, a ministry spokeswoman said, with the aim that its use will become mandatory for the whole government by the summer. "We need to find a way to have an encrypted messaging service that is not encrypted by the United States or Russia," the spokeswoman said. "You start thinking about the potential breaches that could happen, as we saw with Facebook, so we should take the lead."

Encryption

Russia Begins Blocking Telegram Messenger (reuters.com) 59

Russia's state telecommunications regulator said on Monday it had begun blocking access to Telegram messenger after the company refused to comply with an order to give Russian state security access to its users' secret messages (encryption keys). From a report: The watchdog, Roskomnadzor, said in a statement on its website that it had sent telecoms operators a notification about blocking access to Telegram inside Russia. The service, set up by a Russian entrepreneur, has more than 200 million global users and is ranked as the world's ninth most popular mobile messaging app.
Encryption

Former FBI Director James Comey Reveals How Apple and Google's Encryption Efforts Drove Him 'Crazy' (fastcompany.com) 351

An anonymous reader shares a report: In his explosive new book, A Higher Loyalty, fired FBI director James Comey denounces President Trump as "untethered to the truth" and likens him to a "mob boss," but he also touches on other topics during his decades-long career in law enforcement -- including his strong objection to the tech industry's encryption efforts. When Apple and Google announced in 2014 that they would be moving their mobile devices to default encryption, by emphasizing that making them immune to judicial orders was good for society, "it drove me crazy," he writes. He goes on to lament the lack of "true listening" between tech and law enforcement, saying that "the leaders of the tech companies don't see the darkness the FBI sees," such as terrorism and organized crime.

He writes, "I found it appalling that the tech types couldn't see this. I would frequently joke with the FBI 'Going Dark' team assigned to seek solutions, 'Of course the Silicon Valley types don't see the darkness -- they live where it's sunny all the time and everybody is rich and smart." But Comey understood it was an unbelievably difficult issue and that public safety had to be balanced with privacy concerns.

Encryption

Lawmakers Call FBI's 'Going Dark' Narrative 'Highly Questionable' After Motherboard Shows Cops Can Easily Hack iPhones (vice.com) 69

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: This week, Motherboard showed that law enforcement agencies across the country, including a part of the State Department, have bought GrayKey, a relatively cheap technology that can unlock fully up-to-date iPhones. That revelation, cryptographers and technologists said, undermined the FBI's renewed push for backdoors in consumer encryption products. Citing Motherboard's work, on Friday US lawmakers sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, doubting the FBI's narrative around 'going dark', where law enforcement officials say they are increasingly unable to obtain evidence related to crimes due to encryption. Politico was first to report the letter. "According to your testimony and public statements, the FBI encountered 7,800 devices last year that it could not access due to encryption," the letter, signed by 5 Democrat and 5 Republican n House lawmakers, reads. "However, in light of the availability of unlocking tools developed by third-parties and the OIG report's findings that the Bureau was uninterested in seeking available third-party options, these statistics appear highly questionable," it adds, referring to a recent report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General. That report found the FBI barely explored its technical options for accessing the San Bernardino iPhone before trying to compel Apple to unlock the device. The lawmaker's letter points to Motherboard's report that the State Department spent around $15,000 on a GrayKey.
Iphone

Cops Around the Country Can Now Unlock iPhones, Records Show (vice.com) 98

Law enforcement agencies across the country have purchased GrayKey, a relatively cheap tool for bypassing the encryption on iPhones, while the FBI pushes again for encryption backdoors, Motherboard reported on Thursday. From the report: FBI Director Christopher Wray recently said that law enforcement agencies are "increasingly unable to access" evidence stored on encrypted devices. Wray is not telling the whole truth. Police forces and federal agencies around the country have bought relatively cheap tools to unlock up-to-date iPhones and bypass their encryption, according to a Motherboard investigation based on several caches of internal agency documents, online records, and conversations with law enforcement officials. Many of the documents were obtained by Motherboard using public records requests.

The news highlights the going dark debate, in which law enforcement officials say they cannot access evidence against criminals. But easy access to iPhone hacking tools also hamstrings the FBI's argument for introducing backdoors into consumer devices so authorities can more readily access their contents.

Encryption

Researchers Devise a Way To Generate Provably Random Numbers Using Quantum Mechanics (newatlas.com) 139

No random number generator you've ever used is truly, provably random. Until now, that is. Researchers have used an experiment developed to test quantum mechanics to generate demonstrably random numbers, which could come in handy for encryption. From a report: The method uses photons to generate a string of random ones and zeros, and leans on the laws of physics to prove that these strings are truly random, rather than merely posing as random. The researchers say their work could improve digital security and cryptography. The challenge for existing random number generators is not only creating truly random numbers, but proving that those numbers are random. "It's hard to guarantee that a given classical source is really unpredictable," says Peter Bierhorst, a mathematician at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where this research took place. "Our quantum source and protocol is like a fail-safe. We're sure that no one can predict our numbers." For example, random number algorithms often rely on a source of data which may ultimately prove predictable, such as atmospheric noise. And however complex the algorithm, it's still applying consistent rules. Despite these potential imperfections, these methods are relied on in the day-to-day encryption of data. This team's method, however, makes use of the properties of quantum mechanics, or what Einstein described as "spooky action at a distance." Further reading: Wired, LiveScience, and CNET.
United States

Emergency Alert Systems Used Across the US Can Be Easily Hijacked (helpnetsecurity.com) 44

A vulnerability affecting emergency alert systems supplied by ATI Systems, one of the leading suppliers of warning sirens in the USA, could be exploited remotely via radio frequencies to activate all the sirens and trigger false alarms. From a report: "We first found the vulnerability in San Francisco, and confirmed it in two other US locations including Sedgwick County, Wichita, Kansas," Balint Seeber, Director of Threat Research at Bastille, told Help Net Security. "Although we have not visited other locations to confirm the presence of the vulnerability, ATI Systems has customers in the US and overseas from the military, local government, educational and energy sectors.

"ATI features customers on its website around the US including One World Trade Center, WestPoint Military Academy and Entergy Nuclear Indian Point which are all in New York State, UMASS Amherst in Massachusetts, Eastern Arizona College, University of South Carolina and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, amongst others." The vulnerability stems from the fact that the radio protocol used to control the sirens is not secure: activation commands are sent "in the clear," i.e. no encryption is used.

Mozilla

Firefox Follows Chrome and Blocks the Loading of Most FTP Resources (bleepingcomputer.com) 89

Mozilla says it will follow in the steps of Google Chrome and start blocking the loading of FTP subresources inside HTTP and HTTPS pages. From a report: By FTP subresources, we refer to files loaded via the FTP protocol inside img, script, or iframe tags that have a src="ftp://". FTP links placed inside normal angle bracket links or typed directly in the browser's address bar will continue to work. The reasoning is that FTP is an insecure protocol that doesn't support modern encryption techniques and will inherently break many other built-in browser security and privacy features, such as HSTS, CSP, XSA, or others. Furthermore, many malware distribution campaigns often rely on compromising FTP servers and redirecting or downloading malware on users' computers via FTP subresources. Mozilla engineers say FTP subresource blocking will ship with Firefox 61, currently scheduled for release on June 26.

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