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The Register: 4 Ways the Guardian Could Have Protected Snowden

timothy posted about a year ago | from the do-can-you-trust-them dept.

The Media 233

Frosty Piss writes with this excerpt from The Register: "The Guardian's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger fears journalists – and, by extension, everyone – will be reduced to using pen and paper to avoid prying American and British spooks online. And his reporters must fly around the world to hold face-to-face meetings with sources ('Not good for the environment, but increasingly the only way to operate') because they believe all their internet and phone chatter will be eavesdropped on by the NSA and GCHQ. 'It would be highly unadvisable for any journalist to regard any electronic means of communication as safe,' he wrote. El Reg would like to save The Guardian a few bob, and reduce the jet-setting lefty paper's carbon footprint, by suggesting some handy tips – most of them based on the NSA's own guidance."

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233 comments

Internal storage? (2)

jasno (124830) | about a year ago | (#44660565)

Johnny Mnemonic anyone?

spoiler alert (5, Informative)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about a year ago | (#44660603)

here are the four things, pulled from the article:

1. Encryption: It's not hard
* Keep your private key secret, encrypted and in one place (eg, not a police interrogation room)
* Meet the Advanced Encryption Standard

2. Use clean machines

3. How to shift the data securely

4. Using hidden services

Encryption IS unfortuately too hard (5, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#44660821)

Encryption: It's not hard

Yes it is. It fails the mom test badly. More properly it is key management that is too difficult. The actual key generation can be automated mostly. Distribution and use of keys is inherently difficult with no obviously easy solution.

Re:Encryption IS unfortuately too hard (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660921)

If your Mom is needing to go to these lengths to secure her data... well... how is Mrs Rosenberg these days?

Re:Encryption IS unfortuately too hard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661107)

If your Mom is needing to go to these lengths to secure her data... well... how is Mrs Rosenberg these days?

Mrs. Rosenberg is dead.

But at least she doesn't have the shame that your mother is burdened with
since she gave birth to the likes your idiotic self.

Re:Encryption IS unfortuately too hard (4, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44661225)

But there's no reason it has to be. The newspaper could easily create/bundle a basic application that runs of a flash drive to handle all the encryption/decryption, tor tunneling, etc. The stripped down version:

The informant-to-be downloads and launches the "Guardmail Program" for the first time
- Personal public and private keys are generated silently and stored in a data file alongside the program
- User writes an email and adds attachments as per normal
- User provides destination address and public encryption key + CRC code available on The Guardian's contact page
- CRC code is checked to ensure that there are no typos in the encryption key (is this normal? It should be if not)
- email, attachments, and P.S.ed personal public encryption key are encrypted
- Resulting data-file is then sent to the destination via whatever origin-obscuring pathways they decide to integrate.

- Later the program is run again and told to "check mail" - it goes to whatever anonymized dropbox is being used, via whatever hidden pathway, and looks for messages directed to the User
- Any messages are downloaded and decrypted. Attachments can be decrypted and saved just as you would from a webmail site

From the users perspective all they did was fire up a special "magic" email program that lets them send things much more secretly, from an interface that looks essentially like any webmail frontend, but the data never sits anywhere unencrypted unless attachments are "saved" (exported) from Guardmail. Does such a program truly not already exist? If so, the why the $#@! not? Sure it's a bit limited and inflexible, but it would put reasonably secure communication in the hands of anyone who had a need for it, no technological knowledge required.

Re: spoiler alert (1)

rullywowr (1831632) | about a year ago | (#44660839)

The first thing I got from the article is that it was submitted by Frosty Piss.

Re: spoiler alert (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year ago | (#44661511)

Ahhhhhhhhhh. Yesssssss.

I enjoyed the "submission".

Re:spoiler alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660981)

But I can read it on your machine before you encrypt it, cos I'm the NSA and if Microsoft won't give me a back door (usually they do), I just lean on Nvidia, Hewlett Packard, or someone to write me a trojan into their drivers so I can get my back door. It's trivial. So much for encryption and clean machines. "Shifting the data securely", that would be USB keychain, CD/DVD, hard drive, or some other storage medium which I can easily seize at a border, or obtain a rubber stamp warrant to seize it from your home or office. When you realize that I have the power to quickly mobilize any police force almost anywhere in the world to get what I want, you will realize by how much you are screwed.

Just RTFA (3, Informative)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#44661357)

I can read it on your machine before you encrypt it

The "clean machine" never connects to the 'net. It handles the encryption and is the only machine that sees the decrypted data. The machine that touches the net (somewhere remote to your home/office connection) only sees the encrypted file.

When you realize that I have the power to quickly mobilize any police force almost anywhere in the world to get what I want, you will realize by how much you are screwed.

"If you just want to "stay anonymous from the NSA", or whomever good luck with that. My advice? Pick different adversaries."

Re:spoiler alert (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#44661303)

If this is data that the American and British spooks presumably already have, why not just post it publicly? What's the point of keeping a copy of data they already have hidden from them?

Re:spoiler alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661419)

"Give us your key and you will go to jail for the rest of your life under National Security grounds. Wait, that should be or you'll go to jail for the rest of your life. Meh, either works."

Do you honestly expect anyone to not cave and give up their key?

Re:spoiler alert (1)

Duhavid (677874) | about a year ago | (#44661657)

Just an idea....

How about having two plain text inputs, one is the real message, the other is something you are OK with your opponent seeing.
Two keys.
If you provide the correct key, you get the real message, if you provide the forced key, you get the smiley happy nothing to see here plain text.

Re:spoiler alert (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661525)

I use a secret code As i have to use tor to accees the pirate bay the letters of all the torrents I download spell out this weeks secret message.

They will never crack that muwah wah!

The 4 Ways (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660567)

(from the article)

1. Encryption: It's not hard
Keep your private key secret, encrypted and in one place (eg, not a police interrogation room)
Meet the Advanced Encryption Standard
2. Use clean machines
3. How to shift the data securely
4. Using hidden services

5. First Amendment (5, Interesting)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year ago | (#44661197)

TFA (& everyone else it seems) misses a key option: release anonymously using US First Amendment protection.

The US has **the most journalistic freedom in the world**

Accept it...in fact, the Guardian is working with NY Times to release future Snowden info [huffingtonpost.com] *precisely* because the US has the 1st Amendment. From The Guardian's editor:

Journalists in America are protected by the first amendment which guarantees free speech and in practice prevents the state seeking pre-publication injunctions or "prior restraint"

Not only that, in the US, journalists may use **anonymous sources**...they risk their reputation and job, and it has to be cleared by their editors, but it is done routinely (ex: Deep Throat).

If journalists release secret info, they can be subpoenaed to reveal their source. IF THEY REFUSE...the journalist can be jailed ONLY a short period of time, never more than 6-9 months as a 'coercive tactic'...but the gov't HAS TO LET THEM GO if they still don't talk!!!

This process is something every college journalism major learns.

Glenn Greenwald is using Snowden to further his career...the way he's shopping Snowden interviews around proves it.

The Guardian could have done this **completely differently** and Snowden would still have his job, and Greenwald would have a book deal and a ton of street cred...

May I suggest ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660571)

... using BitMessage and Tahoe-LAFS as a general rule? Both make spying near impractical.

Wait -- *their* guidance? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660575)

"most of them based on the NSA's own guidance"

Should you take guidance from people who have been proven to lie?

Re:Wait -- *their* guidance? (5, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about a year ago | (#44661515)

Should you take guidance from people who have been proven to lie?

The NSA is a deeply schizophrenic organization. On one side you have people seeking to defend and secure Americans' computer systems and networks against crackers, foreign spies, and the like. They'll propose BS like key escrow [wikipedia.org] , but they're actually fairly honest: they know if there is a backdoor they can use, their adversaries can use it too.

On the other hand you have people seeking to break into computer systems and networks, including those of Americans. They oughta be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

What if... (3, Interesting)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a year ago | (#44660617)

When secret police come with secret orders based on secret laws signed by a secret court we secretly dispose of their bodies?

Re:What if... (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#44661267)

When secret police come with secret orders based on secret laws signed by a secret court we secretly dispose of their bodies?

Don't forget double secret probation.

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661391)

First three words in your .sig answers your own question.

Re:What if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661601)

So... Secret murder is alright?

20-20 hindsight, but ... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44660627)

Wasn't so long ago all the British press were under scrutiny in the wake News Of The World Phone Hacking Scandal. I think it's still fresh on the minds of many editors in the British press and more scrutiny is not something they would welcome. In this light it was probably intentional not to go out of their way to protect him.

hung him out to dry (4, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about a year ago | (#44661335)

it was probably intentional not to go out of their way to protect him

I agree...and I think you are being overly fair to the Guardian and Greenwald. They could have done this completely differently and Snowden would still have his job and hot 'girlfriend'...

Anonymous source.

IMHO, Greenwald and the Guardian led Snowden around like a sheep, taking advantage of his internal motivations for releasing the info.

The truth is, Snowden's info isn't actually revealing of any *new* info, only operational details of already-reported on programs...and seriously it's common knowledge that the Feds could spy on us via the Patriot Act.

Read it for yourself [usatoday.com] , from USA Today in 2006:

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

He broke the law technically, revealing info that was Top Secret, but it's not exactly "news"....unless you muckrake and take advantage of the fact that most journalists never understood what the Patriot Act allows.

It's all hype...we definitely could have had a "national conversation about privacy and surveillance" without all this flap!

Re:hung him out to dry (3, Informative)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#44661369)

The truth is, Snowden's info isn't actually revealing of any *new* info, only operational details of already-reported on programs...

Our local senator is one of the ones who has been hinting to us that this is going on since early this year. He couldn't tell us what it was, but ...

He also didn't think it was enough of a problem to bother trying to stop it.

Re:20-20 hindsight, but ... (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#44661505)

In spite of the headline, really the article isn't about protecting the source, it's about preventing the authorities from preventing you from publishing, or detaining your partner/data-mule under a vile security law that makes not incriminating yourself a serious criminal offence.

(It doesn't say, but the paranoia exhibited in the article reinforces the recent claims that we're going to see less precaution from press in the future. They will just dump everything online at once, making no attempts to redact names/etc, for fear that they'll be shut down while they are trying to review the leaked documents.)

Simple solution (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about a year ago | (#44660631)

Employ Mentats. [wikipedia.org] Problem solved.

Easier (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#44660643)

If is meant to be eventually public, then just make it public. As Linus said "Only wimps use tape backup. REAL men just upload their important stuff on ftp and let the rest of the world mirror it [goodreads.com] " (ok, maybe not ftp right now, some more updated/social alternatives), The consequences of not releasing it (even in human lives) could eventually be worse than doing it unedited.

Re:Easier (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44661317)

I think that's the idea behind insurance files and multiple secret deadman switches - if all else fails the data *will* get out.

But it can be very irresponsible to simply dump it into the public eye without first thoroughly reviewing it, which the leaker themselves can't realistically be expected to do - they stumble across a treasure trove of incriminating data (probably all mixed in with lots of junk and legitimate secrets) and they just want to get it into the hands of a responsible journalist as fast as possible before they're discovered and silenced. Once it's in the hands of the journalist(s) they can then publish all of it in an encrypted insurance file and then review, redact, and release the incriminating data in a more narrative form in order to maximize impact and minimize collateral damage. If anyone tries to silence the journalists then one or more of their deadman switches fires off and the entire raw dataset is dumped upon the world. Probably better for everyone to just let them do their job. A really good deadman switch would be one that is triggered even if you are willingly compromised - you wouldn't want bribes or threats to corrupt the story overmuch - your family is probably safest if the only way the insurance stays secret is if you do your job honestly.

Guardian is far creepier than our own government (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660651)

Better yet, don't help a traitor/spy escape and find fame and fortune in Russia. What is with you people?

Dump data into a darknet (3, Interesting)

Adult film producer (866485) | about a year ago | (#44660655)

The Freenet network is still alive and is very useful for this kind of thing.

https://freenetproject.org/ [freenetproject.org]

Re:Dump data into a darknet (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#44661547)

Too few people are using Freenet today for the obfuscation to work against an adversary that has pwn'd the physical telecommunications infrastructure.

Freenet population to rise? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | about a year ago | (#44661773)

When the FBI took down Freedom Hosting, apparently most Tor hidden services for obscene material closed down. If all or some significant portion of those people move to Freenet, it'll have lots of traffic. Right?

Re:Dump data into a darknet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661565)

Freenet needs to be rewritten to not use Java. You Java programmers have long forgotten what a nightmare it is to start and maintain Java applications outside your custom development and production environments. Java servers just don't play well, especially with Unix. Chaulk it up to another stupid move by Sun. Instead, Java services usually are built around one or two Java application server environments that already have the non-portable, Unix-specific daemon management bindings. Writing these things in plain C is easy; in Java, not so much.

Notice that there are no official Debian or RPM packages for Freenet. Coincidence? Um.... no. It's not hard to write Debian packages. I just wrote 4 of them last week. It's hard to write packages for Java applications.

I don't feel quite safe either. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660657)

I might be part of the few people in the world who are able to implement attacks on cryptography or busting advanced malware in random hardware firmwares in a breeze.
Still there might always be someone who knows some trick I'm not aware of, who is cleverer and more prepared, thus i don't feel safe.

The Guardian's staff is in my opinion well aware of how to use Tor and such countermeasures. They just don't want to try their luck, because if they happen to fail this is ultimate failure.

The Guardian is right and The Register is a usual a bundle of same sized wooden sticks.

Re:I don't feel quite safe either. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#44660679)

I might be part of the few people in the world who are able to implement attacks on cryptography or busting advanced malware in random hardware firmwares in a breeze.
Still there might always be someone who knows some trick I'm not aware of, who is cleverer and more prepared, thus i don't feel safe.

The Guardian's staff is in my opinion well aware of how to use Tor and such countermeasures. They just don't want to try their luck, because if they happen to fail this is ultimate failure.

The Guardian is right and The Register is a usual a bundle of same sized wooden sticks.

Also possible they fear relying upon any "safe" technology because they won't know when it is no longer "safe". Not like the NSA is going to send them a card saying "We are now watching you".

Re:I don't feel quite safe either. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660691)

Also, what nobody is able to tell with confidence as of today is: "Does the NSA have MITM over half of active Tor exit nodes at all times ?".

They well might be.

Re:I don't feel quite safe either. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660771)

Does it occur to anyone else that following the NSA's advice might not be the best idea? I mean, there must be some reason they would like you to use the measures they recommend. And I certainly wouldn't trust any really heavy stuff to Tor.

Re:I don't feel quite safe either. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660819)

We have two hints that those advices are good:

- They follow same guidelines for their own security.
- The current state of all academical researches in the world as of today tells us that it is secure, maths don't lie.

But hopefully there are billions of different ways you can screw this up in practice. Because "crypto IS hard".

Re:I don't feel quite safe either. (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44661351)

Math doesn't lie, but it's also limited by the perspective of the humans using it. Wasn't it just recently that it was discovered that some common encryption scheme was actually far less secure than previously believed? Something about a flawed assumption in the entropy model I think it was.

Also, if anyone has a working quantum computer or other probability-bending code breaking machine I would expect it to be the NSA.

But yeah, no reason we shouldn't use the securest methods available, and for gods sake wrap something up nicely behind an ultra-simple pretty front-end that any idiot can download and use without knowing what the $#@! they're doing. No, it won't be perfect, but it'll at least tilt the odds as far as reasonably possible when Granny stumbles upon some damning secrets and is trying to pass them on without guaranteeing that the black vans will be pulling up in short order.

Re:I don't feel quite safe either. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661781)

Yeah, that attack could reduce AES256 to the effectiveness of only AES128! At a billion attempts a second, that reduces the time needed to clear the keyspace to a mere 10790000000000000000000 years. Clearly encryption is worthless.

Not sure what author of article is going for (4, Informative)

VinylRecords (1292374) | about a year ago | (#44660689)

1.) Encryption: It's not hard

Shouldn't really be a factor now that Snowden is known publicly. When Snowden was trying to escape the U.S. it was necessary for him to be paranoid and secretive. Now he's already given a full copy of all of his information to Greenwald in person. Snowden was protected well by his news contacts. They had him reveal himself to the world on his own time and not have his name leak before he wanted it to leak. He was safe when it mattered. The Guardian did an acceptable job getting Snowden to safety.

2.) Use clean machines

Extremely difficult. The US has deals with phone companies, operating system creators, and hardware manufacturers, to put backdoor systems into so many devices. They monitor so many email and phone companies. How can you be fully sure you didn't buy a machine that has a secret backdoor entry that the FBI or CIA can get into easily? How can you know that your PC isn't already set up for intercepts on all of your activity? You'd need to be an expert on computer software, hardware, intercept technology, and so many other things just to detect that you were being actively monitored. And being passively monitored like how the NSA just copies everything sent anywhere.

3.) How to shift the data securely

The governments of the world can potentially intercept ANYTHING. Phone calls, emails, text messages, picture messages, faxes, voices through a hidden microphone, credit card transactions, smoke signals, bank statements, parabolic intercepts. Nothing is truly secure in this day and age. A reporter can use a courier by land or plane and that person can be held in a cell for nine hours while being interrogated. But an in-person intercept is known to both parties. A phone intercept is tough to fully know about unless you have an inside source telling you "your personal phones and prepaid phones are all tracked". Thanks to Snowden I now assume that EVERYTHING is tracked by the government.

4.) Using hidden services

The government is cracking down on those. Lavabit could not stop the government. Why would any other black site or anonymous exchange be able to stop the government? The government can stop billion dollar companies from operating overnight. Like a small email or messaging company can withstand the onslaught of a multi-national cyber-military operation?

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660849)

The US? How about China? They've got the backdoors.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (5, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#44660855)

2.) Use clean machines

Extremely difficult. The US has deals with phone companies, operating system creators, and hardware manufacturers, to put backdoor systems into so many devices. They monitor so many email and phone companies. How can you be fully sure you didn't buy a machine that has a secret backdoor entry that the FBI or CIA can get into easily? How can you know that your PC isn't already set up for intercepts on all of your activity? You'd need to be an expert on computer software, hardware, intercept technology, and so many other things just to detect that you were being actively monitored. And being passively monitored like how the NSA just copies everything sent anywhere.

Not difficult at all. It's called an air gap. You buy a laptop specifically for the purpose of decrypting the messages. You set it up without connecting it to the Internet. You generate your private-public key pair on this machine and use a flash drive to manually copy the public key to a different machine so that you can provide it to whoever needs it. When you receive a message, you copy that to a flash drive, then copy it to the other machine, then extract it.

Ideally, the private key should also be stored on a (different) USB key that you carry with you, to reduce the risk of physical theft by (hopefully) ensuring that the key and the encrypted data are never in the same place except when you are decrypting that data. If you are really paranoid, you can split the key into pieces so that multiple key dongles held by separate people must be stolen or confiscated before encryption is compromised.

This is how high-security data handling works everywhere. If intercepting it could mean the end of (the|your) world, you build an air gap, and you ensure that the computers on the inside of that gap are never connected to the public Internet in any way, shape or form. And when you're done with the machine, you destroy its hard drive in accordance with DoD manual 5200.01.

Of course, this ignores TEMPEST/Van Eck phreaking; chances are, you aren't that important, but if you are, you should also take precautions to physically secure your air gap room against any EM emissions from the computer in question.

And as always, Keep Calm and Carry a Towel.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (5, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#44661011)

You are assuming that when you tell your computer to turn off the WiFi, the WiFi stays off. Now if cell phones that are "off" can record the conversations of mobsters without them knowing it, what makes you trust your computer all of a sudden? It would have to be an "air gap" somewhere in the countryside away from any wifi signal...

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (2)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | about a year ago | (#44661111)

Open up the laptop and remove the wifi antenna (at least in mine you could remove it with a pair of scissors, but other models may require mucking with board).

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#44661331)

Open up the laptop and remove the wifi antenna

On most of the Dell systems I've dealt with over the last few years, the WiFi is on a small add-in board.

Or you can just operate in a Faraday cage and avoid Tempest and WiFi and Bluetooth and all kinds of issues at the same time.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661233)

You are assuming that when you tell your computer to turn off the WiFi, the WiFi stays off.

Nah, I think he's just assuming that you're using a computer without wifi. Be that a desktop without wifi, or a laptop with the card removed.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about a year ago | (#44661615)

Of course, this ignores TEMPEST/Van Eck phreaking; chances are, you aren't that important, but if you are, you should also take precautions to physically secure your air gap room against any EM emissions from the computer in question.

The article isn't about being monitored. It's about delaying detection long enough to a) get the source out of the country, b) publish before they raid you. If you are known enough to be actively monitored (and you're not a foreign spook or tech-company), then you've already been raided, your hdds seized or smashed, and/or your partner jailed, without warrant, lawyer, or trial.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (5, Informative)

Dan East (318230) | about a year ago | (#44660957)

2.) Use clean machines

Extremely difficult. The US has deals with phone companies, operating system creators, and hardware manufacturers, to put backdoor systems into so many devices. They monitor so many email and phone companies. How can you be fully sure you didn't buy a machine that has a secret backdoor entry that the FBI or CIA can get into easily? How can you know that your PC isn't already set up for intercepts on all of your activity? You'd need to be an expert on computer software, hardware, intercept technology, and so many other things just to detect that you were being actively monitored. And being passively monitored like how the NSA just copies everything sent anywhere.

I call BS on this one. "You'd need to be an expert on computer software, hardware, intercept technology, and so many other things just to detect that you were being actively monitored." No, you don't. It only takes ONE expert to find that Dell, HP, Microsoft, Apple, OSX, Windows, Linux, has all these supposed backdoors to blow the whistle. While we have cases where various cloud / online services have been forced to turn over information, none of what you're claiming has been reported with hardware and OS vendors.

You're missing one important thing in your paranoia. Existing networks still have to be utilized to transfer this data. If every home PC had such a backdoor, then they still would have to use the internet connection to transmit that data. And yes, there are experts that do watch for this kind of thing, and keep an eye on what their machines are connecting to and why. Unless you're also positing the conspiracy theory that every machine has some totally secret wireless communication built in that talks to some government ghost network that no one has discovered either.

Yes, the NSA is reaching way too far, but even so you've got your tin foil hat way too tight.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661201)

This.

Like it or not, IPv4/6 is all there is for multihop communications on existing infrastructure. Unless Microsoft, Cisco, or Intel are cutting deals with foreign governments, they're not going to be able to keep a lid on backdoors. Labs in Berlin, Moscow, and Beijing are dedicated to analyzing outbound communications (including wireless RF) of American made hardware and software.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (1)

melikamp (631205) | about a year ago | (#44661403)

It only takes ONE expert to find that Dell, HP, Microsoft, Apple, OSX, Windows, Linux, has all these supposed backdoors to blow the whistle.

What is your point? In all of these cases, you can count people with complete access to the source code with your fingers. Even in Linux there are binary blobs with no source. Each of these backdoors is known to 1-5 people in the world, so no one will blow any whistles.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661493)

Did you know that RMS has long been advocating the secure nature of free software as a way of protecting privacy? It is exceedingly difficult to have malicious features in free software that is publicly developed. Binary blobs also represent a security risk in that users are unable to reason the logic of the blobs. This is the reason why RMS supports the Linux-Libre project. I've noted in the past that for many here in Slashdot, any sort of suggestion to remove these Linux blobs for the sake of freedom are met with contempt with the reasoning that "hardware with binary blobs that work are better than hardware without blobs".

RMS has been vindicated once again about the issue that if users do not control the software, the software controls the user.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661605)

Preinstalled anti-virus could provide a mechanism to scan for certain keywords, identify the file as a "virus", and (depending on the settings) auto-submit a sample for "research".

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (1)

Guest316 (3014867) | about a year ago | (#44661065)

>But an in-person intercept is known to both parties.
Nobody seems to remember the ways this was done back in the days before all-electronic communications. Anything from binoculars and shotgun mics to planted wireless electronic bugs are just as useable today as they were during the Cold War.

Re:Not sure what author of article is going for (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44661567)

It is amazingly unlikely that you buy a brand new machine at Best Buy and it is already set up to monitor all the communications you send from the moment it's turned on. Sure it might happen, but that would mean that everyone everywhere is being spied on every minute of the day, in which case the NSA will never be able to find the needle in the haystack. Instead a clean machine means that you use that brand new machine machine only for that task; you don't re-use an old machine, you don't install extra software, don't go browsing the web on it, don't stick it on the internet, and when you get your data you wipe the machine clean again (and you're doing all this in a VM on the clean machine).

There's always the sci-fi possibility that your'e being followed all the time and the follower goes into the store, demands to be told the serial number of the machine that was sold to you, and from that number a back door is activated. Which is one reason why you don't stick that PC on the internet.

If things are so bad that you're being followed everywhere all the time, with a full time team of people assigned to your case, then you're no good as a reporter in this area already. You only get one big scoop of the century in this area, after it's done you will be a high value target to the NSA instead of a petty part-time annoyance, and will never again be safe communicating with confidential sources.

Lavabit was flawed in its set up. It had the ability to decrypt and divulge email if forced to which made it vulnerable. Security and convenience do not mix together well, and allowing a third party like Lavabit to act as a middle man with keys is convenient but not secure.

MacOS secure!!!! (2)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#44660707)

You wannt to use a compromised OS to generate secret keys!!! For.Real.?
What about this:
1.Use some old machine, very old machine, like CPU-486 Pentium, or even better, some chip on computer (Raspberry Pi) to install some minimal linux.
2.Use some proven package to generate the private keys.
3.Store them, write them down, on some piece of paper, and hide it somewhere secret. Even better, generate a set of PK, for every conceivable case.
4.During all this steps, never, i repeat NEVER TURN ON THE ETHERNET ADAPTER.
5.Once you have done with the PK generation, burn the damn computer, literally.
6.Now you have a set of PK that are really secret.
7.From now on, never forget, once you run Windows/Mac/Ubuntu, you are exposed. So try to use only some community build, with minimal set of features Linux, and also without any fancy GUI interface. And keep close track of all the services that you run n your computer. And log all the network traffic going to, or out of your little linux box.

Re:MacOS secure!!!! (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44660799)

Unless you're planning to build a distro from source and read all the source to make sure it has no back doors, you can't guarantee anything is "clean."

Re:MacOS secure!!!! (4, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#44661029)

No, even then you can't guarantee it. There was an article by Dennis Ritchie (yes, one of the co-authors of the C language) that pretty much proved how there could already be back doors in compilers which are slipping in back doors to executable files without anyone knowing it. You can't stop with reading the source code. You would actually have to go through the machine code, line by line.

Re:MacOS secure!!!! (4, Informative)

cybersquid (24605) | about a year ago | (#44661101)

I was about to post this!
Here's a link to the article: The Ken Thompson Hack [c2.com]

Re: MacOS secure!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661625)

Am I the only nerd that use to sit around running packet captures on my computers in highschool? Try it, all day long you will see different processes connecting out to the internet, some it might be legit but how can you know.

Re:MacOS secure!!!! (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44661569)

We need to all just curl up into a ball now and wait for them to come and collect us.

Re:MacOS secure!!!! (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about a year ago | (#44661057)

Rather than burning a 486 with lots of ram which can run linux, which I find evil, a dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sda will do.

Re:MacOS secure!!!! (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#44661181)

zeroing a drive is no guarantee of security. In fact, it won't stand up to much more than a casual analysis. The DoD specification is a 3-pass method involving zeroing, populating with 1's and then populating with randoms. Now you're in electron microscopy territory to recover *anything*.

The absolute *minimum* I would in fact recommend if you're intent on making life difficult for any would-be data snooper is dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/sda. I would also take the hard drive and zero it with a *different* kernel than the one it was originally written with (for Windows or Mac, use Linux, for Linux use a BSD kernel, for instance). There are utilities which have their own custom kernels which will do the job on any drive, for example Ultra-X (which in fact exceeds DoD 5520.22-M requirements by a wide margin). I like margins, I've been using Ultra-X for years now.

Snowden didn't want protection (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660733)

Snowden and the reporters he communicated with did use encryption and other means to preserve secrecy while he was initially doing the leaks. But once it became front-page news, he wanted the publicity, and he told them to go public.

coinlock... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660763)

If you are going to leak some crazy stuff you might as well get paid for it.... (coinlock.com)

fly around the world to hold face-to-face meetings (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#44660791)

So how is that any safer . . . ? The government knows if you are a journalist. They can check fly lists to know where you are flying to. They can alert their own folks or their pals in the place where you are flying to. They can put a tail on you right after you step off the plane . . . or even as you board the plane.

Oh, you could get a friend to go for you. But the government know who your friends are . . . etc., etc., etc. . . .

Sound like a bunch of paranoid spy fiction . . . ? Not any more, really.

Re:fly around the world to hold face-to-face meeti (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660813)

I second this. Using stenography within kitten pictures and pseudonymous identities would be safer.... not that it would be safe - just safer.

Re:fly around the world to hold face-to-face meeti (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#44661195)

STFU, now they're going to start arresting six year old little girls with Hello Kitty motifs on their carry-on...

Re:fly around the world to hold face-to-face meeti (1)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year ago | (#44661243)

I second this. Using stenography within kitten pictures and pseudonymous identities would be safer.... not that it would be safe - just safer.

300+ gig is a lot of kitten pictures.

Re:fly around the world to hold face-to-face meeti (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44661603)

Are they doing this to every journalist everywhere? I don't think so. They will do it to higher profile journalists working in certain areas. Ie, the reporters who worked with Snowden had already been harrassed in airports quite a lot so they had reached this risky level already. But you're sort of stuck here, the other journalists were probably all off writing stories about kittens or repeating verbatim what happened in a press conference, and those may not be the ones you can trust.

And yet they were able to talk to Snowden securely, his cover wasn't blown premature but at a time of his choosing, and there is still secure data that has not been released. So things are not completely to the syfy level yet.

The NSA would like to thank you very much (5, Interesting)

hyades1 (1149581) | about a year ago | (#44660865)

From TFA:

"El Reg would like to save The Guardian a few bob, and reduce the jet-setting lefty paper's carbon footprint, by suggesting some handy tips â" most of them based on the NSA's own guidance".

Since the NSA gets a lot more information from metadata than from the message itself, I imagine they'd be delighted to have journalists encrypting everything important (lazy buggers that they are, they probably wouldn't bother with anything that wasn't).

By jumping through all the hoops in the NSA guidelines, you just sorted yourself into a tiny minority that has something to hide. You can guarantee you'll have spooks from every spy agency in the free world tracking where you go, who you talk to, who THEY talk to and what all of you do all day, where you keep your money, where you spend it, and who makes your morning coffee when the wife's out of town.

And laughing. You just KNOW they'll be laughing.

Re:The NSA would like to thank you very much (5, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | about a year ago | (#44661187)

Personally I think El-Reg may be experiencing some professional jealousy. The patronising tone paints the Guardian reporters as political ideologues in trouble, but the fact is that investigative journalism is hard and expensive, and the Guardian are world leaders in the art.

Re:The NSA would like to thank you very much (1)

pepty (1976012) | about a year ago | (#44661669)

So after step two use steganography and post the messages as pics to facebook or instagram?

Plain old mail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44660883)

How about plain old mail? If you worry about it being intercepted encrypt your data
on a micro flash drive and mail it. You could also use other carriers like FedEx or
UPS. To increase the chance of it getting through use a PO Box for both the destination
and the return address. If it "disappears" then nothing is lost and you can suspect that they
are also reading your mail.

Pfff (2)

ikhider (2837593) | about a year ago | (#44660937)

As much as the NSA/CIA/FBI whatever like to make you think they are God, they are in fact not. There are MANY ways to make a secure chat between two parties. No organization can be on top of all computers and all software all the time. If the parties involved have a chance to avoid physical surveillance, they are set. How will the spooks going to know which channel to listen in on? All of them? Fine. Needle in a haystack. Good luck.

Re:Pfff (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#44661231)

ELS looks interesting... how many book titles have ever been printed? Pick one, that's your primer.

Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661119)

It is ridiculously easy to agree on continuously changing keys for one-time-pad encryption. All you need is a bit of imagination.

If the media companies are really so afraid that they will spend millions to do face-to-face encounters, I would happily take half of those millions and give them a far easier, faster, at-least-as-secure alternative.

Seriously. This is utter madness based on ignorance.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661175)

Addendum:

TFA implies that public-key is a panacea. This is not true either. SOME of the vulnerabilities are mentioned. But while security through obscurity is not itself real security, the FACT is that public-key cryptography is simply not suitable for all situations.

In fact, given THIS situation, public-key cryptography presents exactly the SAME vulnerabilities as other methods that might be more secure in these circumstances. Namely, key management.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#44661353)

It is ridiculously easy to agree on continuously changing keys for one-time-pad encryption. All you need is a bit of imagination.

"The one-time-pad is the binary from the current 'This Week in the NSA' podcast."

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661379)

"The one-time-pad is the binary from the current 'This Week in the NSA' podcast."

Maybe I missed the morning news, but I'm not sure what you're saying there.

One Time Pad is the only encryption that mathematics says is not even theoretically breakable. As long as, that is, you use proper key management. Which isn't trivial, but it also isn't hard.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#44661435)

Maybe I missed the morning news, but I'm not sure what you're saying there.

I'm saying that finding a common set of suitably pseudo-random bits to use as a one-time-pad is rather trivial -- an MP3 (at least the bits that are the compressed data and not the text tags), a wav file from a commercial audio CD track, the jpeg image from an online newspaper, etc. And that you can display irony by using something the NSA itself produces (which of course there is no real podcast by that name or source, but irony needs not be factual to be irony) such as from here. [nsa.gov] You just have to agree ahead of time what to use.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661527)

"I'm saying that finding a common set of suitably pseudo-random bits ..."

Hah! Yes, I'm feeling a bit dense today. I should have picked up on what you meant right away.

Exactly. It doesn't have to be "random", it only has to be "random enough", which a podcast (starting at, say, 8 minutes 22.000 seconds) certainly is. As long as the key is unknown to others, and is halfway well-chosen, it might as well be "completely" random.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661587)

Haha. Ooops. Should have been 8:23.000. A good example of the problem of key management.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661705)

An MP3 is anything but random. MP3 files are highly structured, and even the compressed bits have structure. If you XOR an MP3 file with a text file, it'll be trivial to decrypt it, _especially_ by the NSA, who have been dealing with such tricks for decades.

One-time pads are the preserve of neophytes. OTPs are only "perfectly secure" if they come from _real_ random sources, and even then they're not perfectly secure. Imagine a string of all 0s, which if randomly generated should be technically as likely as any other bit pattern of that size. Now imagine that you intercept a message that is perfectly coherent; what's more likely--that's the RNG emitted all 0s, or that it was broken? Now imagine you have a file where the patterns of high bits suspiciously look like that of an MP3? What then? Obviously you assume a 7-bit file was XORd with an MP3 file, and soon you decrypt the whole thing, without even needing the original MP3. And the engineering to do it is taught in Crypto 101.

OTPs aren't used for real security engineering these days, except by old school spooks using ancient equipment. PKI is much more dependable.

Re:Holy Crap. Get A Grip. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661549)

A lot of people (including many cryptographers today) seem to have forgotten that effective entropy and actual, objective entropy are two different things. It all has to do with available information. If you don't have the information necessary to put semi-random bits into perspective, they may as well be completely random.

But again, it still depends on the bits being "random enough". What that is varies by circumstance.

Don't Do The Crime... (1)

wrackspurt (3028771) | about a year ago | (#44661155)

...If You Can't Do The Time!

With all the assets governments have arrayed against citizens of all nations you've got to assume you're going to burn.

Re:Don't Do The Crime... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661397)

"With all the assets governments have arrayed against citizens of all nations you've got to assume you're going to burn."

Wow. That's about the most pessimistic thing I've heard or read in ages. Next to, maybe, the guy on the streetcorner telling us all that we were all going to Hell, no ifs, ands, or buts.

(To be honest, I think maybe HE is the one going to Hell, and it has something to do with his butt. But I'm only guessing.)

Re:Don't Do The Crime... (1)

wrackspurt (3028771) | about a year ago | (#44661775)

Generally I think I'd rate as overly optimistic about the future but since 9/11 I think we've come to be so over policed and scrutinized that if you're going to go up against the system in a big way you're going to get caught and you're better off going in thinking you're likely to get caught.

cheers

Its not even that hard. (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#44661215)

When you're considering moving files around like that the transfers won't be random. They'll happen at specific prearranged times. As in "I am talking to you on the phone, send me the file now"... in such an environment, you could turn a home system into a file server for a couple minutes... pull the file down or push it or whatever... and then after the transfer was complete turn the file server software off. When things only blink into existence and are gone when called for it gives the black hats less time to mess with it. Sure, they could compromise your machine in addition to that. However, tracking and hacking will be more complicated.

Not just the NSA and GCHQ (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661289)

Its not just the NSA and GCHQ you have to worry about, that's only 'Two Eyes' and there are 'Five Eyes':
USA – National Security Agency
United Kingdom – Government Communications Headquarters
Canada – Communications Security Establishment
Australia – Defence Signals Directorate
New Zealand – Government Communications Security Bureau

The 'Five Eyes' have ongoing multi-lateral agreements to share information. So, for example, the NSA claims that it does not spy on Americans, and that is 100% true, (cross the heart, pinky swear), *but* they share with others, this is also true, so the CSE (Communications Security Establishment) in Canada 'Intercepts' information on 'Foreign' targets (Americans) and then the CSE shares that information with the NSA. Likewise the NSA doesn't spy on Americans, but *does* spy on Canadians, then shares the information with the CSE. Rinse, repeat. Its not just the CSE gathering American 'Foreign' intelligence, Britain can gather a certain amount of information from the American East Coast via Bermuda and via remote offices in the Grand Cayman Islands and Jamaica. Remember that the NSA can spy on Canadians from Alaska too, and Canada's east coast can be intercepted from either New York or from Britain. Overlap means (We're Watching You)^5. (Australians spy on the Kiwis, the Kiwis spy on the Aussies). There are American bases in Britian with NSA intercepts. But the information is promiscuous, so all information is pooled and shared (Britain can spy on Americans via the CSE, likewise Britain can spy on Canadians via the NSA). Actually 'spy' is not quite the right word here... 'information gathering, sharing and threat assessment'... maybe that's a better term. Oh, they also spy on countries outside of the 5 eyes, pool and share all of that too.

More (2)

Burz (138833) | about a year ago | (#44661389)

5. Protect against remote exploits with an OS like Qubes. [qubes-os.org] Use its TorVM and DisposableVM features to isolate different communication domains from each other. (Certain late-model hardware configurations are best used with Qubes.)

6. Go one better than Tor and use I2P. [geti2p.net] It uses routing that is more decentralized than Tor, and since everyone shares routing bandwith by default there is bandwidth to handle virtually all kinds of traffic... even bulk transfers and bittorrent. Security is also enhanced by having more users route traffic, and by communicating only with other I2P users by default. I2P have so far been successfully testing a distributed email system (I2P-Bote) which is far less vulnerable to attack than what you find on Tor (e.g. TorMail).

Re:More (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#44661445)

"Go one better than Tor and use I2P. "

No. What you want is OneSwarm [oneswarm.org] .

Not only does it store data in an encrypted, distributed fashion, it makes sure that it is not even theoretically (today) possible to tell what nodes on the network are supplying any particular data. That puts it a step above most other solutions, because it protects the sources, not just the downloader.

Cryptonomicon (1)

blackanvil (1147329) | about a year ago | (#44661461)

I'm reminded, in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, that the sultan of a fictional country declared that there, at least, there would be no monitoring, government interference, or strongarm tactics on the local Internet infrastructure. While I didn't learn of underwater-tapping submarines until the christening of the Jimmy Carter in 2004, I felt it was a bit of a stretch to assume that any transcontinental underwater cable wasn't tapped and monitored. Still, it seems it's better than the modern world, where I have yet to hear any country declare that here, at least, your communications, data, files, and so on are safe, even at an official level. I probably wouldn't believe it if one did declare itself a data haven, but still, it might help restore some belief in humanity if every single government wasn't essentially declaring war on its own citizens in the name of security. I don't see how this can end well.

Cheap Yet Devastaing Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661495)

The simplest answer: Encryption.

The huge edifice of intelligence gathering infrastructure, costing billions of dollars, that has been constructed by the NSA (and its foreign associates) can be toppled like a frail house of cards through the use of encryption.

If you don't understand encryption now, then learn. It's not difficult.

Using encryption will make the NSA, et.al. totally powerless now and for all future times.

Easy one (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44661517)

Open hardware machine, open source operating system, and good encryption.

The hardware is the only tricky part here but, in Snowden's shoes, I'd consider a ThinkPenguin running on battery good enough. For software I'd go with Trisquel or Debian (FOSS only). There are many good pieces of encryption software, just don't try to roll your own or use anything closed source or obscure.

If you're not prepared to go this far then you'll have great difficulty. Most important is to stay off the internet at all times! Maintain a 100% air-gap and transport data in person. This way you can use standard commercial hardware and more popular operating systems (and encryption is not required) but one must be prepared to destroy any hardware so utilised at a moments notice (very difficult). A raid can come at any time and, any such hardware seized in tact is a potential data breach.

I guess the Guardian has never really asked itself about trustless technical security before. However, just seeing that what they want to do can't be reliably done with Window's Dell machines is no justification for "It can't be done". There are plenty of people out there have to take real security seriously and manage.

Now you understand.. (1)

GigaBurglar (2465952) | about a year ago | (#44661585)

Why hackers do what they do.

Dumb title but article may clue a few (1)

yusing (216625) | about a year ago | (#44661683)

What a BS title. Snowden and Greenwald -were- using GPG/PGP ... long-established fact.

Dead man switch (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#44661715)

The recent approach of releasing encrypted insurance files is a good way to go. You put the data on a torrent and create thousands of copies, then give the key to a few dozen trusted friends. If shit goes down, one of the friends posts the keys in a public forum. It is simple and reliable.

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