Communications

Volunteers Around the World Build Surveillance-Free Cellular Network Called 'Sopranica' (vice.com) 77

dmoberhaus writes: Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus spoke to Denver Gingerich, the programmer behind Sopranica, a DIY, community-oriented cell phone network. "Sopranica is a project intended to replace all aspects of the existing cell phone network with their freedom-respecting equivalents," says Gingerich. "Taking out all the basement firmware on the cellphone, the towers that track your location, the payment methods that track who you are and who owns the number, and replacing it so we can have the same functionality without having to give up all the privacy that we have to give up right now. At a high level, it's about running community networks instead of having companies control the cell towers that we connect to." Motherboard interviews Gingerich and shows you how to use the network to avoid cell surveillance. According to Motherboard, all you need to do to join Sopranica is "create a free and anonymous Jabber ID, which is like an email address." Jabber is slang for a secure instant messaging protocol called XMPP that let's you communicate over voice and text from an anonymous phone number. "Next, you need to install a Jabber app on your phone," reports Motherboard. "You'll also need to install a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) app, which allows your phone to make calls and send texts over the internet instead of the regular cellular network." Lastly, you need to get your phone number, which you can do by navigating to Sopranica's JMP website. (JMP is the code, which was published by Gingerich in January, and "first part of Sopranica.") "These phone numbers are generated by Sopranica's Voice Over IP (VOIP) provider which provides talk and text services over the internet. Click whichever number you want to be your new number on the Sopranica network and enter your Jabber ID. A confirmation code should be sent to your phone and will appear in your Jabber app." As for how JMP protects against surveillance, Gingerich says, "If you're communicating with someone using your JMP number, your cell carrier doesn't actually know what your JMP number is because that's going over data and it's encrypted. So they don't know that that communication is happening."
Bitcoin

Blockchains Are Poised To End the Password Era (technologyreview.com) 129

schwit1 shares a report from MIT Technology Review: Blockchain technology can eliminate the need for companies and other organizations to maintain centralized repositories of identifying information, and users can gain permanent control over who can access their data (hence "self-sovereign"), says Drummond Reed, chief trust officer at Evernym, a startup that's developing a blockchain network specifically for managing digital identities. Self-sovereign identity systems rely on public-key cryptography, the same kind that blockchain networks use to validate transactions. Although it's been around for decades, the technology has thus far proved difficult to implement for consumer applications. But the popularity of cryptocurrencies has inspired fresh commercial interest in making it more user-friendly.

Public-key cryptography relies on pairs of keys, one public and one private, which are used to authenticate users and verify their encrypted transactions. Bitcoin users are represented on the blockchain by strings of characters called addresses, which are derived from their public keys. The "wallet" applications they use to hold and exchange digital coins are essentially management systems for their private keys. Just like a real wallet, they can also hold credentials that serve as proof of identification, says Reed. Using a smartphone or some other device, a person could use a wallet-like application to manage access to these credentials. But will regular consumers buy in? Technologists will need to create a form factor and user experience compelling enough to convince them to abandon their familiar usernames and passwords, says Meltem Demirors, development director at Digital Currency Group, an investment firm that funds blockchain companies. The task calls for reinforcements, she says: "The geeks are working on it right now, but we need the designers, we need the sociologists, and we need people who study ethics of technology to participate."

Businesses

Homeland Security Claims DJI Drones Are Spying For China (engadget.com) 82

A memo from the Los Angeles office of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau (ICE) says that the officials assess "with moderate confidence that Chinese-based company DJI Science and Technology is providing U.S. critical infrastructure and law enforcement data to the Chinese government." It also says that the information is based on "open source reporting and a reliable source within the unmanned aerial systems industry with first and secondhand access." Engadget reports: Part of the memo focuses on targets that the LA ICE office believes to be of interest to DJI. "DJI's criteria for selecting accounts to target appears to focus on the account holder's ability to disrupt critical infrastructure," it said. The memo goes on to say that DJI is particularly interested in infrastructure like railroads and utilities, companies that provide drinking water as well as weapon storage facilities. The LA ICE office concludes that it, "assesses with high confidence the critical infrastructure and law enforcement entities using DJI systems are collecting sensitive intelligence that the Chinese government could use to conduct physical or cyber attacks against the United States and its population." The accusation that DJI is using its drones to spy on the US and scope out particular facilities for the Chinese government seems pretty wacky and the company itself told the New York Times that the memo was "based on clearly false and misleading claims."
Businesses

US 'Orchestrated' Russian Spies Scandal, Says Kaspersky Founder (theguardian.com) 141

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian: Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive and co-founder of the embattled Russian cybersecurity firm that bears his name, believes his company is at the centre of a "designed and orchestrated attack" to destroy its reputation. Over a short period in the summer of 2017, Kaspersky Labs was the subject of multiple media reports alleging that the company had helped Russian intelligence agencies spy on the US, a number of FBI raids on staff members, and a nationwide ban on the use of its software by federal government agencies. "This media attack and government attack from the United States, it was designed and orchestrated," Mr Kaspersky said at a press conference in London. "Because at the same time, there was government, there was FBI, there was media attack. That is expensive ... I mean all kinds of resources: political influence, money, lobbyists, the media etc." When asked directly whether he had ever been asked to help Russian intelligence agencies spy on the US, Kaspersky vehemently denied any such conversations had ever happened saying: "They have never asked us to spy on people. Never." "If the Russian government comes to me and asks me to do anything wrong, I will move the business out of Russia," he added. "We never helped the espionage agencies, the Russians or any other nation."
Chrome

Google Will Block Third-Party Software From Injecting Code Into Chrome (bleepingcomputer.com) 40

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Google has laid out a plan for blocking third-party applications from injecting code into the Chrome browser. The most impacted by this change are antivirus and other security products that often inject code into the user's local browser process to intercept and scan for malware, phishing pages, and other threats. Google says these changes will take place in three main phases over the next 14 months. Phase 1: In April 2018, Chrome 66 will begin showing affected users a warning after a crash, alerting them that other software is injecting code into Chrome and guiding them to update or remove that software. Phase 2: In July 2018, Chrome 68 will begin blocking third-party software from injecting into Chrome processes. If this blocking prevents Chrome from starting, Chrome will restart and allow the injection, but also show a warning that guides the user to remove the software. Phase 3: In January 2019, Chrome 72 will remove this accommodation and always block code injection.
Businesses

The Underground Uber Networks Driven by Russian Hackers (thedailybeast.com) 49

Joseph Cox, reporting for DailyBeat: Uber's ride-sharing service has given birth to some of the most creative criminal scams to date, including using a GPS-spoofing app to rip off riders in Nigeria, and even ginning up fake drivers by using stolen identities. Add to those this nefariously genius operation: Cybercriminals, many working in Russia, have created their own illegitimate taxi services for other crooks by piggybacking off Uber's ride-sharing platform, sometimes working in collaboration with corrupt drivers. Based on several Russian-language posts across a number of criminal-world sites, this is how the scam works: The scammer needs an emulator, a piece of software which allows them to run a virtual Android phone on their laptop with the Uber app, as well as a virtual private network (VPN), which routes their computer's traffic through a server in the same city as the rider. The scammer acts, in essence, as a middleman between an Uber driver and the passenger -- ordering trips through the Uber app, but relaying messages outside of it. Typically, this fraudulent dispatcher uses the messaging app Telegram to chat with the passenger, who provides pickup and destination addresses. The scammer orders the trip, and then provides the car brand, driver name, and license plate details back to the passenger through Telegram.

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