Friday Squid Blogging: Dumpling Squid and Sex

This just in: the threat of being eaten doesn’t deter dumpling squid from having sex.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven’t covered.

Posted on January 9, 2015 at 4:01 PM155 Comments


Nick P January 9, 2015 6:22 PM

UK Dept for Work and Pensions Still Uses VME OS from 1974

It’s pretty funny and looks to be a tough job. It would be tough for me even though I have ideas. That budget would make it a lot easier. Anyway, I looked up the VME OS again and gave it a more thorough look. It’s architecture and software development approach are actually quite impressive even compared to modern platforms. It’s clearly behind in a number of ways but new projects might want to copy some of the better features. I’ve copied its global shared memory isolation technique in my MPP security architecture.

Burroughs and System/38 are still my favorite older systems, though.

Brennan UNTCOKs Pelosi January 9, 2015 8:43 PM

The most impressive thing about the Sony hack is, simply by making increasingly ridiculous claims about the embarrassing fuckup of some company that puts out crap movies and music, your oligarchs have everyone completely distracted from CIA’s devastating cyberattack on the pathetic cringing rubber stamp that passes for your legislature. CIA has just stamped out the last remnants of congress’ deliberative capacity. But North Korea, that’s the real threat, yeah right.

Chris Abbott January 9, 2015 9:21 PM

@Nick P:

From the Wiki article:

–Orthogonally to the access levels, the operating system makes resources available to applications in the form of a Virtual Machine. A Virtual Machine can run multiple processes. In practice, a VME Virtual Machine is closer to the concept of a process on other operating systems, while a VME process is more like a thread.–

This seems really interesting. Would this potentially increase the security of an OS? I wonder all sorts of things about this OS now.

Brian Bartlett January 9, 2015 9:36 PM

@Chris Abbott – Yes that caught my eye as well. Having a mainframe background, and that as the basis for diving into the Amiga from its inception, this is really very nice. I also believe, more fit to purpose on x86 hardware architecture. Then again, perhaps I’m assigning virtue where their was none.

tyr January 9, 2015 11:33 PM

Has anyone else looked at the 31c3 talk about the USB linux
computer ?

I’d say that if it does half of what he says about it it’s
worth a look. Being able to use it in stand-alone mode with
USB components makes it particularly attractive for use as
a trusted and verifiable piece of hardware. Some of the uses
seem like a paranoids dream come true.

The Sewell talk was also interesting, he seemed to skip over
what I consider the major failure of todays software, bloat.
The days of tightly written highly functional code seem to
have gone away in the rush to proprietary obfuscation.

Figureitout January 10, 2015 12:25 AM

New PC Shield for Arduino

Whilst perusing for some components, I came across the Rubix shield (some assclown decided to rip-up a box so I took a peek; it amazes me how much merchandise is insecure as I believe I saw someone just ripping open boxes next to me (awkward…:/ )). Neat looking board, ARM-Cortex-based. Importantly, it has UART, GPIO, I2C, SPI, and PWM; that should do you for the most part. I already have enough toys to last me awhile, I prefer more desktop/laptops than anything, but this could easily become a cheap dedicated relatively highspeed encrypting machine. I spend a decent chunk of time thinking about dedicated encrypting machines, doing it on an Arduino you could do DES or TDES pretty good…This will take it to where you need to be at the very least. Also a big thing I don’t like about RasPi is no DC connector, the microUSB plug is flaky, just cringey when you can’t move the board at all w/o it just shutting down.

Nick P RE: NASA coding rules
–Huh, what was that I read about…C being used in critical code? Huh, how about that? I guess it can work when you got good enough coders taking safety seriously (key words being “good enough coders”). Unfortuneatly I believe many arguments are made mute w/ a corrupted tool chain when telling to rely on tool chains, I have little reason to believe they are using much more modified ones than that which is available to us peasants; they can buy more physical security (on taxpayers back, but I support it).

I had a stiff slap the other day when my programmer would “connect” to the board but then would not actually flash it (I shortly thereafter shutdown and called it a day). Also, to make matters worse I thought I had control of a particular pin that is really giving me hell right now (it actually worked as expected thru multiple power cycles) only to then stop working and cease to work how it should. Rather frustrating and stupid bug taking my time on something dumb…

But I wonder what he would say about having to rely on other’s code? B/c writing everything all the time from scratch will be a bit of a burden…definitely won’t happen where I’m at due to difficulty of code (making it reliable) and proprietary matters. Also, I think guidelines or “a procedure” are nice for doing repeatable tasks that are mostly already solved, for solving unsolved problems I’d reason they could be more harmful than helpful. Also could take fun out of it.

So I think these guidelines apply to a bit above “embedded” and slightly below “web”. Most are yes, nice to do all the time if you can, but many embedded products need to run in loops until power cycle or death. I need to do some writing to quicker memory (RAM) than slower (EEPROM) for good speed so I need to “dynamically allocate memory” most especially after initialization; the f*ck? Want me to do anything at all?

On not having functions longer than a page, yeah that would be nice; dealing w/ some issues here currently (need more than 1 PC to look at simulataneous files, it’s annoying).

Other rules (you can read them if you want, not mind-blowing) are again nice but hard when you’re forced to work w/ others’ code to get a product out. Won’t expand on this as I want to but you can imagine the frustration when a bug that causes your code to cough up ends up being a bug w/ the code running deeper in the chip…It’s why the major huge engineering companies putting out chips and giving out code to use them really need this the most but it’s not like they can work w/ the terms this guy is saying, it’s deeper (the chips have backwards compatibility, I happened to sneak a peek at book in an upcoming class and I think I will be using the same family of chip for the class that I’m working on (“says ‘Yes!’ in head”), I like the chip too besides this unbelievably stupid bug that’s killing me right now.). If you can re-write their code better, then you probably shouldn’t be buying chips from them…

–No, happen to have a link? There’s like what, 50 some talks or so at an hour each? Looks like you use a text browser (maybe w3c?) based on how text is put in comment. Yes software is very bloated and “f*cked up” due to proprietary reasons and hacking something until it works. I don’t trust USB much anymore but still use it too much…don’t have a DB9 memory stick or DB25 printer port memory stick lol…I’d end up still likely having to use USB…

Denn January 10, 2015 3:29 AM

@tyr, @Figureitout:

Do you mean this one? (video) (presentation) (cround fonding page)


There’s like what, 50 some talks or so at an hour each?

No, just 121 talks in four halls with in total 123 hours of recording.

Thoth January 10, 2015 4:15 AM

I do be cautious if someone walks up and tells me XXXXXXXXX is secure. I don’t see how USB Armoury is that “secure” and I did talk to the project members for USB Armoury and the answers of their security relies solely on the TPM chip they have inside their ARM chip …. so the single point of success/failure is the ARM’s TPM chip ….

I think I will go a little into tamper devices here since that’s my day job and plus people like Nick P, Clive Robinson, RobertT, Wael… they can correct if there’s some holes in my explanation of these stuff …

I was poking around the web to understand the IronKey “secure USB”. Surprise that their primary tamper prevention (FIPS 140-2 Level 3 basic requirements at the most basic tier for that certification) is simply to dump on epoxy … a lot of epoxy into the casing (making it tamper evident at best). A little acid on it and the epoxy tamper evident seal would be dissolved and you can start probing the thing and overwriting it’s memory (as long as it doesn’t have an MMU) but so what if it has an MMU ?

A tamper resistant device must have a battery pack as an offline backup so in the event a memory overwrite is done without a power source (except for the tamper battery), it would wipe the keys and by the way the keys are actually stored in a RAM chip and battery powered so if the batteries are removed or without a power source, the keys are also lost.

Neither the USB Armoury nor the IronKey meets the upper level requirements of tamper resistant so the most they could go is tamper evident devices (and USB Armoury doesn’t even have hardware anti-tamper mech since it’s an open board which means a FIPS 140-2 Level 1).

Devices are usually rated according to the FIPS certification and the CC EAL certification. Nick P could go through the CC EAL certs since he’s very familiar on that one and for the FIPS there is the common 140-2 certs which at Level 1 is as good as … I only added crypto from the FIPS approved list (NIST algo suite B) and there is Level 2 which says I made an effort to do software security (do your MMUs, shuffle your memory, software based anti tampers) and Level 3 requires keys not to be removed and of course a more stringent tampering system (at least you need tamper evident – least you need is epoxy coating as a tamper evident seal at the lowest end and at highest end you need actual physical tamper triggers and actions) and at Level 4 is where you have everyone’s favourite which is EMSEC and more anti-tamper measures at a much higher assurance.

A secure device would be best at FIPS 140-2 Level 3 and above, and CC EAL 5+ (smart card ratings) and above. Multiple tamper detection in software and hardware are required instead of a single point of success/failure via some TPM chip. I have seen so many vendors of “secure devices” who would just point their security at the crypto-chip/TPM-chip and happily claim “highly secured device made in XXXXXXXXX (some European) country”. Very nationalistic … very egoistic … very little proof of security …

Multiple segregated and properly planned failure points in malicious attacks or accidental errors is required.

So what’s my version of “secure device” instead of sitting here behind the keyboard typing so much ?

Some anti-knee-jerk reaction warning … this might not be digestible for those who thinks that COTS chipboard with seL4 or OpenBSD is enough because high assurance cannot be done (with excuses appended behind on your own). Don’t start to make weird noises because it doesn’t suit your own taste 🙂 .

A mixture of RobertT, Nick P and Clive’s methodologies makes a really interesting and secure device. Maybe Nick P or Clive Robinson could give some advise on the below schemes.

Chipboard would have a red, orange and black zone. The red zone would be all the sensitive actions with all the red firmware and items. User-land would be the black zone. The idea is to create a trusted root in the red zone (proper firmware with very small TCB and only has what it needs). It is simply a processor with the most trusted firmware on the chip and most trusted chipset and is assumed as a “castle” that checks itself and cannot be written to (cannot be flashed anymore).

The orange zone are critical areas but are under the red zones management. It has all the MMUs there to check and under observation of the red zone and the red zone can do live analysis or cold analysis of the states in the orange zone. The firmware in the orange zone can only be updated if the red zone agrees.

The black zone runs just about anything and it’s state would not be permanent and cannot access the higher zones unless the higher zones interrupt.

All the zones have no awareness of the higher zones (hypervised).

One example for the higher zone interacting with the lower zone is cryptography. Data, key and commands are sent into a sandboxed black zone and the orange zone observing the incoming commands noticed a valid crypto-ops command, would allow the key and data to be entered into the orange zone for crypto-ops but a segregation of executable orange zone codes from black zone data and key are kept separate. Data cannot be directly written into running codes in the orange zone by proper memory management and execution. Once the crypto is done, the data is routed back to black zone for use.

Castles and Prisons are important and a proper mix in my opinion is the best and most effective.

Wael January 10, 2015 4:39 AM


Castles and Prisons are important and a proper mix in my opinion is the best and most effective.

The prison is more complex than you probably think. I don’t like complexity, it has to be simplified. the concept and theory of it maybe simple (with one or two exceptions that seem circular.) Implementing it is where the complexity shows. Oh, don’t forget Nick P’s interstate either! It’ll take some time to piece all together and put them in a coherent story. This may or may not make sense now…

Gerard van Vooren January 10, 2015 5:38 AM

@ all discussing secure systems is, at least to me, a hard place to — really — discuss secure systems because the info is scattered all over the place. I think a mailing list is a lot better for that. And the final results placed on a wiki such as wikipedia (maybe on TOR).

How to remind others that you are working on “the project”? Just put your credentials in the e-mail and url field each time you submit a message. Just use a throwaway email address and/or PGP.

My 2 cents.

Wm January 10, 2015 7:38 AM

I misread the title at first. I thought Bruce was saying:

Friday Squid Blogging: Dumping Squid and Sex

albert January 10, 2015 10:50 AM

Regarding squid and sex:
The more interesting article is linked in a ‘sidebar’:
Female Squid Use Sperm for Both Reproducing And Snacking
I gotta go…
P.S. Sorry, Bruce, if I gave away your next Squid Blogging subject.

Nick P January 10, 2015 11:51 AM

@ Chris Abbott

It’s interesting in that it’s a hybrid of Xen-style virtualization and regular processes. The differentiator is the layering of the OS with security keys required for various layers. This was a trick invented by MULTICS team with proven security benefits. Additionally, decomposing the OS into layers that check each other increases reliability and reduces maintenance work. Modern virtualization techniques have gotten far ahead of this one, though.

Most interesting to me were the Catalogue, how interrupts spawned temporary processes to handle them, a typed high level language for the OS, very standardized 3GL development tools, a 4GL included for high productivity, and Series 39’s ability to isolate apps/data in a distributed shared memory machine.

Further, I’m going to have to go back to Wikipedia and some other spots to update the list of languages used in OS development. Many people erroneously think you can only use C or C++ to get real work done. This one doesn’t and a mainframe definitely gets work done. 😉

Note: This is an example of a secure virtualization system if you want to see what they look like.

@ Brian Bartlett

x86 and Amiga are quite the opposite of VME. Amiga didn’t really have any security: more performance and UI oriented. For x86, only thing comes to mind was its four rings of protection and stack-oriented approach. An example of secure design for x86 is GEMSOS.

@ Figureitout

C is a necessary evil. For native languages, it has the most coders, libraries, tools, and hardware support. My strategy is to use stronger tools with a compile-to-C option. NASA and others just use C with coding standards and analysis tools to knock out errors.

“So I think these guidelines apply to a bit above “embedded” and slightly below “web”. ”

They specialize in embedded development. Yet, in the very same article, a guy maps it to Javascript for web applications. Further, web and application servers have been developed in ways like this in the past.

“but many embedded products need to run in loops until power cycle or death.”

You can simulate that with a state machine or a control system that conditionally runs loops that each have finite time. You still get continuous execution.

“so I need to “dynamically allocate memory” most especially after initialization; the f*ck? Want me to do anything at all?”

I think you’re misunderstanding the concept. Of course the program has to use RAM after coming out of ROM. In your example, the app would load all its data structures on startup and create a memory region for further execution. Any task that ran would have an upper bound for how much memory it needs at any given time. That would be allocated from main memory region right when the task begins. If it fails, you instantly know you have a problem. If succeeds, you can ignore “out of memory” errors from that point on. Often combined with a manual or automatic memory management scheme.

“hard when you’re forced to work w/ others’ code to get a product out”

Actually makes it easier if it’s just a library of function calls: yours will be the code that works most of the time. 😉 If there’s problems during a function call, you’re likely going to be debugging their code. Further, I encourage testing of API’s to ensure they do what they say when working and on error. If they have complexity or corner case issues, you can wrap them with your own interface that handles such problems.

@ Thoth

I’d say FIPS Level 3 and EAL5+ are a minimum standard for systems aiming for security. You’ve just shown that Level 3 allows for BS tamper-resistance claims. EAL5 is medium assurance at best. The “+” is where things get interesting: an EAL5 system can have EAL6/7 in just the right places to be secure in practice. An interesting start would be if IBM combined their FIPS Level 4 tamper module with a board containing a SAFE processor with EAL6+ smartcard coprocessor for crypto. The highly assured processor and coprocessor might only cost $1,000-2,000. Quite affordable.

Far as your prison knockoff, you basically just reinvented the security kernel model with more complexity. The security kernels in the 1990’s at Orange Book B3/A1 levels often used internal layering, a microkernel like decomposition for system as a whole, Intel’s rings of protection, and credentials for read/write. The XTS-400’s STOP OS had a security kernel at Ring 0, most trusted OS processes at Ring 1, less critical OS processes at Ring 2, and user-mode at Ring 3 with no write down. The MMU also separated tasks from one another. Your model (and others) could’ve been implemented on that with only the monitor, security kernel, ring hardware, and MMU being trusted.

@ Wael

I agree. It’s why I oppose it. Security mechanisms should be NEAT: Non-bypassable, Evaluatable, Always-invoked, and Tamper-proof. Like my brain.

Vincent January 10, 2015 1:41 PM

Gogo, a company that provides Internet service on flights, has been caught issuing its own SSL certificates, thus bypassing the security offered by HTTPS. They claim they’re doing this to limit video streaming. More details here.

Nick P January 10, 2015 2:29 PM

@ Grauhut

Thanks for the link. Devices like that will nicely reduce the cost of my system of physical systems architecture in the future. If I haven’t explained it before, it puts each logical function (mainly hardware related) of one system on a separate board. That board has just what it needs to perform that function along with a mediated communication interface to master node’s memory. Gets drivers’ security and performance issues out of the main system’s TCB while limiting damage to subsystems.

My scheme used to use VIA Artigos at $300 a piece. Basic systems were $1000-10000 depending on how much separation you wanted. This model might make a $10,000 system under $2,000 if interface security doesn’t involve FPGA’s. Around $2,000-4,000 if it does.

CallMeLateForSupper January 10, 2015 2:34 PM

Regarding heads-up from @Peter, Huffington Post serving up malware.

Cyphort Labs posted on 5 JAN 2015 about having discovered the infection of Canadian Huffington Post on 31 DEC 2014. It lists 13 sites that Cyphort subsequently determined to be infected.

Apparently the malware targets Windows systems, and I especially note this:
“The infection starts with javascript that does the following: ”

So, Windows; Javascript.

Any questions?

tyr January 10, 2015 2:58 PM

That was indeed the 31c3 talk.

Open source isn’t everybodies idea of the way to a reasonable future.

Old habits die hard, it gives me an immediately recognizable
style for posts. Think 80X24 display.

Does anyone have the insider view on Petraeus ? He was being
hyped as a contender for POTUS a couple of years ago.

If justice is really going to take him down I’d expect Langley
to maul the feds in an unusually nasty turf war.

They can always blame it on the NK.

Figureitout January 10, 2015 3:30 PM

–Alright thanks yeah I remember now I linked to the work a while ago and Wael said he’d buy one and I wanted a review from him on it. Watched the video (was being lazy, CCC actually does a great job organizing their presentation videos), wanted to touch the screen a few times (on some of the debugging issues), feel your pain brotha! One annoying problem w/ these high-powered SoC’s w/ regards to security is you can’t solder it yourself unless you put solder paste on and have an oven for it. And the “pins” are on the bottom so you can’t just take a simple multimeter to the pins. Verifying something fishy wasn’t added to the board just gets near impossible. I like LED’s on lines for some undeniable verifying the lines are on, but then you can probably see how EMSEC issues crop up when they flicker, even opto-isolated.

123 hours of recording
–Oh just ~5 days time? lol

Nick P
–Evil? More like giving you the tools to help or hang yourself and not make it way too bloated. One guy in the code said he called an asm main instead of C to “save 2 bytes” lol, good job guy, I was real worried w/ my 1000’s of bytes I have.

My strategy is to use stronger tools with a compile-to-C option
–And another opportunity for some real truly nasty bugs to crop up.

NASA and others just use C with coding standards and analysis tools to knock out errors.
–Nice hand wave waves back, doesn’t address a corrupted tool chain and that’d be the worst if payload disconnected or went off course b/c of an intentional attack and not an innocent bug.

in the very same article, a guy maps it to Javascript
–Yes, I read it. He couldn’t follow 1 of the guidelines at all (dereferencing 1 pointer). For really small embedded devices is what I’m talking about, not like RTOS.

Any task that ran would have an upper bound for how much memory it needs at any given time.
–Some memory problems aren’t immediately obvious until testing in the field, then prior company’s code does something f*cky messing up an index.

Actually makes it easier if it’s just a library of function calls
–Not if I need to change things to avoid a new board layout, then get consumed by include files. Or macros to macros to macros, it’s macros all the way down. Then I set control bits to 1 and can clearly see it in debugger but still bit 1 stays 0…

Like my brain.
–Christ, egotistical much? Sounds like you go around copying features and them lop them together instead of doing hard ground work; all while handwaving the unrealistic unsolvable problems.

–Thought you were sending me a place for hard kernel code to take a metaphorical uzi to my brain of hex and jmp/ld/jsr/spidrivewrite() commands lol, or worse, opcodes…Phew it wasn’t. Yeah neat boards, they’re cropping up everywhere now lol.

gordo January 10, 2015 3:48 PM

“NSA official feels access to more data is the way to go”

A couple of timely interviews …

“Exclusive: NSA Director ADM. Michael Rogers on Sony Hack, Paris Terror Attacks”
Runtime: 00:10:32 [interview is on Sony hack; does not include any comments on Paris terror attacks]

“Exclusive: Edward Snowden on Cyber Warfare”
Runtime: 00:03:53 [video is a highlight reel; page includes complete unedited interview transcript]

… and another attribution story from last month:

“Mysterious ’08 Turkey Pipeline Blast Opened New Cyberwar Era”

“Russia turns to Turkey for gas Pipeline”

“The scandalous details of the 2008 plot at Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline”


nadi h January 10, 2015 4:06 PM

Forgive me it is not a comment about this blog post. But I could not find the email or message box !

All C/C++ Blowfish source codes that are addressed in “blowfish-download” page are practically usesless:

After about 2 day of debugging ( different results between c++ c# ), I find this source code:

Will you please add this implementation to the list. Thanks.


Grauhut January 10, 2015 4:19 PM

@all Some more SSL lulz

@Figureitout The Odroid stuff is really decent SK quality, the c1 is a lot of power for the buck

@Nick P, i dont know what you want to run on an fpga, but this could be a nice mix

Pcduino plus a hackaday Arduino spartan board:


If you want you own router/fw in order to cluster some of these:


Allwinner Soc based devices have a nice community:

Wael January 10, 2015 4:25 PM


Wael said he’d buy one and I wanted a review from him on it.

It’s on my queue; haven’t forgotten about it. It’s just the lack of time.

Like my brain.
–Christ, egotistical much? Sounds like you go around copying features and them lop them together instead of doing hard ground work

Oh, come now! Nick P is just kidding! Ask me about it, I can attest to that. I know he’s kidding because I myself tampered with his brain 😉

Nick does a lot of hard work, and I actually appreciate, as many others do, his dedication.

Clive Robinson January 10, 2015 5:38 PM

OFF Topic :

Speaking of “sex” it appears the porn industry is launching very problematic DMCA notices at Goggle, with the effect that a lot of unrelated stuff gets swept up with it, including GitHub projects.

WARNING :- whilst this link has no Adult Content the links from it do, so please be sensible and think before clicking on them.

Daniel January 10, 2015 5:47 PM

Hannigan wrote “some technology companies are in denial” about their misuse by certain terrorist groups, most notably the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Then Stewart Baker, a former lawyer for the NSA, claimed encryption is bad, pitting tech companies against governments.

They are not in denial; they are in an impossible position. They are torn between a need for financial survival and legal survival. On one hand tech companies need to comply with the law otherwise they face criminal and civil sanctions which will put them out of business. On the other hand, companies need access to their customers data and if the companies play fast and loose with that data customers will stop sharing it and then they will go out of business. So turning lots of data over to the NSA is in the company’s legal interest but it’s not in terms of their financial interest.

This is why many tech companies fear the NSA as much as the fear ISIS. Right now, they can at least pretend that by not cooperating fully with the NSA they are protecting their customer’s interests. They are lying, of course, but they have no other choice if they want to stay in business. And then the NSA comes along and says “no no, you need to cooperate even more with us for your own safety.” The question is not whether the companies believe that is true, the question is whether they can convince their customers that this is true. In this climate, not likely.

Thoth January 10, 2015 5:52 PM

@Clive Robinson
It reminds me of abacus-in-the-pocket where the less skilled user would draw one out on the card and simulate doing arithematic on it.

Qwerty card … I nearly thought someone propagated those smartcards with integrated qwerty keyboards (they exist and some banks are using these for OTP-2FA-on-the-card) where you could do your stuff and using your NFC phone as power supply and a key store.

Nick P January 10, 2015 6:00 PM

@ Figureitout

“And another opportunity for some real truly nasty bugs to crop up.”

Unlikely given I use a pretty direct mapping with minimal modifications. On the other hand, every empirical study I’ve ever seen showed C programmers getting the job done slower and with more bugs (sometimes double). You saying I should just stick with C to avoid “truly nasty bugs” is height of programming language comedy. 😛

“Nice hand wave waves back, doesn’t address a corrupted tool chain and that’d be the worst if payload disconnected or went off course b/c of an intentional attack and not an innocent bug.”

JPL is just doing work, measuring results, and sharing what produced good ones. Only their opponents are waiving hands.

“-Some memory problems aren’t immediately obvious until testing in the field, then prior company’s code does something f*cky messing up an index.”

Yep. If you depend on others code problems can happen. You gotta make a tradeoff: roll your own in a safety/security-critical way or use a black box that might wreck the system.

“Not if I need to change things to avoid a new board layout, then get consumed by include files. Or macros to macros to macros, it’s macros all the way down. Then I set control bits to 1 and can clearly see it in debugger but still bit 1 stays 0…”

See why C sucks? Same kind of shit that made me start writing C++ code in BASIC and LISP. Although admittedly C++ solves some of those C related issues with its features and programming style.

“Christ, egotistical much? Sounds like you go around copying features and them lop them together instead of doing hard ground work”

I was kidding around to see what people would say. Lol. I did plenty of hard ground work myself. Many methods I posted here. Thing is, I keep finding out that many problems are already solved in some way. People just need to leverage and adapt the existing solutions rather than doing unnecessary groundwork. Effort pays off more.

@ gordo

They probably go back further than that as internal guidelines. Many good methods and tools have come from NASA work. Good news is they share a lot of it. This one is nice because, unlike MISRA-like standards, it keeps things simple and uses rules with obvious value. Ganssle’s crowd were debating MISRA not too long ago. After reading all that, I could see why this standard is better than many.

@ Grauhut

Using DMA over PCI is the best way to integrate COTS boards with high performance and low latency. DMA is a security risk, though, that requires an I/O MMU. We also need diversity to reduce subversion risk. Further, if we use tags, capabilities, crypto, etc we’ll need a translator of sorts for regular devices. An FPGA can be adapted to do any or all of this for whatever hardware you plug into it. There’s also numerous FPGA suppliers.

@ Wael

“Oh, come now! Nick P is just kidding! Ask me about it, I can attest to that. I know he’s kidding because I myself tampered with his brain ;)”

Obviously haha. The recovery mechanisms kicked in, though. 😉

@ Clive Robinson

It’s clever and would at least work. I would add an option to print your own with randomized stuff your own app generates. Changing passwords would be easier. Problem is it’s inconvenient as hell: a paper list of random passwords for each site in four-to-five character columns is simpler for the user. Doesn’t trust third parties as much either.

They’re too clever for their own good it looks like.

Nta January 10, 2015 7:17 PM

Intel announced some HDMI computer sticks that have everything you need in a stick ready to go into an HDMI slot of your computer screen or TV set. Though I distrust Intel, it looks a nice idea but I dunno whether you can install your OS of choice on it.

Figureitout January 10, 2015 10:30 PM

–Well you can always buy it and send it my way for a review. And I don’t find it funny.

Nick P
–Yeah unlikely until it happens, guess it depends on how much your system is actually used… Yeah and your “empirical studies” probably study worthless programs doing nothing unlike the C programs doing critical I/O or maybe an entire OS. Looking like Ashy Larry over there w/ all that chalk dust. And who wrote the f*ckin’ bugs eh? Was it the computer or the human being? Do you blame a basketball hoop if you miss a shot, “it’s not regulation size!”?–Probably. If I’m so funny I got another joke for you, knock knock…

No you’re waving your hands like jazz hands again. Clive tried to tell you this (and got a little pissed too) and it didn’t get thru.

We can’t roll our own code for the system, way too large of a project for 2-3 people that already do all the software for the company…we run a tight ship.

No I don’t see why C sucks. I see programmers (including me) that suck. I hate C++ syntax like none other. I’ll write mostly C if I have to write C++. It’s an older chip and there’s no way such a bug could exist like this on one of first “ports”, there’s something in the code somewhere grabbing control of it (I’ve scoured it, basically nearly remembered most of it as it’s not too long). This bug is too stupid to actually exist this long and nobody notice.

Wael January 10, 2015 11:07 PM


Well you can always buy it and send it my way…

Right away, I’ll get on it. Your wish is my command! I will be lucky to get you to work for me 😉

I can send it in lieu of the book! I’ll give you the chance [1] — no kidding.

[1] “Give him the opportunity and he will forge a name for himself.” Don’t leave any blank checks lying around 🙂

Nick P January 10, 2015 11:07 PM

@ Figureitout

“Yeah and your “empirical studies” probably study worthless programs doing nothing unlike the C programs doing critical I/O or maybe an entire OS”

Now I know you’re trolling. Studies were by government, military, defense contractors, and some academia on dozens of real-world projects. Everything from trains to dams to flight control to OS’s to certificate control. I’m sure your ad hoc, hand-waiving arguments backing unsafe code will prevail though. Well, typical Windows, UNIX, and C coders thought that 10,000+ bugs ago. No doubt results are right around the corner for that method.

“No I don’t see why C sucks. I see programmers (including me) that suck.”

The C philosophy: if the tool creates problems for programmers, then the programmers suck. They need to work around the deficiencies of the tool. Nah, tools should work for me: not the other way around.

Wael January 10, 2015 11:21 PM

@Nick P,

The C philosophy: if the tool creates problems for programmers, then the programmers suck.

If the hammer creates problems for the carpenters, then the carpenters suck!

Nick P January 10, 2015 11:33 PM

@ Wael

Remember that a programming language is how the entire system is expressed. It’s not a hammer but the whole construction toolset. The goals include building it quickly, cheaply, safely, and with low maintenance. In the software realm, C doesn’t really accomplish any of this except for the hardware and tool cost (cheaply). I’m also reminded of the Worse is Better essay on C and UNIX. They rose because they were part of something cheaper and portable, not robust.

Figureitout January 10, 2015 11:43 PM

–I better not get a USB stick in the mail. lol 😛

Nick P
–Unsafe b/c it’s written by people who don’t understand computers enough, too many features. And I’m sure the new “safe” construct like some java derivative will be a sham and have 100,000+ bugs, killer bugs.

You got the philosophy wrong too, it’s “we think people know what they’re doing”, which they don’t.

Either way doesn’t matter b/c C is what’s used in the real world and until the next genius actually makes a better construct that’s the best high-level language to use for low-level tasks that exists.

Wael January 10, 2015 11:59 PM

@Nick P,

Good article. It is specific to AI and the comparison / contrast was between “C” and Lisp. I am guessing the NJ guy is Dennis Richie and the MIT guy is John McCarthy? His style of writing reminds me of a book I read many years ago. Only thing I remember is that the author referred to IBM as the Armonkian empire and to Microsoft as “Redmond”… If only I can remember 🙁

Wael January 11, 2015 12:11 AM


I better not get a USB stick in the mail. lol 😛

Not a problem! I’ll order the USB stick and drop it in your parking lot. You can take it from there 😉

I was, in reality, posing an interesting problem with this “humor”: Suppose you accepted the offer. How would I send you the device given the following constraint:
We don’t want to exchange private information (address, real names, etc…)
I have a solution in mind 😉

Grauhut January 11, 2015 12:33 AM

@nick Any knowledge if vala is worth a try as ‘c preprocessor’ from the security point of view?

QG January 11, 2015 5:37 AM

Not obviously a security related issue but this video is not without interest: (03:43)

The video concerns techniques to record dreams.

At 03:04, there are some videos created by computer using measured electric brain activity while a test subject watched a film. The actual film is shown alongside the computer’s interpretation of the test subjects brain activity.

If this technology can be refined, we could find ourselves in a situation were e.g. police can peer inside your thought processes while you are being interrogated.

BoppingAround January 11, 2015 9:23 AM

iMarker have surfaced again, Russian SORM-like system for targeted advertising.

Allegedly 38 million of subscribers are affected. Users’ traffic is mirrored into their systems. The service allows to determine social, demographical, and geographical characteristics of users, allows behavioural targeting, interest-based advertising (e.g. those who like ‘sport’), location-based targeting (up to certain street and house number), profiling by social roles (e.g. parent, entrepreneur, student etc; claimed as being in development as of now).

BoppingAround January 11, 2015 10:12 AM

Hackers Cannot Solve Surveillance.

MÃdecins Sans FrontiÃres (MSF), also known as Doctors without Borders,
is an organization that saves lives in war-torn and underdeveloped
regions, providing health care and training in over 70 different
countries. MSF saves lives. Yet, nobody thinks that doctors can “solve”
healthcare. It’s widely understood that healthcare is a social issue,
and universal health care can not be achieved by either the voluntary
work of Doctors or by way of donations and charity alone.

Just as Doctors can’t solve healthcare, Hackers can’t solve
surveillance. Doctors can’t make human frailty disappear with some sort
of clever medical trick. They can help mitigate issues, fight
emergencies, they can be selfless, heroic. but they can’t, on their own,
solve healthcare.

One of the ways that Hackers can fight surveillance is to develop better
cryptographic communications tools, and train people how to use them..
This is certainly critical work that hackers can contribute to, but we
can’t, on our own, solve surveillance.


Nick P January 11, 2015 11:02 AM

@ Grauhut

I have no idea. It’s not really built with security in mind so I’d assume it has as much risk as competition. You’d have to look at how it implements constructs like stacks, arrays, strings, and so on. Then, see if it mitigates problems or relies on programmer to. That it builds on Glib/Gobject is good because it’s at least battle-hardened code and makes cross-language stuff easier. That it uses a standard C compiler lets us get performance without extra risk of new compiler bugs. Plus, you can use CompCert.

Main benefit of it, aside from extra features, is that it’s way the hell more readable than C. The Hello World program in Vala then generated C illustrates that nicely. A long-standing problem with C programs that made me favor BASIC in the past or more recently Wirth languages like Free Pascal. It says a lot when I can figure out what one of those programs are doing before learning the language but can’t do that for a C program. Check out Cyclone if you want to see what a safer, better C looks like.

Most impressive language development, though, is Julia. It’s like a better version of my old work combining low level performance, dynamic typing, seemless integration with existing libraries, macros, and more. It’s focused on technical computing but I could see it modified for systems programming. It’s also MIT licensed so that mod can use its own source.

Figureitout January 11, 2015 12:03 PM

–No lol, I’m kidding. Please don’t send me a USB stick in person or mail or drop in parking lot. We can chat sometime “offline” maybe, about to get too busy again soon and you already are so…

Nick P
–Read that essay, how many hits of acid did that guy drop? Didn’t even make sense, just calls C a virus, wut? Any code can be a virus. Basically told me nothing, fluffy “poetry” if you can call it that. So I looked at his CV which he put online and he’s covered in chalk powder (Creative writing, computer science, math degrees), no surprise no electrical engineering I see. So he won’t ever come close to making a “simple” interface to a chip w/ his flowery ideas of how things work; but keep spouting how it’s possible (maybe he can write a “proof” he pulls from thin air replete w/ “big O notation” cringe). When I can get the debugger to work properly (somewhat) and slowly go thru code and physically slow or stop execution on another physical device, not just emulating, I know for damn sure it isn’t “easy” or “simple” due to nature of what we’re doing. To think otherwise you don’t know what all it entails or is happening. It’s not simple and never will be, just be more ignorant of what’s happening.

Sorry to be mean and I’ll shut up about it now.

Nick P January 11, 2015 12:56 PM

@ DanJ

Interesting post. The point about a language programming you is well known: often cited as a reason to try LISP, functional languages, data-driven languages, and so on. Programmers report that the change in perspective often carries over into their work in main language with benefits that are sometimes obvious and sometimes hard to describe. For instance, I often programmed in a functional style within imperative languages to get the benefits of easier analysis. It was also easier on the compiler to understand given how easy it is to compile simple functions to efficient code.

The best example of your mindset (and a great C detractor) is Niklaus Wirth. The Lilith system did what you describe bottom up. They built a personal computer. Then they modified the processor to support a high level assembler (M-code). They built a language (Modula-2) that was safe, more productive, easy to compile, and efficient. They ensure it mapped easily to M-code to get the mental benefit you describe. Then, they wrote the compiler, OS, and apps in Modula-2 with M-code used for performance critical routines. The resulting system performed well, was consistent across the board, and had a low error rate.

Daniel January 11, 2015 1:42 PM


“One thing that becomes obvious after programming for a while, is that the computer language is also programming the programmer.”

That’s an important insight. I actually started out my career many moons ago as a programmer but I stopped after a few years precisely for this reason–I didn’t like what it was doing to my mind. I remain fascinated by languages, all of them, as mental constructs but the actual task of programming is dull to me. I now view computer programmers as akin to monks painstakingly making their mandalas out of colored sand. It’s awesome to watch them work, and the result is fascinating, but I can not bring myself to do it. Programming is like an act of self-torture.

“So it is worth evaluating a language as a tool for programming yourself in addition to how well it programs a machine.”

I have deep respect for people who can do that. The educational philosopher John Dewey considered this ability to be the true mark of a cultured and enlightened person. The art of “self-programming” is at the heart of his book “Experience and Education”. It was also advocated by the psychologist Carl Jung. The only difference is that they considered everything a person does from where they live to who they date or marry to be part of the task of “self-programming.”

An effective and thoughtful post, thanks for sharing.

albert January 11, 2015 2:18 PM

“…It’s widely understood that healthcare is a social issue…”
No, healthcare is a political issue. Doctors Without Borders does good work, and they are to be commended, but they aren’t allowed to enter many of the countries where they are most needed.
Nutritious food, clean water, and proper sanitation are needed first – political issues.
Likewise, surveillance is a political issue as well.
I gotta go…

Nick P January 11, 2015 4:29 PM

@ Clive

Halting Problem of Network Stack Insecurity

I think you might like this one because you often reference issues like Halting Problem. They spell out the issues very well, esp grammar classification. I’ve been doing it by the gut so far. Now I have a formalized way of thinking about it.

The researchers also confirm some ideas we’ve promoted here:

  1. The protocol should be designed in a way where the input and its effect is both easy to analyze and predict statically. (Avoiding Turing-completeness as you often say.)
  2. The use of formally verified parsers to greatly reduce attack surface.
  3. Design protocol to use minimal CPU and memory resources. Consistent with your Prison architecture and separation kernels I used to promote. Extend POLA with this principle to create Minimal Computational Power Principle.

Their last sentence I’ll leave for you to read. Good to see academic awareness of the root cause is spreading. Good paper altogether.

Nick P January 11, 2015 4:55 PM

@ BoppingAround

His blog also had this nice page on ’18 things that will happen to your life when you become a privacy advocate.’ Too true.

Bong-smoking Primitive Monkey-Brained Sockpuppet January 11, 2015 7:33 PM

@ AndrewJ,

An AK-47 in a backpack!!!

“In light of these recent events, we are reviewing our security plan and will make the appropriate changes to prevent future incidents of this nature</>.” — Reese McCranie, a spokesman for the Atlanta airport,

See a problem with this statement? What’s your plan for “Future incidents of a different nature”? Wait until someone demonstrates another weakness and then say “we are reviewing our security…”?

Hint: “unproven theory”…

  1. Theory: If you wear an attacker’s hat and add mechanisms to defeat known attacks, you are still vulnerable, if not now, then soon.
  2. lemma: a better approach is to follow principle-based security mechanisms that are known to defend against classes of attacks.

This supports Bruce’s long standing theory that the only changes that occurred after 9/11 that make a difference is reinforced cockpit doors and passenger attitudes, the rest is security theatre.

I’m willing to muster the temerity and oppugn Bruce’s long standing theory, now that we know an Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 can find its way to the cabin 😉
What kind of movies are we forced to watch in this theatre? Horror or comedy?

Wael January 11, 2015 7:58 PM

@Nick P, @Clive Robinson,

I agree. It’s why I oppose it. Security mechanisms should be NEAT

Oh, don’t get me wrong, the prison is NEAT! It’s your second line of defense when (not if) your castle is breached! It just needs some time to formulate what @Clive Robinson stated in the past and see how it fits. And your interstate, well that too…

Thoth January 11, 2015 8:29 PM

There is so much things to defend in a security model.

Just a few listed which I believe most of you should know:
– Physical Tamper Security (Tamper devices as the best example).
– Landscape/Geographical security (Building Security, Perimeter Security, Windows, CCTVs…)
– Hardware Security (Prison vs Castle vs Interstate, EMSEC, Data Flow Control … many more. Related to Physical Tamper Security )
– Software Security (Soft codes, semantics, automation scripts, correctness, robustness, simplicity vs complexity, crypto (although crypto can be done hardware but it is still an algo), user restrictions and ACLs…)
– Usability (Can it be usable ???)

It goes wrong very easily if any of these are out of sync or done with mistakes. Security is indeed difficult to do. All we are doing is mostly just delay tactics and a mistake makes the delay tactics less successful.

Clive Robinson January 11, 2015 10:03 PM

@ Nick P,

If you liked Simon Davis, did you find this little nugget on Silent Circle’s Privacy Failing,

It is a failing that the majority of non free services suffer from, and is the flip side of accountability of actions.

Part two is his thoughts on how to avoid this issue with a “stored value” system, which might be regarded as an electronic version of “book vouchers” or other gift tokens,

What he does not say is that in a number of war torn countries, prepayed phone cards have ended up as being the default currancy as their value is often based on a service that is backed by the stable currency the international phone operator uses.

Also if you go back a few years IanG over at Financial Cryptography wrote about the problems and solutions involved with what is in effect “printing your own” money by stored value tokens.

Wael January 11, 2015 10:05 PM

It’s not about preference. @Nick P talks about the interstate which was likely inspired from the way he thought of information flow. If you take a data centric approach to security – after all, the discipline is called information security – then you’ll look at data protection in all its states. These would be data at rest, data in transit, and data in use. You’ll be then forced to think like an attacker, start with threat modeling (STRIDE or whatever), and then “mitigate” the threats with known mechanisms. That may include adding security capabilities to the device (keeping in mind the specific use case, data value, attack costs, etc…) And this is the model that I believe is inadequate for reasons I repeatedly stated, not least of which is: No designer can assert that the threat modeling used above exhausted all possible threats. It then follows that the security mechanisms devised have holes (a consequence of the unkwons, check my definition of “Security”)…

At the very high level, a Castle would be a good model for protecting data at rest
The interstate is a good model for data in transit
And the prison is most suited for data in use, but this is at a very high and conceptual / abstract level. @Clive Robinson talks about an elaborate structure which imprisons not the only the data, but the components that act on data. That in addition to monitoring, thread distribution, voting, probabilistic security, among a slew other areas that need further thoughs.

But this is all very high level. I was planning to spend this weekend on this subject, but stuff happens… It’s easier to make “bad” jokes, although they hide underneath them some security related message…

Clive Robinson January 12, 2015 12:13 AM

@ Thoth,

There is so much things to defend in a security model.

It’s not the “things” you need to worry about…

Firstly look at the attackers they fall into three broad categories,

1, Outsiders.
2, Insiders.
3, Supply Chain.

They are given in the order of easiest to defend against first, which also happens to coincide with the order of harm they can do. The supply chain attacker is almost impossible to stop and can gain any access or privilege they want. Which is why these methods cause the Intel Community to have their domination fantasies.

If I’d put supply chain attacks as the number one threat even just a couple of years ago I would have been treated as a “conspiracy nut job” even though I’d been aware of it as an issue going back into the last century.

There is no static defense against supply chain attacks, partly because it’s not humanly possible to check the “chips” or even “leads” visually or non destructively, and thus there is no practical “sure fire” method of stopping it.

The solution I thought up is based on “old school” reliability where it was assumed that components would fail long before the end of the desired system lifetime. Put simply you “identify and replace failures”, it’s a probabilistic process due to the “identify” part.

If you think about it for a while you realise that the probability of identifing a failure is as a first order response is proportional to the work involved. That is the less resources given to identifing failure the more efficient the system is at it’s given task, but the less reliable it is, towards the other end the more resources given to checking for failure the less efficient the system is but the higher the reliability.

Have a think on the implications of this first and then consider how the various models fit in with it.

Gerard van Vooren January 12, 2015 4:27 AM

@ Winter

Any thoughts about the security consequences of the latest lone jihadi attacks in Paris? It seems to be the new strategy of IS et al

“Who defends all defends nothing.” — Frederick the Great

What can you do against individual radicals? They can pick any target they want. The next nut will take out an internet site news redaction and sysadmins. Do you want to live in a police state because that is where we are heading to.

The only thing I can think of that really helps is stop polarizing although I don’t believe that will happen in the near future.

[Keep in mind btw that this is also a direct result of the invasion of Iraq by G.W.Bush.]

sena kavote January 12, 2015 4:52 AM

(We need) an open letter to Microsoft and Apple about interoperability

Windows does not support filesystem formats of macOS, like HFS, Linux formats like ext4, btrFS, XFS, or FreeBSD formats like ZFS. MacOS support for filesystem formats originating from outside Apple is also severely lacking.

There are some third party software that supports ext4 in Windows.

Linux supports Microsoft’s NTFS partially. No Linux fsck module for NTFS, so if you blunder a data transfer to an external drive NTFS partition, for example by pulling plug out too early, you have to search for some extra fixing software that may or may not be available in your distro repo.

Windows, macOS, Linux and FreeBSD all have their own disk encryption formats.

Microsoft and Apple need to bury their negative sum games and add out-of-the-box by default support for each others filesystem formats and also ext4, XFS, btrFS and ZFS.

FreeBSD needs to put ext4 and NTFS support to highest priority.

Everyone should pick one common disk encryption format in addition to their own. I think it should be LUKS, since it seems likely that most people who want to use encryption use Linux.

Since ext4, XFS, btrFS and ZFS are open source from the start, Microsoft and Apple do not have much programming to do, mostly just making sure nothing conflicts with their operating systems and making small changes and additions here and there. LUKS might need more complex and laborous porting/alteration process, and full functionality might not be possible or worth the cost.

Microsoft and Apple have other reasons in addition to interoperability for supporting ext4, ZFS and btrFS: They are in different ways better than what Microsoft and Apple are supporting now.

That was my draft. We need to have that kind of open letter, signed by many prestigious experts worldwide, similarly to what Bruce has signed relating to NSA. By the way, I think even NSA has reason to sign that letter to Apple and Microsoft.

Clive Robinson January 12, 2015 5:47 AM

@ Winter,

Any thoughts about the security consequences of the latest lone jihadi attacks in Paris?

The first difficulty will be seperating the emotion from the argument, and this is where a lot of trouble is going to happen.

Certain elements of the far right have been ignored in Europe for the past decade or so, and thus they have built up a degree of popularity and political strength.

What happens next is going to be down to how various political camps get down to business. France is finding that the economic down turn is disproportionately effecting those of immigrant or first couple of generation immigrant status and this is creating significant problems, especialy when immigrants appear to take over areas.

Perhaps unsurprisingly these latest “home grown jihadi” were from the bottom end of the various social groups they were in, that is they had failed to make it as working citizens and then failed to make it as criminals. I suspect mainly due not to their innate abilities but the issues of their formative years and education.

Such people are relatively easy to find if you are looking for them due to their feelings of “not belonging”. Such emotions are fairly easily harnessed by others, by various simple techniques. Put simply you give them a sense of identity and point their moral compass in a new direction. It is thus fairly easy to engender in them the feeling that they must perform to be worthy…

Whilst there are many like this around it is the next stage which makes the difference, and that is access to the “tools to be worthy” such as explosives, guns, and other weapons.

In Britain the fact that these are more traceable and more difficult to smuggle has resulted in home made weapons, that although leathal are not as effective in wholesale slaughter as those made for commercial reasons.

Now I know this sounds crass, insensitive or even mad, but applying resourced to cutting down the death and destruction of any attacks is probably more benifitial over all than trying to stop all attacks.

Whilst politicaly even one death is seen as unacceptable from an operational point of view one death is a success when compared to ten to a hundred. It also helps from the success of anti-terror campaigns to have “one face or name” it makes it more personal than ten or a hundred, as Stalin once noted “A single death is a tragedy” where as multiple deaths “are a statistic”.

France is a country with very pourous borders due to various EU agreements and the agricultural south of the EU needing cheep labour from Africa and poorer parts of the middle east. Further war and strife, causes people to become displaced and homeless or stateless and they gravitate to places that appear economically wealthy and stable. Such economic and social privation give rise to immigrant populations on the edges of cities and fringes of society.

As with fires where stopping the heat, fuel or oxygen stops the fire, home grown jihadi or other terrorits can be stopped or limited by removing one or more element.

However removing or controling any one of the other elements other than access to weapons is going to be seen as either inhuman or counter productive not just in the short term but long term as well.

However limiting access to weapons is not done over night, the UK has been in effect doing this for many decades and whilst criminals still get access to hand guns and ammunition, the natural suspicion of criminals tends to limit the spread of the more dangerous weapons and put them beyond “home grown jihadi’s” that do not have access to external sponsors from the likes of Saudi Arabia.

Thus I hope that France or other EU nations do not respond with knee jerk action, which will all to easily play into the hands of either the far right or terrorists.

Andrew_K January 12, 2015 6:17 AM

@ Re secure device discussion

Tough not coming from hardware design, I’d like to join such a SIG on secure device building. Probably more for learning than for contribution, I hope that’s ok.

@ Nick P

Your brain is not tamper-proof. Alzheimer’s desease is an example for it, losing the brain capabilities without noticing. In case the tamper-proof works (i.e. you notice your decay), it gets just the more horrifying.

@ Wael, Clive Robinson

QWERTY cards reduce the set of possible output characters notably. In case I get someone’s QWERTY card, I can tell which characters are very probably not in his password.
Looking at the card carefully, having it rules out the majority of chars possible in a password. Has Gvmt started handing them out yet?
Nevertheless, the conceptual idea is worth working on the implementation flaws.

@ Thoth, Re security model

I believe that many aspects of security and usablilty contradict strongly as usability wants the user to understand as little as possible about implementation details yet many other aspects need the user to be aware of them. As a result, we have many more-or-less working secure systems that can only be used when understood and snakeoil that claims to be secure albeit being just usable. For a quick example, try to introduce a political journalist to PGP/GPG without spending time on explaining the asymetric crypto stuff…

@ Winter, Re Paris attacks

It’s sad. Since “more security measures” is just another word for “less individual freedom”, the terrorists win. No politician with even a slight feel for populism (that is, all/most politicians) will say “that’s a threat we have to learn to live with”. European politicians will react and I’m pessimistic about it.
On the other hand it’s impressive to see the popular reaction, especially among the European media workers.

However, one may ask the usual: False flag op, which topics have been hidden in the media, any paralell construction, etc. Less than fifteen people killed, whole Europe in roar, that’s efficiecy.
The Charlie Hebdo assassins and their hostages died inside a printing plant, from what I’ve heard. If true, that’s bitter irony.

Winter January 12, 2015 6:22 AM

“Thus I hope that France or other EU nations do not respond with knee jerk action, which will all to easily play into the hands of either the far right or terrorists.”

This danger is well understood in the EU. However, various political movements are playing the “Ethnic” feelings of the population and will most certainly try to benefit from this massacre. The governments tend to call for unity, but the likes of Le Pen cs will try to use it to marginalize immigrant communities even more.

Btw, I was surprised at the low death toll (~20, attackers included). If the attackers had entered one of the big shopping streets or stores, they could have killed many more. It seems as if they really expected to get away.

What interests me even more is the speed with which the French were able to put 80 thousand people on a man hunt without killing bystanders (it seems).

Winter January 12, 2015 6:28 AM

“The Charlie Hebdo assassins and their hostages died inside a printing plant, from what I’ve heard. If true, that’s bitter irony.”

No, the assassins were killed when they ran towards the police shooting outside of the plant. Looks like a suicide attack. There was no hostage killed there.

The other attacker, one of their friends, killed a police woman and kept people hostage in a super market. He killed four of them before the police acted, but it is unclear when they were killed. He also attacked the police when all was lost and was shot.

At least, that was the account in the media.

The original attacker claim to be send by Al Qaeda Jemen, the lone friend said he was send by IS. Sounds baffling as these two are fierce competitors.

Thoth January 12, 2015 6:41 AM

@Gerard van Vooren

“What can you do against individual radicals? They can pick any target they want. The next nut will take out an internet site news redaction and sysadmins. Do you want to live in a police state because that is where we are heading to.”

I think the best things we have are two things… keep a level head (and calm others) and keep educated (with appropriate debates). I have always advocated education and emphasis on it a lot (not just because it’s a Confucian ideology a.k.a Asian stuff but because it makes sense especially nowadays where polarization is very easy).

@Andrew_K, all

“Tough not coming from hardware design, I’d like to join such a SIG on secure device building. Probably more for learning than for contribution, I hope that’s ok.”

We are all here to learn. Very interesting stuff 🙂 . Would a static webpage suffice ? If a static HTML webpage is ok, I can donate some space on my website ( Maybe someone expert in certain fields or feel confident in certain fields could do some write-ups and put it on Pastebin and put a link here.

I am currently taking time to format some of Nick P’s collection of works and posting them up.

Regarding PGP usability, I do have some designs in a offline messaging style drawn up on a paper somewhere for it’s GUI to make it more usable. Need to translate it onto some electronic image (I don’t want to scan the paper as it leaks so much) when I have the time too do some “Photoshop”. Of course the design is simplistic and does not imbue that much knowledge but it is meant to restrict the user’s actions so they make lesser decisional errors and coupled with education later on if possible.

@sena kavote
It would be interesting if M$ and @pple would be good friends but apparently M$ saw the value of Linux and decided to cash in abit on that. They need to work harder on that area. Afterall it’s just business and they will do what’s best in their views and $$$$$ and that includes some fighting amongst themselves to hype stuff up for business.

Wael January 12, 2015 7:17 AM


No, the assassins were killed when…

These are not assassins — they are misguided criminals or patsies


send by Al Qaeda Jemen

Aha! You are in Germany?

mr.hand January 12, 2015 7:29 AM

Set Sail For TAILS (Linux) Fail!


Hell, IMO if TAILS were serious they would roll a hardened Gentoo distro (or OpenBSD) without so many packages and without so many odd additions, including:

1) The ‘Whisperback‘ package
2) Not shipping with ‘‘ and ‘do_not_ever_run_me‘ in /usr/local/sbin and removing all traces of debugging scripts – go ahead and read both files on TAILS and question why a distro such as TAILS needs these.

Don’t suggest liberte linux, development has stalled since it’s first version a long time ago. Don’t suggest the OpenBSD Anonymous Tor CD, it’s outdated and won’t connect to the Tor network.

Thoth January 12, 2015 7:43 AM

1.) Ping O’ Death is still such a viable option…


What can be done is called a Cryptographic Game. Client A tries to reach to Client B but must solve a cryptographic puzzle (a bunch of hashes as the most basic game) otherwise ignored. One way is to find a method of implementing the MinimaLT protocol.

2.) The “Most Secure Browser” crashes…


An ad-hoc browser using someone else’s designs is simply just insecure. A rewrite of the entire browser codebase with good levels of threat modelling, security modelling, assurance minded approach and provability is required. It is like picking a pencil and crayon and start doodling all over the paper and just patching them up later on whereas a better option is to figure out what’s going to be on the paper and what could go wrong and start making plans in advance. Probably a better idea is a properly modelled sandbox model with proper segregation and using a provably correct language like Haskell as it’s core to parse the huge mess of HTML/JS/CSS/XML/JSON/TXT that comes through HTTP(S).

Good thing someone caught it … bad thing ego probably got in the way between the two teams and turned sour ….

Oh … and it’s best to just stick to HTML/TXT/XML (non-executable) albeit the lack of colourful graphics than to get hacked ?

Thoth January 12, 2015 7:45 AM

Nice catch for finding those problems. Have you tried contacting TAILS and tell them not to put testing/debugging executables into a life system and to get serious with OpenBSD or something built for security ?

BoppingAround January 12, 2015 10:09 AM

Nick P,
Too true and yet another satirical article from that blog to be (mis?)interpreted as ‘not-so-satirical’.

  1. You won’t trust anything digital, ever again – and you especially won’t trust any product that claims it’ll protect your privacy.
  2. <…> every CCTV surveillance camera <…> and for the first time since your teens you want to make a rude gesture at them.

Damn that hit home.

65535 January 12, 2015 10:24 AM

@ Winter

I somewhat agree with Clive and Gerard van Vooren. Hence, I cannot add much. I will note that some of the suspects had extensive criminal records including terrorist connections. One would think the French police would have kept a close watch on them – but apparently not.

“French police identified Saïd Kouachi (7 September 1980 – 9 January 2015) and Chérif Kouachi (29 November 1982 – 9 January 2015) as the main suspects of being the masked gunmen… Chérif, also known as Abu Issen, was part of the “Buttes-Chaumont network”… that helped send would-be jihadists to fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. He was arrested at age 22 in January 2005 when he and another man were about to leave for Bashar al-Assad’s Syria – at the time a gateway for jihadists wishing to fight U.S. troops in Iraq. Following Chérif’s imprisonment between January 2005 and October 2006, he came into contact with Djamel Beghal, who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in France in 2001 for his part in a plot to bomb the United States embassy in Paris… Chérif became a student of Farid Benyettou, a radical Muslim preacher at the Addawa Mosque… In 2008, Chérif was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to three years in prison, with 18 months suspended, for having assisted in sending fighters to militant Islamist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s group in Iraq, and for being part of a group that solicited young French Muslims to fight with Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq…” – Wikipedia

Where the “suspects” got the AK-47 auto rifles, ammunition and a RPG launchers is a question that has not been answered.

In the States the possession of a real RPG launcher with live rocket ammunition would cause the BATF and other agencies to swing down on you from above in short order. In France I would have thought the authorities would be even more vigilant – but that was not the case.

I would also speculate that a number of TLA’s will be pushing greater surveillance in all areas after this episode plays completely out [I think there is still on suspect on the loose].

Nick P January 12, 2015 10:47 AM

@ Clive Robinson

His recommendation to avoid online payment systems like Visa and Mastercard is laughable. That’s about all people pay with. I’m also not sure his security argument even makes sense given SilentCircle traffic probably stands out in an oppressive regime’s network monitoring. A better solution might be to have a nonprofit (similar to Tor project) take in money sent more anonymously to buy stuff on their behalf. This might be SilentCircle or some other security/privacy product. This eliminates the risk and overhead on the business while reducing this risk for some customers.

@ Wael

See this is why I don’t want physical world metaphors. The Internet forces its correctness properties on traffic by design and traffic flows. The architectures like SAFE forces secure operation on information flows by design. That’s the only real comparison. Personally, I think in terms of invariants that are maintained throughout execution and methods of ensuring that. These might be done on flows, states, and so on. This protects data at rest, data in transit, and data in use because it ensures the code itself will run without a security breach.

For instance, there’s simple architectures that add just enough to know the difference between code and data plus enforce that during runtime. Done right, this prevents code injection by user-supplied data. At this point, the only threat is DOS or application logic failures. There are ways to handle those, too. Yet, by ensuring control flow integrity, we’ve eliminated the need to constantly look at every part of the system for control flow violations. This is the kind of thinking I push as there’s proven examples of such methods and they’re [usually] more efficient than monitoring-based architectures.

@ sena kavote

They’re incompatible on purpose: Lock-in. It happens all across the market because it’s proven to increase profit for the vendor.

@ Andrew_K

You’re funny dude. Yes, that would be a failure across the board. Far as contributions, you can always contribute components to projects like Genode OS, MINIX 3, Fiasco.OC, or NOVA microhypervisor. Additionally, you could work on building clever guard architectures for legacy systems from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, etc.

@ Thoth

You want to see what a secure browser looks like: Google OP2 Web Browser. The DARPAbrowser is another good one. These are closer to how things need to be done. Incidentally, Chrome was originally based on OP version 1 which Google hosted for a while. They made changes for performance and so on. Results were predictable.

Jacob January 12, 2015 11:42 AM

Meanwhile in the UK,

3 Days ago: warning of a dangerous imbalance between increasing numbers of terrorist plots against the UK and a fall in the capabilities of intelligence services to spy on communications “we need new powers in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris” – the director general of MI5

3 Days ago: “If we are to do our job, MI5 will continue to need to be able to penetrate terrorists communications as we have always done. That means having the right tools, legal powers and the assistance of companies which hold relevant data. Currently, this picture is patchy.” – the director general of MI5

3 Days ago: George Osborne (UK Chancellor) has pledged to give MI5 and MI6 whatever resources they need to allow them to maintain their “heroic job” in protecting the British people from terrorist threats at home and abroad.

Today: In wake of Paris attacks, intelligence agencies need more access to the contents of communications – David Cameron

Today: Theresa May (UK Home Secretery) calls for EU-wide travel database to track all passengers.

Clive Robinson January 12, 2015 11:48 AM

@ BoppingAround, Nick P,

9. every CCTV surveillance camera and for the first time since your teens you want to make a rude gesture at them.

Only “want to…” in the UK it is considered an appropriate mark of respect to use either one or two fingers to salute, those individuals who drive around in those parking and other fine vehicals with the Google like cameras for reading number plates etc.

It’s a little less radical than the French reaction to “le boot” wheel clamps, many Parisian men bought tubes of supper glue and on seeing “le boot” on a car would squirt it inside the lock on the wheel clamp. The result was they fairly quickly stopped being used.

In other parts of Europe the GATSO “speed cameras” on poles have had old tires put on them and set fire to, with smarter people piling them up around the control cabinets at ground level, or in atleast one case dropping a steal cable or chain around it and attaching it to a JCB or similar and driving off. I’ve been told but cannot confirm, that some of these attacks were actually to steal the cables in the ground and sell on some of the electronics.

In the UK a man who worked as a contractor on the railways used a block of rail welding thermite on one GATSO camera but was unfortunatly for him caught due to a deficient plan of action.

And I gather in certain southern states in the US such speed traps got quickly used for rifle based target practice.

Obviously some people see them for what they are which is “profit making machines” and determin apparently correctly that if there is no profit then the contracting companies will go out of business or go somewhere else…

Wael January 12, 2015 11:50 AM

@Nick P,

See this is why I don’t want physical world metaphors…

I understand! Give me sometime to do another writeup to bring this thread to a closure, if only for sometime.

Clive Robinson January 12, 2015 12:14 PM

@ Jaccob,

As in the US the UK IC is on the make, one way or the other and has nice “revolving door” ploicies for “decision makers” to get cosy little well payed jobs to top their Gov pensions off with.

The UK Home Secretary is a compleate disaster area with pretentions on being the next female Prime Minister. Any one stupid enough to vote for her deserve the loss of privacy and police state she is building.

It might not surprise you then when I tell you that there are people offering serious bounties for the finger prints and DNA for her and the main IC leaders… personally I think there should be other bounties to treat them just as they want to treat others ie no holds barred disclosure of their entire lives including but by no means limited to their financial records and those of their relatives and friends etc. They might just start to realise as did Jeremy Clarkson that there are significant implications to their stupid assumptions and the lies they tell and have told.

65535 January 12, 2015 12:38 PM

@ Jacob

“Meanwhile in the UK… “

Yes, the spy agencies are requesting more spying powers at this time. These “agencies” tend to strike when the public is afraid. This is classic power grab. Don’t let it happen.

These “agencies” already tap about every communication connection – yet, they failed to stop a known terrorist(s) with criminal records. These “agencies” don’t need more hay – they less hay and they need to find the needle.

Tangentially, the Intercept claims actual messages from al Qaeda on the Paris attack:

“UPDATED — A source within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has provided The Intercept with a full statement claiming responsibility for the attack against the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris: Sheikh Usama (RA) said in his message to the West: If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions. The Organization delayed to claim responsibility due to the executors’ security reasons. Nevertheless, the operation carries a number of important messages to all the Western countries.
One: Touching Muslims’ sanctity and protecting those who make blasphemy have dear price and the punishment will be severe. Two: The crimes of the Western countries, above them America, Britain and France will backfire deep in their home…” – Firstlook

I don’t know if this has been posted.

Czerno January 12, 2015 1:07 PM

@65535 :
“One would think the French police would have kept a close watch on them – but apparently not.”

Press has reported that the perpetrators were under heavy surveillance by the central French antiterror services until about 6 months ago,
when someone determined the monitored were of the “less dangerous” kind, having apparently done nothing worthy of notice, and subsequently their files were passed down to less “special” political police services, and physical surveillance was stepped down. Also reportedly, the fact that the police services in question were under reorganisation after former “renseignements généraux” had been dismantled played a role in police missing the suspects intentions and preparations.

Anyway, unless a Stasi-KBG-Orwellian system be instituted, I doubt such crimes could be detected and stopped before the fact without failure.

SoWhatDidYouExpect January 12, 2015 3:11 PM

Beware, the boogyman is coming!

How Bitcoin Could Be Key To Online Voting

I am simple minded when it comes to bitcoin. However, when something that has been shown to be the spawn of vast (of perhaps some size anyway) not legally acceptable financial transactions, a great target of theft and corruption, and closure of certain supposedly legitimate operations due to questionable…ah…behavior, this particular item seems disingenuous at best and the perpetration of fraud at least.

From the posting, the key phrase “…If implemented correctly…” seems to be the trigger for doubt. Why, if we believe even a small part of what has been revealed about our 3 letter agencies over the past year or so, this is right up their alley. They will have the blockchain created by each vote, to use as they deem fit, to intercept, inject their vote replacing ours, such that they have FULL CONTROL of the public (or inject any transaction). If it can be seen, most likely it can be subverted to become the greatest fraud ever. That would be the only fraud needed.

Nick P January 12, 2015 3:34 PM

Bitcoin for voting is a bad idea because it lacks anonymity and coercion resistance. Plus, there’s at least two systems that already meet all the goals IIRC.

Jacob January 12, 2015 4:12 PM

David Cameron is on a roll today:

““In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?” He made the connection between encrypted communications tools and letters and phone conversations, both of which can be read by security services in extreme situations and with a warrant from the home secretary.”

BoppingAround January 12, 2015 5:10 PM


Anyway, unless a Stasi-KBG-Orwellian system be instituted, I doubt such crimes could be detected and stopped before the fact without failure.

I think we’ll find out within our lifetimes.

I hope they’ll get bold enough soon to deliver something like Navarre’s New Perspective on Freedom.

Dirk Praet January 12, 2015 8:17 PM

@Czerno, @65535

One would think the French police would have kept a close watch on them – but apparently not.

I personally don’t believe one of the Kouachi brothers “forgot” his ID card in their getaway car. Way too convenient, and more likely to have been planted there to conceal intelligence sources and methods that led French police right to them almost immediately after the facts. Which means that under this hypothesis at least one agency, domestic or foreign, still had them on their radar.

In my opinion, it’s more a political than an intelligence failure. Unless budgets are raised spectacularly to closely monitor several thousands of folks round the clock (depending on the country), it’s near impossible to stop such attacks. But even with adequate monitoring in place, most democratic countries today lack appropriate legislation to properly deal with people that positively fit a high risk profile. Right now, little can be done until there is positive proof of an impending attack or until such an attack has been executed.

There’s only two options here: either society as a whole accepts as a fact of life the possibility of occasional terrorist strikes by extremist lunatics, or additional legislation is enacted to allow both preventive and oppressive measures against religious hate preachers and high risk profiles such as disenfranchised radicalised youths returning from Syria and Iraq.

Thoth January 12, 2015 8:43 PM

@Jacob, Clive Robinson
Since they want a clear comms for everyone, I wonder if they would mandate all forms of crypto and security as munnitions (not just for exportcontrol but for home consumption) and illegal for use even for banking 🙂 . Abit too extreme but that’s what they wanted right ?

Those ICs have done very little useful things these days and been making so much noise. Maybe the voters could take the issue of budget control for these agencies into hand and ensure that the budget would clearly spell out what the money is used for instead of allowing them to get pass laws to undermine crypto and security. Voters gotta act.

Bitcoin is weak against a scheme where you have enough computing power to control the critical mass of the population and similarly, there is nothing stopping mass creation of accounts with enough resources to control a bitcoin network against a central figure possessing critical mass of the accounts.

Thoth January 12, 2015 9:57 PM

@Clive Robinson

Her Maj’s top boy is gonna ban encrypted comms without a backdoor ???

I wonder if there are plans by the British people to remove Her Maj’s ministers from office for a while and call for a re-election or referendum.

Do you guys have laws in Britain that will trigger (referendums) people’s decisions instead of a single person deciding on the whole issue and even have measures to call for re-election in times of needs ?


Thoth January 12, 2015 10:13 PM

@Clive Robinson, Nick P, all
On a hindsight, since the HSAs wants backdoor into messaging system or either use plaintext message exchanges, one good way to circumvent it is to create a separate encryptor (inline encryptor – like the JackPair) and a plaintext open source messaging system or any vulnerable messaging system (plaintext or ciphertext systems) would pass through a inline encryptor that would encrypt the message and do key exchanges and verification so that in the extreme case, you can proof that a plaintext messaging system is used whereas an inline dedicated encryptor is used for security and the benefits of inline encryption is higher speed and processing capabilities and separate security functions that would be harder to fail since the encryptor would not be tied to the vulnerable messaging system.

@Markus Otella
Does your TFC do inline encryption rather than encrypt on the Pidgin messaging side (with your modidications) ? You could consider making TFC as an inline encryptor and message security. The Pidgin messaging would send in cleartext and the TFC would do the crypto and security and before sending to the TxM, it would double check if the message is secured before sending out (to prevent plaintext leaks).

Latest security app to write with threat modelling and certain levels of assurance is the inline encryptor app.

Nick P January 12, 2015 10:57 PM

@ Thoth

No, Markus’s design is simpler than that: data diodes ensure malware can never touch the sending component and that data can never leave the receiving component. His keys never reach the third, transport component. They’re on the Sender and Receiver component instead. His sender is the only one that’s physically able to send data and he can just code it to only send ciphertext. The main risk he has is sending plaintext or key material accidentally due to some issue in the Python interpreter or runtime. The main drawback of a HLL with memory management.

An inline encryption scheme is basically a VPN (aka link encryptor). That’s harder to develop to high assurance than his setup. It’s more convenient and potentially cheaper per unit. Yet, it also has more subversion opportunity. The brilliance of his design is it can be implemented with very high confidence of security and low odds of subversion. The cables and sending code are the main TCB.

Note: My main list of writings should include inline-media encryptors in discussions over securing hard disk storage. There might be more than one. Also, look at the Micro-SINA VPN architecture. I might have sent you the PDF. It’s on Google if not. Shows you how to do it right with low TCB.

Nick P January 12, 2015 11:18 PM

@ Thoth

I forgot to add that an end-to-end, link encryption scheme is something with high security ROI: any traffic can run through it. The government themselves have known this a long time as they’ve used them to connect various sites. Also, one of their original documents assessing VOIP security had Voice over Secure IP as one of the solutions. They already had high assurance IPsec so why not just run the phone traffic through there. One of my own proposals was to build one to high assurance, then build front ends for various types of traffic.

Just gotta make sure there’s one on each end, traffic can only go through it, the user’s input helps create session key somehow, it only lets encrypted data pass through, and it transmits packets of a fixed size at a fixed rate. Optionally, extra protection on the endpoint itself.

Thoth January 13, 2015 12:00 AM

@Nick P
Inline encryptors have always been in high demand (to my real world knowledge) besides HSM. Most apps have the problem of either sending data in plain, improper use of crypto/security, key management …etc… Also it is so convenient to use and provision with proper setup.

For your paper on inline encryptor, I published it for you here (

I think for the current state of security in messaging platforms, would it be best to leverage a high assurance inline encryptor/key manager so that all messages are encrypted ?

Skype, Whatsapp and many other applications are known to be insecure in their default form and a inline encryptor providing end-to-end would thwart the HSAs ability to leverage on the weaknesses of Skype and whatever weakly secured or backdoored messaging platforms and allows central key management (if configured for Govt) or can be decentralized (for secure peer comms).

Clive Robinson’s fleet messaging method is a good way of doing secure comms but it requires time to gain momentum.

gordo January 13, 2015 12:04 AM

@ Thoth
“Voters gotta act.”

This is from last month, in USA:

Sen. Wyden puts forward a bill to ban data “backdoors”
Bill prevents FBI from meddling with companies that choose to encrypt by default.

2015 update:

Episode III: Revenge of the CISPA

Related content:

Speech from James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, to Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C., October 16, 2014 [excerpt]:

There is a misconception that building a lawful intercept solution into a system requires a so-called “back door,” one that foreign adversaries and hackers may try to exploit.

But that isn’t true. We aren’t seeking a back-door approach. We want to use the front door, with clarity and transparency, and with clear guidance provided by law. We are completely comfortable with court orders and legal process—front doors that provide the evidence and information we need to investigate crime and prevent terrorist attacks.

Cyber adversaries will exploit any vulnerability they find. But it makes more sense to address any security risks by developing intercept solutions during the design phase, rather than resorting to a patchwork solution when law enforcement comes knocking after the fact. And with sophisticated encryption, there might be no solution, leaving the government at a dead end—all in the name of privacy and network security.
[“Correcting Misconceptions” section, paragraphs 2-4]

Thoth January 13, 2015 12:48 AM

@Nick P & American Readers
Voters gotta act to support bills to outright ban backdoors and covert manipulations by the Govt and private firms of US Companies in US soil and overseas.

Thoth January 13, 2015 12:51 AM

@Nick P & American Readers & all
Voters gotta act to support bills to outright ban backdoors, frontdoors, espionage/spying and covert manipulations by the Govt and private firms of US Companies


in US soil and overseas.

Figureitout January 13, 2015 1:15 AM

RF [in]Security

Samy Kamkar has put up a PoC on sniffing wireless keyboards (shocker, it’s frickin’ wireless) building on the excellent work of Travis Goodspeed (a professional wireless pentester) who extended work of Thorsten Schroder and Max Moser. Travis’s blog is a great resource and I hope for similar excellent blog posts.

Samy’s made a USB wall-charger sniffing and exfiltrator. Using Arduino, main RF chip (NRF24L01+ w/ GFSK on 2.4GHz, which these chips are also used in school “clickers” which I’ve been wanting to have a laugh or 2 in school but haven’t yet) and other materials you can look if you want. Damaging for my G/FSK authentication scheme I’m working on, it makes no qualms about intercepting comms so long as they get thru and this still stands as it relies on a physical exchange of secret info for its strength; if you can’t do that then no other means of relaying info over current channels (GSM/SMS/internet/etc) is secure and known to be tapped. Not to mention I can tweak the protocol and the frequency so you get to the realm of physical attacks and advanced malware and reconnaisance; as can be seen w/ the shenanigans of DirecTV hackers, the engineers can make the hacker’s lives hell and eventually win, resoundingly.

Importantly, if you read the link, what’s the first thing a random attacker is going to look for..?–The protocol. As I’ve said and many know, they looked on the back of the legally mandated sticker to get the FCC ID and then look up that info for free on FCC website (gives frequency and protocol hints). So thank you FCC for aiding attackers by forcing EVERYONE, EVERY single RF device needs FCC certification to operate legally and sell in US. W/o that info, attackers intent on pure destruction have more work and hopefully reach deadend or electrocute themselves due to stupidity “playing w/ “fire””.


–Jamming GSM frequencies
–Operating w/in a shielded environment


(source via /r/netsec )

Wael January 13, 2015 1:19 AM


@Nick P & American Readers & all

Way OT: The story of the “ampersand”… Can make it related to security again: Would ROT13 be it’s own inverse had the alphabet count remained at 27? 🙂

Figureitout January 13, 2015 1:35 AM

gordo && Thoth RE: get the vote out
–I would encourage people who think that voting is a solution to firstly try it themselves and to prepare being labled a terrorist and see what happens to them before they tell others to get labled a terrorist.

Same thing goes w/ “political activism” and trying to participate in some semblance of a real democracy.

My advice to people who feel strongly but haven’t yet said anything: Keep your mouth shut and don’t get put on a list yet. Focus on actual solutions (technical countermeasures based on physical laws, not human laws that get broken every second). Otherwise physical attacks (requiring no skill mind you) are coming your way when you leave your residence.

Thoth January 13, 2015 1:49 AM

In my country, we usually vote the opposition parties if the main party is “misbehaving” but there is nothing the main party could do to us unless proven beyond doubt of “aiding the foreign enemy (not opposition party)”.

Our next national election is drawing near (this year) and the current main party seems to not have a healthy relationship with the people and it is expected of backlashes on them (nothing secretive).

The main party is trying very hard to “appease” the citizens here by doing a lot of upgrade work on the housing and roads with exemptions and giftings (if I am not wrong) just before this year’s election (soon).

Regarding RF devices in security environments, NEVER USE WIRELESS INPUT DEVICES. Most of your bluetooth keyboards and mouse leaks so much data about you it can break your secure system. All my air gapped devices are over wired connections (never wireless). Faraday’s cages are expensive though :S .

Daniel January 13, 2015 1:50 AM

FWIW we will know that the powers that be are serous about the whole encryption backdoor thing when they shut down Tor. If the NSA wanted to they could kill Tor simply by shutting down the Directory Authorities. They haven’t done that, which says to me they still think they have something to gain by it.

Figureitout January 13, 2015 2:40 AM

–In my country the political system is in such disarray and worthless it’s not even worth getting involved in or trying to fix unless you buy into stupid 3-word campaign slogans. It’s perpetual failure and people involved like most industries today are just clinging for a job to live…As they creep into taxing the internet more and regulating our area as they look for ways to stay relevant I’m sure we’ll see some hacks on them as they’re “soft targets” and drive around w/ license plates “I’m a state legislator!”. As if they’ll even know they’re owned lol…

RE: cage prices
–Yeah I know…and they’re static, huge & unwieldy, and usually impractical…I know it’s possible to get a good one for ~$3000 from larger companies selling off their old test equipment. Once you get that frame you can tack on as much metal as you want to get ridiculous protection levels.

RE: leakage
–Regular wires too (unshield ones) will leak, every single wire attenuates RF which is insane to think about (take an oscilloscope and start probing around for the power supply noise getting absorbed by any metal wires on your bench) which it’s very impractical to make the braids yourself which opens supply chain attacks. Every single trace on a PCB could be attenuating a malicious signal, frickin’ terrible prospect. Also the actual interfaces is where the leakage is so there needs to be better shielded connections like you see w/ RF cables; still leaking like hell elsewhere and of course LCD screen and unencrypted signals bypassing all your other protection still…

You can’t sustain these countermeasures all the time, it’s best to know when an attack is happening, which you don’t usually. So just limit to when you really need that level of security (have multiple devices running to cloud the airwaves) and don’t worry about it otherwise as it’s too much, just cloud your head…

Thoth January 13, 2015 4:03 AM

Regarding politics, someone with power, status and wealth would be required to fund and campaign for security and privacy … Purely relying on technology is not a good option as the moment where the top politicos may or may not go to the extend of doing something like the Great Wall of China where not only is China’s Internet censored, their computers contain tracking devices / logging devices as mandated by the Chinese Govt (must be placed in every computer in China to my knowledge).

A normal processor could be used to do secure functions without much assurance and that is more than enough to scare stiff those crazy politicos and if they resort to the Chinese tactics (they haven’t done it outright in your face yet in the West), imagine your TFC with seL4 high assurance OSes would never even exist in the first place. Imagine everytime you want to perform a XOR or AND or call a Modulus function, the “National Monitoring Unit” (I coined it) would activate and ensure you don’t do crypto (somehow) and pass all the data back to the national servers …. This would be the worst case scenario..

Someone needs to front the efforts to reform the Govt and there must also be sufficient backing power behind these politicos calling for reform for more privacy. If everyone is going to hide away behind their chipboards and screens when a chance to change the future arises, that will be disastrous.

I think we should all assume we are on a “guilty” list especially for those of us working for Govt and Security (on a more serious “very guilty” list) until proven to be “harmless”.

For those who don’t want to be tracked, they can leave light footprints by measuring their online activities and restricting them and watch what they post online. Almost everyone have a social account (probably not many of us here as we are more security minded) which makes tracking close to inevitable.

Ham radio/RF comms is a good way to move “out-of-band” until it gets popular and the current trends are moving to RF due to software defined radios possible on small chipboards like probably Ardiuno ? Once it have gotten enough attention from the HSAs, they will start including RFs as their targets as well. It’s only a matter of sooner or later.

The best solution for anonymity is multi-spectral disruption by ensuring real ciphered messages and fake messages cannot be properly distinguishable (Clive’s fleet broadcast) if there is a push for more research for anonymous protocols.

GreenSquirrel January 13, 2015 8:18 AM


Her Maj’s top boy is gonna ban encrypted comms without a backdoor ???

I wonder if there are plans by the British people to remove Her Maj’s ministers from office for a while and call for a re-election or referendum.

Do you guys have laws in Britain that will trigger (referendums) people’s decisions instead of a single person deciding on the whole issue and even have measures to call for re-election in times of needs ?

Really this is something MadFool Cameron has promised if he gets re-elected. This sort of means if people vote for him, the are actually mental enough to think its a good idea.

The worrying thing is a lot of people seem to be this insane but still allowed to vote.

Clive Robinson January 13, 2015 8:25 AM

@ Figureitout, Thoth,

Many years ago, I built logic gates out of electromechanical relays –it’s actually quite simple– to use as demonstration units to make simple latches and full adder circuits. You can build the equivalent of a 74181 ALU and a couple of four bit registers with arround 100 relays and around twice as many diodes. ROM memory can be made wih mainly diodes and relays as tri-state outputs. Thus you can go back to the middle of the last century technology if you need to, rather more easily than 1980’s tech.

Now whilst I would not in the slightest recommend people do this you can build relatively simple encryption / decryption equipment for “off line use” using little more than a byte wide ROMs and some latches to make a simple state machine. It’s very little effort after that to add registers and even static RAM.

A number of years ago I made an ALU using a ROM as getting hold of the real part was taking way to long. So building a rudimentary CPU and ROM / RAM unit is well within a hobbyists capabilities. The trick is to make the ALU have the minimum of functionality, then build more complex instructions as functions in microcode. With a little thought you can get by with ADD, Right Shift, XOR and AND as your ALU functions, three ALU registers and a register file of eight latches.

The point is it does not take much in the way of physical hardware to make parts that will do any “prohibited” function you care to do outside of the ability of the authorites wanting to stop you (unless they effectively have you under arrest / emprisonment.

You then make ordinary micro proc systems to handle the plain text and ciphertext just like a printing device or a data logger.

So by using a serial output terminal or older HD less computer with a terminal emulator on a write protected floppy disk, you can output plain text on a serial line which goes into your homebrew box. This outputs to a serial data logger that stores this onto a memory device which can be another PC with floppy drive etc.

What you then do with this data file is upto you. However if you are lucky enough to have a “dead tree cave” with books with CD ROMs from the early days of linux etc you can make a two floppy boot system which with shell scripting and a second floppy drive will save you trouser burns from soldering etc.

The simple fact is that the Crypto Genie is out of her bottle and has thus escaped for good.

Which is why the authorities are clamping down on all forms of communication, be it travel, post, electronic. They know they have lost the encryption battle, but have not lost the information war, if they can stop “unaproved” information movment then encryption gains you no advantage.

A true story about information flow might be of interest. Part of the UK is Northern Ireland which has a land border with Eire or Southern Ireland. For various reasons pirate radio was very popular in NI and the authorities tried and failed to suppress it. Even when the raids were high the stations managed to stay on the air, however it was getting expensive in equipment. In SI however the authorities were anything but interested in stopping pirate radio especially if it was aimed at NI. Thus some pirates put their transmitters onto high hills etc just inside SI’s border using high gain antennas pointing into NI. The problem was “linking” from the studios etc in NI to the transmitters in SI. Well a number of solutions were tried such as using the old “low band” VHF television frequencies, however the NI authorities became adept at tracking them down. However a student project using the doppler radar units you could buy from the likes of Radio Spares and info from the “microwaves” column in the RSGB monthly magazine gave rise to an X-Band microwave link, the NI authorities could not easily track. So for a while the battle was in the pirates not NI authorities hands so they resorted to a political solution (licencing of some of the pirates). However as normal the authorities decided not to do what they had agreed to, so the pirates came back even stronger than before. By this time the NI authorities had worked out a solution to the X-Band link problem, but the Internet now alowed the pirates to stream their audio over the Internet, and replaced the easily jamed analog X-Band links with digital WiFi links. Eventually the authorities realised they were not going to win the war this way so as part of the “power sharing agreement” between London and SI the SI authorities started to crack down on the FM transmitter sites in SI. However even this battle failed so the UK authorities went after the advertisers who funded the pirates, when even this failed they started going after small equipment suppliers who in most cases had no idea they were supplying equipment to pirates as the pirates used shell organisations and companies or friends/contacts in well known commercial broadcast organisations such as Sky and T-Mobile. To resolve this persecution brought by the UK Authorities some companies moved their operations out of the UK others were forced into breaking EU free trade laws. The result was unemployed people in the UK and the pirates carried on getting equipment from other sources, so carried on again. What many people don’t realise is that Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) was the next trick the UK authorities and those lobyists not a million miles from the likes of Simon Cowel that fill certain pockets were hoping would solve the pirate problem. This is because DAB does not work like a conventional tuned radio, it uses a “matrix” transmission to tell the radios where to find the digital audio channels are. If you are not in the matrix then it does not matter how much power you use a DAB receiver will not “tune” to your broadcast. The UK authorities have tried all sorts of tricks to get DAB to be a success including blackmail, competition rigging and worse, but so far it has failed. DAB is basically not very good for not just commercial reasons, but also as it’s environmentally bad and has a carbon and worse foitprint about three times greater than FM. And guess what they have also tried calling pirates, violent criminals, drug / gun dealers, harmfull to children, and terorists… but a tune down the FM band showes the pirates have not yet lost the war…

So I suspect that attempts by authorities to control information flows will suffer a similar lack of success for the next decade or so atleast.

iain_m January 13, 2015 8:49 AM

Regarding the French hostage situation in the supermarket… Some information issued to the press said that the the hostage taker hadn’t properly ended his call and that police stormed in when they heard him starting to pray. Anyone buy that? Is it possible that his phone was switched to ON without his knowledge? There has been no further mention of this in the press since.

Thoth January 13, 2015 9:36 AM

@Clive Robinson
So to put it simply, the authorities are simply playing rhetorics and seems to be just “going through the motion” as their daily business I guess ?

Hmmm… a nice idea for an old school style encryptor via chipboard based transistors without blackboxes.

You could try to use XOR/OTP for your RF stuff for now if you can propagate and generate random keys properly.

Thoth January 13, 2015 9:48 AM

@Clive Robinson
Nice idea for a handheld RPi. For the wireless keyboard, maybe that needs to be replaced to a wired one to prevent obvious bluetooth signal leaks of keyboard inputs.

What do you think is the likelihood of converting it into a handheld encryptor ?

Would it be a good idea to just build an encryptor circuit board and adapt onto the GPIO pins and make the RPi listen on the IO pins to pick up or send commands or simply make use of the RPi’s processor and script something like in Python language ?

The hard part I guess would be moving keymats and data in a secure way since it would not be practical to hand copy ciphertext or plaintext hexcode by hexcode from a computer screen to another or maybe the good old way of handcopy hexcodes is still the most assured way ?

I guess if there’s really an encryptor built on a RPi, it wouldn’t get much assurance but at least an interesting attempt.

Grauhut January 13, 2015 11:30 AM

@Bruce, all

USCENTCOM Twitter and Youtube accounts were hacked and the military plans against china leaked.

gordo January 13, 2015 5:58 PM

@ Figureitout,

RE: “get the vote out….”

I hope I’ve not misunderstood your position (and I see that I was not as clear as I might’ve been in stating mine, so here goes…).

The general populace, at least in non-totalitarians states, daily gets information that’s good, bad, or otherwise, concerning the communication technologies upon which they’ve come to rely. In the long run, that will be enough to “get the vote out.”

The news/opinion/marketing media and their viewers/readers/listeners are learning how modern technology works, and how to talk about it. Developing literacy takes time; and there will be no shortage of “events” to consider, as they’ll just keep on coming.

If one believes, e.g., those legislators in the U.S. Congress who voted last year to rein in the N.S.A., or who support Senator Wyden’s “Secure Data Act” are terrorists, what’s to be said: Legislators speak freely about and vote on issues that are important to their constituents.

That there will be those calling for, and taking action in-the-extreme, is nothing new. Unfortunately, bad, if not completely unworkable ideas many times get the best seats at times of crises, conflated or otherwise. Another ten or fifteen years, maybe longer, of countermeasures not working will have an effect.

The markets for sensible products and services will come around. “Good enough security” will eventually work its way out, segment-by-segment, and some of it will be mandated.

I may be a naïve optimist, with all its downsides, but sometimes one must simply wait for clearer heads to prevail. Support them, i.e., vote for them, as opportunity presents. In the meantime, as you say, there’s work to be done.

Figureitout January 13, 2015 11:24 PM

–Won’t address the politico stuff, I keep saying dumb things…just need to duct tape my mouth. Nothing good to say about it.
Ham radio/RF comms is a good way to move “out-of-band” until it gets popular
–It needs to get easy. Encryption won’t ever catch on like it should b/c no one (besides Truecrypt devs and a spattering of others) can write reliable and easy to use encryption tools. Gqrx (free software) and an $8-12 dongle (comes w/ good enough antenna, or should) can get you a decent receiver from 24MHz to 1.7GHz. It’s just a receiver though, so you need a transmitter. And you can look at the librtlsdr source for how code and radio mixes, it’s complex and while it’s not beyond the capabilities of a lot of good C coders, it’s a lot to comprehend in one head; mixing RF and code is “messy”, to say the least. In particular I’ll highlight a line in rtl_fm (demods FM, basically I use it as a “hello world” that your receiver is working) that doesn’t give me confidence:

For security software, it’s a “complicated failure”, b/c by just trusting a program you’re not really doing “due diligence” and since software can do a lot of deception you can’t be sure of keylogging, exfil, etc. By digging in the program, you likely used another program, how can you trust that program? Use another program to dig in that program (if(RECURSION_HELL > ∞) break;).

At the end of the day, for me it’s an alternative to phone networks (guaranteed tapped) and internet[works] (again guaranteed tapped and way more executeable code and malware just slinging all over the place). I want alternative channels that don’t rely on these risky networks for important authentication, b/c I don’t trust the KEYEX protocols to protect me, still vulnerable on the initial transfer to an unverified contact.

Clive hasn’t described his “fleet broadcast” system in sufficient detail for one to build now precisely, he doesn’t just give answer, forces you to get it wrong before getting it right. I take a different view in that the sky’s falling and I want the most protection immediately as I can now then think when I can relax (still very vulnerable, all my setups). That’s why I give “answers” and you can research the topic further once you start using the other system if you want more.

RE: XOR/OTP my “RF stuff”
–That’s exactly what this “data whitening” feature was, but just a XOR. Datasheets are all public. It’ll protect data until attacker starts reverse engineering, then it needs to change. I don’t want to propagate keys, they’re generated offline and exchanged manually; messages decrypted manually w/ a small program. I can’t come up w/ a system where OTA (over-the-air) exchange is what I would call secure. Unless there’s another freak on the other end who’s willing to do what it takes…

Clive Robinson RE: building logic gates
–Yes, I’m getting close to building some. Got a few RF projects I want to do first (like getting a terminal program connected to this RF board, PuTTY would be the best), as well as some work that I need to finish. School’s cranking up and that eats my time. Mostly, for my PC, I want it to be an actual new design too. It’s not the circuits that’s hard, it’s debugging when it doesn’t work how it should that’s hard. For instance, one time I had a real scare on the day of a presentation when the only thing that was wrong was a bad connection on a breadboard due to thin component wires. Debugging that on a larger circuit will be very annoying…

A question for “comphack” as you call them, computers w/ 12GB HDD and Win98, I’m having hard time making an image (I don’t want to mess something up, and I don’t have USB drivers working so I can’t just tranfer it over to a bigger drive. So, can I make a bootable HDD using all the files in the C:/ drive, it’s a freshly formatted and installed disk. I think that has all the cludge of files I need (drivers) for the PC to work. I haven’t tried Puppy on that PC now that I think about it (puppy linux works on everything). I don’t want to fiddle around doing things “I think” should work, I mess up computers that way; finding info on these old computers is difficult and the drivers which I most certainly don’t want to write are hiding too.

My other options are to use it until it dies. I’m planning on another desktop dying soon, if that goes too, that’s a big blow for me.

Interesting story RE: the pirates (arrr matey! :).

RE: RasPi laptop
–Yeah, that’d be a fun build. Be cool if I could harvest an old laptop screen as that’s what I’d want w/ it. And probably USB keyboard. Probably best to bring all the wires inward to the board instead of bringing them out to the edges like many of the NES/SNES builds:

–I hope you haven’t too. I can’t speak coherently about it. There’s too many areas that can be better, but won’t due to lazyness and sloth and entrenched backwards rules and no responsibility or sense of community. I personally don’t trust whatever new laws (are you going to actually read them and understand them?) that won’t in turn be nullified by secret law and hit squads. It’s a fact that FBI and other local law enforcement sends in agents to university clubs that are policy based; hope you don’t find that out independently as it’s extremely creepy when it actually happens.

Wish you the best if you actually can do something I couldn’t, and I hope you don’t end up regretting wasting your time and money like I think I did.

Andrew_K January 14, 2015 4:16 AM

Far as contributions, you can always contribute components to projects like Genode OS, MINIX 3, Fiasco.OC, or NOVA microhypervisor. Additionally, you could work on building clever guard architectures for legacy systems from Microsoft, SAP, IBM, etc. — Nick P.

Usually trying the latter, usually end up swearing. And then starting over to repeat. Problems often result from integration architecture interfereing with security architecture. Still, I like Windows 2k. It is what in science would be called “well researched”. Just another term for “legacy”…

@ Clive Robinson, Re handcrafting equipment

This is the reason why serial connections should survive — because there is no easier way to set up a one-way-connection between two computers than just connecting one system’s TxD to other system’s RxD. Who does not trust the setup may add an optocoupler and some between the two.

Clive Robinson January 14, 2015 5:26 AM

From the “You Couldn’t Make It Up” desk

The BBC TV news have just intervied a French terrorism expert. One of the questions was how did the terrorists get their weapons? To which the reply was they would have been purchased from the drugs blackmarket for around ten thousand euros, he then went on to say that one of the terrorists had obtained a six thousand euro loan from the French equivalent of a credit union to do so….

Markus Ottela January 14, 2015 2:24 PM


“Does your TFC do inline encryption?”
Yes and no. In a way, it’s an inline encryptor between keyboard and Pidgin message input. But there’s more to it like Nick said; separate HW units for dedicated encryption and decryption purposes, decoupled with data diodes.

“The Pidgin messaging would send in cleartext”
Pidgin is only used on network connected (and thus insecure) computer, so it only processes ciphertexts.

“TFC would do the crypto and security and before sending to the TxM”
TFC is the system that plugs into insecure computer and Pidgin running on it. TxM is a malware free computer that takes plaintext as input – it only outputs key data via secure channel to all RxM units and later, ciphertexts.

“It would double check if the message is secured before sending out”
If you like I can write an assert function for program that checks key or plaintext (or a part of it) isn’t transmitted and that ciphertext doesn’t match plaintext.

I think it’s vital that people understand the hardware layout so let me know if page 9 of the
whitepaper could explain the system more clearly.

Re: National Monitoring Unit
I’m thinking banning encryption will never succeed since the society depends on it just to protect itself against “cyber crime”.

@ Nick P
“The main risk he has is sending plaintext or key material accidentally due to some issue in the Python interpreter or runtime.”

I’ve never encountered such an error, but absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absense. A guard program written in C could handle the serial port output but it would also need to have access to a keyfile and plaintext via IPC, the shared memory of which is again dependant on Python’s memory management. I’m thinking addressing problems such as this could be bundled in a more robust TCB such as micro controller or system running Genode, Minix etc. as you mentioned back in August.

tyr January 14, 2015 3:51 PM

I happened to run across this via the usual
internet trail.
John Hill died. John Prados reminiscence.
Found this.

I’m reminded of Wittgensteins response to Godel
about only seeking things that are “true enough”.

Tor has a new browser version out.

You would think that the human race with modern
access to historical records would stop trying
to make things that cannot work somehow magically
succeed this time. “This time it’s going to be
different” are the dumbest words any politician
or policeman can utter.

Jacob January 14, 2015 5:55 PM

The AMS (American Mathematical Society) apparently had some of its members calling to stop future collaboration with the NSA due to the much talked about “betrayal of trust”.

A rebuttle notice was sent by the Director of Research of the NSA to the AMS. When you read it, you feel like your are being duped by a con man.

A good parsing and setting the record straight was done by Matt Green at

Both worth reading.

Thoth January 14, 2015 8:43 PM

@Markus Otella
The papers are fine. I was trying to draft an idea without the papers next to me on the go.

It would be nice if a lightweight program and module could ensure that only the precise ciphertexts are to be transmitted to prevent accidental leaks. This would push the assurance capabilities of your TFC even higher up.

You could transmit the hash of the pending ciphertext to an exit node module and the exit node module queues the transmission data blocks and checks the hashes. Incorrect hashes would be dropped and an alert logged.

Thoth January 14, 2015 9:06 PM

@Re: New Tor Browser a.k.a The Abscond Project
Some impressions and side notes on the new Tor + I2P Browser which I have not used nor gone into attempts to understand the browser in full details yet.

Firstly, it comes with Tor and I2P … do I use both or do I use either one of the “anonymity” network ?

Non-Specific Possible Vulnerabilites:
– Web Browser (java plugins, browser plugins, mozilla browser – not engineered as high assurance browser…)
– Java technology in plugins have unknown nature of security.
– Operating System vulnerabilities (Windows, Mac, Linux). Of course this is just a browser kit and not a full blown standalone forgetful OS like TAILS so this may or may not be a “vulnerability”.
– Any vulnerability in the I2P and Tor protocols ? Requires more research.

Nick P January 14, 2015 10:44 PM

@ Jacob

Thanks for the leaks. Good papers. Matt Green went way too easy on him. The NSA slides clearly say they were about weakening public encryption standards, commercial cryptography… everything. They both paid off companies and used the FBI to compel them. The public is still in the dark on how they do the latter, if a real defense is allowed, and so on. The paper is utter bullshit that should’ve been called out clearly and referencing the above.

Plus, I think I need to send Matt my counterpoint to Susan Landau’s claim that NSA IAD was helping us. Between Bell’s paper and Snowden leaks, I showed it was very clear they have known how to make highly assured systems this whole time, used them for themselves, pushed the opposite to the public, and they plus SIGINT teams weakened everything the public was using. That’s a pervasively bad situation that’s the total opposite of what the NSA publication claims.

@ Markus

You would need to build it on a language where you controlled low level details of memory and I/O. That’s C/C++, Free Pascal, Modula, Ada, Forth, pCode, or assembler. With checks for common vulnerabilities. Forth and pCode I added because implementing and securing them are straightforward albeit with performance penalties.

Gerard van Vooren January 15, 2015 12:39 AM

@ Jacob

From the AMS report:

“More broadly, NSA mathematicians are also fighters in the war on international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, narcotics trafficking, and piracy. In fact, the overwhelming bulk of what we do is universally acknowledged as proper, measured, and important. We do so quietly and honorably.”

They just couldn’t leave the “patriotic” part out of it.

Like the “War on Drugs” the “War on Terror” causes a lot more harm than good.

Thoth January 15, 2015 1:05 AM

@Gerard van Vooren
The mission of NSA is more towards military intelligence and foreign affairs (if I am not wrong) and now we see an open and public scope creep blown out of proportion here:

“NSA mathematicians are also fighters in the war on international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, narcotics trafficking, and piracy”

NSA has now openly admitted their scope creep and also actual conduct wilfully the interception of private civilian communications “legally” and then intervene and pass them onto other civilian and military agencies on a constant basis which were not part of their official mission but somehow they took it on themselves as shiny silverish armoured digital knights in some gallant charge for some twisted righteousness and “patriotism” that is actually nonsensical and have actually broken both the laws and constituitions of the local land (USA) and those of other countries (although to be fair a little, they were suppose to spy on foreign “threats” which means everyone else).

What a bunch of nonsense…

Figureitout January 15, 2015 1:15 AM

Hugh Jass
–Hey you big ass, I don’t know about that browser, if they’re going to make everything all nice and fluffy looking, they should be able to spell every word correctly on their homepage (optmalized). We should seriously be going to a text browser from a PC that doesn’t save any info if you’re serious about using TOR and I2P…

Props to them for trying to make it “trendy” and getting accepted by people making it “easy”. Sadly, there’s a million ways to f*ck up an internet connection; best to assume the worst and try to adjust for that on your endpoint.

Check it out, using w3m on kali now, actually doesn’t take TOO long to get used to, just a bit annoying lol…Uses Vim for comments lol, hell yeah Vim! 🙂

Figureitout January 15, 2015 1:28 AM

Hugh Jass
–Only reason I mention a spelling mistake, is bugs in code. If they can’t get their homepage spell-check perfect, then I have questions about their implementation and any extra coding they added (as I’m sure they didn’t re-write stuff). Having Java is a major no-no for me too. Again, people can criticize to hell some of the things I put out there (GFSK authentication using an 8051 chip), but internet there’s too many things to “get right”…Still best option I believe for “anonymity” if you need that or just want is to use other connections w/ a LiveCD, laptop w/ no HDD (preferably w/ a lot of RAM so you can get a VM going easy) and if you can a long range antenna for wifi. Any connection to wifi according to specs will put you around 50-200ft of the AP, w/ the antenna, that can extend up to 1-2 miles, greatly increasing the amount of potential people (so urban areas are better).

Thoth January 15, 2015 2:33 AM

@Figureitout, Hugh Jass
Let’s just put it this way that the standard package of XXX “Anonymity” System in a Browser package for your default OS (without the use of forgetful systems like TAILS) and to add a Java plugin with a JVM … it is just bad for “anonymity” and security.

TAILS itself is not as good as you think (Linux base instead of a hardened OpenBSD ?). It could have done better to put all the stuff on OpenBSD that have been hardened and no allowance for package installation for the even more secure side.

A good idea is Clive Robinson’s mention of a handheld Raspberry Pi “laptop” with a forgetful hardened OpenBSD version of TALS in an SD card on read-only mode (physically jam the write switch to read and glue it down) and then run TOR. A kill switch on the Pi would be useful as well.

What to do to harden an operating OpenBSD TAILS ?

Do in-memory scrambling with a transient memory encryption key, disallow package installation, do not allow unsafe web browsing, automatically detect and deter malicious scripts.

Hugh Jass January 15, 2015 8:58 AM


I din’t notice no spellin’ errors on Abskond’s homepaige. All seriousness aside, I know exactly what you mean. Whenever I see grammatical errors like that, I idly wonder, “in how many languages are they illiterate, (programming languages, in particular)?” I also like my java only with cream and one sugar, thank you.
Thanks for the shoutout for w3m. I’ll have to take a look at that. I still have Kali on a usb stick from my unsuccessful wardriving efforts. Right now I’m using Whonix-Qubes but I’ll feel more secure once it’s integrated with hardened Gentoo.


Thanks for mentioning Mr. Robinson’s RPi laptop. I may have to give that a go. Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson.

What do you think of this idea for secure browsing? I’m on a laptop with an anonymous mobile broadband account. It is connected via Teamviewer to a laptop with an anonymous mobile broadband account housed in an anonymous storage space with power running Whonix-Qubes.

Thoth January 15, 2015 10:11 AM

@Hugh Jass
Mobile Phone are susceptible to viruses and backdoors (hardware/software) and also closed sourced on many crucial parts. TeamViewer is a closed sourced commercial product so it’s hard to evaluate it’s security and it can be backdoored if the makers want to do so. If you are booting the Whonix-Qubes in a Live CD environment, that would be the best way to go. Once you are done, close the session and wipe the computer and rinse and repeat.

I would say thew Whonix-Qubes would be the only somewhat assuring element in your setup (not the highest assurance).

If there is an intent to trace your connection, attackers could observe your mobile phone (there are long range and short range attacks to compromise your mobile phones anyway) and see that you are using Team Viewer and follow the connection to your home laptop’s setup and from there trace your “anonymous” routing through the maze. That is we assume a High Strength Attacker (HSA) scenario with access to the backbones of Telecoms systems (probably a State Actor).

I am skeptical if any mobile broadband are “anonymous” since the Govts consider Telecoms network a National Infrastructure and would have put it under their full control anyway so you must discount that part.

Overall, the better setup is to carry another laptop and use the mobile phone tethering for Internet connection and the hand carried laptop would run a Live CD of the QubesOS as the “portal workstation”. You have another laptop with a Live CD of the Whonix-Qubes as the “transmission station”. You do an SSH with X forwarding or tunnel VNC inside SSH to your Whonix-Qubes/Transmission to do your remote desktop and use your Transmission Station to do the access to the Internet for browsing. It is abit more bulky but it adds more assurance mechanisms on top of what you intented.

With my suggested setup, you do have to expect the laptops to be backdoored by those spooks (you know what I mean).

For the SSH key transportation, just put it in a Truecrypt/GPG encrypted container in a CD-R only protected by a password in your brain. Once you are done with that SSH key, smash it to bits and scatter it into a few different places to dispose the broken CD-R fragments.

Nick P January 15, 2015 12:17 PM

Slashdot has a story on IBM’s new mainframe intended to support mobile applications. It can process up to 2.5 billion transactions a day while analyzing them in real time. The whole Twitter or Facebook update stack might run on one system. Amazing. Not as amazing were that they got 500 patents which include applications that already exist as far as I know. Even more room for IBM to sue innovators. The best part is the link from the 90’s where most of them are talking cost advantages of PC’s and leaving mainframes followed by a link about IBM’s mainframe for mobile with a mainframe endorsement by one of same guys in earlier article. Lol.

“PC’s replacing mainframes in a new computer revolution…”

“…a mainframe for the smartphone economy”

The definitive essay on the topic and its implications for all of us is “The Eternal Mainframe:”

SoWhatDidYouExpect January 15, 2015 4:19 PM

Hey, this report turned out just exactly the way I expected it to turn out:

Shocking: CIA clears CIA in Senate hacking brouhaha

From the article:

The report said that the CIA was investigating a “leaker” who may have provided the internal review and other unauthorized documents such as “Weekly Case Reports.” The agency, after reviewing the computers, found that a “misconfiguration” of the RDINet search tool granted the staffers unauthorized access, according to the report. The CIA found that a staffer directly navigated “to the file path containing the unauthorized documents and copied them to another SSCI accessible location.”

Great CYA work!

Jacob January 15, 2015 4:48 PM

The Guardian starts to spill out some info that we have all coveted for: pointers and names. Very few, but it is still something.

“The (2008) memo requested a renewal of the legal warrant allowing GCHQ to “modify” commercial software in violation of licensing agreements. The document cites examples of software the agency had hacked, including commonly used software to run web forums, and website administration tools. Such software are widely used by companies and individuals around the world.

The document also said the agency had developed “capability against Cisco routers”, which would “allow us to re-route selected traffic across international links towards GCHQ’s passive collection systems”.

GCHQ had also been working to “exploit” the anti-virus software Kaspersky, the document said. The report contained no information on the nature of the vulnerabilities found by the agency.”

Although they allude to have more in the document, they don’t name additional names. My impression is that they don’t apprehend how explosive this could be.

BoppingAround January 15, 2015 5:31 PM

[re: last link] Nick P,

Aside from games, the demoscene, and other creative coding pursuits, computers are a means to an end; they are tools. Most people have greater interest in the goal than the route to the goal.

Given the matters involved (ultimate loss of privacy and control) as he lays out, this instrumentalist approach seems to be folly despite sounding rational.

The article is also from pre-Snowden era. Would be interesting to find out what he thinks of it now.

Nick P January 15, 2015 6:57 PM

@ BoppingAround

“The article is also from pre-Snowden era. Would be interesting to find out what he thinks of it now.”

I might email him to ask.

Figureitout January 15, 2015 11:08 PM

Thoth RE: TAILS vs OpenBSD
–Tails is meant to be “live”, as OpenBSD is more traditional and disk-based. Problems w/ Tails, as stated above by leaving debugging scripts in the .iso, not good. The “whisperback” feature may need to be taken out (devs need test data though, any engineer or dev needs test data for bugs, b/c the fckin’ bad ones never recreate themselves on schedule, usually “random”, just weird situations build up). Another concern is the “DMIdecode” , well for a good liveCD that’ll run on a wide range of laptops, it needs to probe the hardware to identify and load correct drivers *I think, just guessing; can’t get into everything all the time. Everytime you boot up and connect to internet it goes to tails.boum or whatever, and gets the distro version and gives warning “You need to update your Tails”. Autoconfig of TOR browser is nice w/ NoScript, still allows unsafe parsing of data I think for usability; though I don’t doubt they could create an extremist version. Still essentially impossible to surf the web and not load up potentially unsafe code, just a mess, and just like there’s root exploits for smart phones, all it would take is a bad app install, other areas of below the CD loading the OS, exploits getting in there…dude…damn insane.

In fact you could create your own custom distro w/ buildroot or yocto, unless you want to squish the mud in your fingers even more and “dig in”. Where all that loads is a browser, terminal, and text editor; maybe not even all that, just a command prompt. Dig into computers and logic, and even something that “barebones” is an amazing amount of logic strung together.

Getting on Tails devs case though, there isn’t really a good liveCD that compares to it that’s being actively developed. Frickin’ nice to use (but comfortable for you means it is for attackers too…). There have been OpenBSD liveCD’s made too, just not as prevalent.

RE: this: |Overall, the better setup…| statement to Hugh Jass
–Dude, mobile. This is one [of the very few] problems w/ a setup like TFC, you can realistically only have that for a static location, too many parts unless you neatly pack the RasPi’s and cables in a box or briefcase, still looks like your hacking and get unwanted attention at the coffee shop. For a mobile setup that’s too much. You get unwanted attention doing that, even my yagi would be too much, an omni-directional one hidden somehow would be better for more use.

You don’t need to smash your disk, run your traffic thru 20 local machines for everyday use and have an anxiety attack everyday, it’s too much to sustain, you won’t actually be doing anything…Only for certain “operations” is that level of OPSEC necessary. Better to assume worst and adjust your behavior for that.

RE: writing to CD-R as being better live media
–While I agree, still it’s concerning that that technology is itself mostly “proprietary” and very complicated; just pointing that out, that’s all.

Hugh Jass
–Aw hell naw! :p Is everyone going to spell my name wrong?!

RE: spelling mistakes in code
–That’s just one thing, I didn’t in any way give an “analysis” or even use it, just first impression makes me nervous. I still made an f-up w/ an if statement that in the past caused a “$20 million” bug…It’s recommended, if you’re just comparing a variable to integers, to put it first like: “if(3==i)”, which is annoying, just doesn’t flow good lol. But compilers catch these things now but other things in the guts of either TCP/IP or where I’m at, just a wrong hex digit, which will compile fine, is the difference b/w working fairly reliably and WTF?! Just have to be a hawk about every little thing, and that’s what makes secure development hard.

Still, at least they’re trying eh? Even though the entire underlying structure and assumptions could be broken, at least they’re trying.

RE: w3m
–It’s actually surprisingly not that bad, I just wanted to try it (tried Lynx on Windows, which…to use one of my terrible analogies, is like rearranging the chairs on the Titanic…Lynx was way more annoying and closer to what I would call a “real” text browser) and it’s surprisingly usable. Took me 2 minutes and not reading manual and I could go whereever, and it even parses images (not good for security, but images are nice useful info, especially for me unfortunately). Still isn’t parsing a bunch of other crap that “web 2.0” keeps adding cough javascript cough. And a lot of it is I think just being put in HTML 5, which now pure HTML is getting screwed.

Hey, I’d strongly recommend you use a CD-R for Kali instead of a USB stick, it seems my image changes (just using stock one), it auto checks for updates and it’s still vulnerable to writes. I use a CDROM->USB thing now, not as fast and still probably brings some USB vulnerabilites, but image shouldn’t change and it works great (auto-loaded drivers which…probably atrocious security issue there…ugh).

I just like Kali though, works for me. They took out SDR software in latest image but I can add it. Great terminal environment, it’s meant for heavy terminal use for all the pentesting software though. Problem is the Iceweasel browser, a bunch of sites are saying they’re going to stop supporting it soon (goddamnit); telling me to go Firefox/Chrome/IE/Safari…To each their own though, and it’s good to have diversity.

Wael January 15, 2015 11:42 PM

@Nick P,

It’s ugly but at least it works

Interesting project. I wish I had the time. Ugly? Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I think it looks just fine.

Clive Robinson January 16, 2015 2:41 AM

<>Dave Cameron changes his tune</>

On BBC Radio 4 about 08:12 GMT David Cameron –who is off to the US to play Cyber War games– said that he will be talking to US Pres BO about his plans over terrorists and the Internet.

And said of the terrorist that “in extrimise we will disrupt their communications”, this is quite a lot different to his earlier comments about getting access to the message contents.

Is this a climb down, or has he changed who he listens to…

It’s no secret that the UK Home Office Minister Ms T May, exhibits all sorts of anti-social / megalomaniac behaviours and wants to park her butt in the Cabinet Table top chair using as many bodies as steping stones as she can. She has also been stymied by the coalition partners over one of her “flag ship legislation” acts which they call “her snoopers charter” which is where some of what David Cameron previously said came from.

Thus it may well be possible that David Cameron was originaly just repeating the impossible to achive rabid ramblings of the Home Secretary, and now wiser heads have quietly had a word with him.

I guess time will tell…

Clive Robinson January 16, 2015 2:42 AM

<>Dave Cameron changes his tune</>

On BBC Radio 4 about 08:12 GMT David Cameron –who is off to the US to play Cyber War games– said that he will be talking to US Pres BO about his plans over terrorists and the Internet.

And said of the terrorist that “in extrimise we will disrupt their communications”, this is quite a lot different to his earlier comments about getting access to the message contents.

Is this a climb down, or has he changed who he listens to…

It’s no secret that the UK Home Office Minister Ms T May, exhibits all sorts of anti-social / megalomaniac behaviours and wants to park her butt in the Cabinet Table top chair using as many bodies as steping stones as she can. She has also been stymied by the coalition partners over one of her “flag ship legislation” acts which they call “her snoopers charter” which is where some of what David Cameron previously said came from.

Thus it may well be possible that David Cameron was originaly just repeating the impossible to achive rabid ramblings of the Home Secretary, and now wiser heads have quietly had a word with him.

I guess time will tell…

sena kavote January 16, 2015 3:00 AM

Compatibility layer used for defensive obfuscation

Please tell whether this is a good idea for defensive obfuscation, or if you don’t know, give us some pointers on how to do it.

FreeBSD has Linux compatibility layer software that allows using Linux software binaries on FreeBSD. It converts Linux system calls to FreeBSD system calls. I imagine that as with translating languages, the conversion is not always simple replace, but with the system calls that have a simple straightforward replace conversion from Linux to FreeBSD and vice versa, we could do this obfuscation:

Have a program that searches a Linux binary for system calls, and replaces them consistenly with something else. For example, have a random string of bits T, that is XORed with the system call codes to produce new obfuscated codes. Then convert the Linux compatibility layer software to understand those codes, in this example by XORing it’s codes with the same random string T.

Then, attacker trying buffer overflow attack could not use system calls even within a FreeBSD jail.

In Linux itself, I guess Linux soon needs to have massive use of a Linux compatibility layer within Linux to have a legacy mode so that old binaries can work with new formats of the kernel. I think at least 32 bit time codes need to be converted to 64 bit (which openBSD has already done).

Andrew_K January 19, 2015 12:42 AM

@Andrew_K, all
“Tough not coming from hardware design, I’d like to join such a SIG on secure device building. Probably more for learning than for contribution, I hope that’s ok.”
We are all here to learn. Very interesting stuff 🙂 . Would a static webpage suffice ? If a static HTML webpage is ok, I can donate some space on my website ( Maybe someone expert in certain fields or feel confident in certain fields could do some write-ups and put it on Pastebin and put a link here. — Thoth

Inspired from the doxing thread, I wrote some lines on abandoning digital identities which may be seen as submission to publication on Due to me not wanting to spoil my identity, there has been only one review so far. Thus: Feel free to review, critizise, comment, and improve.
Note that the pastebin is timed to one day.

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