Edward Snowden made an app to protect your laptop – The Verge

Earlier this year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden met with Jacqueline Moudeina, the first female lawyer in Chad and a legendary human rights advocate who has worked tirelessly to bring former dictator Hissne Habr to justice. Habr was convicted of human rights abuses ordering the killing of 40,000 people, sexual slavery, and rape by a Senegalese jury in 2016.

Snowden told Moudeina that he was working on an app that could turn a mobile device into a kind of motion sensor in order to notify you when your devices are being tampered with. The app could also tell you when someone had entered a room without you knowing, if someone had moved your things, or if someone had stormed into your friends house in the middle of the night. Snowden recounted that pivotal conversation in an interview with the Verge. She got very serious and told me, I need this. I need this now. Theres so many people around us who need this.

Haven, announced today, is an app that does just that. Installed on a cheap burner Android device, Haven sends notifications to your personal, main phone in the event that your laptop has been tampered with. If you leave your laptop at home or at an office or in a hotel room, you can place your Haven phone on top of the laptop, and when Haven detects motion, light, or movement essentially, anything that might be someone messing with your stuff it logs what happened. It takes photos, records sound, even takes down changes in light or acceleration, and then sends notifications to your main phone. None of this logging is stored in the cloud, and the notifications you receive on your main phone are end-to-end encrypted over Signal.

Snowden hasnt carried a mobile device since 2013, but in the last couple of years, much of his time has been taken up by prying apart smartphones and poking away at their circuit boards with the aid of fine tweezers and a microscope. In 2016, he collaborated with hardware hacker Andrew Bunnie Huang on Introspection Engine, a phone case that monitors iPhone outputs, alerting you to when your device is sending signals through its antenna.

Snowden is notoriously careful about the technology around him. In the documentary Citizenfour, Snowden is shown taking increasingly extravagant precautions against surveillance, going as far as to drape a pillowcase (his Magic Mantle of Power, he says, deadpan) over himself and his computer when he types in a password. Famously, he also asked journalists to place their phones in the hotel fridge, to prevent transmission of any surreptitious recording through their microphones or cameras.

Snowden at least has a pretty understandable reason to be paranoid and while he doesnt expect the rest of the world to adopt his somewhat inconvenient lifestyle, hes been trying to use his uniquely heightened threat model to improve other peoples lives. I havent carried a phone but I can increasingly use phones, he said. Tinkering with technology to make it acceptable to his own standards gives him insight into how to provide privacy to others.

Did you know most mobile phones these days have three microphones? he asked me. Later he rattled off a list of different kinds of sensors. It wasnt just audio, motion, and light, an iPhone can also detect acceleration and barometric pressure. He had become intimately familiar with the insides of smartphones while working with Bunnie Huang, and the experience had left him wondering if the powerful capabilities of these increasingly ubiquitous devices could be used to protect, rather than invade, peoples privacy sousveillance, rather than surveillance.

It was Micah Lee, a security engineer who also writes at the Intercept, who had the first spark of insight. For years, developers with access to signing keys particularly developers who deal with incredibly sensitive work like the Tor Project have become fairly paranoid about keeping their laptops in sight at all times. This has much to do with what security researcher Joanna Rutkowska dubbed the evil maid attack. Even if you encrypt your hard drive, a malicious actor with physical access to your computer (say, a hotel housekeeper of dubious morals) can compromise your machine. Afterwards, its nearly impossible to tell that youve been hacked.

Snowden and Lee, who both sit on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, partnered with the Guardian Project, a collective of app developers who focus on privacy and encrypted communications, to create Haven over the last year. Snowden credited Nathan Freitas, the director of the Guardian Project, for writing the bulk of the code.

Though evil maid attacks are not a widespread concern were talking about people who cant go into the pool without their laptops, said Snowden, thats like nine people in the whole world Haven was conceptualized to benefit as many people as possible. Micah Lee points out in his article for The Intercept that victims of domestic abuse can also use Haven to see if their abuser is tampering with their devices. Snowden told me that they had thought very deliberately about intimate partner violence early on.

You shouldnt have to be saving the world to benefit from Haven, said Snowden, but acknowledged that the people most likely to be using Haven were paranoid developers and human rights activists in the global south. Andy Greenberg describes in WIRED how the Guardian Project worked with the Colombian activist group Movilizatario to run a trial of the software earlier this year. Sixty testers from Movilizatario used Haven to safeguard their devices and to provide some kind of record if they should be kidnapped in the middle of the night.

It was this case scenario that sprung to the mind of Jacqueline Moudeina when she spoke with Snowden earlier this year. In many places around the world, people are disappearing in the night, he said. For those dissidents, Haven was reassurance that if government agents break into their home and take them away, at least someone would know they were taken. In those cases, Haven can be installed on primary phones, and the app is set to send notifications to a friend.

I asked Snowden what it was like to collaborate on a software project while in exile in Russia. It wasnt that bad, he said. Since he became stranded in Russia in 2013, technology has progressed to the point where its much easier to talk to people all over the world in secure ways. The creators of Haven were scattered all over the globe. Exile is losing its teeth, he told me.

More than anything, Snowden is hoping that Haven an open source project that anyone can examine, contribute to, or adapt for their own purposes spins out into many different directions, addressing threat models of all kinds. There are so many different kinds of sensors in mobile phones that the possibilities were boundless. He wondered, for instance, if a barometer in a smartphone could possibly detect a door opening in a room.

Threat models dont have to involve authoritarian governments kidnapping and torturing activists. Lex Gill posted on Twitter that her partner had been testing Haven with a spare phone for a month, and she had begun to use it to send helpful reminders.

And when Nathan Freitas explained his most recent project to his young children, he discovered yet another use case. Were going to use it to catch Santa! they told him excitedly.

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Edward Snowden made an app to protect your laptop – The Verge

Ransomware – Wikipedia

Ransomware is a type of malicious software from cryptovirology that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid. While some simple ransomware may lock the system in a way which is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion, in which it encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them.[1][2][3][4] In a properly implemented cryptoviral extortion attack, recovering the files without the decryption key is an intractable problem and difficult to trace digital currencies such as Ukash and Bitcoin are used for the ransoms, making tracing and prosecuting the perpetrators difficult.

Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a Trojan that is disguised as a legitimate file that the user is tricked into downloading or opening when it arrives as an email attachment. However, one high-profile example, the “WannaCry worm”, traveled automatically between computers without user interaction.

Starting from around 2012 the use of ransomware scams has grown internationally.[5][6][7] in June 2013, vendor McAfee released data showing that it had collected more than double the number of samples of ransomware that quarter than it had in the same quarter of the previous year.[8]CryptoLocker was particularly successful, procuring an estimated US $3 million before it was taken down by authorities,[9] and CryptoWall was estimated by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to have accrued over US $18m by June 2015.[10]

The concept of file encrypting ransomware was invented and implemented by Young and Yung at Columbia University and was presented at the 1996 IEEE Security & Privacy conference. It is called cryptoviral extortion and it was inspired by the fictional facehugger in the movie Alien.[11] Cryptoviral extortion is the following three-round protocol carried out between the attacker and the victim.[1]

The symmetric key is randomly generated and will not assist other victims. At no point is the attacker’s private key exposed to victims and the victim need only send a very small ciphertext (the encrypted symmetric-cipher key) to the attacker.

Ransomware attacks are typically carried out using a Trojan, entering a system through, for example, a downloaded file or a vulnerability in a network service. The program then runs a payload, which locks the system in some fashion, or claims to lock the system but does not (e.g., a scareware program). Payloads may display a fake warning purportedly by an entity such as a law enforcement agency, falsely claiming that the system has been used for illegal activities, contains content such as pornography and “pirated” media.[12][13][14]

Some payloads consist simply of an application designed to lock or restrict the system until payment is made, typically by setting the Windows Shell to itself,[15] or even modifying the master boot record and/or partition table to prevent the operating system from booting until it is repaired.[16] The most sophisticated payloads encrypt files, with many using strong encryption to encrypt the victim’s files in such a way that only the malware author has the needed decryption key.[1][17][18]

Payment is virtually always the goal, and the victim is coerced into paying for the ransomware to be removedwhich may or may not actually occureither by supplying a program that can decrypt the files, or by sending an unlock code that undoes the payload’s changes. A key element in making ransomware work for the attacker is a convenient payment system that is hard to trace. A range of such payment methods have been used, including wire transfers, premium-rate text messages,[19] pre-paid voucher services such as Paysafecard,[5][20][21] and the digital currency Bitcoin.[22][23][24] A 2016 survey commissioned by Citrix claimed that larger businesses are holding bitcoin as contingency plans.[25]

The first known malware extortion attack, the “AIDS Trojan” written by Joseph Popp in 1989, had a design failure so severe it was not necessary to pay the extortionist at all. Its payload hid the files on the hard drive and encrypted only their names, and displayed a message claiming that the user’s license to use a certain piece of software had expired. The user was asked to pay US$189 to “PC Cyborg Corporation” in order to obtain a repair tool even though the decryption key could be extracted from the code of the Trojan. The Trojan was also known as “PC Cyborg”. Popp was declared mentally unfit to stand trial for his actions, but he promised to donate the profits from the malware to fund AIDS research.[26]

The idea of abusing anonymous cash systems to safely collect ransom from human kidnapping was introduced in 1992 by Sebastiaan von Solms and David Naccache.[27] This money collection method is a key feature of ransomware. In the von Solms-Naccache scenario a newspaper publication was used (since bitcoin ledgers did not exist at the time the paper was written).

The notion of using public key cryptography for data kidnapping attacks was introduced in 1996 by Adam L. Young and Moti Yung. Young and Yung critiqued the failed AIDS Information Trojan that relied on symmetric cryptography alone, the fatal flaw being that the decryption key could be extracted from the Trojan, and implemented an experimental proof-of-concept cryptovirus on a Macintosh SE/30 that used RSA and the Tiny Encryption Algorithm (TEA) to hybrid encrypt the victim’s data. Since public key crypto is used, the cryptovirus only contains the encryption key. The attacker keeps the corresponding private decryption key private. Young and Yung’s original experimental cryptovirus had the victim send the asymmetric ciphertext to the attacker who deciphers it and returns the symmetric decryption key it contains to the victim for a fee. Long before electronic money existed Young and Yung proposed that electronic money could be extorted through encryption as well, stating that “the virus writer can effectively hold all of the money ransom until half of it is given to him. Even if the e-money was previously encrypted by the user, it is of no use to the user if it gets encrypted by a cryptovirus”.[1] They referred to these attacks as being “cryptoviral extortion”, an overt attack that is part of a larger class of attacks in a field called cryptovirology, which encompasses both overt and covert attacks.[1] The cryptoviral extortion protocol was inspired by the forced-symbiotic relationship between H. R. Giger’s facehugger and its host in the movie Alien.[1][11]

Examples of extortionate ransomware became prominent in May 2005.[28] By mid-2006, Trojans such as Gpcode, TROJ.RANSOM.A, Archiveus, Krotten, Cryzip, and MayArchive began utilizing more sophisticated RSA encryption schemes, with ever-increasing key-sizes. Gpcode.AG, which was detected in June 2006, was encrypted with a 660-bit RSA public key.[29] In June 2008, a variant known as Gpcode.AK was detected. Using a 1024-bit RSA key, it was believed large enough to be computationally infeasible to break without a concerted distributed effort.[30][31][32][33]

Encrypting ransomware returned to prominence in late 2013 with the propagation of CryptoLockerusing the Bitcoin digital currency platform to collect ransom money. In December 2013, ZDNet estimated based on Bitcoin transaction information that between 15 October and 18 December, the operators of CryptoLocker had procured about US$27 million from infected users.[34] The CryptoLocker technique was widely copied in the months following, including CryptoLocker 2.0 (though not to be related to CryptoLocker), CryptoDefense (which initially contained a major design flaw that stored the private key on the infected system in a user-retrievable location, due to its use of Windows’ built-in encryption APIs),[23][35][36][37] and the August 2014 discovery of a Trojan specifically targeting network-attached storage devices produced by Synology.[38] In January 2015, it was reported that ransomware-styled attacks have occurred against individual websites via hacking, and through ransomware designed to target Linux-based web servers.[39][40][41]

The Microsoft Malware Protection Center identified a trend away from WSF files in favor of LNK files and PowerShell scripting.[42] These LNK shortcut files install Locky ransomware by automating infection operations rather than relying on traditional user downloads of WSF filesall of which is made possible by the universal PowerShell Windows application. Unfortunately, cyber criminals have been able to leverage PowerShell for their attacks for years. In a recent report, the application was found to be involved in nearly 40% of endpoint security incidents.[43] While attackers have been finding weaknesses in the Windows operating system for years, its clear that theres something problematic with PowerShell scripting.[44]

Some ransomware strains have used proxies tied to Tor hidden services to connect to their command and control servers, increasing the difficulty of tracing the exact location of the criminals.[45][46] Furthermore, dark web vendors have increasingly started to offer the technology as a service.[46][47][48]

Symantec has classified ransomware to be the most dangerous cyber threat.[49]

In August 2010, Russian authorities arrested nine individuals connected to a ransomware Trojan known as WinLock. Unlike the previous Gpcode Trojan, WinLock did not use encryption. Instead, WinLock trivially restricted access to the system by displaying pornographic images, and asked users to send a premium-rate SMS (costing around US$10) to receive a code that could be used to unlock their machines. The scam hit numerous users across Russia and neighboring countriesreportedly earning the group over US$16 million.[14][50]

In 2011, a ransomware Trojan surfaced that imitated the Windows Product Activation notice, and informed users that a system’s Windows installation had to be re-activated due to “[being a] victim of fraud”. An online activation option was offered (like the actual Windows activation process), but was unavailable, requiring the user to call one of six international numbers to input a 6-digit code. While the malware claimed that this call would be free, it was routed through a rogue operator in a country with high international phone rates, who placed the call on hold, causing the user to incur large international long distance charges.[12]

In February 2013, a ransomware Trojan based on the Stamp.EK exploit kit surfaced; the malware was distributed via sites hosted on the project hosting services SourceForge and GitHub that claimed to offer “fake nude pics” of celebrities.[51] In July 2013, an OS X-specific ransomware Trojan surfaced, which displays a web page that accuses the user of downloading pornography. Unlike its Windows-based counterparts, it does not block the entire computer, but simply exploits the behavior of the web browser itself to frustrate attempts to close the page through normal means.[52]

In July 2013, a 21-year-old man from Virginia, whose computer coincidentally did contain pornographic photographs of underaged girls with whom he had conducted sexualized communications, turned himself in to police after receiving and being deceived by ransomware purporting to be an FBI message accusing him of possessing child pornography. An investigation discovered the incriminating files, and the man was charged with child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.[53]

The converse of ransomware is a cryptovirology attack invented by Adam L. Young that threatens to publish stolen information from the victim’s computer system rather than deny the victim access to it.[54] In a leakware attack, malware exfiltrates sensitive host data either to the attacker or alternatively, to remote instances of the malware, and the attacker threatens to publish the victim’s data unless a ransom is paid. The attack was presented at West Point in 2003 and was summarized in the book Malicious Cryptography as follows, “The attack differs from the extortion attack in the following way. In the extortion attack, the victim is denied access to its own valuable information and has to pay to get it back, where in the attack that is presented here the victim retains access to the information but its disclosure is at the discretion of the computer virus”.[55] The attack is rooted in game theory and was originally dubbed “non-zero sum games and survivable malware”. The attack can yield monetary gain in cases where the malware acquires access to information that may damage the victim user or organization, e.g., reputational damage that could result from publishing proof that the attack itself was a success.

With the increased popularity of ransomware on PC platforms, ransomware targeting mobile operating systems has also proliferated. Typically, mobile ransomware payloads are blockers, as there is little incentive to encrypt data since it can be easily restored via online synchronization.[56] Mobile ransomware typically targets the Android platform, as it allows applications to be installed from third-party sources.[56][57] The payload is typically distributed as an APK file installed by an unsuspecting user; it may attempt to display a blocking message over top of all other applications,[57] while another used a form of clickjacking to cause the user to give it “device administrator” privileges to achieve deeper access to the system.[58]

Different tactics have been used on iOS devices, such as exploiting iCloud accounts and using the Find My iPhone system to lock access to the device.[59] On iOS 10.3, Apple patched a bug in the handling of JavaScript pop-up windows in Safari that had been exploited by ransomware websites.[60]

In 2012, a major ransomware Trojan known as Reveton began to spread. Based on the Citadel Trojan (which itself, is based on the Zeus Trojan), its payload displays a warning purportedly from a law enforcement agency claiming that the computer has been used for illegal activities, such as downloading unlicensed software or child pornography. Due to this behaviour, it is commonly referred to as the “Police Trojan”.[61][62][63] The warning informs the user that to unlock their system, they would have to pay a fine using a voucher from an anonymous prepaid cash service such as Ukash or Paysafecard. To increase the illusion that the computer is being tracked by law enforcement, the screen also displays the computer’s IP address, while some versions display footage from a victim’s webcam to give the illusion that the user is being recorded.[5][64]

Reveton initially began spreading in various European countries in early 2012.[5] Variants were localized with templates branded with the logos of different law enforcement organizations based on the user’s country; for example, variants used in the United Kingdom contained the branding of organizations such as the Metropolitan Police Service and the Police National E-Crime Unit. Another version contained the logo of the royalty collection society PRS for Music, which specifically accused the user of illegally downloading music.[65] In a statement warning the public about the malware, the Metropolitan Police clarified that they would never lock a computer in such a way as part of an investigation.[5][13]

In May 2012, Trend Micro threat researchers discovered templates for variations for the United States and Canada, suggesting that its authors may have been planning to target users in North America.[66] By August 2012, a new variant of Reveton began to spread in the United States, claiming to require the payment of a $200 fine to the FBI using a MoneyPak card.[6][7][64] In February 2013, a Russian citizen was arrested in Dubai by Spanish authorities for his connection to a crime ring that had been using Reveton; ten other individuals were arrested on money laundering charges.[67] In August 2014, Avast Software reported that it had found new variants of Reveton that also distribute password stealing malware as part of its payload.[68]

Encrypting ransomware reappeared in September 2013 with a Trojan known as CryptoLocker, which generated a 2048-bit RSA key pair and uploaded in turn to a command-and-control server, and used to encrypt files using a whitelist of specific file extensions. The malware threatened to delete the private key if a payment of Bitcoin or a pre-paid cash voucher was not made within 3 days of the infection. Due to the extremely large key size it uses, analysts and those affected by the Trojan considered CryptoLocker extremely difficult to repair.[22][69][70][71] Even after the deadline passed, the private key could still be obtained using an online tool, but the price would increase to 10 BTCwhich cost approximately US$2300 as of November 2013.[72][73]

CryptoLocker was isolated by the seizure of the Gameover ZeuS botnet as part of Operation Tovar, as officially announced by the U.S. Department of Justice on 2 June 2014. The Department of Justice also publicly issued an indictment against the Russian hacker Evgeniy Bogachev for his alleged involvement in the botnet.[74][75] It was estimated that at least US$3 million was extorted with the malware before the shutdown.[9]

In September 2014, a wave of ransomware Trojans surfaced that first targeted users in Australia, under the names CryptoWall and CryptoLocker (which is, as with CryptoLocker 2.0, unrelated to the original CryptoLocker). The Trojans spread via fraudulent e-mails claiming to be failed parcel delivery notices from Australia Post; to evade detection by automatic e-mail scanners that follow all links on a page to scan for malware, this variant was designed to require users to visit a web page and enter a CAPTCHA code before the payload is actually downloaded, preventing such automated processes from being able to scan the payload. Symantec determined that these new variants, which it identified as CryptoLocker.F, were again, unrelated to the original CryptoLocker due to differences in their operation.[76][77] A notable victim of the Trojans was the Australian Broadcasting Corporation; live programming on its television news channel ABC News 24 was disrupted for half an hour and shifted to Melbourne studios due to a CryptoWall infection on computers at its Sydney studio.[78][79][80]

Another Trojan in this wave, TorrentLocker, initially contained a design flaw comparable to CryptoDefense; it used the same keystream for every infected computer, making the encryption trivial to overcome. However, this flaw was later fixed.[35] By late-November 2014, it was estimated that over 9,000 users had been infected by TorrentLocker in Australia alone, trailing only Turkey with 11,700 infections.[81]

Another major ransomware Trojan targeting Windows, CryptoWall, first appeared in 2014. One strain of CryptoWall was distributed as part of a malvertising campaign on the Zedo ad network in late-September 2014 that targeted several major websites; the ads redirected to rogue websites that used browser plugin exploits to download the payload. A Barracuda Networks researcher also noted that the payload was signed with a digital signature in an effort to appear trustworthy to security software.[82] CryptoWall 3.0 used a payload written in JavaScript as part of an email attachment, which downloads executables disguised as JPG images. To further evade detection, the malware creates new instances of explorer.exe and svchost.exe to communicate with its servers. When encrypting files, the malware also deletes volume shadow copies, and installs spyware that steals passwords and Bitcoin wallets.[83]

The FBI reported in June 2015 that nearly 1,000 victims had contacted the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center to report CryptoWall infections, and estimated losses of at least $18 million.[10]

The most recent version, CryptoWall 4.0, enhanced its code to avoid antivirus detection, and encrypts not only the data in files but also the file names.[84]

Fusob is one of the major mobile ransomware families. Between April 2015 and March 2016, about 56 percent of accounted mobile ransomware was Fusob.[85]

Like a typical mobile ransomware, it employs scare tactics to extort people to pay a ransom.[86] The program pretends to be an accusatory authority, demanding the victim to pay a fine from $100 to $200 USD or otherwise face a fictitious charge. Rather surprisingly, Fusob suggests using iTunes gift cards for payment. Also, a timer clicking down on the screen adds to the users anxiety as well.

In order to infect devices, Fusob masquerades as a pornographic video player. Thus, victims, thinking it is harmless, unwittingly download Fusob.[87]

When Fusob is installed, it first checks the language used in the device. If it uses Russian or certain Eastern European languages, Fusob does nothing. Otherwise, it proceeds on to lock the device and demand ransom. Among victims, about 40% of them are in Germany with the United Kingdom and the United States following with 14.5% and 11.4% respectively.

Fusob has lots in common with Small, which is another major family of mobile ransomware. They represented over 93% of mobile ransomwares between 2015 and 2016.

In May 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack spread through the Internet, using an exploit vector named EternalBlue, which was leaked from the U.S. National Security Agency. The ransomware attack, unprecedented in scale,[88] infected more than 230,000 computers in over 150 countries,[89] using 20 different languages to demand money from users using Bitcoin cryptocurrency. WannaCrypt demanded US$300 per computer.[90] The attack affected Telefnica and several other large companies in Spain, as well as parts of the British National Health Service (NHS), where at least 16 hospitals had to turn away patients or cancel scheduled operations,[91]FedEx, Deutsche Bahn, Honda,[92]Renault, as well as the Russian Interior Ministry and Russian telecom MegaFon.[93] The attackers gave their victims a 7-day deadline from the day their computers got infected, after which the encrypted files would be deleted.[94]

Petya was first discovered in March 2016; unlike other forms of encrypting ransomware, the malware aimed to infect the master boot record, installing a payload which encrypts the file tables of the NTFS file system the next time that the infected system boots, blocking the system from booting into Windows at all until the ransom is paid. Check Point reported that despite what it believed to be an innovative evolution in ransomware design, it had resulted in relatively-fewer infections than other ransomware active around the same time frame.[95]

On June 27, 2017, a heavily modified version of Petya was used for a global cyberattack primarily targeting Ukraine. This version had been modified to propagate using the same EternalBlue exploit that was used by WannaCry. Due to another design change, it is also unable to actually unlock a system after the ransom is paid; this led to security analysts speculating that the attack was not meant to generate illicit profit, but to simply cause disruption.[96][97]

On October 24, 2017, some users in Russia and Ukraine reported a new ransomware attack, named “Bad Rabbit”, which follows a similar pattern to WannaCry and Petya by encrypting the user’s file tables and then demands a BitCoin payment to decrypt them. ESET believed the ransomware to have been distributed by a bogus update to Adobe Flash software.[98] Among agencies that were affected by the ransomware included Interfax, Odessa International Airport, Kiev Metro, and the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine.[99] As it used corporate network structures to spread, the ransomware was also discovered in other countries, including Turkey, Germany, Poland, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.[100] Experts believed the ransomware attack was tied to the Petya attack in the Ukraine, though the only identity to the culprits are the names of characters from the Game of Thrones series embedded within the code.[100]

Security experts found that the ransomware did not use the EternalBlue exploit to spread, and a simple method to vaccinate an unaffected machine running older Windows versions was found by October 24, 2017.[101][102] Further, the sites that had been used to spread the bogus Flash updating have gone offline or removed the problematic files within a few days of its discovery, effectively killing off the spread of Bad Rabbit.[100]

As with other forms of malware, security software (antivirus software) might not detect a ransomware payload, or, especially in the case of encrypting payloads, only after encryption is under way or complete, particularly if a new version unknown to the protective software is distributed.[103] If an attack is suspected or detected in its early stages, it takes some time for encryption to take place; immediate removal of the malware (a relatively simple process) before it has completed would stop further damage to data, without salvaging any already lost.[104][105]

Security experts have suggested precautionary measures for dealing with ransomware. Using software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching will help to prevent infection, but will not protect against all attacks[22][106] Keeping “offline” backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as external storage drives or devices that do not have any access to any network (including the Internet), prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware. Installing security updates issued by software vendors can mitigate the vulnerabilities leveraged by certain strains to propagate.[107][108][109][110][111] Other measures include cyber hygiene exercising caution when opening e-mail attachments and links, network segmentation, and keeping critical computers isolated from networks.[112][113] Furthermore, to mitigate the spread of ransomware measures of infection control can be applied.[114] Such may include disconnecting infected machines from all networks, educational programs,[115] effective communication channels, malware surveillance[original research?] and ways of collective participation[114]

There are a number of tools intended specifically to decrypt files locked by ransomware, although successful recovery may not be possible.[2][116] If the same encryption key is used for all files, decryption tools use files for which there are both uncorrupted backups and encrypted copies (a known-plaintext attack in the jargon of cryptanalysis); recovery of the key, if it is possible, may take several days.[117] Free ransomware decryption tools can help decrypt files encrypted by the following forms of ransomware: AES_NI, Alcatraz Locker, Apocalypse, BadBlock, Bart, BTCWare, Crypt888, CryptoMix, CrySiS, EncrypTile, FindZip, Globe, Hidden Tear, Jigsaw, LambdaLocker, Legion, NoobCrypt, Stampado, SZFLocker, TeslaCrypt, XData.[118]

The publication of proof-of-concept attack code is common among academic researchers and vulnerability researchers. It teaches the nature of the threat, conveys the gravity of the issues, and enables countermeasures to be devised and put into place. However, lawmakers with the support of law-enforcement bodies are contemplating making the creation of ransomware illegal. In the state of Maryland the original draft of HB 340 made it a felony to create ransomware, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.[119] However, this provision was removed from the final version of the bill.[120] A minor in Japan was arrested for creating and distributing ransomware code.[121] Young and Yung have had the ANSI C source code to a ransomware cryptotrojan on-line, at cryptovirology.com, since 2005 as part of a cryptovirology book being written. The source code to the cryptotrojan is still live on the Internet and is associated with a draft of Chapter 2.[122]

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Ransomware – Wikipedia

Edward Snowden’s Haven app uses your phone to detect intruders

Given the need for some journalists to protect their hard-won information, it’s no surprise that Haven may see use as a means to keep shady interlopers from PCs and laptops containing sensitive data. The Intercept’s Micah Lee helped develop the app, and described how it could be used to deal with so-called “evil maid” attacks, in which an attacker attempts to physically tamper with a machine in order to compromise it.

“Here’s how Haven might work,” he writes. “You lock your laptop in a hotel safe not a secure move on its own and place your Haven phone on top of it. If someone opens the safe while you’re away, the phone’s light meter might detect a change in lighting, its microphone might hear the safe open (and even the attacker speak), its accelerometer might detect motion if the attacker moves the laptop, and its camera might even capture a snapshot of the attacker’s face.”

Haven won’t necessarily protect such attacks from being carried out, but the app can be configured to send notifications and recordings via text message and Signal (for end-to-end encryption) when the phone’s sensors detect something out of the ordinary. And even in cases where the phone itself doesn’t have network access and can’t fire off those warnings — say, if the phone doesn’t have a SIM card or isn’t connected to WiFi — every event that triggers an alert is logged locally on the phone. That way, the machine’s owner will still be able to tell that an unauthorized actor may have had access to it.

Of course, Haven could and should see use outside of those very specific scenarios. Guardian Project founder Nate Freitas calls Haven “the most powerful, secure and private baby monitor system ever,” and it’s not hard to imagine leaving a spare room in a room with a child to relay every anguished crying jag to parents. None of the data captured by Haven is relayed to third-party servers, so parents and paranoiacs can rest easier knowing they’re in full control of this highly personal data. Meanwhile, Wired reports that Haven provided peace of mind to some 60 social activists in Colombia, a country that has seen more than 100 activists assassinated in the past year alone according to a recent UN report.

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Edward Snowden’s Haven app uses your phone to detect intruders

The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust – The New York Times

Photo Credit Andrea Chronopoulos

You dont need brilliant financial analysis skills to notice that Bitcoin is in a bubble. It has grown in value from about 39 cents to over $18,000 in just eight years and recently attracted broad media attention by doubling in just a few days. The conventional wisdom had been that illegal and illicit transactions buying drugs or transferring money out of Argentina accounted for much of Bitcoins value. Today the mainstream view sees mere greed and speculation.

Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, theres reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoins rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code. It is a trend that transcends finance: In our fear of human error, we are putting an increasingly deep faith in technology.

Bitcoin may be in a bubble, but not all bubbles are created equal. Some are shimmering nothings, reflecting little more than an underlying pyramid scheme. But others are like ocean swells that could become enormous waves. Consider the tech stocks of the late 1990s a bubble, to be sure, but in retrospect, was Amazon really overvalued?

What gives the Bitcoin bubble significance is that, like 90s tech, it is part of something much larger than itself. More and more we are losing faith in humans and depending instead on machines. The transformation is more obvious outside of finance. We trust in computers to fly airplanes, help surgeons cut into our bodies and simplify daily tasks, like finding our way home. In this respect, finance is actually behind: Where we no longer feel we can trust people, we let computer code take over.

Bitcoin is part of this trend. It was, after all, a carnival of human errors and misfeasance that inspired the invention of Bitcoin in 2009, namely, the financial crisis. Banks backed by economically powerful nations had been the symbol of financial trustworthiness, the gold standard in the post-gold era. But they revealed themselves as reckless, drunk on other peoples money, holding extraordinarily complex assets premised on a web of promises that were often mutually incompatible. To a computer programmer, the financial system still looks a lot like untested code with weak debugging that puts way too much faith in the idea that humans will behave properly. As with any bad software, it can be expected to crash when conditions change.

We might add that major governments the issuers of currency, the guarantors of banks and enforcers of contracts do not always inspire confidence. Governments can be tempted to print money recklessly or seize wealth brazenly from their citizens Venezuelan hyperinflation and Indian demonetization are recent examples. But even the most trusted governments can be dubious. Europe, riddled by internal struggles among states, is still in shock about the planned departure of Britain from the European Union. China is a secretive authoritarian state that can lash out against its citizens and rivals when it feels insecure. The United States, perhaps the main guarantor of world solvency, is some $20 trillion in debt, constantly on the verge of default and headed by a serial bankruptee who prizes unpredictability. It is little wonder that the worlds citizens might be looking for alternatives.

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The Bitcoin Boom: In Code We Trust – The New York Times

Dont Reauthorize NSA Spying in a Must-Pass Funding Bill …

The next two weeks will be a flurry of activity in Congress. Before they can leave for the holidays, our government mustat minimumpass at least one bill to keep the government running and also decide what to do about a controversial NSA spying authority called Section 702. Some legislators want to reauthorize Section 702, without meaningful reform, by attaching it to must-pass spending legislation. This is a terrible idea. The legislative process surrounding Section 702 already lacks necessary transparency and deliberation.

The new legislative stratagem gets complicated very quickly. Heres what you need to know.

On December 8th, Congress passed a temporary funding bill, or a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government running until December 22. To prevent a government shutdown, Congress must either pass another CR by the new deadline, or ideally, finish writing the final funding bill for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018. This final funding bill is known as the omnibus.

Even though the Republican Party controls the House, the Senate,and the White House, GOP leadership has struggled to find enough consensus among their members to pass the omnibus. Instead, the government is limping along with a series of short-term CRs while avoiding hard decisions on longer term funding priorities. This constant negotiation on funding between the White House and Congressional leaders from both parties means that there is less time to negotiate other issues, like necessary reforms on Section 702 NSA spying program, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of this month.

Faced with multiple looming deadlines, legislators may be tempted to include Section 702 reauthorization in one of the funding bills. The allure of killing two (or more) birds with one stone often becomes overwhelming this time of year. Instead of taking the time to negotiate and navigate multiple difficult votes on various contentious bills, leadership finds it easier to find a majority only once.

After consulting with the various Chairmen of Committees of jurisdiction (in this case, the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees), Congressional leadership, along with the White House, will decide what will help them get the votes they need.

For example, a member who is not inclined to support a spending bill on its own may decide to vote yes on a spending bill that includes language to prohibit the NSAs controversial about searching. Of course, the reverse can also be true, which is why such discussions will happen behind closed doors.

Yes and no. Individual members or groups of members (often called Caucuses) would have to tell their leadership that they would not vote for any spending package that contains language they dont like. If the numbers work in their favor, and leadership believes them, this will keep the language out of the bill.

However, leadership may choose to call the members bluff. If the language is added over members objections, the members can still vote no on the whole bill. But that could cause the bill to fail and shut down the government. Government shutdowns are highly disruptive to many people, and thus politically risky. The members and the leadership take that into consideration. Its a high-risk game of chickenwith very real and long-term consequences.

Practically speaking, no. All the language in the CR is carefully negotiated behind closed doors, so leadership does not usually allow any amendments in case something accidentally passes that would cost them votes.

Once again, practically speaking, no.

In theory, no spending bill CR or omnibus should contain language that isnt related to funding the government. Of course, how we fund the government often has policy implications, which is why these bills are often so contentious and so tightly negotiated. For example, earlier this year Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) sponsored language in a funding bill that would prevent law enforcement from using any taxpayer dollars to seize cloud-hosted documents (email, photos, etc) without a warrant. In practice, the policy impact of this language would have been quite similar to the Email Privacy Commutations Act, but Rep. Yoders language actually only prohibits funding these actions. Adding language that has nothing to do with government funding at all, like reauthorization of the Section 702 program, does happen, but it is rare.

A CR is even less appropriate than an omnibus as a vehicle to make new policy. As it is designed only to be a temporary, short-term measure, a CR is theoretically only a continuation of current funding levels, with no major funding changes and no major policy changes. In practice, this rule gets waived (at the discretion of the leadership), especially when pushed up against a deadline and when the added language brings in needed votes.

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In normal circumstances, all legislation is supposed to be public for at least a day before Congress votes on it. Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances.

When there is a difficult, tightly negotiated bill and a looming deadline (like with both the CR and Section 702 reauthorization), the House of Representatives may enact something called martial law, allowing leadership to move quickly through debate and final passage as soon as they have an agreement – before the media or the public have an opportunity to comment.

EFF is in constant communication with members interested in reforming Section 702, and were fighting alongside them to make sure Section 702 reauthorization does not sneak through in the dead of night. Well make sure to let you know when we know!

No! While the legislative calendar may pose a challenge, it is completely unacceptable for Congressional leadership to shove Section 702 reauthorization into an end-of-year funding bill. This program invades the privacy of an untold number of Americans. Before it can be reauthorized, Congress must undertake a transparent and deliberative process to consider the impact this NSA surveillance has on Americans privacy.

It is troubling that a secretive NSA surveillance program may be reauthorized in a secret legislative backroom deal. But this program is too important to be hidden in a big funding bill, and members shouldnt be forced to choose between shutting down the federal government or violating the Fourth Amendment.

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Dont Reauthorize NSA Spying in a Must-Pass Funding Bill …

WikiLeaks recognised as a ‘media organisation’ by UK tribunal

A British tribunal has recognised Julian Assanges WikiLeaks as a media organisation, a point of contention with the United States, which is seeking to prosecute him and disputes his journalistic credentials.

The issue of whether Assange is a journalist and publisher would almost certainly be one of the main battlegrounds in the event of the US seeking his extradition from the UK.

The definition of WikiLeaks by the information tribunal, which is roughly equivalent to a court, could help Assanges defence against extradition on press freedom grounds.

The US has been considering prosecution of Assange since 2010 when WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of confidential US defence and diplomatic documents. US attorney general Jeff Sessions said in April this year that the arrest of Assange is a priority for the US.

The director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, after leaks of emails from the US Democratic party and from Hillary Clinton, described WikiLeaks as a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. He added Assange is not covered by the US constitution, which protects journalists.

But the UKs information tribunal, headed by judge Andrew Bartlett QC, in a summary and ruling published on Thursday on a freedom of information case, says explicitly: WikiLeaks is a media organisation which publishes and comments upon censored or restricted official materials involving war, surveillance or corruption, which are leaked to it in a variety of different circumstances.

The comment is made under a heading that says simply: Facts.

Assange remains holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been granted diplomatic asylum.

The tribunals definition of WikiLeaks comes in the 21-page summary into a freedom of information case heard in London in November. An Italian journalist, Stefania Maurizi, is seeking the release of documents relating to Assange, mainly in regard to extradition, and had lodged an appeal with the tribunal.

While the tribunal dismissed her appeal, it acknowledged there issues weighing in favour of public disclosure in relation to Assange. But it added these were outweighed by a need for confidentiality on the matter of extradition.

The UK Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the US justice department have refused to confirm or deny whether they have discussed extradition of Assange.

Maurizi, likely to take her appeal to a higher tribunal, welcomed Bartletts acceptance of WikiLeaks as a media organisation but argued the tribunal should have gone a step further by pushing the CPS to confirm whether the US has lodged an extradition request.

If such a request were made, the UK would not be assisting the US to extradite a narco, a mafia boss, or a drug kingpin. It would being assisting the US to extradite a media publisher to prosecute him and his media organisation for their publications, she said.

The tribunal also looked at the destruction by the CPS of emails relating to Assange. It said the deletion took place when a CPS lawyer retired and it had been believed all significant case papers were collated separately from his email account.

The tribunal said: We conclude that there was nothing untoward in the deletion of the email account.

Maurizi had put in FOI requests for information relating to communications between the UK and Sweden, where prosecutors were investigating sexual assault allegations against Assange which have since been dropped. Supporters of Assange feared that if he want to Sweden, the US would seek to extradite him from there.

Maurizi also pressed for disclosure of any communications by the CPS and the US to extradite Assange directly from the UK.

Estelle Dehon, who specialises in freedom of information and who represented Maurizi at the tribunal, said that while disappointed with the overall ruling, she welcomed some of the findings.

Progress has been made because the tribunal accepted that the circumstances of the case raise issues of human rights and press freedom and also agreed that there is a significant public interest in disclosing the information, in particular to increase understanding of how the CPS handled the extradition process and its relationship with a foreign prosecuting authority, Dehon said.

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WikiLeaks recognised as a ‘media organisation’ by UK tribunal

SEC suspends trading of red-hot bitcoin stock – Dec. 19, 2017

The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading Tuesday of The Crypto Company until January 3, citing “concerns regarding the accuracy and adequacy of information” about compensation paid to promote the firm and plans for insider sales.

The Crytpo Company describes itself as a business that “offers a portfolio of digital assets, technologies, and consulting services to the blockchain and cryptocurrency markets” with plans for a “rollout of a full scale, high frequency cryptocurrency trading floor.”

Shares of The Crypto Company (CRCW) have surged nearly 160% in the past five days, more than 1,800% in the past month and 17,000% in the past three months, as investors and traders have bid up the price of bitcoin (XBT) higher and higher.

That stunning rise has lifted the company’s market value to more than $11 billion. To put that in perspective, that’s higher than the market value of well-known brand name companies like Macy’s (M), The New York Times (NYT) and Under Armour (UAA).

Related: Regulators worried about bitcoin euphoria

The SEC move comes shortly after The Crypto Company announced plans to split its stock 10-1 to try and push the price lower and make it more affordable for average investors.

Shares had surged to a price of $575 before the SEC suspended trading. A 10-1 split would have increased the number of total shares by a factor of ten and lowered the price to $57.50. So the value of the company would not have changed.

The Crypto Company CEO Mike Poutre said in a release about the split that the company wanted to “see orderly market activity” for the stock and added that the split was “the responsible thing to do.”

He noted that many blue chip companies, including MasterCard (MA) and Apple (AAPL), have done stock splits to keep their prices more accessible to mom and pop investors.

Poutre also referred to “the euphoria” surrounding bitcoin, and added that “we want people to pay attention to the business we are building, not the hype of a stock or the cryptocurrency world.”

The Crypto Company was not immediately available for comment about the SEC action.

But the SEC has taken steps lately to crack down on potential frauds and scams surrounding bitcoin and other digital currencies, particularly with initial coin offerings or ICOs. With an ICO, a company sells a digital currency or token to investors instead of stock.

Several cryptocurrency executives are nervous about the industry getting a bad reputation too.

Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple, a company that developed the Ripple XRP cryptocurrency and also works to license blockchain technology with banks, says he wants to cooperate with agencies like the SEC to weed out bad actors.

“Many of the ICOs are more frauds than real businesses. The industry needs to work with regulators and not be in the shadows,” he said. “ICOs are taking advantage of grey areas in securities law. What worries me the most is some of the hype in the system.”

Related: Feds crack down on fraud as bitcoin soars

Jalak Jobanputra, partner with venture capital firm FuturePerfect Ventures and an investor in cryptocurrency tech firms, agrees. She said that there is “a lot of speculation” in the crypto area and that she “welcomes scrutiny from the SEC.”

Still, there are signs that investors aren’t listening to these warnings.

Another small financial tech company that just went public called LongFin (LFIN) has skyrocketed from a low of $4.69 a share in the past week to a high of $142.82 after it announced it was buying a blockchain microlending company named Ziddu.com

And then there’s Riot Blockchain (RIOT), a company that up until recently was a biotech firm and has decided to get into the crypto business. Its stock is up more than 300% in the past month and 1,200% this year.

Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist with JonesTrading, wrote in a report that this reminded him clearly of the dotcom and tech stock mania of the late 1990s. That did not end well for investors chasing the most speculative of stocks.

O’Rourke pointed out that one widely hyped business-to-business software company called Commerce One went public in 1999 at $21 a share and surged to around $1,000 by the end of the year. Commerce One filed for bankruptcy five years later.

Now this is not to say that bitcoin itself is a bubble. There is a real trend towards digital payments using blockchain technology.

Related: Move over, bitcoin. Here comes litecoin

After all, many of today’s tech leaders, such as Amazon (AMZN), Apple and Microsoft (MSFT), survived the dotcom crash and are now doing better than ever. But investors need to be careful and not chase tiny companies trying to ride the wave.

The talk of a future where we’re all using bitcoin instead of paper currencies may be a little far-fetched too.

“Digital currencies have a role to play with reducing customer friction and increasing transaction times,” said Ripple’s Garlinghouse, who was a former exec at AOL and Yahoo — which are now both owned by Verizon (VZ).

“But government-backed fiat currencies aren’t going away. Banks aren’t going away. The dollar still works well and is efficient,” Garlinghouse added.

CNNMoney (New York) First published December 19, 2017: 12:21 PM ET

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SEC suspends trading of red-hot bitcoin stock – Dec. 19, 2017

How to Break Cryptography | Infinite Series – YouTube

Only 4 steps stand between you and the secrets hidden behind RSA cryptography. Find out how to crack the worlds most commonly used form of encryption.

Tweet at us! @pbsinfiniteFacebook: facebook.com/pbsinfinite seriesEmail us! pbsinfiniteseries [at] gmail [dot] com

Previous Episode:Can We Combine pi & e into a Rational Number?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG7cC…

Links to other resources:

Shor’s paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9508027v2

Lecture on Shor’s Algorithm: https://arxiv.org/pdf/quant-ph/001003…

Blog on Shor’s algorithm: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=208

Video on RSA cryptography: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXB-V…

Another video on RSA cryptography: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zahv…

Euler’s Big Idea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler%2… (I can find a non-wiki article, but I don’t actually use this in the video. It’s just where to learn more about the relevant math Euler did.)

Written and Hosted by Kelsey Houston-EdwardsProduced by Rusty WardGraphics by Ray LuxMade by Kornhaber Brown (www.kornhaberbrown.com)

Challenge Winner – Reddles37https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG7cC…

Comments answered by Kelsey:

Joel David Hamkinshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG7cC…


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How to Break Cryptography | Infinite Series – YouTube

MobileCoin: A New Cryptocurrency From Signal Creator Moxie …

In the early bitcoin years, proponents promised that you would soon be able to pay for anything and everything with cryptocurrency. Order pizza! Buy Etsy trinkets! Use a bitcoin ATM! While PayPal had existed for more than a decade, frictionless, social payment platforms like Venmo were just first taking off, and cryptocurrency seemed like a legitimate way for digital transactions to evolve.

It didn’t happen. Cryptocurrency remains confusing and challenging for the average person to acquire and manage, much less sell. And the protocols that underlie bitcoin and other mainstream cryptocurrencies like ethereum suffer significant scalability and transaction bottleneck issues. Visa currently processes about 3,674 transactions per second; the best bitcoin network might be able to process seven per second.

But now the creator of the dead simple end-to-end encrypted messaging app Signal, Moxie Marlinspike, is on a mission to overcome those limitations, and to create a streamlined digital currency that’s private, easy-to-use, and allows for quick transactions from any device. And while it may feel like the last thing the world needs is yet another cryptocurrency, Marlinspike’s track record with Signaland the organization behind it, Open Whisper Systemsmakes this a project worth watching.

The currency Marlinspike has been working on as technical advisor for the last four months, alongside technologist Joshua Goldbard, is MobileCoin. The two based it on the open-source Stellar Consensus Protocols platform, an alternative payment network that underlies systems like an inter-bank payment network run by IBM in the South Pacific, and the low-fee international money transfer service Tempo in Europe.

‘Usability is the biggest challenge with cryptocurrency today.’

Signal Creator Moxie Marlinspike

The Stellar blockchain is also generally regarded as being faster and more efficient than its predecessors; On Wednesday, the mobile messaging service Kik announced that it will move its Kin cryptocurrency platform from Ethereum to Stellar. “We’ve been using Ethereum to date, and to be honest I call it the dial-up era of blockchain,” CEO Ted Livingston said.

MobileCoin wants to leverage an extensive architecture to add simplicity to real privacy protections and resilience against attacks. The ultimate goal: To make MobileCoin as intuitive as any other payment system.

That vision mirrors the animating purpose of Signal, which was developed to make robust end-to-end encrypted communication as easy and straightforward as less secure options, a simple experience that belies the complex cryptographic communication protocols that enable it.

“I think usability is the biggest challenge with cryptocurrency today,” says Marlinspike. “The innovations I want to see are ones that make cryptocurrency deployable in normal environments, without sacrificing the properties that distinguish cryptocurrency from existing payment mechanisms.”

Usability efforts for older generation cryptocurrency protocols, like bitcoin, have largely been left to services like Coinbase, which centralize everything from currency exchange to your wallet, key management, and processing transactions. These platforms make actually using cryptocurrency more realistic for the average person, but they also consolidate mechanisms that are meant to be kept separate in the private and decentralized concept of cryptocurrency. They generally detail extensive privacy and security protections, but they do require users to trust both their intentions and implementation.

By contrast, the idea of MobileCoin is to build a system that hides everything from everyone, leaving fewer (or theoretically no) opportunities for abuse.

Ideally, there would be a way to fix the structural problems of existing cryptocurrencies, rather than creating another new offering. But Marlinspike and Goldbard concluded that the only way to orient a cryptocurrency around user needs was to start from scratch, and architect everything with that “target user experience” in mind.

To that end, MobileCoin delegates all the complicated and processing-intensive work of participating in a blockchain ledger and validating transactions to nodesservers with constant connectivity that store and work on a fully updated copy of a currency’s blockchain. The nodes can then provide software services to users, like apps that seamlessly integrate easy and quick MobileCoin transactions. The nodes also handle key management for users, so the publicand particularly the privatenumeric sequences that encrypt each person’s transactions are stored and used by the node. But crucially MobileCoin is designed so the node operators can never directly access users’ private keys.

‘If you cant look at the ledger, how can you cheat it?’

Joshua Goldbard, MobileCoin

This is where the special features of MobileCoin come in. The currency is designed to utilize an Intel processor component known as Software Guard Extensions, or a “secure enclave.” SGX is a sequestered portion of a processor that runs code like any other, but the software inside it can’t be accessed or changed by a device’s broader operating system. Computers can still check that an enclave is running the right software to validate it before connecting, but neither MobileCoin users nor node administrators can decrypt and view the enclave.

For MobileCoin, the enclaves in all of the nodes of the network hide the currency’s indelible ledger from view. Users’ private keys are stored and shielded in the enclave, too.

“If you put the cryptocurrency inside of the secure enclave, then people can run the nodes without seeing whats happening inside them,” Goldbard says. “If you cant look at the ledger, how can you cheat it?”

Marlinspike first experimented with SGX for Signal as a workaround so users can find people they know on Signal through their address books without exposing all of that data.

Secure enclaves create some technical challenges, because they have limited processing capacity. But MobileCoin is designed with efficiency in mind. The system does as much data processing as possible outside the enclave, and only uses SGX for sensitive computing that needs to be shielded. And not needing to trust the nodesbecause sensitive data isn’t exposed on themmeans that more can happen off of a user’s device without sacrificing privacy, making transactions quick and easy on mobile devices.

“MobileCoin is designed to be deployable in normal resource-constrained environments like mobile devices, and to deliver a simple user experience along with privacy and security,” Marlinspike says. “The design gives you the benefits of server assistance without the downsides of having to trust a server to act appropriately and not be hacked.

The platform has other protections layered with SGX as well. Even if someone compromised a MobileCoin enclave and could view the transaction ledger, one-time addresses and special one-time signatures for each transaction would still prevent an attacker from being able to trace and link events. And a privacy bonus of the Stellar Consensus Protocol is that the nodes don’t need to store a full transaction history in the blockchain; they can discard most data after each payment is completed. These components make MobileCoin more resistant to surveillance, whether it’s coming from a government or a criminal who wants to track and extort users.

There are lots of potential applications for MobileCoin, but Goldbard and Marlinspike envision it first as an integration in chat apps like Signal or WhatsApp. Here’s how it would work in practice: To start using MobileCoin, you would generate a public and private key, and a recovery PIN. Then you would set up your account with an app that incorporates MobileCoin. The app would validate the software running in its service’s node, establish an encrypted communication channel to the enclave, and then send your keys and the short, easy-to-remember recovery PIN that you’ll use to access your MobileCoinlike a smartphone lock passcode.

To send MobileCoin to your friend Brian within a service that both of you use, your app would look up his public key, generate a one-time key and signature to use for the transaction, and send the transaction to the app’s MobileCoin node. The node would sync and validate the transaction, update the ledger, and check the one-time key and signature to prevent spoofed double-spending. At this point Brian’s MobileCoin node would take over, receiving and validating the transaction and communicating with Brian’s app to generate the one-time private key that will allow Brian to receive the payment. And then Brian gets a notification that you paid him. The messaging app (or whatever service you’re both using) doubles as a wallet for each of you.

It’s a complicated process to wade through. The point of MobileCoin, though, is that you and Brian don’t have to worry about any of it. The complicated parts all take place in the background.

The MobileCoin site, where developers looking to adopt the cryptocurrency will ultimately be able to access the software development kit, currently houses a white paper describing how MobileCoin works in more detail. But Goldbard says that the currency is still six months to a year from release, while he and Marlinspike refine the platform to eliminate potential problems, like the possibility that secure enclaves can inadvertently leak data.

That means there are still plenty of questions to be answered, including one big one: whether MobileCoin will be able to cut through all the noise and hype of the cryptocurrency community to actually be adopted by mainstream apps that could put it in everyone’s hands. Currencies, after all, need a critical mass of people to not just be able to use them, but to agree on their worth.

And though speculation has driven bitcoin to all-time-high valuations, most cryptocurrencies don’t end up capturing much value, languishing instead in far-flung corners of the internet. Here again, though, MobileCoin’s creators hope to emulate Signal. End-to-end encryption was once a fringe feature; then WhatsApp gave it to a billion people at once using the Signal Protocol.

“Nobody actually transacts in cryptocurrency,” Goldbard says. “So making something that people can actually use is our first goal. And then we want to find additional ways that people can implement it over time. But initially all we want is to make it so people can actually complete transactions.”

If it works, the project will give hope to people who once believed cryptocurrency could truly replace cash in modern societyeven if you’re only buying a pizza.

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MobileCoin: A New Cryptocurrency From Signal Creator Moxie …

"You’re Being Watched": Edward Snowden Emerges … – YouTube

http://www.democracynow.org – Former CIA employee Edward Snowden has come forward as the whistleblower behind the explosive revelations about the National Security Agency and the U.S. surveillance state. Three weeks ago the 29-year-old left his job inside the NSA’s office in Hawaii where he worked for the private intelligence firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Today he is in Hong Kong–not sure if he will ever see his home again. In a video interview with the Guardian of London, Snowden says he exposed top secret NSA surveillance programs to alert Americans of expansive government spying on innocents. “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watched and recorded,” Snowden says. “And the storage capability of these systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer… The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong.”

Watch Democracy Now!’s ongoing coverage of the NSA leak at http://www.democracynow.org/topics/nsa.

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"You’re Being Watched": Edward Snowden Emerges … – YouTube