Thursday, 27 February 2014

Is 4G putting your mobile at risk of hacking?

LTE covers a wider range of frequencies than slower 2G and 3G networks, and uses an open protocol, making it more susceptible to hackers and viruses
LTE covers a wider range of frequencies than slower 2G and 3G networks, and uses an open protocol, making it more susceptible to hackers and viruses

Almost every phone launched at this week's Mobile World Congress was sold on the promise of having super-fast speeds thanks to built-in LTE technology.
LTE, also known as 4G, officially launched in the UK last year, but it’s been growing in popularity globally for the past five years.
The technology covers a wider range of frequencies and has the potential to be up to 100 hundred times faster than slower 2G and 3G networks, but a software and security expert has told the MailOnline this increased speed comes at a price - security.
Both 2G and 3G networks were primarily designed for feature phones; for voice calls and texts, rather than data.
However, 4G was designed especially for sending and receiving data, making it more equipped for the job.  
Leonid Burakovsky, senior director of strategic solutions at F5 told the MailOnline that while this makes it faster, the methods taken to achieve these speeds also make it more vulnerable.
'What the industry has done with 4G/LTE is taken a self-contained telephone network, secured primarily by virtue of being separate from the internet, and then bolted-on internet capabilities which were never designed to prevent eavesdropping,' said Burakovsky.
Put simply, 3G networks use a protocol called SS7 to send signals, this protocol is notoriously difficult to penetrate.

LTE networks, on the other hand, use systems such as Diameter, an open protocol that sends signals based on the IP addresses of networks. This makes it faster, and can handle more traffic than SS7.
However, because this is an open protocol, it makes it easier to penetrate. It is also responsible for managing the data sent for billing and authentication. 
The majority of new handsets released worldwide have LTE technology built in that helps them connect to super-fast 4G networks, including the Samsung S5 unveiled on Monday, pictured. Experts have warned operators need to do more to protect users against attacks directed straight at these faster networks


Research from F5 found security is among the top three features people use to choose a mobile operator, after pricing and network coverage.
Two thirds of respondents said security is more important to them than access to the latest devices.
But despite this, around half (49 per cent) admitted that they don’t know how to protect their phones from malicious threats. 
Mobile users are more than three times as likely to blame their mobile operators (35 per cent) for security breaches, than the providers of services such as Facebook, Gmail or banking apps (10 per cent)  or handset manufacturers (4 per cent).
More than half of consumers said they'd switch providers after a major data breach.
This means it’s easier to access, and carries highly-sensitive and personal information such as passwords, location data, network addresses and cryptographic keys.
‘LTE networks are inherently less secure than their 3G and 2G predecessors,' said Burakovsky.
'This can open mobile networks up to a greater number of very real threats, meaning the onus will be on mobile operators to increase their efforts to protect users, network and applications.'
‘The main security problem with 4G networks is that user information can become easily available to hackers via, for instance, ‘man-in-the-middle’ attacks, and hackers can compromise new services like mobile health or mobile commerce,’ continued Burakovsky.

Attackers can place themselves either between two unsuspecting victims, or between the user and the app, or even between two machines.
This gives the attackers full access to the data being sent over the network, and some hackers could even be able to control it.
Burakovsky added that the main problem is there's no protection between the phone and the network it’s connected to, and the core network controlled by the operator.
Networks do use secure systems, such as IPsec and TLS, to secure certain parts of the sensitive data, but F5 warned operators need to do more to protect users against attacks directed straight at the mobile network.
'There needs to be more understanding of the user, the network, the app, and what people are trying to do when using their mobile devices,' said Burakovsky.
'The message is clear: comprehensive multi-layer security should be an integral part of any LTE to deliver the level of security consistent with the many advantages of 4G - like lightning fast video downloads - that make up a great customer experience.'

Have millions of webcam users had their sex pictures harvested by the NSA?

Britain’s spy agency collected webcam images – including sexually explicit material – from millions of innocent internet users.
Agents at GCHQ intercepted streamed webcam chats from Yahoo users and stored their images using a surveillance programme codenamed Optic Nerve.
In one six-month period in 2008, the intelligence agency collected images from more than 1.8million Yahoo users around the world – regardless of whether they were terror suspects or not.
Claim: Cheltenham-based UK spy agency GCHQ has reportedly harvested webcam images - including sexually explicit material - of millions of internet users
Claim: Cheltenham-based UK spy agency GCHQ has reportedly harvested webcam images - including sexually explicit material - of millions of internet users

Leaked top-secret documents reveal that up to 11 per cent of the stored images contained ‘undesirable nudity’.
The revelations are the latest from a batch of files published by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the US defence worker who has exposed shocking details of how spy agencies snoop on people around the world.

Optic Nerve – which critics last night branded eerily reminiscent of telescreens in George Orwell’s novel 1984 – was run with the aid of the US National Security Agency.
It was intended for use in experiments in automated facial recognition to try to find terror suspects.
Anger: Internet giant Yahoo reacted furiously to the claims, branding them a 'whole new level of violation'
Anger: Internet giant Yahoo reacted furiously to the claims, branding them a 'whole new level of violation'

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the system saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds between 2008 and 2010.
'Unfortunately  … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person'

But documents leaked to The Guardian revealed that sexually explicit pictures proved to be a problem for GCHQ.
One comment from the agency read said: ‘Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person.
‘Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.’ Internet giant Yahoo reacted furiously to the claims.
A spokesman said: ‘We were not aware of, nor would we condone, this reported activity.
Ongoing: In its latest report on files leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden (pictured), the Guardian newspaper claims a surveillance programme collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats

‘This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable and we strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December.
'This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy that is completely unacceptable and we strongly call on the world's governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December'
Yahoo spokesman

'We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of  our services.’
Tory MP David Davis said: ‘This is, frankly, creepy. It is perfectly proper for our intelligence agencies to use any and all means to target people for whom there are reasonable grounds for suspicion of terrorism, kidnapping and other serious crimes.
‘It is entirely improper to extend such intrusive surveillance on a blanket scale to ordinary citizens.’
Allegation: GCHQ is understood to have secretly accessed fibre-optic cables carrying huge amounts of internet and communications data and shared the information with the NSA (whose offices in Maryland are pictured)
Allegation: GCHQ is understood to have secretly accessed fibre-optic cables carrying huge amounts of internet and communications data and shared the information with the NSA (whose offices in Maryland are pictured)

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This is an indiscriminate and intimate intrusion on people’s privacy.
'Orwell's 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual'
Nick Pickles, Big Brother Watch

'Orwell’s 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual.’
GCHQ declined to comment on the claims.
Mr Snowden originally leaked information about the attempts by government spy agencies to harvest private information from millions of people.
Earlier this year, MI5 director general Andrew Parker warned that revealing details about GCHQ’s work was a ‘gift to terrorists’.


Controversial CCTV cameras that target millions of motorists for parking fines are set to survive a promised Government cull, it emerged yesterday.
The use of enforcement cameras outside schools and other sensitive areas could carry on despite a previous vow to ban them.
Roads minister Robert Goodwill told a conference of parking chiefs that, when it came to scrapping all the cameras, ‘no decisions had been made’, and that they might still be used outside schools.
That contradicted previous pledges to  outlaw all of the controversial cameras,  which can issue penalties of up to £130 a  time. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles  had previously vowed to ban them, accusing ‘bullying’ councils of fleecing drivers ‘on an industrial scale’.
Councils rake in £30million a year from CCTV-led parking fines.
A Government consultation on the issue also stated: ‘The Government intends to abolish use of CCTV cameras for parking enforcement.’
Mr Goodwill was speaking at a summit in London organised by the British Parking Association, which represents 700 councils and private sector operators.

White House faces options for regulating NSA data snooping -- report

The White House has reportedly received a proposal suggesting four ways to overhaul the National Security Agency's controversial phone record surveillance program.
Citing information from "officials familiar with the discussions," The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the proposal from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department was due by March 28 but was delivered earlier than expected.
Following widespread criticism over the NSA's bulk record collection, the Obama administration had asked US intelligence agencies and the Justice Department to come up with alternatives that would take the actual data ownership away from the NSA.
The first option would keep the data in the hands of the phone companies. The NSA would then request access to specific records based on any connection to terrorists.
But the phone companies are against this proposal, the Journal said, because the legal burden of turning over the data would still fall on them. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee also told the Journal that this option doesn't have the necessary support in Congress.
The second option would warehouse the data with a government agency other than the NSA, such as the FBI or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A third option would see the data turned over to a party other than the government or the phone companies. But privacy groups have complained that this third party could end up as just an extension of the NSA, the Journal said.
All three options also might keep privacy fears alive since the bulk data would still be retained but would merely change hands.
The final option calls on the White House to curtail the NSA's bulk surveillance program altogether and instead use other means to gather information on suspected terrorists.
Each of the four options clearly has its own pitfalls, and none is likely to satisfy everyone. Opponents of the NSA's bulk data collection are calling for its end, while proponents claim that the program is needed to combat terrorism. In such a climate, the onus is now on the White House to decide which option may be the most feasible and the most politically acceptable.
In response to a request for comment on the proposal, a spokesperson for the White House sent CNET the following statement:
In his January 17, 2014 speech on the Administration's signals intelligence review, the President directed the intelligence community and the Attorney General "to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this metadata itself." He further asked the IC and AG to "report back" to him "with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28th." Since the speech, the Department of Justice and Intelligence Community have been at work developing options consistent with the President's direction. They have kept us abreast of their progress, and we look forward to reviewing those options. Moreover, as the President noted in his remarks, we will also consult with Congress to seek their views on this issue, and then seek congressional authorization, as needed. Beyond that, I'm not in a position to discuss the details of an ongoing process.

Black market lights up with 360M stolen credentials -- report

The cyber black market is busting at the seams with stolen credentials, according to a new report.
Speaking to Reuters in an interview on Wednesday, Alex Holden, chief information security officer at Hold Security, said that over a period of just three weeks his company was able to identify 360 million different account credentials that were available for sale on Web-based black market services. The credentials include user names -- which are often e-mail addresses -- and passwords that in "most cases" are in unencrypted text, according to the report.
Holden told Reuters that his company is working to discover where the credentials came from and what they can access. While the targets of the breach are unknown, Reuters notes that the "discovery could represent more of a risk to consumers and companies than stolen credit card data" because of the wide range of computer systems the credentials could access -- anything from online bank accounts to corporate networks.
E-mail addresses in the credentials are from all major services, including Gmail and Yahoo, and almost all Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations, Holden told Reuters.
That so many credentials are floating around the black market is perhaps no surprise to those who have been keeping an eye on the security space. Late last year, Target was hit with a massive data breach that saw the theft of 110 million people's personal information. It was just one in a long line of breaches that have occurred over the last several years, and only proved to put the issue back on the average person's map.
Perhaps most concerning, however, is that Holden believes that the 360 million credentials are predominantly new to the black market sites, and he believes that the breaches that delivered the credentials into hacker hands have yet to be reported. Holden also believes multiple breaches have combined to hit the 360-million mark. In addition to the credentials, Hold Security said more than 1 billion e-mail addresses are also up for sale on the sites.
As of this writing, Holden has yet to inform affected companies or authorities. He claims that his team is working to identify all the affected companies and will inform them of the breach when the data is collected.

British man charged with hacking Federal Reserve computers

A British man has been charged with hacking into computer servers belonging to the U.S. Federal Reserve, and then widely disclosing personal information of people who use them.
Thursday's charges against Lauri Love were announced four months after he was arrested in England, and accused by U.S. and British authorities of hacking into various U.S. government computer systems, including those run by the military.
According to the latest indictment, Love, who is in his late-20s, worked with other hackers from October 2012 to February 2013 to infiltrate the Federal Reserve's system.
The Suffolk resident allegedly used a hacking method called a "sequel injection" to access names, email addresses and phone numbers, and then post the stolen information to a website he controlled after a prior hacking.
Prosecutors said Love boasted about his activity in a chatroom under names such as "peace" and "Smedley Butler," once saying he planned to "drop another little federal reserve bomb," meaning he would disclose confidential information.
"Lauri Love is a sophisticated hacker," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York said in a statement. "We place a high priority on the investigation and prosecution of hackers who intrude into our infrastructure and threaten the personal security of our citizens."
The extent of the theft was not immediately clear.
Last February, the Fed said one of its internal websites had been breached briefly, after a claim that hackers linked to the group Anonymous stole and published personal information on more than 4,000 U.S. bank executives.
Thursday's grand jury indictment charges Love with one count each of computer hacking and aggravated identity theft.
He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison on the hacking charge and another two years on the identity theft charge, if convicted.
A lawyer for Love could not immediately be reached. Jim Strader, a spokesman for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Virginia, declined to elaborate on the new charges. The U.K. Serious Frauds Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the earlier case, investigators said Love and three unnamed co-conspirators, including two in Australia and one in Sweden, infiltrated thousands of systems, including those of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency, the space agency NASA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Criminal charges in that case were filed with the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Love has not entered a plea.
The New York case is U.S. v. Love, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 14-cr-00126. The Virginia case is U.S. v. Love, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, No. 13-mj-00657.

How to teach hacking in school and open up education

open education
Whatever you may have heard about hackers, the truth is they do something really, really well: discover. Hackers are motivated, resourceful, and creative. They get deeply into how things work, to the point that they know how to take control of them and change them into something else. This lets them re-think even big ideas because they can really dig to the bottom of how things function.
Furthermore, they aren't afraid to make the same mistake twice just out of a kind of scientific curiosity, to see if that mistake always has the same results. That's why hackers don't see failure as a mistake or a waste of time because every failure means something and something new to be learned. And these are all traits any society needs in order to make progress. Which is why we need to get it into schools.
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Now, there is the expected resistance from school administrations and parents. Mostly because people don't know what hacking really is. Many people who have been called hackers, especially by the media, or who have gotten in trouble for "hacking" were not, in fact, hackers. Most all of them were just thieves and fraudsters. When you read in the news, Teen girl hacks Facebook to harass a classmate, what you're seeing is a sensationalized headline. What a hacker reads in that headline is: Mean girl watched classmate type in her Facebook password and then logged in as her. That mean people and criminals do bad things with communications medium is not a reason to fear the medium. Schools are there to educate and can embrace this distinction for real change.
Hacking is a type of methodology. It's a way to do research. Have you ever tried something again and again in different ways to get it to do what you wanted? Have you ever opened up a machine or a device to see how it works, read up on what the components are, and then make adjustments to see what now worked differently? That's hacking. You are hacking whenever you deeply examine how something really works in order to manipulate it, often creatively, into doing what you want.
A hacker is a type of hands-on, experimenting scientist, although perhaps sometimes the term "mad scientist" fits better, because unlike professional scientists they dive right in, following a feeling rather than a formal hypothesis. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Many interesting things have been designed or invented by people who didn't follow standard conventions of what was known or believed to be true at the time.
For example...
  • The mathematician, Georg Cantor, proposed new ideas about infinity and set theory that caused outrage amongst many fellow mathematicians to the point that one called his ideas a "grave disease" infecting mathematics.
  • Nikola Tesla is another person considered a "mad scientist" in his day, but he knew more about how electricity behaved than anyone else. He designed possibly the first brushless motor that ran on AC electricity but is mostly known for the Tesla effect and the Tesla coil.
  • Then there was Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis who figured out that doctors need to wash their hands between treating patients to keep diseases from spreading. He wondered if the diseases following him around between patients were his fault, so he decided to try washing hands between his patient visits and sure enough the transmissions disappeared. His ideas went against both the scientific conventions of what was known at the time about germs (nothing) as well as the convenience of the doctors who felt it was too much hassle to keep washing their hands.
It just so happens that the way the Internet is designed and the huge number of different applications, systems, devices, and processes it has makes it the most common place to find hackers. You could say it's a place where information can run free because it was built open and free by hackers so it's the best playground for hackers. But it's not the only place. You can find great hackers in almost every field and industry and they all have one thing in common: they spend time learning how things work so they can make them work in a new way. These hackers didn't look at something as the original designers did, but instead saw bigger or better potential for it and hacked it to be something new.
What you may think you know about hackers is that they can break into other computers and take over other people's accounts. They can read your email without you knowing. They can look through your web cam without your permission and can see you and hear you in the supposed privacy of your own home. That's not untrue.
Some hackers see network security as just another challenge, so they tinker with ways to trick or fool the system, but really what they're trying to do is out-think the network installers or designers. They discover as much about the network as they can, where it gets its instructions, the rules it uses, and how it interacts with operating systems, the other systems around it, the users who have access to it and the administrators who manage it. Then they use that to try different ways of getting what they want. This kind of hacking can be greatly beneficial to the world for understanding how to be safer and for building even better technology.
Unfortunately though, sometimes the hacking is done by criminals and what they want is illegal, invasive, and destructive. And those are usually the only hackers you read about in the news. A hacker is not someone who posts to someone's account when they leave a social media page open or shoulder-surfs passwords and then logs into their account later. That's not hacking. A hacker also is not someone who downloads a script kiddie tool to break into someone’s email. Those aren't hackers; those are just thieves and vandals.
Hacking itself is not illegal. At least not any more than throwing a rock is illegal. It all comes down to intent. If you throw a rock and your intent is to injure someone, that's a crime. If your intent is not to hurt someone, but someone does get hurt, that may not be a crime, but you are responsible for your actions and will have to pay restitution. An Institute for Security and Open Methodologies (ISECOM) project called the Hacker Profiling Project found that the most damage from hacking comes from young, inexperienced hackers damaging other people's property by accident. Which is something parents and teachers already teach kids when it comes to rock-throwing, but it doesn't translate well when it comes to how to behave in cyberspace. If we are teaching hacking, then we can also teach responsibility, accountability, and make it clear how to behave when hacking around other people's property. This will encourage students to stick to hacking the things they bought and own.
The caveat to that is that there are cases where it may be illegal to hack something you bought and own. There are hackers who have been punished for hacking their own devices and computers. These things were closed to prevent them from being copied or changed despite that they paid for it and own it. These are hackers who hacked programs, music, and movies they bought so it looked, behaved, and sounded the way they wanted to or played on other devices they bought and owned and were prosecuted for it. Especially when they openly shared their ideas with others. Hackers will find that any closed source software they buy may be illegal to hack, even if it's just to check for themselves that it's secure enough to run on their own computer. This is because many of the things that you purchase may come with Copyright and a contract as an End User License Agreement (EULA) that says you can't. And you agree to it when you open or install the product, even if you can't read it or find out about it after you've opened or installed the product. Yes, that's sneaky and unfair.
But that's all the more reason to teach young people to hack. You see, education is open. It can be legally hacked to teach kids to think openly, be inspired, be curious, and thus, to be a hacker. What hacking is really about is taking control of something if you don't like how it works. Why would you do this? To have the freedom to make something you own do what you want. And to keep others from changing something you own back to the original form or copying all your ideas, drawings, writings, and pictures to a cloud somewhere to be controlled by someone else who claims it's for your "best interest."
As a hacker, you know what your own best interest is. Sometimes you buy something and the company you bought it from will attempt to forcefully or slyly make sure you can't customize it or change it beyond their rules. You can't play it somewhere else or use it any other way than as intended, supposedly to protect you. And that might be okay to agree to as long as you accept the fact that if you break it then you can't expect them to fix it or replace it. That would mean that hacking something you own does more than make it yours, it makes it irrevocably and undeniably yours. As scary as that may sound to some, it certainly has its advantages. Especially if you want to keep others, like the company that made it and the marketing company they're re-selling your information and habits to, out of your stuff.
And finally, of course knowing how to hack makes you more secure. For many, many people, security is about putting a product in place, whether that's a lock or an alarm or a firewall or anything that theoretically keeps them secure. But sometimes those products don't work as well they should, or they come with their own problems that just increase your "Attack Surface," when a security product should be shrinking it. (The Attack Surface is all the ways, all the interactions, that allow for something or someone to be attacked.)
And yeah, good luck getting that product improved in a mass-marketing, pay-as-you-go, copyrighted, closed-source, "you bought it as-is and that's what you have to live with" kind of world. That's why it's so important to know how to hack your security. A hacker wouldn't buy the same padlock you would because a hacker sees locks in terms of how many seconds they would need to open it. Hackers learn to analyze a product and figure out where it fails and how to change it so it works better. Then they might have to hack it some more to keep that company they bought it from, from changing it back to the default!
So hacking in terms of breaking security is just one area that hacking is useful, because without being able to do that, you may have to give up some freedom or some privacy that you don't want to give up. (And some of you may not care right now about certain things you do or say or post, but the Internet has a long memory and it's getting better and better at helping others recall those memories of you. What goes on the net stays on the net. And kids today are pretty much born on the net.) Not to mention technology is getting more and more out of our ability to control it. That mobile phone of yours or that new flatscreen with built-in camera for Skype are likely doing things that you don't know and don't control with what they see and hear. It takes some hacking to wrestle that control back.
Schools and educators who read this and want to teach their students to hack, and what hacking can be, need to be aware upfront that it won't be easy. There will be resistance from closed minds. School administrations may also need to contend with the fact that hacking some things may be illegal in their state, and they will need to get open source hardware and software to try to stay on the legal side of things. When teaching students how to hack and what hacking is, it can be hard to do with words. Try experiences and putting it into practice to really get your point across.
Free, open projects like Hacker Highschool can help kids develop the skills, feeling, and intuition through practice with support so they don't break the wrong things. The possibility of breaking something is simply part of the process, and should not be a factor keeping teachers and schools from teaching hacking. They should provide that support with an open source and open minded effort.