General

Articles neither for or against identity cards


An article on the Techdirt website about the ease with which a Smart Kettle can be hacked has highlighted the dire state of device security for the ‘Internet of Things’. The iKettle by allows users to remotely turn it on from anywhere using a Smartphone App.  However, researchers have pointed out that the Kettle is relatively easy to hack especially if the user has not configured the kettle properly.  The company that produces the iKettle has said its associated Android and iOS APPs would be upgraded to eliminate the security vulnerabilities.  However, there is still the wider problem of ‘Internet of Things’ devices opening up vulnerabilities in people’s home networks, especially where device security is an afterthought. The advice the researchers give is to not put ‘Internet of Things’ devices on your network unless you are absolutely sure they are secure.

Easily Hacked Kettle Highlights the Lack of ‘Internet of Things’ ...


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Nikolaj Nielsen reports in the EU Observer that France is proposing that all travelling EU nationals should be required to give their fingerprints and possibly also have their faces scanned as part of the Smart Borders programme. Smart Borders was proposed in 2013 by the EU Commission to allow management of the external borders of the Schengen Member States.  Biometric scanning of visiting non-EU nationals was also included in the scheme.  It has been on hold for a while due to cost concerns; however, an updated plan for the scheme is expected before the end of the year. In a document submitted by the French delegation it is claimed that an expanded Smart Borders scheme is required to address terrorist threats and gives examples such as the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the recent attack on an Amsterdam to Paris train to justify their proposal.  Further justifications include dealing […]

France Wants all Travelling EU Nationals Fingerprinted


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A team at WP Engine have conducted an interesting analysis of some 10 million passwords that had been collected from various sources such as leaks and dumps of passwords.   Virtually none of the passwords were still in use so the researchers considered that it was ethical to use the dataset in their research. The analysis highlights that people tend to choose passwords based on defined patterns and what comes into their mind when asked for a password.  So it is not surprising that in the 50 most used passwords, the most common text-based password is the word password itself.  However, the use of patterns does often make guessing passwords very easy, especially for password cracking software such as HashCat which can make up to 300,000 guess at a password per second. Other patterns identified were people adding their year of birth to their name to create a password and an […]

What 10 million passwords reveal about the people who choose ...




The BBC news website reports that More than 11 million passwords stolen in the Ashley Madison website hack have been decoded by a password cracking group. Initially, it was thought that the hacked passwords were unbreakable because hashing with bcrypt had been employed which effectively scrambles the password.  However, an amateur password cracking group called Cynosure Prime has discovered that the site had at some point changed the way passwords were stored, which reduced the strength of the bcrypt protection.  As a result the group have been able to crack 11 million passwords scrambled since the changes were made. Exactly, why Ashley Madison changed the way passwords were stored is not known, but it is speculated that it was done to make accessing the site easier. In a previous Newsblog post it has been highlighted that it is often the case that the reputational and financial impact on companies from […]

Flaws found in Ashley Madison password protection


Anna Hodgekiss reports on the Mail Online that a sexual health clinic in London’s Soho has revealed the names of up to 780 HIV positive patients in an e-mail error. The error involved patients who had signed up to the Clinic’s Option E service when a monthly newsletter was sent out. It appears to have occurred when the newsletter was sent out using an open group circulation list rather than as a blind copy. The clinic tried to recall the message using Microsoft Outlook’s recall function and then sent another e-mail apologising for the error and asking recipients to delete the message. Comment from the Newsblog Editor: A mistake like this is easy to make on an e-mail client like Microsoft’s Outlook, where an e-mail list can easily be mistakenly copied into the wrong field and sent out as a CC (carbon copy) to all recipients, rather than as a […]

Hundreds of HIV-positive patients have their identities revealed in e-mail ...



The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has released a tool called Privacy Badger to allow web users to block tracking cookies and spying adverts which ignore the Do Not Track setting in browsers.  Privacy Badger is not an ad blocker and adverts which do not contain tracking functionality, or respect Do Not Track settings are not blocked. Privacy badger also offers some protection against browser fingerprinting (see Panopticlick) by blocking third-party domains that use the technique, although it is not totally effective against what is a very sophisticated and subtle form of tracking. The plug-in is currently available for Chrome and Firefox and can be found and downloaded here.

EFF Release Privacy Badger Browser Plug-in to Stop Online Tracking


Darren Pauli reports on The Register website that security researchers have discovered that the HTC One Max phone stored user fingerprints as clear text in a “world readable” folder that could be accessed by  other Apps.  The Samsung Galaxy S5 was also found to have similar vulnerabilities. The revelation was made by researchers presenting at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas earlier this month.  It was one of four situations in which biometric data on an Android phone could be accessed by hackers.  In one scenario they showed how attackers could have money transfers authenticated by getting a user scan their fingerprints on a fake login screen to unlock the device. A link to the original research paper can be found here.

HTC Phone Stored Fingerprints as Clear Text


Mark Stockley reports on the Sophos Naked Security website that the HTML5 battery status API (Application Program Interface) on mobile phones can be used to track the phone user. The technique in a recently released paper, relies on the fact that browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Opera will provide information about battery status to any website that asks for it, without asking the phone users permission.  The information given up is a series of values covering discharging and charging.  However, it is very unlikely that two or more users will have the same value in a short time frame thus effectively making it a unique identifier for the device. These battery values are usually very short-lived; however, they could last long enough to allow a tracking website to respawn deleted cookies and defeat incognito modes.  Currently the only browser that offers protection against battery tracking is the Tor browser […]

How your Battery Life could be used as an Undeletable ...



Karl Thomas reports on the Welivesecurity website that local authorities in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk have suffered more than 160 data breaches in the past year. Most incidents were the result of human error, such as e-mails and letters being misaddressed. However, in one astonishing case a filing cabinet containing sensitive files was sold following an office move, although the files were subsequently recovered from the buyer.

Eastern England Councils in Slew of Data Breach Errors


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In a land mark case two MPs, David Davis and Tom Watson, have won a High Court judgement that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) is incompatible with human rights (see this BBC News article here). Legislation is normally subject to significant Parliamentary scrutiny, but the MPs claimed that because DRIPA was rushed through in days, there was no time for proper parliamentary scrutiny, hence the need for the unusual step of judicial review.   The MPs argued before the court that DRIPA was incompatible with the right to a private and family life, and data protection, under both the Human Rights Act and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights.  An argument that the court accepted. In the judgement the court has ruled that the unlawful sections of DRIPA can stay in force until the end of March 2016, to allow time for the government to compose new […]

MPs Win Surveillance Powers Legal Challenge, but Government to Appeal




A recent article in The Independent newspaper by Andrew Griffin highlights that Facebook is almost certainly tracking people using its rainbow picture tool, which enables users to change their profile picture to rainbow coloured in support of same-sex marriage. In using the tool many users are probably not aware that they are providing demographic data to Facebook which could be used to target advertising, or be supplied to third parties.  Just as many are not aware that the Facebook “pay with data” financial model, means that all information provided to the site may potentially be used for commercial purposes.  It should also be noted that although Facebook has stated that the information gathered by the tool will not be used for serving advertising, the site is notorious for its ever-changing privacy model, so the assurance probably needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. Interestingly, social scientists have already […]

Facebook Could Use Rainbow Profile Pictures to Profile Users


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Julian De Vries reports on The Nation website that in the US it is possible for someone to be prosecuted for deleting their browser history or other electronic records, even though the individual has no idea they are under any sort of investigation. The problem lies with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was originally enacted in the wake of the Enron scandal to stop corporations under investigation from shredding or destroying incriminating documents.  However, its application has been broadened out by prosecutors to cover situations way beyond its original aims. One reason why it has been possible to expand its use is that prosecutors do not have to show that an individual deleting material is aware an investigation is underway.  As a result anybody even innocently deleting electronic records such as browser history or text messages, could years later be prosecuted for doing so.  The scenario is not a hypothetical one […]

In the US You Can Be Prosecuted for Clearing Your ...


Ryan Whitwam reports on the ExtremeTech website that researchers have found a way to track android phones by studying their power use over time. The technique works on the principle that the further away a phone is from a base station, the more power the phone uses to maintain a connection.  Researchers called their proof of concept application PowerSpy.  Before it can be used a power map of an area has to be established so that PowerSpy knows what performance to expect in a particular location. Although making a call or using apps will also drain power, the algorithm used in PowerSpy is designed to monitor power use over several minutes, so that battery usage not associated with location can be filtered out.

Battery Power Alone Can be Used to Track Android Phones