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Going overboard on computer security?

 
 
BillRM
 
Reply Sat 6 Jun, 2009 04:43 pm
Am I the only nut here when it come to computer security who take precautions way beyond any likely threat model.

Right now I am decrypting the hard drive on my netbook in order to be able to do a security upgrade and for the few hours that netbook computer is not going to have any WDE protection and I find myself uncomfortable for that reason.

Now beyond a “few” mp3 files that might annoy the RIAA there is zero of a questionable nature on my drives and nothing either in my life or on my computers that would call for any kind of forensics examination by law enforcement let alone a NSA level examination.

Still when I view the news and see that the first thing that law enforcement does now days is to seize someone computers and carry them out the door with information concerning the person search history and files shortly being release to the news media, I say to myself that my computers are never going to be able to be used as a tool against me.

So is my wife correct that I am the only one that is not a spy/terrorist/drug lord that would place security on his computers that would give the NSA a hard time?


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Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Mon 8 Jun, 2009 11:20 pm
@BillRM,
BillRM wrote:
Now beyond a “few” mp3 files that might annoy the RIAA there is zero of a questionable nature on my drives and nothing either in my life or on my computers that would call for any kind of forensics examination by law enforcement let alone a NSA level examination.


I'm actually quite relieved to see you say this, paranoid is a lot better than a pedophile and the encryption paranoia really had me wondering. With all your talk of encrypting your hard drive and paranoia about the government you made me wonder on multiple occasions if you have an illegal porn stash or if you were just a bit off your rocker.

Quote:
So is my wife correct that I am the only one that is not a spy/terrorist/drug lord that would place security on his computers that would give the NSA a hard time?


Of course not. But look, stop being so paranoid. You don't even have control over the bulk of your data. Your activity is logged by your ISP as well as all the sites you visit. Remember that guy who did Google searches about how to kill his wife? Well it doesn't matter if he used all the encryption in the world, they can just get that info from Google.

Relax, if you don't have anything illegal or hugely valuable on your computers then you really shouldn't be that concerned. Plus, the paranoia about the small amount of time that you are unencrypted is really silly. Being afraid that your computer could one day be used against you is one thing, but being paranoid about the hour it's unencrypted is another. What exactly do you think might happen in that hour that has you worried?
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 03:19 am
@Robert Gentel,
Robert no child porn or anything else that would get me in harm way. No plans for an attack on the Empire state building or the Hoover Dam for example!

I am not worry about my music files as they are also are on my mp3 player with zero protection and if that would likely get someone in trouble then a very large percent of the total population would also be in the same boat.

I do have credit cards and banking and tax information for myself and others on my hard drives that if lost or stolen would or could cause me and others harm however if not protected so there is some rational reasons to protect my hard drives.

As of now all anyone who find or had stolen one of my laptops would find on it boot up screen is my name and cell number and nothing else and yes the hard drive lock now build into almost all drives would be enough protection but why not used even more then that. The overhead of truecrypt is very small after all.

Oh I can not be track by my ISP ID either you had hear of tor and other means of stopping such tracking I assume? No way for anyone to find that I had or had not google a search concerning killing my wife.

Not that I would do so as it took a long time to find a woman that would put up with me for more then a few months and I do not know if my remaining life span would allow me to find another such woman<grin>!

Yes Robert that feeling of being unhappy with having a drive not encrypted for a short time is not rational however it is still there.
old europe
 
  2  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 03:32 am
http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/security.png
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 03:38 am
@old europe,
Please stop making me laugh so hard as it hurt to do so this earily in the morning!
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 09:22 am
@BillRM,
BillRM wrote:
Oh I can not be track by my ISP ID either you had hear of tor and other means of stopping such tracking I assume? No way for anyone to find that I had or had not google a search concerning killing my wife.


Of course I've heard of TOR, I contributed to its development years ago. But it really won't make you untrackable. Like the name suggests, it's just another layer of security. It does not mean it's impenetrable and all your traffic at the exit node is unencrypted.

It is a good layer of security against broad traffic analysis in order to identify who and what to target, but once targeted it isn't much protection. See here:

"One cell is enough to break Tor's anonymity"

Quote:
The Tor design doesn't try to protect against an attacker who can see or measure both traffic going into the Tor network and also traffic coming out of the Tor network. That's because if you can see both flows, some simple statistics let you decide whether they match up.

Because we aim to let people browse the web, we can't afford the extra overhead and hours of additional delay that are used in high-latency mix networks like Mixmaster or Mixminion to slow this attack. That's why Tor's security is all about trying to decrease the chances that an adversary will end up in the right positions to see the traffic flows.

The way we generally explain it is that Tor tries to protect against traffic analysis, where an attacker tries to learn whom to investigate, but Tor can't protect against traffic confirmation (also known as end-to-end correlation), where an attacker tries to confirm a hypothesis by monitoring the right locations in the network and then doing the math.

And the math is really effective. There are simple packet counting attacks (Passive Attack Analysis for Connection-Based Anonymity Systems) and moving window averages (Timing Attacks in Low-Latency Mix-Based Systems), but the more recent stuff is downright scary, like Steven Murdoch's PET 2007 paper about achieving high confidence in a correlation attack despite seeing only 1 in 2000 packets on each side (Sampled Traffic Analysis by Internet-Exchange-Level Adversaries).

What Fu is presenting in his talk is another instance of the confirmation attack, called the tagging attack. The basic idea is that an adversary who controls both the first (entry) and last (exit) relay that Alice picks can modify the data flow at one end of the circuit ("tag" it), and detect that modification at the other end " thus bridging the circuit and confirming that it really is Alice talking to Bob. This attack has some limitations compared to the above attacks. First, it involves modifying data, which in most cases will break the connection; so there's a lot more risk that he'll be noticed. Second, the attack relies on the adversary actually controlling both relays. The passive variants can be performed by an observer like an ISP or a telco.


The point isn't to make you more paranoid by pointing out the holes in your perceived security, but to make you realize that for all this work and worry you haven't gotten much more for your efforts than someone who takes the basic security measures because if you are really worried about NSA-level stuff you just aren't anywhere near being that impenetrable.

Listen to your wife! She's right this time. I think I'm pretty paranoid myself, but you seem batty-paranoid to me and if you really have nothing to hide on your computers I don't get how this can possibly be worth it for you. Hell it only makes you seem suspicious and you are going to be the weakest link like Old Europe's cartoon illustrates if push comes to shove.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 09:52 am
@Robert Gentel,
Traffic analysis is nice but hardly a threat as it would take NSA to even try something like that and NSA is not going into open court for any criminal case, as we both also know. Hell even NSA would be hard press as the tor network go by way of hundred of countries some not at all friendly to the US.

Nothing is 100 percent in any case but no court order after the fact can be used to track my ISP traffic to google as we both know after going by way of tor.

So Robert what IP addresses is the local police and courts going to ask google to check for my search history?

Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 09:58 am
@BillRM,
BillRM wrote:
So Robert what IP address is the local police and courts going to ask google to given them to check my search history?


I really don't understand your question, and in any case if ya wanna be paranoid I can't help you. You know it's overboard so I'm not going to try to convince you.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 10:03 am
@Robert Gentel,
Convince me that a local police department is going to be able to get a list of tor output nodes IPs along with times of my traffic to be able to have google check my search history?

No you can not convince me that is a real threat.
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 10:10 am
@BillRM,
BillRM wrote:
So Robert what IP addresses is the local police and courts going to ask google to check for my search history?

According to you, there's nothing for them to find anyway, right?



Computer and network security basically comes down to risk analysis. What is my risk, and what reasonable steps can I take to reduce the risk? I don't think you've performed that risk analysis properly.

Are you at risk of a lawsuit if data on your computer is compromised? Are you at risk of criminal prosecution if data on your computer is compromised? If the answer to both of these questions is no, then you are actually creating additional risk by using whole-disk encryption.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 10:17 am
@DrewDad,
Actually, case law is still being worked out to determine if encrypting data will actually protect one against prosecution:

Judge orders defendant to decrypt PGP-protected laptop

Quote:
...

At issue in this case is whether forcing Boucher to type in that PGP passphrase--which would be shielded from and remain unknown to the government--is "testimonial," meaning that it triggers Fifth Amendment protections. The counterargument is that since defendants can be compelled to turn over a key to a safe filled with incriminating documents, or provide fingerprints, blood samples, or voice recordings, unlocking a partially-encrypted hard drive is no different.

...
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 10:31 am
@DrewDad,
Added risk of what?

As far as I know there is no law that state it is illegal to have my disk encrypted and as far as added risk of lossing date I had not seen any problem with truecrypt or any of the other such programs I had used going back to the windows 3.1 days.

I also keep backups on top of backups all in encrypt form.

Second there are something like 600,000 laptops misplace or stolen at airports in the US alone every year and I do travel with the netbook and I do go to places like Denny and BN and the library where my netbbook could be loss.

I have a number of years of tax returns of not only myself but family and freinds on it drive along with credit and banking information of myself and my family and on and on.

Something that would cause me and many others a great deal of lost sleep if the drive was not so protected and the computer lost.

So what added risk are you talking about?
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 9 Jun, 2009 10:45 am
@DrewDad,
At the moment the weight see firmly on the side of not being force to hand over a password and in any case the courts will take most of my remaining life time to grind to a conclusion.

The boarder is a very special case however and it will be interesting what will happen in the case you had posted about.

But for the fun of it I had decided if requested to unencrypted my drive by US custom agents during my return from my next foreign trip I am going to refused to do so and just allow them to seize the computer to see what will happen.

I have complete backups and the little netbook is only 300 dollars.

Too bad I am one of those people that could carry an A bomb by customs and never get a look at, so it is unlikely that I will need to surround the old netbook.
0 Replies
 
 

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