The PCLOB Needs a Director

The US Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is looking for a director. Among other things, this board has some oversight role over the NSA. More precisely, it can examine what any executive-branch agency is doing about counterterrorism. So it can examine the program of TSA watchlists, NSA anti-terrorism surveillance, and FBI counterterrorism activities. The PCLOB was established in 2004 (when it didn’t do much), disappeared from 2007-2012, and reconstituted…

November 20, 2018
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What Happened to Cyber 9/11?

A recent article in the Atlantic asks why we haven’t seen a”cyber 9/11″ in the past fifteen or so years. (I, too, remember the increasingly frantic and fearful warnings of a “cyber Peal Harbor,” “cyber Katrina” — when that was a thing — or “cyber 9/11.” I made fun of those warnings back then.) The author’s answer: Three main barriers are likely preventing this. For one, cyberattacks can lack the…

November 19, 2018
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Worst-Case Thinking Breeds Fear and Irrationality

Here’s a crazy story from the UK. Basically, someone sees a man and a little girl leaving a shopping center. Instead of thinking “it must be a father and daughter, which happens millions of times a day and is perfectly normal,” he thinks “this is obviously a case of child abduction and I must alert the authorities immediately.” And the police, instead of thinking “why in the world would this…

November 18, 2018
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Israeli Surveillance Gear

The Israeli Defense Force mounted a botched raid in Gaza. They were attempting to install surveillance gear, which they ended up leaving behind. (There are photos — scroll past the video.) Israeli media is claiming that the capture of this gear by Hamas causes major damage to Israeli electronic surveillance capabilities. The Israelis themselves destroyed the vehicle the commandos used to enter Gaza. I’m guessing they did so because there…

November 18, 2018
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Mailing Tech Support a Bomb

I understand his frustration, but this is extreme: When police asked Cryptopay what could have motivated Salonen to send the company a pipe bomb ­ or, rather, two pipe bombs, which is what investigators found when they picked apart the explosive package ­ the only thing the company could think of was that it had declined his request for a password change. In August 2017, Salonen, a customer of Cryptopay,…

November 16, 2018
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Hidden Cameras in Streetlights

Both the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are hiding surveillance cameras in streetlights. According to government procurement data, the DEA has paid a Houston, Texas company called Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC roughly $22,000 since June 2018 for “video recording and reproducing equipment.” ICE paid out about $28,000 to Cowboy Streetlight Concealments over the same period of time. It’s unclear where the DEA and ICE…

November 16, 2018
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Chip Cards Fail to Reduce Credit Card Fraud in the US

A new study finds that credit card fraud has not declined since the introduction of chip cards in the US. The majority of stolen card information comes from hacked point-of-sale terminals. The reasons seem to be twofold. One, the US uses chip-and-signature instead of chip-and-PIN, obviating the most critical security benefit of the chip. And two, US merchants still accept magnetic stripe cards, meaning that thieves can steal credentials from…

November 15, 2018
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More Spectre/Meltdown-Like Attacks

Back in January, we learned about a class of vulnerabilities against microprocessors that leverages various performance and efficiency shortcuts for attack. I wrote that the first two attacks would be just the start: It shouldn’t be surprising that microprocessor designers have been building insecure hardware for 20 years. What’s surprising is that it took 20 years to discover it. In their rush to make computers faster, they weren’t thinking about…

November 15, 2018
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Oracle and “Responsible Disclosure”

I’ve been writing about “responsible disclosure” for over a decade; here’s an essay from 2007. Basically, it’s a tacit agreement between researchers and software vendors. Researchers agree to withhold their work until software companies fix the vulnerabilities, and software vendors agree not to harass researchers and fix the vulnerabilities quickly. When that agreement breaks down, things go bad quickly. This story is about a researcher who published an Oracle zero-day…

November 14, 2018
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New IoT Security Regulations

Due to ever-evolving technological advances, manufacturers are connecting consumer goods­ — from toys to lightbulbs to major appliances­ — to the internet at breakneck speeds. This is the Internet of Things, and it’s a security nightmare. The Internet of Things fuses products with communications technology to make daily life more effortless. Think Amazon’s Alexa, which not only answers questions and plays music but allows you to control your home’s lights…

November 13, 2018
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