Political leaks disrupt Ecuadoran election

Opponents of Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa -- himself a prolific and shrewd social media campaigner -- have had their social media accounts hacked and used to dump embarrassing transcripts purporting to show their party in disarray and romantic scandals in their personal lives. Read the rest

Coded: new documentary series on hackers

Seth Godin sends us this trailer for Coded, a new documentary series on hackers: "There’s an invisible war being waged. And we’re all part of it. Foreign governments are hacking major corporations. Major corporations are collecting massive amounts of consumer data. And the NSA is listening…to everything. But a new generation of programmers armed with powerful technology is rising up and fighting back. Freethink presents a new original series: Coded." Read the rest

Squirrels are vastly more harmful to the world's power grids than "the cyber" is

Of 1700+ known acts of global power-grid sabotages, affecting some 5,000,000 people, 879 were caused by squirrels; between 0 and 1 were caused by Russia, and another 1 was caused by the USA (Stuxnet). Read the rest

Houseguests, technological literacy, and the goddamned wifi: a single chart

Randal Munroe nails it again in an XKCD installment that expresses the likelihood that your houseguests will be able to connect to your wifi (I confess to having been the "firmware" guide -- but also, having been reminded to do something about my own firmware when other difficult houseguests came to stay). Read the rest

Whatsapp: Facebook's ability to decrypt messages is a "limitation," not a "defect"

Facebook spokespeople and cryptographers say that Facebook's decision to implement Open Whisper Systems' end-to-end cryptographic messaging protocol in such a way as to allow Facebook to decrypt them later without the user's knowledge reflects a "limitation" -- a compromise that allows users to continue conversations as they move from device to device -- and not a "defect." Read the rest

It turns out that halfway clever phishing attacks really, really work

A new phishing attack hops from one Gmail account to the next by searching through compromised users' previous emails for messages with attachments, then replies them from the compromised account, replacing the link to the attachment with a lookalike that sends you to a fake Google login page (they use some trickery to hide the fake in the location bar); the attackers stand by and if you enter your login/pass, they immediately seize control of your account and attack your friends. Read the rest

A critical flaw (possibly a deliberate backdoor) allows for decryption of Whatsapp messages -- UPDATED

Update: Be sure to read the followup discussion, which explains Facebook's point of view, that this is a deliberate compromise, and not a defect, that makes the app more usable for a wide variety of users, while putting them to little additional risk (namely, that Facebook might change its mind; or be forced to spy on its users; or suffer a security breach or internal rogue employee).

When Facebook implemented Open Whisper Systems' end-to-end encrypted messaging protocol for Whatsapp, they introduced a critical flaw that exposes more than a billion users to stealthy decryption of their private messages: in Facebook's implementation, the company can force Whatsapp installations to silently generate new cryptographic keys (without any way for the user to know about this unless a deep settings checkbox had been ticked), which gives the company the ability to decrypt user messages, including messages that have already been sent in the past.. Read the rest

Moral panic: Japanese girls risk fingerprint theft by making peace-signs in photographs

Isao Echizen, a researcher at Japan's National Institute of Informatics, told a reporter from the Sankei Shimbun that he had successfully captured fingerprints from photos taken at 3m distance at sufficient resolution to recreate them and use them to fool biometric identification systems (such as fingerprint sensors that unlock mobile phones). Read the rest

Bible references make very weak passwords

An analysis of passwords found in the 2009 breach of Rockyou -- 32 million accounts -- finds a large number of Biblical references ("jesus"," "heaven", "faith", etc), including a number of Bible verse references ("john316"). Read the rest

New ransomware will delete all your files -- unless you read two articles on avoiding ransomware

A newly discovered strain of the Koolova ransomware encrypts all your files and deletes the keys -- unless you read two articles about avoiding ransomware: Jigsaw Ransomware Decrypted: Will delete your files until you pay the Ransom (Bleeping Computer) and Stay safe while browsing (Google Security Blog). Read the rest

Hyperface: a fabric that makes computer vision systems see faces everywhere

Adam Harvey, creator of 2012's CV Dazzle project to systematically confound facial recognition software with makeup and hairstyles, presented his latest dazzle iteration, Hyperface, at the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg last month. Read the rest

Feminist cybersecurity 101

The DIY Feminist Guide to Cybersecurity, available in Spanish and English, is designed to be a quickstart for "gendered, racialized, queerphobic, transphobic, ableist, and classist" threats to digital autonomy, created because "companies and developers frequently ignore or underestimate the digital threats to these spaces and their users." Read the rest

No, Russia didn't hack Vermont's power grid

Despite what you might have read in this alarming story in the Washington Post, Russia did not hack Vermont's power authority. Read the rest

Your smart meter is very secure (against you) and very insecure (against hackers)

In On Smart Cities, Smart Energy, And Dumb Security -- Netanel Rubin's talk at this year's Chaos Communications Congress -- Rubin presents his findings on the failings in the security of commonly deployed smart meters. Read the rest

It's surprisingly easy to alter anyone's airline reservations

Karsten Nohl and Nemanja Nikodijevic's Chaos Communications Congress presentation details their research into becoming a "Secret travel agent": they figured out how to force the various portals to the Global Distribution System to let them know if they've guessed someone's reservation locator code, which they can use to arbitrarily alter your flight plans, sending you to different cities, reseating you, or cancelling your flight. Read the rest

What we can learn from 2016: the year of the security breach

Ryan McGeehan, who specializes in helping companies recover from data-breaches, reflects on the worst year of data breaches (so far) and has some sound practical advice on how to reduce your risk and mitigate your losses: some easy wins are to get your staff to use password managers and two-factor authentication for their home computers (since everyone is expected to work in their off-hours, most home computers are an easy way to get into otherwise well-defended networks); and stress-test your network for breach recovery. Read the rest

Panasonic's in-flight entertainment systems have critical security flaws

In March 2015, IOActive's Ruben Santamarta privately disclosed his findings on the major bugs in Panasonic's Avionics IFE in-flight entertainment systems; 18 months later, it's not clear whether all airlines have patched these bugs. Read the rest

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