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Posts tagged ‘privacy’

17
Oct

Securing Siri on a Locked iPhone 4S

Although I haven’t had the chance to play with her myself (does that sound wrong?), Siri seems like an awesome addition to the iPhone. It’s worth pointing out, however, that it is still possible to use Siri when the iPhone is locked – presumably for convenient ease-of-use. Unfortunately this means that anyone with physical access to your phone can access information including contacts, calendar items, SMS/iMessages, and also make calls and send emails or messages from you.

[Update] There have been a whole bunch of people crying about how this is a major security flaw. Just to dispel some of the myth… this is not a security flaw, it’s a design decision that Apple made based on usability. Yes, it’s a default setting that may introduce some vulnerabilities, but then again there are still lots of people who run around without passcodes. To be honest I’m usually the first to secure the hell out of everything, but in this case I feel they made the right decision for two reasons. First, Siri is obviously less useful as a hands-free assistant if you need to unlock your phone every time; and secondly making it easier to use will help drive the adoption of Siri.

Luckily Apple thought of this on at least two levels. First, if you ask Siri to unlock your iPhone she’ll respectfully tell you that she “can’t unlock your phone for you”. Secondly – and this is the important one – it is possible to disable the use of Siri when the iPhone is locked. The option now lives in Settings > General > Passcode Lock, where you can set Siri to Off.

Needless to say (contrary to the screenshot), I recommend setting ‘Require Passcode’ to Immediately, turn Simple Passcode off so you can set a 5-or-more-digit PIN, set ‘Siri’ to off to prevent access when your  iPhone is locked, and turn on Erase Data after 10 failed passcode attempts.

Siri is great, but let’s not make it easy for someone to social-engineer her into betraying you. See my other post for more details on protecting your iPhone from loss and theft.

In other news… you can tell Siri to use a specific nickname when talking to you. It’s important to note, however, that the nickname will be put into your VCard. So be careful if you tell her to call you her pimp, and then send someone your contact details ;)

24
Jul

OS X Lion Released, Brings Improved Security

As you will know by now, Apple has release Lion (OSX 10.7) to the orgasmic jubilation of Mac fans everywhere. Ok, perhaps I exaggerate, but Lion was probably the most anticipated release of OSX since Leopard. Critics will argue that the number of major new features are limited, but in my opinion it’s the refinements that make Lion a great update. And for what it’s worth, the Mac App Store update process went perfectly smoothly on my iMac.

Most importantly, however, are the security improvements that Apple have made to the OS. Leopard and Snow Leopard already had some of these features, but they were not fully developed. In Lion, it seems, many of those issues have been fixed. In fact Lion has been said by several security researchers to now offer superior security over competing operating systems. I’ve said for a while that Apple will wait until OSX is really stable before properly addressing security. It appears Lion is the start.

I’ll start off with the most user-visible security features:

  1. FileVault 2: Whereas FileVault on Snow Leopard only encrypted users’ home folders (using disk images), leaving the System and Applications vulnerable to attack, Lion now has true block-level Full Disk Encryption (XTS-AES 128 algorithm). FileVault 2 also supports full disk encryption of external USB and FireWire drives. One key new feature is Lion’s “Instant Wipe”, which will allow you to wipe the hard-drive should your computer fall into the wrong hands. Similar to iOS devices, this may tie in to the new Find My Mac functionality.
  2. Privacy Controls: Apple has sprinkled around some additional privacy controls, giving the user more say in how their data is stored or used. There’s now full control of which applications can make use of the Location Services features of OSX.
  3. Apple ID Authentication: This is an interesting feature that makes it easier for users to share content with others. Normally actions like Screen Sharing and File Sharing require the connecting user to have an account on the system. Now, you can simply add their Apple ID as an authorised account to give them selective access. It will be interesting to test how this actually works in practice.
  4. Application Sandboxing: Lion’s sandboxing capability has been greatly improved. Safari, for example, has been updated to include sandboxing, meaning that website content loads in a separate process with limited functionality. This help prevent malicious websites from gaining access to the underlying system. Apple is encouraging third party software developers to start sandboxing their applications.
  5. Full ASLR: This is a big one. Address Space Layout Randomization is a technique to make exploitation of vulnerabilities more difficult by not using fixed memory addresses for key data areas. In Snow Leopard, ASLR was half-baked and essentially broken. In Lion, it appears that Apple have finally implemented full ASLR (covering 32 and 64-bit application), although how well is yet to be fully determined. Either way this will present an additional barrier to exploits.
All in all, some significant improvements over Snow Leopard. The security push isn’t over yet, however, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing a bit more from Apple as OSX develops. This doesn’t mean vulnerabilities won’t be found in OSX, but it will make it that much harder for workable exploits to be developed. I anticipate we’ll start seeing a lot more vulndev attention being committed to OSX this year.
5
May

iPhone/iPad iOS 4.3.3 Fixes Location Tracking Bugs

Following the recent over-hyped “location tracking scandal“, Apple has released iOS 4.3.3 which fixes bugs in the Location Services on iPhone and iPad devices that caused them to store excessive location information. As detailed by Apple’s Q&A on Location Data, the location data stored on iOS devices (and backed up by iTunes) are merely a subset of Apple’s crowd-sourced location database of Wifi hotspots and cell towers, used to facilitate Location Services when GPS is unavailable or unreliable. The bugs were causing iOS to download this location cache even if Location Services were turned off, and to store the cache indefinitely, instead of being regularly purged.

This update contains changes to the iOS crowd-sourced location database cache including:

  • Reduces the size of the cache
  • No longer backs the cache up to iTunes
  • Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off

It’s nice to see Apple resolve this issue so swiftly, and these changes will help improve the privacy of iPhone and iPad users, regardless of whether they use Location Services. The only thing I would have added if I were Apple, is the ability for the user to clear the location cache in the device settings. It’s a button that could be easily added in Settings > Location Services.  Just sayin’!

26
Apr

Everything You Need to Know About the iPhone Tracking ‘Scandal’ [Updated]

Seeing as I cover OSX/iOS security and privacy, I figured it’s about time I weighed in on this whole iPhone/iPad tracking ‘scandal’. I have to admit I was surprised when I first heard of the iPhone storing location data, especially that it does so with Location Services turned off. This issue is not new, however, and was described in a fair amount of depth by Alex Levinson several months ago. What has made it so popular this month is the release of the iPhoneTracker app, developed by Pete Warden and Alasdair Allan, that creates a visual map of your visited locations. I promptly tested iPhoneTracker, and sure enough it showed a bunch of areas that I’d visited. Upon closer inspection, however, I noticed that it didn’t specifically geolocate me in two places where I’d spent a lot of time; namely home and work. On top of that, there were a number of locations I’d never even been to.

[Updated] According to the info recently published by Apple, this stored location data is not the location of the iPhone itself, but rather a subset of crowd-sourced location information for local cell towers and wifi networks, which is only used to rapidly provide the user with location information. Full details at the bottom of this post. Read moreRead more

15
Apr

Updates: Mac OS X 2011-002, Safari 5.0.5, iOS 4.3.2

Apple has released several security updates which patch vulnerabilities in the way Mac OS X and iOS handle certificate trust. This comes off the back of the recent Comodo hack in which several fraudulent – yet valid – SSL certificates were created for a number of prominent websites, rendering users vulnerable to potential man-in-the-middle attacks. These updates (2011-002 and iOS 4.3.2/4.2.7) improve the way certificate verification is performed in OSX and iOS. The Safari 5.0.5 update patches two critical bugs which could result in remote code execution.

In other news: Updates to Safari in Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion” have shown that the browser will bring support for the new Do-Not-Track functionality, intended to give users the ability to opt-out from tracking by Third Party tracking and ad companies. Whether or not this functionality will be fully respected by third parties remains to be seen. Lastly, a tethered jailbreak for iOS 4.3.2 has already been released.

10
Mar

Safari Errorjacking Vulnerability and Exploit [Patched]

One of the vulnerabilities patched in Safari 5.0.4 is a fairly critical issue in WebKit (CVE-2011-0167) that allows Javascript to jump into the local zone, and access any file on the local computer that is accessible to the current user. This could be used by malicious websites to extract files and information from the victim’s computer. The vulnerability affects Safari on Mac OS X and Windows, and could affect other WebKit-based browsers, although Chrome is safe due to added restrictions.

The bug exists because most browser error pages are loaded from the local “file:” zone, a zone that Javascript is not normally allowed to access directly. Since a child browser window remains under the control of the parent, it is possible to cause a child browser window to error, thus entering the normally-restricted local zone, and then instructing the child window to access local files using this elevated local-zone privilege.

This issue was a nice catch, discovered by Aaron Sigel who has a detailed explanation, video demo and proof-of-concept on his blog. It probably goes without saying, but Safari users should run Software Update as soon as possible.

10
Feb

HBGary: Security Firm Investigating ‘Anonymous’ Hacked and Exposed

“Do not meddle in the affairs of hackers, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”

Following last week’s hacking of shamed LIGATT CEO Gregory D Evans, this week it was the turn of security firm HBGary to get exposed. HBGary have been aiding the FBI with their investigations into members of Anonymous. Although Anonymous isn’t a centralised ‘group’, their recent DDoS attacks and hacks of oppressive governments and anti-wikileaks organisations (including PayPal, MasterCard and VISA), have made them a target of the US Federal Government.

HBGary were allegedly preparing to hand over information about certain members of Anonymous to the FBI, who have already made several arrests in the US and UK, and obtained over 40 search warrants in an attempt to shut down Anonymous (probably not possible imo). Angered by CEO Aaron Barr and HBGary’s involvement in FBI investigations, members of Anonymous compromised a number of HBGary servers, defacing their website, gaining access to CEO Aaron Barr’s Twitter account, and obtaining a large number of emails. In what seems to be the popular punishment at the moment, over 50,000 corporate emails were released in a torrent. Anonymous also stated, on one of their many Twitter accounts, that the source code of HBGary’s security products was also obtained – although these don’t appear to have been released (yet?).

“You’ve angered the hive, and now you are being stung.”

Anonymous posted a message to HBGary on their defaced website, where they mock the firm for their lack of security and the unsubstantial ‘public’ information that was going to be handed sold to the FBI.

Hit the jump for Anonymous’ full message.

Ars Technica has a good review of how this all went down, and a step-by-step account of how the hack was possible.

[Update] Aaron Barr steps down as CEO of HBGary Federal

Read moreRead more

6
Feb

The Importance of Freedom

After re-watching V for Vendetta which, on a side-note, is an excellent movie, I was struck by how topical the story was with regards to events of the past few months, from Wikileaks’ Cablegate to the ongoing Egyptian Revolution. This inspired me to throw together the image above.

Although the message is probably painfully clear to the Egyptian people, it is important that we, in the so-called ‘developed’ world, not forget that the unchallenged erosion of civil liberties, and other freedoms that we take for granted, could rapidly make this message ring true for us as well.

1
Feb

Invading Privacy Using Information Scraps

I’ve just stumbled across this post on the Attack Vector blog where the author, Matt, gets back at a spammer by digging up a whole bunch of personal info about him and his family, and posting it online. The post itself is from May 2010, but I felt it reflected the importance of being aware of one’s privacy on the internet.

Using only the spammer’s email address and IP address, he  describes the process of gradually digging up information in WHOIS records, Google, Facebook, and other information mining sites, in order to obtain a fairly descriptive profile. I highly recommend reading it for anyone who’s interesting in online privacy or information gathering.

I also recommend using the following Venn diagram when considering the effects of the internet on your privacy:

There is no overlap. Diagram by Dave Hoffman.

31
Jan

Phil Mocek Acquitted on TSA’s No-ID and Recording Charges

In November 2009, Phil Mocek (@pmocek) was arrested by Albuquerque Police at Albuquerque Airport for not providing a piece of identification, and recording the TSA process on camera (video below). In the US, one’s right to fly is guaranteed by Federal Laws and the Constitution, and as long as you do not break any other laws, local or state police cannot legally prevent you from flying.

Mocek was charged with things like criminal trespass, refusing to obey an officer, concealing his identity, and disorderly conduct. On 21 January 2011, he was acquitted on all charges by a jury without the defense having to call any witnesses or provide any evidence. The prosecution’s case simply did not stand up.

In a previous court case against another man who refused to show ID, the TSA admitted that there is actually no law that requires travelers to present ID in order to be able to fly. In the US, it is also perfectly legal to record video in public areas of the airport, despite what signs, staff or police may claim.

This case is reminiscent of John Tyner, who was thrown out of San Diego Airport for refusing the new TSA (grope) patdown. Note that you may want to familiarise yourself with the relevant laws regarding ID and recording in your own country.

Full details are available here. Well done to Phil for protecting his rights, and in the process, all of ours as well. Speaking of TSA security measures, I thought this recent Dilbert comic was particularly fitting.

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