Based on preliminary reports published by the team of experts that New Hampshire engaged to examine an election discrepancy, it appears that a buildup of dust in the read heads of optical-scan voting machines (possibly over several years of use) can cause paper-fold lines in absentee ballots to be interpreted as votes… New Hampshire (and other states) may need to maintain the accuracy of their optical-scan voting machines by paying attention to three issues:
- Routine risk-limiting audits to detect inaccuracies if/when they occur.
- Clean the dust out of optical-scan read heads regularly; pay attention to the calibration of the optical-scan machines.
- Make sure that the machines that automatically fold absentee ballots (before mailing them to voters) don’t put the fold lines over vote-target ovals. (Same for election workers who fold ballots by hand.)
Entries Tagged "scanners"
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Security researcher Charlie Belmer is reporting that commercial websites such as eBay are conducting port scans of their visitors.
Looking at the list of ports they are scanning, they are looking for VNC services being run on the host, which is the same thing that was reported for bank sites. I marked out the ports and what they are known for (with a few blanks for ones I am unfamiliar with):
- 5900: VNC
- 5901: VNC port 2
- 5902: VNC port 3
- 5903: VNC port 4
- 3389: Windows remote desktop / RDP
- 5931: Ammy Admin remote desktop
- 5950: WinVNC
- 6039: X window system
- 6040: X window system
- 63333: TrippLite power alert UPS
- 7070: RealAudio
No one seems to know why:
I could not believe my eyes, but it was quickly reproduced by me (see below for my observation).
I surfed around to several sites, and found one more that does this (the citibank site, see below for my observation)
I further see, at least across ebay.com and citibank.com the same ports, in the same sequence getting scanned. That implies there may be a library in use across both sites that is doing this. (I have not debugged into the matter so far.)
- Is this port scanning “a thing” built into some standard fingerprinting or security library? (if so, which?)
- Is there a plugin for firefox that can block such behavior? (or can such blocking be added to an existing plugin)?
I’m curious, too.
Interesting article on terahertz millimeter-wave scanners and their uses to detect terrorist bombers.
The heart of the device is a block of electronics about the size of a 1990s tower personal computer. It comes housed in a musician’s black case, akin to the one Spinal Tap might use on tour. At the front: a large, square white plate, the terahertz camera and, just above it, an ordinary closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera. Mounted on a shelf inside the case is a laptop that displays the CCTV image and the blobby terahertz image side by side.
An operator compares the two images as people flow past, looking for unexplained dark areas that could represent firearms or suicide vests. Most images that might be mistaken for a weapon — backpacks or a big patch of sweat on the back of a person’s shirt — are easily evaluated by observing the terahertz image alongside an unaltered video picture of the passenger.
It is up to the operator — in LA’s case, presumably a transport police officer — to query people when dark areas on the terahertz image suggest concealed large weapons or suicide vests. The device cannot see inside bodies, backpacks or shoes. “If you look at previous incidents on public transit systems, this technology would have detected those,” Sotero says, noting LA Metro worked “closely” with the TSA for over a year to test this and other technologies. “It definitely has the backing of TSA.”
How the technology works in practice depends heavily on the operator’s training. According to Evans, “A lot of tradecraft goes into understanding where the threat item is likely to be on the body.” He sees the crucial role played by the operator as giving back control to security guards and allowing them to use their common sense.
I am quoted in the article as being skeptical of the technology, particularly how its deployed.
Google has a new login service for high-risk users. It’s good, but unforgiving.
Logging in from a desktop will require a special USB key, while accessing your data from a mobile device will similarly require a Bluetooth dongle. All non-Google services and apps will be exiled from reaching into your Gmail or Google Drive. Google’s malware scanners will use a more intensive process to quarantine and analyze incoming documents. And if you forget your password, or lose your hardware login keys, you’ll have to jump through more hoops than ever to regain access, the better to foil any intruders who would abuse that process to circumvent all of Google’s other safeguards.
It’s called Advanced Protection.
This is interesting:
First, it integrates with corporate directories such as Active Directory and social media sites like LinkedIn to map the connections between employees, as well as important outside contacts. Bell calls this the “real org chart.” Hackers can use such information to choose people they ought to impersonate while trying to scam employees.
From there, AVA users can craft custom phishing campaigns, both in email and Twitter, to see how employees respond. Finally, and most importantly, it helps organizations track the results of these campaigns. You could use AVA to evaluate the effectiveness of two different security training programs, see which employees need more training, or find places where additional security is needed.
Of course, the problem is that both good guys and bad guys can use this tool. Which makes it like pretty much every other vulnerability scanner.
Security researchers have finally gotten their hands on a Rapiscan backscatter full-body scanner. The results aren’t very good.
Note that these machines have been replaced in US airports with millimeter wave full-body scanners.
There’s a new story on the c’t magazin website about a 5-Eyes program to infect computers around the world for use as launching pads for attacks. These are not target computers; these are innocent third parties.
The article actually talks about several government programs. HACIENDA is a GCHQ program to port-scan entire countries, looking for vulnerable computers to attack. According to the GCHQ slide from 2009, they’ve completed port scans of 27 different countries and are prepared to do more.
The point of this is to create ORBs, or Operational Relay Boxes. Basically, these are computers that sit between the attacker and the target, and are designed to obscure the true origins of an attack. Slides from the Canadian CSEC talk about how this process is being automated: “2-3 times/year, 1 day focused effort to acquire as many new ORBs as possible in as many non 5-Eyes countries as possible.” They’ve automated this process into something codenamed LANDMARK, and together with a knowledge engine codenamed OLYMPIA, 24 people were able to identify “a list of 3000+ potential ORBs” in 5-8 hours. The presentation does not go on to say whether all of those computers were actually infected.
Slides from the UK’s GCHQ also talk about ORB detection, as part of a program called MUGSHOT. It, too, is happy with the automatic process: “Initial ten fold increase in Orb identification rate over manual process.” There are also NSA slides that talk about the hacking process, but there’s not much new in them.
The slides never say how many of the “potential ORBs” CSEC discovers or the computers that register positive in GCHQ’s “Orb identification” are actually infected, but they’re all stored in a database for future use. The Canadian slides talk about how some of that information was shared with the NSA.
Increasingly, innocent computers and networks are becoming collateral damage, as countries use the Internet to conduct espionage and attacks against each other. This is an example of that. Not only do these intelligence services want an insecure Internet so they can attack each other, they want an insecure Internet so they can use innocent third parties to help facilitate their attacks.
The story contains formerly TOP SECRET documents from the US, UK, and Canada. Note that Snowden is not mentioned at all in this story. Usually, if the documents the story is based on come from Snowden, the reporters say that. In this case, the reporters have said nothing about where the documents come from. I don’t know if this is an omission — these documents sure look like the sorts of things that come from the Snowden archive — or if there is yet another leaker.
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.