Microsoft make an encryption system called BitLocker, it encrypts hard drives so that it’s impossible to access any files without the key. Top level security.
That was true until now. Passware are a company that recently released new tool that cracks this BitLocker security. The way it works is complicated and someone would need physical access to the computer.
So if you rely on Passware for security life is suddenly more complicated. The best you could do is to also concentrate on the physical security of your computers.
A lot has happened in the past week with iPhones. First let me explain what “jail breaking” means.
iPhones have some security built-in, courtesy of Apple. This security’s main purpose is to let Apple decide what you can and can’t do with the phone. For example, you can buy and install an approved program, you can’t install a hacked program.
Now there are plenty of people in the world who want to use their iPhones in ways not sanctioned by Apple, such as using it on a non approved network or running non approved programs. So these people remove this layer of security. This is known as “jail breaking”.
Now for a summary of what’s happened recently:
First, there was a practical joke called “rickrolling” – some people found their phone’s wallpaper (background image) changed to a photo of the singer Rick Astley. It was a practical joke, harmless.
How were these phones hacked? Someone wrote a program that looks on the internet for vulnerable iPhones and installs this wallpaper, then the program copies itself to that phone and does the same thing to others. (More details here)
It only affected some jail broken phones. People were told that it’s nothing to worry about.
Then a couple of days later someone else took this idea and wrote a malicious version that works the same way. Again, only some jail broken phones are vulnerable. Except this time instead of being a practical joke it steals personal data.
It connects to a server in Lithuania and lets hackers connect to the phone and do what they want (such as stealing passwords and reading SMS’s). This is bad.
How can you protect your iPhone?
Firstly, if you don’t jailbreak your phone you have nothing to worry about.
If you do jailbreak your phone you need to change a special password that’s built into the phone. The password is usually “alpine” – you can’t see this password unless you know what you’re doing but it’s there and it needs to be changed. There are instructions here on how to do this.
An iPhone is a “smartphone”, meaning that it basically works like a computer and it has an internet connection just like a computer. And like computers it can be hacked and can get viruses. Apple goes to a lot of trouble to make sure everything works well (it’s in their best interest to deliver a quality product) so people who go about circumventing the device’s security are taking a great risk.
There’s an interesting news article here about someone who stole 130 million credit card numbers and was later arrested for it. The interesting points are:
130 million is a large number. How many people like in your city? Or country? He operated in the USA, and I don’t have any stats on how many credit cards there are in USA but it’d be somewhere around half of all credit cards. The more you think about this the less secure you’ll feel about your own credit card number.
All this data was sold to hackers in various cities countries (California, Illinois, Latvia, the Netherlands and Ukraine). So even though he was arrested the data’s been compromised already.
There’s nothing you or I could have done to protect ourselves from people like this. He stole the numbers from businesses (such as restaurants) that store the numbers on their databases, not from people’s home computers.
He wasn’t a sophisticated hacker, he just looked for businesses with wireless networks and weak security (read here on how to secure a wireless network the right way) and installed malware to do the work.
Businesses should be doing more to keep their data safe. A lot of the time they just don’t have the skills or budget to spend on network security (especially non-technology businesses such as restaurants). Yet there’s a moral obligation to do so. What can we do about that?
You should also be watching your own credit card accounts regularly. Internet banking makes it easy to check your account details every couple of nights from home. By doing so you’ll notice compromised accounts early and can get the card cancelled. Just make sure your computer is safe when you log onto internet banking sites (read here and here for some good tips).
The full article on this incident is here. It’s a bit long but an interesting read.
Accounts are often hacked, including Facebook accounts. Too many times people fall for scam emails telling them to (urgently) click on a link and type in their password. Too many times people don’t know how to tell the difference between the real Facebook login page and one made by a scammer (read here for some hints).
And when an account does become compromised and hacked, the scammers usually use it to send out spam. Then it can be difficult for people like you to get that account back.
Facebook has given this problem some thought and added a way to recover a compromised account. They will send you an email and ask you to verify your account. Then on their web site they’ll ask you some security questions and ask you to change your password.
Would you be comfortable knowing that people can “listen in” to your wireless keyboard and watch what you type? It would be a great way to capture passwords, and that’s not a good thing.
I’ve written about how vulnerable wireless keyboards are. It used to take a lot of skill to hack into a wireless keyboard but now someone’s made it so much simpler. Here are instructions on how to build a wireless keyboard hacking device, complete with the software necessary. This model only works with 27MHz keyboards, which are the older and cheaper kind. It’s quite easy to build this device and to use it.
With a good enough aerial these type of hacks could be done from your neighbouring unit, house, office, or probably from a vehicle parked outside. You won’t know your wireless keyboard’s been hacked.
More modern and expensive keyboards can also be hacked, even those that have stickers on them saying how secure they are. But they take a bit more effort and skill.
I don’t believe in using wireless keyboards, they’re not secure. If you’re using one, it only costs $10 or so to upgrade to a wired one.
Social web sites are all the rage these days, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and there are hundreds of less popular ones as well. The idea with them is that all your friends and family can join and you can share aspects of your life such as photos and comments.
Often these same sites will ask for other passwords, in an effort to help you find more of your friends and family. For example, when you sign up to Badoo.comit asks you for your MSN username and password. They do this so they can log into MSN with your account, get a list of your contacts, and invite them to join Badoo. Facebook can do this too only on a grander scale.
It’s good in theory but there are some large risks involved. When you sign up and are prompted to enter your MSN details (or any other account), consider these questions:
Who runs Badoo? Is it some guy sitting at home with no one to answer to?
Do you trust the company (such as Badoo) and all of their employees?
Do they store your MSN password? (You have no way of knowing this for sure)
Have their servers been hacked and is someone else also capturing your password? (Again you have no way of knowing this, web sites get hacked every day)
You can see where this is leading. If you enter your other passwords into someone’s web site you’ve lost control and put yourself at some risk.
So when you sign up to a new site and it asks you for other passwords you already have, your initial reaction should be to refuse. Then consider if the benefits of doing so are worth the risk.
I’d like to thank our regular reader Nick for bringing this issue up.
There is a competition where people try to hack web browsers (they call it Pwn2own) , the winners get thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. Below are the results of the competition. It says a lot about which web browsers are safer than others:
Safari running on Mac OS X – hacked in 10 seconds
FireFox running on Windows – hacked
IE 8 running on Windows – hacked
Chrome running on Windows – was not hacked
When a web browser is hacked (like in this competition), it means someone out there in the real world can do things on your computer, such as installing a virus or taking control of your PC.
You can see photos of the winners here. These are talented people that are using their skills to help developers fix their browsers. There are many more people who use their hacking skills to install malware and steal money from people’s bank accounts (this isn’t just about winning competitions).
The best thing you can do right now is:
Stop using Internet Explorer (IE) for everything.
Use Google’s Chrome as much as possible, at the moment it seems to be the most secure browser
Keep updating your web browser – the latest updates are there to fix up bugs and security vulnerabilities
Keep updating Windows (or Mac OS X or Linux) whenever a new update is released.
Install a good anti-virus package that blocks web sites that have malware on them. This might cost you a bit of money (you usually have to pay a yearly subscription fee) and it’s a good investment.
Don’t be ignorant and assume it won’t happen to you.
Keep reading Fraudo to learn about online fraud and what you can do to prevent it.
Passports these days have a small chip inside called an RFID. Governments who issue these passports say they’re secure and safe to use. And for years hackers have been saying they’re not secure. So who’s right?
Chris Paget, a white hat hacker (the good kind of hacker), recently did an experiment to see how many passports he could copy using some very simple tools. His aim was to see if he could read the RFID inside someone’s passport. The results?
In 20 minutes he managed to find 2 people carrying a new RFID passport, and was able to copy the contents of the RFID chip.
He did this from his car while driving around San Francisco. The people carrying the passports have no idea this happened. There’s no way for them to know. He made a video of his experiment that you can watch here:
The RFID chip inside passports can be copied from a distance
What can you do?
If your governments wants to tag people using RFID, e.g. by embedding RFID chips in drivers licenses, be aware of the ramifications.
It’s technically possible to shield your RFID passport by using a metal film. Some companies have started selling passport wallets that can block radio signals, stopping people reading the chip remotely.
Below are some passport wallets that can shield RFID signals (Click here to view in a full page)