IP addresses aren’t passport photos

I hear it time and time again. If someone is bothering you electronically, such as by e-mail, you can identify them on the basis of the IP address, take that to the police and be done with it. An IP address is like someone’s passport photo, right?

Not so.

Most people make the mistake of assuming that cyber stalkers and hackers behave the same way they do. They think that cyber stalkers and hackers automatically reveal their own IP addresses when they approach a target electronically.

Wrong.

Anyone who’s ever used a torrent stream or tunnelled to access a TV show or some other online content in another country knows better.

Most people haven’t.

Cyber stalkers and hackers aren’t stupid and usually hide behind an electronic wall called a proxy. They can also use a series of proxies. Sometimes, a cyber stalker or hacker gets sloppy and forgets this step. It’s been said that’s what happened in the recent hacking of Sony. Others think that it was just a smart hacker who made it seem that way, though.

“Solicitors should not use email at all”

In an article in Computing News last year about the warning ICO issued to the legal profession after a series of data breaches, Richard Anstey, CTO EMEA for collaboration tools provider Intralinks, was asked for his input on ICO’s top tips for barristers and solicitors. computerHe said the following:

“instead of ensuring email is encrypted or password-protected, solicitors should not use email at all”

You can read what he recommends using instead in the article in Computing News.

7 out of 10 UK law firms affected by cyber crime in 2014?

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has reported that in 2014, nearly 70% of UK law firms reported a cyber security incident.

cyber security guy or hackerRead more: here.

The first half of the article focuses on bogus law firms. The second paragraph under the ad is about how cyber crime affects law firms.

 

Uber Technologies – not a law firm – has billions at its disposal; that allowed it to do some investigating that enabled it to file a John Doe lawsuit after its recently reported hacking incident. Which it discovered about half a year after the fact and then kept silent about for another six months. Give or take a few days.

Keeping a PC offline keeps it safe, right?

Wrong.

Cyber crime is much sneakier than most people think. It is not limited to someone accessing your hotmail or Facebook account. it can take over your life. And gobble up your business.

There are various ways to access a computer that is offline. A term sometimes used for an offline computer is ‘air-gapped’, but for starters, a true air-gapped computer should never ever have been connected to the internet to minimise the chance that there is any software (code) on it that shouldn’t be on it. It should be brand-new, out of the box.

Unless you put it in a Faraday cage, some of the information on an offline computer can still be accessed although this is usually merely passive. It concerns information displayed on a screen or entered on a keyboard, for example. This can be accessed but not altered.

Here are a few technical articles for those who want some background:

Here is a really nice old video about it:

And this one, in German and much more recent, is quite clear too:

Here is another one:

In addition to the above, I see at least four more or less regular ways to access a computer and tamper with it:
– via cable or telephone line, directly;
– via cable or telephone line, using unused capacity on the line;
– wireless/wifi network;
– powerline networking.

In the case of powerline networking, there may be a need for that computer to have been hacked before it was taken offline. That also seems to be the case for at least one of the air-gap hopping methods.

It may also be possible to access printer memory via powerline networking and acquire information that way.

A computer does not have to be accessed through its operating system such as Windows, as is often thought. Computers can be accessed at a much more basic level as well, but it depends on the hardware and its settings.

Hackers can also purchase or build scanning equipment that can detect your mobile equipment. Phone hacking and spying software is available from regular retailers and its use has ‘reached epidemic proportions‘ (article in the Independent).

Here are four more articles, in The Independent and the Huffington Post:

If you are really intrigued now, read this article in NewScientist about new bugging devices.

Hacking: What you can do

Hackers can do incredible damage to businesses and contrary to what is often thought, hackers don’t only go after large corporations with vast amounts of credit card data and e-mail addresses. They go after tiny outfits too and after people like you and me. Below are a few things you need to know about hacking.

Picture of me 1-crop4In 2009, British police was given the power to hack into personal computers without a court warrant. It is called remote searching. You can read more about it in this article in The independent. By the way, it ends with this important bit of information:

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Britain’s policy of retaining samples from people never convicted of a crime – including children – breaches human rights.

However, there have also been reports that the British police runs hopelessly behind with regard to fighting cyber crime, because it lacks the knowledge and technology (see here). “The police are becoming more aware of the cyber threat, but remain behind in terms of their own technology, knowledge and intelligence”. How does this add up? To police not being able to do much, in practice. Cyber crime investigations are expensive and require the kind of expert knowledge few people possess.

The least you can do?

  • Always cover your web cam when it’s not in use. Read more about web cams and hacking here and here.
  • Never tell anyone you do not really know what computer equipment you have and what software you run. The chances that you are talking with a hacker may be slim, but if you are, particularly if it is someone you have exchanged e-mail with (meaning that the person has your IP address), the person may not even have to use software intended to test computer security (such as Metasploit) to examine your computer from a distance and then use software like MeterPreter to target the vulnerabilities in your equipment.
  • Be aware that any e-mail you receive may be spoofed. Faked. There is no way to tell whether an e-mail is spoofed or not. E-mail that appears to come from a potential new client may contain a link that causes you to download code (and even the mail itself may contain code). Do a web search instead of clicking on the link and call that possible new client instead of e-mailing back.
  • If you are in the habit of filling out online surveys to make an extra few pennies, mail announcing a new survey can be spoofed too. Keep that in mind before you announce to the world (Facebook, Twitter) that you are filling out online surveys. Such an e-mail can then take you to the computer of a hacker who can ask you to tell him or her truthfully what kind of computer equipment you are using and all sorts of other things he or she wants to know.
  • Internet traffic can be redirected with internet port relay software. I don’t know how exactly it works. If you know what a traceroute is and suspect that some of your traffic is being rerouted, run a traceroute and direct its output to your printer (so that you have a hardcopy that cannot be tampered with). A traceroute can be redirected as well, however. Having traceroute results that show tampering is no good for police, but it can tell you that you are not going paranoid after all. That’s worth a lot.
  • If you use Facebook, Skype or anything else that has a chat possibility, use it on one specific piece of equipment, not on your main computer if you want to keep that computer safe. If you use anything with a chat feature on your main computer, it provides a hacker with a direct conduit into your PC. Particularly Facebook seems to be very leaky. If you keep all those social media communications limited to one device that you don’t use for anything else, you can easily reset or reinstall it in the event of a problem (generally without losing any data).
  • If you’ve just had broadband or cable installed and someone calls you claiming to be from your provider asking you any of the numbers on the side of the router or the like, don’t give it to the caller.
  • If you use a mobile phone for business, get several phones and only allow one phone number to be known publicly. That’s like the e-mail address on which you don’t mind getting spam. Use it only to receive calls, from mostly unknown parties. Use a non-published phone number on a different mobile to communicate much more securely with your trusted clients.
  • There is a lot of free and cheap software out there that you really don’t want to know about. Particularly if you have a persistent suitor, ex or an envious competitor, you should be aware, though, that there are all kinds of software that enable someone to modulate his or her voice when they call you or Skype with you, including changing gender. it works well, too.
  • I have no idea how tablets get hacked (Facebook use and hacking of mifi hotspots?), but regularly resetting one’s tablet, always verifying downloads, and backing up or removing personal files regularly is probably a good idea and anyone who tells you that there is not much hackers can do with a tablet still has a lot to learn.
    Below is an example of a tablet hack. You may have to play the (converted) video a few times and watch the tablet screen at the beginning to see that the tablet screen is filling up all by itself. There were pages and pages and pages of the stuff. The original recording is 7 seconds long and is continuous but has a bit rate of 64 kbps; the converted file seems to consist of only three images.

In spite of what most people think, though, many hackers are good for society and some may even help you on occasion.

IP addresses aren’t passport photos

I hear it time and time again. If someone is bothering you electronically, such as by e-mail, you can identify them on the basis of the IP address, take that to the police and be done with it. An IP address is like someone’s passport photo, right?

Not so. <!–more–>

Most people make the mistake of assuming that cyber stalkers and hackers behave the same way they do. They think that cyber stalkers and hackers automatically reveal their own IP addresses when they approach a target electronically.

Wrong.

Anyone who’s ever used a torrent stream or tunnelled to access a TV show or some other online content in another country knows better.

Most people haven’t.

Cyber stalkers and hackers aren’t stupid and usually hide behind an electronic wall called a proxy. They can also use a series of proxies. Sometimes, a cyber stalker or hacker gets sloppy and forgets this step. It’s been said that’s what happened in the recent hacking of Sony. Others think that it was just a smart hacker who made it seem that way, though.