Shortly after the initial news came out that NSA fakes google and yahoo servers with stolen or faked certificates:
the german computer magazine C’T issued a warning that it is a security risk, when microsoft automatically updates its list of certificates without any noticing of the users, so that dubious certificates could easily get into the windows certificate list, which is thrusted by webbrowsers like internet explorer or google chrome for windows:
After reading this, I filed a bug in chromium, which then was dismissed as a “won’t fix”, with the chromium developers saying that the certificate list is “signed by Microsoft” and there would not be any break in the “chain of thrust”.
And now I see this message from google:
“On Wednesday, July 2, we became aware of unauthorized digital certificates for several Google domains. The certificates were issued by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) of India, which holds several intermediate CA certificates trusted by the Indian Controller of Certifying Authorities (India CCA).
The India CCA certificates are included in the Microsoft Root Store and thus are trusted by the vast majority of programs running on Windows, including Internet Explorer and Chrome. Firefox is not affected because it uses its own root store that doesn’t include these certificates.
We are not aware of any other root stores that include the India CCA certificates, thus Chrome on other operating systems, Chrome OS, Android, iOS and OS X are not affected. Additionally, Chrome on Windows would not have accepted the certificates for Google sites because of public-key pinning, although misissued certificates for other sites may exist.”
Update Jul 9: India CCA informed us of the results of their investigation on July 8. They reported that NIC’s issuance process was compromised and that only four certificates were misissued; the first on June 25. The four certificates provided included three for Google domains (one of which we were previously aware of) and one for Yahoo domains. However, we are also aware of misissued certificates not included in that set of four and can only conclude that the scope of the breach is unknown.”
Now microsoft has removed the certificates in question and it turnes out that the issue affected 45 domains:
In view of this list, the advice from google looks especially funny:
“Chrome users do not need to take any action to be protected by the CRLSet updates. We have no indication of widespread abuse and we are not suggesting that people change passwords.”
The microsoft certificate list is used in the browser chrome. Faking of a google server is difficult, since chrome checks its certificate by different means and that was how the attack was revealed. But chrome does not have a similar check for yahoo. If that attack would not be working after all, the hackers would not have used it.
But still, google does explicitely not suggesting anyone that they should change passwords…
William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.
On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations.
“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”
The National Security Agency and FBI have covertly monitored the emails of prominent Muslim-Americans—including a political candidate and several civil rights activists, academics, and lawyers—under secretive procedures intended to target terrorists and foreign spies.
According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the list of Americans monitored by their own government includes:
• Faisal Gill, a longtime Republican Party operative and one-time candidate for public office who held a top-secret security clearance and served in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush;
• Asim Ghafoor, a prominent attorney who has represented clients in terrorism-related cases;
• Hooshang Amirahmadi, an Iranian-American professor of international relations at Rutgers University;
• Agha Saeed, a former political science professor at California State University who champions Muslim civil liberties and Palestinian rights;
• Nihad Awad, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the country.
The official NSA reply is predictable:
No U.S. person can be the subject of surveillance based solely on First Amendment activities, such as staging public rallies, organizing campaigns, writing critical essays, or expressing personal beliefs.
On the other hand, a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.
The United States is as committed to protecting privacy rights and individual freedom as we are to defending our national security.
Back in the day there was talk about “jamming echelon” by adding keywords to email that the echelon system was supposedly looking for. We can do the same thing for XKeyScore: jam the system with more information than it can handle.
Ironischerweise sind es nach den speziellen Regeln, die NDR und WDR vorliegen, also ausgerechnet Personen mit dem Wunsch nach Anonymisierung, die zum Ziel der NSA werden. In den Augen des Geheimdienstes: Extremisten. Das ist keine Rhetorik, keine journalistische Zuspitzung. Der Begriff befindet sich sogar in der Kommentarspalte des Quelltexts, notiert von Programmierern der NSA.
Extremisten? Das Gegenteil ist der Fall, wie die Recherchen zeigen. Die deutschen Opfer sind politisch keinesfalls am äußeren Rand zu finden. Extrem sind sie allein in einem Punkt: Sie sind besorgt um die Sicherheit ihrer Daten. Und genau das macht sie in den Augen des US-Geheimdienstes verdächtig.
Darko Medic, 18, kurze braune Haare, sitzt vor seinem Laptop. Er gibt “Tails” und “USB” in die Maske seiner Suchmaschine ein. Was Darko nicht weiß: Er ist damit gerade ebenfalls in einer Datenbank der NSA gelandet. Markiert als einer der Extremisten, nach denen die Geheimdienstler so fleißig suchen.
Denn was die Regeln des Quellcodes ebenfalls verraten: Die NSA beobachtet im großen Stil die Suchanfragen weltweit – auch in Deutschland. Allein schon die einfache Suche nach Verschlüsselungssoftware wie “Tails” reicht aus, um ins Raster der NSA zu geraten. Die Verbindung der Anfrage mit Suchmaschinen macht verdächtig. Seine Suche nach “Tails” öffnet eine Tür, einen Zugang zu Darko und seiner Welt. Einmal in der Datenbank, kann jede Anfrage von Darko gezielt abgerufen werden. Darko ist unter Beobachtung.
A federal privacy watchdog is largely putting its support behind a major pillar of the National Security Agency’s foreign snooping.
A draft version of a new Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) report released late Tuesday said that NSA programs targeting foreigners are effective, legal and show “no trace” of “illegitimate activity,” though some changes should be made to better protect Americans’ privacy.
The conclusion stands in stark contrast to a previous blistering report from the PCLOB, which ruled the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records illegal earlier this year.
Makes you wonder what kind of dirt does the NSA has on the board members…
In Sachen Ausspähen scheint die NSA wieder einen Schritt voraus zu sein: Medienberichten zufolge belauscht der amerikanische Geheimdienst auch das neue Krypto-Handy der Kanzlerin.
Nach Bekanntwerden des NSA-Lauschangriffs auf die Bundesregierung sollten neue Verschlüsselungs-Smartphones des Typs BlackBerry 10 die Gespräche der Kanzlerin und ihres Kabinetts vor unbefugtem Mithören schützen. Doch der amerikanische Geheimdienst hat auch die neuen Krypto-Telefone bereits entschlüsselt, berichtet die “Bild am Sonntag”. Ein ranghoher Mitarbeiter des US-Geheimdienstes in Deutschland habe das bestätigt. “Die technischen Veränderungen beeinträchtigen unsere Arbeit nicht” sagte der Abhör-Spezialist der Bild.
The million dollar question is now how the nsa got access to the new blackberry+secusmart…
And to go above the million dollar prize… I find it hard to believe the german government is stupid enough to buy an enhanced version of an insecure and subverted platform. If I were Merkel I would wonder who gave me this advice. Why not follow the same path as the French did – have a local defense contractor do a limited edition modification of the german cryptophone.
And for us peons, it’s safe to assume our smartphone usage is unsecurable and act accordingly.
In the latest gaffe to demonstrate the privacy perils of anonymized data, New York City officials have inadvertently revealed the detailed comings and goings of individual taxi drivers over more than 173 million trips.
City officials released the data in response to a public records request and specifically obscured the drivers’ hack license numbers and medallion numbers. Rather than including those numbers in plaintext, the 20 gigabyte file contained one-way cryptographic hashes using the MD5 algorithm. Instead of a record showing medallion number 9Y99 or hack number 5296319, for example, those numbers were converted to 71b9c3f3ee5efb81ca05e9b90c91c88f and 98c2b1aeb8d40ff826c6f1580a600853, respectively. Because they’re one-way hashes, they can’t be mathematically converted back into their original values. Presumably, officials used the hashes to preserve the privacy of individual drivers since the records provide a detailed view of their locations and work performance over an extended period of time.
It turns out there’s a significant flaw in the approach. Because both the medallion and hack numbers are structured in predictable patterns, it was trivial to run all possible iterations through the same MD5 algorithm and then compare the output to the data contained in the 20GB file. Software developer Vijay Pandurangan did just that, and in less than two hours he had completely de-anonymized all 173 million entries.
The Obama administration has caved in to pressure from the European Union in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations on surveillance by promising to pass legislation granting European citizens many of the privacy protection rights enjoyed by US citizens.
The proposed law would apply to data on European citizens being transferred to the US for what Washington says is law enforcement purposes.
So they are going to lie to us in the exact same way they lie to their own citizens. Not much of an improvement.
Holder said: “The Obama administration is committed to seeking legislation that would ensure that … EU citizens would have the same right to seek judicial redress for intentional or wilful disclosures of protected information and for refusal to grant access or to rectify any errors in that information, as would a US citizen under the Privacy Act.
So, in practice, none at all.
This week German news magazine Der Spiegel published the largest single set of files leaked by whistleblower and former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The roughly 50 documents show the depth of the German intelligence agencies’ collusion with the NSA.
They suggest that the German Intelligence Agency (BND), the country’s foreign spy agency, and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), the German domestic spy agency, worked more closely with the NSA than they have admitted – and more than many observers thought.
Among its “success stories,” the documents praise how the German government was able to weaken the public’s protection from surveillance. “The German government has changed its interpretation of the G10 law, which protects German citizens’ communications, to allow the BND to be more flexible with the sharing of protected information with foreign partners.” Germany’s G10 law regulates in what circumstances its intelligence agencies are allowed to break Article 10 of the German constitution, which guarantees the privacy of letters and telecommunications.
Police in Florida have, at the request of the U.S. Marshals Service, been deliberately deceiving judges and defendants about their use of a controversial surveillance tool to track suspects, according to newly obtained emails.
At the request of the Marshals Service, the officers using so-called stingrays have been routinely telling judges, in applications for warrants, that they obtained knowledge of a suspect’s location from a “confidential source” rather than disclosing that the information was gleaned using a stingray.
A series of five emails (.pdf) written in April, 2009, were obtained today by the American Civil Liberties Union showing police officials discussing the deception. The organization has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with police departments throughout Florida seeking information about their use of stingrays.
“Concealing the use of stingrays deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance and keeps the public in the dark about invasive monitoring by local police,” the ACLU writes in a blog post about the emails. “And local and federal law enforcement should certainly not be colluding to hide basic and accurate information about their practices from the public and the courts.”
The U.S. Marshals Service did not respond to a call for comment.
This past Wednesday, the CIA held its first ever Conference on National Security at Georgetown University. It included plenty of the usual talking heads spouting nonsense, but I wanted to focus in on one particular talking head spouting particularly ridiculous nonsense. It’s our old friend, Rep. Mike Rogers, who is retiring from Congress to try to become an even bigger blowhard on talk radio (as if that’s possible). Apparently, Rogers is using this conference to practice the classical blowhard strategy of making a variety of absolutely ridiculous claims that directly contradict each other.
Matthew Hewlett and Caleb Turon, both Grade 9 students, found an old ATM operators manual online that showed how to get into the machine’s operator mode. On Wednesday over their lunch hour, they went to the BMO’s ATM at the Safeway on Grant Avenue to see if they could get into the system.
“We thought it would be fun to try it, but we were not expecting it to work,” Hewlett said. “When it did, it asked for a password.”
Hewlett and Turon were even more shocked when their first random guess at the six-digit password worked. They used a common default password. The boys then immediately went to the BMO Charleswood Centre branch on Grant Avenue to notify them.
When they told staff about a security problem with an ATM, they assumed one of their PIN numbers had been stolen, Hewlett said.
“I said: ‘No, no, no. We hacked your ATM. We got into the operator mode,'” Hewlett said.
“He said that wasn’t really possible and we don’t have any proof that we did it.
“I asked them: ‘Is it all right for us to get proof?’
“He said: ‘Yeah, sure, but you’ll never be able to get anything out of it.’
“So we both went back to the ATM and I got into the operator mode again. Then I started printing off documentation like how much money is currently in the machine, how many withdrawals have happened that day, how much it’s made off surcharges.
“Then I found a way to change the surcharge amount, so I changed the surcharge amount to one cent.”
As further proof, Hewlett playfully changed the ATM’s greeting from “Welcome to the BMO ATM” to “Go away. This ATM has been hacked.”
They returned to BMO with six printed documents. This time, staff took them seriously.
A federal judge has ordered the government to stop destroying National Security Agency surveillance records that could be used to challenge the legality of its spying programs in court.
U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White’s ruling came at the request of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is in the midst of a case challenging NSA’s ability to surveil foreign citizen’s U.S.-based email and social media accounts.
According to the EFF, the signals intelligence agency and the Department of Justice were knowingly destroying key evidence in the case by purposefully misinterpreting earlier preservation orders by multiple courts, multiple times.
A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn recently when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them.
The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this year filed the public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool.
The ACLU had an appointment last Tuesday to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.
ACLU staff attorney Nathan Freed Wessler called the move “truly extraordinary and beyond the worst transparency violations” the group has seen regarding documents detailing police use of the technology.
“This is consistent with what we’ve seen around the country with federal agencies trying to meddle with public requests for stingray information,” Wessler said, noting that federal authorities have in other cases invoked the Homeland Security Act to prevent the release of such records. “The feds are working very hard to block any release of this information to the public.”
Stingrays, also known as IMSI catchers, simulate a cellphone tower and trick nearby mobile devices into connecting with them, thereby revealing their location. A stingray can see and record a device’s unique ID number and traffic data, as well as information that points to its location. By moving a stingray around, authorities can triangulate a device’s location with greater precision than is possible using data obtained from a carrier’s fixed tower location.
If you wonder why I am posting this, check the team page on http://radical.sexy.
James Comey, the FBI director, says the bureau’s no-tolerance marijuana policy is hindering the hiring of cyber-security experts. Coney added that he is “grappling” with possibly changing the practice.
The director’s comments come one day after five members of the Chinese military were indicted in the US on allegations of hacking into major US corporations and stealing trade secrets
“I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview,” Comey told a New York City Bar Association meeting Tuesday.
The bureau, which is seeking to employ as many as 2,000 new recruits this year, is prohibited from hiring those who have used marijuana the previous years.
When a Chip and PIN transaction is performed, the terminal requests that the card produces an authentication code for the transaction. Part of this transaction is a number that is supposed to be random, so as to stop an authentication code being generated in advance. However, there are two ways in which the protection can by bypassed: the first requires that the Chip and PIN terminal has a poorly designed random generation (which we have observed in the wild); the second requires that the Chip and PIN terminal or its communications back to the bank can be tampered with (which again, we have observed in the wild).
My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company’s network.
My company, Lavabit, provided email services to 410,000 people – including Edward Snowden, according to news reports – and thrived by offering features specifically designed to protect the privacy and security of its customers. I had no choice but to consent to the installation of their device, which would hand the US government access to all of the messages – to and from all of my customers – as they travelled between their email accounts other providers on the Internet.
But that wasn’t enough. The federal agents then claimed that their court order required me to surrender my company’s private encryption keys, and I balked. What they said they needed were customer passwords – which were sent securely – so that they could access the plain-text versions of messages from customers using my company’s encrypted storage feature. (The government would later claim they only made this demand because of my “noncompliance”.)
Bothered by what the agents were saying, I informed them that I would first need to read the order they had just delivered – and then consult with an attorney. The feds seemed surprised by my hesitation.
What ensued was a flurry of legal proceedings that would last 38 days, ending not only my startup but also destroying, bit by bit, the very principle upon which I founded it – that we all have a right to personal privacy.
Then, a federal judge entered an order of contempt against me – without even so much as a hearing.
But the judge created a loophole: without a hearing, I was never given the opportunity to object, let alone make any any substantive defense, to the contempt change. Without any objection (because I wasn’t allowed a hearing), the appellate court waived consideration of the substantive questions my case raised – and upheld the contempt charge, on the grounds that I hadn’t disputed it in court. Since the US supreme court traditionally declines to review decided on wholly procedural grounds, I will be permanently denied justice.
a case held in a secret court where the defendant isn’t allowed adequate time to find counsel, defendant found in contempt without any chance to object, contempt charge upheld on appeal because there was no objection, Supreme Court says “no thanks” to hearing the case because it was all decided on procedural grounds….
Guys, reminder – Kafka is a novel, not a manual.
The Guardian has obtained CCTV footage showing a police officer firing a Taser at a naked man in a cell.
A chief constable tried to prevent the release of footage showing the Wiltshire constable Lee Birch shooting the Taser at 23-year-old Daniel Dove – despite a court agreeing it could be published.
The Guardian obtained the footage from another source.
It shows Dove, who had been arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, being subjected to a strip search in a custody suite.
He pulls off his boxer shorts and flicks them at Birch. The officer takes a Taser he had held behind his back and fires it at Dove’s chest. The young man falls on to a mat that had been placed on the floor of the cell.
A crown court jury on Tuesday cleared Birch of assault causing actual bodily harm and misconduct in a public office. Charges were subsequently dropped against Dove.
However the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is investigating five officers including Birch in connection with the incident and is also looking at why the force involved, Wiltshire, did not inform it about what happened.
The IPCC will now examine if Birch, 31, and four colleagues breached professional standards.
Facebook Notes allows users to include tags. Whenever a tag is used, Facebook crawls the image from the external server and caches it. Facebook will only cache the image once however using random get parameters the cache can be by-passed and the feature can be abused to cause a huge HTTP GET flood.
Back in December, Eloi Vanderbecken of Synacktiv Digital Security was visiting his family for the Christmas holiday, and for various reasons he had the need to gain administrative access to their Linksys WAG200G DSL gateway over Wi-Fi. He discovered that the device was listening on an undocumented Internet Protocol port number, and after analyzing the code in the firmware, he found that the port could be used to send administrative commands to the router without a password.
After Vanderbecken published his results, others confirmed that the same backdoor existed on other systems based on the same Sercomm modem, including home routers from Netgear, Cisco (both under the Cisco and Linksys brands), and Diamond. In January, Netgear and other vendors published a new version of the firmware that was supposed to close the back door.
However, that new firmware apparently only hid the backdoor rather than closing it. In a PowerPoint narrative posted on April 18, Vanderbecken disclosed that the “fixed” code concealed the same communications port he had originally found (port 32764) until a remote user employed a secret “knock”—sending a specially crafted network packet that reactivates the backdoor interface.
The packet structure used to open the backdoor, Vanderbecken said, is the same used by “an old Sercomm update tool”—a packet also used in code by Wilmer van der Gaast to “rootkit” another Netgear router. The packet’s payload, in the version of the backdoor discovered by Vanderbecken in the firmware posted by Netgear, is an MD5 hash of the router’s model number (DGN1000).
The nature of the change, which leverages the same code as was used in the old firmware to provide administrative access over the concealed port, suggests that the backdoor is an intentional feature of the firmware and not just a mistake made in coding.
Do not feed RSA private key information to the random subsystem as entropy. It might be fed to a pluggable random subsystem…. What were they thinking?!
Wow. The entire concept of it is so bad that if you can’t avoid it, it’s literally better to call exit() than go through with it.
“I suspect that over the past eight months, many companies have taken a real hard look at their existing policies about tipping off the U.S. government,” he said. “That’s the price you pay when you’re acting like an out-of-control offensive adversary.”
Meanwhile, the FBI fiercely resists any efforts at Congressional oversight, especially on whistleblower matters. For example, four months ago I sent a letter to the FBI requesting its training materials on the Insider Threat Program. This program was announced by the Obama Administration in October 2011. It was intended to train federal employees to watch out for insider threats among their colleagues. Public news reports indicated that this program might not do enough to distinguish between true insider threats and legitimate whistleblowers. I relayed these concerns in my letter. I also asked for copies of the training materials. I said I wanted to examine whether they adequately distinguished between insider threats and whistleblowers.
In response, an FBI legislative affairs official told my staff that a briefing might be the best way to answer my questions. It was scheduled for last week. Staff for both Chairman Leahy and I attended, and the FBI brought the head of their Insider Threat Program. Yet the FBI didn’t bring the Insider Threat training materials as we had requested. However, the head of the Insider Threat Program told the staff that there was no need to worry about whistleblower communications. He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people.
Now I have never heard of whistleblowers being required to “register” in order to be protected. The idea of such a requirement should be pretty alarming to all Americans. Sometimes confidentiality is the best protection a whistleblower has. Unfortunately, neither my staff nor Chairman Leahy’s staff was able to learn more, because only about ten minutes into the briefing, the FBI abruptly walked out. FBI officials simply refused to discuss any whistleblower implications in its Insider Threat Program and left the room. These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection.
Note that not all code, even in the same project, is equally exposed. It’s tempting to say it’s a needle in a haystack. But I promise you this: Anybody patches Linux/net/ipv4/tcp_input.c (which handles inbound network for Linux), a hundred alerts are fired and many of them are not to individuals anyone would call friendly. One guy, one night, patched OpenSSL. Not enough defenders noticed, and it took Neel Mehta to do something.
We fix that, or this happens again. And again. And again.
No more accidental finds. The stakes are just too high.
A consequence of this principle is that every occurrence of every subscript of every subscripted variable was on every occasion checked at run time against both the upper and the lower declared bounds of the array. Many years later we asked our customers whether they wished us to provide an option to switch off these checks in the interest of efficiency on production runs. Unanimously, they urged us not to—they already knew how frequently subscript errors occur on production runs where failure to detect them could be disastrous. I note with fear and horror that even in 1980, language designers and users have not learned this lesson. In any respectable branch of engineering, failure to observe such elementary precautions would have long been against the law.
— C. A. R. Hoare, from his Turing Award speech 34 years ago
Microsoft is not unique in claiming the right to read users’ emails – Apple, Yahoo and Google all reserve that right as well, the Guardian has determined.
The broad rights email providers claim for themselves has come to light following Microsoft’s admission that it read a journalist’s Hotmail account in an attempt to track down the source of an internal leak. But most webmail services claim the right to read users’ email if they believe that such access is necessary to protect their property.
The senior lawyer for the National Security Agency stated unequivocally on Wednesday that US technology companies were fully aware of the surveillance agency’s widespread collection of data, contradicting months of angry denials from the firms.
Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called “upstream” collection of communications moving across the internet.
Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government’s institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the “full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained,” De replied: “Yes.”
When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke the Prism story in June, thanks to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL – claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had “never heard” the term Prism.
De explained: “Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,” De said. “Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.”
I think there’s a good case to be made for security as an exercise in public health. It sounds weird at first, but the parallels are fascinating and deep and instructive.
Last year, when I finished that talk in Seattle, a talk about all the ways that insecure computers put us all at risk, a woman in the audience put up her hand and said, “Well, you’ve scared the hell out of me. Now what do I do? How do I make my computers secure?”
And I had to answer: “You can’t. No one of us can. I was a systems administrator 15 years ago. That means that I’m barely qualified to plug in a WiFi router today. I can’t make my devices secure and neither can you. Not when our governments are buying up information about flaws in our computers and weaponising them as part of their crime-fighting and anti-terrorism strategies. Not when it is illegal to tell people if there are flaws in their computers, where such a disclosure might compromise someone’s anti-copying strategy.
But: If I had just stood here and spent an hour telling you about water-borne parasites; if I had told you about how inadequate water-treatment would put you and everyone you love at risk of horrifying illness and terrible, painful death; if I had explained that our very civilisation was at risk because the intelligence services were pursuing a strategy of keeping information about pathogens secret so they can weaponise them, knowing that no one is working on a cure; you would not ask me ‘How can I purify the water coming out of my tap?’”
Because when it comes to public health, individual action only gets you so far. It doesn’t matter how good your water is, if your neighbour’s water gives him cholera, there’s a good chance you’ll get cholera, too. And even if you stay healthy, you’re not going to have a very good time of it when everyone else in your country is striken and has taken to their beds.
If you discovered that your government was hoarding information about water-borne parasites instead of trying to eradicate them; if you discovered that they were more interested in weaponising typhus than they were in curing it, you would demand that your government treat your water-supply with the gravitas and seriousness that it is due.