[Gathered from a collection of sources. PGN] Electronic voting is failing the developing world while the US and Europe abandon it. <http://qz.com/61209/e-voting-is-failing-the-developing-world-while-the-us-and-europe-abandon-it/> It was supposed to be the most modern election in Africa. Kenyan authorities, hoping to avoid the chaos of the 2007 election decided that this time the country would use a tamper-proof, state-of-the-art electronic voting system <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/world/africa/31kenya.html?pagewanted=all>, where voter IDs would be checked on hand-held devices and results transmitted to Nairobi through text messages. <http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID 00077696&pageNo=1> But everything that could go wrong did. <http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/07/in-kenyas-high-tech-election-almost-everything-that-could-have-gone-wrong-did/> The biometric identification kits to scan people's thumbs broke down; a server meant to take in results from 33,400 voting centers sent via SMS became overloaded; and some election operators forgot the passwords and PIN numbers for the software. Polling centers went back to hand counting ballots and results were delayed almost a week, until March 9 when Uhuru Kenyatta's win was announced. And every day before that people feared a repeat of 2007 when results were delayed and violence erupted, killing 1,200 people. <http://qz.com/61192/the-real-victor-in-kenyan-elections-is-the-economy/> ... Vote information was being uploaded to a central server, which didn't have enough disk space allocated (to the appropriate filesystem partition). This meant that attempts to upload vote information failed, and many poll sites were unable to upload vote data electronically. http://iebctechkenya.tumblr.com/post/44928868808/a-clear-definition-of-the-iebc-tech-failure [This failure mode seems particularly outrageous if it was a lack of anticipating the number of voters, although perhaps the operational interface was misleading or defaulted improperly. In any event, this should easily have been avoidable. PGN] See also http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/03/09/173905754/how-kenyas-high-tech-voting-nearly-lost-the-election
Bruce Schneier, Chief Security Technology Officer BT, CRYPTO-GRAM, 15 Mar 2013 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.schneier.com Hacking the Papal Election As the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new pope, security people like me wonder about the process. How does it work, and just how hard would it be to hack the vote? The rules for papal elections are steeped in tradition. John Paul II last codified them in 1996, and Benedict XVI left the rules largely untouched. The "Universi Dominici Gregis on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff" is surprisingly detailed. Every cardinal younger than 80 is eligible to vote. We expect 117 to be voting. The election takes place in the Sistine Chapel, directed by the church chamberlain. The ballot is entirely paper-based, and all ballot counting is done by hand. Votes are secret, but everything else is open. First, there's the "pre-scrutiny" phase. "At least two or three" paper ballots are given to each cardinal, presumably so that a cardinal has extras in case he makes a mistake. Then nine election officials are randomly selected from the cardinals: three "scrutineers" who count the votes; three "revisers" who verify the results of the scrutineers; and three "infirmarii" who collect the votes from those too sick to be in the chapel. Different sets of officials are chosen randomly for each ballot. Each cardinal, including the nine officials, writes his selection for pope on a rectangular ballot paper "as far as possible in handwriting that cannot be identified as his." He then folds the paper lengthwise and holds it aloft for everyone to see. When everyone has written his vote, the "scrutiny" phase of the election begins. The cardinals proceed to the altar one by one. On the altar is a large chalice with a paten—the shallow metal plate used to hold communion wafers during Mass—resting on top of it. Each cardinal places his folded ballot on the paten. Then he picks up the paten and slides his ballot into the chalice. If a cardinal cannot walk to the altar, one of the scrutineers—in full view of everyone—does this for him. If any cardinals are too sick to be in the chapel, the scrutineers give the infirmarii a locked empty box with a slot, and the three infirmarii together collect those votes. If a cardinal is too sick to write, he asks one of the infirmarii to do it for him. The box is opened, and the ballots are placed onto the paten and into the chalice, one at a time. When all the ballots are in the chalice, the first scrutineer shakes it several times to mix them. Then the third scrutineer transfers the ballots, one by one, from one chalice to another, counting them in the process. If the total number of ballots is not correct, the ballots are burned and everyone votes again. To count the votes, each ballot is opened, and the vote is read by each scrutineer in turn, the third one aloud. Each scrutineer writes the vote on a tally sheet. This is all done in full view of the cardinals. The total number of votes cast for each person is written on a separate sheet of paper. Ballots with more than one name (overvotes) are void, and I assume the same is true for ballots with no name written on them (undervotes). Illegible or ambiguous ballots are much more likely, and I presume they are discarded as well. Then there's the "post-scrutiny" phase. The scrutineers tally the votes and determine whether there's a winner. We're not done yet, though. The revisers verify the entire process: ballots, tallies, everything. And then the ballots are burned. That's where the smoke comes from: white if a pope has been elected, black if not—the black smoke is created by adding water or a special chemical to the ballots. Being elected pope requires a two-thirds plus one vote majority. This is where Pope Benedict made a change. Traditionally a two-thirds majority had been required for election. Pope John Paul II changed the rules so that after roughly 12 days of fruitless votes, a simple majority was enough to elect a pope. Benedict reversed this rule. How hard would this be to hack? First, the system is entirely manual, making it immune to the sorts of technological attacks that make modern voting systems so risky. Second, the small group of voters—all of whom know each other—makes it impossible for an outsider to affect the voting in any way. The chapel is cleared and locked before voting. No one is going to dress up as a cardinal and sneak into the Sistine Chapel. In short, the voter verification process is about as good as you're ever going to find. A cardinal can't stuff ballots when he votes. The complicated paten-and-chalice ritual ensures that each cardinal votes once—his ballot is visible—and also keeps his hand out of the chalice holding the other votes. Not that they haven't thought about this: The cardinals are in "choir dress" during the voting, which has translucent lace sleeves under a short red cape, making sleight-of-hand tricks much harder. Additionally, the total would be wrong. The rules anticipate this in another way: "If during the opening of the ballots the scrutineers should discover two ballots folded in such a way that they appear to have been completed by one elector, if these ballots bear the same name, they are counted as one vote; if however they bear two different names, neither vote will be valid; however, in neither of the two cases is the voting session annulled." This surprises me, as if it seems more likely to happen by accident and result in two cardinals' votes not being counted. Ballots from previous votes are burned, which makes it harder to use one to stuff the ballot box. But there's one wrinkle: "If however a second vote is to take place immediately, the ballots from the first vote will be burned only at the end, together with those from the second vote." I assume that's done so there's only one plume of smoke for the two elections, but it would be more secure to burn each set of ballots before the next round of voting. The scrutineers are in the best position to modify votes, but it's difficult. The counting is conducted in public, and there are multiple people checking every step. It'd be possible for the first scrutineer, if he were good at sleight of hand, to swap one ballot paper for another before recording it. Or for the third scrutineer to swap ballots during the counting process. Making the ballots large would make these attacks harder. So would controlling the blank ballots better, and only distributing one to each cardinal per vote. Presumably cardinals change their mind more often during the voting process, so distributing extra blank ballots makes sense. There's so much checking and rechecking that it's just not possible for a scrutineer to misrecord the votes. And since they're chosen randomly for each ballot, the probability of a cabal being selected is extremely low. More interesting would be to try to attack the system of selecting scrutineers, which isn't well-defined in the document. Influencing the selection of scrutineers and revisers seems a necessary first step toward influencing the election. If there's a weak step, it's the counting of the ballots. There's no real reason to do a precount, and it gives the scrutineer doing the transfer a chance to swap legitimate ballots with others he previously stuffed up his sleeve. Shaking the chalice to randomize the ballots is smart, but putting the ballots in a wire cage and spinning it around would be more secure—albeit less reverent. I would also add some kind of white-glove treatment to prevent a scrutineer from hiding a pencil lead or pen tip under his fingernails. Although the requirement to write out the candidate's name in full provides some resistance against this sort of attack. Probably the biggest risk is complacency. What might seem beautiful in its tradition and ritual during the first ballot could easily become cumbersome and annoying after the twentieth ballot, and there will be a temptation to cut corners to save time. If the Cardinals do that, the election process becomes more vulnerable. A 1996 change in the process lets the cardinals go back and forth from the chapel to their dorm rooms, instead of being locked in the chapel the whole time, as was done previously. This makes the process slightly less secure but a lot more comfortable. Of course, one of the infirmarii could do what he wanted when transcribing the vote of an infirm cardinal. There's no way to prevent that. If the infirm cardinal were concerned about that but not privacy, he could ask all three infirmarii to witness the ballot. There are also enormous social—religious, actually—disincentives to hacking the vote. The election takes place in a chapel and at an altar. The cardinals swear an oath as they are casting their ballot—further discouragement. The chalice and paten are the implements used to celebrate the Eucharist, the holiest act of the Catholic Church. And the scrutineers are explicitly exhorted not to form any sort of cabal or make any plans to sway the election, under pain of excommunication. The other major security risk in the process is eavesdropping from the outside world. The election is supposed to be a completely closed process, with nothing communicated to the world except a winner. In today's high-tech world, this is very difficult. The rules explicitly state that the chapel is to be checked for recording and transmission devices "with the help of trustworthy individuals of proven technical ability." That was a lot easier in 2005 than it will be in 2013. What are the lessons here? First, open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder. Every step of the election process is observed by everyone, and everyone knows everyone, which makes it harder for someone to get away with anything. Second, small and simple elections are easier to secure. This kind of process works to elect a pope or a club president, but quickly becomes unwieldy for a large-scale election. The only way manual systems could work for a larger group would be through a pyramid-like mechanism, with small groups reporting their manually obtained results up the chain to more central tabulating authorities. And third: When an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good. This essay previously appeared on CNN.com, and is an update of an essay I wrote for the previous papal election in 2005. http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/20/opinion/schneier-papal-election-secure My previous essay: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/04/hacking_the_pap_1.html John Paul II's rules: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_22021996_universi-dominici-gregis_en.html or http://tinyurl.com/3ldzm Benedict XVI's rules: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/motu_proprio/documents/hf_ben-xvi_motu-proprio_20070611_de-electione_fr.html or http://tinyurl.com/cgza3qz Rule changes: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/02/11/the-political-science-of-papal-elections/ or http://tinyurl.com/cp484a8 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6242466.stm
"Traditional car keys will likely become obsolete and be replaced by technologies offering even greater security and convenience," John Nielsen, AAA director of automotive engineering and repair told the *L.A. Times*. "Motorists will need to adapt with the technology to avoid the hassle and expense of smart key replacements." http://consumerist.com/2013/03/12/would-you-be-okay-ditching-metal-keys-in-favor-of-a-smartphone-app-to-start-your-car/ Does he really believe that software gives greater security than hardware? As for convenience, are you going to have to give your smartphone to the parking lot valet? Or, will you instead give him a (probably permanent) app to use your car?
[Thanks to Kent Peterson. PGN] ... allegedly causes high speed chase/crash: http://www.autoblog.com/2013/02/22/hyundai-elantras-alleged-unintended-acceleration-sends-teen-po/#continued
In management 101, I learned that being a "self starter" is a good thing. But when it comes to cars, that's not so. Subaru is recalling 50,000 cars there's a problem with the remote-control self starter—if you drop the keys in the wrong way, they can start the car without the owner noticing. Obviously if the car is inside a closed garage and the owner doesn't notice it, that would be a Bad Thing. Not really a software problem as far as I can tell from the brief description. And there's no indication that (by itself) this indicates the ability for an attacker to remotely start a car. It more points to the core point of the RISKS forum: computerized technology can be a risk in its own right, even when everything works as intended (i.e., only an authorized key fob can be used to remotely start a car). http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/07/news/companies/subaru-recall/index.html?hpt=hp_t2
http://j.mp/YYafUr (*Science Daily* via NNSquad) "Desoky suggests that instead of using a humdrum text document and modifying it in a codified way to embed a secret message, correspondents could use a joke to hide their true meaning. As such, he has developed an Automatic Joke Generation Based Steganography Methodology (Jokestega) that takes advantage of recent software that can automatically write pun-type jokes using large dictionary databases." [Obviously true. Why did the chicken traverse the road? LW] [Because he wasn't *cross*? Because he saw a steganosaurus? Because he wanted to be victimized by a hidden-run driver? Because he believed in o-pun-source soft-air? This reminds me of a banquet talk I gave many years ago on parameterized polymorphic jokes suitable (or not suitable) for diverse occasions. Unfortunately, the ultimate PUNchline was recursively parameterized and perhaps lost forever. PGN]
I love the picture that illustrates this story: http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/brazilian-doctor-arrested-for-using-silicone-fingers-to-hack-her-hospitals-security-system Excerpt: Here's hoping none of you, dear readers, has spent much money recently on finger-scanning biometric security technology lately. Because it turns out it's pretty easy to hack. A news report from the BBC reveals that a 29-year-old Brazilian doctor, Thaune Nunes Ferreira, working in a small town outside Sao Paulo was arrested over the weekend for allegedly using prosthetic silicone fingers to fake the presence of six of her colleagues. That's right. If you can find a decent fingerprint and a way to manufacture silicone objects (as some 3D printers can), you probably have what it takes to break-into anything that requires a finger scan. Charles C. Mann, P.O. Box 66, Amherst, MA, 01004-0066 www.charlesmann.org [Danny Burstein noted that an item on this in Al Jazeera quoted the doctor saying this was part of a scam to fool hospital bosses into thinking her colleagues had worked more overnight shifts than they actually had. PGN] http://www.aljazeera.com/video/americas/2013/03/201331413348907219.html
March 16 2013 http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/16/opinion/schneier-internet-surveillance/index.html I'm going to start with three data points. One: Some of the Chinese military hackers who were implicated in a broad set of attacks against the U.S. government and corporations were identified because they accessed Facebook from the same network infrastructure they used to carry out their attacks. Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSac hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up. And three: Paula Broadwell,who had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network. Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she e-mailed him. The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels -- and hers was the common name. The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period. Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking Broadwell's identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources. Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your purchasing habits offline. And there's more. There's location data from your cell phone, there's a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs. ...
http://j.mp/XAqsm7 (Forbes via NNSquad) "A bunch of us have been sitting in the background scratching our heads, knowing that RC4 is weak in all kinds of ways," says Kenny Paterson, a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London who worked with Bernstein along with three other researchers to develop the new techniques. "But no one has been able to put it all together to break TLS in this kind of setting. Our work shows one way to do that." Of course, if someone really wants your stuff that badly, they're probably gonna try get you to download a keylogger. But still, let's face it, RC4 is way, way past its prime.
http://www.infoworld.com/d/security/researchers-resurrect-and-improve-crime-attack-against-ssl-214532 InfoWorld Home / Security / News March 14, 2013 Researchers resurrect and improve CRIME attack against SSL New techniques bypass existing mitigations and allow attackers to extract sensitive information from users' encrypted Web traffic By Lucian Constantin | IDG News Service
> Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2013 14:26:05 -0500 > From: USA.gov Team <email@example.com> > Subject: Warning About the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) iPhone App [I have removed some of the ugliest URLs I have ever seen from Gabe's posting. I think the stripped version conveys the message adequately. PGN] A free iPhone app called TSP Funds is currently being offered through the Apple store. It asks Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) participants for their account log in information. This is not an official TSP app and the TSP does not recommend using this app to access your TSP account. *Providing your information could result in a security risk to your account.* If you would like to access your TSP account, please log in directly at TSP.gov [...]
Ted Samson, InfoWorld, 8 Mar 2013 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Sen. John Cornyn butt heads over whether prosecutors 'bullied' hacktivist (Reuters/Noah Berger) http://www.infoworld.com/t/hacking/attorney-generals-testimony-aaron-swartz-raises-more-questions-answers-214141 selected text: Cyber criminals seem to face disproportionately aggressive prosecution and sentencing—while major financial institutions that had a role in creating the financial crisis remain, by the attorney general's own admission, untouchable. Holder's testimony prompted Cornyn to ask one of the key questions of the entire case: "Does it strike you as odd that the government would indict someone for crimes that would carry penalties of up to 35 years in prison and million dollar fines and then offer him a three- or four-month prison sentence?" Why the ton of bricks?
Bloomberg News reports that within the past two weeks security contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have signed an agreement under the Department of Homeland Security's Enhanced Cybersecurity Services program providing new revenue streams and, more notably, unparalleled access to personal information classified as "U.S. government data." (Common Dreams via NNSquad) http://j.mp/XO75DX
Tim Greene, Network World, 14 Mar 2013 Series of events forced a manual recovery, slowing the recovery, Microsoft says The Outlook.com partial outage lasting 16 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday morning was caused by a firmware update gone awry that triggered a temperature spike in a Microsoft data center, resulting in automatic safeguards that made a large number of servers inaccessible. Because of the unspecified safeguards, downed servers couldn't fail over on their own so restoration work had to be done manually, slowing down the process, according to a blog post by Microsoft Outlook.com Vice President Arthur de Haan. http://www.networkworld.com/news/2013/031413-microsoft-outlook-outage-267705.html
Hostile hackers or an `isolated state' may succeed in breaching U.S. computer networks and disrupting power grids and other vital services in the next two years, the top U.S. intelligence official told Congress today. [Source: Bloomberg, 12 Mar 2013: http://bloom.bg/ZFai8Q . PGN]
Galen Gruman, InfoWorld, 12 Mar 2013 An iPhone and iPad help our intrepid traveler survive flight delays, flight cancelations, and unexpected overnight stays http://www.infoworld.com/d/mobile-technology/mobile-the-rescue-when-airplane-trip-goes-awry-214103 The article also mentions problems with systems because his flight had not be officially canceled. This made dealing with his problem that much more difficult.
G.F., Seattle, 17 Mar 2013 <http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/03/end-google-reader> Spring cleaning has a lot to commend it. But when Google announced that it is binning its Reader, which aggregates information from websites' news feeds, tech types around the world erupted in righteous fury. Many websites which have come to depend on the service to power their news feeds now fret that Google's decision will cost them millions of readers—and with that lots of advertising revenue. Users, meanwhile, worry about impending newslessness. Google launched Reader in 2005. By offering it to users for free, it undercut, and ultimately eliminated, all substantial competitors in the news-aggregation business. The few that remained began requiring a Google Reader account and used the search giant's service to handle synchronisation of feeds among a user's mobile and desktop devices. At the time, the servers and storage required might have cost millions of dollars a year, posing a high barrier to entry. Google Reader relies on news-syndication technology collectively called "RSS", even though there are in fact four rival formats (three types of RSS and one called Atom). In the late 1990s "push" news services used dedicated servers to collect information from news websites and push updates to specialised software on users' computers. This overtaxed the early Internet, as hundreds or thousands of people on a single network or Internet service provider would each receive a separate hunk of data with every update. Push was quickly banned and more or less died in 1999. RSS gets round this problem by letting users to pick what news they want to get. A user subscribes to an RSS feed by adding it to a list in so-called newsreader software, which includes mobile and desktop programs and web apps like Google Reader. Publishers automatically update syndication files (often in all four popular formats) on their websites whenever they create or update an item of content. Software on a user's computer "polls" to see if changes were made, pulls the RSS file, compares it against the previously retrieved copy, and highlights any changes. (Since the feeding website has no information about the subscriber, unsubscribing too is hassle-free; when a user removes the feed from his list, the website can no longer pester him.) Google (and other aggregators of the day) made the process more efficient for publishers by reducing the number of requests for the RSS file. If a million Reader users subscribed to *The New York Times* main feed, Google only had to make a single query to retrieve the file. Google Reader users would receive the changed *Times* stories the next time they logged into Google's site or refreshed stories in software that relied on Reader for updates. This shifted the burden of a million queries from *The Times* to Google, and made Google the nexus for updates. (Google also solved a host of technical problems ensuring that Reader offered a smooth experience.) ...
http://j.mp/YY99rR (Google Webmaster Central via NNSquad) "We certainly hope you never have to use our new Help for hacked sites informational series. It's a dozen articles and over an hour of videos dedicated to helping webmasters in the unfortunate event that their site is compromised."
I'm not sure what the worry is since we are collecting much of this already. The more interesting point is that this is no longer a large amount of data so why does the IT guy think it is a lot? It costs under $20 retail and a small fraction of that wholesale to store forever. For society it does raise the risk of never forgetting but that's a separate issue.
In Risks 27.19, Dag-Erling Smorgrav considers the fact that the Boeing 787s will generate 0.5TB of data per flight, and asks "what could possibly go wrong"? First: what could be gained? That data can record subtle details in engine operation that has never been created before, help correlate degradaton in behaviour with past part history. If one part fails, the data of all similar parts can be examined to identify which other parts have a similar history, and may be susceptible. For example, the " NASA-ONERA Collaboration on Human Factors in Aviation Accidents and Incidents" work is combining datasets from the aircraft, external datasources—including the recent history of pilot workloads -- to determine correlating factors in Go-Arounds during landing": http://naca.larc.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R 120012534&qs=N%3D4294966753%2B4294724598. Maybe this could even go some way to avoiding the default "blame the pilots" policy that surfaces in crashes today. The data then, could be invaluable. What is needed is keeping that data secure and with effective provenance. You don't need an Internet connection to keep the data; at 0.5 TB/flight you don't want to be uploading it off the airplane anyway, not unless "your flight is delayed until the upload completes" is to become the new cause of delays (which becomes another factor for NASA-ONERA to worry about). Swapping out an SSD disk is far simpler—though that adds tracking and provenance of the SSDs to the problem.
My impression, catchy titles aside, is that they fail just like HDDs with huge write caches—if those caches cached more or less random chunks of random files, and not necessarily the files that were written to recently. The unpleasant thought is having that kind of failure in a journaling setup that stores the journal on SSD for performance. Chunks of data you'd lose from HDD's write cache won't match the chunks of the journal lost on the SSD. The result is a filesystem scrambled beyond repair. It is largely theoretical, yes, but unfortunately Murphy's Law is not.
http://j.mp/10Is1iw (CNN via NNSquad) "On Monday, the school apologized for the way it handled a secret search of the e-mail accounts of resident deans. It conducted the search in an effort to find who leaked information about the scandal to the media last year."
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