Newsletter from Kushal

learnandteach

Facebook buying Gify is one of the biggest stories of this week. This purchase provides Facebook access to many forums or internal chat rooms or Slack channels, which was not possible for them before. People, who care about their privacy, now have to think twice before using any GIFs from them. Signal also allows using GIFs in their messaging system, but they made sure that it does not break people's privacy. Many users asked this question on Twitter this week and Signal was ready :)

On another big news, US Santa Cruz police used surveillance devices from the military on students. This story should remind you that things don't only happen in Hollywood spy movies. The problem is real, and all of our privacy is at risk.

Meanwhile, NSO changed their product's name, and tried to sell it to local US police departments. Another amazing story from Joseph Cox.

Before you close the email (or the tab on the browser), I want you to read this excellent story on Marcus Hutchins by AndyGreenberg. I found the story very detailed with many previously unknown facts about Marcus, but super personal at the same time.

Sandworm is one of the best book I read in 2019 (from the same) author. If you never read yet, please get a copy and read it through. You will not only enjoy the book, and also learn many new facts.

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

Last week there were many different big news. We had significant size data breaches to Zoom buying https://keybase.io. Though a few friends are not happy about this acquisition, most of the people just want to wait. To see how this goes. There is a big chance that the Keybase team will stay back and make Zoom better.

In my last newsletter, I pointed out an attack in the wild using Salt Stack. After I sent out the newsletter, there were other instances of the attack using the same vulnerability. Here is a detailed blog post on the Akamai site about the same.

Video for the week

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

This week I want to point you to this video about the Cobol programming language by Professor Mar Hicks. It is 13 minutes long. This means you can learn a bit about history very quickly.

There is also an interview with Ali Gharavi published a few weeks ago. Here he talks about his arrest, detention, and about the court case.

Video for the week

  • Static Typing in Python by Dustin Ingram

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

In the last few weeks, video conferencing became the primary way to stay in touch. Zoom saw a raise in daily users, 10 million per day, to 300 million per day. The company preferred to focus on usability than security aspects. But this is also when you have security researchers worldwide sitting at home in locked down condition. Becoming the most visible product in the market at this hour has a downside :) People found all sorts of issues in Zoom.

If you are still trying to understand the difference between various video conferencing tools, my friend and colleague Martin Shelton wrote this detailed article listing many of the major tools.

Video for the week

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

Last weekend I was in NULLCON at Goa. It is India's one of the largest security conferences. This year, Micah Lee was the keynote speaker, and he spoke about all the alleged whistleblowers who were prosecuted during the Trump era.

From the last year, the NULLCON organizers are also focused on a special track for media and activists, Micah also did the opening talk in the track, and after that, we had a panel (co-hosted with Hasgeek, organized by Zainab, Anwesha) on the “Anatomy of Internet Shutdowns”, the four panelists were Arjun Venkatraman, Prateek Waghre, Raman Jit Singh Chima, Shehla Rashid Shora. The panelists spoke about the situation in India (which has the world's highest number of shutdowns), and issues people face during the shutdowns.

After the panel, Saikat Datta talked about “Surveillance and journalism”, with many practical examples. The rest of the day, I had my “Digital Security workshop” for the journalists. We went through the basics and also answered the specific questions people had.

I want to especially thank Antriksh, and Prateek and the rest of organizers of NULLCON as they provided this safe space for the journalists and activists to meet, and discuss issues.

If you read the Caravan story about one of the activists from the Bhima-koregaon case you will see the kind of the environment (both legal and digital security-wise) our activists go through. There is a clear presence of malware, and the police decided to skip it altogether.

This also brings our attention to the fights for privacy, and online freedom, especially the Internet Freedom Foundation. We never had a similar organization in India, which works on digital rights and Internet era. To keep the fight on, the organization needs more regular donor members. To all of my Indian readers, if you can, please support the organization by becoming a donor member. The team there is doing an amazing job and needs our support in every way possible.

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

I am writing this letter after more than a month. There are too many things I want to write about, but, I am going to keep this one very sort, and focused on attacks over mobile phones. From last night, the biggest news on the Internet is about crown prince of Saudi Arabia sending a malware to the richest person of the world, Jeff Bezos.

The story is on almost every news site. The incident happened using some kind of 0day attack via WhatsApp, and this is not the first time. CitizenLab records more than 100 new abuse cases.

Videos for the week

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

As the news of two malicious Python packages in PyPI spread across the Internet, I started revisiting all the hours our team at Freedom of the Press Foundation spent to think about these exact kind of attacks the ways of mitigation. In this particular case, the attackers used typosquatting to get similar project names and sent in malware-ridden code via the same.

I gave a talk Building reproducible Python applications for secured environments at PyCon US this year on the mitigation processes we follow. In simple words, we verify every source code update by reading the changes manually (with human eyes+tools) and then build and store wheel files on our index. Everything also gets verified via GPG signatures and known sha256sums.

We also publish the verification results on a wiki page and mail to the diff-review mailing list. Feel free to join in there and also let others know.

Video for the week

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal.

Kushal

You have already seen how bad ICE can go, starting from letting children die, to torturing immigrants. Now, many Github employees started a campaign to make their company drop the contract with ICE. There are now transparent overlay images, which anyone can use in their Github profile images to support this cause.

In the last few days, it also came to light that the Indian Nuclear power plant was not the only target of the cyber attack. The attack also happened against ISRO while the critical Mars mission was ongoing.

Videos to watch

I want to specially mention Rust in Motion video tutorials; I think these are the best online training material available for anyone to learn Rust programming language.

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Or you can find me on fediverse https://toots.dgplug.org/@kushal I am also doing a digital security office hour today (13th November) at 14:30 UTC; feel free to ask any question you have over Mastodon with a hashtag #securityofficehour and tagging me in the question.

Kushal

In my last newsletter, I wrote about WhatsApp based targeted attacks. This story suddenly became a big thing in India when it was made public that many Indian lawyers, activists were also targeted. It is also very clear that the attack was directed by some government agency focusing on selected Indian citizens. Now many Indian news sites are talking about digital security, but not many are asking questions to the government. Without any law related to data protection and privacy of Indian citizens, this kind of surveillance by the government will only increase with time.

If you also remember the cyber attack on the Indian Nuclear power plant, now a group of South Korean malware analysts are claiming North Korea was behind the attack. The power plant though first denied any issues and then later had to admit about the attack.

Videos to watch

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Also, please share about the newsletter in your favorite social media as this is still a very new thing from me.

Kushal

Critical infrastructure is generally not connected to the public Internet. And then, there are too many wrong configurations in productions sometimes just because someone thought that it is a good idea to mine bitcoins on a nuclear weapon facility.

Yesterday Pukhraj Singh did a tweet saying:

So, it's public now. Domain controller-level access at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant. The government was notified way back. Extremely mission-critical targets were hit.

Yup, you read it right, a nuclear power plant was hit, using a static username password combination over SMB. Following the standard Indian Government style about dealing with problems, the plant released a note saying there was no problem. Sadly just denying that there were no issues does not cover up the truth, and today a story on Indian Express confirms the breach.

One another big news, Citizen Lab published a report on NSO Group’s attack over WhatsApp, which points out that now WhatsApp officially filed a complaint in a U.S. federal court against NSO group. WashingtoPost has a detailed report. WhatsApp also messaged around 1400 users who might have been impacted by this attack.

Videos to watch

If you want to discuss any of these topics, hop on to the Freenode server (IRC), and come to the #learnandteach channel. Also, please share about the newsletter in your favorite social media as this is still a very new thing from me.

Note: I think I managed to break the formatting, sorry for the trouble in reading.

Kushal