Update: KTVU has taken down the story.
Recently I was interviewed about “doxing” by KTVU, a Bay Area news station based in Oakland. Doxing is when someone publishes documents (“dox”) about someone to the internet. It’s usually full of mundane info that can be found in a phone book and with a google search, but sometimes it also contains more sensitive information like the contents of personal emails, lists of passwords, etc.
I found out that the segment aired on TV last night when someone tweeted me asking if I really thought that “swatting” was protected by free speech laws. Swatting, I learned for the first time last night, is when someone dials 911 and reports something like a hostage situation or a terrorist bomb plot at someone else’s address in order to get a SWAT team to bust down their door.
TL;DR: I wrote a piece of software called Tor Browser Launcher that downloads and auto-updates Tor Browser Bundle for you, in your language and for your architecture, and verifies signatures. I’d like help finding bugs before the initial release.
Over the years, Tor Project has done an amazing job at making Tor more user-friendly. In the past if you wanted anonymity you had to download and install Tor, maybe hand-edit your torrc file, and configure your browser to use a proxy server. You had to make sure that you didn’t have browser plugins like Flash or Java enabled that would compromise your anonymity. Eventually, this got easier when you could install the TorButton Firefox add-on, but even then you had to keep manually separate your own identity and your anonymous browsing.
The Tor Project is awesome. It’s a network of volunteer proxy servers that make it possible for people to use the internet anonymously.
I decided to contribute to the Tor network by running my own exit node called gollum. I’m paying Gandi $16/month for a VPS in Paris, France. As of this writing the uptime on my Tor server is 69 days, 12 hours.
This morning I had the opportunity to help Freedom of the Press Foundation publish the full, previously unreleased audio recording of Bradley Manning’s statement to the military court in Ft. Meade about his motivations for leaking over 700,000 government documents to WikiLeaks.
In his statement Bradley Manning not only explains his motivation for leaking documents to WikiLeaks (he contacted the Washington Post and the New York Times first), but also technically how he went about doing it, including the software and protocols he used.
If you don’t know about OTR, it’s awesome. It lets you have end-to-end encrypted chat sessions with people so that only you and the person you’re chatting with can read the chat messages and all other parties—such as your chat server (often Google), your ISP, or anyone else eavesdropping on your—cannot. It also has cool features like forward secrecy that other cryptosystems like PGP don’t have. If you’ve ever been to a CryptoParty, setting up Pidgin and OTR and learning how to verify keys is always on the schedule.
I posted this as a comment on my previous blog post, Why I’m Leaving Ubuntu for Debian. I decided it’s worth it’s own post though.
Each time your computer makes a connection to a server on the internet, you tell the remote server, as well as your ISP and every router in between, your IP address. If you’re using the internet on your phone you might be disclosing the IP of your 3G or 4G connection, or the IP of the wifi network you’re connected to.
If your phone checks for new emails or tweets every couple minutes, or keeps up a consistent connection to your instant messenger server, any of those services is almost definitely logging a history of your IP addresses.
This IP address data could be used to figure out your physical location over time. This is the information that New York City subpoenaed Twitter for, to get the private messages and IP addresses (read: location data) of Occupy protester Malcolm Harris.
I decided to switch to Debian.
I’ve been using Ubuntu as my primary operating system since 2005. Back then it was truly amazing. Before I started using Ubuntu I tried out Red Hat, Mandrake (and later Mandriva), Slackware, Gentoo, and even Debian. In all of them, something didn’t work. Usually it was wifi, but sometimes it was audio or video, or weird X config problems. But when I switched to Ubuntu, all of that went away. Rather than being frusturated that I was still a Linux noob and couldn’t even connect to the internet, Ubuntu helped me get past the initial barriers so I could really dive in. I’m eternally grateful to Ubuntu for this, and I’m very impressed at how successful they’ve has been at fixing bug #1 (though there’s still a long way to go).
I’ve talked to many people who assume that the NSA, the world’s most powerful and well-funded spy agency, can easily crack the encryption on messages they intercept by brute force. They speculate: “What if Big Brother has a massive cluster of supercomputers guessing keys at full power in a top secret and shadowy lab a mile beneath Maryland?” Even then, they still can’t crack your crypto.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many implementation flaws, bugs, misconfigurations, user errors, and rubber hose attacks that could lead to crypto being compromised. I’m referring to the NSA’s ability to use massive computing power to guess a crypto key.
Lately I’ve been thinking about setting up a blog to talk about tech things I find interesting, particularly web security, since that’s how I spend a lot of my work and free time. Since I had an under-used VPS sitting around, I figured I ought to set up WordPress on it and start blogging. What better topic to blog about than how I’m securely setting up this website?