When everyone's talking about it

When everyone's talking about it

The King County Library System asked me to present on cyber safety topics in a very neat program they have (“When everyone’s talking about it..”).  I have been giving two separate, but related presentations and both have been well-received by those who have attended.  Mine is but a small part of the KCLS program.  I have even attended presentations that I had interest  (like the presentation on drones!).  

For the most part, I have skipped over the basics in my presentations. There really isn’t much need to talk about “what is email” or “the Internet is a bunch of computers connected together”.  We all know that kind of information.  Rather, I have been giving practical advice on what to do right now to reduce the risk of having your devices compromised by hackers and reducing the risk of predators accessing your children online.  Every bit of information I talk about is real time applicable, from reducing your digital footprint to surfing the Internet while maintaining your privacy.  I even show how to use the Tor Browser and encrypted email!

In every presentation, I am seeing parents take notes furiously, ask serious questions, and show a genuine interest in online safety for their families and themselves.  For me, this is easy stuff.  I have already raised two kids in the digital age of Facebook and cell phones (hint: they survived, but still not easy).  And I have investigated cybercriminals (hackers, child pornographers, and others who have used technology to commit crimes).  That is the biggest benefit to attendees I try to give.  Cram as much pertinent information from what I know into an afternoon or evening presentation that can be put to use right away.  Free to anyone.

This is one of the few presentations you can step out the door and put the information to use before you get home.

But if you think this is just another Internet safety program, you are mistaken.  I go through how to use social media to help get (or keep) a job, get into (or prevent getting kicked out) of school for families and individuals, and reduce the risk of cyberbullying.  I show how easy it is for anyone to be a victim by clicking the wrong link or opening the wrong email along with ways to identify the dangerous links and emails. The term "Third party provider" takes on a whole new meaning to attendees when they are shown the ways their personally identifiable information (PII) can be stolen when stored on third party service providers such as their health insurance company or a toy company.

Most importantly, I answer tough questions. Although I give some guidance on creating family rules and personal use of technology, I leave it up to the invididual and family to decide what is appropriate. My guidance is to show how to create rules on the foundation of safety. Everything else is up to personal morals and values.

I’d like to credit the King County Library System for adding these presentations to their program this year because cyber safety is probably one of the most important topics today.   Everything comes down to cyber.  Whether it is personal information being leaked or hacked online or a child being lured from home, cyber is serious.  You can use technology safely and still enjoy the benefits but to ignore safety is like betting the farm on the Roulette wheel.  You never know when your number will come up, but when it does, it will hurt and hurt for a long time.

As far as this program (When everyone's talking about it) goes, KCLS nailed it.  I have organized more than a dozen training events and several conferences over the past decade.  I know exactly the effort needed to put something like this together and KCLS did it right.  If you are in King County, Washington, you really should check out the programs.  They do a fantastic job at a price you can't beat anywhere.  

As for me, I only have two more talks left.  All you need to do is show up.  No RSVP.  No charge.  Free parking.

Again, kudos to KCLS for putting this great program together.  Let's do it again next year.

----------------------------------My next talks----------------------------------

Cell Phones in the Family

Woodmont Library

26809 Pacific Hwy S, Des Moines, WA 98198

April 30, 2016      2PM – 3:30PM

 

Cell Phones in the Family

Newport Way Library

14250 SE Newport Way, Bellevue, WA 98006

June 23, 2016       7PM – 8:30PM

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What is this thing "privacy" you speak of?

What is this thing "privacy" you speak of?

 

I luckily missed being born into the Internet generation.  Facebook creeped me out with the amount of information demanded to create an account.  It took me all of 1 minute to create an account, 5 minutes to decide to delete it, and then two hours to figure out how. That was years ago and I still receive email reminders from Facebook to re-join with all my information still in the deleted  account, as if I never deleted it. If you ever wondered what Mark Zuckerberg thought of Facebook users, you may want to take a look...http://www.businessinsider.com/well-these-new-zuckerberg-ims-wont-help-facebooks-privacy-problems-2010-5 

Perhaps a decade of working undercover has made me ultra-paranoid on personal information. At the time of doing UC work, I had little concern of sitting in an illegal business, having dinner with an organized crime figure and having one of his goons run me through Google, because there was no Google when I first started. That changed before I left the narc world and an undercover friend of mine was identified with Internet searches (while he was in the midst of a group of bad guys). If I was still doing undercover work, I'd no longer be doing undercover work. Thanks Google...

I can imagine that being born into the Internet age means never knowing what privacy is, nor have any concern about it all. Kids are literally texting in grade school, Facebooking in middle school, and blogging by high school.  Every generation now willfully gives up every aspect of their lives on social media and to buy some gadget online.

So when I see that the majority of people could care less about their most intimate and private details of their lives, it gives me pause. If you don’t think your Internet searches and web browsing is intimate, take a look at your web history and tell me that you don’t have some secrets in what you look at that you wouldn’t want anyone else to know about you. Health, wealth, and interests. How much more intimate can you get?

Despair at the Number of Americans Who Choose Security over Liberty, Privacy - Reason (blog)

http://news.google.com Thu, 31 Dec 2015 17:41:15 GMT

Reason (blog)Despair at the Number of Americans Who Choose Security over Liberty, PrivacyReason (blog)According to a new, frustrating poll, a majority of Americans in both the major parties appears to support warrantless government surveillance of Am ...

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I’m not sure if people just don’t care the government watches and logs their Internet activity or if they just don’t know that they have a right to be secure in their homes, papers, and possessions. Either way, the result is the same. Privacy no more, and like the arrow flown, you can’t get the data back.

I can say that there are government organizations that actually take issue with privacy, one for example: Public Libraries. I’ve had criminal investigations where I needed information about a library patron for serious felonies. Not only were librarians willing to throw down with me to fight giving it to me, but I was promptly kicked out and told to get a warrant (which I did every time).  The library in the county where I live takes privacy seriously (KCLS). No security cameras anywhere. Not inside the library. Not in the parking lots. Nothing recorded. Patrons can use Tor if they bring it on a CD or flashdrive to plug into public use computers. The WiFi is free, no login required, no tracking of the users. 

For this, I say libraries may be the last bastion of personal privacy protection, but then again, I have no idea how many national security letters have been handed out to librarians

Certainly the day is close where privacy no longer exists in any manner. Already, if you ever applied for a security clearance, foreign governments have your application and probably your fingerprints too.

China says OPM breach was the work of criminal hackers - Engadget

http://news.google.com Thu, 03 Dec 2015 04:59:00 GMT

EngadgetChina says OPM breach was the work of criminal hackersEngadgetChina says the massive security breaches at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that exposed the personal information of more than 21.5 million US government employees, con ...

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I can say with experience, the Internet is great for investigators. Finding suspects has never been easier. In fact, finding an entire life history of a suspect takes on a whole new meaning with Facebook and every other type of social networking account.  Heck, they list their associates too. How much easier can it get? Criminals are people too, and they put as much personal information online as everyone else. Take the Dark Web as one example.  The Silk Road creator took massive steps to hide his identity, but an IRS agent identifed him with Google searches...

The Tax Sleuth Who Took Down a Drug Lord - New York Times

http://news.google.com Fri, 25 Dec 2015 17:48:14 GMT

New York TimesThe Tax Sleuth Who Took Down a Drug Lord New York Times It was Mr. Alford's supervisors at the I.R.S. who assigned him in February 2013 to a D.E.A. task force working the Silk Road case. The Strike Force, as it was known, had so far had l ...

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My only concern with personal privacy evaporating like dry ice in the summer is that criminals also have an easier time of finding enough personal information to do damage to anyone, whether as ID theft, stalking, or worse.  It's bad enough that there are several levels of government agencies tracking everyone (including you), and that the criminals are using the same methods, but we also have the foreign governments doing it too.

Probably the best thing that can happen to the Internet is that it breaks...but then again, how will students find answers to their homework if they can't access Wikipedia? Can you imagine telling your kids to go to the library? The horror!

1215 Hits

Libraries and the Tor Browser

Libraries and the Tor Browser

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a librarian for my opinion on library patrons using Tor in public libraries. My initial reaction, based upon having done more than a few cybercrime cases, is that Tor in public libraries is a bad idea. How can law enforcement track criminals who use library computers when the Tor browser is being used?  And libraries are government entities! Tax dollars would be spent helping criminals commit crimes on the Internet and remain anonymous. By all means, NO! Don’t do it!

From a law enforcement perspective (which I have not lost since my days in law enforcement), the Tor browser makes cybercrime investigations practically impossible to identify the user for 99% of cyber detectives and this is a major problem for investigators.  The remaining 1% of cyber analyts have access to supercomputers and virtually unlimited budgets that is beyond the scope and reach of the regular police detective.   Since the Tor network is so effective in providing anonymity to Internet users and police are practically powerless against it, why support it since criminals are using it?

About a half second later, my opinion changed.

The public library protects freedoms more than most people will ever know (except for librarians…they know about freedom protections). Sure, police protect freedoms by protecting Constitutions (state and federal versions) but law enforcement has a dilemma. On one hand, they swear to protect freedoms and on the other, the freedoms restrict their ability to protect.  Using the First Amendment as an example;

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Taking the freedom of speech as an example, people have a right to express themselves and that not only includes speaking, but also reading, and communicating (assembly) with other people. Libraries provide access to information and support intellectual freedom.  And of course, people abuse freedoms and commit crimes, such as harassment where free speech goes too far and intrudes on someone else’s rights. Maybe it's easier to protect speech by getting rid of it? Nope. That doesn't work...

Many (all?) public libraries today in the United States provide Internet access with WiFi and public terminals. Complete freedom to browse the Internet and communicate with people around the world certainly meets freedom of speech criteria.  You can’t get much more supportive in providing access to information than that. As a government entity, the public library supports the First Amendment more than any other entitity.

Here comes Tor.

Without getting into too much detail about “Tor” (The Onion Router: http://www.torproject.org), let’s just say that Tor can be looked at simply as an Internet browser that hides the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer user. That means that a computer user can be practically anonymous online when using the Tor browser.  The Internet history cannot be tracked, the physical location of the user cannot be tracked, and users can feel secure that they have privacy online without interference from government or other persons.

Internet privacy is important. Not only is government tracking of Internet users invasive, but so is corporate intrusions into personal privacy. Every person has different tastes, likes, interests, and beliefs. The founding principle of privacy is…privacy. Tor provides that privacy when it is used appropriately.

Running the Tor browser is simple enough since it is just an Internet browser (basically anyway). For a library to support Tor use, IT staff just need to download the browser to the public computers and put the icon on the desktop.  That’s all there is to it to give library patrons access to Internet privacy.

During a recent conversation with a librarian, I was told that the library (in the Seattle area), does not monitor, track, record, or even look at patron Internet history and useage. After explaining that the library certainly has the technology to do so, by default in their network system, and that every patron’s Internet history can be viewed, tracked, recorded, logged, and be required to be produced to law enforcement by court order, the conversation changed quite a bit. Obviously, if a crime has been committed and a search warrant is obtained, providing any information to investigate and prosecute criminals is a good thing for society as a whole.  The drawback is Internet history being logged or viewed for all patrons, in any manner, for general purpose or for later historical analysis. That negates privacy and goes against intellectual freedoms for which the public library stands.

With Tor, patrons can generally be assured their Internet use is private (barring screen capture software, keyloggers, compromised systems, etc…). This is a good thing for patrons to have as a choice. Tor is not perfect and has drawbacks to the ‘normal’ Internet browsers, but for the most part, if privacy is a concern, the Tor browser relieves the concerns.

As an investigative point, if a criminal wants to remain anonymous and use Tor to commit crimes, the library probably isn’t the best place to do it. Although most libraries do not have video surveillance cameras, some do.  There are libraries (the East Baton Rouge Parish Library as one example) that hire police officers as security! For a criminal to use a library computer to commit a crime may make it easier to get caught.

Tor relays: it’s Tor, but a little bit different topic. One of the methods that Tor is effective is that when using the Tor browser, computer relays (“Tor relays”) are being used to route the computer user’s traffic around the world.

http://www.torproject.org 

Anyone can volunteer to be a Tor exit relay, where Internet traffic running through the Tor network will ‘exit’ from your system. By being a volunteer, you help world-wide Internet anonymity by providing a Tor exit relay. For the most part, nothing bad happens, but occasionally, the Internet traffic leaving your relay could be criminal in some aspect, such as child pornography. You won’t see it, nor have anything to do with it, but your IP address will be tied to it since your relay is the last relay to receive/send it.

Not that this makes you a criminal, or that you facilitated a crime any more than if you sold a Ford that was used in a bank robbery as a getaway car, but it can happen. Today, law enforcement is more aware that Tor exit relays are not the source of crime, and the person running the relay is not the criminal they are looking for.

https://www.propublica.org/article/library-support-anonymous-internet-browsing-effort-stops-after-dhs-email

So it was strange to find an article where law enforcement pressured a library to not volunteer as a Tor relay. Tor relays exist world-wide. There are literally thousands of relays, everywhere. Shutting down every relay is virtually impossible. So why push libraries to not volunteer when it is the public library standing for the freedoms in the first place?

As a business consideration, my opinion on public libraries being Tor exit routers depends upon the cost required to set up and maintain it since public libraries are funded by the public with taxes. Other than that, if the public supports it and libraries can do it, why not? A public library can do little more for intellectual freedom than not only providing use of the Tor browser, but also operating a Tor relay.

Restricting or eliminating use of the Tor network would be like shutting down Toyota dealerships because the Toyota Camry is used for bank robbery getaway cars.

For the investigators worried about rampant crime in the library because of Tor…you can still catch the cybercriminals.  And for libraries worried that they will facilitate crime, don’t worry about that either. Tor users can’t choose the Tor exit relays.  It won’t be like cybercriminals will be able to pick a library Tor exit relay and commit crimes.  I give an entire chapter on beating Tor in my next book, at least as much as Tor can be beaten.

 

 

 

4351 Hits