Category Archives: crypto

Transitioning PGP keys

I’m switching from my old key:

pub   4096R/EBA34B1C 2014-05-08 [expires: 2016-05-05]
      Key fingerprint = 0B14 9192 9806 5962 5470  0155 FD72 0AD9 EBA3 4B1C
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
sub   4096R/64B1D8D1 2014-05-08 [expires: 2016-05-05]

to the following key:

pub   4096R/CD994F73 2015-08-14 [expires: 2016-08-13]
      Key fingerprint = 927F 419D 7EC8 2C2F 149C  1BD1 403C 2657 CD99 4F73
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
uid                  Micah Lee <>
sub   4096R/5D5F1356 2015-08-14 [expires: 2016-08-13]

Here’s a copy of my new public key, and here’s a key transition statement that I signed with my old key.

The Universe Believes in Encryption

Our universe is built out of mathematics. Humans have been learning, discovering, and using mathematics for thousands of years because it’s the only thing that can accurately describe what happens around us. The laws of physics are written in mathematics, and they cannot be broken.

One year ago today the Snowden revelations began. Since then there has been a flood of calls for reform. A federal judge called the NSA “almost Orwellian”. Congress and President Obama have admitted that bulk surveillance of Americans is wrong and should end. But so far we haven’t seen real reform in the US, and we might never see it. Even if the US does pass meaningful surveillance reforms the problem won’t be solved. There are billions of people all over the world that rely on the Internet, and their privacy will continue to get violated by governments around the world.

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Dual-booting Qubes and Ubuntu with Encrypted Disks

Qubes is my preferred operating system, but occasionally you need to run something else. It’s hard to get certain hardware working the way you expect in Qubes, like webcams or non-disk USB devices. And Qubes VMs don’t support 3D acceleration, which you might occasionally need. You also can’t run VirtualBox inside of Qubes. You normally don’t have any reason to do this, except for very specific cases, like software development with Vagrant.

So here are instructions for how to dual-boot Qubes R2 rc1 and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, using disk encryption for both. You should be able to adopt this same technique to dual-boot pretty much any two GNU/Linux distros with disk encryption. Keep in mind that if you’re booted into Ubuntu and you get owned, it’s possible for the attacker to then compromise Qubes. (You have to get really, really, really owned for an attacker who compromised Qubes to then compromise Ubuntu.)

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Two really simple things Microsoft can do to make Windows more secure against NSA

Thanks to Edward Snowden and journalists at Der Spiegel, today we learned about Tailored Access Operations (TAO), NSA’s world-class hacking team. There was a lot of interesting information in that article (like how they divert shipping of electronics to a secret warehouse where they can modify it to install backdoors!).

But I’m just going to talk about how they use Microsoft error reports to gather private information about Windows computers that can be used to compromise their security — a problem that’s trivially easy for Microsoft to fix.

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How Mailpile can implement opportunistic PGP email encryption

mailpileFor those wanting to decentralize the Internet and encrypt all the things, Mailpile is a hot topic.

What’s Mailpile?

Mailpile is a web-based email client (like Thunderbird or Outlook, not to be confused with a service, like Gmail) that you install locally and access by opening http://localhost:33411/ in your browser.

The goal of Mailpile is to give everyone all the nice features they’re used to with Gmail but that you don’t get with a traditional email client, like labels, conversations, and really quick search. You can use Mailpile to check any email address (including your one).

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HTML email, attachments, and flowed text in Enigmail

I’ve noticed that a lot of people who are new to GPG really don’t want to give up their HTML email, but the Enigmail setup wizard recommends that you do this.

Enigmail Setup Wizard

People have also had weird problems with email attachments when sending signed or encrypted emails. And when you use Enigmail’s default settings and compose your messages in plaintext, Enigmail also turns off “flowed text”, so that lines get wrapped at 72 characters.

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Don’t Succumb to Security Nihilism

You might have read today’s shocking Guardian and New York Times articles outlining the many ways that NSA and GCHQ have defeated crypto on the Internet, and have influenced tech companies to insert back doors into their commercial security products.

But pay close attention to this paragraph in Guardian’s article:

The agencies have not yet cracked all encryption technologies, however, the documents suggest. Snowden appeared to confirm this during a live Q&A with Guardian readers in June. “Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on,” he said before warning that NSA can frequently find ways around it as a result of weak security on the computers at either end of the communication.

Giving up and deciding that privacy is dead is counterproductive. We need to stop using commercial crypto. We need to make sure that free software crypto gets serious security and usability audits.

If we do this right we can still have privacy in the 21st century. If we give up on security because of this we will definitely lose.

It’s 2013. We’re all being spied on. Why do security software websites not use HTTPS?

Update: This post made the frontpage of reddit and many of the comments are wrong. I took a moment to clear a couple things up at the bottom of the post.

We desperately need to work towards deprecating HTTP and replacing it only with HTTPS. The web is a huge part of what billions of people use the Internet for, and still most of it is not encrypted. Since the Snowden leaks started getting published we’ve learned that NSA and GCHQ spy on as close to the entire Internet as they can get.

It would be naive to think that the US and UK are the only governments doing this too. The network isn’t safe, and the only way to make it safe is to encrypt all the things. Websites that still use HTTP are putting users in danger. Here are a couple of examples.

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Despite Google’s statement, they still have access to your wifi passwords

UPDATE: The Android bug tracker isn’t the correct place to ask Google to fix this bug. The backup/restore feature is part of the proprietary Google apps for Android, not the open source Android project. This thread on the Google product forums is the correct place.

Earlier this week Ars Technica covered a bug report I posted on the Android issue tracker about the “Backup and restore” feature not offering encrypted backups.

Because there’s no option to encrypt your backup data on your Android device with a passphrase that you set, Google has the capability to see the plaintext data, including all your saved wifi passwords. Google can then be compelled to give up this data (and any other user data that they store) to the US government when requested to do so.

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Use Android? You’re Probably Giving Google All Your Wifi Passwords

Go to your home screen, press the Menu button, select “Settings”, under “Personal” select “Backup and reset”. Is the “Back up my data” checkbox checked? If so, all of the wifi passwords that your phone remembers are being synced to your Google account.

Backup and restore settings

And the passwords are in plaintext, too. When you format an Android phone and set it up on first run, after you login to your Google account and restore your backup, it immediately connects to wifi using a saved password. There’s no sort of password hash that your Android phone could send your router to authenticate besides the password itself.

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