blog.mirabellette.eu

A blog about digital independence and autonomy

Some news about the blog 5 : July-August 2018

Written by Mirabellette / 10 september 2018 / no comments

Hello Everyone

I decided to publish each month an article about the blog in general. Contrary to what I said, I decide to publish this article each two months. I think now it is not really relevant to publish it each two months. In this article, you will be able to know:

  • What I achieved during this period.
  • What I accomplished for the community.
  • How is the blog and services popular.
  • Balance sheet of the period.
  • Some words about what I think for the next period.

This article is about the month of July-August 2018.

Period achievements

Articles

Events

  • Nothing special.

The blog

  • Improve the accuracy of the statistic tool.
  • I added a count of the RSS request by day group by IP address. It helps me to know if the blog interests people.
  • I added a little text about personal data I store and how I manipulate them.

Give back to the community

  • As I based my filter from a Github repository of bot, I can now extract automatically bot which request my website and which are not in the Github repository. I will extract this list of bot each month and add it to the Github repository.
  • I published a little commit on Mastodon about the documentation.
  • A little donation as each month for an association or service I find useful.

Balance sheet of the period

Statistics for this period

Some charts about the month of July:

how_many_views_each_day_july how_many_views_by_page_july referer_july.jpg

Some charts about the month of August:

how_many_views_each_day_august how_many_views_by_page_august referer_august.jpg
  • Except the days around the publication in social media, visits are around 30 by days

My point of view

I got a little time off at the end of August. I did not really know what I can write about and I was questioning myself about the sense of it. Even if I know I primarily write for myself, I expected to bring something useful to the community. I begin to accept this blog will not change something and I begin to think about using my time in a better way.

For the next month

  • I do not know.

Classified in : Blog / Tags : none

Why and when install a custom Android distribution?

Written by Mirabellette / 04 september 2018 / no comments

Hello guys,

Sorry for the little delay but I was not sure about what I wanted to write for the month of September.

android_logo

Introduction

Today, I would like to talk about operating system for mobile and especially those based on Android. For those who do not know, Android is an open-source operating system and each manufacturer may customise it with features or tweaks. A customise Android operating system is called a distribution. I do not know the IOS environment that is why I will not talk about it here.

A little lexicon below:

  • IOS: Iphone operating system
  • FAD: Factory Android Distributions
  • CAD: Custom Android Distributions
  • Why and when install a custom Android distribution?

    The issues with the Factory Android Distribution (FAD)

    manufacturers make a lot of work to provide a good mobile phone. However, they are motivated by money contrary to the users who are motivated by good experience and good products.

    Firstly, the most important issue is about updates. Android mobile phone tends to be in general updated for only two years. After this period, your smartphone will not be updated anymore. That means it will contain known vulnerabilities without any possibility to fix it.

    As your phone has very sensitive features (GPS, microphone, camera, sensitive personal data). A mobile phone compromise could create a lot of issues. For example, the GPS could be used in an abusive way. An example with the recent vulnerability published the 29th of August.

    You can find below the list of Android system deploy on smartphones.

    android_version_distribution

    You can see in February 2018, there are:

    • Around 10% in Android 4.4 (published in October 31, 2013)
    • Around 25% in Android 5.0-51 (published in November 12, 2014)
    • Around 28% in Android 6.0 (published in October 5, 2015)
    • Around 25% in Android 7.0-7.1 (published in August 22, 2016)

    I do not know if you understand how bad it is. That just means around 90% of the FAD are not up to date and contain known vulnerabilities. Or, if we are less exigent, it is 65% which is obsolete. For me, that just means one thing. Never trust your Android smartphone or the Android smartphone of your friends. IOS (the operating system for Apple phone) is better but not perfect about security update. I do not find the chart but most of the devices are "up to date".

    Secondly, as they are interested mainly by benefits or have to follow government rules. It appears that some device tracks phone calls, contacts, data and phone usage.

    Pros

    • Custom Android Distribution (CAD) generally tends to provide a more recent Android version. That means better security, better performance, better features and better autonomy
    • CAD do not contain manufacturers features and improvements. You are also free not to install Google applications. That means no tracking features.
    • CAD generally add features which are able to improve the management of your cellular phone. That means, for example, have a better tool to manage backup, update or security. They often have features to manage privacy more precisely. Some applications are made by the maintainers and are free to install.
    • I do not know about the other distributions but LineageOS community provides a very good tutorial about how to install it on your smartphone. An example can be found here with the Galaxy S3.

    Cons

    • Replacing the Factory Android Distribution by one of your choices is not easy and required time. You need to understand the different steps of the process and how an Android operating system works in the main line. Contrary to what you could think, you will not develop at all. You also need to do a little analyse about what you will earn and lose and you need to make the required backup. It required me approximately 12 hours to do it and have a mobile phone which was fully operational whereas I had not a lot of knowledge about the process.
    • CAD do not contain manufacturer features and improvement. It could be positive but it could also be negative. You could lose manufacturer tweaks and have worse performance. You will never know before making a try.
    • Most of the time, unlocking the bootloader (which is a step required to replace your Android distribution) will stop the guaranty.
    • Some features may not work properly (high consumption energy, cameras which do not work or even crash sometimes). However, it could be fixed in the next release which is published each week on LineageOS. For example, I was for one month without a front camera and GPS.
    • Less stable than FAD, the mobile phone may crash and have a higher possibility to lose your data when update. Hopefully, you also have a better tool to get it back but it could not work all the time.

    When to replace the factory Android distribution?

    lineageos_logo replicant_logo

    For casual users or users who do not want a lot of issues,
    when your mobile phone is not updated anymore. When you are in this situation, that means your mobile phone is older than 2 years and the CAD should be quite stable. The tutorial should be quite complete. Issues should be known, fixed or with some work around available.

    For expert users and experimental users,
    some months after the manufacturer releases the new phone. It should let to the maintainers the time to develop enough stable version for your phone. In case of issues, you should be able to roll back to the previous release on your own.

    Advice and warning about a mobile phone with CAD

    • Choose a mobile phone quite popular. The most you have people who use it, the most it is probable than a custom Android distribution will support it well. Quite popular does not mean with a lot of hardware backdoors, you have some choices.
    • Do as little as possible with your phone. First of all, because the mobile phone environment is far more dangerous than the desktop environment. Proprietary applications can literally siphon your data, track your location, use your camera, heard around you.

      Even if you are up to date with a recent phone, your mobile phone could be exploited to hear what it is around you, to locate you, to film around you. Secondly, because you use a CAD, it means less stability, you should be ready for it.

    • Each custom Android distribution has his own purpose. Choose carefully the one you will install regarding stability, performance, security and maintainability.

    Conclusion

    You now have some arguments to make your decision.

    Sources

    Social media

    If you find this article interesting, feel free to subscribe to my RSS flux and to follow me on Mastodon. Don't hesitate to share it if you think he could interest someone else.

Important principles in cybersecurity - 2

Written by Mirabellette / 01 august 2018 / no comments

Introduction

Today, I would like to share the second part of the article about important principles in cybersecurity. You can find the first part of these articles about cybersecurity here.

No usability means no security

Probably one of the most important principles in cybersecurity. When you are a professional of security, you are concerned about the risk of leaks and passwords disclosure. That means you are ready to make to some effort to prevent this. However, even if you are aware of that, it is tiring and exigent.

Let's go with an example most of us know. Imagine you have hundreds of website you need to log in. Nowadays, websites ask for complex passwords with long size. People which are not concerns about security will choose a password and they will write it next to their keyboard or worst, easy thing to remember. That means, even if you force the user to use only very difficult passwords, if it is not easy for him to pass it, he will find a way to do it easily.

Speed is crucial

Each day, there are multiple vulnerabilities which are published and accessible by anybody. In an interview given by the NSA, they claimed to be able to transform a vulnerability into a usable exploit in 24 hours. That means, if you are targeted by them, you should be able to patch your services and systems before the exploit is ready. If an agency can do that in 24 hours, we could presume just another agency can fix and deploys with the same efficiency in 24 hours.

Come back to the real world, where we are just system administrator and developer which are maintaining systems and applications. Patches tend to be created before exploits are spread. It was the case for Petya and not Petya. That means, if you are fast enough, you can update your systems before they are attacking. But what can you do if you cannot?

layer

Multiple layers of Security is the answer to threats

You must admit that each of your security layers could be vulnerable and compromised. It is your responsibility as system administrator, software developer or cybersecurity expert to reduce the vulnerability of the layers you are responsible for to the minimum. An example of the effective layer could be the user management system in all operating system. There is a normal user with reduced right and a superuser or root who has more right. It is a basic advice on security but not everybody really follows it. Even in the cybersecurity field where the famous penetration distribution Kali Linux has only a user with all right by default.

Always be sure about the information before doing something

There is a lot of mythology and approximation in every field. Cybersecurity is not avoided by that. As an important position in a company, your words matter and could have important consequences. That means you must be sure about what you say. Oftenly, people speak without knowing enough. For cybersecurity, that means you should answer these 3 questions:

  • Is the vulnerability real?
  • Could some of our systems or application be threatened by them?
  • Should I or how can I mitigate it?

Most of the time, people will ask you about the vulnerability/threat before you have a clear idea of the situation. It is important not to make a presumption. The more just you will be about what you know, the more you will be able to well react to the situation.

Let's make a try with the shiny vulnerability Efail.

efail

We have a wonderful website, one public communication from EFF about what we should do BEFORE any information was publicly disclosed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an international non-profit digital rights group based in San Francisco, California. EFF recommends to immediately disable and/or uninstall tools that automatically decrypt PGP-encrypted email. They are very listened by all of the people and have a quite good reputation. However, if we do what they recommend, that means changing something based only on the trust we have in them. At this moment, your shiny warning should be ringing a lot and asked you to wait for a little in order to know more about that.

The day later, the vulnerability explanation was published. When we read it carefully, it appears it does not concern OpenPGP but only some products which manage emails. Please to find below the specific conditions which are necessary to let an opponent exploit it.

  • Your email manager must be vulnerable.
  • Your email manager must decrypt encrypted email automatically.
  • You must have the private key of the encrypted email loaded in your email manager.
  • You must have HTML rendering enabled.
  • You must open the email.
  • An attacker must have encrypted contents he wants to decrypt from you.

For me, if we listen to the noises made before the explanation was released, it was a very high critical vulnerability. But after the reading, it was sensitive but not so critical as the noise could let imagine. Mainly because there are a lot of things required to exploit the vulnerability. The NIST quite agrees with me; it gave to the two vulnerabilities behind Efail a complexity grade of high and a global grade of 5.9 (medium).

This was an example to wait and be sure to have enough information before doing something.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy this second article about cybersecurity. The tone I used was a little bit more engaged than usual.
Feel free to comment if you want to add ideas or discuss it. If you find this article useful, you can subscribe the RSS flux of the blog or follow me on Mastodon. Don't hesitate to share it if you think it could interest someone.

Sources

Some news about the blog 4 : June 2018

Written by Mirabellette / 10 july 2018 / no comments

Hello everyone

I decided to publish each month an article about the blog in general. In this article, you will be able to know:

  • What I achieved during this period.
  • What I accomplished for the community.
  • How is the blog and services popular.
  • Balance sheet of the period.
  • Some words about what I think for the next period.

This article is about the month of June 2018.

Period achievements

Articles

01/06/2018

Events

  • Nothin special during the month of June.

The blog

  • Improve the accuracy of the statistic tool.

Give back to the community

  • A little donation as each month for an association or service I find useful.

Balance sheet of the period

Statistics for this period

I continued to improve the quality of the statistic tool. I think It currently filters 95% to 100% of bots or attacks. The data analyzed should since the middle of June be very close to the real human traffic.

The article of June was read by a really few numbers of people. As it wasn't about technology, I talked about it only in Mastodon. For me, it was an important article because philosophy and responsibility should be behind each of our action. It is not the truth, because it is very hard to do it but it should be.

More details about the statistic of the month:

view_this_monthdays_with_most_read most_article_read referer
  • Pages were viewed 400 times this month.
  • The article the most read this month was the translation of the hosting of Firefox bookmarks with 234 views.
  • The second article the most read was the orignal article of the hosting of Firefox bookmarks with 65 views.
  • The third article the most read was the article of the month of June, the knower oath with 25 views.
  • Once again, most visitors came from journalduhacker

Contrary to the month of May, I got "just" 450 views for the blog. I am not disappointed at all. Its still something huge for me. Even if only one reader finds my articles useful, it will be a success for me.

My point of view

I didn't do a lot of things during this period. I was quite busy and I didn't write the page about how I manage personal data. The only personal data I stored are ips address for one month and referer. This helps me to have better accurate statistics and to respect European law.

For the next month

  • I still have to publish a page about the data I manage here regarding to the GDPR. It will contains information about the statistic tool I build and why I collect data.

Classified in : Blog / Tags : none

Important principles in cybersecurity - 1

Written by Mirabellette / 01 july 2018 / no comments

Introduction

This blog is focused on privacy and digital autonomy. However, digital privacy could not be possible if you do not know about cybersecurity. Today, I would like to discuss cybersecurity and especially about principles, I think they are important to keep in mind when you begin to think about cybersecurity. This is the first article of a series of I think two or three articles. To begin with, nothing better than to define the terms. Let's listen what Wikipedia say about cybersecurity:

Cybersecurity, computer security or IT security is the protection of computer systems from the theft of or damage to their hardware, software or electronic data, as well as from disruption or misdirection of the services they provide.
Cybersecurity includes controlling physical access to system hardware, as well as protecting against harm that may be done via network access, malicious data and code injection. Also, due to malpractice by operators, whether intentional or accidental, IT security personnel are susceptible to being tricked into deviating from secure procedures through various methods of social engineering.

The important principles

Security is a process, not a product

During one of my previous jobs, a client asked me about what I am concerned the more about security in the company IT service. They have devices which are used by a thousand clients, cloud systems, and websites. For me, they have multiple weaknesses which could be abused, but I decided to say an unexpected answer. My most important concern was about how they manage cybersecurity. Security threats and vulnerabilities will always occur, it is inherent to computer science and product. What it makes the difference is how you manage it.

As often, I don't get the idea from nowhere. It is a famous quote from Bruce Schneier. Why security is a process and not a product. Threats and counter measure constantly evolve. Even if you enable every security feature today, at year +1 or year +3 you will have something to do to be "secured".

Some example here of things you should do manually:

  • Enable new security features, SE Linux, Content Security policies ...
  • Replace old cryptographic cipher by new
  • Verify update were done, some update could disable automatic update, Wordpress did once.
  • Law evolves and you should add new features or modify some, GDPR for the last well know example
  • Dealing with a compromised system
  • Dealing with a world breaker vulnerability (hihi hearthbleed)

Nothing is invulnerable

invulnerable

I am sorry to tell you but, if you think your system can be invulnerable, you should probably need to make some research about that. Even a computer not connected to the internet could be compromised. Stuxnet did well with disturbing Iranian nuclear plants in 2012. Nuclear plants which were not connected to the internet and run on a specific system. The only thing you can do to protect your systems it is to have a good cybersecurity policy and dedicate time to work on this.

Another good example, with this important rule, is in cryptography. A lot of people recommended to store data in Google, Microsoft or Amazon cloud services. When you asked them about privacy, they just replied by encrypting it and it is ok. I am sorry, but it is not ok, not ok at all. Do you really think a file encrypted with nowadays technology could resist in 5 years, 10 years or 20 years to the technology improvement? Even the highest secure current cryptographic standard will be broken in a reasonable time in 30 years, probably before. If you want to know more, you just have to make some research about quantum computing .

Cybersecurity is not easy

I read in some place that cybersecurity is easy. You just have to do this and this and this and you are secure. Or doing this and this and this and you have now compromised 10000 computers. Yes, but in no. I am sorry to tell you, but in general, in computer science, it is not doing the thing which is complicated. What is complicated is to understand how it works behind and to model the solution. This took plenty of time and required dedication and abnegation. An example, who is coming to my mind is when hackers made presentations about offensive cybersecurity. They often say it requires just 10 lines of codes to take control of something.

For me, they are all newbies. First of all, because they need 6 lines of code whereas you can do it in one line code (troll inside :p). Secondly, because the number of lines is not the point. The hard part of hacking is not writing a code, it is understanding how it works and how to make things together. If you show how to compromise a camera linked to a computer connected to the same Wifi you use, you need at least to understand:

  • How a local network works
  • Which system is connected
  • How to identify if it is vulnerable
  • How to penetrate to him
  • Which kind of print you let behind you

If you don't understand one of this step, you are a script kiddy which does things without understanding what he is doing. When I began this part by saying they are all newbie, It has been just provocative. I have an immense respect for other people and I truly know that I know just a few things with a lot of things I ignore.

Cybersecurity cursor is dictated by threats and associated risks

As for development, you need to have a cursor in order to avoid to spend your time in tasks which are not very important or, in cybersecurity, fighting against nonexistent risks. I think the most relevant indicator is the threat model. What do I have to protect against? If I have to protect against a government agency, I will tell you honestly, it is lost. If they really want to catch you, they can deal with it. In this case, the best thing to work around is to avoid to interest them in doing a bad thing.

My case is a little bit different because I am passionate about defensive security and work in this field. That's why I try to have the most secure stuff as possible. Even doing that, I know it is not enough, I accept it. Knowing threats and associated risks will help you to know what you have to prioritize. For example, if you are an unknown blogger as I am with an online website. I should not interest government agency or professional black hacker so I attached a very low probability to be attacked by them (still a possibility, you never know). I should also be attacked only by internet. If I do something offline, It should be "safe".

So, in my current situation, the most likely threats will come from the internet. It should be from bots. The second one in my threat model list is another blogger/tech guy which dislikes me or try to discredit me. This kind of person could have a high skill in computer science. That means they will probably attack the website with more specific tools than bots have but they will not persevere a lot (I hope). That's why I decided to set a security level to at least moderate (from my security ladder, a high level means the system should be able to resist to a professional pirate and a very high level means for me the system should be able to resist to a government agency).

In my scenario, I have to deploy and enable features to resist to bots and most common weaknesses. Concretely, that's why I decided to use Pluxml product. It is far less popular than Wordpress and Joomla that means bad people will less look for vulnerability and if they find one, there are few chances It was included in a bot. However, the maintenance of PluXml is currently quite abandoned, that is a problem and I will probably have to switch to another product. A high level of security would imply a static website, no available services; a very high level of security, no website at all.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoy this first article about cybersecurity. The tone I used was a little bit more engaged than usual. You can find the part 2 here.
Feel free to comment if you want to add ideas or discuss it. If you find this article useful, you can subscribe the RSS flux of the blog or follow me on Mastodon. Don't hesitate to share it if you think it could interest someone.