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 ;)
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’!
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 more
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.
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.
“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.
[Update] Aaron Barr steps down as CEO of HBGary Federal
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.
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.