EFF: Attack on CCleaner Highlights the Importance of Securing Downloads and Maintaining User Trust

Attack on CCleaner Highlights the Importance of Securing Downloads and Maintaining User Trust

Some of the most worrying kinds of attacks are ones that exploit users’ trust in the systems and softwares they use every day. Yesterday, Cisco’s Talos security team uncovered just that kind of attack in the computer cleanup software CCleaner. Download servers at Avast, the company that owns CCleaner, had been compromised to distribute malware inside CCleaner 5.33 updates for at least a month. Avast estimates that over 2 million users downloaded the affected update. Even worse, CCleaner’s popularity with journalists and human rights activists means that particularly vulnerable users are almost certainly among that number. Avast has advised CCleaner Windows users to update their software immediately.

This is often called a “supply chain” attack, referring to all the steps software takes to get from its developers to its users. As more and more users get better at bread-and-butter personal security like enabling two-factor authentication and detecting phishing, malicious hackers are forced to stop targeting users and move “up” the supply chain to the companies and developers that make software. This means that developers need to get in the practice of “distrusting” their own  infrastructure to ensure safer software releases with reproducible builds, allowing third parties to double-check whether released binary and source packages correspond. The goal should be to secure internal development and release infrastructure to that point that no hijacking, even from a malicious actor inside the company, can slip through unnoticed.

The harms of this hack extend far beyond the 2 million users who were directly affected. Supply chain attacks undermine users’ trust in official sources, and take advantage of the security safeguards that users and developers rely on. Software updates like the one Avast released for CCleaner are typically signed with the developer’s un-spoof-able cryptographic key. But the hackers appear to have penetrated Avast’s download servers before the software update was signed, essentially hijacking Avast’s update distribution process and punishing users for the security best practice of updating their software.

Despite observations that these kind of attack are on the rise, the reality is that they remain extremely rare when compared to other kinds of attacks users might encounter. This and other supply chain attacks should not deter users from updating their software. Like any security decision, this is a trade-off: for every attack that might take advantage of the supply chain, there are one hundred attacks that will take advantage of users not updating their software.

For users, sticking with trusted, official software sources and updating your software whenever prompted remains the best way to protect yourself from software attacks. For developers and software companies, the attack on CCleaner is a reminder of the importance of securing every link of the download supply chain.

Published September 19, 2017 at 09:16PM
Read more on eff.org

Advertisements

EFF: Live Blog: Senate Commerce Committee Discusses SESTA

Live Blog: Senate Commerce Committee Discusses SESTA

There’s a bill in Congress that would be a disaster for free speech online. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation is holding a hearing on that bill, and we’ll be blogging about it as it happens.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) might sound virtuous, but it’s the wrong solution to a serious problem. The authors of SESTA say it’s designed to fight sex trafficking, but the bill wouldn’t punish traffickers. What it would do is threaten legitimate online speech.

Join us at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time (10:30 Eastern) on Tuesday, right here and on the @EFFLive Twitter account. We’ll let you know how to watch the hearing, and we’ll share our thoughts on it as it happens. In the meantime, please take a moment to tell your members of Congress to Stop SESTA.

Take Action

Tell Congress: Stop SESTA.

Published September 19, 2017 at 02:27AM
Read more on eff.org

EFF: The Cybercrime Convention’s New Protocol Needs to Uphold Human Rights

The Cybercrime Convention’s New Protocol Needs to Uphold Human Rights

As part of an ongoing attempt to help law enforcement obtain data across international borders, the Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Convention— finalized in the weeks following 9/11, and ratified by the United States and over 50 countries around the world—is back on the global lawmaking agenda. This time, the Council’s Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY) has initiated a process to draft a second additional protocol to the Convention—a new text which could allow direct foreign law enforcement access to data stored in other countries’ territories. EFF has joined EDRi and a number of other organizations in a letter to the Council of Europe, highlighting some anticipated concerns with the upcoming process and seeking to ensure civil society concerns are considered in the new protocol. This new protocol needs to preserve the Council of Europe’s stated aim to uphold human rights, and not undermine privacy, and the integrity of our communication networks.

How the Long Arm of Law Reaches into Foreign Servers

Thanks to the internet, individuals and their data increasingly reside in different jurisdictions: your email might be stored on a Google server in the United States, while your shared Word documents might be stored by Microsoft in Ireland. Law enforcement agencies across the world have sought to gain access to this data, wherever it is held. That means police in one country frequently seek to extract personal, private data from servers in another.

Currently, the primary international mechanism for facilitating governmental cross border data access is the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) process, a series of treaties between two or more states that create a formal basis for cooperation between designated authorities of signatories. These treaties typically include some safeguards for privacy and due process, most often the safeguards of the country that hosts the data.

The MLAT regime includes steps to protect privacy and due process, but frustrated agencies have increasingly sought to bypass it, by either cross-border hacking, or leaning on large service providers in foreign jurisdictions to hand over data voluntarily.

The legalities of cross-border hacking remain very murky, and its operation is the very opposite of transparent and proportionate. Meanwhile, voluntary cooperation between service providers and law enforcement occurs outside the MLAT process and without any clear accountability framework. The primary window of insight into its scope and operation is the annual Transparency Reports voluntarily issued by some companies such as Google and Twitter.

Hacking often blatantly ignores the laws and rights of a foreign state, but voluntary data handovers can be used to bypass domestic legal protections too.  In Canada, for example, the right to privacy includes rigorous safeguards for online anonymity: private Internet companies are not permitted to identify customers without prior judicial authorization. By identifying often sensitive anonymous online activity directly through the voluntary cooperation of a foreign company not bound by Canadian privacy law, law enforcement agents can effectively bypass this domestic privacy standard.

Faster, but not Better: Bypassing MLAT

The MLAT regime has been criticized as slow and inefficient. Law enforcement officers have claimed that have to wait anywhere between 6-10 months—the reported average time frame for receiving data through an MLAT request—for data necessary to their local investigation. Much of this delay, however, is attributable to a lack of adequate resources, streamlining and prioritization for the huge increase in MLAT requests for data held the United States, plus the absence of adequate training for law enforcement officers seeking to rely on another state’s legal search and seizure powers.

Instead of just working to make the MLAT process more effective, the T-CY committee is seeking to create a parallel mechanism for cross-border cooperation. While the process is still in its earliest stages, many are concerned that the resulting proposals will replicate many of the problems in the existing regime, while adding new ones.

What the New Protocol Might Contain

The Terms of Reference for the drafting of this new second protocol reveal some areas that may be included in the final proposal.

Simplified mechanisms for cross border access

T-CY has flagged a number of new mechanisms it believes will streamline cross-border data access. The terms of reference mention a simplified regime’ for legal assistance with respect to subscriber data. Such a regime could be highly controversial if it compelled companies to identify anonymous online activity without prior judicial authorization. The terms of reference also envision the creation of “international production orders.”. Presumably these would be orders issued by one court under its own standards, but that must be respected by Internet companies in other jurisdictions. Such mechanisms could be problematic where they do not respect the privacy and due process rights of both jurisdictions.

Direct cooperation

The terms of reference also call for „provisions allowing for direct cooperation with service providers in other jurisdictions with regard to requests for [i] subscriber information, [ii] preservation requests, and [iii] emergency requests.“ These mechanisms would be permissive, clearing the way for companies in one state to voluntarily cooperate with certain types of requests issued by another, and even in the absence of any form of judicial authorization.

Each of the proposed direct cooperation mechanisms could be problematic. Preservation requests are not controversial per se. Companies often have standard retention periods for different types of data sets. Preservation orders are intended to extend these so that law enforcement have sufficient time to obtain proper legal authorization to access the preserved data. However, preservation should not be undertaken frivolously. It can carry an accompanying stigma, and exposes affected individuals’ data to greater risk if a security breach occurs during the preservation period. This is why some jurisdictions require reasonable suspicion and court orders as requirements for preservation orders.

Direct voluntary cooperation on emergency matters is challenging as well. While in such instances, there is little time to engage the judicial apparatus and most states recognize direct access to private customer data in emergency situations, such access can still be subject to controversial overreach. This potential for overreach–and even abuse–becomes far higher where there is a disconnect between standards in requesting and responding jurisdictions.

Direct cooperation in identifying customers can be equally controversial. Anonymity is critical to privacy in digital contexts. Some data protection laws (such as Canada’s federal privacy law) prevent Internet companies from voluntarily providing subscriber data to law enforcement voluntarily.

Safeguards

The terms of reference also envisions the adoption of “safeguards“. The scope and nature of these will be critical. Indeed, one of the strongest criticisms against the original Cybercrime Convention has been its lack of specific protections and safeguards for privacy and other human rights. The EDRi Letter calls for adherence to the Council of Europe’s data protection regime, Convention 108, as a minimum prerequisite to participation in the envisioned regime for cross-border access, which would provide some basis for shared privacy protection. The letter also calls for detailed statistical reporting and other safeguards.

What’s next?

On 18 September, the T-CY Bureau will meet with European Digital Rights Group (EDRI) to discuss the protocol. The first meeting of the Drafting Group will be held on 19 and 20 September. The draft Protocol will be prepared and finalized by the T-CY, in closed session.

Law enforcement agencies are granted extraordinary powers to invade privacy in order to investigate crime. This proposed second protocol to the Cybercrime Convention must ensure that the highest privacy standards and due process protections adopted by signatory states remain intact.

We believe that the Council of Europe T-CY Committee — Netherlands, Romania, Canada, Dominica Republic, Estonia, Mauritius, Norway, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, and Ukraine — should concentrate first on fixes to the existing MLAT process, and they should ensure that this new initiative does not become an exercise in harmonization to the lowest denominator of international privacy protection. We’ll be keeping track of what happens next.

Published September 19, 2017 at 01:10AM
Read more on eff.org

EFF: EFF to Court: The First Amendment Protects the Right to Record First Responders

EFF to Court: The First Amendment Protects the Right to Record First Responders

The First Amendment protects the right of members of the public to record first responders addressing medical emergencies, EFF argued in an amicus brief filed in the federal trial court for the Northern District of Texas. The case, Adelman v. DART, concerns the arrest of a Dallas freelance press photographer for criminal trespass after he took photos of a man receiving emergency treatment in a public area.

EFF’s amicus brief argues that people frequently use electronic devices to record and share photos and videos. This often includes newsworthy recordings of on-duty police officers and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel interacting with members of the public. These recordings have informed the public’s understanding of emergencies and first responder misconduct.

EFF’s brief was joined by a broad coalition of media organizations: the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the National Press Photographers Association, the PEN American Center, the Radio and Television Digital News Association, Reporters Without Borders, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, and the Texas Press Association.

Our local counsel are Thomas Leatherbury and March Fuller of Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

EFF’s new brief builds on our amicus brief filed last year before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Fields v. Philadelphia. There, we successfully argued that the First Amendment protects the right to use electronic devices to record on-duty police officers.

Adelman, a freelance journalist, has provided photographs to media outlets for nearly 30 years. He heard a call for paramedics to respond to a K2 overdose victim at a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (“DART”) station. When he arrived, he believed the incident might be of public interest and began photographing the scene. A DART police officer demanded that Adelman stop taking photos. Despite Adelman’s assertion that he was well within his constitutional rights, the DART officer, with approval from her supervisor, arrested Adelman for criminal trespass.

Adelman sued the officer and DART. EFF’s amicus brief supports his motion for summary judgment.

Published September 19, 2017 at 12:57AM
Read more on eff.org

EFF: Security Education: What’s New on Surveillance Self-Defense

Security Education: What’s New on Surveillance Self-Defense

Since 2014, our digital security guide, Surveillance Self-Defense (SSD), has taught thousands of Internet users how to protect themselves from surveillance, with practical tutorials and advice on the best tools and expert-approved best practices. After hearing growing concerns among activists following the 2016 US presidential election, we pledged to build, update, and expand SSD and our other security education materials to better advise people, both within and outside the United States, on how to protect their online digital privacy and security.

While there’s still work to be done, here’s what we’ve been up to over the past several months.

SSD Guide Audit

SSD is consistently updated based on evolving technology, current events, and user feedback, but this year our SSD guides are going through a more in-depth technical and legal review to ensure they’re still relevant and up-to-date. We’ve also put our guides through a „simple English“ review in order to make them more usable for digital security novices and veterans alike. We’ve worked to make them a little less jargon-filled, and more straightforward. That helps everyone, whether English is their first language or not. It also makes translation and localization easier: that’s important for us, as SSD is maintained in eleven languages.

Many of these changes are based on reader feedback. We’d like to thank everyone for all the messages you’ve sent and encourage you to continue providing notes and suggestions, which helps us preserve SSD as a reliable resource for people all over the world. Please keep in mind that some feedback may take longer to incorporate than others, so if you’ve made a substantive suggestion, we may still be working on it!

As of today, we’ve updated the following guides and documents:

Assessing your Risks

Formerly known as „Threat Modeling,“ our Assessing your Risks guide was updated to be less intimidating to those new to digital security. Threat modeling is the primary and most important thing we teach at our security trainings, and because it’s such a fundamental skill, we wanted to ensure all users were able to grasp the concept. This guide walks users through how to conduct their own personal threat modeling assessment. We hope users and trainers will find it useful.

SSD Glossary Updates

SSD hosts a glossary of technical terms that users may encounter when using the security guide. We’ve added new terms and intend on expanding this resource over the coming months.

How to: Avoid Phishing Attacks

With new updates, this guide helps users identify phishing attacks when they encounter them and delves deeper into the types of phishing attacks that are out there. It also outlines five practical ways users can protect themselves against such attacks.

One new tip we added suggests using a password manager with autofill. Password managers that auto-fill passwords keep track of which sites those passwords belong to. While it’s easy for a human to be tricked by fake login pages, password managers are not tricked in the same way. Check out the guide for more details, and for other tips to help defend against phishing.

How to: Use Tor

We updated How to: Use Tor for Windows and How to: use Tor for macOS and added a new How to: use Tor for Linux guide to SSD. These guides all include new screenshots and step-by-step instructions for how to install and use the Tor Browser—perfect for people who might need occasional anonymity and privacy when accessing websites.

How to: Install Tor Messenger (beta) for macOS

We’ve added two new guides on installing and using Tor Messenger for instant communications.  In addition to going over the Tor network, which hides your location and can protect your anonymity, Tor Messenger ensures messages are sent strictly with Off-the-Record (OTR) encryption. This means your chats with friends will only be readable by them—not a third party or service provider.  Finally, we believe Tor Messenger is employing best practices in security where other XMPP messaging apps fall short.  We plan to add installation guides for Windows and Linux in the future.

Other guides we’ve updated include circumventing online censorship, and using two-factor authentication.

What’s coming up?

Continuation of our audit: This audit is ongoing, so stay tuned for more security guide updates over the coming months, as well as new additions to the SSD glossary.

Translations: As we continue to audit the guides, we’ll be updating our translated content. If you’re interested in volunteering as a translator, check out EFF’s Volunteer page.

Training materials: Nothing gratifies us more than hearing that someone used SSD to teach a friend or family member how to make stronger passwords, or how to encrypt their devices. While SSD was originally intended to be a self-teaching resource, we’re working towards expanding the guide with resources for users to lead their friends and neighbors in healthy security practices. We’re working hard to ensure this is done in coordination with the powerful efforts of similar initiatives, and we seek to support, complement, and add to that collective body of knowledge and practice.

Thus we’ve interviewed dozens of US-based and international trainers about what learners struggle with, their teaching techniques, the types of materials they use, and what kinds of educational content and resources they want. We’re also conducting frequent critical assessment of learners and trainers, with regular live-testing of our workshop content and user testing evaluations of the SSD website.

It’s been humbling to observe where beginners have difficulty learning concepts or tools, and to hear where trainers struggle using our materials. With their feedback fresh in mind, we continue to iterate on the materials and curriculum.

Over the next few months, we are rolling out new content for a teacher’s edition of SSD, intended for short awareness-raising one to four hour-long sessions. If you’re interested in testing our early draft digital security educational materials and providing feedback on how they worked, please fill out this form by September 30. We can’t wait to share them with you.

 

Published September 18, 2017 at 10:36PM
Read more on eff.org

EFF: In A Win For Privacy, Uber Restores User Control Over Location-Sharing

In A Win For Privacy, Uber Restores User Control Over Location-Sharing

After making an unfortunate change to its privacy settings last year, we are glad to see that Uber has reverted back to settings that empower its users to make choices about sharing their location information.

Last December, an Uber update restricted users‘ location-sharing choices to „Always“ or „Never,“ removing the more fine-grained „While Using“ setting. This meant that, if someone wanted to use Uber, they had to agree to share their location information with the app at all times or surrender usability. In particular, this meant that riders would be tracked for five minutes after being dropped off.

Now, the „While Using“ setting is back—and Uber says the post-ride tracking will end even for users who choose the „Always“ setting. We are glad to see Uber reverting back to giving users more control over their location privacy, and hope it will stick this time. EFF recommends that all users manually check that their Uber location privacy setting is on „While Using“after they receive the update.

1.     Open the Uber app, and press the three horizontal lines on the top left to open the sidebar.

2.     Once the sidebar is open, press Settings.

3.     Scroll to the bottom of the settings page to select Privacy Settings.

4.     In your privacy settings, select Location.

5.     In Location, check to see if it says “Always.”  If it does, click to change it.

6.     Here, change your location setting to „While Using“ or „Never“. Note that „Never“ will require you to manually enter your pickup address every time you call a ride.

Published September 15, 2017 at 06:32PM
Read more on eff.org