Public Intelligence got a hold of some interesting slides that Microsoft seems to present to law enforcement personnel. Microsoft explains the weaknesses in their privacy/security functions and how law enforcement et al. can leverage them best.
Here are some highlights:
A benefit to law enforcement of InPrivate is that website data for sites added to favorites will be left alone if a box remains ticked.
Not surprisingly, The Tor Project comes up in the presentation (because anyone using Tor must be doing something bad!!), associated with the user name ‘bad guy’.
Common uses of the InPrivate mode include checking e-mail on public computers and “shopping for gifts” on family computers.
In a plea to not lose their law enforcement buddies because of the inclusion of these inconveniencing features, Microsoft says that they’re not alone including private browsing functionality, ie. they were forced to do this because the competition was doing it (good job Firefox and Chrome).
Microsoft says that it’s not all bad, BitLocker isn’t available to any commoner, it “has a number of ‘Recovery’ scenarios that we can exploit”, and that users are scared of encryption.
“We are the good guys!” Who are the bad guys then? The people using encryption/BitLocker?
Virtual PC Undo Disks
Virtual PC Undo Disks are scary for law enforcement.
Not with Photoshop (and apparently Paint Shop Pro), or your printer, anyway.
The counterfeit deterrence system
If you try to open an image of specific currencies (and I assume at a specific resolution or higher) in Photoshop, you’ll receive the same error message as above. It’s interesting to note that New Zealand’s money isn’t blocked from being opened. Probably because we’re too busy trying to stop our passports from being counterfeited.
So what if your counterfeiting plans were going well so far, and now you’re at a standstill because of Adobe? You can use Gimp. It opens banknotes without trouble. So do old versions of Photoshop. And Microsoft Paint.
Why did Adobe think it was a good idea to add this? Counterfeiters will already know that they can use an older version of Photoshop, or use other software to get around this additional ‘feature’ and will be doing that.
All Adobe is doing is pissing off people who are trying to use Photoshop for a legitimate reason.
The Rules For Use website the dialog box directs users to even lists situations where you can reproduce banknotes legally (e.g. at a certain size), but Photoshop blocks opening banknotes full stop.
Why is it included?
Adobe will have had to spend time and money on including this system, with no returns in the form of additional sales. I assume they were pressured to include it, or even paid to include it by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.
“The inner workings of the counterfeit deterrence system are so secret that not even Adobe is privy to them. The Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group provides the software as a black box without revealing its precise inner workings, Connor said.”
If you’ve bought Photoshop, were you aware of this system at the time of sale? You bought the software to open and edit images, but there are limitations you wouldn’t have been told about.
Here’s the two places where this system is talked about on Adobe’s website. A forum post and the information post linked to above.
Where’s the information page linked to from on Adobe’s website? My guess is not very many places, because they should have come up in the search too.
Printers are in on this too
I tried to print United States banknotes from Banknotes.com too. And the job failed. Here’s a New Zealand banknote that printed (and scanned) fine, with one of the United States notes below, which stopped printing halfway through.
Here’s the error message in the print dialog.
Error 9707 seems to be specific to the counterfeit deterrence system, but is only described as “reading pixels failed”.
BNZ specifies an interesting use for your Eftpos card PIN that’s not permitted in their newest card terms and conditions – using it for the lock code on your phone.
1.5 PIN selection … Your PIN should not be used for any other purpose including your lock/unlock code for your mobile phone.
In the new card letter they also make an interesting comparison of PINs to electronic signatures. But I think their next sentence shows why this is a potentially confusing example to give:
“When selecting a PIN please remember that this is your electronic signature. You must not keep a written record of your PIN, give your PIN to any other person or select a PIN that can be readily associated with you such as birth dates, addresses, parts of telephone numbers, car registrations, sequential numbers (eg 1234, 9999) or any other easily found personal information.”
Signatures are often written down, given away and are made up of personal information. Perhaps there is a better comparison available?
I posted a while ago about a security issue with TelstraClear’s webmail. Mainly that someone could access an email account through the referring URL gathered through visitor analytics tools available for most websites.
This made me think about the personal information that I have in my email account.
The library here in Christchurch includes users’ addresses in the header of all emails that they send out automatically (reminders about due books, holds, etc). I gather libraries around the country do this.
This always struck me as strange, because there’s no need to include this information.
An address isn’t the most private information in the world, but if someone broke into my email account, it’s something I wouldn’t like them to have.
So I asked the library about it. Here’s their response:
“Thank you for your recent query as to why postal address details are included in Christchurch City Libraries customer email notifications.
SirsiDynix, the integrated library system provider used by Christchurch City Libraries, have responded that identical address information is shown on both notification options [email and snail mail] because the reports draw on the same User Address information. Their opinion is that modifying the script to suit emailed notices would harm the report’s ability to print the needed addresses for mailed notices.
Unfortunately in-house report customisation is not currently a viable option because of time and financial constraints but we would certainly re-evaluate should there be further customer demand. We are not aware of any likely changes to the SirsiDynix system in the near future.”
Update 28 September 2012: This post was written before I started working for a bank (who I love dearly), and at least some views expressed in this post have changed since then (eg. case-insensitive passwords (and ASB isn’t the only bank that does this) are irrelevant when users are locked out after three incorrect login attempts–Facebook does something similar to this, accepting the actual password, the password with the first letter capitalized (to account for automatic capitalization on mobile devices), and the password with the case of letters reversed (to account for the caps lock key being on), and that a charge for a bank cheque is not so unreasonable in the context of a lot of bank cheques being for a large amount). Also some bank policies have changed since this post was published (eg. ASB no longer charges $2 for automatic payments added/amended online–progress!) There is, however, no way of getting around ASB’s $0.20 fee for a Netcode over-$500-transfer-authorization if you don’t have a token–it is charged even if you call the 0800 number and ask them to release the payment. Except for a note regarding the previous sentence, this post hasn’t been edited from the original form.
And useful (see: next day bank transfers).
I’m with ASB and they are great, however no one is perfect. Here’s some things that I hate about banks in New Zealand. Many of these problems are shared by the entire industry.
Or the fact that ASB keeps trying to convert me to one even though I’m not allowed one.
Here’s mailer number one, received the week of my 17th birthday:
And mailer two, from today:
Irrelevant: check. Impersonal: check. You know how to make a guy feel special ASB. (Case in point: I’m not 18 so they couldn’t give me my own credit card even if they really really wanted to).
This is upsetting because I have a feeling tertiary accounts have less fees than youth accounts. At least, it isn’t emphasized that service fees apply to tertiary accounts like it is for youth accounts on ASB’s fee exemption page. Service fees apply for everyone, see comment from ASB below.
Stupid bank fees
ASB isn’t the only bank that charges stupid fees, but here are some examples of theirs:
$2 to set up or amend an automatic payment or add a person you might want to transfer money to again (like the power company, or mum). Online. On the internet. Changing an entry in a database. By yourself.
20 cents for each time you use Netcode, ASB’s text verification service, which you can choose to happen on login. Google, who isn’t even in New Zealand doesn’t charge for this (see below). Probably get charged 20 cents again by your mobile service provider for receiving the text. Some sort of verification is required for some transactions that take you over a $500 daily transfer limit, or if you’re sending money overseas. Alternatively, you can ring their call center to get transactions verified for [email protected]!! I wonder if the time of the person you speak to on the phone is worth less than 20 cents?See update at top of post–20 cents is charged even if you call the 0800 number.
Alternatively you can pay $12 a year for a physical Netcode token, which you’d need if you are regularly out of cellphone reception and probably if you travel overseas. RaboDirect provides these for free. BNZ provides the NetGuard card for free.
5 cents for each email alert. For the virtual stamp. Or the person who licks it. Or something.
20 cents for text alerts and text banking. I think they charge you when they receive a text banking message from you. Plus you probably get charged to send texts to them by your service provider. In contrast, Westpac provides a certain number of text alerts free per month as long as you log in to online banking that month.
$5 for bank cheques. Plus because you probably have an “electronic” account, and if you’re not a youth/student, a fee of $3 because that’s a manual transaction.
“Please note, your password must be eight characters long, and contain at least two letters (a-z) and at least two numbers (0-9). For example, redbus73 and 8cube224 are valid passwords.”
This is ASB’s. I assume other banks are as ridiculous. Would you like a nine character password? YOU CAN’T. MUST BE EIGHT.
Microsoft’s (now defunct) password checker says both of their examples are weak. ASB lets you use both of their examples as real passwords, because security.
Here’s an entry form I picked up from BNZ’s tent at The Show:
Note the classy clause at the bottom: “By providing your details, you consent to use contacting you about our products, services and promotions, from time to time (including via text message without an unsubscribe facility).”
Once you’re in, they have you.
I guess if you rang them they’d remove you from their text messaging scheme, but really, why not let people unsubscribe via text using common keywords like stop, or unsubscribe?
Visa Debit cards
And their annual fees. $10 a year for having the card. National Bank got half of the memo and isn’t charging the annual fee if you have their Freedom account. But you have to be earning $30k+ a year and pumping it into that account. Anyway, I like the image they’re using in their ads for it (see top image).
Sure, debit cards are great if you are under 18 or don’t trust yourself with a credit card. But really, if you can, you should just get a credit card.
Banks (looking at you Westpac and BNZ) seem to love converting people to these debit cards, even if the person already has a credit card with the bank. I don’t understand. Family members have received Visa Debit cards in the mail from Westpac, even though they have a credit card with Westpac. If you already have a Visa or credit card, why would you want a Visa Debit?
It’s a bit of a have, because people naturally think this is their replacement EFTPOS card and start using it, probably not realizing that once they start using it they’re going to be charged an annual fee. If they’re lucky, maybe the fee will be waived for a year or two!
When you go into BNZ to request an EFTPOS card, the tellers like to order you in a Visa Debit card instead*, because, you know, they know best.
*May have happened just once.
Lack of security
That’s Google’s 2-step verification programme.
There’s a number of ways to use it. I have the Google Authenticator application on a couple of devices (it works without needing an internet connection), I can get a code sent to me by text (for [email protected]@) if the application isn’t working, I can use the backup codes if I have to, and I can tell Google that it doesn’t need to ask me for a verification code on the computer I’m using for another 30 days if I trust it.
It works, it’s good, it’s free. And it’s not even protecting my money.
Side note: security has to actually be built-in by design and be compulsory for it to be useful. Kerry Thompson points out that security conscious people probably have limited use for 2-factor authentication systems, because they already take precautions. The people who aren’t security conscious are also the people who don’t think they need 2-factor authentication, they think they’ll be covered by the bank, or won’t use it because of the cost (hi ASB’s 20 cent per text charge).
See also: Google doesn’t have an eight character password policy and Google gives a detailed account of recent account activity (ASB shows the last time I logged in, but I rarely look at it, and out of context it’s kind of useless).
How about encouraging people to set up an automatic payment to a savings account every pay period and sign up for Kiwisaver?
Also, you would think an application that consists of one button would be easy to set up, but Westpac’s Impulse Saver requires you to apply to use it, and makes you wait for a callback from a customer service person.
Phone banking on mobiles
Westpac and BNZ seem to be the only two banks who try to ban calls from mobile phones to their phone banking numbers. It’s trivial to get around this with Westpac, just call their main 0800 number and press one to get to phone banking. On BNZ it seems like that works too, at least after their call center hours.
Visa and MasterCard undermining credit card PINs
Visa and MasterCard aren’t banks, but whatever.
McDonald’s, in association with Visa and MasterCard has the policy of not requiring a PIN or signature for credit card transactions under $35.
How they can guarantee security, I’m not sure, because they just took away the only security of a PIN or signature. I’m not sure why Visa and MasterCard don’t make this opt-in or opt-out.
Zero liability can’t apply if you don’t realize there’s a fraudulent charge on your statement, so good luck everyone.
Next day bank transfers
Or please stop relying on a cron job for transfers.
10 years after one-off payments were introduced, they still take up to the next business day to go through to accounts at other banks. I realize this might require some consultation with the People In Charge Of The Money, but can we please get rid of this? Thanks. Also, could we please do transfers on non-business days to accounts at other banks and get rid of the 10pm cut off for not-my-bank transfers?
When you visit this website, like most others, analytics software on this end records some information about you, including what website brought you here.
Following a link from an email isn’t usually a problem. However, when your provider is Clear/TelstraClear’s and you’re using webmail it is. Or was.
The Clear referring URL lets someone access a customer’s emails by simply clicking on the link (until, I assume, the session is logged out, timed out or the customer’s password is changed).
This applies to virtually any site visited through TelstraClear’s webmail.
What’s in your emails?
This becomes a very big problem when you think about what someone keeps around in their emails. Google wants to encourage its users to archive everything. Perhaps this post contains a very convincing argument as to why you shouldn’t archive everything, and instead make liberal use of the delete button (or move the emails to your computer).
Here’s some examples of information routinely sent to and stored in email accounts that would be very useful to someone with bad intentions:
Unencrypted payslips, with IRD and bank account numbers
Shipping notifications, with addresses, phone numbers and courier tracking codes
Work emails that have made it into a personal email account
Information on utilities and addresses supplied from power company e-bills
Broadband or other service activation email, containing usernames and passwords to webmail and/or internet access
A power company told me that the information contained in their e-bills isn’t all that private. They said that their customers like the convenience of not having to log in to access their bill and that they consider all feedback on their services.
TelsraClear said that the issue has been fixed, that “this was the first time the issue has been raised” and that they “take security very seriously”.
Understandably TelstraClear were “not too keen” on this post going ahead as “it might encourage attempts to hack the webmail application” which “might still cause service problems for legitimate users if such an attack was to take place”.
However, maybe a real life example will hit home with people, even if they’re not with TelstraClear.
“Safes found during demolition – there had been only half a dozen – were either opened under police or security firm supervision, or, if they were attached to concrete, dumped.”
Why is this even necessary? Is it that hard to work out that a safe found in the rubble of building X maybe belongs to someone occupying building X? Could we build on that and guess that someone occupying building X would be able to open the safe themselves, without force, even if it is attached to concrete?
Scarier, is that computers and files containing confidential information, in this case mental health records are 1) being “thrown out” at all and 2) if they are “water-damaged”, which doesn’t fly with me, aren’t being disposed of securely.
“The items she was most concerned about included files and computer hard drives containing personal information. Securities House, a seven-level building in Gloucester St near Latimer Square, was demolished by March Construction and Shilton and Brown in May. It housed at least nine mental health agencies.
Tenants, tipped off about the demolition, managed to stop a truck leaving the site in the rain and divert it to an empty section where the contents were tipped.
Tenants then spent the next two days retrieving files from the rubbish. The files had been in locked metal cabinets which had been emptied.
Office manager Mark Petrie said he had contacted a project manager at the time of the demolition to be told no chance existed for any records or personal effects to be salvaged.
He was told all records were water-damaged and filing cabinets rusted.
A former Shilton and Brown worker who worked on the Securities House demolition told The Press workers were told to throw files, many of which appeared to him to be in good order, in the rubbish.”
“Canterbury Muscular Dystrophy Association office manager Eris Le Compte, whose office was on the first floor of Community House, said she had gone to look for the 230 personal medical files she had in her office.”
Hopefully other businesses are doing better, because it’s not just a couple of buildings in the red zone that are housing sensitive information.
CERA feigns ignorance. Clearly some demolition contractors have no idea what they’re doing (or every idea of what they’re doing). If CERA has no knowledge of specific cases of important belongings going missing inside the red zone they’re obviously not doing a very good job.
“A CERA spokeswoman said CERA regularly and actively engaged with contractors who had a clear understanding of their obligations within contracts and the law.
‘We have no knowledge of the specific cases you refer to and we can’t comment on whether any allegations of loss of goods within the CBD Red Zone are attributed to contractors’ staff or some other person,’ the spokeswoman said.”
What’s been going on inside the red zone raises a number of issues businesses need to be planning for. After an event like the Canterbury Earthquake, how effective will locks, safes, and filing cabinets be at protecting valuable and confidential information through demolition and when 930+ people are left roaming in and around your building for a significant period of time?
A van was crushed by rubble following the February Canterbury earthquake, containing Israeli tourists. One of them, Ofer Benyamin Mizrahi, was killed instantly. Michal Friedman, Liron Sadeh and Guy Yurdan escaped. It’s been revealed that Israeli involvement after the quake has been investigated by the SIS and the police.
What appears to be the original Southland Times article that broke the investigation seems to have been poorly fact checked and shows a lack of editorial oversight. Shemi Tzur, Israeli’s ambassador in the South Pacific is said to have flown from Australia, where he is based, except a quick Google search shows that he is actually based in Wellington.
The same article talks about a piece of suspected Russian malware named “agent.btz” and says that “attempts to remove the malware have so far been unsuccessful”, which gives the impression that the computers of the United States Military are still infected. The next part of the sentence states that “new, more potent variations of agent.btz are still appearing”, so what is probably meant is that attempts to eliminate the malware out of existence have been unsuccessful, which isn’t surprising considering the nature of malware and software in general.
The Southland Times article says that Ofer Mizrahi “was reportedly found to be carrying at least five passports.” John Key said “according to his information, Mizrahi was found with only one passport”, of European origin.
The group of three that left Christchurch gave Israeli representatives his Israeli passport. So that makes at least two passports.
Shemi Tzur says that he was handed Ofer’s effects and they contained “more than one passport.” Does that makes at least three passports or does this include the Israeli passport handed off at the airport?
He says it’s common for Israelis to have dual citizenship because Israeli passports aren’t welcome in some countries, which is understandable. However that doesn’t explain why Ofer was traveling with both/multiple passports—I am an expert thanks to watching Border Security on TV and conclude that less eyebrows would be raised at an airport if, when searched, someone wasn’t in the possession of more than one passport.
Within 12 hours of the quake the three remaining Israelis had evacuated Christchurch, driven to the airport by Shemi Tzur himself.
This raised eyebrows because they left Ofer behind in the van, but in their defense there was nothing they could have done and it wasn’t like they were leaving someone injured behind. Guy Yurdan, one of the three, said that Ofer was killed instantly.
The advice from many countries to citizens in Christchurch would have been to get out of there as soon as possible. The potential lack of accommodation, food, and water, plus the risk of further aftershocks would have supported their decision to leave as quickly as possible.
A mysterious seventh Israeli
Concerns were raised about a “mysterious seventh Israeli” who was in New Zealand illegally and was reported missing after the earthquake, but weeks later was reported to have left the country. Not sure whether there was anything suspicious about the person apart from their visa situation.
Five Facebook likes
A Facebook tribute page for Ofer came to the attention of investigators because it only had five likes over four months (now 32). Apparently many Israelis don’t have social network accounts. Perhaps those on Facebook who knew Ofer didn’t know of the page? It seems a stretch to say that this is suspicious.
Four phone calls
It’s been reported that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned John Key four times on the day of the earthquake. John Key says that they only actually spoke once in “those first days.” It seems reasonable that a Prime Minister is hard to get hold of, especially during a state of emergency. I’m not sure what the significance of prime ministers calling each other is, I assume representatives from many countries spoke to John Key as a result of the earthquake.
Two search and rescue teams
There was reportedly one Israeli search and rescue team but then there were two? Either way it seems at least one either wasn’t allowed access to the red zone or was removed from the red zone by armed personnel. According to Shemi Tzur, a team was sent by the parents of Ofer Levy (other Ofer?) and Gabi Ingel, two Israelis who died in the earthquake.
The article says “Israeli families reacted that way when their children needed help anywhere in the world, often because it was demanded by insurance companies.” Insurance companies often demand that families hire and fly to a foreign country private search and rescue teams when search and rescue is already underway by the country?
“He served in the Israel Defence Forces in an elite paratrooper battalion specializing in special operations. He fought in the Attrition War, first lebanon war and the Yom Kippur War, remained a reserve officer for twenty years and served also in the intelligence community.”
Their team entered the red zone “accompanied by police, only to retrieve the personal effects of two people who died.” “There was only one rescue team and it was allowed inside the red zone to accompany police to retrieve backpacks belonging to Mr Levy and Mr Ingel.”
One Israel Civil Defense Chief
The Southland Times article says “In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck: Israel’s civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.” The New Zealand Herald reports that Matan Vilnai did visit Christchurch, but nine days later. And not from Israel, but from Australia where he was for a visit.
This doesn’t seem suspicious.
A groups of forensic analysts
An Israeli forensic analysis team sent by the Israeli government worked on victim identification in the morgue. A security audit of the national police computer database was ordered after someone connected that the analysts could have accessed it. The police say that their system is secure. Someone from the SIS says that it could be compromised with a USB drive:
“An SIS officer said it would take only moments for a USB drive to be inserted in a police computer terminal and for a program allowing remote backdoor access to be loaded.”—Stuff
It’s questionable why USB access would even be enabled on computers that have access to such confidential material.
Why New Zealand?
Gordon Thomas, who has written about Mossad says that Mossad trainees, possibly picked during compulsory military service, were usually planted overseas in groups of four. He says that the CIA and MI6 have offices in Auckland and have “held high-level meetings with New Zealand spy bosses”. They want to know what sparked the SIS investigation, what investigations were carried out and what passports the group possessed. He thinks New Zealand is a credible Mossad target because al Qaeda cells could expand into the Pacific Rim. Israel would want to know what our intelligence agencies know, what they are sharing and how good they are at getting information.
He says that Mossad has a reputation for using students as agents and that using two couples is “standard Mossad operation style. The reason they have a man and a woman … it’s easy to pass unnoticed, unchallenged, and the woman acts as back-up.”
New Zealand passports are readily accepted around the world. Anyone gaining one who had nefarious purposes would likely face no contest at a border. Paul Buchanan, who has worked at the Pentagon says that it’s unlikely the four were Mossad agents because of their age and the apparent low-level task of passport fraud they were undertaking, but they might have been recruits operating as sayanins, the Hebrew word for helper. He says that after the September earthquake, Christchurch may have been seen as a good target to get names of New Zealanders to use for false passports.
The three survivors from the van gave an interview to Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, days after the earthquake. It would seem unlike spies to put themselves out in the public eye like that, but maybe that’s reverse psychology. Who knows.
I’ve blogged about New Zealand Post’s Lifestyle Survey before. Yesterday I received an email inviting me to participate in their survey. In my opinion it’s still being advertised in a misleading way.
New Zealand Post is offering you the chance to customise the messages you receive from businesses, so they’re more relevant.
If someone doesn’t fill out this survey, no businesses will be sending them messages that they could consider irrelevant. This makes it sound like the businesses being given the person’s contact details already have a relationship with the person.
The information you supply may be provided to organisations from New Zealand and overseas, on commercial terms to help tailor their communications to your interests.
The information will be provided to other organisations because that’s the whole point of the survey. Commercial terms does make it a little clearer that the information is being sold.
Most importantly, only your name and address is provided to any participating organisation and subsequently your information is protected.
Clearly a name and address isn’t worthless though. Case in point being this survey where companies are buying “only” names and addresses off of New Zealand Post.
Also, blue on blue is an interesting colour combination for the explanation of the survey: