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NSA-resistant Android App 'Burns' Sensitive Messages

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,17 days | from the many-have-tried dept.

Encryption 183

angry tapir writes "Phil Zimmermann's Silent Circle, which halted its secure mail service shortly after Lavabit, has released a messaging application for Android devices that encrypts and securely erases messages and files. The application, called Silent Text, lets users specify a time period for which the receiver can view a message before it is erased. It also keeps the keys used to encrypt and decrypt content on the user's device, which protects the company from law enforcement requests for the keys." Seems similar to pieces of the Guardian Project.

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Very little utility here (2, Interesting)

wbr1 (2538558) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756481)

I think this gives a false sense of security. Sure it encrypts messages on my device. And helpfully auto deletes them after the expiry has passed. However, if the person you are worried about gaining access to the messages can silently coerce the transport company (in this case your mobile provider), to release the contents of messages they have stored, of what use it?

Re:Very little utility here (1, Redundant)

wbr1 (2538558) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756519)

Well, after writing that based on the fairly poor TFS, I broke /. canon and scanned TFA. It seems the messages are sent encrypted with a temporary key. Not being an encryption expert, I would presume that you would have to transmit the temporary key to the recipient though, and that would be subject to attack. Not to mention the fact that you are sending encrypted message bringing more attention to you.

Re:Very little utility here (5, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757387)

If only there were some sort of secure way of exchanging keys over an insecure medium... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Very little utility here (5, Funny)

pla (258480) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757779)

If only there were some sort of secure way of exchanging keys over an insecure medium...

Saaay, someone should tell Phil Zimmerman about that - I'll bet he could really put it to some good use!

Re:Very little utility here (4, Informative)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758223)

I'm not confident that the NSA hasn't already solved the discrete logarithm problem at the heart of that method.

http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/08/crytpo-experts-issue-a-call-to-arms-to-avert-the-cryptopocalypse/ [arstechnica.com]

Even if the security is perfect, I have a hard time understanding why people would need it. If you were discussing something that were merely private that you didn't want anyone to ever know you'd have to convince the other person to install the app as well. Hey Dave, I have a secret I would like to share with you, but only if you install this app... You have to be really paranoid, or have a really valuable secret to divulge. I just don't see that many legitimate uses.

If you integrated it into android, where every text between two android users did the same thing, that would be valuable. So things would be secure and private by default.

Re:Very little utility here (4, Interesting)

oodaloop (1229816) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756531)

The mobile provider would only have encrypted messages, and the only way to decrpypt woulf be brute force or getting the keys on your device. I'm no expert though; I just read TFA.

Re:Very little utility here (2)

gl4ss (559668) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756595)

yeah it's the recipient who can copy the message.

he can read it, he can copy it.

this is just copying a feature from a popular teens chat program..

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757145)

Yeah and the keys are on your device. So all they have to do is record or otherwise acquire all the encrypted messages, then grab the phone.

So in the end it's not that different than if they just got your phone and there were unencrypted texts on it. The encryption and erasing aspects of this are useless which means the entire app is useless.

False sense of security.

Re:Very little utility here (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757369)

It isn't useless. A careful person could remove the keys every time they finish with the application. The application is simply a way to guarantee that your communication will not be intercepted, limiting what you need to worry about to the endpoints.

Re:Very little utility here (2)

ceoyoyo (59147) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757767)

Yeah and the keys are on your device.

The encryption and erasing aspects of this are useless which means the entire app is useless.

Put two and two together. Presumably the erasing aspect is less for erasing the encrypted message than it is for erasing the private key. That way the NSA can get a copy of the encrypted message and a copy of the public key, but they can't get the private key unless they happen to nab you and apply phone books and rubber hoses before your phone erases it.

Zimmerman is a pretty smart guy.

Re:Very little utility here (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758209)

Er, what? We just learned this summer that governments are sucking up EVERYTHING and storing it for god knows how long, and you think it's useless because you would need to obtain the device to read the content?

No way! At this point any kind of crypto, even the unauthenticated kind, is a good step forward.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757399)

I'm no expert though; I just read TFA.

FAIL!!!!

First off, everyone that posts here is an expert. Sometimes self proclaimed but expert none the less. Secondly, reading TFA is strictly forbidden.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756607)

1. The messages are not actual text messages. Silent Text's servers will delete them when the timer expires. Mobile carrier isn't storing them like emails, it's just a data stream requested by an app to them so they're not keeping it unless they're keeping all the data that goes to your phone all the time.

2. The data they have is encrypted so it's not quite an open book should someone get a hold of a message. Remember the keys are locally stored so it would have to be decrypted in a more intensive manner.

It isn't perfect and there are ways to intercept messages or coerce them from the middle providers but compare that to standard text messaging and you have an improvement.

Captcha: hostage

Re:Very little utility here (1)

Dr. Sheldon Cooper (2726841) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757125)

"...unless they're keeping all the data that goes to your phone all the time."

Which is exactly what they appear to be doing.

Re:Very little utility here (4, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756689)

Came here to say this. Without using shared secret encryption it either requires a (potentially coercible) central authority or is vulnerable to MITM attacks. And any kind of "time deletion" is only good for security on the receiver's device, not security of the message sent - the important thing to remember with computers is that if you can see it on your screen or hear it through your speakers, you can own it forever. No exceptions.

Re:Very little utility here (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756893)

Or public key encryption.
Private key on your phone, public key on that key server network that's used for encrypting and authenticating emails.

Re:Very little utility here (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757197)

Nope this can't work. Unless you physically control the server it could be accessed through coercion. If you send the public key to the server through the Internet using anything less than symmetric key encryption with a key that only you have, and have never sent through the Internet, that's at risk of being snooped by the NSA.

For a while I thought high-level ECDH SSL, if self-generated, might work as NSA-proof encryption but after reading this article [wired.com] I'm not so sure.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757385)

So the two phones would have had to be next to each other and exchanged a permanent set of keys to bootstrap the key management.
      Or exchanged some sort of physical media.
      Or trust a third party which as you point out seems less secure than where they are headed.

Once they have the permanent key, the receiver can use it to make a temporary public/private key pair to transfer the message.
    Deleting the temporary keys along with the messages prevents future physical access to the phones combined with the intercepted encripted message from working.

Why is there no utility here?

Re:Very little utility here (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757607)

So much for updating the decor of my secret volcano lair. I dont want my arch nemesis stealing my interior designer's plans. Guess we'll just paint the walls beige.

Yocals (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756799)

I think this gives a false sense of security. Sure it encrypts messages on my device. And helpfully auto deletes them after the expiry has passed. However, if the person you are worried about gaining access to the messages can silently coerce the transport company (in this case your mobile provider), to release the contents of messages they have stored, of what use it?

Yocal grunts who want to sift through your phone at a stop?

Re:Very little utility here (2, Insightful)

Rockoon (1252108) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756805)

I think this gives a false sense of security.

All senses of security are false.

Re:Very little utility here (3, Insightful)

thoromyr (673646) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757545)

this got modded insightful?

Hint, the more broad and absolute a statement is ("all" and "false") the less likely there is to be any truth to it.

I could see it being interpreted as "funny", but it doesn't really get past the joke stage.

Re:Very little utility here (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756819)

I am still trying to figure out what everybody is texting and messaging that is so private?
I kind of work on the idea that anything that private I say face to face.
I wonder just how much of this worry about the NSA is some form of narcissism. Frankly I am not important enough or interesting enough for the NSA to spy on me.
 

Re:Very little utility here (2)

Shompol (1690084) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757161)

People with sensitive correspondence should worry about this, such as: political activists, lawyers, company execs, gangsters, politicians. They already utlize "face to face" to the maximum extent, but by deploying a blanket wiretap the government is giving them a dilemma: become a luddite or risk your communication compromised.

Less likely, but even if you do not belong to one of the above groups then the government might be out to get you for any personal or political reason,they just need to mine your messages for anything that looks compromising to make an arrest. Or sometimes they need a poster child to show that their ter ror watch was fruitful, like the guy in Canada arrested for using word "blow" in his text message.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

LWATCDR (28044) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757205)

Political activist? No thanks they all seem to want to cause problems not solve them. They make money when people are upset. Left and Right.
Company Exec. Been there but the NSA is not an issue for that. Other companies and or your own people being dumb is the issue there.
Gangsters. Good bust them
Politicians. Good bust them.
Again not really an issue. I chalk it to narcissism. at this point.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757747)

There has not been a single case of the government using any of it's data to target and harm political groups in the country. There are also no cases of journalists critical of the government being arrested or disappeared because of their political leanings. Now they are people who have been arrested for leaking confidential data illegally but even in these cases the prosecutors have obtained legal search warrants to collect their evidence they plan to use in court. In fact there is not even any verifiable reports of any private citizens being harmed by the government using any of the data collected by the NSA, The only real threat is to companies trying to protect trade secrets or other confidential data from competitors. With all the screaming and hand waving over people having their privacy violated there doesn't seem to be any proof that they are being harmed in any fashion. People tend to use the words "In the future..", "slippery slope", and "possibly could" when describing the potentials for abuse but nobody seems to be able to find these great affronts to human dignity.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757257)

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." - Cardinal Richelieu

This app is maybe a good idea, we only need to find cellphones whose modem hasn't access to the whole addressable memory, like some models do, which forfeits all security of the app or the OS.

Re:Very little utility here (1)

cool_arrow (881921) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758023)

agree. I've often wondered how it is the nice people who put out "secure" apps and recommend them to dissidents, journalists, etc in oppressive regimes have never heard of baseband (radio) exploits. Also, apps can be run in the sim. The sim and baseband can be updated/programmed remotely. One doesn't know what's going on inside the sim or baseband.

Re:Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757343)

it is not about the individual messages, it is about the profile one can create about you (and anybody else) in the long term with just a mouse click. Everybody becomes completely transparent to forces behind the curtain.

No, it is not about narcissism, it is about a huge threat to democracy. Just look upon European history and see how mass surveillance of everybody and everything has oppressed people and their freedom of expression. People are not free when they are under surveillance.

Re:Very little utility here (5, Interesting)

RoboJ1M (992925) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756821)

There's a button on my Ubuntu PC for creating private/public key pairs and uploading the public key to a ring of public key servers.
Then, people can encrypt emails that only I can read because only I have the private key.
I've always wondered why this isn't better integrated/more automatic when it comes to email systems (gmail?)

Why not just leverage that type of mechanism?
1) Install app
2) it creates a key pair for your phone number
3) It uploads the public key to one of these servers
4) Anybody who texts you using a compatible app, it looks up your private key and encrypts the message only for you.

Job done.

If you can't fit the encrypted message in 120chars, it uploads the encrypted data to a 3rd party and all it sends is a message ID.
Or it uses IP only (like imessage/whatsapp)
Or is uses email as the bulk carrier
All those IP messaging systems must use a 3rd party anyway as you're always NAT'ed behind a real IP address anyway on a mobile connection.
I'm always on a 10.x.x.x address.

Re: Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757037)

Gmail by design wants to read your email. Google isn't going to implement a public/private key system into Gmail as a built in feature.

Re: Very little utility here (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757071)

The vulnerability they are trying to address is coercion of the central authority. All the NSA needs to do in your scenario is to get the directory to give out a false public key.

Re:Very little utility here (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757833)

I've always wondered why this isn't better integrated/more automatic when it comes to email systems

The extra step needed (entering passphrase to use private key) are too cumbersome for most people. Implementing a work-around to make it "easier" negates the whole point of protecting the key in the first place.

It can't get much easier than Enigmail in Thunderbird yet still nobody will use it. We live in the times of patheticosis.

Re:Very little utility here (2)

vux984 (928602) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758117)

I've always wondered why this isn't better integrated/more automatic when it comes to email systems (gmail?)

3 reasons

1) Technical - gmail needs to have your private key to decrypt messages sent to you with your public key. Or to sign messages sent by you with your private key. They absolutely cannot offer a webmail service, if they can't descrypt your mail to show it to you over the web. If gmail has your private key, its not a very private key. The NSA can just quietly ask google for the key.

2) Business - gmail wants to mine your data. They can't do that if they can't read it. The business model of gmail is incompatible with providing a service where they can't read your data.

3) Conveniencel - having to enter pass phrases all the time is a chore. Nobody wants to do it.

How to crack: (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756503)

1. Send order to Google saying, "give us unrestricted read/write access to the persistent storage of all android devices. Oh, and you cannot tell anybody about it."
2. Download the contents of all devices, including the keys.
3. Install keylogger to capture any necessary passwords.
4. Profit!

Re:How to crack: (1)

X0563511 (793323) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756593)

You don't even need to do the whole device. Apps run as their own user, so all you need to do is grab files owned by that user.

The only way around this is for an app to use 'su' to escalate it's privileges, which requires a rooted device.

Re:How to crack: (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757511)

The only way around this is for an app to use 'su' to escalate it's privileges, which requires a rooted device.

Why not go full paranoid and imagine that some of the custom ROMs out there are from the NSA?

Re:How to crack: (1)

Jartan (219704) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757515)

That's incorrect. On Android every app is a separate user. Only files stored in the "SD Card" area are visible to other apps. So in theory you need a root exploit to get at this data.

Re:How to crack: (2)

cool_arrow (881921) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758103)

If you can own the baseband you can own it all: http://vimeo.com/25806106 [vimeo.com]

Re:How to crack: (1)

X0563511 (793323) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758171)

That's what I just said?

Re:How to crack: (1)

thoromyr (673646) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757681)

no, no, they will need the entire file system just in case there was something else they needed. Once you've read government requests (I'm not talking the secret ones, just regular investigatory) the fishing expedition methodology employed quickly becomes apparent.

Re:How to crack: (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756641)

5. hacked rom authors discover this, post the information to their forums.
6. news picks it up.
7. Public outrage until some teen star twat shakes her butt on stange...
8 Rinse
9 repeat.

Re:How to crack: (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757281)

True, Miley's butt has mystical powers capable of calming a public outrage and uniting the menkind behind it!

Re:How to crack: (1)

briancox2 (2417470) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758255)

My steps:

1. Opt out completely by first installing Cyanogen.

Didn't we just talk about this? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756523)

Even below the obvious design flaws, you're still running on an untrusted, if not downright hostile, platform. The simple fact is that nothing is stopping Silent Circle from betraying you or Google from undermining their efforts.

Nothing is 3letter agencies resistent (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756535)

They will hang you upside down or send pictures of your family until keys are revealed. Don't be people naive. They own you and the country.

Re:Nothing is 3letter agencies resistent (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756631)

Pretty soon they will just be able to use Van Eck phreaking on your head and see all your thoughts anyway.

You still can't control recipient devices (5, Insightful)

Wrath0fb0b (302444) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756545)

The "Burn Notice" feature lets the sender set a time for a text, video, voice recording or picture to be erased from the recipient's device.

No, it can't. The recipient could be using a tampered application that ignores the timeout directive. Or it could modify the JVM to lie to the executable about the time or refuse to fire timers. Or modify the JVM to write all the memory transactions to disk (or host) even after the application frees (or GCs) it. Or modify the screen rendering APIs to capture the rendering. Or attach with JDB over ADB and halt the executable while the plaintext is in memory and slurp it out. And, of course, there are apps in the store that will just take a video of the screen.

FWIW, I support the app and I believe the encryption-in-transit is a very worthwhile feature. But the "Burn Notice" is, from a security point of view, useless. If you trust the recipient with the plaintext, you trust the recipient with the plaintext, end of story. Anything else is DRM-esque attempts to put restrictions on a device that you do not own.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

X0563511 (793323) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756605)

AFAIK an app could execute binaries that it packages. They just execute within that user's context. It doesn't have to be done via the JVM.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756643)

Exactly. I can't understand why anyone in technical circle would not scream SCAM! at this claim to be NSA resistant.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756687)

"Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead,"
                    -Benjamin Franklin

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756847)

Oh, but you can put up a lot of barriers. The application can let its temporary message key require one level of decryption from a central time-aware server that periodically forgets its private keys. Now "central time-aware" sounds bad, so you use a series of secret keys distributed across a network, and just where the route ends up depends on the encrypted key. Now you need to infiltrate the whole network and keep _all_ servers from forgetting any keys. But they have limited storage each, so... To be resistant against single servers getting taken down, one can work with a bit (but not too much) of cryptographical redundancy.

Of course, once upstream is in the hands of the NSA, it is a question of time before the whole thing falls apart, but the falling apart will
a) be noticeable
b) not be fast enough to satisfy any particular eavesdropping request in time to get a hand on the message.

Of course, the way to go here is keyloggers etc. The way against that is dedicated devices not doing anything else, and not having enough storage capacity to do anything else.

If you are serious about this, you can do a lot that is not easy to bypass without physical access to the sending/receiving device.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

PointyShinyBurning (1174001) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756953)

You trust the recipient to use the software correctly so that it protects the plain text from anyone who might later take his device off him.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757017)

You guys screaming about the recipient being able to keep a copy of the message are looking at it from the mindset of a teenaged boy worried about the picture of your undersized junk you sent to your ex-gf being able to be forwarded to the whole school after she gets long boned by the captain of the football team, and dumps you.

Think about it from the POV of two people colluding together. If either gets caught, the other is safe(r)- as long as they set up timed self-destruct of messages. They have no reason to circumvent those controls. It's not perfect, but better than clear text and/or a central repository.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757043)

No, it can't. The recipient could be using a tampered application that ignores the timeout directive.

Now is probably a bad time to point out that all phones have the ability to have their firmware rewritten and software updated silently, and this functionality is enabled by, er... turning it on. Any data stored on a mobile phone is inherently, by design, enforced by hardware mandate... insecure.

You cannot secure a mobile phone anymore than you can build a bull pen using construction paper and string and expect it to hold an angry bull. Stop trying people. Fix the fucking hardware, then maybe all your "There's an app for that" nonsense might mean half a shit. And while we're at it... rapid frequency shifting spread spectrum technologies and mesh networking. Look it up. Put THAT in the phones. Then we'll see about telling the NSA how many different ways they can go fuck themselves.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757267)

all phones have the ability to have their firmware rewritten and software updated silently, and this functionality is enabled by, er... turning it on

[Citation (badly) needed]

Truthiness is strong with this one.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757697)

I've always wondered what living under a rock is like. Would you be so kind to share your experience with me?

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

cool_arrow (881921) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758221)

google "baseband exploit" http://vimeo.com/25806106 [vimeo.com] Also, there is something called STK or simtoolkit ( a gsm standard protocol). Big business like banks can make deals with carriers to run apps securely with the sim card. It isn't used so much in the usa but the capability is there. The way the sim card gets programmed via specially formatted sms with the proper keys etc.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

zzsmirkzz (974536) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757447)

If you don't trust the recipient, why would you send them encrypted messages? The point of this feature is to close the "I forgot to delete it" hole that exists and represents the "this message will self-destruct in xxx time" concept. Of course I understand you may be referring to the ISP installing or modifying the phone's software so as to get a copy of the plain-text and this is a valid, although unlikely, concern. The fix (and only fix) is to make sure the plain-text is also encrypted in some form so that only the true recipient can read/understand it. The stronger encryption protects it in transit, the weaker encryption protects it from those with access to the device.

Re:You still can't control recipient devices (1)

cellocgw (617879) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757785)

The "Burn Notice" feature lets the sender set a time for a text, video, voice recording or picture to be erased from the recipient's device.

No, it can't. The recipient could be using a tampered application that ignores the timeout directive

Ok, the solution is obvious: don't depend on recipient software to do the deletion. Rewrite the sending app so it sends ,instead of standard IP ones and zeroes, nanobot-bits which are preprogrammed to self-destruct after a set period of time. Being nanobot-bits, they can't be copied either, due to the Sokal Lemma modification to the Post-Hermaneutic Uncertainty Principle.

How do you securely remove on android ? (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756603)

You might try overwriting the data, but that makes the assumption that a write is to the same place as the data was a second ago. Ext3 does not guarantee that and SD cards avoid it to ensure wear levelling. It is harder than you think.

Re:How do you securely remove on android ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756987)

You don't commit unencrypted data to persistent storage and overwrite data in RAM before you remove references and allow the garbage collector to free it. No protection against the darn screenshots that Androids takes every other corner to fake responsiveness.

WTF, PRZ? (3, Interesting)

Cajun Hell (725246) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756609)

TFA makes it sounds like the sender can make decisions about what the receiver's machine does. That is insane (and also impossible, or it's irresponsible to lead users to believe they'll get that). I hope I am misreading the claim.

If the receiver has that control, or if the sender gets to specify advisory info in the hopes that the receiver uses it, ok. If not, then I think one of the most respected programmers ever (PZ) has left the path of wisdom.

Re:WTF, PRZ? (1)

will_die (586523) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756865)

No, you the receiver can make the decisions.

Software like this is old, even Microsoft sell software with similar options.

Instead of using the normal mail you have to you their software. Since the email only unencrypts in that software it can control how long it is kept, if you can forward it, if you can save it, etc. So unless you do screen captures if the sender only wants you to be able read it once that is all the software is going to allow you to do.

Re:WTF, PRZ? / private key weakness (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757777)

Also, what about the weakness that an update of the app (forced on them by NSA/etc) may send your private keys upstream. Like Mega they claim it is hands-off, but in reality there is a mechanism through which they could obtain the private key if pressured/blackmailed/waterboarded/whatever.

Why not have the NSA rm -rf your messages for you (1)

BreakBad (2955249) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756611)

I randomly insert the string "Lindsey Lohan" into my text messages.

this does not decrease incarceration (3, Insightful)

nimbius (983462) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756623)

in rare cases NSA wiretaps reveal information about terrorist plots. in most cases of warrantless NSA spying however they do not. the purpose of NSA wiretaps is often used as a guilt generation and conviction assurance mechanism. Yet when it fails to produce any satisfactory outcomes, as this device would preclude it from doing so, the laws can and are frequently adjusted accordingly to suit the prosecutiorial entity. expect the installation or presence of this software to be acceptable grounds for the confiscation of your phone and further investigation of you and your property.

Re:this does not decrease incarceration (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756965)

Fears of incarceration add up to [pull number from ass] 5% of privacy concerns. That's the reason that installation of privacy software won't ever be a red flag meaning "investigate me." Even the blandest whitebread law-abider worries about his credit card # being copied by someone when shopping.

Law Enforcement is an excellent example to use as an attacker, because in some cases they are so incredibly powerful. The have more resources than most opponents for making the attack, and they generally intend fairly extreme harm (usually they're not looking to kill you, though they might, but even a mere week of imprisonment would seen by most people as being a worse thing to happen to them, than having a few hundred dollars lost of fraud).

But the fact that LE (with NSA as being an upper bound) is used as the example, doesn't really tell anyone anything about the people who use or design software. Computers made some forms of overkill (e.g. huge keys) cheap, so if you've got an application where it's reasonably cheap to defend against NSA, you will probably use that same defense against all adversaries.

now we just have to trust google (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756633)

Now we just need to trust that the App store is hosting an uncompromised version of the app and that your phone has an uncompromised OS.

Not just Google. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756719)

And that devs didn't submit a compromised version of the app, and that the key escrow/exchange was not compromised on Silent Text's or ISP's level, and that the other side doesn't run a compromised version, intentionally or not.

Other than that, yeah, it's bulletproof.

Re:now we just have to trust google (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756727)

But Google's motto is "don't be evil" so obviously they would not do something like that, besides even if they did they would probably use Linux which makes it neat!

Just Stop.. (4, Insightful)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756655)

When the hardware, the software, and the transport medium are all compromised it is moronic to continue this "security" game.

The idea of a secure phone app is laughable (1)

Marrow (195242) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757029)

The only way to win is not to play.

Re:The idea of a secure phone app is laughable (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757151)

Exactly. Either that, or realize that it is unsecure and treat it as such.

Re:Just Stop.. (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757227)

When the hardware, the software, and the transport medium are all compromised it is moronic to continue this "security" game.

Or encode your messages OUTSIDE of the technology. At one time codes and cyphers were used for secret correspondences before creation (writing on paper) and transmission (hand carried by courier), but of course that takes effort at both ends.

Zimmerman eh? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756693)

So instead of the NSA your message gets sent to the Mossad.

How long before ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756753)

Sadly, I'm forced to wonder how long before it will be illegal to do anything which would prevent the NSA from spying on you.

Because, after all, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear.

Trust No One (3, Insightful)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756767)

It is closed source right? And even if it is not, you need to be able to build the binary from a vetted copy of the source and associated libraries.

Re:Trust No One (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757349)

With a vetted compiler that was compiled on a vetted compiler ...........

Incoming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756793)

NSA takedown on this small app companie in 3 2 1....

That or the owner of the company caught with 10 tons of cocaine while writing on the wall F... AMERICA with the blood of a child.

Re:Incoming... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757059)

Takedown? Don't be daft, a NSL (National Security Letter) ordering them to mod the app to CC all traffic (unencrypted) to us is more efficient..
If people are trying to hide it, we definitely want it (even more than we want everything anyway).

Best regards,
/NSA

The host is compromised (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756827)

Don't tell people you can provide security if the host is already compromised. With Google able to replace software on the device any time and authorities able to copy every bit by just plugging the device into their forensic system, there's no defense against remote or local attacks. You're giving people a false sense of security.

Can we get first time key exchange for email? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44756967)

A positive step, but I'd like to simply have encryption for email. Currently Thunderbird supports SMIME, but the certificate authorities are not trust-worthy. Either they're US based, or in one case an Israel PO-Box number.

We just need a certificate authority that is genuinely independent of the Stasi, and issues certificates automatically per email. Many of them want ID information or claim to generate the key in the browser, but yet send a packet back to their own server with a big chunk of data which might contain enough info on the private key and ID info. Comodo I do not trust. That other free one, is clearly a trap.

If I could set Thunderbird to only trust *my* chosen certificate authority and it truely could be trusted, then S-MIME would be fine.

Really we need someone like Zimmerman (a trusted reputation), but not subject to US based sanctions and NSA surveillance/attack/coercion/bribe to set up such an authority and email clients like Thunderbird to generate the private key when you set up the email address in a nice friendly way.

Encryption is NOT MAGIC (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,17 days | (#44756971)

What people seem to fail to recognize about encryption is that it's not some kind of magic that makes the data perfectly "secure" forever. All it does is vastly increase the work factor for an attacker to read the data, because he first has to reconstruct the key.

Moore's law, GPU programming, and elastic clusters are radically lowering the costs of brute force attacks. An organization with the nigh-unlimited resources of the NSA is going to be able to crack your file a lot faster than J. Random Hacker. I imagine they have thousand-node GPU clusters. One cannot rule out the possibility that the NSA also has introduced or discovered shortcuts that weaken common crypto algorithms/implementations.

Not just your average Slashot poster, but Snowden himself seems to have fallen into the misconception that encryption is forever. Both China and Russia have access to the ciphertext of his full stash of documents. It is probably a matter of a few years, tops, before their best experts and supercomputers get their hands on the clear text.

The bottom line is, encryption can protect your data for a while, but the only way to protect it forever is to keep it from being intercepted.

Re:Encryption is NOT MAGIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757243)

I disagree. If I send my travel plans to my son, that's none of the NSA's fucking business. If encryption can keep my travel plans secret from the NSA's wanna-be Putin till after I've done my travels then how does it matter?

I don't need encryption to protect something forever, I need it to protect me from an NSA General who wants to be Putin-of-the-USA. For that it only needs to protect me till the info becomes stale and of no value to General Alexander/Putin.

Re:Encryption is NOT MAGIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757633)

Because when the place you visited becomes loosely associated with some sort of trouble ten or twenty years later, you're now at the top of the list of suspicious persons for having used encryption to hide the fact that you were there. Enjoy your sudden mandatory Caribbean vacation.

Re: Encryption is NOT MAGIC (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757783)

Back in the day, we used to differentiate between what we called tactical security, and strategic security. You are again pointing out that tactical security is a lot easier to do.

The NSA screwed themselves and everyone else (4, Insightful)

Theovon (109752) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757117)

We need an organization whose mandate is similar to the NSA. When the FBI, for instance, lawfully obtains evidence that gives them probable cause to get a warrant to invasively follow a chain of evidence, we need this information-gathering capability.

But the NSA over-stepped their bounds, broke the law, and betrayed all Americans and their allies. As a result, people are now more motivated to produce tools to evade organizations like the NSA. Because American citizens have the right to privacy, and they now have to go out of their way to get it, criminals are now gaining more sophisticated tools they can also use to evade the NSA. Looking at the other comments, the app mentioned in particular here isn't necessarily all that effective, but give it time. Pretty soon, you'll be able to put up an impenetrable wall around your data that the NSA can't break through.

The "problem" with this is that there are only two groups who will use these tools. Innocent privacy enthusiasts and criminals. The NSA will be unable to distinguish between them, essentially making rationally paranoid people targets of criminal investigations. And the NSA will be stupid about everyone else, seeing people NOT using encryption as low-hanging fruit, criminalizing countless innocent citizens merely in an effort to show that the NSA is catching *someone*, justifying their enormous budget. (In other words, they will make up criminals to justify their existance.)

If the NSA had obeyed the law, we wouldn't be in this mess, where it is inevitable that we can no longer spy on real criminals, probable cause or not.

Re:The NSA screwed themselves and everyone else (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44758173)

The "problem" with this is that there are only two groups who will use these tools. Innocent privacy enthusiasts and criminals. The NSA will be unable to distinguish between them, essentially making rationally paranoid people targets of criminal investigations. And the NSA will be stupid about everyone else, seeing people NOT using encryption as low-hanging fruit, criminalizing countless innocent citizens merely in an effort to show that the NSA is catching *someone*, justifying their enormous budget. (In other words, they will make up criminals to justify their existance.)

Exactly this - use of encryption for everyday communication has to become ubiquitous. As it is, anybody using encryption becomes a target on that basis alone. It's a shame there aren't any tech giants with the influence & market share to make this happen who aren't already damaged goods WRT privacy issues.

Legislation will surely prevent this though - if it starts to become a problem, there will be further laws banning/restricting strong encryption, or requiring that the keys have to be available if requested by the government, etc.

And it still does nothing about collection of metadata.

Protecting the company .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757121)

The subject says :

"which protects the company from law enforcement requests for the keys."

Actually no, it does not. Thats not the way the laws actually work. If you are company in the US making software, you are subject to a number of laws, and one of them is ( Pub. L. No. 103-414, 108 Stat. 4279, codified at 47 USC 1001-1010 ). You either start complying ( i.e. change your software so you can fulfill the requirements ) , or you cease to be a company in US.

Would a robust firewall help? (1)

Belteshazzar (202070) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757139)

Does robust firewall software exist that can fully lock down a phone to only allow voice stuff over the radio and restrict data in/out to certain protocols and apps? Or by using a phone do you have to accept the fact that Google/Apple/Microsoft or your service provider have full access to your device at will?

A little safer than a computer in a hotel lobby (1)

Marrow (195242) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757433)

Thats how I would treat any computer (or phone) that I did not install myself. And frankly, I think even the cpus might have backdoors now.

Re:Would a robust firewall help? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757845)

Root your phone and install AFWall+. It's a ruleset builder for iptables which lets you select access to different network interfaces on a per app basis (white- or blacklist)

It is however no use against backdoors in kernel space or on the hardware level.

Want NSA Proof? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757217)

Then use a 1 time pad book and hand encrypt and decrypt your text messages. The NSA will never EVER decrypt your communications. Why has nobody made that simple app? a 1 time pad file that you pre-share out of band and then have it send and receive your text messages. Under Android this would be trivial.

Re:Want NSA Proof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,17 days | (#44757437)

QR Code to share the book might be intresting.

Re:Want NSA Proof? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757899)

and also easy to do. but not automatic. if you had a flatfile you can automatically have the app auto increment the pad for every message sent to make it nearly invisible.

Then when you are to the last 10 it warns you to get a new PAD file.

you just have to be able to share the pad file out of band.

not nsa proof at all (1)

dan_in_dublin (833271) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757563)

even if the message is sent encrypted thus preventing attacks from the network under govt coercion.. which would be a step forward, does android let you do this ? technically it wouldnt be hard but is there a way to say to android that this type of sms should be opened with this application ?

however, security wise - the keys to decode the message and the messages are on the device. so when the app does to delete the message does it really delete ? probably not, the underlying os may well leave the message and just delete the filesystem reference. similarly for the keys. so if the device is confiscated, there's a good chance all the encrpyted messages can be recovered. also if the nsa dont run the app after confiscating the device then the app wont be able to delete its data store

with respect to the sender specifying how long the message can remain without being deleted. this depends on the receiving app honouring the 'delete after n days' part of the message. if the receiver installs a clone silent sms program which doesnt honour such requests they'll never get deleted. so the security offered to a sender is assured by the difficulty of creating a clone app. this difficulty depends on the effort silent message makes, if they dont explicitly engineer for that kind of security it will be trivial, if they do explictly engineer for that then it'll be medium difficulty. more than this cant be achieved with this architecture

So the NSA can read it... (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | 1 year,17 days | (#44757907)

Not that I'm a fan of that, but there are far worse regimes. The NSA, GCHQ etc. should each host secure email systems that of course they can read, but Bashar al Assad, Hosni Mubarak, Robert Mugabe etc. (in fact anyone other than the country that runs it) should be denied access, even if they are an ally. That way a dissident could pick a secure email service from a country they trust. It's not an option you have to use, but it would be an interesting option to have.

Demand Privacy Now (1)

SmaryJerry (2759091) | 1 year,17 days | (#44758045)

This is an amazing development. Honestly no one should be able to read your e-mail ever, even law enforcement, unless the recipient or owner of the e-mail is the one reporting a crime. The fact the government has had power over the post office for a long time and used the threat of mailbombs, anthrax, trafficking as an excuse to open it is no longer an excuse for law enforcement to be able to simply read anyone's digital message. Communication alone isn't going to harm anyone. Start going after people for actual crimes, not future crimes or misinterpreted e-mails. Everyone needs privacy and we need it now. There is no freedom in being monitored.
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