Essays Tagged "Atlantic"

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The Twitter Hacks Have to Stop

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • July 18, 2020

Twitter was hacked this week. Not a few people’s Twitter accounts, but all of Twitter. Someone compromised the entire Twitter network, probably by stealing the log-in credentials of one of Twitter’s system administrators. Those are the people trusted to ensure that Twitter functions smoothly.

The hacker used that access to send tweets from a variety of popular and trusted accounts, including those of Joe Biden, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, as part of a mundane scam—stealing bitcoin—but it’s easy to envision more nefarious scenarios. Imagine a government using this sort of attack against another government, coordinating a series of fake tweets from hundreds of politicians and other public figures the day before a major election, to affect the outcome. Or to escalate an …

Bots Are Destroying Political Discourse As We Know It

They’re mouthpieces for foreign actors, domestic political groups, even the candidates themselves. And soon you won’t be able to tell they’re bots.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • January 7, 2020

Spanish translation

Presidential-campaign season is officially, officially, upon us now, which means it’s time to confront the weird and insidious ways in which technology is warping politics. One of the biggest threats on the horizon: Artificial personas are coming, and they’re poised to take over political debate. The risk arises from two separate threads coming together: artificial-intelligence-driven text generation and social-media chatbots. These computer-generated “people” will drown out actual human discussions on the internet.

Text-generation software is already good enough to fool most people most of the time. It’s writing news stories, particularly in …

Nobody’s Cellphone Is Really That Secure

But most of us aren’t the president of the United States.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • October 26, 2018

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the Russians and the Chinese were eavesdropping on President Donald Trump’s personal cellphone and using the information gleaned to better influence his behavior. This should surprise no one. Security experts have been talking about the potential security vulnerabilities in Trump’s cellphone use since he became president. And President Barack Obama bristled at—but acquiesced to—the security rules prohibiting him from using a “regular” cellphone throughout his presidency.

Three broader questions obviously emerge from the story. Who else is listening in on Trump’s cellphone calls? What about the cellphones of other world leaders and senior government officials? And—most personal of all—what about …

The New Way Your Computer Can Be Attacked

Unprecedented computer-chip vulnerabilities exposed this month paint a grim picture of the future of cybersecurity.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • January 22, 2018

Portuguese translation

On January 3, the world learned about a series of major security vulnerabilities in modern microprocessors. Called Spectre and Meltdown, these vulnerabilities were discovered by several different researchers last summer, disclosed to the microprocessors’ manufacturers, and patched—at least to the extent possible.

This news isn’t really any different from the usual endless stream of security vulnerabilities and patches, but it’s also a harbinger of the sorts of security problems we’re going to be seeing in the coming years. These are vulnerabilities in computer hardware, not software. They affect virtually all high-end microprocessors produced in the last 20 years. Patching them requires large-scale coordination across the industry, and in some cases drastically affects the performance of the computers. And sometimes patching isn’t possible; the vulnerability will remain until the computer is discarded…

Who Are the Shadow Brokers?

What is—and isn’t—known about the mysterious hackers leaking National Security Agency secrets

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • May 23, 2017

In 2013, a mysterious group of hackers that calls itself the Shadow Brokers stole a few disks full of National Security Agency secrets. Since last summer, they’ve been dumping these secrets on the internet. They have publicly embarrassed the NSA and damaged its intelligence-gathering capabilities, while at the same time have put sophisticated cyberweapons in the hands of anyone who wants them. They have exposed major vulnerabilities in Cisco routers, Microsoft Windows, and Linux mail servers, forcing those companies and their customers to scramble. And they gave the authors of the WannaCry ransomware the …

Online Voting Won’t Save Democracy

But letting people use the internet to register to vote is a start.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • May 10, 2017

Technology can do a lot more to make our elections more secure and reliable, and to ensure that participation in the democratic process is available to all. There are three parts to this process.

First, the voter registration process can be improved. The whole process can be streamlined. People should be able to register online, just as they can register for other government services. The voter rolls need to be protected from tampering, as that’s one of the major ways hackers can disrupt the election.

Second, the voting process can be significantly improved. Voting machines need to be made more secure. There are a lot of technical details best left to the …

How Long Until Hackers Start Faking Leaked Documents?

There’s nothing stopping attackers from manipulating the data they make public.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • September 13, 2016

In the past few years, the devastating effects of hackers breaking into an organization’s network, stealing confidential data, and publishing everything have been made clear. It happened to the Democratic National Committee, to Sony, to the National Security Agency, to the cyber-arms weapons manufacturer Hacking Team, to the online adultery site Ashley Madison, and to the Panamanian tax-evasion law firm Mossack Fonseca.

This style of attack is known as organizational doxing. The hackers, in some cases individuals and in others nation-states, are out to make political points by revealing proprietary, secret, and sometimes incriminating information. And the documents they leak do that, airing the organizations’ embarrassments for everyone to see…

How the Internet of Things Limits Consumer Choice

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • December 24, 2015

In theory, the Internet of Things—the connected network of tiny computers inside home appliances, household objects, even clothing—promises to make your life easier and your work more efficient. These computers will communicate with each other and the Internet in homes and public spaces, collecting data about their environment and making changes based on the information they receive. In theory, connected sensors will anticipate your needs, saving you time, money, and energy.

Except when the companies that make these connected objects act in a way that runs counter to the consumer’s best interests—as the technology company Philips did recently with its smart ambient-lighting system, Hue, which consists of a central controller that can remotely communicate with light bulbs. In mid-December, the company pushed out a …

The Meanest Email You Ever Wrote, Searchable on the Internet

The doxing of Ashley Madison reveals an uncomfortable truth: In the age of cloud computing, everyone is vulnerable.

  • Bruce Schneier
  • The Atlantic
  • September 8, 2015

Most of us get to be thoroughly relieved that our emails weren’t in the Ashley Madison database. But don’t get too comfortable. Whatever secrets you have, even the ones you don’t think of as secret, are more likely than you think to get dumped on the Internet. It’s not your fault, and there’s largely nothing you can do about it.

Welcome to the age of organizational doxing.

Organizational doxing—stealing data from an organization’s network and indiscriminately dumping it all on the Internet—is an increasingly popular attack against organizations. Because our data is connected to the Internet, and stored in corporate networks, we are all in the potential blast-radius of these attacks. While the risk that any particular bit of data gets published is low, we have to start thinking about what could happen if a larger-scale breach affects us or the people we care about. It’s going to get a lot uglier before security improves…

The Government Must Show Us the Evidence That North Korea Attacked Sony

American history is littered with examples of classified information pointing us towards aggression against other countries—think WMDs—only to later learn that the evidence was wrong

  • Bruce Schneier
  • Time
  • January 5, 2015

When you’re attacked by a missile, you can follow its trajectory back to where it was launched from. When you’re attacked in cyberspace, figuring out who did it is much harder. The reality of international aggression in cyberspace will change how we approach defense.

Many of us in the computer-security field are skeptical of the U.S. government’s claim that it has positively identified North Korea as the perpetrator of the massive Sony hack in November 2014. The FBI’s evidence is circumstantial and not very convincing. The attackers never mentioned the movie that became the centerpiece of the hack until the press did. More likely, the culprits are random hackers who have …

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.