Jacob March 18, 2016 4:23 PM

Some Israeli data mining news with some global implications:

The Israeli Atena company, part of the MER-Group and headed by the ex Mossad Chief S. Shavit, won a contract with the Israeli Tax Authorities to mine freely available data from social, forum and P2P sales sites, as well as from financial and investor sites, to extract information to be cross correlated with the authorities’ files held on tax-payers – with the aim to discover cheaters.

It goes like this:
Targeted search: If the Tax authority suspects that an individual performs unreported transactions, or received dividends from overseas companies or import luxury items without duty, or has some real estate property in an area with high precentage of owners who unreport their rental income or…they will try to match that with “For Sale” or “For Rent” or stock buying/selling activities displayed in forums or pictures uploaded to Instagram boasting about a high-value newly acquired item or..
Examples of target sites mentioned: FB, Instagram, AirBnB, Financial market/commodities forums.
Trawling Expedition: going through FB/Instagram/forums, looking for interesting items and match what they find to the individual tax records to see if the observed activity is within the reported income bracket.

The system will be operational at the Israeli Tax Authority next year. System cost is pretty cheap – about $1M for the mining system (including installation and interface to the existing Tax Authority analytics) with $400K annual maintenance.
No legislative action is required, since the data mined is freely available. Some unamed foreign government have already purchased the system.

What bothers me is how the authorities get to the PI of the posters. Normally people use a nick when posting. The authorities can only establish a criminal act ex post facto, so I doubt that they can serve a warrant to the site/forum operators to get PI. And serving warrants takes too much effort.
This concern is amplified by the fact that no case is too small for The Man: the article gave an example of a man, cought by a more laborious search methods a year ago, whereby he posted some recently acquired expensive watches to Instagram and the tax man charged and fined him for importing undeclared goods while evading import duties and VAT.

We live in a converging world: more people post their whole life and thoughts on the internet, while data mining becomes very efficient and exceedingly cheap.

Microsoft uses Malware Techniques to Force Windows 10 March 18, 2016 4:44 PM

It’s hard to believe the extreme malware techniques these MS hackers deploy to cram spying down customers throats.
To add insult to injury, President Obama invited these creeps to his State of the Union address. In case you didn’t hear No Means NO!

The best way to circumvent is to implement a monthly boot disk image backup. My boot disk only contains applications and the OS, it only takes 4-8 minutes using the free Macrium Reflect backup program. Restoring takes 10 minutes.

Tardus March 18, 2016 5:20 PM

re. Ashley Madison Hack . Hi,
Can you please tell us the results of official or unofficial Ashley Madison Hack finds so far.Perpetrators, suspects found, progress in class action suits, if any.
MA still happily on line …and rising?
Too quiet on the net about A.M., after a storm last August it was, I think ?
Thanks for good work on Bruce, stay cool. Ta.

Cell Phone Addicts: Clinton-NSA Bad Blood March 18, 2016 5:25 PM

In a hugely remarkable series of ironies, the extent of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton betrayal of NSA top secrets (GAMMA) is mind-numbing.
Her arrogant, disregard for security make Edward Snowden’s carefully researched, limited approach look responsible.

I can’t believe that I feel sorry for the NSA (seeing flashes of the fire raging within her eyes!)

Thoth March 18, 2016 6:59 PM

@Cell Phone Addicts: Clinton-NSA Bad Blood

That is probably a consequence of NSA’s mission shift to less of a protective nature and more of an offensive nature. Time and resources that could have been spent on developing and strengthening security were seemingly shifted to that of exploits and attcking systems and poisoning cryptographic standards.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons March 18, 2016 7:59 PM

One might hazard a guess surrounding the operational nature of Microsoft products as the Fantasy Built Illusion director Comey has not approached the OS vendor, Microsoft, for “greater access” even though the majority of terrorists are now on Windows 10. It’s free and meets both the business and financial needs of any terrorist organization…


terrorists have no need for privacy or propriety of their own data/info (sharing beheading videos can only be enhanced by cloud data sharing).

Dungeons&Dragons March 18, 2016 8:37 PM

With this “Metaphor Attack” the cyber-security scene is looking like something from Magic: The Gathering

275 million Android phones imperiled by new code-execution exploit

Somewhere I read that in Finland the national communication agency is recommending people stop using Android phones, or to check their phones using the Stagefright Detector:

Daniel March 18, 2016 9:20 PM


I am no friend of Hillary but that Observer article badly misrepresents what actually happened. Hillary actually requested a secure phone, they denied her one, so she asked to use her BB which they denied too. So then she set up her private e-mail server because after the way she was treated by the NSA, who wouldn’t. What did they think, that the SoS was just going to roll over to the NSA? Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

Nick P March 18, 2016 9:58 PM

@ Daniel

Better reported here. I had no sympathy given she’s harsh on employees and U.S. citizens who break the law with good reasons. She did have options available. Just was too inconvenienced by them so she worked around them in an illegal fashion. Common story in IT security.

Peter March 19, 2016 1:55 AM


Hi Bruce and the community!

I have a question about the security of DTLS-SRTP compared to ZRTP-SRTP.

There is this great Skype alternative Wire with end-to-end-encryption ( ).

It uses the Axolot-protocol for encrypting text messages, BUT for video call it provides end-to-end encryption with DTLS-SRTP. I am a big fan of ZRTP.

What are the disadvantages of using DTLS for key exchange? (security wise)

Thank you!

John March 19, 2016 2:20 AM


they probably use DTLS because they support using Wire in the browser.

can ZRTP be used in browser applications like DTLS-SRTP???

Clive Robinson March 19, 2016 3:08 AM

@ Nick P,

I realy don’t care for “Rod e’m” or the rest of her clique but I try to look at it dispassionately.

You say without realy going into it that,

She did have options available

Yes it was “go color”, which means “go be creative in an insulting way” which is what she did.

What she wanted was the use of “an already designed, developed, deployed, paid for and above all ‘usable’ system” Which had been made for POTUS. With only a single user it was “sunk costs” with an artificialy high value, as all “one offs” are. Giving her the use of it would have reduced that artificial value way way down to probably less than a a hundred dollars or so above the price of the base BB phone.

But because of “behind closed door political wrangling” the NSA had an unusable “half assed system” on a virtually unsupported OS (Win CE) that nobody used or wanted to use. It had all the hallmarks of a “kickback system” that somebody was pushing for “nest feathering” reasons. Thus they had to maintain the fiction of that inflated ObamaBerry phone, to stop their “pet project” –on which they were betting their future– being deservably canned.

So given the choice by the NSA of “eat our overpriced usless shit or go away and be creative” She went away, got creative and found another working system…

Basicaly the NSA having developed the ObamaBerry over played their hand in a “how may we humililiate you today” jobsworth power play, and got called on it. I’ve seen this “vested intrest technology power play” so often before it’s become a serious liability, because the result is always “bad blood”, worse security and zero trust from the users, who’s work pays what they see as jobsworths wages…

As Bruce has noted in the past most people, especially motivated people want to be productive and get a job done quickly and efficiently. They don’t want “speed bumps and chicanes” put in their way that hurt their productivity, especially when it reeks of political chicanery.

Andrew March 19, 2016 3:47 AM

So basically we have an operating system for which we paid for, lets say Windows 7.

It’s stable, mature, no commercials, adjustable, you have access to low level functions, you can use a lot of freeware or cheap shareware applications from internet. It’s pretty close to everything you may expect from an OS.

But hold on, they forces users to upgrade to an unfinished sh*t, restrictive and unstable, so they can fill your screen with advertising (you didn’t pay, right?) and make you buy applications you had mostly for free before. Plus a tight connection with processor and hardware that makes your device vulnerable to total remote control, including turning it on/off.

What’s the gain? Well, a picture with a window on your monitor plus some autistic square icons with white contours inside….
This world is going crazy, there is no shame or common sense anymore.

Curious March 19, 2016 5:09 AM

Bit flipping in newer ram modules

“Once thought safe, DDR4 memory shown to be vulnerable to “Rowhammer””

“Physical weaknesses in memory chips that make computers and servers susceptible to hack attacks dubbed “Rowhammer” are more exploitable than previously thought and extend to DDR4 modules, not just DDR3, according to a recently published research paper.”

“The paper, titled How Rowhammer Could Be Used to Exploit Weaknesses in Computer Hardware, arrived at that conclusion by testing the integrity of dual in-line memory modules, or DIMMs, using diagnostic techniques that hadn’t previously been applied to finding the vulnerability.”

“Mark Lanteigne, Third I/O CTO and founder, told Ars there’s no immediate danger of Rowhammer being exploited maliciously to hijack the security of computers that use the vulnerable memory chips.”

Curious March 19, 2016 5:22 AM

Unsure if anyone posted this article earlier.

“Obama Administration Set to Expand Sharing of Data That N.S.A. Intercepts”

“The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.”

What I find peculiar with such a sentence, is that people are denied privacy by the fact of being subject to what I like to thin of as being espionage (surveillance). Why not think of surveillance as being espionage? I think the word “espionage” has a certain gravity to it, which in context could add a second perspective for which the government won’t be able to simply assume that surveillance is some kind of right, or perhaps as some might think, even a ‘power’ as such (imo it is intellectually fraudulent to think of the word ‘power’ as being a right, simply something assumed, instead of thinking of “power” as a mere mechanic).

Curious March 19, 2016 5:34 AM

“Apple to Hand iCloud Encryption Key Management to Account Holders”

“In effect, Apple is following the lead of secure cloud services such as SpiderOak which has been offering what it calls “Zero Knowledge” cloud storage. By that, SpiderOak retains no information about whatever is stored in its cloud service, nor the means of gaining access to it.”

The article seem to offer a negative view at the end though with the last paragraph.

Somewhat unrelated:
I can’t help but wonder if there might yet be a downside to using an iPhone, even if cloud content data is made inaccessible, and assuming Apple doesn’t compromise the security nor the privacy of a user, if an iPhone is vulnerable to hacking or spoofing. I vaguely recall Apple’s representative in the recent House hearing mentioning something about (sry Apple, I don’t remember precisely) how the internet works that makes users vulnerable to online attacks. March 19, 2016 5:35 AM

@Andrew RE: “…unfinished sh*t, restrictive and unstable…”

I know an OEM software developer who worked with IBM to make software for the original IBM PC when it first came out.

When he delivered the finished product to IBM they were angry because the software was too good.

The IBM rep told him the purpose of the IBM PC was to be a mediocre introduction to their more expensive word processing systems and small business computers.

If that actually was IBM’s goal, then that completely explains Microsoft.

And perhaps also the choice of the Intel 8088 instead of the 68000. IBM actually built a 68000-based IBM PC prototype.

Alien Jerky March 19, 2016 7:15 AM

Ziika Virus, Ebola, bad-haired republican candidates… the apacolypse is coming… but have no fear, the government is here…

Pathogenic zombies — Zombie life forms created after infection by a viral or bacterial contagion.
Radiation zombies — Zombie life forms created after infection from electromagnetic or particle radiation.
Evil Magic Zombies — Zombie life forms created by occult experimentation, or “evil magic.”
Space Zombies — Zombies that come from space or are created by extraterrestrial toxins (this also includes Zombie Satellites that could pose a threat to SATCOM services like DirecTV)
Weaponized Zombies — Zombie life forms engineered through bio-mechanical technology for the purposes of attacking another nation.
Symbiant-Induced Zombies — Zombie life forms created after the “introduction of a symbiant life form into an otherwise healthy host.”
Vegetarian Zombies — Zombie life forms that cause no threat to humans because they only eat plant life (could nevertheless “cause massive de-forestation or elimination of basic food crops essential to humans [rice, corn, soybeans])”
Chicken Zombies (yes, this is real)— Zombies that are essentially old hens that can no longer lay eggs. Farmers euthanize them with carbon monoxide and stack them in piles; however, some of the hens are still alive and crawl out. Though they ultimately die of organ failure, chicken zombies are “simply terrifying to behold” and are likely only to make people become vegetarians in protest of animal cruelty.

This is not a joke…

Slime Mold with Mustard March 19, 2016 7:31 AM

@ Daniel
@ Nick P
@ Clive Robinson

You guys sure are easy to fool. The cited article from Judicial Watch and the Ars Technica article are red herrings. They reference a memo of February 13,2009, three weeks after Clinton had become Secretary of State, and a full month after she had set up her own server. Blackberry issue or no, this not the reason she had the private server set up.

Much has been made of the security practice violations involved. I, myself see little motive there. Hillary deleted 30,000 personal emails concerning ‘yoga, her daughter’s wedding, and decorating’. A highly partisan Clinton-bashing site offers something more plausible . One allegation made just lately is that FBI agents newly assigned the case are required to read Clinton Cash . Corruption is my business. This is it.

P.S. I think both our leading candidates are disgraceful.

INGSOC March 19, 2016 7:48 AM

@curious, good catch of lawfare INGSOC. The lawfare excerpt here takes US legal indoctrination at face value and reduces the law to the standard V99 J.D. slogan, ‘the right to be let alone.’ The interpretive authority for the supreme law of the land regarding privacy states that surveillance of correspondence should be prohibited. The US government has spent a quarter-century trying to ignore the law it enacted. Naturally, the lawfare link won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. The law is more of a secret than anything Snowden leaked.

Clive Robinson March 19, 2016 7:59 AM

@ Curious,

FRom the new Rowhammer article you link to,

    The tests succeeded even though all of the DDR3 modules included a protection known as ECC, short for error-correction code, that’s supposed to make them more resistant to Rowhammer.

I’m not sure if the auther actually understands ECC or is not good at getting it across to readers.

ECC data memory is ordinary data memory just like that which does not contain the extra ECC circuitry thus it is just as susceptible to a rowhammer attack. However the ECC circuitry also contains more data memory to store the equivalent of parity bits in a checksum so this checksum memory is also susceptible to rowhammer as well. Thus you would actually expect an increase in bit flipping over all.

What the ECC circuit does is when you write a word to data memory it works out a checksum code that gets written to the checksum memory. When you read the word back the ECC circuit will recslculate the checksum from the data memory and compare it with the value in the checksum memory. If they agree then no bits have been flipped.

However it one or more bits have been fliped in either the data or checksum memory there is a significant probability the checksums will disagree. But not always, just as with ordinary parity checking where an even number of bits flipped will show a correct parity not an error, even ECC memory will not detect all errors.

Whilst there is a –smaller– probability that the errors in the data or checksum memory will cancel each other in ECC than parity, there is a bigger advantage. ECC checksums can tell you which bit has been flipped and thus it can be corrected automatically when a data word is read. The simplest ECC is to use a Hamming code that will correct one bit flip, but will also detect more bit flips, there are more complicated ECC circuits that will correct more bits and have a higher probability of error detection with multiple bit flips, but even these ECC circuits have their limits.

So you should not expect ECC memory to be immune from rowhammer attacks, just a little bit less susceptible.

Thoth March 19, 2016 8:26 AM

GCHQ warns that biometric security has the weaknesses. The mass collection of biometrics (from your banks to different Government departments and even at foreign airport checkpoints) makes it that biometrics themselves once compromised or someone decides to attempt a forgery would break it’s security.

I remember I wrote an article which I discussed with @Clive Robinson a few months ago about biometrics security. The concern was that biometrics itself are currently immutable type of authentication unlike PINs and passwords where you can change them anytime you want. Once someone captures your biometric details, you can’t change it as you could with a PIN or password.

Now it seems the concern I sounded off falls in line with this article’s concern.


Wael March 19, 2016 9:00 AM

@Alien Jerky,

The purpose of the plan, according to the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), was to use a fictitious scenario to prepare for real-world emergencies.

I’ll give you the BLUF[1]:

It’s a fictitious scenario (with an entertaining plot) that serves as a training exercise. These sorts of fictitious exercises aren’t unusual! They’re good because they could be easily adapted to real world situations. Lessons learned from them can be applied in real world situations.

If I were to wear my second-hand, blog fortified, high milage tinfoil hat[1], I would think this training manual is an encoded document where, for instance, “Chicken Zombies” refer to old, retired people who collect social security 🙂

[1] Bottom Line, Up Front.

[2] The hat is made in zhongguo (the factory of the world, where else?) and contains significant amounts of lead, which is good in this case since lead can attenuate whatever tinfoil doesn’t reflect. Boogie Boogie…

Clive Robinson March 19, 2016 9:04 AM

@ Curious,

From the Lawfare blog, the author starts off with the following two statments,

    For American lawyers, privacy begins with Louis D. Brandeis. Privacy is the “right to be let alone.” “Unjustified” intrusions on privacy are a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches, i.e., those without a warrant or some exception to the warrant requirement.

    For technologists, privacy means the ability to have a secure conversation.

Neither of which is quite right.

Firstly the author is limiting his view to the Brandids president which was only about spoken communications and it’s equivalence to “private papers and possessions”. Neither the FBI or Apple are talking about communications in the court case they are talking about “stored data” which realy is the modern equivalent of “private papers in a dwelling”.

What the author does not go into is the definition of a search except in a quite restricted form. That is one which is lawfully gathered by warrant to use as evidence in court. There are as other lawyers will happily tell you times when a warrant is not required for your papers to become evidence, one of which is “in plain sight” another is when they have been found via another process and then used as an articulable sucpicion to go and get a warrant.

The other process and in plain sight are much abused by the FBI to perfore searches they are not realy entitled to make.

For instance not so long ago there was a betting syndicate that rented space in a hotel along with phone lines and internet. The FBI cut off the internet connection, which caused a call to be placed with hotel maintaince. A technician went in to “fix it” and was then interviewed by FBI personnel to get “articulable suspicion” and then carry out the bust that had been planed since before the syndicate arived in the US.

The FBI have long argued that data on a hard drive “is in plain sight” regardless of if the drive it’s self or the computer it’s in or in the case of laptops the bag that is in are “in plain sight”. It’s why I build computers in safes and ensure FDE and individual file encryption is in place.

For the FBI a “search” does not mean what you or I would mean, in exactly the same way as with the NSA and “collect”. For what you and I would call a search is for the FBI any process they can use to get “articulable suspicion”. For the FBI it only becomes a “search” when they have engineered into place a lawfull process to gather it as evidence.

This happens in other jurisdictions as well, it’s not been unknown for an officer to “claim” he saw what looked like it could be an illegal image, or smelt cannabis etc etc, thus having articulable suspicion to perform a “search”. It’s exactly the same nonsense as with Police Dogs responding not to anything present but to subtle signals from the handler.

The sick joke of it is, having gone to the lengths of FDE on your computer etc LEOs have tried to use that as “articulable suspicion” ie that you must be hiding something…

So trying to assert both you privacy and fourth ammedment rights appears to be “articulable suspicion” to come back “mob handed” and smash things up a bit as punishnent for not immediately kowtowing to the whims of an LEO…

Wael March 19, 2016 9:12 AM


GCHQ warns that biometric security has the weaknesses.

Rats! I thought it had a weakness or two. You now tell me it has the weaknesses? Definitely not good!

“@all” is implied and not needed. It’s only needed if you are addressing a person and want to clarify that “all” isn’t excluded and are encouraged to comment. I really don’t understand this @all 😉

Anyway, back to the subject proper, joking aside: Do you think if we stick this biometric device in TrustZone running inside an EAL 7 smart card which resides inside one of your quasi-secure HSMs it would be less weak? I think so, because no one will be able to use it 🙂

Clive Robinson March 19, 2016 9:36 AM

@ SlimeMould…,

The timings you refere to have not to my –limited– knowledge been published in the UK, and I generaly find reading US MSM to be a pointless excercise when looking for facts…

Speaking of which I find,

    A computer expert tells Breitbart News that the servers were probably operating on the same machine. It is also possible that they were operating on different machines on the same network, which still means that the machines would have to be close enough to exist in the same physical location.

Quite amusing, for obvious reasons sharing an IP address no more means that the physical location was shared than it does that the mail servers were on the same machine…

I actually used to work for an organisation that had machines on three different continents that were all accessed from the same IP address.

Since DDoS has become such a nuisance the likes of CloudFare actually advertise in business and non technical press that they can do this, so that the DDoS is much limited in scope.

As for which machine the mail server was on and if it was shared by others or not or where the machine was etc, I suspect the only people that realy know are not saying. It might also be the case that outside of the Clinton’s –or just one of them– no one person knows the mail servers history.

Likewise with a little knowledge, even a standard forensic audit could be rendered a compleate waste of time (think backup tape from one machine selectivly restored to another, a doddle to do on Linux only slightly harder on M$ WinDoze).

Thoth March 19, 2016 9:45 AM

Recapping what I have warned earlier and GCHQ IAD’s statements is that for your biometric set (i.e. fingerprints of all your fingers) you have a fix set you possess from birth. The Apple’s TouchID stores a copy, your banks requires a copy, your immigration and naturalization requires a copy, other departments of Government may want a couple more copies, companies you worked for that deploys biometric may want already have a copy, you leave fingerprints everywhere (as an example) …

Let’s say any of these fingerprints were to be leaked (i.e. someone did not secure your biometrics properly inside a HSM or CC EAL 7+ security device), it is pretty much a compromised biometric set regardless if every other people who have your biometric made efforts to secure it.

There are no panic buttons or Help Centers to “change biometric” which you could with passwords and PINs. This makes biometrics a bad choice as a main authentication factor.

If biometrics is used as a “What You Have” and a weaker PIN or password as a “What You Know”, it might make the authentication stronger even if the biometrics were to be leaked.

The problem is VISA, Mastercard and the powers behind EMV are pushing for biometric heavy authentication or even solely biometric authentication. The use of just TouchID from Apple devices and in Samsung’s case the use of fingerprint biometrics on smartphone for accessing sensitive stuff like banking applications (even if it is running in TrustZone, Secure Enclave or Samsung Knox) means very little as there are already examples of cases where Samsung and Apple’s biometric sensors can be fooled with good replication of fingerprints on molded rubber. The convenience of just using fingerprint to login and authenticate brings such a drawback and the hype the “Secure ID” industry (including major Secure ID” backers – the EMV guys) is pushing heavily on simple access with a single factor of biometric access without the need of PINs and passwords to accompany makes such a scheme dangerous which the GCHQ’s IAD department and myself is trying to warn against.

An example of exploit can take the form of hacking into an insecure biometric database (e.g. a biometric authentication device linked to a networked database without encryption) and misuse the biometric template to login into a secure device. Directly taking a biometric template from a database and using it without filtering may not work but with careful filtering, it might work. Although this attack vector is hard to implement currently since biometric authentication is still a new field and not too widely adopted until biometric authentication gains more visibility.

dan March 19, 2016 10:11 AM

Is a hash of the biometric data sufficient to detect matches? If so, biometric scanners should only output the biometric data hashed with a salt chosen by the software. Biometric data could be stored as a salt and the hash of the data and the salt. Then, someone can only check if someone’s biometrics match with the hashed version if they have the person on hand. This is the way passwords are stored (at least how they should be stored).

Wael March 19, 2016 10:43 AM


Recapping what I have warned earlier and GCHQ IAD’s statements is that for your biometric set […] you leave fingerprints everywhere (as an example

Good summary of inherent certain Biometric implementation weaknesses.

This makes biometrics a bad choice as a main authentication factor.

Generally speaking, yes. Not always the case, though!

If biometrics is used as a “What You Have“…

Nope! “What you are”!

The problem is […] and the powers behind EMV are pushing for biometric heavy authentication or even solely biometric authentication

You are mistaken. Biometrics isn’t the only control. If you look at the big picture, you’ll discover that there are several security controls in place to compensate for the very well known and understood weaknesses of Biometrics. Here is a non-comprehensive list of some controls that I can talk about (all is public information, and you easily search for it)

  1. Tokenization: Replaces the FPAN with an anonymizing alias called DPAN. DPAN is Digitized PAN and FPAN is Financial PAN. PAN is Primary Account Number. The DPAN (which resides on your mobile device after you onboard, provision, or add a CC to your mobile device) doesn’t require the same level of protection an FPAN needs.
  2. DPAN is bound to a device through various mechanisms
  3. DPAN can be deactivated without affecting FPAN
  4. Domain Restriction Controls put limitations on what DPAN can be used for, the amount of money it can be used for, which merchants it can be used with, the limit of transaction numbers it’s valid for, the channel it can be used on (NFC, E-commerce, in app, etc…)
  5. Limited use keys are sometimes used for the generation of the cryptogram needed to authorize a transaction. This is in contrast to the long-lived UDK on a chip and PIN card.

There are many more security controls in addition to what I listed above. The design and implementation are constantly evolving and improving.

There is one more thing: usability use case scenarios show that customers aren’t willing to type in an authentication PIN to commence a tap and pay transaction! The preferred model is a fingerprint swipe or scan, and the above controls are sufficient to raise the security posture of the device to make it suitable for payments.

It actually gets “worse”! Some transactions can’t accommodate either PIN or biometrics! These include situations such as transit tokens or tickets in which terminals are often operating “offline”, meaning transactions have to be approved in realtime without realtime response from the authorization network. Can you imagine a long line in an underground train station where travelers have to authenticate and wait for authorization before they are allowed through the gates? Not usable. There are security controls for that as well.

You have to understand that the real world is vastly different from the “academic theory’ discussion”. You also have to look at the complete network of security components and the overall posture they present! Biometrics alone maybe weak, but in conjunction with the above controls, it’s considered adequate!

Sanity In A World Gone Mad March 19, 2016 10:48 AM

Andrew said:
“This world is going crazy, there is no shame or common sense anymore.”

Great post. It’s a shame the rest of the World can’t see what is occurring before their very eyes. I fact they are so lazy and addicted they DEMAND this sh*t!
It’s so crazy the USA Secretary of State shares ALL intelligence directly with the Chinese, Russians, Israel and North Korea. Here’s my email guys and smart phone. Go figure!

My basic security/privacy policy is to keep the data-loop as close as possible. Do they have a need to know? How do I benefit?
Many times the real truth is buried deep as corporations play dumb!
For example let say a company sells a product that you are investigating to see their privacy policy is.
Their web sites privacy statement is NOT FOR THEIR PRODUCT but for the web page itself.
Haha! The vague ambiguity is purposeful, hoping that the customer will throw up his hands and give-up.
Corporate Privacy Officers frequently don’t know what their own corporation is doing too. Again this strategy is simply to preserve their data-mining.

Everyone should learn about Price Optimization where your confidential Big-Data is being used to charge higher rates.

Or giving private data for one business purpose then being used for another. Here Allstate floated the idea of selling policyholders’ driving data:
So I cancelled my Allstate policy and switched to Amica, a top-rated insurer owned by its policy holders.
Keep your data in the smallest loop possible. Never surrender to forced sharing (Win 10). Simple practices like these are how I keep my sanity in a world gone mad.

Wael March 19, 2016 10:52 AM



Although this attack vector is hard to implement currently since biometric authentication is still a new field and not too widely adopted until biometric authentication gains more visibility.

Maybe new to you, but not new to me. Just watch 1:30 – 2:00 😉

Salach March 19, 2016 11:43 AM

This is a very common question, but the answer is a big NO. It is somewhat possible only with small databases but collapses in large ones. A hash means that you can create repeatable & stable bits from noisy biometric samples, and they are VERY noisy, even when you put your fingers into a vise that keeps them steady (or use superglue whatever…).
Moreover, if you can generate a repeatable hash from noisy samples, then bio matching would be a simple “compare” operation, which is usually a very fast CPU instruction. You could search very large databases very fast, which is bad for privacy.
As I said, in small populations you can classify biometric data into groups and keep an ID of the group instead of the raw data, so hashing this is possible. In reality this process collapses in large populations, where you get too many collisions.
This process is still a useful one: it can be a “fast and stupid” binning process before the “lazy and smart” matcher, giving you a performance gain.
All the companies that claim they can use hashes for bio matching are either snake oil or just wishful thinking.

albert March 19, 2016 1:39 PM

Re: Observer Article.

The author talks about a ‘Secure Compartment Information Facility’. It’s actually a ‘Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility’. I question his ‘expertise’. Even a copy-and-paste reporter wouldn’t make that mistake.

One needs to be careful when reading -opinion- pieces.

. .. . .. — ….

Nick P March 19, 2016 2:03 PM

@ Slime Mold

“You guys sure are easy to fool. The cited article from Judicial Watch and the Ars Technica article are red herrings.”

Maybe. They write like she had been fighting with the NSA for quite a while. The timeline still fits. She starts fighting with them. Keeps getting no’s. Decides to set up her own server in secret as a more convenient option. Starts using that while still going back and forth with them. Then we get the memo later as one of their replies.

“. I, myself see little motive there.”

Oh, it’s probably just a start on the real theory: control of her communications. She wanted them to be controlled for her benefit and protected. Isn’t that most people with sense? 😉 Then, once she had a server, might as well run all their stuff through it. Basic stuff, dirty stuff, all paid for through their foundation probably tax-free.

My theory is simpler than others. She simply wasn’t going to get her way and took action to make sure she did. She’s a powerful, corrupt woman whose power comes from communication, image, and certain actions. She won’t let someone dictate these things in a way that gives her a perceived disadvantage or even inconvenience. She comes first, their bullshit second.

@ Clive Robinson

I asked them on Hacker News whether they thought ChipKill would have any effect. It shouldn’t be able to stop it from happening but might catch or correct it depending on implementation. Two thought that could turn it into a simple DOS attack whereas it eliminates the effect of most, accidental bitflips. Nonetheless, I think the proper way to deal with this is at the hardware level with better testing and verification.

An engineer that worked on RAM said in a previous Rowhammer discussion that they barely tested the stuff before shipping it out the door. Did just enough to keep the problems too obscure for a recall. I buy that as probably true.

r March 19, 2016 2:41 PM


Cd’s and lzop have the more extreme ECC you speak of but I thought ECCram was merely parity checks?

Nick P March 19, 2016 3:52 PM

re safe language operating systems

The Redox operating system is moving along at a rapid, impressive pace if you look at News link on top. You’ll see on the homepage that they have a number of good attributes including some I pushed for. They wisely are doing a microkernel system w/ user-mode drivers, UNIX model, and MIT licensing. First two attributes let one do stuff similar to Nizza architecture or GenodeOS. MIT license and popularity of Rust will increase adoption in proprietary efforts. Pretty good ratio of adding stuff and cleaning stuff up. Already has a GUI in addition to a shell.

For those interested, this book is the main reference for it and they wrote this guide for contributing. There’s still plenty of low-hanging fruit available. Gotta learn Rust first. That’s not easy but seems to be rewarding.

Simon March 19, 2016 6:10 PM

A large scale DDoS are ongoing against several Swedish news corporations. The two largest media conglomerates and many smaller outlets have been hit hard and was unresponsive for an hour but the attack is ongoing even though the sites are picking up speed.

The police are investigating, security service and CSIRT have been informed.

A threat about the attack was tweeted before and said that this was aimed towards the targets due to published false propaganda.

Clive Robinson March 20, 2016 4:53 AM

@ r,

… but I thought ECCram was merely parity checks?

There are many ways of detecting errors, none are perfect, there is always a probability that errors will go undetected.

Thus the trick is identifing what the best stratagem is when you have detected an error. Obviously auto-correct would be nice, but again you still have a probability issue, what if the bit flip is actually in the memory that holds the checksum?

Thus error checking in some systems is multilayered with basic error detection triggering different forms of response.

At the lowest level error detection is done by comparison, and on a bit level this is done by use of two input XOR gates. These then get cascaded in some way to produce a check signal. At a slightly higher level you have to decide what you are going to compare with what. That is are you only going to use the dataword as the primary input or duplicate copies of the data word to produce the check signal. You then have to decide the type of your check signal and how you are going to produce an error signal from it and optionaly if the error signal will enable one or more bits in error to be corrected and if you wish to correct automatically or not.

If you do decide to use automatic error correction you then have to work out not just the probability of detecting an error but also the probability of making an incorrect error identification… Which means weighing the evidence in some way.

Obviously you want the difference in probabilities to favour the correct identification. However this usually means not storing the data word as the word but some coded version of it’s self in much the same way extra bits are added to a data stream for Forward Error Cotrection (FEC codes). The first of these that got attention in data,comms are those based on the work of Richard Wesley Hamming.

However historically the eariest known use of error detection codes is by Jewish scribes on the Torah, where a numerical code was used on pages derived from a sequence of codes going down to words. It’s beleived that it is from this where we get “666 is the number of the beast”.

In modern times Hammings work is part of information theory and builds on work from Hartley and Shannon. It fills many papers and books and is an active research field as well as one of practical engineering.

Gamm el-Sur March 20, 2016 5:42 AM

I accidentally found a USB gadget meant to sit between a pc and a generic USB storage device, encrypting and decrypting data on the fly

COul be useful, but the marketing language edges on the snake oil lexicon. The manufacturer gives little technical details, but they mention the user can select either ECB or CBC mode. You’d say this is enough and move on, but you would miss on a gem of self-inflicted discredit. They have a little page ‘explaining’ their customers the difference between ECB anc CBC encryption mode

If nothing else, they sound genuine in their ignorance… Unless their real purpose is finding clueless people with secrets?

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina March 20, 2016 6:05 AM

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
“The intended use of the giant antennae at the secret, remote Chinese military run station is supposed to monitor the moon – as China has ambitions of sending people to the earth’s only satellite – but some speculate that it could serve a dual purpose of watching celestial bodies and also intercepting signals from other nation’s satellites.
There has to be a place connected with roads and optical fiber but in turn it also has to be isolated,” Felix Menicocci, the Secretary General of the National Space Commission (CONAE) of Argentina told the BBC.”
Now how do the highly classified results of massive Signal Intelligence data processing make its way back to China?
Why not use Brazil’s new fiber optic cable directly connecting South America to Europe (bypassing the NSA). Are there more secret deals? Does this explain why Brazil has several huge on-going crises?
Don’t cluck with Uncle Sam!

Who? March 20, 2016 3:35 PM

@ Gamm el-Sur

(from the manufacturer’s documentation): The AES 256-bit encryption inside the CipherUSB FDE dongle is considered the highest level of encryption standard there is, secure enough to protect classified information designated as Top Secret. It is theorectically impossible to penetrate the encryption of a single CipherUSB. You can raise the security level to a more complex level by simply daisy chaining two or more CipherUSB FDE dongles.

Can we really raise the security level of an AES-256 encrypted file by re-encrypting it multiple times or is it a marketing strategy to sell as many dongles as possible to a single customer?

Jacob March 20, 2016 4:32 PM

The NYT published an article about the Paris attack based on a report prepared by the French police.

A specific paragraph there, whereby a survivor described her ordeal at the Bataclan concert hall, appeared to be taken straight from the Comey script book by the NYT correspondent. I doubt the this is something actually included in the police report:

One of the terrorists pulled out a laptop, propping it open against the wall, said the 40-year-old woman. When the laptop powered on, she saw a line of gibberish across the screen: “It was bizarre — he was looking at a bunch of lines, like lines of code. There was no image, no Internet,” she said. Her description matches the look of certain encryption software, which ISIS claims to have used during the Paris attacks.

No rotating globe, no “Google” splashed across the page – must be evil encryption stuff.

ianf March 20, 2016 5:46 PM

@ Jacob […] (quoting NYT) “she saw a line of gibberish across the screen:

“It was bizarre — he was looking at a bunch of lines, like lines of code. There was no image, no Internet,” she said.

A Windows startup sequence by the looks of it, with wireless access being ubiquitous in Paris, yet she detects NO INTERNET AT ONCE. Where oh where can I meet this lady… is she single, still game? With my IQ and her remote Internet-sensing disability, we could clone her and rent her “robo-siblings” to LEOs allover the globe by the hour! Amazing. Fix me up, I’ll give you a percentage.

Anon March 20, 2016 6:09 PM

@Who?: it isn’t recommended to daisy-chain the outputs of cryptographic algorithms due to possible unforseen interactions, however this doesn’t seem to prevent it from being done despite the questionable benefits (the main argument in favor is a weakness in one algorithm may not exist in another algorithm thus protecting the ciphertext from attack).

Thoth March 20, 2016 6:32 PM

The wishes of these Governments to use the media in an attempt to disempower the people by removing strong security (i.e. encryption) would also be the very undoing for their countries and people. That will make them all insecure and a indirect suicide to their own economy, social stability and social values. Other nation states can attack these countries more easily and crimes would increase since the criminals would always eventually be able to obtain their own encryption and security.

Sancho_P March 20, 2016 6:51 PM

@Jacob, re NYT

”According to the police report and interviews with officials, none of the attackers’ emails or other electronic communications have been found, prompting the authorities to conclude that the group used encryption. What kind of encryption remains unknown, and is among the details that Mr. Abdeslam’s capture could help reveal.” [NYT]

They didn’t find it, so they conclude it was encrypted.
—> A dishonest publicity stunt it is.

Anon March 20, 2016 7:14 PM

So… are they saying that encryption now makes messages invisible, too?

What if they didn’t use written electronic communication at all?

ianf March 20, 2016 7:15 PM

@ Sancho_P, not even a publicity stunt, stupid parroting of shallow, unsubstantiated intel from some authority’s press release by a journo who’s clearly out of his depth.

みにひち March 20, 2016 8:14 PM

It was bizarre — he was looking at a bunch of lines, like lines of code.

ربما كان مجرد العربية
ربما كان مجرد العربية
ربما كان مجرد العربية
ربما كان مجرد العربية

Jacob March 20, 2016 8:29 PM

“So… are they saying that encryption now makes messages invisible, too?”

No, silly you, encryption makes messages too dark to see!

Curious March 21, 2016 2:57 AM

“Johns Hopkins researchers POKE A HOLE in Apple’s encryption” (My emphasis)

Washington Post apparently changed their title from the initial one
“Johhns Hopkins researchers DISCOVERED ENCRYPTION FLAW in Apple’s iMessage” (My emphasis)

“But a group of Johns Hopkins University researchers has found a bug in the company’s vaunted encryption, one that would enable a skilled attacker to decrypt photos and videos sent as secure instant messages.”

“This specific flaw in Apple’s iMessage platform likely would not have helped the FBI pull data from an iPhone recovered in December’s San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack, but it shatters the notion that strong commercial encryption has left no opening for law enforcement and hackers, said Matthew D. Green, a computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University who led the research team.”

“Although the students could not see the key’s digits, they guessed at them by a repetitive process of changing a digit or a letter in the key and sending it back to the target phone. Each time they guessed a digit correctly, the phone accepted it. They probed the phone in this way thousands of times.”

Wtaf. This is like something out of a movie. Getting to guess at one digit at a time like with the launch code in the movie Wargames, or perhaps similar.

Curious March 21, 2016 3:00 AM

To add to what I wrote:

I never read the initial article, so I wouldn’t know if a comparison of the two will reveal additional things that might be interesting.

Curious March 21, 2016 4:17 AM

I am reading on Twitter, someone stating that Apple’s iMessage, isn’t using authenticated encryption, just like Telegram. Sounds like an important observation.

Thoth March 21, 2016 4:33 AM

re:Apple iMessage weakess
This wouldn’t be the first nor the last faulty implementation of crypto and security. Who knows how many tonnes of security implementations gone wrong (without proper verification or even updates) still linger around (or are in the making).

Mike March 21, 2016 5:39 AM


I am reading on Twitter, someone stating that Apple’s iMessage, isn’t using authenticated encryption, just like Telegram. Sounds like an important observation.

Telegram messages do use authenticated encryption; take a look at their technical FAQ’s. They also allow the user to verify the other party’s fingerprint in secret chats (see the image below) and to ‘self-destruct’ after a user-defined period of time.

Gamm el-Sur March 21, 2016 6:07 AM


Depends, but it’s bad style and bad practice. In some cases it’s even completely immaterial. Chain 10 ciphers in ECB mode and ECB’s flaws are still there exactly as with only one, and in many common applications they are far more severe than the risk that a proven widely analyzed algorithm is suddenly found practically broken. If you really want to do something non-standard, just increase the number of rounds. As far as I know this should always make a symmetric algorithm stronger, or at least not any weaker.

Curious March 21, 2016 6:30 AM


At the risk of simply being wrong, I will assume that your point about Telegram using authenticated encryption is not entirely correct. Why else would the guy in twitter say so, unless he was lying or if he was wrong.

Though, I guess my generalization for making a point about something I saw on Twitter could have been handled better.

CallMeLateForSupper March 21, 2016 8:52 AM

@Curious reported “someone [on Twitter] stating that Apple’s iMessage, isn’t using authenticated encryption”. If “unauthenticated” is in fact the word that the tweeter used, then she is all wet.

Having read the WaPo article only 5-10 minutes before coming here, I remembered the following portion, ran off and Copied it:
“Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Green’s attack highlights the danger of companies building their own encryption without independent review.”

The phrase “without independent review” Does not mean “unauthenticated”. This is the only place in the WaPo article that soeaks to code review/authentication. Again, I suspect that the Tweeter was too loose with word choice.

No variation of “authentic” – e.g. authenticate or unauthenicated – appears in the WaPo article, so no, the article does not describe iMessage encryption as “unauthenticated”.

Thoth March 21, 2016 11:53 AM

Tonnes of burner phones, not encryption, helped the Paris attackers. The attackers knew that encryption would give themselves away so they turned to good old tried and true OPSEC – which is buying a lot of burner phones and using the phones only once and discarding them right away after a single use.

More encryption are likely going to be a huge giveaway with that “—– BEGIN PGP MESSAGE —–” every PGP user is familiar with or a S/MIME encrypted message. Most of the current encryption schemes leak a lot of metadata as well.

Back to good old code books, One-Time Pads, water soluble ink, easily flammable cigarette paper and one time use burner phones.


Jacob March 21, 2016 1:58 PM

I’ve heard about Rutkowska’s QUBES OS since a couple of years ago or so, but have never had enough time to really see what it is all about.

Now I found this lucid intro video, and this is the best 30 minutes I have ever spent on the subject of a secure OS for a common use. Just Whoa!

PS: I do trust Johanna and her dev process, but a concern of mine is the security of Xen, the underlying infrastructure, which was not built to exact security standards and had some meaningful security issues in the past.

Mike March 21, 2016 5:54 PM


At the risk of simply being wrong, I will assume that your point about Telegram using authenticated encryption is not entirely correct. Why else would the guy in twitter say so, unless he was lying or if he was wrong.

As @CallMeLateForSupper points out:

The phrase “without independent review” does not mean “unauthenticated”

I pointed you earlier to a source which has a schematic which shows that Telegram does authenticate each message cryptographically as I assumed you were using the term “unauthenticated” in the technical sense. If you were using the term in the technical sense then you are wrong because the protocol clearly uses authentication.

If you were referring to the fact that Telegram has not been subject to peer review then again I’d say you’re wrong on the basis that they publish their source code for “Android, iOS, web and desktop apps (Win, OSX and Linux)” along with their API so that anybody can inspect it and they regularly run crypto competitions (although for many reasons such competitions are pointless). Source code below.

L. W. Smiley March 21, 2016 5:59 PM

Interesting Salon Article on the Hulk Hogan sex tape privacy vs free press..

“Moreover, that concurring opinion in Bartnicki suggests that the court at that time might have decided in favor of Hulk Hogan’s privacy. In addition to the two concurring justices noted above, the three who dissented cited worries about the invasive nature of technology and the need for greater privacy. “We are placed in the uncomfortable position of not knowing who might have access to our personal and business emails, our medical and financial records, or our cordless and cellular phone conversations,” they wrote”

Wha..the Justices were concerned about who might have our phone calls and emails?

Go figure.

Jack Jones March 21, 2016 8:40 PM

@ Curious said, “I am reading on Twitter, someone stating that Apple’s iMessage, isn’t using authenticated encryption, just like Telegram. Sounds like an important observation.”

Well? my theory on why he said that is that he thinks that both Telegram and iMessage goes thru the same push channel/platform, but I’ve not used either and I’m not him so perhaps I shouldn’t say this.

Johannes March 21, 2016 11:32 PM

What bothers me is how the authorities get to the PI of the posters. Normally people use a nick when posting. The authorities can only establish a criminal act ex post facto, so I doubt that they can serve a warrant to the site/forum operators to get PI. And serving warrants takes too much effort.

that is something that has been in my mind lately. Namely because I remembered many years ago (I think it was back in late 1990’s) reading an article in a Swedish newspaper (I think it was in “Aftonbladet” but I was not able to find the article when I searched for it recently) about a guy who worked for the Swedish police department.

His job was searching child porn online. In the article he explained that they used some tool to access websites and the way his explanation was written in the article gave me the impression that they were able to check websites or their background DBs somehow without registering an account.

I tried to look into it later as I thought maybe it was related to that MySQL was originally a Swedish company or something.

Curious March 22, 2016 1:31 AM

Being a gamer, I wonder to what degree cryptography could be useful for games, or rather, multiplayer games (online games).

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps this thing called ‘block chain cryptography’ could be used for games somehow.

Maybe the people that really care about cryptography implementations, would be larger game companies. 🙂

The way that spurred me in thinking about crypto here in this way, was the problem of how a game server basically can’t trust the player’s game client, that could spoof important relevant to the gameplay.

Exactly what crypto might be good for, gameplay wise, I have no idea. It is not even remotely clear to me how that stuff might work in practice.

Curious March 22, 2016 1:48 AM

I regret even having mentioned iMessage & Telegram earlier, because I don’t understand what was meant by what I saw on Twitter. This is nothing I can discuss here unfortunately, because my knowledge of crypto is very limited. I simply assumed it had been something important.

Curious March 22, 2016 2:26 AM

“Bangladesh gets FBI help on bank heist; cyber-expert missing”

I think this is about the only positive thing I’ve heard about USA for the longest time as an European. Regarding US president B.Obama as being the world’s most powerful terrorist.

“Police met an FBI official here in the capital of Bangladesh on Sunday to try to track down culprits behind an attempted $951 million cyberheist from the country’s central bank.”

Curious March 22, 2016 3:03 AM

If FBI intend to tamper with the iPhone that they say they want data from, I suppose, if trying out a method they maybe aren’t really familiar with, I imagine that they would best try it on some other phone first.

Clive Robinson March 22, 2016 4:22 AM

@ curious,

Being a gamer, I wonder to what degree cryptography could be useful for games, or rather, multiplayer games (online games).

Quite a few, most multiplayer games are effectively virtual copies of real life. Thus anything you might use a blockchain for in real life would find an analogous use in a game. It could also be used to protect or show current ownership of any tradeable or transferable commodity in the game.

The problem is the blockchain has a number of faults as has been shown just recently one of which is the issue of transaction time. Whilst the current bitcoin blockchain problems are caused I’m told by the Chinese Bitcoin miners, it’s an inherent problem/feature of the design.

Be warned though there appears to currently be a “blockchain fetish” in progress, where anybody and everybody appears to want to put it in their products and systems no matter how appropriate a fit it is (thus it’s got shades of High Frequency Trading Algorithm disease and become a “must have” on your C.V.).

moz March 22, 2016 4:26 AM

So; long predicted by various people on this blog, an attack on the innocent people checking into an airport before they pass security.

Very lucky in a sense; only 13 people killed (compare to typical death rate in an attack on a passenger plane). Is this luck or is there some skill involved?

Remember the main thing is not to let anyone force you to be you afraid folks. Myself I’m going to the airport in a few minutes and will fly happily home.

Ted March 22, 2016 5:39 AM

@ A Dobe

“Many other companies — particularly ones like Adobe that don’t have popular consumer products — have to rely on dropping cookies, IP addresses, and using probabilistic (rather than deterministic) methods to make sure they are targeting ads to the right people.”

I’m under the assumption that this had to do with Adobe’s big acquisitions of recent years, but isn’t asking your “customers” to click on a custom tailored URL rather deterministic in nature?

Anon March 22, 2016 6:47 AM

@Clive Robinson: whilst blockchain has its uses, there are better, more efficient ways of achieving the same thing, that will be overlooked by the same people chasing after blockchain technology. IMHO if I encountered anyone stating this as some kind of positive benefit on their CV, you can bet an interview question would be “what was your justification for that choice?”. 🙂

@A Dobe: the attempted use of browser header to identify people doesn’t work, and extensions exist to change it randomly, or change it completely. As for adverts, I browse with images off. It saves data, and defeats every method employed by these parasites.

Where can I sue for these people stealing my bandwidth? I only want content from the website I visit; not the website I visit and 30 advertisers.

@all: What is being written about iMessage is still bemusing. Has anyone actually said which algorithms are employed to secure which pieces of data? It all seems very strange. Why not use, even at a basic level, a symmetric cipher like AES to secure all messages? What is this cipher that allows them to guess each individual character of the key? Sounds highly suspicious.

ianf March 22, 2016 6:55 AM

@ moz: “long predicted… on this blog, an attack on people in an airport before they pass security.

Let’s not be too quick with credit-taking the-collective-we-told-you-so-angle. Because, if anything, these attacks are eerily reminiscent of

(1) the 30 May 1972 Lod Airport massacre – executed by 3 Japanese RAF suicide shooters with automatic weapons that they brought with them in checked luggage and “tooled up” with in the arrivals hall PRIOR TO passport control/ customs (outcome: 26 murdered +2 attackers; 79 +1 wounded); and otherwise

(2) the Palestinian Arab street suicide bombings that the Israelis have had to endure for years BEFORE they built the West Bank barrier (=the BBC name), which proved effective as deterrent, and for which Israel is so roundly criticized [BTW. initially I, too, couldn’t see the logic of walling off a region for reasons of alleged physical security. Then I saw an interview with Efraim Halevy, I think, in which he explained plainly that, as it takes a chain of helpers to lead a suicide bomber to the target, then a hardware fence with few ingress points effectively makes that guiding process observable/ detectable. I shelved my objections. The suicide bombings still happen there, but so less frequently.]

    It’s far too early to say whether today’s Brussels attacks represent a copycat change in tactics for the dispersed ISIS-wannabes of Europe; will be continued; or were just some flukes. But if the former… then good luck to the Belgians with walling off Molenbeek; actually, good luck to us all, because I see extra and possibly permanent street security measures taking effect in so-far unaffected places[*]; and no long-term outcome other than one that doesn’t involve current European anathema, the concept of (ethnic group | preventively executed) collective responsibility [as is the case in Israel].

[^*] the next time I fill a supermarket cart to the nines with household sundries and wheel it on a city street a bit away from the store I expect to be stopped again BUT searched through this time.

Power By Numbers Tracking Scheme March 22, 2016 7:11 AM

“Marketers will give Adobe access to “cryptographically hashed login IDs and HTTP header,” which it says will fully-hide a consumer’s personal identity. “

First their biggest non-stated customers will be the police, FBI and NSA.
Second consumers are NOT given an explicit choice to opt-in.
Third the opt-out is respectively “bullshit” as cookies are the first data to be routinely and automatically cleared.

No doubt Adobe has make deals to exchange your personal data it collects with Big-Data. With all this data determining a consumer’s personal identity becomes laughable.

This simple tracking scheme requires corporations to tell Adobe whenever a verified customer logs-in. The header contains detailed information about your device/computer configuration.
Every IoT connected device will be registered in this database, that is unless controlled by the competition namely Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Standard Countermeasures
All the common advertising browser add-ons also block Adobe. Chase Bank allows this new system track customers when banking on-line. Balances, payees, deposits are secretly shared with no other way to block. However if you are the chosen 1%, Chase Private Bank respects your privacy…

Use a VPN and connect to different cities
Use either Secret Agent or Random Agent Spoofer add-on to cloak your device

Don’t use apps! Use a browser instead, don’t stay logged-in, quickly finish, clean and restart. Disable dubious background services.

Only enable JavaScript and Referrer when necessary
Use free open source software like LibreOffice. Don’t use ‘free’ email or spyware like Win 10.

Investigate every company’s privacy policy you do business with. Stop by your bank and talk with your insurance agent to restrict sharing.

Every company is a suspect. Consumer Reports Magazine may boast being unbiased in their ratings but are among the most promiscuous to monetize personal data. I was forced to write via US mail to opt-out!

There is no-doubt an inverse relationship between convenience (laziness & addiction) vs intelligence & privacy.

Dirk Praet March 22, 2016 8:47 AM

@ moz

So; long predicted by various people on this blog, an attack on the innocent people checking into an airport before they pass security.

There is unfortunately very little that can be done to prevent such blind attacks carried out by cowardly swines. The most likely driver behind this morning’s attacks at Brussels airport and the Maalbeek metro station is the arrest of Salah Abdeslam in Molenbeek last week. Abdeslam is the failed Paris terrorist who got cold feet and instead of blowing himself up returned to Brussels where he was able to hide from LE for more than four months and was eventually found with an accomplice in a jihadi safe house less than 500 meters from his parental home.

It is reasonable to assume that new coordinated attacks had been in the making, execution of which was sped up for fear of being found out about following Abdeslam’s arrest.

From where I’m sitting, the main take-aways from both today’s Brussels and November 13th Paris attacks is that the EU is having a really serious problem with the follow-up of and dealing with returned Syria fighters and other known radicalised elements, as well as with the identification of foreign Da’esh militants hiding in refugee streams.

@ ianf

But if the former… then good luck to the Belgians with walling off Molenbeek

There is little doubt that this morning’s attacks were again planned, prepared and executed out of Molenbeek indeed. While walling off this jihadi nest is probably a bit extreme, much more can be done than is being done today, but for which the political will is lacking. Whereas Home Secretary Jambon in the wake of the Paris attacks had announced a full crackdown on Molenbeek, he had to abandon his plans because neither local or federal authorities supported him. They all kept repeating – as had been done for decades – that it was an isolated problem with a negligable part of the population which had to be solved with more reaching out to ethnic minorities, deradicalisation, employment and other social projects.

While that may be true, it does nothing about the current situation. Today’s reality of Molenbeek is that of an impoverished Brussels suburb with a very high concentration of disenfranchised nth generation migrants, other newcomers and illegal aliens, parts of which look more like Marrakech than a European town. It’s pretty much of a parallel society local nor federal authorities have much grip on. For decades, they ignored the many problems there and left them to rot to the point that the town eventually became a safe haven for all kinds of radicals that were simply left alone.

The only way to get the situation there under control is to finally drop the misguided politics of political correctness, start mapping out who actually lives there and crack down hard on Syria returnees and known salafist networks. Many of which are known by the good work of the understaffed Belgian IC but whose valuable information to date is done little or nothing with by either LE or local authorities.

ianf March 22, 2016 7:44 PM

OT: THE GUARDIAN: How Radovan Karadžić was captured.

Long story short: discovered due to a support party’s mindless reuse of a SIM card associated with his old network.

    [The team] would make unannounced visits in the middle of the night to Ljiljana Karadžić, the fugitive’s wife, with the aim of rattling her with a show of bravado about his imminent capture, in the hope she would rush to warn him, and give away his location… However, Balkan reality did not work like Hollywood. Ljiljana was followed wherever she went and was one of the first targets of surveillance drones, a new toy US special forces were trying out in Bosnia. But she led them on a wild goose chase.

    The manhunters used every trick they could think of, scanning the remote villages along the Bosnia-Montenegro border for signs of unusual activity – internet logons in the middle of the night, TV satellite dishes in otherwise poor settlements, newspaper subscriptions. […]

[Now you know what behavioral patterns to avoid when on the run. Besides, what’s wrong with surfing porn sites like everybody else?]

ianf March 23, 2016 4:44 AM

How can one not love @thegrugq‘s refreshingly novel use of language (besides other insights):

    [The jihobbiests1] consistently fail to grasp the deeper fundamentals of operational security, instead they cargo cult2 the procedures of others.

^1. the jihadi fantasists=hobbyists
^2. used as a verb, needs a hyphen

Clive Robinson March 23, 2016 8:08 AM

@ ‘The usual suspects’,

I saw this by way of hacker news, it made me spil my tea when I read the “don’t ask” at the bottom.

As an “engineer man-n-boy” type for around half a century I can relate to nearly all these laws with stories about “If only the numbnuts had listened…” (said numbnuts being those who are on the periphery of engineering and think managment speak is superior etc 😉

c squared March 23, 2016 8:57 AM

About that FBI/Apple case according to court documents

“On Sunday, March 20th, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to FBI a possible method for unlocking Farookh’s iPhone”


There is some speculation in the Israeli “Yedioth Ahrnoth” newspaper (,7340,L-4782246,00.html) that the “outside party” referred to in above court documents is an Israeli company named “Cellebrite”.

Curious March 23, 2016 9:41 AM

“Israeli firm helping FBI to open encrypted iPhone: report”

“Israel’s Cellebrite, a provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California shooters, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Wednesday.”

“Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corp, has its revenue split between two businesses: a forensics system used by law enforcement, military and intelligence that retrieves data hidden inside mobile devices and technology for mobile retailers”

Thoth March 23, 2016 10:38 AM

A new crypto key escrow / secure backdoor proposal in this week’s IACR ePrint repository linked below.

The name of the new secure backdoor is called DECENT … for a set of known methods that are less than half decent in my opinion due to the lack of rigid proof of security for it’s protocols and lack of specific details for it’s protocol.

The paper’s quality is doubtful and not the usual rigid mathematical paper you expect from something professional like IACR’s ePrint. This leads me to wonder if the person vetting on the IACR’s ePrint column either approved the paper by accident or the quality of publication for something renowned as IACR’s ePrint papers had it’s standards lowered to allow something without rigid mathematical proofs of security of it’s protocol or the proper function of it’s protocols to be released and approved for official publication by IACR’s ePrint weekly column.

The 18 pages of paper is pretty lengthy and I do not have the time to sit down and read the entire paper in fine details but I have picked up a ton of attack vectors that would easily undermine the security of the secure backdoor protocol.

The DECENT secure backdoor suggests the use of shared secrets (yet again … sigh …) to split encryption keys into 2/3 quorums. 1 key for the “one ring master” (Government), 1 key for the user’s device and 1 key for the … cell service provider ?????

The first bad bet is to bet on the ISP or Cell Service Provider to actually hold a key share. They have never been known to be trustworthy or competent to keep your key shares secure because it was never their job to secure any cryptographic keys (that’s not their job).

The next bad bet is a 2/3 small quorum. The quorum assumes key shares between a Cell or Internet Provider, yourself and Government (assuming US/UK/Local Govt). The ISP/Cell Provider are usually run by Government (or Govt owned) companies in more restrictive geographical jurisdiction regions. The Providers are suppose to not have power to resist and deny Govt requests and must act as the Govt wants. So the actual key share is Govt with 2 shares (majority share of the 2/3 by controlling the Service Provider and the Govt’s own registrar). The method of handling the key shares and the secure protocols required were fully omitted…. Such a small key share quorum with the Govt easily controlling majority key shares simply breaks the security it attempts to protect against.

The next bad bet is to assume the usage to be on an ARM TrustZone or some “Trusted Execution Environment” without taking into consideration where such an environment don’t exist on certain lower end devices or devices that are NOT ARM or NOT smartphones. This assumes that the device’s hardware security is strong which is not the case. Hardware level attacks are possible to compromise hardware security in a general sense.

The other bad bet is to use Bitcoin’s somewhat broken Blockchain public ledger to host the Government’s escrowed portion of the Government’s key share. The Government database simply holds an electronic contract certificate which “under certain circumstances”, the access to the public Blockchain is made and the Government presents it’s contract and the particular Government’s escrow key protected by an electronic contract would release the Government’s key share and updates the Blockchain of the access to the Government escrow share. We know that the Blockchain can be manipulated by those who have the most resources and nodes which might post a danger for using Blockchain for something so sensitive (holding a key share). Governments can easily afford the hardware required to alter the entire Blockchain if they decide to dedicate their efforts or may have quietly altered it long before we suspected foul play ?

It does not address the ye olde “Box-in-a-Box” method for bypassing it’s escrow and also it does not address multiple nation’s Governments and how to handle escrow amongst multiple Governments. Is it OK to release key shares to Russian or Chinese for an American’s secure conversation or to release keys for communication of a Russian or Chinese politician with their African or American counterpart ?

Furthermore, what are the safeguard against such demands against news reporters and journalists whom Govts are aggressively targeting and demanding decryption to find out their sources for news ?

Please read the paper linked below if you want more concise knowledge and accuracy.

This paper lacks the hard maths required to proof it’s hardness of security and a lot of unanswered questions it decides not to be involved with.


ianf March 23, 2016 12:03 PM

@ Curious “Israel’s Cellebrite, a subsidiary of Japan’s Sun Corp, provider of mobile forensic software, is helping the U.S. FBI’s attempt to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooter

Whether they’ll manage to crack it or not, we—the public—will be none the wiser, because the FBI is neither obliged to, nor has anything to gain by disclosing the fact of EITHER OUTCOME (least of all of admitting that that iBone held no intel whatsoever – the 2016 soap opera version of Much Ado About Nuthing!).

BTW. Is the FBI’s dependence on this exotic Japanese-Israeli Decrypto Axis to be its New Amazing! SecretWeapon™ Against Terrorists®?

Jacob March 23, 2016 2:03 PM

Industrial espionage at its finest form:

You allure the competitor’s customers to provide the most intimate characteristic data with everyone knowledge, while the competitor can do nothing against it.

Google consider Cloud Services to be of stategic importance to the company. However, Amazon Web Services is an order of magnitude bigger and very profitable. What does Amazon have that Google doesn’t?

A hosted service for AWS customers for the rescue, to spy on their cloud provider and pass the info in real-time to Google:

Kant March 23, 2016 6:46 PM

@ Jacob

I suspect it’s more of a sales tool to assist in migrating either way. I’d assume when customers experiment with both services, the sales people would get a memo. You don’t get services free for nothing.

moz March 24, 2016 5:33 AM


Let’s not be too quick with credit-taking the-collective-we-told-you-so-angle.

I agree with you that, in a sense, it’s no great prediction. However, it’s quite important to note that the people who are coming out now and acting all surprised and horrified are exactly the same people who invested huge amounts of money into mass spying, airport security and wars, especially long distance badly targeted explosive devices which failed to stop this and that their answers are more of the same. That Bruce and others said clearly that terrorists can move to other soft targets if the planes are perfectly protected is an important fact worth repeating.

What we want instead is more investment in human intelligence and arrests of live people on the ground who, since they will be alive in prison after a proper judicial process, can’t then be used as martyrs. N.B. I recognize that there may be some increase in risk and am willing to take whatever part of that is mine.

@Dirk Praet

There is unfortunately very little that can be done to prevent such blind attacks carried out by cowardly swines.

There is plenty more that could have been done in terms of ensuring quality public services and work in Iraq after the war. That can still be done in terms of actually supporting anti ISIS forces such as the kurds and in terms of hiring human intelligence officers and infiltrating various radical groups and neighborhoods.

More importantly, you are still likely about 300 times as likely to die in a road traffic accident in Belgium as a terrorist event (just under 1000 people anually). Our reaction to this event is something we can control. We need to make sure that the real targets of ISIS – disaffected muslims they wish to recruit – do not end up with more reason to join ISIS from our efforts whilst at the same time concentrating efforts to ensure that ISIS doesn’t benefit from this. That means working with moderate muslims, who have most to lose here, against ISIS in concentrated ways.

We are not helpless. We can chose to ignore the terror and travel normally by plane. We can vote against those that choose surveillence and for those that chose to support on the ground practical action of kinds that are not likely to kill or harm innocents.

Sorry it’s a bit long. Nice article from the Guardian on the topic as a reward

Thoth March 24, 2016 8:42 AM

re: Apple Insecure Cloud
Apple can take steps to work with Bittorrent and the IPFS or some form of P2P technology and integrate security and encryption. More game providers are starting to use P2P network and if Apple takes the steps and it’s resources to handle such a problem, it may also bring about a revolution of moving services to P2P networks.


Dirk Praet March 24, 2016 10:16 AM

@ moz

There is plenty more that could have been done in terms of ensuring quality public services and work in Iraq after the war. That can still be done in terms of actually supporting anti ISIS forces such as the kurds and in terms of hiring human intelligence officers and infiltrating various radical groups and neighborhoods.

Most definitely no argument whatsoever here. What I meant is that the execution of bombings such as the one at Brussels airport are hard to stop. I know of only few airports that are fully adapted to prevent such attacks, Ben Gurion in Israel probably being the best example.

That means working with moderate muslims, who have most to lose here, against ISIS in concentrated ways.

You’re stating the obvious. There’s always more that can be done, but it’s also not true that nothing is being done or has ever been done in terms of reaching out to ethnic minorities. Quite to the contrary. All too often, discrimination and racism are used as an excuse to cover up personal failings and an unwillingness or incapability to integrate in mainstream society because of cultural, religious or other backgrounds that clash with standard western norms and values.

It is also not true that the current radicalisation wave occurs across all ethnic minorities, but is largely confined to a small group of young men of mostly North African descent. This particular group has been problematic for decades, and the phenomenon has been observed all over Northern and Western Europe, earning both Moroccans and Algerians a very bad reputation not just with the indigenous population but just as well with other immigrant groups, including those with a Muslim background.

Although still more has to be done reaching out to minority groups and their leadership, this is a two-way street and which unfortunately over the years has never been easy either. Neither does it solve today’s problems and for which a complete failure of both the political and judicial castes are to blame. For way too long they have ignored very real problems that could not be named or dealt with, either on grounds of political correctness or incomprehensibly lax attitudes towards them. Leading to parallel societies such as Molenbeek.

Today, both the Home Secretary and Attorney General offered to resign when it turned out that one of the airport bombers was a known criminal sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2010 over an armed robbery during which he had used an AK-47 against LEO’s. The then Brussels mayor had called it a “fait divers” at the time. After 4 years in jail, some idiot judge had allowed him penitentiary leave which he seized to leave for Syria. He was apprehended in Turkey and put on a plane back to Holland. Neither Dutch or Belgian authorities did anything with that information, even though there was an Interpol warrant on his head. This guy should have been in jail. Full stop.

Stories like this are unfortunately symptomatic for the way Belgian politicians, DA’s, judges and law enforcement deal with things. Nobody here is asking for tough new legislation or extended police powers targeting the common Muslim. But what everybody is asking for is that our authorities finally pull their heads out of their *sses and start doing their jobs instead of continuing the hippie line that everything can be solved by more love and understanding. That’s just not the way things work when dealing with Da’esh.

Clive Robinson March 24, 2016 12:57 PM

@ Bruce and the usual suspects,

As you are aware the UK Home Office Minister Theresa May MP is puting forward an update/replacment for RIPA which has been dubbed “The Snoopers Charter”.

Even though it’s repeatedly castigated and she does not understand one jot of the proposals thus can not spot glaring mistakes by those drafting, she is hell bent on pushing the nonsense forwards.

Whilst it might appear of little interest outside the UK it has clauses that make it totally encompassing world wide so is of concern to everyone. For those that don’t think so, remember the UK has used similar clauses in RIPA to go after amongst many others US citizens for the NSA and other US agencies.

Apple amoungst others has put forward a whole raft of quite serious concerns with regards the latest draft. You can read it on the UK Houses of Parliment web site,

Thoth March 24, 2016 6:58 PM

@Clive Robinson
USB viruses are kind of expected. This is where the use of higer assurance stuff like separation microkernels and data flow controls via data guards and data diodes comes in.

Too bad the world is still stuck with low/no assurance stuff and are highly addicted to things like Windows, Linux and using crypto in the wrong place and wrong way as a band aid for a serious injury.

This self destructive cycle would simply continue as long as duch ignorance exist regarding the misuse, misinformation and weakening of security and crypto.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.