Skip to content

Protect your email the German way

Last summer, German secure email provider Posteo faced a do-or-die moment: give in to police threats to seize its servers or fight back in court. Investigators in the state of Bavaria had contacted the Berlin-based startup because they wanted the identity of a Posteo account holder who was thought to be using the service for illicit purposes. But Patrik and Sabrina Löhr, the husband-and-wife team who run the swiftly growing email provider, told police time and again that they simply couldn’t comply: Posteo is an anonymous email provider; it doesn’t store any data on its customers’ identities.

“We went around in circles with the authorities,” Patrik Löhr says. “But when we looked at their search warrant, we saw that it didn’t, in fact, give them permission to search our whole office. They were only allowed to receive a list of our bank transactions – which they already had gotten from the bank.” Löhr filed a suit against police officials, accusing them of intimidation. That move, the media attention it generated, and a stated commitment to transparency made all the more relevant in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks, has helped Posteo become one of Germany‘s fastest growing email providers with a business model of fee-driven, privacy-oriented email services.

The immediate effect of Posteo’s tangle with the German authorities was the pressure it put on global telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom. Just days after Posteo released Germany’s first transparency report on government requests for information, Telekom dashed out its own paper detailing the extent of its cooperation with police and intelligence officials. The revelations were eye-opening. In 2013 alone, Telekom gave authorities in Germany nearly as much data on its customers as ATT and Verizon had furnished that same year to US law enforcement.

This resulted in Germans ditching American email providers in Posteo’s favour. “We went from 10,000 subscribers before the Snowden leaks a year ago to 70,000 today,” Löhr says.

SSD – Why you should not upgrade to a SSD on privacy grounds

The most dangerous assumption is that magnetic drive erasure techniques will work on Flash based SSD drives, so lets discuss what’s different between these two very different technologies.

Assumption 1 – Magnetic Erasure tactics work on SSD’s

“Flash based solid state drives (SSD’s) differ from hard drives in both the technology they use to store data (flash chips vs magnetic disks) and the algorithms they use to manage and access that data.

There are no agreed erasure standards for SSD’s – every state authority issues different guidelines.

Assumption 2 – Manufacturers built in commands will work

Manufacturer implementations of secure erase commands were found to be faulty or have catastrophic bugs;  this has resulted in all data remaining intact on the disk.

Wei et al (2010) tested 12 drives.  Only four drives executed the “ERASE UNIT” command reliably.  One drive reported erasure as successful, when all the data remained intact.  Two more drives suffered coding flaws the prevented the “ERASE UNIT” command working, unless a firmware reset had taken place.

Wei et al (2010) stated that “The wide variance among the drives leads us to conclude that each implementation of the security commands must be individually tested before it can be trusted to properly sanitise the drive”.

This is an important point – Manufacturer claims are not verified to be true, yet consumers rely on manufacturers claims when purchasing hardware.    Clearly there exists a SIGNIFICANT number of issues, enough that perhaps the EU ought to verify the erasure ability of drive manufacturers.  This issue appears to be the ability to implement “Secure Erasure”.  It’s so badly implemented, that in a huge percentage it simply doesn’t work at all, let alone as advertised.  The laws to fine both manufacturers and retailers exist under current Trading Standards laws.  Failure to work as advertised also impacts on EU Data Protection laws; where a user has taken steps to erase sensitive data such as encryption keys, passwords, banking and financial data, the erasure then does not take place (worse still the drive may alert the user that the erasure HAS occurred).  The user may sell or donate the drive to third parties, trusting in the manufacturers coding of secure erasure commands.

Assumption 3 – All erasure is safe

We use the mnemonic “LAD” to the three levels of erasure; Logical, Analogue and Digital.

Logical is the LEAST safe.  The data can be forensically recovered.  Where users overwrite parts of the drive, equivalent to CLEARING in NIST 800-80.

Analogue is the most SAFE.  Analogue makes reconstructing the signal effectively impossible, it is equivalent to PURGING in NIST 800-80.

Digital means disk overwriting and then deletion, but may not erase bad blocks (these often contain data).


Assumption 4 – Cryptographic erasure is safe

Firstly the drive stores the encryption key.  An analogy for this is to fit the world’s strongest burglar alarm, and then hide the door key under the front door mat.

AES is a symmetric cipher, which means a single key.  The key to encrypt is the same key that decrypts the data.  If this single key can be recovered – you’re in BIG trouble. EVERYTHING depends on the strength of the encryption… now here we enter the realm of the cryptologists, and they have a lot to say about AES 128 and AES 256.

Amongst cryptologists, AES 128 & 256 have been openly criticised.

Schneier attempted to add extra rounds to make AES robust – but the cipher became too slow to use.  The reduced rounds used in AES are it’s Achilles heel.  Too read more on AES, look for Schneiers work from 2000.

That “cryptographic erasure” doesn’t look so great now, does it?

Assumption 5 – Pages vs Blocks.

Flash memory is broken into pages and blocks.  An analogy is pages and books.  If we wish to erase a single page, SSD’s make us erase the entire book.  The program operations that apply to pages can only change 1’s to 0’s.

Erasure operations only apply to Blocks (or the entire book), and set all the bits in a block to 1.

So SSD’s are not equipped for erasure.  Yet if we can write to pages, why doesn’t the coding to ERASE pages exist?  Surely the need to erase data was considered?

Assumption 6 – We can overwrite single files

Since we can only erase entire blocks, file level erasure is not possible.  Overwriting a file only provides logical erasure.

Assumption 7 – Data Remnants – what’s this?

Digital remnants on SSD’s can range between 6 and 25% of the entire drive.. yes, a quarter of the SSD drive may hold “remnants of data”, which has massive implications for privacy.

Assumption 8 – The Capacity of the drive is as advertised.

In SSD’s the drives are often larger than they advertise as their logical capacity.

Assumption 9 – Only 1 copy of a file exists.

In SSD’s up to 16 stale copies of a file may exist. Even if you overwrite one file, there are another 15 copies that can be forensically recovered.  Again, this single point has massive implications for privacy.   How are you going to locate these floating around copies?


The differences between hard drives and SSD’s potentially lead to a dangerous disconnect between user expectations and the drives actual behaviour”, (Wei et al, 2010).

I would suggest that the EU test and verifies built in drive erasure commands to ensure compliance with Trading Standards.  If the onus is placed back on the manufacturer, the manufacturer will test and verify that erasure works.  It’s simply a case of “follow the money”.  Consumers are not able to carry out such testing, as they do not have technical ability to recover data to ensure the code works.  Therefore we need to force manufacturers to carry out “due diligence”.



Happy 2nd Birthday – Thank you so much for your support!

Today is the second Birthday of the blog… and it’s time to reflect, on the incredible popularity it’s gained, which has blown me away.  It’s gone from 14 hits a day… to 1,446 hits a day in just 2 years.

This year,  in August, you guys, averaged an unbelievable 1,446 hits a day…. WOW!!

8-17-2014 5-10-02 PMToday, the figures achieved a weird symmetry, on our birthday we arrived at 545, 545 hits. Yay!!

  blog 2nd anniversity hitsThat’s insane.  Simply, ridiculously insane, but thank you all so much for your support and comments. 

I’m so proud of my little blog, and so proud of you guys for supporting me.

By Christmas we may reach 2/3rds to 3/4th of a million hits.  That’s amazing for InfoSec ..


PS. If you want any Kali tools, hacking tools, password crackers, VPN’s, Network Security, buffer overflows or encryption tutorials written, just leave a comment and tell me :)

TENE – Privacy Journal – Big Data for All: Privacy and User Control

Tene is legendary within the privacy arena; this journal illustrates that:

“Data is generate from online transactions, email, video, image, clickstream, logs, search queries, health records and social networking interactions; gleaned from increasingly pervasive sensors deployed in infrastructure such as communications networks, electric grids, global positioning satellites, roads and bridges as well as in homes, clothing and mobile phones”, (Tene, 2013).

Take away message.

Data is aggregated, and this is where the real evil occurs.  It’s not the actual data but the INFERENCES from that data that may harm both the individual and society.

Tene (2013) made the point that “the benefits of big data do not always (some say, ever) accrue to the individuals whose personal data are collected and harvested.  We could add that all the risks are borne by the individual and all the profits taken by the data mining corporations.  If that makes a person unemployable, society has to provide benefits to feed and house that person because they are unable to work, directly related to data mining.  The EU’s “Right to be Forgotten” has to re-balance the economic impact of data mining.

Where people have been declared bankrupt, legal restrictions allow the slate to be wiped clean after 6 years to rehabilitate them into society.  However the impact of Facebook and Google are that the records remain forever.   This is where the EU’s Right to be Forgotten is critical. 

50 cents of data mining profits need to be balanced against the economic costs of feeding a persons family and housing them because they are blacklisted due to Google’s search results.

The benefits system in the UK would run to say £400 a week for housing and food support.  Taxpayers and society bear this £400 cost, which Google would want us to  pay forever (as they keep their data forever). 

This effectively was the case brought before the EU – and they placed European civilians and taxpayers ahead of Google’s profits.  This makes good economic sense, for person affected and taxpayers.  The Right to be forgotten is vital, and must be enforced by Europe – we can’t afford to fail.

Cisco 3750 IOS Update


Awesome Cisco Router blog!!

Originally posted on SupraFortix Blog:

This post demonstrates an Internetwork Operating System (IOS) replacement on a Cisco 3750 48-Port Layer 3 switch. The demonstration utilises various types of hardware and software all described further in the post.


CISCO 3750 48-Port Switches

The initial connections have to be established to the first switch to begin this test. Of course power on the right side and a console cable on the left.

The console cable has to be converted to a USB cable with a serial to USB converter.


PUTTY.EXE is used to create a serial connection between the laptop and the switch. Putty is a simple to use tool, usually utilised to establish SSH or Telnet communication to remote systems.

To establish the connection open up Putty, choose a Serial connection, keep the speed default and write appropriate channel number of the serial connection and hit Open. That should open up…

View original 876 more words

Google’s Nest Smart Thermostat Can Be Hacked to Spy on Owners,news-19290.html

LAS VEGAS — Google’s Nest “smart” thermostats may be the most secure devices in the “Internet of Things,” but can still easily be hacked into, three researchers showed today (Aug. 7) at the BlackHat security conference here.

Yier Jin and Grant Hernandez of the University of Central Florida, along with independent researcher Daniel Buentello, demonstrated that by holding down the power button on a Nest device for 10 seconds, then plugging in a USB flash drive, one can inject malicious software that can take over the device.

Normally, the Nest will accept only firmware updates “signed” with the company’s cryptographic code. But pressing the power button while plugging in a USB device overrides the security, allowing anyone to upload custom firmware.

So what’s the big deal about hacking a thermostat? Well, the researchers explained, the Nest is much more than just a thermostat. It’s actually a full-fledged Linux computer with 2 gigabytes of flash memory, Wi-Fi networking and proximity sensors.

The Nest can tell when you’re home or not, knows your postal code, knows your Wi-Fi network name and password (and stores them in plain text and can communicate with other nearby Nest devices using the company’s custom implementation of the Zigbee mesh-networking protocol.

The Nest routinely uses the Internet to communicate with the Nest cloud, but can be modified to contact any other device on the Internet. As such, mass compromising of Nest devices could be used to create a malicious botnet to pump out spam or malware — or sell information about homeowners’ habits to burglars.

“How the hell are you ever going to know your thermostat is infected?” Buentello wondered. “You won’t!”


Take home message:

This burglar risk applies to smart meters that control electricity to your home.  GCHQ and privacy activists both agree – DO NOT INSTALL a smart meter.

Burglars can access both the smart meter and the Google thermostat to detect when you are away from home.  A burglar can monitor the “pattern” of your habits.. know that you go out early on a Sunday.. or stay out late on a Saturday… either way, it provides an attack vector against you.  Now.. will insurance companies pay out on a burglary where your devices transmit your movements?  Surely the next stage will be that insurance premiums will rise if you use a smart meter, or some companies may refuse to insure you.  Either way, you should prepare for discrimination and social profiling that increases your premiums.

The 20 most hackable CARS revealed: Report lists the smart vehicles that are most at risk of having their systems hijacked

Security experts have warned for months that smart cars are vulnerable to hackers, and now a pair of researchers has revealed the specific vehicles that are at the greatest risk.

Chris Valasek and Charlie Miller studied the schematics for a range of cars from the 2006 Range Rover Sport to this year’s BMW 3 Series.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee and 2015 Cadillac Escalade were the most vulnerable of the cars studied, while the 2006 Ford Fusion and 2010 Range Rover Sport were listed as two of the most secure.

A car’s wireless ‘attack surface’ includes the range of features that can be hacked, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile network connections, key fobs, and tyre pressure monitoring systems.


2014 Jeep Cherokee ++ ++ ++
2015 Cadillac Escalade ++ + +
2014 Ford Fusion ++ - ++
2014 Dodge Ram 3500 ++ ++
2014 BMW X3 ++ ++
2014 Chrysler 300 ++ - ++
2014 Range Rover Evoque ++ - ++
2014 Toyota Prius + + ++
2010 Toyota Prius + + ++
2014 Infiniti Q50 ++ + +
2014 Audi A8 ++ +
2010 Infiniti G37 - ++ +
2014 BMW 3 Series ++ +
2014 BMW i12 ++ +
2014 Dodge Viper ++ -
2014 Honda Accord LX - + +
2010 Range Rover Sport - -
2006 Range Rover Sport - -
2006 Toyota Prius -
2006 Ford Fusion
*A ‘+’ sign means a car is ‘more hackable’, and a ‘-‘sign represents a ‘less hackable’ vehicle.*A car’s wireless ‘attack surface’ includes the range of features that could be hacked, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, mobile network connections, key fobs, and tyre pressure monitoring systems.The network architecture includes how much access these features give to the vehicle’s critical systems, such as the horn, the steering and brakes.

Cyber physical relates to capabilities such as automated braking and parking sensors that could be controlled using wireless commands.

The network architecture includes how much access these features give to a vehicle’s critical systems, such as the horn, the steering and brakes.

Cyber physical relates to capabilities such as automated braking and parking sensors that can be controlled using wireless commands.

‘Automotive security concerns have gone from the fringe to the mainstream with security researchers showing the susceptibility of the modern vehicle to local and remote attacks,’ said Mr Valasek and Mr Miller.

Judge: Microsoft must hand over Dublin data for crime investigation

Microsoft must turn over a user’s emails to U.S investigators investigating a narcotics case, according to a New York-based U.S. District Judge, Loretta A. Preska.

While that may not seem to be an unusual story, what makes it unique is that the information the investigators seek is stored in a Microsoft cloud data center in Dublin, Ireland.

Aye, there’s the rub. The ruling means that data stored overseas by U.S.-based corporations is still subject to U.S. extradition laws, even in the presence of laws in other countries that prohibit such things.

This is a bellwether case, one that has inflamed corporate passions to the point that several Microsoft competitors have coalesced around the Redmond, Wash.-based tech company. Joining Microsoft in this battle are heavy hitters such as Apple, Cisco Systems, Verizon and AT&T.

The judge’s ruling claimed that the overriding principle was who controlled the data, not where it was stored. Since Microsoft owned the data, it could retrieve it without running afoul of Irish law.

This is a complex situation, to be sure. There are many arguments pro and con, and validity to both viewpoints. The larger issue is that privacy law issues — which are still very much in flux — must be settled within the U.S. legal system, and they can then be applied to cases such as these.

In an editorial , Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel and executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs promotes the idea that the U.S. government can obtain emails only subject to the full legal protections of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure), meaning that the government must issue a search warrant; and search warrants are not enforceable beyond our shores.

Smith also noted that privacy protections under the law are stronger for personal communications, under which emails, texts and instant messaging should be covered. He also raises the spectre of turnabout, should other countries follow suit. He claims that Britain has already passed a law requiring tech companies to produce emails stored anywhere in the world. He makes the case that this could apply to American citizens’ emails stored in the U.S by a UK-based corporation.

Take home messages

1. Cloud computing is not private, nor do you have control.  It’s basically “landlord tenant” law, where you are a mere tenant.

2. European law must apply within Europe.  This is an issue of jurisdiction.  It seems impossible to contemplate that a US judge could decide her courtroom has precedence over European Data Protection laws, but yet, this is this case before us.

3.  It would be a wise move for the EU to mandate the use of encryption keys.  Then mandate cloud storage to be encrypted.. and the keys held by EU only companies, so that “control” is not in the hands of US companies…  the data is encrypted by order of the EU, and can only be released with an EU court order.


Analysis of Linux Filesystems – How to Compare Ext3, Ext4, Btrfs and XFS

Linux offers numerous filesystems, there’s little speed gain between them, but they are each optimised for a different task.   Here we compare each system.

1. Ext3

Journaling > Faster than Ext2 > Meta-data journaling

Negatives: FScheck is slow > Max filesize is  2 TB  >  Max Volume Size is 16 TB  > The limits are bad for data centres > Max number of Sub Directories is 32,000 > No Delayed Allocation > No Snapshots > No encryption > No Clones > No Compression > No Deduplication > No Integrated LVM.

2. Ext 4

Delayed Allocation = Minimises Fragmentation > Extends = Large file performance > No limit on number of Sub Directories > Journal uses Checksums for reliability > Backward compatible with Ext3 and Ext2 > Meta-data Journaling

Negatives: Theodore Ts’o considers Ext filesystems as 1970’s technology and would prefer Btrfs > Max filename length 255 > Max file size is 16 TB > Max Volume size is 1 EB > No Snapshots > No Clones > No Encryption > No Compression > No Deduplication > No Integrated LVM

3. Btrfs

Copy on Write filesystem > Built in Volume Manager > RAID Support for 0/1/5/6/10 > Checksums for data integrity > Copy on Write means all or nothing is written to disk.  Self healing using copies > supports Snapshots > SSD aware > Supports TRIM wear levelling block discard > Max filelength name is 255 > Max file size is 8 EB (Linux kernel limit) > Max volume size is 16 TB > Clones supported > Compression > Deduplication > Integrated LVM

Future plans include: In-Band Deduplication, improved on/offline filesystem checks, encryption, swap partitions, incremental backups.

Negatives: Relatively new, not tried and tested > features lead to minor performance penalties.  No Meta-data journaling > no Encryption

4. XFS

64 bit Journaling system > Stable > Handles large filesystems > Max file size is 8 EB (Linux kernel limit) > Max volume size is 16 EB > max filename length is 255 > Delayed Allocation > Meta-data journaling.

Negatives: No Snapshots, no encryption, no compression, no deduplication.



An SSD disk has a greater influence on I/O performance than filesystem selection.

This is little performance gain between the filesystems – they all perform well.

The latest features such as volume management, RAID integration, snapshots and self healing would lead to Btrfs.

Very large filesystems which require rock solid stability would tend towards XFS.

Ext4 is a balanced compromise, that excels at meta-data operations.

CVE-2014-3950: A Document Encryption Vulnerability Disclosure


Nice one!!
Congratulations on CVE 2014 3950!

Originally posted on XeroCrypt Blog:

This is my first relatively major vulnerability discovery that I’ve been sitting on for two months, and almost forgot about until now. It was purely by chance, when I decided to look at an ‘encrypted’ document in a hex editor (for no good reason). I had set the encryption and a password was required to open the file in Kingsoft Writer, but I found a line of the plaintext was still readable. Here’s a screenshot of the hex dump:


Unsure of whether the encryption failed to work completely, I ran the same test again, this time with a larger file and using ‘Microsoft Enhanced RSA and AES Cryptographic Provider':


In the hex dump for this, portions of the plaintext were visible again, and most of it encrypted.
After further experimentation and mapping out the document’s file structure, I discovered that Kingsoft Writer doesn’t encrypt the file, but instead a…

View original 382 more words


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 146 other followers