Welcome back to Part 2 of my attempt to create a private and secure iPod phone! When I started this series I thought it would consist of three parts: procurement, setup, and use. Setup took far more time than I expected, however, so I am going to cover this stage of the process somewhat more slowly. One of the reasons I wanted to do this experiment was to see what roadblocks I might run into. True to form, I ran into a couple of problems right off the bat. This post will cover setting up the iPod phone intially, and modifying basic settings for privacy and security.
Some time ago I read an amazingly good article on using an iPod Touch as a secure/private phone. I love the idea, and I have thought about it for quite a while. An iPod Touch is remarkably similar to an iPhone, but potentially far more private and secure. Recently I decided to try it for myself and see how easy (or hard) it would be to set up. I also had unanswered questions about its actual use. Part 1 of this article will cover device procurement and the lengths I went to for anonymity’s sake. Part 2, 3, and 4 will cover setup, and Part 5 will cover actually using my new, ultra-secure and private iPod phone. Continue reading “My Ultra-Private iPod Phone 1”
My last post covered threat modeling the Tor Network. While I have a very nuanced opinion of Tor, I do think it is ideal for certain use cases. Unless contraindicated . Using Tor is not difficult, but there are some potential pitfalls to be aware of. This post will cover how to use the Tor Browser Bundle.
Download and Install the Tor Browser
The first step is to download the Tor Browser from https://torproject.org. Before you install it you should verify the integrity of the file. The Tor Project has an excellent tutorial on how to do this here. Additionally, I will begin to post checksums for the Tor Browser this month. After you have verified the file, install it. If you use a Mac, double-click the .dmg and drag the icon into your applications folder. A few more steps are required if you use Windows, but setup is not difficult. Instructions are available here.
Begin Browsing with Tor
You are now ready to begin browsing. Double-click the Tor icon. Tor will as you to choose between “Connect” and “Configure”. For the vast majority of use-cases connecting directly is your best option. The “configure” option gives you the ability to use a bridge or proxy. Using a bridge or proxy may be necessary if you are in a country or on a network that blocks Tor traffic. Configuring a bridge or proxy is fairly intuitive, should you need to do so.
When you connect to the Tor network, your request is first routed to a directory server. This server will create your custom “circuit”, the network of three nodes through which your traffic will be routed. When your connection is established, the Tor browser will open automatically. You are now ready to browse through the Tor network. The Tor Browser is a modified version of Firefox. Browsing with Tor is superficially no different than browsing with Firefox with one or two exceptions.
Using Tor-Specific Features
Clicking the Onion button opens some options not available in Firefox. It also displays your Tor circuit and allows you to change the following options:
- New Identity: This closes all open tabs and discards any browsing data, like cookies. A new, clean instance of the browser is then opened. I do not recommend this
- New Tor Circuit for this Site: This feature builds a new circuit for the tab that is currently open.
- Privacy and Security Settings: See below.
- Tor Network Settings: Allows you to configure bridges and/or proxies if needed.
- Check Tor Browser for Updates: Always keep your browser up-to-date. I recommend checking each time you open Tor because updates are frequently released.
Privacy and Security Settings: Click this to open an additional dialogue. The privacy portion has four radio buttons. Leave all of these checked. The security dialogue contains a slider and allows you to choose a desired level of security (low, medium-low, medium-high, high). These settings correlate roughly to threat models. The higher your threat model, the higher a level of security you should choose. I believe you should always use “high”. It is less convenient and requires a working knowledge of NoScript, but if you are going to use Tor you should use it to its full potential. On the other hand, ease-of-use may convince more people to use it overall.
Potential Problems with Tor
Tor is imperfect for everyday use. There are reasons it is not incredibly common. Among them: the Tor Network is slow. Traffic is routed through multiple servers, usually in multiple countries. This inevitably slows your traffic. Additionally, your traffic is slowed at least to the speed of the slowest server in your circuit. You will also be forced to solve captchas to visit or log in to some websites, and encounter other minor inconveniences. You will also encounter security issues when using the Tor Browser. I addressed some of these in my last post. My next post will address one of them specifically: exit node security through HTTPS.
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The Tor Browser Bundle is a terrific security tool. Tor is a decentralized, anonymization network. To use it you need a specific internet browser, and it allows you to be as close to anonymous as one can be on the internet. It also strongly encrypts your traffic, and best of all, it is free. Readers have asked my opinion on Tor, and why I have not written about it. There are some potential downsides to using Tor. As a result, I have very mixed, very nuanced feelings about using it. Before jumping into and using this tool you should take some time to consider these Tor threat models. Though I typically analyze variations of the tool itself, my Tor threat models are in relation to use cases and user profiles rather than the tool.
I was recently a guest alongside my co-author, Michael Bazzell on the Social-Engineer podcast (the episode will be be available tomorrow). We discussed social engineering for security and privacy reasons. Since being on the show I have thought more about social engineering than at any time since I attended Chris Hadnagy’s SE course back in 2013. One realization I’ve had is that social engineering attacks commonly begin with a starting point. An email address to which the attacker can send phishing emails. A phone number she can use to hack your cell account. A username she can use to call customer service and request access. Along this line of thought, it has also occured to me that it is never a bad time to restress the importance of usernames as a security measure. Continue reading “Usernames as a Security Measure”
I have always been a bit skeptical of the IronKey secure flash drive. While boasting some sexy features, the cost seemed probitive and unjustified to me. After several reader questions I decided it was finally time to get one of these devices and try it for myself. The result: I’m convinced that this is the ultimate in secure, portable data. Due to its extreme cost I am still not converting over fully to IronKey, but I would if I could afford to. There are several features of this device that make it desirable to both enterprise users and the privacy-minded. Continue reading “IronKey Secure Flash Drive Review”
It is likely that readers of this blog know where I stand on cloud storage. I have been fairly outspoken against the practice of storing personal data in the cloud. Unfortunately, I realize this may be an untenable solution for many who desire – or even require – the ability to use and access cloud storage. Even I had a personal experience recently that made me re-think the utility of cloud storage. Cloud storage does offer the benefit of being a strong hedge against data loss. Losing data can be crippling for an individual, and even more so to a small business. With these factors in mind (and at the request of a reader) I have taken a look at some cloud providers and developed some cloud storage threat models.
In Part I of this series we discussed the principles of rolling your own encrypted email. Part II and Part III covered the installation and setup of the applications needed to make this happen. Today we will begin talking about how to actually use all this “stuff”. Installing the programs are the easiest parts of this process, but using it isn’t as daunting as it was just a few years ago. Hopefully you have been using Thunderbird over the past week and have some comfort level with it. To begin using it to send and receive encrypted email, you will need someone to practice with. This is a good reason and a good strategy to encourage others to use encryption!
I haven’t written much about data backups here before, but they are incredibly important. Everyday, run-of-the-mill data loss can range from frustrating to devastating. In the midst of a natural disaster the impact of personal data loss may be compounded as you are trying to deal with much more basic needs. I am proud to be a guest on the In The Rabbit Hole Urban Survival Podcast this week (the episode will air today and can be found here). Aaron and I talked about backing up the documents you may need to have on hand in an emergency, or what I call the “Bugout Backup”. I also mentioned how to store and protect this information with encryption. Our first topic was why having this information is important.
In the last part of this installment we discussed importing mail into the Thunderbird mail client. Now that our email has been taken out of the browser, we can begin adding the cryptographic elements. The first of these is GPG (Gnu Privacy Guard). GPG is an open source implementation of PGP. It will provide the actual encryption used for our emails. The next step is to install an add-on to Thunderbird called Enigmail. Enigmail will provide the interface, allowing Thunderbird to use GPG’s encryption. Installing and setting up GPG and Enigmail is the first order of business in this post.
Different operating systems require different versions of GPG. If you are using Windows you will install GPG4Win. If you are using OS X you will install GPG Suite. If you are using Linux, you can probably skip this step because GPG comes standard with most distros. If you do need to download it you can do so here. After you have downloaded the application, begin the setup process. You will be prompted to provide your administrator password and select a language. After you have done so you should see screens depicted in the following screenshots.
On the third screen you will be asked which components of GPG you wish to install. I generally choose to make my installation as light as possible. I uncheck everything except “GnuPG” and the “Compendium”. The other components provide powerful capabilities, but they are superflous for our purposes.
The next step is to install Enigmail. Since it is only a extension to Thunderbird this is an easy installation. First, open Thunderbird. Next, click the hamburger icon, and then click “Add-ons”.
CREATING A KEY PAIR WITH GPG AND ENIGMAIL
With GPG and Enigmail installed, you are ready to begin creating your key(s). When Thunderbird restarts the Enigmail Setup Wizard will begin walking you through the process of key generation. This is not an overly complicated process, and Enigmail will automate most of it. With the “Start setup now” radio button checked, click “Next”.
On the next screen select “I prefer an extended configuration”. On the next screen check “I want to create a new key pair for signing and encrypting my email”. The next screen will prompt you to enter a password. I recommend that you take some time to enter a good password. This password can never be changed, so take the time now. After clicking the “Next” the key generation process will begin.
After the keys have been generated you will be prompted to generate a Revocation Certificate. A revocation certificate allows you to revoke your keys if they are compromised in the future (leading to compromise of communications encypted with them). This ensures that if you lose control of your private key you can still maintain control of the communications. We will discuss how to revoke a certificate in a future post on the topic. Ensure you store the revocation certificate in a secure location.
Now that we have installed GPG and Enigmail and setup a keypair, we are ready to being exchanging encrypted emails. We will cover this in the next segment, so stay with me!
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