Entries Tagged "leaks"

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NSA's Public Relations Campaign Targets Reporters

Your tax dollars at work:

Frustrated by press leaks about its most sensitive electronic surveillance work, the secretive National Security Agency convened an unprecedented series of off-the-record “seminars” in recent years to teach reporters about the damage caused by such leaks and to discourage reporting that could interfere with the agency’s mission to spy on America’s enemies.

The half-day classes featured high-ranking NSA officials highlighting objectionable passages in published stories and offering “an innocuous rewrite” that officials said maintained the “overall thrust” of the articles but omitted details that could disclose the agency’s techniques, according to course outlines obtained by The New York Sun.

Posted on October 4, 2007 at 3:11 PMView Comments

Leaked MediaDefender E-mails

This story is poised to become a bigger deal:

Peer-to-peer (P2P) poisoning company MediaDefender suffered an embarrassing leak this weekend, when almost 700MB of internal company e-mail was distributed on the Internet via BitTorrent. The e-mails reveal many aspects of MediaDefender’s elaborate P2P disruption strategies, illuminate previously undisclosed details about the MiiVi scandal, and bring to light details regarding MediaDefender’s collaboration with the New York Attorney General’s office on a secret law enforcement project. We have been reviewing the data for days and will have multiple reports on the topic.

More info here.

And now, phone calls were leaked. Here’s a teaser—Ben Grodsky of Media Defender talking to the New York State General Attorney’s office:

Ben Grodsky: “Yeah it seems…I mean, from our telephone call yesterday it seems that uhm… we all pretty much came to the conclusion that probably was ehm… caught in the email transmission because the attacker, I guess what you call, the Swedish IP, the attacker uhm… knew the login and the IP address and port uhm… but they weren’t able to get in because we had changed the password on our end, you know, following our normal security protocols uhm… when we are making secure transactions like these on the first login we’ll change the password so, obviously, well not obviously but, it seems that, most likely scenario is that, at some point that email was ehm… intercepted.

You know just because it is,.. probably it was going through the public Internet and there wasn’t any sort of encryption key used to ehm… protect the data in that email.”

Ben Grodsky: “…if you guys are comfortable just communicating with us by phone, anything that is really really sensitive we can just communicate in this fashion…”

Ben Grodsky: “OK [confused, taking notes]. So, you are gonna disable password authentication and enable public key?”

Ben Grodsky: “…that part has… has not been compromised in any way. I mean, the communications between our offices in Santa Monica and our data centers have not been compromised in any way and all those communications to NY, to your offices, are secured. The only part that was compromised was…was the email communications about these things.”

Ben Grodsky: “…All we can say for sure Media Defender’s mail server has not been hacked or compromised…”

[Answering to the question “What kind of IDS you guys are running?”]
Ben Grodsky: “Ehm…I don’t know. Let me look into that.”

EDITED TO ADD (9/20): Media Defender’s source code is now available on P2P networks. Actually, I’m feeling sorry for them.

Posted on September 18, 2007 at 12:03 PMView Comments

New Harry Potter Book Leaked on BitTorrent

It’s online: digital photographs of every page are available on BitTorrent.

I’ve been fielding press calls on this, mostly from reporters asking me what the publisher could have done differently. Honestly, I don’t think it was possible to keep the book under wraps. There are millions of copies of the book headed to all four corners of the globe. There are simply too many people who must be trusted in order for the security to hold. And all it takes is one untrustworthy person—one truck driver, one bookstore owner, one warehouse worker—to leak the book.

But conversely, I don’t think the publishers should care. Anyone fan-crazed enough to read digital photographs of the pages a few days before the real copy comes out is also someone who is going to buy a real copy. And anyone who will read the digital photographs instead of the real book would have borrowed a copy from a friend. My guess is that the publishers will lose zero sales, and that the pre-release will simply increase the press frenzy.

I’m kind of amazed the book hadn’t leaked sooner.

And, of course, it is inevitable that we’ll get ASCII copies of the book post-publication, for all of you who want to read it on your PDA.

EDITED TO ADD (7/18): I was interviewed for “Future Tense” on this story.

EDITED TO ADD (7/20): This article outlines some of the security measures the publisher took with the manuscript.

EDITED TO ADD (7/25): The camera has a unique serial number embedded in each of the digital photos which might be used to track the author. Just another example of how we leave electronic footprints everywhere we go.

EDITED TO ADD (8/15): Here is a much more comprehensive analysis of who the leaker is:

  • The photographer is Caucasian.
  • The photographer is probably not married (no wedding ring on left hand).
  • The photographer is likely male. In the first few photos, the ring finger appears to be longer than the index finger. This is called the 2D:4D ratio and a lower ratio is symptomatic a high level of testosterone, suggesting a male. However, there is no clear shot of the fingers layed out, so this is not conclusive.
  • Although cameras are usually designed for right-handed use, the photographer uses his left hand to pin down the book. This suggests that the photographer is right handed. (I’ve seen southpaws try to do this sort of thing, and they usually hold the camera in an odd way with their left hand.) However, this too is not conclusive.
  • The photographer’s hand looks young—possibly a teenager or young adult.

Much, much more in the link.

Posted on July 17, 2007 at 4:38 PMView Comments

More on the HP Board Spying Scandal

Two weeks ago I wrote about a spying scandal involving the HP board. There’s more:

A secret investigation of news leaks at Hewlett-Packard was more elaborate than previously reported, and almost from the start involved the illicit gathering of private phone records and direct surveillance of board members and journalists, according to people briefed on the company’s review of the operation.

Given this, I predict a real investigation into the incident:

Those briefed on the company’s review of the operation say detectives tried to plant software on at least one journalist’s computer that would enable messages to be traced, and also followed directors and possibly a journalist in an attempt to identify a leaker on the board.

I’m amazed there isn’t more outcry. Pretexting, planting Trojans…this is the sort of thing that would get a “hacker” immediately arrested. But if the chairman of the HP board does it, suddenly it’s a gray area.

EDITED TO ADD (9/20): More info.

Posted on September 18, 2006 at 2:48 PMView Comments

Spying on the HP Board

Fascinating story.

Basically, the chairman of Hewlett-Packard, annoyed at leaks, hired investigators to track down the phone records (including home and cell) of the other HP board members. One board member resigned because of this. The leaker has refused to resign, although he has been outed.

Note that the article says that the investigators used “pretexting,” which is illegal.

The entire episode—beyond its impact on the boardroom of a $100 billion company, Dunn’s ability to continue as chairwoman and the possibility of civil lawsuits claiming privacy invasions and fraudulent misrepresentations—raises questions about corporate surveillance in a digital age. Audio and visual surveillance capabilities keep advancing, both in their ability to collect and analyze data. The Web helps distribute that data efficiently and effortlessly. But what happens when these advances outstrip the
ability of companies (and, for that matter, governments) to reach consensus on ethical limits? How far will companies go to obtain information they seek for competitive gain or better management?

The HP case specifically also sheds another spotlight on the questionable tactics used by security consultants to obtain personal information. HP acknowledged in an internal e-mail sent from its outside counsel to Perkins that it got the paper trail it needed to link the director-leaker to CNET through a controversial practice called “pretexting”; NEWSWEEK obtained a copy of that e-mail. That practice, according to the Federal Trade Commission, involves using “false pretenses” to get another individual’s personal nonpublic information: telephone records, bank and credit-card account numbers, Social Security number and the like.

EDITED TO ADD (9/8): Good commentary.

EDITED TO ADD (9/12): HP Chairman Patricia Dunn was fired.

Posted on September 7, 2006 at 1:47 PMView Comments

Security Through Begging

From TechDirt:

Last summer, the surprising news came out that Japanese nuclear secrets leaked out, after a contractor was allowed to connect his personal virus-infested computer to the network at a nuclear power plant. The contractor had a file sharing app on his laptop as well, and suddenly nuclear secrets were available to plenty of kids just trying to download the latest hit single. It’s only taken about nine months for the government to come up with its suggestion on how to prevent future leaks of this nature: begging all Japanese citizens not to use file sharing systems—so that the next time this happens, there won’t be anyone on the network to download such documents.

Even if their begging works, it solves the wrong problem. Sad.

EDITED TO ADD (3/22): Another article.

Posted on March 20, 2006 at 2:01 PMView Comments

276 British Spies

The website Cryptome has a list of 276 MI6 agents:

This combines three lists of MI6 officers published here on 13 May 1999 (116 names), 21 August 2005 (74 names), and 27 August 2005 (121 names).

While none of the 311 names appeared on all three lists…35 names appeared on two lists, leaving 276 unique names.

According to Silicon.com:

It is not the first time this kind of information has been published on the internet and Foreign Office policy is to neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of such lists. But a spokesman slammed its publication for potentially putting lives in danger.

On the other hand:

The website is run by John Young, who “welcomes” secret documents for publication and recently said there was a “need to name as many intelligence officers and agents as possible”.

He said: “It is disinformation that naming them places their life in jeopardy. Not identifying them places far more lives in jeopardy from their vile secret operations and plots.”

Discuss.

Posted on August 31, 2005 at 2:28 PMView Comments

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.