Brett's Blog

Just some ramblings.

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.

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I'm just a Tor exit node! I'm just a Tor exit node!

I'm just a Tor exit node!  I'm just a Tor exit node!

Never thought I would still see this happening…

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/seattle-police-raid-home-privacy-activists-who-maintain-tor-anonymity-network-node-1552524

I have personally seen warrants served on the wrong address on two occasions.  The first was a drug investigation where the lead detective went to the wrong door to an apartment.   The warrant was correct in having the correct address, but the detective didn’t take the time to check the numbers on the door…

The second time I witnessed a wrong door entry was when the lead detective had the wrong address on both the search warrant and affidavit.  The detective never even corroborated the information to find the right address.  Basically, the detective looked down the street and picked the house she thought was the drug dealer’s house.  After SWAT kicked in the door and broke a few things in the process, it took all of 5 minutes to realize that it was the wrong house.  The drug dealer was on the next street over…the victim house got a new door from Home Depot and carpet cleaning paid for by the task force.  

Both of these warrants taught me something that I will never forget.  Before you kick in the door, make sure you got the right door.  After you make sure you got the right door, make sure again.  Then ask your partner to double-check that you got the right door. Then get a warrant and kick it in if the suspect doesn’t open it for you.

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Barking up the Encryption Tree. You're doing it wrong.

Barking up the Encryption Tree.  You're doing it wrong.

There always comes a time when an obscure, yet important concept, leaves the technical world and enters the main stream.  Recovering deleted files was one of those where we pretty much knew all along not only that it can be done, but that we have been doing it all along. The Snowden releases were another aspect of ‘yeah, we knew this all along, but the GFP (general f’ing public) was oblivious.

Encryption is just the most current ‘old’ thing to make the limelight.  Whenever something like this happens, there are ton of people ringing the end-of-the-world bells, clamoring that national security will be lost, and personal freedoms take a back seat to everything.  It happens all the time and when it happens, there is a fire to make new laws on top of thousands of other laws, in which the promise of better safety and security is as strong as a wet paper bag holding your groceries on a windy and rainy day.

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Legally, it is super easy to ban, control, and/or regulate encryption. A stroke of the pen with or without citizen oversight can make it happen quickly and painlessly.  One signature on the last page of a law that is a ream in size is all it takes.

Practically, it is impossible to completely eliminate or control or regulate encryption.  The only thing laws will do is restrict the sale of encryption products by corporations.  Encryption exists in the minds of mathematical practitioners and can be recreated over and over again. You can't blank out someone’s brain (I hope not…).  Encryption is available everywhere on the Internet, from software programs that are FREE and OPEN SOURCE to download and even in TOYS that can be bought off Amazon.com.  These 'toys' work by the way.

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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?

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The best part of writing a book is finishing the book.

The best part of writing a book is finishing the book.

I choose the title of my latest book (Hiding Behind the Keyboard) to be provocative, although the book may not completely be what you would expect if you think that it is a manual to hide yourself on the Internet. Being from Syngress, this is technically a technical book in that it discusses how to uncover covert communications using forensic analysis and traditional investigative methods.

The targeted audience is those charged with finding the secret (and sometimes encrypted) communications of criminals and terrorists.  Whether the communications are conducted through e-mail, chat, forums, or electronic dead drops, there are methods to find the communications to identify and prevent crimes.

For the investigators, before you get uptight that the book gives away secrets, keep in mind that no matter how many “secrets” are known by criminals or terrorists, you can still catch them using the same methods regardless of how much effort criminals put into not getting caught.

As one example, one of the cases I had years ago as a narcotic detective was an anonymous complaint of a large, indoor marijuana grow operation.  Two plainclothes detectives and I knocked on the door and politely asked for consent to search the home for a marijuana grow.  I told the owner that he didn’t have to give consent, or let us in, and could refuse consent at any time.  He gave consent and we found hundreds of marijuana plants growing in the house.  The point of this story was that on a table near the front door, was a book on how to grow marijuana that was opened to the page that said “when the cops come to your door for consent, say NO!”.  He had the book that advised not to do what he did anyway.

The point being, even when knowing how to commit crimes, criminals are still caught and terrorist plots are still stopped. The more important aspect is that investigators need to know as much as they can and this requires training, education, and books like Placing the Suspect Behind the Keyboard and Hiding Behind the Keyboard.

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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.

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Tor is perfect! (except for the user....)

Tor is perfect!  (except for the user....)

I have been spending so much time with the Tor browser over the past months that I have forgotten just how seamlessly it uses a complex network of global servers, and encryption to provide a near perfect level of online anonymity. The Tor browser is extremely effective in providing near 100% anonymity that if not for one little flaw, it would be perfect, and I found that flaw.

The flaw is the user. Yes, every physical device and software application has the same flaw, but with Tor, it is a flaw that can completely negate using Tor for anonymity with misuse. Something as simple as a user not updating the Tor browser when prompted in bold print is enough to break anonymity. The Tor browser can only do so much to warn users to update the browser...

On one hand, criminals using the Tor browser who are lazy, too busy, or not accepting the danger of using outdated Tor browsers run the risk of getting busted.  On the other hand, legitimate users, such as those living under oppressive governments, can be discovered and imprisoned (or worse!) for exercising speech online.  Both situations generally require the user to be the weak link.

FBI Uses Spyware to Catch Tor-Based Child Pornography Suspect - Softpedia News

http://news.google.com Thu, 01 Oct 2015 02:46:49 GMT

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