Let's not go all Patriot Act on this Apple - FBI encryption thing.

Let's not go all  Patriot Act on this Apple - FBI encryption thing.

I’ve been involved in about a half dozen conversations, three different email threads, and twice as many emails with friends and clients about this Apple – FBI encryption issue.   It seems to be a divided opinion with no compromise, at least as far as I can see.

 

FBI's Fight With Apple Over Encryption May Erode European Trust in US - Newsweek

http://news.google.com Sat, 20 Feb 2016 19:24:00 GMT

NewsweekFBI's Fight With Apple Over Encryption May Erode European Trust in USNewsweekMax Schrems, the Austrian who brought the Safe Harbor case to the European Court of Justice and won, tells Newsweek that the FBI's possible victory over Apple isn't too concerning to Europeans because it is a targeted access to data—not the pre ...and moreᅠ»

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Here is my opinion: “Let Apple develop their software as they see fit for business and consumer demand, as long as their actions do not violate law.” 

That means that I am in agreement with Apple choosing to not decrypt a dead terrorist's phone. I am not a pro-terrorist or pro-criminal person. In fact, in my previous law enforcement career, I arrested more criminals personally than the rest of my 100+ officer department did…combined.  Not once did I have to break the law, bend the law, or misinterpret the law to make any of my cases in patrol or as a detective. Not once did I ask for any leniency or looking the other way ‘just this one time’ to make a case or to gather evidence. Not once. Ever.

So for any law enforcement agency asking ‘just this once’ to do something does not mean ‘just this one time’. It means, “just this one time until we ask again.”  Technical issues aside, whether or not Apple can unlock the phone or just doesn’t want to unlock the phone, the bigger question is why should they?  If a landlord refuses to give a key to a residence that SWAT has a search warrant for, SWAT will just boot the door. They can't force the landlord to give up the key.  I know this analogy is weak in the key area since you can't break unbreakable encryption, but the concept holds true. You can't force the landlord to give up the key unless the key is some how evidence.

Yes, yes, yes, I know this is a terrorist case. I’ve been involved in terrorism cases before  and exactly know how important these cases are (as I have also investigated murders..they are also important). I have seen quite enough to know how important it is to catch pedophiles, murderers, and terrorists. None should be on the street.  But that doesn’t mean taking shortcuts, bypassing Constitutional Rights, or asking a corporation to bend the rules a little to make a case.  Investigators can do this in Hollywood films, but not in real life.  

And yes, I have had cases where evidence was so little that probable cause to arrest didn’t exist. But such is life in the USA. Get PC (probable cause) and make the case or go back to square one.

After 9/11 and we panicked as a country to capture every terrorist responsible, the PATRIOT Act was typed, printed, signed, sealed, delivered, and implemented in 60 seconds flat. I was a federal task force officer at the time the PATRIOT when into effect. I have never seen such authority given to federal law enforcement in such short order without hardly a concern by the citizens the PATRIOT Act targeted (as in, it targets everyone's communications).  We do not need to continue along the lines of granting more authority to do what can already be done under the authority that already exists which is restricted to protect individual rights.  I’ve seen it misused before and it ain’t pretty. It's wrong.

As far as encryption goes, when any encryption is broken or perceived to broken, no one should use it. When TrueCrypt was reported to be flawed, it practically died, as it should.  Broken encryption is like a wet paper bag. It looks like it will hold your groceries until you actually put groceries in it.

Former NSA Chief Michael Hayden Sides With Apple, Though Admits 'No Encryption Is Unbreakable' - Billboard

http://news.google.com Thu, 18 Feb 2016 15:38:22 GMT

The Week MagazineFormer NSA Chief Michael Hayden Sides With Apple, Though Admits 'No Encryption Is Unbreakable'BillboardTim Cook's opinion that Apple should not develop a way to hack into the encrypted phone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters has earned an endorsement from an unlikely source, though it comes with a big "but." Michael Hayden, the former NSAᅠ...Ex-NSA, CIA chief Michael Hayden sides with Apple in FBI iPhone encryption fightThe Week MagazineFormer Director of CIA and N ...

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As for me, any software provider (or secure device provider) that tries to sell me encryption that is so good that no one, including the NSA, can get into it, they better mean it. A disclaimer of, “well, sometimes we might let the FBI access our encryption” means that I am going somewhere else. I have nothing to hide, but I also am not going to cut a hole in my bedroom wall for anyone to peer in and look whenever they want.

For those who fall back on the ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’, I fully support your beliefs in waiving your protections. After all, I have given Miranda warnings more times that I can remember and I always asked the suspects if they wanted to waive their rights. Most said yes. It’s their right to waive their rights.  But for me, I’m not waiving anything and I’m not in agreement that the choice to waive or exercise my rights can be taken away because a case agent can’t get enough evidence without resorting to bending the rules ‘just this one time’.

I mean, really. Would you buy a safe to hold your most prized and valuable possessions  knowing that a master key exists? That's like trusting the safe in your hotel closet....

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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!

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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.

I had help with this book with early reviews, suggestions, recommendations, and co-authoring.  Most of what is in the book, I’ve done or helped others do. Some things work sometimes, other things work other times, and nothing works all the time. But having a toolbox to choose from gives you choices of methods that can fit individual cases.

As a side note, many of the methods can work in civil litigation depending upon cooperation and legal authority. For example, use of the Tor browser in a corporate espionage or employee IP theft case can make a huge difference in the direction a forensic analysis takes.

For anyone going to Las Vegas for the Enfuse conference, I’ll be presenting on this book and look forward to meeting you there (please say hi).

You can order Hiding Behind the Keyboard here:

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Massive Government Surveillance - Not a new thing

I'm close to wrapping up my latest book, Hiding Behind the Keyboard. One of the more interesting things I found while researching the electronic surveillance chapter is a historical note of massive electronic surveillance...way back in the early  1890s

Considering that government surveillance is one of the hottest topics today, no doubt brought into the spotlight by Edward Snowden, I found this one historical bit of surveillance in New York to be a reminder that electronic surveillance has been around much longer than what the average person may know.

Before getting into the New York Police massive surveillance story, you should know that wiretapping has been around as long as communicating electronically has existed.  For example, as soon as the telegraph was used, the telegraph communications were intercepted. During the Civil War, a "wire tapper" was an actual job in the war to intercept telegraphs!  But that's not what I mean in regards to mass goverment surveillance. The New York Police Department's history with wiretaps is what I found to be really interesting, even more interesting than the NSA surveillance disclosures

In short, back in the late 1800s, New York made wiretapping a felony but the NYPD believed they were above this law. They tapped people at whim and without warrants, including tapping Catholic priests.

In fact, NYPD quickly discovered that they could tap into any phone line of the New York Telephone Company, at anytime  to listen to any person on the line. They even tapped into hotels to listen to hotel any guest.

Obviously, this free-wheeling phone tapping ended after the Supreme Court decided that the Fourth Ammendent protected "intangles" such as communications when it was previously believed that only "tangibles" were protected against unreasonable search and seizure. However, the NYPD experience shows that when  given unfettered access to monitoring and surveillance, government can go too far with good or bad intentions.

The solution to prevent going too far is simple. Get a warrant. Smart government employees know that a warrant protects the people and the employee's career. For anyone to say warrants are difficult, impossible, or too burdonsome simply has not written an affidavit for a warrant or just doesn't have the probable cause in the first place (or may be lazy....).  Warrants are easy to write if you have probable cause.  In fact, some warrants don't even need to be written for approval as a recorded phone call to a judge can get you a telephonic warrant approved in less than half an hour or faster.

For those against any government surveillance, such as wiretaps or pen registers, as long as there is a warrant, there really isn't any problem.  The Constitution and state or federal  laws that approve wiretaps require that the searches not be unreasonable or unnecessary (meaning, there must be cause).  Technically, it is almost as easy as flipping a switch, but practically, it takes takes an investigation to develop probable cause that a crime exists in the first place.  No crime = no probable cause = no warrant.

As a disclaimer to my personal experiences, I have initiated and supported dozens of wiretaps, pen registers, trap and traces, hidden cameras, GPS installations, body wires, and bugs during my time in criminal investigations. I've had probable cause every single time, so much so, that PC dripped out of my investigation binders. And with that, I'm not a fan of unfettered, massive government surveillance without cause...

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