About the SecurStar GmbH Phonecrypt voice encryption analysis (criteria, errors and different results)

This article want to clarify and better explain the finding at infosecurityguard.com regaring voice encryption product evaluation.
This article want to tell you a different point of view other than infosecurityguard.com and explaining which are the rational with extensive explaination from security point of view.
Today i read news saying: “PhoneCrypt: Basic Vulnerability Found in 12 out of 15 Voice Encryption Products and went to read the website infosecurityguard.

Initially it appeared to my like a great research activity but then i started reading deeply the read about it.I found that it’s not properly a security research but there is are concrete elements that’s a marketing campaign well done in order to attract public media and publicize a product.
Imho they was able to cheat journalists and users because the marketing campaign was absolutely well done not to be discovered on 1st read attempt. I personally considered it like a valid one on 1st ready (they cheated me initially!).

But if you go deeply… you will understand that:
– it’s a camouflage marketing initiative arranged by SecurStar GmbH and not a independent security research
– they consider a only security context where local device has been compromised (no software can be secured in that case, like saying SSL can be compromised if you have a trojan!)
– they do not consider any basic security and cryptographic security criteria

However a lot of important website reported it:

This article is quite long, if you read it you will understand better what’s going on around infosecurityguard.com research and research result.

I want to to tell you why and how (imho) they are wrong.

The research missed to consider Security, Cryptography and Transparency!

Well, all this research sound much like being focused on the marketing goal to say that their PhoneCrypt product is the “super” product best of all the other ones.
Any security expert that would have as duty the “software evaluation” in order to protect the confidentiality of phone calls will evaluate other different characteristics of the product and the technology.

Yes, it’s true that most of the product described by SecurStar in their anonymous marketing website called http://infosecurityguard.com have some weakness.
But the relevant weakness are others and PhoneCrypt unfortunately, like most of the described products suffer from this.
Let’s review which characteristics are needed basic cryptography and security requirement (the best practice, the foundation and the basics!)

a – Security Trough Obscurity does not work

A basic rule in cryptography cames from 1883 by Auguste Kerckhoffs:

In a well-designed cryptographic system, only the key needs to be secret; there should be no secrecy in the algorithm.
Modern cryptographers have embraced this principle, calling anything else “security by obscurity.”
Read what Bruce Schneir, recognized expert and cryptographer in the world say about this
Any security expert will tell you that’s true. Even a novice university student will tell you that’s true. Simply because that’s the only way to do cryptography.
Almost all product described in the review by SecurStar GmbH, include PhoneCrypt, does not provide precise details about their cryptographic technologies.
Precise details are:
  • Detailed specification of cryptographic algorithm (that’s not just saying “we use AES“)
  • Detailed specification of cryptographic protocol (that’s not just saying “we use Diffie Hellman” )
  • Detailed specification of measuring the cryptographic strenght (that’s not just saying “we have 10000000 bit key size“)

Providing precise details means having extensive documentation with theoretical and practical implications documenting ANY single way of how the algorithm works, how the protocol works with precise specification to replicate it for interoperability testing.
It means that scientific community should be able to play with the technology, audit it, hack it.
If we don’t know anything about the cryptographic system in details, how can we know which are the weakness and strength points?

Mike Fratto, Site editor of Network Computing, made a great article on “Saying NO to proprietary cryptographic systems” .
Cerias Purdue University tell this.

b – NON peer reviewed and NON scientifically approved Cryptography does not work

In any case and in any condition you do cryptography you need to be sure that someone else will check, review, analyze, distruct and reconstract from scratch your technology and provide those information free to the public for open discussion.
That’s exactly how AES was born and like US National Institute of Standard make crypto does (with public contest with public peer review where only the best evaluated win).
A public discussion with a public contest where the a lot of review by most famous and expert cryptographer in the world, hackers (with their name,surname and face, not like Notrax) provide their contribution, tell what they thinks.
That’s called “peer review”.

If a cryptographic technology has an extended and important peer review, distributed in the world coming from universities, private security companies, military institutions, hackers and all coming from different part of the world (from USA to Europe to Russia to South America to Middle east to China) and all of them agree that a specific technology it’s secure…
Well, in that case we can consider the technology secure because a lot of entities with good reputation and authority coming from a lot of different place in the world have publicly reviewed, analyzed and confirmed that a technology it’s secure.

How a private company can even think to invent on it’s own a secure communication protocol when it’s scientifically stated that it’s not possible to do it in a “proprietary and closed way” ?
IBM tell you that peer review it’s required for cryptography.
Bruce Schneier tell you that “Good cryptographers know that nothing substitutes for extensive peer review and years of analysis.”
Philip Zimmermann will tell you to beware of Snake Oil where the story is: “Every software engineer fancies himself a cryptographer, which has led to the proliferation of really bad crypto software.”

c – Closed source cryptography does not work

As you know any kind of “serious” and with “good reputation” cryptographic technology is implemented in opensource.
There are usually multiple implementation of the same cryptographic algorithm and cryptographic protocol to be able to review all the way it works and certify the interoperability.
Supposing to use a standard with precise and extended details on “how it works”, that has been “peer reviewed” by the scientific community BUT that has been re-implemented from scratch by a not so smart programmer and the implementation it’s plenty of bugs.

Well, if the implementation is “opensource” this means that it can be reviewed, improved, tested, audited and the end user will certaintly have in it’s own had a piece of technology “that works safely” .

Google release opensource crypto toolkit
Mozilla release opensource crypto toolkit
Bruce Schneier tell you that Cryptography must be opensource.

Another cryptographic point of view

I don’t want to convince anyone but just provide facts related to science, related to cryptography and security in order to reduce the effect of misinformation done by security companies whose only goes is to sell you something and not to do something that make the world a better.

When you do secure products, if they are not done following the proper approach people could die.
It’s absolutely something irresponsible not to use best practice to do crypto stuff.

To summarize let’s review the infosecurityguard.com review from a security best pratice point of view.

Product name Security Trough Obscurity Public peer review Open Source Compromise locally?
Caspertec Obscurity No public review Closed Yes
CellCrypt Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
Cryptophone Transparency Limited public review Public Yes
Gold-Lock Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
Illix Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
No1.BC Obscurity No public review
Closed
Yes
PhoneCrypt Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
Rode&Swarz Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
Secure-Voice Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
SecuSmart Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
SecVoice Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
SegureGSM Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
SnapCell Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
Tripleton Obscurity
No public review
Closed
Yes
Zfone Transparency Public review
Open Yes
ZRTP Transparency Public review
Open Yes

*Green means that it match basic requirement for a cryptographic secure system

* Red / Broken means that it does not match basic requirement for a cryptographic secure system
That’s my analysis using a evaluation method based on cryptographic and security parameters not including the local compromise context that i consider useless.

However, to be clear, those are only basic parameters to be used when considering a voice encryption product (just to avoid being in a situation that appears like i am promoting other products). So it may absolutely possible that a product with good crypto (transparency, peer reviewed and opensource) is absolutely a not secure product because of whatever reason (badly written, not usable causing user not to use it and use cleartext calls, politically compromised, etc, etc).
I think i will prepare a broader criteria for voice crypto technologies and voice crypto products, so it would be much easier and much practical to have a full transparent set of criterias to evaluate it.

But those are really the basis of security to be matched for a good voice encryption system!
Read some useful past slides on security protocols used in voice encryption systems (2nd part).

Now read below some more practical doubt about their research.

The security concept of the review is misleading: any hacked device can be always intercepted!

I think that the guys completely missed the point: ANY KIND OF SOFTWARE RUNNING ON A COMPROMISED OPERATING SYSTEM CAN BE INTERCEPTED

Now they are pointing out that also Zfone from Philip Zimmermann is broken (a pc software), just because they install a trojan on a PC like in a mobile phone?
Any security software rely on the fact that the underlying operating system is somehow trusted and preserve the integrity of the environment where the software run.

  • If you have a disk encryption system but your PC if infected by a trojan, the computer is already compromised.
  • If you have a voice encryption system but your PC is infected by a trojan, the computer is already compromised.
  • If you have a voice encryption system but your mobile phone is infected by a trojan, the mobile phone is already compromised.

No matter which software you are running, in such case the security of your operating environment is compromised and in one way or another way all the information integrity and confidentiality is compromised.

Like i explained above how to intercept PhoneCrypt.

The only things that can protect you from this threat is running in a closed operating system with Trust Computing capability, implementing it properly.
For sure on any “Open” operating system such us Windows, Windows Mobile, Linux, iPhone or Android there’s no chance to really protect a software.
On difficult operating system such as Symbian OS or RimOS maybe the running software can be protected (at least partially)

That’s the reason for which the security concept that guys are leveraging to carry on their marketing campaign has no clue.
It’s just because they control the environment, they know Flexispy software and so they adjusted their software not to be interceptable when Flexispy is installed.
If you develop a trojan with the other techniques i described above you will 100% intercept PhoneCrypt.

On that subject also Dustin Tammel, Security researcher of BreakPoint Systems, pointed on on VoIP Security Alliance mailing lists that the security analysis is based on wrong concepts.

The PhoneCrypt can be intercepted: it’s just that they don’t wanted to tell you!

PhoneCrypt can be intercepted with “on device spyware”.
Why?
Because Windows Mobile is an unsecure operating environment and PhoneCrypt runs on Windows Mobile.
Windows Mobile does not use Trusted Computing and so any software can do anything.
The platform choice for a secure telephony system is important.
How?
I quickly discussed with some knowledgeable windows mobile hackers about 2 different way to intercept PhoneCrypt with an on-device spyware (given the unsecure Windows Mobile Platform).

a) Inject a malicious DLL into the software and intercept from within the Phonecrypt itself.
In Windows Mobile any software can be subject to DLL code injection.
What an attacker can do is to inject into the PhoneCrypt software (or any software running on the phone), hooking the Audio related functions acting as a “function proxy” between the PhoneCrypt and the real API to record/play audio.
It’s a matter of “hooking” only 2 functions, the one that record and the one that play audio.
Read the official Microsoft documentation on how to do DLL injection on Windows Mobile processes. or forum discussing the technique of injecting DLL on windows mobile processes.
That’s simple, any programmer will tell you to do so.
They simply decided that’s better not to make any notice about this.
b) Create a new audio driver that simply act as a proxy to the real one and intercept PhoneCrypt
In Windows Mobile you can create new Audio Drivers and new Audio Filters.
What an attacker can do is to load a new audio driver that does not do anything else than passing the real audio driver function TO/FROM the realone. In the meantime intercept everything recorded and everything played :-)
Here there is an example on how to do Audio driver for Windows Mobile .
Here a software that implement what i explain here for Windows “Virtual Audio Cable” .
The very same concept apply to Windows Mobile. Check the book “Mobile Malware Attack and Defense” at that link explaining techniques to play with those techniques.
They simply decided that’s better not to make any notice to that way of intercepting phone call on PhoneCrypt .
Those are just 2 quick ideas, more can be probably done.

Sounds much like a marketing activity – Not a security research.

I have to tell you. I analyzed the issue very carefully and on most aspects. All this things about the voice encryption analisys sounds to me like a marketing campaign of SecurStar GmbH to sell PhoneCrypt and gain reputation. A well articulated and well prepared campaign to attract the media saying, in an indirect way cheating the media, that PhoneCrypt is the only one secure. You see the press releases of SecurStar and of the “Security researcher Notrax telling that PhoneCrypt is the only secure product” . SecurStar PhoneCrypt is the only product the anonymous hacker “Notrax” consider secure of the “software solutions”.
The only “software version” in competition with:

SnapCell – No one can buy it. A security company that does not even had anymore a webpage. The company does not almost exist anymore.
rohde-schawarz – A company that have in his list price and old outdated hardware secure phone . No one would buy it, it’s not good for genera use.

Does it sounds strange that only those other products are considered secure along with PhoneCrypt .

Also… let’s check the kind of multimedia content in the different reviews available of Gold-Lock, Cellcrypt and Phonecrypt in order to understand how much the marketing guys pressed to make the PhoneCrypt review the most attractive:

Application Screenshots of application Video with demonstration of interception Network demonstration
PhoneCrypt 5 0 1
CellCrypt 0 2 0
GoldLock 1 2 0

It’s clear that PhoneCrypt is reviewed showing more features explicitly shown and major security features product description than the other.

Too much difference between them, should we suspect it’s a marketing tips?

But again other strange things analyzing the way it was done…
If it was “an impartial and neutral review” we should see good and bad things on all the products right?

Ok, see the table below regarding the opinion indicated in each paragraph of the different reviews available of Gold-Lock, CellCrypt and Phonecrypt (are the only available) to see if are positive or negative.

Application Number of paragraphs Positive paragraphs Negative paragraphs Neutral paragraphs
PhoneCrypt 9 9 0 0
CellCrypt 12 0 10 2
GoldLock 9 0 8 1

Detailed paragraphs opinion analysis of Phonecrypt
Paragraph of review Opinion expressed
From their website Positive Marketing feedback
Apple iPhone Positive Marketing feedback
Disk Encryption or voice Encryption Positive Marketing feedback
PBX Compatibility? Really Positive Marketing feedback
Cracking <10. Not. Positive Marketing feedback
Good thinking! Positive Marketing feedback
A little network action Positive Marketing feedback
UI Positive Marketing feedback
Good Taste Positive Marketing feedback
Detailed paragraphs opinion analysis of Gold-Lock 3G
Paragraph of review Opinion expressed
From their website Negative Marketing feedback
Licensed by The israeli Ministry of Denfese Negative Marketing feedback
Real Company or Part Time hobby Negative Marketing feedback
16.000 bit authentication Negative Marketing feedback
DH 256 Negative Marketing feedback
Downad & Installation! Neutral Marketing feedback
Cracking it <10 Negative Marketing feedback
Marketing BS101 Negative Marketing feedback
Cool video stuff Negative Marketing feedback
Detailed paragraphs opinion analysis of CellCrypt
Paragraph of review Opinion expressed
From their website Neutral Marketing feedback
A little background about cellcrypt Negative Marketing feedback
Master of Marketing Negative Marketing feedback
Secure Voice calling Negative Marketing feedback
Who’s buying their wares Negative Marketing feedback
Downad & Installation! Neutral Marketing feedback
My Demo environment Negative Marketing feedback
Did they forget some code Negative Marketing feedback
Cracking it <5 Negative Marketing feedback
Room Monitoring w/ FlexiSpy Negative Marketing feedback
Cellcrypt unique features.. Negative Marketing feedback
Plain old interception Negative Marketing feedback
The Haters out there Negative Marketing feedback

Now it’s clear that from their point of view on PhoneCrypt there is no single bad point while the other are always described in a negative way.
No single good point. Strange?
All those considerations along with the next ones really let me think that’s very probably a marketing review and not an independent review.

Other similar marketing attempt from SecurStar

SecurStar GmbH is known to have used in past marketing activity leveraging this kind of “technical speculations”, abusing of partial information and fake unconfirmed hacking stuff to make marketing/media coverage.
Imho a rare mix of unfairness in leveraging the difficult for people to really understand the complexity of security and cryptography.

They already used in past Marketing activities like the one about creating a trojan for Windows Mobile and saying that their software is secure from the trojan that they wrote.
Read about their marketing tricks of 2007

They developed a Trojan (RexSpy) for Windows Mobile, made a demonstration capability of the trojan and later on told that they included “Anti-Trojan” capability to their PhoneCrypt software.They never released informations on that trojan, not even proved that it exists.

The researcher Collin Mulliner told at that time that it sounds like a marketing tips (also because he was not able to get from SecurStar CEO Hafner any information about that trojan):

“This makes you wonder if this is just a marketing thing.”

Now, let’s try to make some logical reassignment.
It’s part of the way they do marketing, an very unfriendly and unpolite approach with customers, journalist and users trying to provide wrong security concepts for a market advantage. Being sure that who read don’t have all the skills to do in depth security evaluation and find the truth behind their marketing trips.

Who is the hacker notrax?

It sounds like a camouflage of a fake identity required to have an “independent hacker” that make an “independent review” that is more strong on reputation building.
Read about his bio:

¾ Human, ¼ Android (Well that would be cool at least.) I am just an enthusiast of pretty much anything that talks binary and if it has a RS232 port even better. During the day I masquerade as an engineer working on some pretty cool projects at times, but mostly I do the fun stuff at night. I have been thinking of starting an official blog for about 4.5 years to share some of the things I come across, can’t figure out, or just cross my mind. Due to my day job and my nighttime meddling, I will update this when I can. I hope some find it useful, if you don’t, well you don’t.

There are no information about this guy on google.
Almost any hacker that get public have articles online, post in mailing archive and/or forum or some result of their activity.
For notrax, nothing is available.

Additionally let’s look at the domain…
The domain infosecurityguard.com is privacy protected by domainsbyproxy to prevent understanding who is the owner.
The domain has been created 2 months ago on 01-Dec-09 on godaddy.com registrar.

What’s also very interesting to notice that this “unknown hacker with no trace on google about him that appeared on December 2009 on the net” is referred on SecurStar GmbH Press Release as a “An IT security expert”.

Maybe they “know personally” who’s this anonymous notrax? :)

Am i following my own conspiracy thinking or maybe there’s some reasonable doubt that everything was arrange in that funny way just for a marketing activity?

Social consideration

If you are a security company you job have also a social aspects, you should also work to make the world a better place (sure to make business but “not being evil”). You cannot cheat the skills of the end users in evaluating security making fake misleading information.

You should do awareness on end users, to make them more conscious of security issues, giving them the tools to understand and decide themselves.

Hope you had fun reading this article and you made your own consideration about this.

Fabio Pietrosanti (naif)

p.s. Those are my personal professional opinion, let’s speak about technology and security, not marketing.
p.p.s. i am not that smart in web writing, so sorry for how the text is formatted and how the flow of the article is unstructured!

Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense? How things really works!

You should know that Israel is a country where if a company need to develop encryption product they must be authorized by the government.

The government don’t want that companies doing cryptography can do anything bad to them and what they can do of good for the government, so they have to first be authorized.

Companies providing interception and encryption must apply to a license because Israel law on this is so restrictive to be similar to china law.

That’s because those kind of technologies are considered fundamental for the intelligence and espionage capabilities of Israel country.

To give some example of “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense” companies:

GSM encryption products “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense” – Gold-lock

Interception of communication products “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense” – Verint

HF encrypted Radio “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense” – Kavit

Surveillance services and equipment “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense” – Multi Tier Solutions

For example how to apply for a “License by Israel Ministry of Defense” if you do encryption technologies in Israel?

Be sure to be an israeli company, click here and fill the forms.

Someone will contact you from encryption-control@mod.gov.il and will discuss with you whether to give you or not the license to sell.

What does the department of defense will require from an israeli company in order to provide them the authorization to make and sell interception and encryption products?

Well, what they want and what they really ask nobody knows.

It’s a secret dealing of Israel Ministry of Defense with each “licensed” company.

What we know for sure is that Verint, a “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense”, placed a backdoor to intercept companies and governments in the US and Netherland into the interception systems they was selling.

Verint, a Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense Company, provided to Israel government eavesdropped communications of private and government users in the United States and in the Netherland .

CIA officier reported that Israel Ministry of Defense was known to pay Verint a reimbursement of 50% of their costs in order to have from Verint espionage services trough their commercial activity on selling “backdoored” interception equipment to spy foreign users.

It can be a legitimate doubt that the cooperation within the Israeli Ministry of Defense may be problematic for an Israeli company that want to sell interception and encryption product abroad.

Those companies may be forced to make the interests of Israel Ministry of Defense and not the interests of the customers (like Verint scandal is a real-world example).

So, how would a “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense” be a good things to promote?

It represent the risk that the “Israel Ministry of Defense”, like is publicly known that it has already have done with Verint, will interfere with what the company do.

It represent the risk that the “Israel Ministry of Defense” may reasonably provide “reimbursement” of costs paying the company and get what they would likely would like to get.

So, what does really “Israel Ministry of Defense” want from Israel companies doing encryption and interception technologies?

Should we ask ourself whether Israeli companies doing encryption and interception businesses are more interested to do business or to do “outsourced espionage services” for their always paying customer, the “Israel Ministry of Defense”.

For sure, in the age of financial crisis, the Israel Ministry of Defense is a paying customer that does not have budget problem…

Strict control, strict rules, strong government strategic and military cooperation.

Be careful.

If you want to read more about this matters, about how technologies from certain countries is usually polluted with their governments military and secret services strategies stay tuned as i am preparing a post about this .

You will much better understand about that subjects on the “Licensed by Israel Ministry of Defense”.

O3B Networks: a new satellite broadband approach

That’s something amazing, “other 3 billion” broadband coverage not trough fiber but trough satellite.

A project where also google is one of the shareholder, covering 3 billion persons trough low orbit, low latency broadband (10GBit) satellite network.

Check here technical infrastructure details on ITU website.

Index of economic freedom

When looking at facts and figures about globalized world, the index of economic freedom is a nice tool to make proper considerations.

Location Based Services: the big brother thanks you ;-)

Do you use your iphone, google phone, blackberry or nokia smartphone with cool built-in GPS?

Well law enforcement can now know even better where you are, at any time, even with historical data and much better than BTS based location systems.

Sprint has given 8 million times customer’s GPS information to law enforcement (sound something like a semi-automatic request).

Read here.

Nice extract is:

Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers’ (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers.

The informations was provided at wiretapping and interception industry conference ISS WASH in Washingtown.

If you want see directly the video:

Sprint: 50 million customers, 8 million law enforcement GPS requests in 1 year from Christopher Soghoian on Vimeo.


Then you know that “big brother” is watching you only because you let him to watch you.

Gold-Lock Security Encryption Contest: be careful!

This post is to talk about the “unfair” marketing approach of Gold-Lock, an israeli company doing mobile voice encryption authorized by Israeli Ministry of Defence .

Following an announcement seen on Linkedin “Information Security Community” group:

GoldLock is offering US$ 100.000 and a job for an unencryption

GoldLock, an israeli encryption and security company is offering US$ 100.000 and a job to anyone capable to decrypt a cellular conversation contained in a file provided in their site ( https://www.gold-lock.com/app/en/?wicket:interface=:8 ::::).
The transcription must be sent back to GoldLock until February 1st, 2010.
The contest is open to all and any tools or technology may be used.
Good luck to all!!!

I commented:

Not having a public protocol specification is not even scientifically serious to make a marketing tricks like this.
I would say to gold-lock, let’s release the source code and let anyone compile the cryptographic engine if you trust not to to have something nasty inside… ;)

Toni Koivunen from F-secure said:

So… They will pay $100k if you get through the AES and the hassle with keys.
If someone would pull it off they would certainly make a truckload more money elsewhere. Plus they would retain the rights to the code/technology that they created, which isn’t the case if they go for the $100k since the License pretty clearly says that:
# An assignment letter to Gold Line, in a form satisfactory to Gold Line of your technology and the Work Plan (the “Technology”). Such assignment form shall enable Gold Line to transfer the rights on the Technology to Gold Line, including the right to register patents and all other rights.
# A release and waiver form, in a form satisfactory to Gold Line, duly executed by you and any other participant of any rights to the Technology.
Plus of course Gold Line retains the right to change the rules of the game with prior notice. Or needing to notify afterwards either.
Sounds fair :)

Michel Scovetta from Computer Associates said:

It sounds like the purpose of this is to get some cheap testing out of it, and to be able to say something like, “The best crypto experts in the world tried to break it, and were unable to.”

According to some of the docs on Gold Lock’s website, they use ECC-256 and a “modified DH key exchange” (which tingles my spidey senses), SHA-256, and then XOR for the actual data encryption. They use practically blasphemous language like, “Each component of the Gold Lock Enterprise solution is tested and proven secure against any conceivable attack.”

*Proven* secure? *Any conceivable* attack? Yikes!

In another doc on their site, they talk about their first layer relying on 1024-bit RSA. GoDaddy doesn’t even allow 1024-bit keys to be used anymore when generating $20 SSL certificates. They quote 300 billion MIPS-years to break, but if my math is correct, that comes down to about 52 days on the top supercomputer right now. Not trivial, but this is an offline attack, so time is on the side of the attacker.

The description then talks about the device generating 16k keys when you register the device. If the protocol is “secure”, then it should be “secure” with only a single key. If it’s not secure with a single key, then generating 16k keys could only make it 16k times more secure, which is far off from a proof of security.

I agree with Fabio – a fair contest would be to include source code and the cryptographic specification. Also, as other contests have proven (e.g. SecureWebMail), the weakest point isn’t usually the cryptography. It’s all of the other stuff, and it doesn’t look like any of it is being disclosed for the contest.

http://xkcd.com/538/

Mike

I would say that all those considerations from security experts from well known and established security companies bring us to consider that:

  • Gold-lock is not transparent on their encryption at all and they work trough bad practice of Security Trough Obscurity (no one know what’s inside the product)
  • Gold-lock is not playing a fair game by proposing this ‘security contest’
  • Gold-lock being certified by Israeli ministry of defence may raise doubt related to possible relationship with the intelligence… Read by post Certified by Israeli MInistry of Defense.

Voice security is a sensible matters and lacks of transparency and governmental relationship for cryptographic choices usually does not provide anything good…

Think about it…

Recuva: Nice windows data recovery tool

Not a professional tool but an easy, quick and free one.

If you just accidently deleted some files on windows or your employee leave the company deleting all his data, well that you get out from trouble quickly.

It also came out in a ‘portable’ version to be loaded from an usb stick drive.

Check Recuva recovery tool

Military contractors going commercial

Most military contractors are suffering from the restriction of government’s budgets for military expenses and are moving into commercial markets, still they have to adjust a lot of things.

Read here a nice analysis from rochtel on how military contractors should adapt their strategy.

Disk encryption sometimes ‘works’

I am one of the person convinced that a computer disk encryption system will not protect you from public authorities if they are convinced enough and the case is very important.

There are a lot of way to convince a person to release a password.

However there’s a case in Australia where not revealing the disk password resulted in a successful way to avoid going in jail:

Secret code saves man who spied on flatmates

My opinion is just that spying flatmates is not a so relevant and particular crime and that law enforcement did not used ‘convincing systems’ to get the password of encrypted disk.

UPDATE 29.06.2010: It also worked for Daniel Dantas against FBI .

Brazilian Electrical Blackout: preview of cyberwar

In 2005 and 2007 in Brazil million of people was targetted by a blackout.

Initially it appeared like an accident.

Now it’s known that was caused by a cyber attack against electricity control systems.

That was just a preview of what a cyber attack in a cyberwar means.

In near future we’ll probably see something like ‘virtual custom offices’ at internet borders, defining what get in and what get out like several “not so democratic” countries are doing.

Does the cyberwar will affect digital rights? Probably yes, even i hope not.

Political conflict in Turkey between Prosecutors and Wiretappers

It seems that in Turkey the Telecommunication Directorate (TIB), in charge of managing the wiretapping, intercepted the president of the Judge and Prosecutors Associations.

Prosecutors and Judge usually does not like being tapped, and so the 1st High Criminal Court ordered an audit of all the recording done by the TIB since 2006.

Read more here.

Come back to blogging

I come back to blogging. Why i stopped my blogging trial period?

1st because being busy @work

2nd because my blogging software expired and i hate wordpress editor (i really need a blogging client for my own way of making information).

I use this software called Ecto that cost about 17 EUR and it’s pretty useful to keep blog post editing offline.

Conventionality is not morality.

During my daily RSS OCD reading I had to deal with this article: it has been written by a “senior anti-virus researcher at Kaspersky Lab’s“. Talk about personal interest.

I wont comment on the practical implications of useless signature based AV’s and how cyber criminals will never need amateur-ish projects to carry on their malicious tactics.

But what is always interesting is watching the very same people who use billion dollar scare tactics to sell you a perfectly useless piece of software (which will give you a false sense of security, hence will make you more insecure), talking about ethics.

Hackers Hacking Hackers

Hackers hacking hackers are always pretty fun.

And I am not talking about ZF05 (which was cool reading, even if not as cool as ~El8 was), I am talking about this.

This is big business, this is the American way

43 years old “UFO eccentric” hacker Gary McKinnon just loses appeal against his extradition to the States for computer crimes he committed 7 years ago.

If you’ve lived under a rock during the last few years what this dude did was basically break into .gov computers looking for UFO related material.

Probably the last case of recreational hacking I’ve heard about.

So his case is obviously going to be a classical “Strike one to educate one hundred” kind of message to every hacker attacking american computer systems: we can reach you everywhere you live and have you extradited to our country where we will sentence you to life in prison.

Unless you are a multi millionaire cyber criminal living in Russia or a chinese spy, of course.

Russia: the best worldwide place for cybercrime business

Russia is a very beautiful place for any committed cybercrime business owner.

FBI and Mcafee are trying to do something, do they will ever succeed?

I don’t think so, it’s a political issue as russia is not going to extradite any cybercriminal and is not going to provide strong international cooperations.

Always remember that in Russia Business Network has been strongly suspected to had done cooperations with Russian government that leveraged in different occasion their power and skills.

Are russian politicians more interested to protect their cyber-warriors skills and activities or to provide international cooperation?

Quite easy to answer…

Iphone jailbreaking crashing towers? FUD!

It’s interesting to read a news about an anti-jailbreaking statement by apple that say that with jailbreaked phones it may be possible to crash mobile operator’s towers:

By tinkering with this code, “a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data,”

So fun, as the Baseband Processor interface of iPhone is precisely the same of Google android and all Windows Mobile powered devices:

Basically the operating system use AT commands (do you remember old hayes modem commands?) with additional parameters documented and standardized by 3GPP that let more deep (but not that much deep) interaction with the mobile networks.

Please note that those AT commands are standard and widely available on all phones and are the interface to the Baseband Processor.

On iPhone that’s the list of commands that an from apple point of view could let “a international hacker to crash the tower software” :

Undocumented commands on iPhone

Damn, those European anarchist of Nokia are providing publicly also their AT command sets, and are AVAILABLE TO ANYONE:

Nokia AT Commands

Oh jesus! Also the terrorist oriented Microsoft corporation let third party to use AT commands:

Windows Mobile AT Commands

It’s absolutely unacceptable that also RIM, canadian funky against USA, provide access to AT commands:

Blackberry AT commands

And it’s unbelivable to see that Google Android also document how the system speak to the Baseband Processor and find on forums that it’s ease to access it:

Google Android Basedband Processor

Not to speak to ALL other mobile manufactuer that use the very same approach and let any party to speak via AT commands to the baseband processor of the phone.

Is the baseband processor of iphone buggy and the AT&T tower software buggy so that it’s dangerous to let the user make experiment with it?

Probably yes, and so those are only excuse because the software involved are not robust enough.

Apple, be careful, you have the trust of your users because you are apple you always have done things for the user advantages.

Users does like telephone companies that are huge lobbies that try to restrict and control users as much as possible.

If you, Apple, start behaving like a phone company users will not trust you anymore.

Be careful with FUD statements.

chinese espionage: the worst and more silent threat for western countries

Hi all,

in the past few years i saw an incredible increase in the amount of “public” news about espionage against different western countries and usually coming from far-east, typically china.

China want to be the largest economic power within 2020 and it’s following a grow rate of 8% per year. Their “controlled” capitalism without the inefficiency of the democracy it’s something that’s beating the western countries, less efficient because democratic.

China, in order to quickly grow it’s R&D capacity make an extensive use of espionage, it’s estimated that Chinese government have more than 1.000.000 intelligence agents worldwide.

And they know how to do espionage, their “spy” does not cost that much like western countries’ spy, less guarantee, less payments.

Also they are using cyber espionage as an important source of information and competitiveness against western countries companies and government R&D results. China is so un-cooperative that now also western countries spying each other, or even Russian, use chinese internet space as the “start base” for their internet based espionage activities.

I knew of a USA phisher that used to build it’s own trojan with a chinese version of Windows Xp with a chinese version of the Microsoft Visual Studio development suite. Why? For information deception, in order to tweak the forensics effort of the FBI analyst and have them think that it’s own attacks was coming from China!

Any investigators that see an attack coming from china typically think “oh shit, it comes from china, we’re lost”, and now even cybercrime use China like a far-west, untouchable base for cyber attacks.

Back tracing attacks coming from china it’s like trying to find out what’s inside a black hole, it’s a one-way trip and no information comes back.

To give better an idea of what i am speaking about just get the following list of reference:

Germany accuses China of industrial espionage

Chinese trainee goes on trial as French industry fears espionage

U.S. Vulnerable to Chinese Cyber Espionage

Massive Chinese Espionage Network

Cyber Spy Network Also Targetting Finland

How do the western countries defend themself?

That’s a nice points to speak about because there’s no simple way to defend against espionage other than considering it like a serious and concrete threat.

Governments should be able to get more understanding that their approach to informations systems and information security policy must not only exists on paper but also be applied everywhere in order to be effective. Governments are complex organizations and only a few are enough smart to be able to quickly and efficiently make security policies really be implemented organization-wide. But they are trying to, especially the most competitive ones like USA, UK and Germany .

Companies instead should acquire awareness of the problem that is present, available, concrete as concrete is the chance that someone enter into the offices to steal good (not for espionage). For that reason companies place alarm systems, access control with badge, camera monitoring systems.

But espionage does not mean fighting and protecting against poor thieves but instead against more sophisticated, either technically and socially, attacker that can use old school intelligence techniques always effective. Getting employed and stealing information while working. Simulate to be customers to establish a link trust with a salesman and then find a reason to let him execute some malicious software “hey, but my modellization software demostrate that your model used to measure the performance of your product it’s not the one you advertised. Check it out, see your self with the software we used!”. What do you think the salesman will do in order to catch the prospect customer?

Only awareness, knowledge about the issues can make such risk to be considered seriously.

Governments should provide financing to industrial associations, chamber of commerces and similar agencies in order to make such awareness national wide and let entrepreneurs became conscious and became prepared to recognize, identify and stop espionage activities.

The law perspective

Governments should strenghten their laws in order to be able have the required rights tools to enforce the protection from espionage.

Look at the analysis made by my smart cousin Angelo Pietrosanti on espionage “Is the European R&D Equally protected from espionage as in the US R&D?”

Country Civil Sanction against trade secret threat Criminal Sanction against trade secret threat Year of last modificationg
USA 5 mln $ up to 10(for domenistic) or 15 (for foreigners) Years of Jail 1996 (Economic Espionage Act)
Germany YES up to 3 Years of Jail 1986
France 0.03 mln $ up to 2 Years of Jail 1992
UK YES NO 1984
Italy YES up to 2 Years of Jail 1942
Switzerland YES up to 3 Years of Jail 1986
Finland YES up to 3 Years of Jail 1990
Sweden YES up to 6 Years of Jail 1990
The Netherlands YES up to 4 Years of Jail 1992

What this table show?

  • Outdated law (except USA)
  • Not so serious sanctions against espionage activities. (except USA)

Maybe some european policy on this could help.

In conclusion

We are in an economic war where the winner is not the one having more forces, but the one being more technologically advanced, and economically clever.

Chinese are demonstrating to be enough aggressive and clever, will the western countries be able to react both on the defense and the attack in this war?

Criminal business model: Somali pirate case study

Hi all,

this blog post is to have a nice economical point of view on somali pirates business model, something nice as also crime is a business and need it’s business evaluation:

An economic Analysis of Somali Pirates Business Model

It sounds much like a great deal, check it out the details:

The attack model and costs

The negotiation phase (Offer and Counter offer)

The resolution

And for the pleasure of home gamer, Cuttrhouat Capitalism: the game

Letter from a suicide hackers

The concept of freedom of an hacker, killing himself not to loose the most important value of his life.

Read there

1st august 2009: Switzerland start realtime internet interception

The intelligence strength is increasing everywhere… also in Switzerland that had a well known privacy protection approach!

Read the WikiLeaks Article

UAE government placing backdoors into Blackberry devices

Nice attempt to place backdoors inside Blackberry devices.

It seems that UAE government wanted to do something nasty placing backdoors trough software upgrades in Etilsat (local mobile operator) blackberry devices, obviously with the cooperation of the mobile operator itself.

Fortunately, the power of the security community discovered and unveiled the facts. Check it out.

Etisat patch designed for surveillance

Wired magazine: Blackberry spies

Security exists only with transparency.

Chinese Spying NSA/USA buying Cryptographic Equipment on Ebay

It’s amazing.

A chinese guy has been engaged within an espionage activity for the People’s Republic of China buying and exporting cryptographic equipments, radio and other secure hardware on eBay.

It’s unbelivable, read there, Chi Tong Kuok found on eBay:

  • 1 software for a VDC-300 airborne data controller, used for secure satellite communications from the American military aircraft
  • 1 GPS receiver with anti-spoofing defence (maybe there’s interested in understanding how this know that a packet is spoofed or not? Me too!)
  • 1 NSA developed AN/CYZ-10 crypto key management device
  • 2 PRC-148 handheld digital military radios
  • 1 KG-175 TACLAN, an NSA designed encryption device used to communicate with classified military computer networks, such as Defense Department’s SIPRNet (Secret Internet Protocol Router Network) .

It’s important to underline that good crypto should not require “secret methods” as the security methods should be secure even if revealed, like any cryptographic technology.

But chinese probably understood that this is not the approach of NSA that prefer using custom, self-made, self-analyzed cryptographic technologies that are probably a lot weaker than nowadays cryptographic standards.

So, why not buy some export restricted military secure technology on ebay?


Nokia World in Stuttgard 2-3 September

Everyone who’s business is directly connected to mobile, aggregators, operators and generally speaking mobility application should really attend Nokia World where most of the world key people in the mobile business .

It’s extremely interesting to see the evolution of the business models related to the Application Portals, how the mobile operators are changing their approach to the market, the increasing of value added services related to mobile industry.

And the most important things is, the mobile operators will be able to became financial operators to really provide mobile payment systems integrated into any day digital life?

And if this will happen, how the manufacturer and operating system provider will play this game?

Saas: is the end of the myth?

Saas business models growth a lot during the past few years and i personally appreciate it.

No software to be installed, configured, maintained, service available when you needed with a early adoption time and most important reduction (or apparent reduction) of the total costs of ownership.

I had few experience with SaaS business (as a customer) and i have to say that the following Gartner Group analysis on SaaS businesses imho tell you the truth only for half of statements:

  • There is always a partial integration issue (not all systems are so flexible to really integrate into your business like you would like)
  • There is often a lacks of the technical requirements needed by the specific business case
  • I DO NOT agree that there is a barrier in the costs, as SaaS usually let you start spending only a few. However it’s true that while doing the deployment you should be more conservative in the usage of features and items (es: I am using for my company a hosted VoIP PBX system, we pay for each extension we add. We don’t have test extension or extensions that are not strictly needed because it costs. When we had an internal VoIP PBX system, we was plenty of test extension. This slightly increase some complexity in maintenance and deployment, even if the total cost of maintenance is a lot lower than an internal system to be managed.

So we can assume that Saas it’s for most but not for all, especially if the need of customizations for the very specific business needs are relevant.

An in depth analysis and testing has to be carried on, in order to discover all the limits of the solution, on functionalities and pricing, to really discover if the specific solution fit the business need.

Best advices by world leaders

Today i found a very nice set of 22 ‘best advices’ on Fortune coming from world leaders and i would really like to link there some of the most interesting ones (at least for me).

I think that those suggestion let you work and manage your projects and goals (in any situation you play a leadership role, being business or personal stuff) in a proper, rational and effective way.

Colin Powel: Focus on performance, not power

Jim Sinegal: Show, don’t tell

Mort Zuckerman: Do what you love

Meredith Whitney: Always set realistic goals

Lauren Zalaknick: Listen (others opinion)  

Robin Li: Underpromise and overdelivery (while running a company)

Mika Brzezinski: Use failure to motivate yourself

Mobile platform hacking: worms and botnet from phones?

The hacking community is finally starting seriously auditing and hacking Symbian OS, even if it’s difficult, hard to work on, unpleasant to debug it .

There are so many mobile operating systems (Symbian OS, Nokia S40, Windows Mobile, RIM OS, Mac OS X, Android/Linux, Brew) that a worm/virus being able to leverage a cross-platform vulnerability it’s just a theory.

Trusted computing platforms, security model of J2ME Java only phones (like RIM and S40), digital signature everywhere are all tools that make massive hacking on mobile platform really difficult.

It’s difficult and costly to develop on mobile platforms, it’s difficult and costly too doing hacking on that platforms.

Still look at a very nice achievement of paper from SEC Consult called Pwning Nokia phones (and other Symbian based smartphones) .

Can we expect future worms or botnet on mobile? I don’t expect so, too many different OS with hard-to-beat security model.

And even if a worm would be able to penetrate a single mobile paltform bugs, mobile operators would be able to block it very quickly (compare how many GSM/UMTS operator exists compared to Internet Service Provider?).

The real goal of online marketing: lead generation

Often i discuss about online marketing, however it include the mysterious “marketing” magic word that’s tipically subject to misunderstanding and misconception .

The end goal of online marketing is to generate qualified leads coming from international markets.

Some interesting links about it, and how things should be properly done are below:

I would really like to see an effective leverage of online techniques and tools as the main interface and providers of information, the main pre-sales agent of the company explaining almost everything required to get back a qualified lead.

Voice encryption in government sectors

I will make some in depth articles about how voice encryption really works in government environments.

The open standards and open source still have to reach the military and government environments for what’s related to secure speech.

To give you an idea of the complexity and kind of particular issues that exists, look at the USA 3G Wireless Security: A Government Perspective and the A Waveform Architecture to Support Security and Interoperability in Multi-National Wireless Networks for Tactical Communication .

They are using so-custom protocols like Secure Communications Interoperability Protocol that require the use of patented MELPe ultra-narrowband codec that there’s not a real market of application and equipment using this. Only a small elite of government controlled companies from few countries manage this de-facto lobby.

Should we change this bringing open standards also to government sectors?

Product Management

You know, product management it’s a job for half-fish, half-meat guys, that understand both business needs and technology issues.

I found two amazing and very well done presentations about it, i suggest to read it as it clarify a lot of things of the marketing and technical activities applied to the management of products inside companies to reach the market.

The strategic Role of Product Management

Very in depth presentation. Ask yourself, do you know what’s the differences between marketing and promotions, sales, advertising? How to really manage the core of the company, the product?

Product Management for BrainMates

Very smooth presentation going to the point: A product is the tiny overlap between the needs of a business, the aspirations of it’s development team and the unsatisfied desires of the customer.

Women as agents of future geopolitical changes

Nice to read about Global Trends 2025 from United States National Intelligence Council.

How the various audio compression codec sounds?

You know, we would not be able to use VoIP and have cheap international phone calls without audio compression codecs.

It’s plenty of them, some royalty free, some patented by telco’s lobby (think that some patented and royalty-based codec it’s also a standard, where all market player have to pay the most aggressive one that acquired the patent while defining the standards).

However, there is a nice collection from vocal, to understand how they sounds.

Hackers hired from UK Office of Cyber Security

It seems that in UK the management became illuminated, they discovered that the most efficient way to fight a cyber war is to hire soldier that play in the battlefield everyday, only for passion.

U.K. Employs ‘Naughty Boys’ to Battle Other Hackers U.K. Employs ‘Naughty Boys’ to Battle Other Hackers

Voice Security and Privacy slides

Below my slides on voice security and privacy from Security Summit 2009.

mmm, yes i am working in this area from 2005, will write again about it.

sux