Comments

Bauke Jan DoumaOctober 29, 2013 2:21 PM

Off topic severely (haven't read the doc. yet):

Just read that Cameron in the UK was blasting news organizations, and
in effect threatening them to shut up (he's such a puppet he's prob. been
instructed, but still personally responsible).

I will have it said here that if need be, I would personally host a web site
to have Snowden's docs published. Just out of principle.

Have a nice day!

BabakOctober 29, 2013 2:32 PM

NSA and other US governmental spying agencies are strong just in Holly Wood movies.

Andrew WallaceOctober 29, 2013 2:51 PM

> Innocent until proven guilty.

With the NSA its guilty until our wiretaps proves you're innocent.

NobodySpecialOctober 29, 2013 2:52 PM

@Bauke Jan Douma - this is perfectly normal for tory leaders.

Although as good conservatives they are against spending public money for private gain - they do feel it is their role to promote business and especially individual entrepreneurs.

A previous tory PM Lady Thatcher, spent many millions to promote the (rather tedious) memoirs of a former spy - Peter Wright. She launched a worldwide publicity campaign and which had people queuing around the block to buy it and propelled it to the top of the best seller lists.


G.K.A.October 29, 2013 4:45 PM

It is interesting to notice that the illusion of democracy is cracking. That the built in faults in the system creates an authoritarian rule spiriling out of control in a self feeding loop of good intentions. Yesterday's no-no is today's yawn.

In one way we can thank Bin Ladin for uncovering the true nature of our western governments. His victims through his methods have not died in vain, the've been a part of defacing the big lie we all live in.

I ask myself: who is the enemy? Who is the friend? Who and what should I fight for.

The lonely conclusion I reach is that: everyone's the enemy, I have no friends and the only one I should fight for is myself.

Thoughts like that create radicals.

The illusion has to be brought down.

RobertTOctober 29, 2013 5:32 PM

I dont know about the rest of you but I need to send the NSA a big fat hug and put them on my Christmas card mailing list.

Frankly since all these stories broke I've been swamped with work, I can quote whatever price I want and they still all want the job finished yesterday.

Every big time businessman that I know wants to understand their exposure and learn some real world opsec tactics to minimize the impact of the NSA's all powerful vacuum cleaner. WOW what a change from just a year ago.

Obscure topics like, surreptitiously corrupting hardware are suddenly in vogue. Two years ago constructing / operating Air gapped systems was at best a niche area of security but now I'm overloaded with requests to evaluate the security off and pen test their air-gapped systems.

As the old saying goes: It's an ill wind that blows nobody good.

65535October 29, 2013 6:34 PM


“The idea that the genius behind your perfectly engineered iPhone and the friendly souls behind the colourful Google logo had willingly collaborated with the electronic eavesdroppers to hand over the full set of keys to their multibillion-dollar server farms – when there was no law that could require them to do so – was a shock to many. It was also at some level outlandish: in most cases (if you leave aside Apple), the data the company possesses is what generates its phenomenal value, and it was hard to imagine that this commercially priceless property would be freely shared with anyone, let alone with the government.” - Daniel Soar

We had vague indications of the depth spying but nothing solid to go on. That has now changed. It was our worst nightmare that came true. Now, what to due about it?

I am following Bruce’s theme. “Encryption works.” Encrypt everything important. No more clear text – unless it is useless small talk. No more Google, Facebook, or other free services which depend on data mining for revenue. Encrypt everything on the cloud with Truecrypt.

DBOctober 29, 2013 6:35 PM

So... according to this article, it starts out with the old "us peons are too insignificant for them to care about, so we have nothing to fear from them" argument.... which, then, why are they hoovering up all our data then? Obviously every single living being IS VERY MUCH SO important enough to them, or they wouldn't be attempting to get every single piece of "electromagnetic" data we emit sucked up into their databases. So it's an argument that holds no water.

Then it goes into some details in the body of the article (some of which may be accurate, I guess, according to Schneier?).... And then concludes with the old "it doesn't matter how much we EVER 'reign in' the capabilities, there will ALWAYS be a new program starting afterward that's just more of the same, so why bother"... which is very much a fatalistic attitude and self-fulfilling prophecy, to believe that.

I am very much annoyed at the overtones of this article at trying to get the slightly-more-agitated-than-usual sheeple to lie back down and go back to sleep. They must be really shaking in their boots to do that.

DBOctober 29, 2013 6:40 PM

@65535: "useless small talk" CAN be held against you, when every bit of it is recorded for all posterity to datamine forever... so I say we should even encrypt that.

WaelOctober 29, 2013 6:45 PM

We can't encrypt everything! How do we encrypt the small talk we post on this blog? Probably best to keep your identity hidden, which is kind of an illusion, unless you're super careful.

meOctober 29, 2013 7:16 PM

Wael, see the https at the top of this page in the browser location bar? That's encryption. Our messages here and back are being encrypted. Yes, we can encrypt everything, though a few things might still need to have better protocols invented first. For anonymity, try using Tor too: https://www.torproject.org/

WaelOctober 29, 2013 7:28 PM

@ me,

see the https at the top of this page in the browser location bar? That's encryption
See the text you're reading now? That's clear text. For being flagged, use Tor ;) -- They'll still find you.

kashmarekOctober 29, 2013 7:33 PM

It is not a questionof CAN or CANNOT. It is WILL or WILL NOT.

Example...

Will: collect data on everything and everybody (laws not withstanding).

Will Not: use any data to prove anyone innocent.

Mike the goatOctober 29, 2013 8:02 PM

65535: you can argue that encrypting useless small talk is advantageous too. You decrease their SNR and waste resources which would otherwise be spent cracking confidential info.

Mike the goatOctober 29, 2013 8:05 PM

Wael: not to mention that even if the connection from your browser to schneier.com is encrypted and they can't see your "submit" they could monitor CONNECTs to the IP of schneier.com and correlate backwards with the timestamp of posts to figure out the most likely posted tied to the nym. Or they'll just use a lead pipe/rubber hose until poor Bruce gives us up.

BPOctober 29, 2013 9:13 PM

Analogizing your comments in past articles. Suppose you and I each bought a brand new hard drive. Then we each set up a brand new computer whose sole purpose was to erase each other's new hard drive, you just to be safe there wasn't something on it before we got it, using some program using some online connection. We decided it was better to trust someone else's comptuter in case ours had a faulty random number gnerator.

. Each using some formula to use random data to erase the drive. And we decided to erase those drives online using the 35 times method and we decided that wasn't safe enough so we'd do it the 35 times 35 times for each drive. Now let us suppose the government monitored this connection. What if everyone started doing it. Does that illustrate the haystack problem well enough? I've always thought I was paranoid about erasing hard drives constantly. But if they're collecting that output from the random number generator they sure are collecting a lot of useless information.

That's why Hayden's idea of "getting it all" seems senseless to me.

Dirk PraetOctober 29, 2013 9:19 PM

@ Wael

We can't encrypt everything! How do we encrypt the small talk we post on this blog? Probably best to keep your identity hidden, which is kind of an illusion, unless you're super careful.

The question being: do we have to ? I'm quite sure there's folks at the NSA and other TLA's monitoring this blog, but probably more for its educational value than in search of dangerous subverts that require scrutiny and monitoring. After all, this is a very civilised forum where in general there are very few "calls to action" or folks spilling their guts about classified stuff they are or were at some point involved in. The only persons of interest I can think of would probably be @ Figureitout and @ Clive, the former for his sometimes violent outbursts, the latter for his expertise on explosive devices. And @ Bruce himself, of course.

Myself, I can't think of any reason why an American TLA would bother coming down on me. Since I no longer work for US companies, I no longer have any business there. I'm not involved in any political or other activities that could warrant a red flag either. If the opinions I express on this forum for some clown at a US or UK intelligence agency would be sufficient to put me on whatever watchlist, then my conclusion would only be that I'm dealing with a full-blown idiot who is wasting taxpayer's money and really should ask himself if he doesn't have anything better to do.

BPOctober 29, 2013 9:25 PM

Incidentally, they're developing Bleachbit for Windows. And it really cleans out Windows. And I bought a used Microsoft recertified computer a couple of weeks ago. And I saw it cleaning out so much stuff out of Windows that nothing else had ever caught. And then they came out with the beta. And I thought, well, I'll let the developers see how it handles multiple runs as both administrator and as non administrator in Windows. Because that's how you're told to do it in Linux, or at least I have. And I saw bleachbit cleaning out stuff I'd never seen anything else clean out. And I admit I was over using it. But that's what a beta tester does right? Pushes the software to its limits.

Well, the end result was that Microsoft must have freaked out. Because they wrote me and wanted me to use a digital certificate. I decided that if Windows collects that must crap, maybe I didn't need it. I've just got figure out how to get the Dell to run Linux. Taking out the hard drive seems to have driven the computer insane. I'll have to go online and figure out how to get the bios reset or whatever the heck is now wrong.with it. Still it was an interesting experiment.

reademandweepOctober 29, 2013 10:01 PM

@ Wael

Obviously encrypting a public forum isn't to hide the information posted on it from the feds... it's to hide what you specifically are viewing when, and what you're adding to it, etc... anonymity helps that too, though, yeah, their interest in Tor is likely allowing them to figure out a certain percentage of it (NOT all of it though!)...

And the more we encrypt, the harder it is for them to invade our privacy, so we should be encrypting everything, even things we don't care about, or things that we know they can get to.

WaelOctober 29, 2013 10:03 PM

@ Dirk Praet,

The question being: do we have to ?
In a society that's supposed to foster free speech, I would hope not...

WaelOctober 29, 2013 10:20 PM

@ reademandweep

And the more we encrypt, the harder it is for them to invade our privacy, so we should be encrypting everything, even things we don't care about, or things that we know they can get to.
Encryption has it's place. For this problem, the solution isn't technical, it's political... I think.

Bauke Jan DoumaOctober 29, 2013 10:46 PM

Inundation

Maybe the 'encryption' can be in providing 'them' with so many
false positives (like this site [?]) that they're quickly losing
interest.
Wait a minute, I smell a paradox in there somewhere (which
might actually be a feature).

On a somewhat related note: couple of years ago there was a
story on slashdot about some US professor (I seem to recall)
who I think was continuously being harassed by authorities
because he looked like some criminal (I don't recall the facts
clearly). Today we would say terrorist btw.

In the end he got so disgusted of having to account for his
whereabouts or prove his true identity that he started recording,
on the internet, his each and every move and activities every
few minutes. There may have been a webcam involved.
Apparently that cured his problems to some degree.


JeffOctober 29, 2013 11:24 PM

Thanks for the article, Bruce, especially the part at the end. This should all become more important to Americans once the domestic drone deployments begin, and 'eco-terrorist' refers to both economic and ecological dissenters, etc.

The solution certainly is 'political', although it's anybody's guess what that means. Hopefully something peaceful, but 'I fear that someday I'll be crying'. (King Crimson).

Clive RobinsonOctober 30, 2013 12:42 AM

@ 65535,

    I am following Bruce’s theme. “Encryption works.” Encrypt everything important. No more clear text

Err a couple of niggles,

Firstly it should be "Encryption done properly works" anything less and you are handing yourself "enough rope to shoot yourself in the foot".

And "done properly" is a very hard problem as Bruce well knows... Whilst a crypto algorithm like AES may be theoreticaly secure in our current understanding and is thought to have a sufficient security margin, what about it's practical implementation... Almost before the ink was dry on the NIST ratification of AES an attack on a practical implementation showed that the practical implementation had significant timing side channel issues that alowed a remote attack system to gather keybits it leaked. But it's not just the coding of the algorithm you have to worry about it's the coding of all bits of the system, through the modes used, generation storage and managment of KeyMat. You have to consider the system from the device physics through the hardware, firmware, drivers, OS, applications, layer 8 user issues, layer 9 managment issues and layer 10 and above legal and political issues...

The second issue I have is a human issue with "Encrypt everything". The likes of the NSA, GCHQ et al, know that this encorages a "false sense of security" and people become unguarded in what they say and do (which is why traffic analysis is often more meaningfull than recovering plaintext).

If you know you are always sending plaintext and that your plaintext is not only being kept but read it engenders an appropriate level of cautiouness and circumspect behaviour in your communications.

You also need to consider what "Murrphy's Law" teaches us, and thus even if you use encryption properly you need to prepare for when it does not, and have well practiced proceadures in place...

VinzentOctober 30, 2013 1:01 AM

@Andrew Wallace:

With the NSA its guilty until our wiretaps proves you're innocent.

Problem is, there is no proof for the negative, just insufficient intelligence.

But I guess you already knew that.

WinterOctober 30, 2013 2:42 AM

What do they need the data for?

Read this for a real world example from the UK. Note that the data came from the UK police:

UK unions colluded with police and employers in construction blacklist
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/10/17/list-o17.html


The existence of a blacklist of construction workers for their politics or militancy was long suspected. Concrete evidence came to light in 2009, when a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) revealed a 30-year database of information on workers held by The Consulting Association (TCA). Most were union members. Some had been reported simply for raising health and safety concerns on site. TCA was run by a former Special Branch officer and funded by the major construction companies. (See “Britain: Militant construction workers blacklisted and denied employment”)

Jim DiGrizOctober 30, 2013 4:56 AM

@G.K.A.

Dualist thinking is a fundamental part of the illusion.
Moral plasticity is the only path to freedom - you can't be pinned down beyond the will to survive.

Rolf WeberOctober 30, 2013 5:08 AM

Very interesting and good article.
Of course I was particularly delighted about the analysis of the PRISM slides. Exactly the way I read the slides: they do in no way prove a "direct access", at least not the kind of "direct access" Snowden claimed.

What I still would like to know what data mining programs the NSA is running. The relevations so far didn't show much. Most of the revealed tools were clearly target-oriented, some (mentioned in the article, too) were kind of hybrid, but I didn't see a clear data mining program disclosed so far.
Back in 2005 Bruce wrote a very good essay about data mining, and why it doesn't work, at least not to prevent terrorist plots. Is it possible that the agencies really listened to him?

RobertTOctober 30, 2013 5:18 AM

My problem with encryption as a solution is that it only works if you have good reason to believe that all end-points capable of decoding the message are secure.

We know from other NSA documents that this is definitely not the case, they pwned plenty of "interesting" PC's, so I'm no longer trusting the encryption, rather I'm trusting hardware, firmware and software that I know is fragile at best and is very weak when intentionally corrupted.

Bruce mentioned a week ago that he was using an "air-gapped" new laptop to view the Snowdon documents, clearly he trusts the file encryption but the security of the PC's what's unknown, even for someone like Bruce.
Is it safe?
is it safe ?
Is it safe?....any "Marathon Man" fans out there?

Wesley ParishOctober 30, 2013 5:31 AM

@Dirk Praet

If the opinions I express on this forum for some clown at a US or UK intelligence agency would be sufficient to put me on whatever watchlist, then my conclusion would only be that I'm dealing with a full-blown idiot who is wasting taxpayer's money and really should ask himself if he doesn't have anything better to do.

The whole point being that you - and the rest of us - are dealing with full-blown idiots wasting taxpayers' money and who don't want anyone to stop the gravy train.

Case in point - shortly before the last NZ national election, Mr John Key, the Prime Minister, was recorded having a conversation with Mr John Banks, the leader of one of ACT, one of the minor NZ political parties. He kicked up a stink about the shock, the horror of having a private conversation recorded.

Upon being re-elected, he then introduced something called the "GCSB Bill" to help the NZ Government Communication Security Bureau avoid the embarrassment of being seen spying illegally on New Zealand citizens and residents. Now they can rejoice in legally spying on us.

To put it bluntly, the issue then becomes one of "Why are the Prime Minister's private conversations so much more private than those of the rest of us?"

I think some bright cookie in the UK's hacker underworld should crack David Cameron's various connections - email, cellphone, the like - and publish them. We might then find him singing a different tune.

65535October 30, 2013 5:42 AM

@ DB

Yes, I know most of it is recorded even this site. Further, I believe that sites like Wikipedia who do use SSL/TLS cooperate with the NSA by providing data on who is reading what.

@wale... and others

Yes, as long as it is an open site like this the clear text can be copied and put into something like the Wayback machine or the like. Further, this site and others that use SSL/TLS also can simply be viewed by using a search engine like Google; logging on and reading the posts and comments. And, it is possible to look up the owner of the site and deliver and NSL and gag order.

@MikeTG

Yes, I understand that adding more cipher text to the NSA’s decryption queue would help clog their system.

Unfortunately, not every site uses https for various reasons. For example about a year ago lifehacker says:

"We've talked about HTTPS a lot before: it's absolutely essential if you use public Wi-Fi networks, want to protect yourself from identity theft, and generally just want to keep your online privacy intact. The newest version adds 1,500 more sites, bringing the total number of supported sites up to nearly 3,000. Need we say more? If you're using it, hit the link below to update, and if you aren't using it, give it a try now… HTTPS Everywhere is a free download for Firefox and Chrome…”

http://lifehacker.com/5950311/https-everywhere-30-keeps-your-data-safe-on-1500-more-web-sites

For estimate of websites I just did a quick search and found:

[royal.pingdom(dot)com]

"246 million – Number of domain name registrations across all top-level domains."

So, only about 1- 3 percent of worldwide websites use encryption (or mandate the use of encryption - opposed to those sites who use both http and https). I think it is an educational problem (like the unpleasant education we are getting from the NSA disclosures).

But, in general people who run said websites should be educated on how to use SSL/TLS or, at least be educated on using SSL/TLS and other encryption methods for immediate implementation.

I am hoping these NSA news stories which Bruce and others are providing will increase the number of websites using encryption. It’s still an up-hill battle to get everyone to use encryption. The same is true for people who use unencrypted email, IM, and VOIP products.

The political side of the widespread surveillance by the NSA and the 5-Eye partners will most certainly have to be addressed. The current situation is intolerable, unethical, destructive and probably illegal!

WinterOctober 30, 2013 5:43 AM

@Robert T
"My problem with encryption as a solution is that it only works if you have good reason to believe that all end-points capable of decoding the message are secure. "

The point is not "perfect" security for certain individuals. The point is increasing the costs of blanket surveillance.

It is the same strategy that is so successful in schooling fish and herd animals. Each individual is still vulnerable. However, each individual is much more difficult to hunt down in a herd/school of other individuals.

PersonOctober 30, 2013 7:00 AM

My fear is that the NSA will eventually have the technology to build a profile on everyone - that they'll be sifting through all of our communications and that if you say the wrong keyword, everything you ever said online in any public or private context and every alias you were not careful enough with protecting will be sifted through for damnable information.

And even if it isn't damnable, I am now too afraid to study more about controversial topics like hacking. I've long since maintained that it is impossible to defend against something you don't understand, and all the cyberbullshit that is spewed by Government and Commercial entities smacks of amateur pen testing. So if I want to learn the juicy stuff, I need to go into one of the dark webs, or do search queries using words that would most likely be considered a "selector". And then all of my private communication will be queued up to be browsed through. Is this scenario really that unlikely?

MikeOctober 30, 2013 7:09 AM

RobertT • October 30, 2013 5:18 AM My problem with encryption as a solution is that it only works if you have good reason to believe that all end-points capable of decoding the message are secure.

"Due to recent demand, our source codes for all encryption modules (BestCrypt Development Kit) are now available for download.

Since we have received many enquiries on the topic, we would like to formally state that Jetico has never included any 'backdoors' or related weakness to the software."

http://www.jetico.com/support/bestcrypt-development-kit

Dirk PraetOctober 30, 2013 8:24 AM

@ Wesley Parish

Why are the Prime Minister's private conversations so much more private than those of the rest of us?

Because, Wesley, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. Not everybody considers Orwell's writings novels. For some, they're instruction manuals.

CallMeLateForSupperOctober 30, 2013 11:20 AM

@ Mike
(Quoting Jetico DOT com): "...we would like to formally state that Jetico has never included any 'backdoors' or related weakness to the software."

Listen up, kids. Words matter; syntax matters. Above is an example. At first blush the statement seems very good, right?, the kind of thing we want to hear from an organization that wants to be trusted.

Sad to say, that statement doesn't say very much of import. Do you see why? "We would like to state..." is very different from "We state...". I would like to give ten Euros to each reader of this forum. Did I just say that I shall give away money? Nope, only that I'd like to give.

Remember this the next time you hear "I want to assure you..."; "I want to express..."; I want to thank..."; I want to congratulate...". Jump up and shout, "Then DO it!"

I'd like to thank you for your kind attention. :-)

samiamOctober 30, 2013 2:09 PM

I'd like to state that I won 200MM USD in the lottery, that I no longer need to work, and that in addition to leading of life of luxurious indolence, I will be able to amply fund a plethora of anti-NSA (et al) privacy initiatives. Unfortunately, I cannot.

To me, the Jetico post was borderline comment spam anyway...

Mike the goatOctober 30, 2013 2:16 PM

samiam: yeah I don't know why "Mike" (not me) drew our attention to it. There was no attached explanation, just a copy of an old post verbatim. Don't know whether he is taking issue with it or ??

RobertTOctober 30, 2013 3:43 PM

@Winter
wrt encryption failure..."The point is not "perfect" security for certain individuals. The point is increasing the costs of blanket surveillance.

Sorry but I really dont get your point. Consider the following case

I encrypt a file containing seditious content and share it with like minded individuals.
- In this case the security of the contents is only as good as the weakest link, so the worst protected laptop, smartphone, internet cafe PC. As an adversary, to read the contents I dont need to better the whole school of fish (to use your metaphor) but rather catching just one fish reveals the contents. What is more important, given the NSA's MO, is that metadata associated with the encrypted file (size, time-stamps...)will tell me all of the likely recipients regardless of how many onion rings the message travels through. So encrypting the message is not nearly as important as standardizing the message data packet sizes AND randomly selecting the time the message is sent to each person. (both of these actions make the traffic analysis data less mine-able)

btw the VALUE of a message such as this increases exponentially with the number of end points the message reaches.


Mike the goatOctober 30, 2013 6:03 PM

RobertT: I think the point was that having more ciphered correspondence traversing, say email increases the privacy of those who are actually depending upon it by stopping them from sticking out.

WinterOctober 31, 2013 10:38 AM

@Robert T
"As an adversary, to read the contents I dont need to better the whole school of fish (to use your metaphor) but rather catching just one fish reveals the contents."

As Mike the Goat already wrote, the point is that they can still catch any single fish, they cannot find the fish they need to catch anymore.

But it does not help if they already know they want YOU, by name and address. But, then neither Tor would help, nor anything else.

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