SSD's firmware encryption is pretty floppy

Subject: General Tech | November 6, 2018 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, encryption, crucial, bitlocker

The hardware world is full of badly thought out implementations, from the inconvenient to the utterly incompetent, and today we have one of the latter.  Bitlocker and other popular encryption tools can use software or hardware to encrypt and store the data encryption key, with many opting for the accelerated hardware encryption baked into many SSDs.  This has turned out to be a bad idea, as tests on a variety of models show you can grab an encrypted disk, plug into the debug ports and convince it to accept any value as an authorized DEK and give you full access to the data on that drive.  This is in part due to the hardware not using the owner's password for encryption ... at all.  The Register's article offers a suggestion, which is to make use of software encryption methods which do incorporate the users password and can be set to actually not use the same DEK across the entire drive. 

Read on for suggestions on solutions which should mitigate this flaw and which can coexist peacefully with hardware encryption.

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"Basically, the cryptographic keys used to encrypt and decrypt the data are not derived from the owner's password, meaning, you can seize a drive and, via a debug port, reprogram it to accept any password. At that point, the SSD will use its stored keys to cipher and decipher its contents. Yes, it's that dumb."

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Source: The Register

BlackBerry Launches Security-Focused KEY2 Smartphone with Physical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2018 - 03:05 AM |
Tagged: Oreo, encryption, dtek, blackberry, android 8.1, Android

BlackBerry’s upcoming KEY2 smartphone is a refreshed successor to last year’s KEYone that addresses most of the issues of its predecessor. At 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5mm and 168 grams the KEY2 is slightly taller, but skinnier, thinner, and lighter than the KEYone with less rounded edges and no camera bump. The KEY2 comes in silver or black and features an aluminum alloy frame, soft touch non-slip back, and a 4.5” display and 35-key backlit physical keyboard around front. The smartphone runs the Android 8.1 Oreo operating system along with BlackBerry security features like a hardened kernel, secure boot, full disk encryption, DTEK security suite, Locker, and the privacy focused Firefox Focus browser.

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The 4.5” IPS display remains the same as the KEYone featuring a 3:2 aspect ratio and 1620 x 1080 resolution, but the BlackBerry KEY2 does feature an updated camera system and a tweaked keyboard. The dual rear 12MP cameras work with a dual tone LED flash and laser and phase detection auto focus (one camera supports a 2X zoom and supports portrait mode) to offer up high-resolution HDR images and 4K30 or 1080p60 videos. Around front, BlackBerry includes an 8MP camera for video conferencing or “selfies”. The keyboard has been updated with 20% taller keys and a matte finish while the right shift key has been swapped out for what BlacKBerry calls the Speed Key which allows users to hold in combination with any other key to open applications of their choice. The keyboard can be used as a trackpad with gesture support and hosts a fingerprint sensor in the space bar. According to YouTube vloggers at a BlackBerry event the keyboard feels more like the BlackBerry Bold keyboards of old which is a good thing. The keys are reportedly more clicky and less mushy as well.

The KEY2 features a headphone jack up top, power, volume, and convenience keys along the right edge, and a single speaker and USB-C port on the bottom edge.

Internally, BlackBerry has slightly updated the specifications to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, 6GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of flash storage, and a 3500 mAh batter. While the Snapdragon 660 is still a solidly midrange part, it is at least a good bit faster than the SD620 used in the KEYone thanks to the move to Kryo 260 CPU cores. Specifically, the Snapdragon 660 has four Kryo 260 CPU cores at 2.2 GHz and four cores at 1.8 GHz along with an Adreno 512 GPU, Hexagon 680 DSP, and X12 LTE modem. Wireless I/O includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, LTE, NFC, GPS, and FM radios. BlackBerry claims that the KEY2’s battery is good for up to two days of mixed usage and it supports USB Power Delivery 2.0 v1.2 and 9V2A 18W along with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 for charging.

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This secure Android experience with physical key goodness comes at a cost, however. TCL’s BlackBerry KEY2 will be available later this month starting at $649 for the 64GB version (there is no word on the 128GB version’s price).

From my understanding the KEYone was a successful product for the company, and the improved KEY2 is sure to find a market among physical keyboard enthusiasts and security conscious business users even at the premium price.

Source: Blackberry

Cloudflare's encrypted DNS is still going strong

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2018 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: cloudflare, encryption, dns, 1.1.1.1

Cloudflare made the odd decision to announce their new encrypted DNS service on April Fools Day, however a week later has proved not to be a joke as it is still up and running.  Even better, in the past week there has been huge amount of traffic through the new DNS and it has proved to be stable and quick.  If you are looking for a way to prevent your online traffic to be tracked via your DNS requests then consider updating your settings on your PC or router to use the new DNS, though be aware some ISPs get twitchy when you move off of their DNS servers and may do interesting things to your service.   If you are curious about DNS encryption and why you might want to use it you should check out Ars Technica's write up here.

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"While executed with some unique Cloudflare flare, 1.1.1.1 isn't the first encrypted DNS service by any means—Quad9, Cisco's OpenDNS, Google's 8.8.8.8 service, and a host of smaller providers support various schemes to encrypt DNS requests entirely. But encryption doesn't necessarily mean that your traffic is invisible; some encrypted DNS services log your requests for various purposes."

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Source: Ars Technica

Alphabet's Jigsaw Launches Outline: An Open Source and Simple To Use Proxy

Subject: General Tech | March 28, 2018 - 10:59 PM |
Tagged: vpn, socks5, shadowsocks, security, proxy, outline, encryption

Alphabet Inc (parent company of Google) through its Jigsaw subsidiary recently took the wraps off of Outline which is a simple to setup proxy based on the popular Shadowsocks project. Aimed at journalists, small companies, and individuals, Outline is an open source project that comes in two parts: a proxy server and client applications that help configure the connection.

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While companies can take advantage of an advanced mode to install Outline's server components onto an existing cloud server or an internal private server, most users can opt for the basic setup which is about as simple as it gets. Currently, Outline integrates with Digital Ocean using Digital Ocean's API and after signing in and authorizing Outline to make changes, it automatically spins up the lowest cost droplet and sets everything up. You never need to SSH into the VPS to configure anything. Rather, what little configuration there is (not much!) is done using a GUI Outline Manager application on a client device. The connection between the management application and the server is encrypted using a self-signed SSL certificate.

The proxy server is based on a Shadowbox image that is imported using Docker and is kept up to date using Watchtower (which is also installed on the droplet) which checks every hour for updated images. A cron job is also automatically configured to run and apply security updates for the host Ubuntu operating system and reboot as needed. Finally, a web server for management of it is installed in a secret path and run on a random port and only responds to queries if the secret path is specified and only over SSL.

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After watching Darren Kitchen and Shannon Morse over at Hak5 check it out, I decided to also fire it up to see if it really was that easy, and sure enough it is! The entire process is very simple taking only a few minutes (the longest step was finding my phone for the two factor authentications haha) and the management of it at least seems very hands off with the automated updates.

On the security front, Outline is a SOCK5 proxy that reportedly uses strong encryption with an AEAD 256-bit ChaCha2020 IETF Poly 1305 cipher which, according to Jigsaw, ticks all at least two boxes corners of the CIA triangle (confidentiality and integrity) along with authentication using the secure keys. I think the hardest part about maintaining that security is going to be sharing the access with others as you would need a secure channel of communication to share the needed information with. While you can generate the key easily enough for them, getting them their key for the client device could prove tricky if you are physically far away from them and do not already have a secure method of messaging (e.g. encrypted email) though for most people sending it through signal or a similar mobile app or encrypted skype/facebook/whatever while not the greatest plan is likely to prove secure enough that it balances security and convenience.

In November, Outline was audited by Netherlands-based Radically Open Security and you can find the non-profit's report here (PDF).

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Things are even simpler on the client side, after adding the server using the access key, all they have to do is hit a single connect button to get things connnected for most modern web browsers and other apps that respect the set Windows registry key. Note that for Android and Chrome OS, Outline acts as a system-wide VPN, but for Windows only TCP traffic is secured and not all applications are supported yet. Support for passing UDP traffic through the SOCKS5 proxy and for system-wide VPN tunneling of all traffic is coming soon but right now the only UDP traffic that is passed through the proxy is DNS which is encrypted and uses the Outline server's defualt DNS resolver rather than passing outside fo the proxy and using the Windows-configured DNS and/or ISP's DNS.

In my case, after hitting connect, Chrome automatically configured the proxy settings and I was on my way. I did run into a hiccup with getting the Outline-client app, however. I was able to download it from the Outline website using Chrome and it installed fine, but when trying to grab it through the Get Connected option in the Outline Manager app, the download link opened automatically in Microsoft Edge which proceeded to flag the file as malicous and would not let me open it (heh). Hopefully they are able to get the false posiitive resolved as that may trip up normal users and make it harder to convince them to use your Outline proxy.

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So far I have not run into any other problems with it and things are running smoothly. Web pages are finally loading as fast as they should be as well which makes me think the problems of super slow webpage loads were not with my computer but with Comcast messing with me (we are talking some pages taking a minute to load on a 90/10 connection, even simple ones like Google and Gmail). 

Outline is not a full VPN, but it is extremely easy to setup and share with others and may well be secure enough for most people. If you want to get a little more geeky, there is always OpenVPN which you can setup with a simple script or projects like Algo VPN or free (as in money) commercial solutions like Pro XPN or the built-in VPN in the Opera web browser. On the positive side, Outline does not store any logs (and since its your sever you can access it and monitor it to be sure) and Jigsaw/Alphabet/Google is up front about what information they do collect which includes server IP and non-identifiable information following crashes. Users can opt-in to sharing anonymous metrics but they do not have to and the default setting is off which is good. The downside is that right now it is still fairly new and not as vetted as some of the other options and while it is open source it is not necessarily free. In its best form which is slick setup using the Digital Ocean integration, it is $5 a month, but if you are privacy concious it may be money well spent and if you already have an existing server you can also use that though in that case the ease of configuration edge may not be as great and you may as well run OpenVPN unless you really dig the simple client apps and not having to manually copy and mange keys around to all your devices possibly in a non-GUI way.

Overall, it is a neat solution and I think it has promise. Hopefully if/when Google abandons it for its next big thing they let the community have at it. As of the today, Outline Manager is supported on Windows 7 (or newer) and Linux with Mac OS support coming soon. Outline supports client using apps for Windows 7 (or newer), Android, and Chrome OS with Mac OS and iOS apps coming soon. You can find both the Outline Manager and Outline Client at https://getoutline.org. If you do end up checking it out, let me know what you think about it. More screenshots can be found below.

Source: Jigsaw

Wi-Fi Alliance Bringing Improved WPA3 Security To Wi-Fi Devices This Year

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2018 - 10:27 AM |
Tagged: WPA3, wifi alliance, wifi, wi-fi, networking, encryption

The Wi-Fi Alliance has announced an update to its Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security suite in the form of WPA3. The first major update in more than a decade, WPA3 is a very welcome and much needed refresh with four new features aimed at both personal and enterprise networks.

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Image courtesy Blue Coat Photos via Flickr Creative Commons.

The standards body did not go into many details on the new security suite, but did tease a few upcoming features in addition to closing known security vulnerabilities like KRACK. WPA3 uses a new 192-bit security suite "aligned with the Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) suite from the Committee on National Security Systems" which is a collection of encryption techniques and algorithms that are reportedly up to the task of maintaining confidentiality on personal, enterprise, and industrial networks. Open Wi-Fi networks in particular will get the biggest boost from moving to WPA3 with support for individualized data encryption so that communication channels between the access point and users' devices are secured on a per-device basis. Personal networks also get improved security in the form of protections to protect users against themselves and maintain strong encryption even when they choose weak passwords. Setting up these security configurations is also being considered, and the Wi-Fi Alliance is promising easier configuration on devices with limited or no displays.

I am looking forward to more information on WPA3 as an update to WPA2 has been a long time coming. WEP has long been a joke and WPA2 has been vulnerable for a while so I hope that WPA3 lives up to its promises! What is not clear from the announcement is that if new hardware will be required or if WPA3 could be implemented through firmware and software updates. End user devices may be trickier to get updates from manufacturers, but perhaps wireless routers and access points can be upgraded without needing to buy new hardware. I suppose it depends on if radio and other hardware like the hardware accelerators / co processors need upgraded to support the new algorithms or not. In any case if you have been eyeing a new Wi-Fi AP or wireless router, maybe hold off for a few months to see how this shakes out.

Stay tuned for more information as it develops. What are your thoughts on WPA3 and the Wi-Fi Alliance's promises?

Also read:

What's up with WhatsApp

Subject: General Tech | January 16, 2017 - 01:13 PM |
Tagged: whatsapp, fud, facebook, encryption

By now you will have seen a headline screaming something about the security of Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service, ranging from somewhere between a backdoor purposefully inserted into the app to a complete denial of any security risk at all.  The actual issue is much larger than WhatsApp and address a security issue with all applications which depend on public key encryption. 

Many applications utilize public keys for their encryption, the encryption relies on keys unique to the sender and receivers devices and which use the public key to verify the authorization of a new device.  If your accounts key was permanently attached to a specific piece of hardware you would need a separate account for each device you used, which would be quite onerous.

The issue is that the Open Whisper Signal protocol is configured by WhatsApp in a way which makes the data vulnerable to a man in the middle attack.  If you can managed to block the transmission of a message, then take over one of the authorized devices accounts or phone numbers and trigger the generation of a new private key via a public key request to Facebook then you will be able to read messages until people realize what is going on.  This is not impossible but far from easy to accomplish, and effects any similar encryption system, not just WhatsApp.

Perhaps more worrying is Facebook's ability to take advantage of this, as they can generate a new public key to read messages, if they so choose.  If you are concerned about this, you can enable the Show Security Notifications setting under Settings -> Account -> Security to be notified whenever a contact's security code has changed.  The Register links to several articles which delve into the technology as well as the media's reactions here, if you are interested.

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"The problem – which is "endemic to public key cryptography" – was raised in April last year, and at the time WhatsApp said it wasn't a serious enough design flaw to spend time fixing."

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Source: The Register

Your encrypted Android phone's Keymaster will settle for anyone, not just Sigourney

Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2016 - 01:08 PM |
Tagged: andriod, keymaster, qualcomm, snapdragon, encryption

The only good news about this particular decryption hack requires physical access to your phone and as you should be aware once someone has your device in their hands all bets about security are off.  The vulnerability exists on ARM-compatible Snapdragon system-on-chips and the TrustZone, a secure part of the chip which runs outside of the operating system and passes information pertaining to the encryption on your phone via the Qualcomm Secure Execution Environment.

It is possible to to exploit an Android kernel security vulnerability to load your own QSEE application which can then query the TrustZone for your unencrypted blob and RSA key.  From there it is simply a matter of brute forcing the phones PIN or password which then allows you access to all the encrypted data on the device.  The Register explains not only the vulnerability but also how TrustZone and KeyMaster work on your devices in this article.

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"Essentially, if someone seizes your Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered phone, they can potentially decrypt its file system's contents with a friendly Python script without knowing your password or PIN."

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Source: The Register
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

It's Easier to Be Convincing than Correct

This is a difficult topic to discuss. Some perspectives assume that law enforcement have terrible, Orwellian intentions. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials, with genuinely good intentions, don't understand that the road to Hell is paved with those. Bad things are much more likely to happen when human flaws are justified away, which is easy to do when your job is preventing mass death and destruction. Human beings like to use large pools of evidence to validate assumptions, without realizing it, rather than discovering truth.

Ever notice how essays can always find sources, regardless of thesis? With increasing amounts of data, you are progressively more likely to make a convincing argument, but not necessarily a more true one. Mix in good intentions, which promotes complacency, and mistakes can happen.

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HOPEFULLY NOT...

But this is about Apple. Recently, the FBI demanded that Apple creates a version of iOS that can be broken into by law enforcement. They frequently use the term “back door,” while the government prefers other terminology. Really, words are words and the only thing that matters is what it describes -- and it describes a mechanism to compromise the device's security in some way.

This introduces several problems.

The common line that I hear is, “I don't care, because I have nothing to hide.” Well... that's wrong in a few ways. First, having nothing to hide is irrelevant if the person who wants access to your data assumes that you have something you want to hide, and is looking for evidence that convinces themselves that they're right. Second, you need to consider all the people who want access to this data. The FBI will not be the only one demanding a back door, or even the United States as a whole. There are a whole lot of nations that trusts individuals, including their own respective citizens, less than the United States. You can expect that each of them would request a backdoor.

You can also expect each of them, and organized criminals, wanting to break into each others'.

Lastly, we've been here before, and what it comes down to is criminalizing math. Encryption is just a mathematical process that is easy to perform, but hard to invert. It all started because it is easy to multiply two numbers together, but hard to factor them. The only method we know is dividing by every possible number that's smaller than the square root of said number. If the two numbers are prime, then you are stuck finding one number out of all those possibilities (the other prime number will be greater than the square root). In the 90s, numbers over a certain size were legally classified as weapons. That may sound ridiculous, and there would be good reason for that feeling. Either way, it changed; as a result, online banks and retailers thrived.

Apple closes their letter with the following statement:

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Good intentions lead to complacency, which is where the road to (metaphorical) Hell starts.

BitTorrent Talks Encryption, Improved Linux Support For Sync 2.3

Subject: General Tech | February 2, 2016 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: file syncing, encryption, bittorrent sync, bittorrent

BitTorrent continues to support its file sharing and syncing application with the recent release of Sync 2.3.1. The 2.3.x update contains a number of bug fixes for stability, but the important news is the added support for encrypted folders and finally allowing selective file syncing on Linux systems. Additionally, the company put out a short brief on the information they collect and how they are securing your files synced by Sync which is available as a PDF.

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Sync 2.3 allows Windows users to run Sync as a service and Android users can move data to and from an SD card from within the app so long as they are running at least Android 5.0 or newer. Linux users also get a bit of love with support for selective file syncing (where you can choose which specific files to download locally and which to keep on the remote peers) though it appears that BitTorrent has limited this feature to its paid Sync Pro tier which is in line with other platforms. According to BitTorrent Inc. among the performance and bug fixes, the biggest UI change is a redesigned process for adding new folders.

On the security and privacy front, BitTorrent claims that it employs several security measures to keep your data safe. First though, the company allegedly only collects benign data including the program version, add folder errors, the amount of data transferred (directly and via relay server), number of peers, and share link and tracker statistics as well as few more things you can see in the brief linked above. All the data that they collect is reportedly sent in the clear so that users can verify what they are collecting on them.

To secure your files, BitTorrent uses SSL and AES-128 encryption to transfer files. In the case of Advanced folders, it generates a X.509 certificate (each folder is given it's own certificate) using a certificate authority and then uses a certificate chain to control user access and file modification permissions as well as a mechanism to revoke access. In the case of encrypted folders, Sync generates storage and session keys with the session keys complying with perfect forwards secrecy standards such that future session keys being cracked does not compromise past sessions. When using the encrypted folders option (which is useful when using a VPS as an off-site backup or to any machine that you do not fully own and control for that matter), data from your local machines is encrypted before being sent to the remote machine using AES 128 bit encryption (I wish they had gone with at least AES-256, but it's something). The data is then sent over SSL. Thus, the data on the remote machine is never in an unencrypted state which is a good thing for having a secure off-site backup. The encrypted folder can still be used as part of the mesh to speed up syncing among your machines, as well, while remaining secure.

I think the encrypted folders are a good addition to Sync, though the encryption bit-ness could be improved (a weak VPS' processor doesn't need to decrypt the data anyway so CPU time needed for the beefier algorithm should not matter...). In past coverage users have mentioned issues when syncing folders that they encrypted themselves before adding to Sync where the data could get corrupted when the peers became confused on changes made and what to sync. Hopefully this will help avoid that though they do still need to work on fixing user chosen pre-sync encryption. I am still using Sync to backup my photos and sync documents between my laptop and desktop and it works well for that sans the storage limits imposed by One Drive (and the uncertainty of my once-promised 25GB of free storage).

What do you think of the changes, and is their security good enough?

Source: BitTorrent

SIM card maker Gemalto apparently now holds the world's record for fastest security audit?

Subject: General Tech | February 26, 2015 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: Gemalto, SIM, encryption, fud, security

In just under a week SIM card maker Gemalto claims to have done a complete security audit of their systems in 85 different countries and reports that "its office networks were compromised, the servers holding the SIM card encryption keys weren't."  This is a  record worthy of Guinness as most security audits take months or years to complete and the findings tend to discuss probabilities, not absolute certainties.  As you might expect The Register and security experts everywhere are doubtful of the claims from a company that did not even know if was compromised less than a week ago that the UK based GCHQ and USA based NSA are unable to compromise your SIM cards encryption when they have the keys in hand.  It has not been a good week for anyone who thinks about security.

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"Six days ago Gemalto, the world's largest SIM card manufacturer, was told that back in 2010 it had been ransacked by NSA and GCHQ hackers. Today the company gave itself the all-clear: no encryption keys, used to secure phone calls from eavesdroppers, were stolen, it claims."

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Source: The Inquirer