Tag Archives: tracking

Bruce Schneier Sees Three Emerging Cyber Threats – NOT Cybercrime Related

imageParadoxically, a significant percentage of the very people (self described security experts), who love to paint computer users as “sheeple” (people unable to think for themselves, followers, lemmings, ….. ), adhere religiously to the party line when it comes to cyber threats – the party, in this case, being the security application industry – and, its unrelenting “scare them to death”, marketing tactics. I can’t help but wonder, who the real “sheeple” are.

It’s hardly surprising, that this type of “harum-scarum” focus, has the potential to camouflage other significant cyber threat issues (other than the cyber criminal issue). Issues which include Internet privacy (now there’s an oxymoron), censorship, and illegal law enforcement tracking – just to name a few – all of which should be a focus of examination, and analytical conversation.

Bruce Schneier, the Chief Security Technology Officer of BT (British Telecom)and the author of the best sellers “Schneier on Security,” “Beyond Fear,” “Secrets and Lies,” and “Applied Cryptography,” as well as the inventor of the Blowfish, Twofish, Threefish, Helix, Phelix, and Skein algorithms, recently revealed his top three emerging cyberspace threats – none of which, you’ll notice, has anything to do with cyber crime security, per se.

Here’s Schneier’s take on these issues – issues which, in his view, have the potential to be more dangerous than cybercriminals.

Last month, I participated in a panel at the Information Systems Forum in Berlin.  The moderator asked us what the top three emerging threats were in cyberspace.   I went last, and decided to focus on the top three threats that are not criminal.

The Rise of Big Data – By this I mean industries that trade on our data. These include traditional credit bureaus and data brokers, but also data-collection companies like Facebook and Google.  They’re collecting more and more data about everyone, often without their knowledge and explicit consent, and selling it far and wide: to both other corporate users and to government.  Big data is becoming a powerful industry, resisting any calls to regulate its behavior.

Ill-Conceived Regulations from Law Enforcement – We’re seeing increasing calls to regulate cyberspace in the mistaken belief that this will fight crime.  I’m thinking about data retention laws, Internet kill switches, and calls to eliminate anonymity.  None of these will work, and they’ll all make us less safe.

The Cyberwar Arms Race – I’m not worried about cyberwar, but I am worried about the proliferation of cyber weapons.  Arms races are fundamentally destabilizing, especially when their development can be so easily hidden.  I worry about cyberweapons being triggered by accident, cyberweapons getting into the wrong hands and being triggered on purpose, and the inability to reliably trace a cyberweapon leading to increased distrust.  Plus, arms races are expensive.

Obviously, it’s important to have a functional understanding of cybercrime and, the steps one must take to lessen its impact at an individual level. But, it’s equally as important to be aware, that behind the scenes, in a manner of speaking, major changes are occurring which will impact how you use the Internet and the risks and exposures, unrelated to cyber criminals, you may be required to accept.

Forewarned is forearmed, and all that.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

8 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Point of View

Use Free Prey To Track Your Lost Or Stolen Laptop Or Cell Phone

imageRecent statistics indicate that more than 10,000 Laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports alone. Broken down, this same set of statistics indicate that a Laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds!

If you are a Laptop owner, you should consider what can you do now, to increase the probability that should your Laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you.

One solution is offered by Prey, an Open Source application, that can enhance recovery chances. Stolen Laptop recovery is always a hit and miss proposition, but without an application such as Prey on board, the chances of recovery, at least statistically, are virtually nil.

image

What is Prey?

Prey is a small applet for your Laptop or Android Cell Phone, which, when activated by a remote signal, either from the Internet, or through an SMS message, will provide you with the device’s location, hardware and network status, and optionally – trigger specific actions on the device.

According to the developer – “Prey helps you track and find your Laptop or Phone if it ever gets out of sight. You can quickly find out what the thief looks like, what he’s doing on your device and actually where he’s hiding by using GPS or WiFi geopositioning. It’s payback time.”

There have been substantial changes and improvements to Prey, since I last reviewed it here on January 28, 2010.

Installation is very simple, as the following screen captures indicate. BTW, Prey can protect your desktop/s, as well.

image

image

image

image

Fast facts:

100% geolocation aware – Prey uses either the device’s GPS or the nearest WiFi hotspots to triangulate and grab a fix on its location. It’s shockingly accurate.

Wifi autoconnect – If enabled, Prey will attempt to hook onto to the nearest open WiFi hotspot when no Internet connection is found.

Light as a feather – Prey has very few dependencies and doesn’t even leave a memory footprint until activated. We care as much as you do.

Know your enemy – Take a picture of the thief with your laptop’s webcam so you know what he looks like and where he’s hiding. Powerful evidence.

Watch their movements – Grab a screenshot of the active session — if you’re lucky you may catch the guy logged into his email or Facebook account!

Keep your data safe – Hide your Outlook or Thunderbird data and optionally remove your stored passwords, so no one will be able to look into your stuff.

No unauthorized access – Fully lock down your PC, making it unusable unless a specific password is entered. The guy won’t be able to do a thing!

Scan your hardware – Get a complete list of your PC’s CPU, motherboard, RAM, and BIOS information. Works great when used with Active Mode.

Prey can check its current version and automagically fetch and update itself, so you don’t need to manually reinstall each time.

You monitor your devices on Prey’s web Control Panel, where you can watch new reports arrive and manage specific settings, such as changing the frequency for reports and actions.

You can add up to three devices for free, and can optionally upgrade to a Pro Account in case you wish to bypass this limit.

Full auto updater.

System requirements: XP, Vista, Win 7, Mac OS, Ubuntu Linux, Linux – all other distributions, (64 bit where appropriate), Android.

There is no guarantee that even with Prey on board that a stolen, or lost device, will be recovered – but, it seems sensible to make every effort to increase that likelihood.

Download at: The Prey Project

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

5 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, Android, cell phone, Cloud Computing Applications, Connected Devices, downloads, Free Surveillance Applications, Freeware, GPS, Interconnectivity, Laptop recovery, Linux, Mac OS X, Open Source, Software, Ubuntu, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

GoogleSharing Firefox Add-on – Stop Google’s Invasion of Your Privacy!

The campaign to convince people that the lack of personal privacy is of little concern to the average person, persists. Some pundits continue to enhance their careers by assuring us (at least those of us who will listen), that privacy, particularly Internet privacy, is dead and, we don’t care.

Consider these quotes from speakers at the Supernova conference, held this week in Philadelphia:

Jeff Jarvis, a blogger and media-industry pundit –

“I think we talk so much about privacy, privacy, privacy that we risk getting to the benefits of publicness (sic), that the Internet makes possible.”

Microsoft researcher, Danah Boyd –

“We have no definition of privacy.”

The only comment I’ll make regarding these two statements is – great sound bites, but BS nevertheless.

The most ludicrous statement I’ve heard regarding Internet privacy, comes from Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt –

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

This, from a person who’s company’s very existence is predicated on the   virtually raping of the public’s privacy, for commercial gain. I’m not a conspiracy theorist in any sense, but I do believe that the very structure of Google constitutes an attack on a basic human right – the right to be “left alone”.

Schmidt may be a “whiz bang” when it comes to search engines, but I suggest that he’s a dud when it comes to the psychology of human beings. The truth is, the realities of the world we now live in continue to emphasize; despite the fact you have may have done nothing wrong – you have everything to worry about.

Noted security guru Bruce Schneier, put it in relevant context when he said:

“Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance. If we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness.

We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable”.

The majority of my friends are extremely concerned with the inroads that governments, social websites, commercial enterprises, and most particularly Google, have made into their private lives. They’re obviously not unusual if one considers this:

Disk wipe utilities, disk cleaning utilities, and file shredding utilities, are among the most popular free downloads on the Internet.

Most web Browsers offer a private browsing mode.

Encryption software is often advertised as a way to protect private, personal, or sensitive files.

Anonymizer applications, such as Hotspot Shield, are advertised as a way to protect a user’s online identity.

While there are multiple uses for the software applications, or application options, described above, a primary use of such software is to ensure a certain level of privacy. Of course, if you’ve done nothing wrong you don’t need to use these applications, right?   🙂

Rather than using an anonymizer application, which in some cases can impact performance, there is another alternative, if you use Firefox as your Internet Browser – GoogleSharing.

GoogleSharing is a Firefox add-on developed by noted security expert Moxie Marlinspike, with one purpose in mind – preventing Google from tracking and retaining, user information.

The following graphics illustrate how this works.

Outbound search request:

image

Inbound search results:

image

Fast facts:

GoogleSharing is a custom proxy service.

Does not affect your non-Google traffic which it leaves completely untouched, un-redirected.

Combines search requests from many different users together, such that Google is not capable of telling what is coming from whom.

Each search request is assigned a unique identity.

Prevents Google from collecting information about you from services which don’t require a login.

Stops Google from tracking the user by IP address, Cookie, or any other identifying HTTP headers.

The system is completely transparent to the user. No special websites, no change to your work flow.

If you have any issues with Google retaining your user information, you should consider this add-on. Please be aware, I have not tested this add-on, and this post is for information purposes only.

For more information, visit: GoogleSharing

Download the add-on at: Mozilla

Additional resources related to privacy:

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Center for Democracy and Technology

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

13 Comments

Filed under Anonymous Surfing, Browser add-ons, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Privacy, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Download Prey – A Free Recovery Solution to a Lost or Stolen Laptop

image I’ve been planning for some time on writing an update on lost or stolen Laptops, the costs involved, and the consequences that often follow.

Following last night’s news story on “Laptops containing sensitive records belonging to thousands of Ontario teachers have been stolen”, on my local (Toronto) CBC News – now seems like the perfect time. So, let me mount my soapbox for just a moment.

What I found particularly offensive in this news story:

The Laptops were stolen December 3, 2009, and yet it took until January 27, 2010 to notify the affected parties. This, despite the fact, that stolen information of this type can be used to obtain false passports and fake credit cards, or for re-mortgaging a victim’s home.

As is often the case in this type of situation, the data on the Laptops was not encrypted.

Officials involved in this debacle were quoted as saying “but the computers were password-protected”. Officials, who obviously have no understanding, that readily available and legal, free software, can be downloaded from the Internet that can break, or reset passwords, in minutes.

This type of occurrence begs the question: is this just a “one off” or, is this type of occurrence a continuing problem?

If we are to be guided by recent survey results from the Ponemon Institute, which indicate that more than 10,000 laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports alone, coupled with statistics which indicate that a laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds,  it would be hard to dismiss this as an isolated occurrence.

Reportedly, 65% of lost or stolen laptops are not reclaimed, despite the fact that half the laptops contain confidential corporate information, which, in most cases, is not encrypted.

One would assume, that encrypting sensitive data on enterprise or government laptops, or portable media, would be SOP. Instead, it seems that when we read news stories about a lost or stolen laptop, the pattern seems to be as follows; – “200,000 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on an unencrypted laptop stolen/lost earlier this week”.

There are substantial hard costs incurred in the loss or thief of a Laptop, and again, statistics available from the Ponemon Institute “Cost of a Lost Laptop”, indicate that these hard costs can approach $50,000 per occurrence, for enterprise.

It’s not only business or government that should be concerned with the loss, or theft, of a Laptops – it’s every bit as likely to happen to individual Laptop owners.

If you are a Laptop owner, you should consider what can you do now, to increase the probability that should your laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you.

One solution is offered by Prey, an open source application, that can enhance recovery chances. Stolen laptop recovery is always a hit and miss proposition, but without an application such as Prey on board, the chances of recovery, at least statistically, are virtually nil.

Prey  web service

According to the developer:

Prey helps you locate your missing laptop by sending timed reports with a bunch of information of its whereabouts. This includes the general status of the computer, a list of running programs and active connections, fully-detailed network and wifi information, a screenshot of the running desktop and – in case your laptop has an integrated webcam – a picture of the thief.

Prey uses a remote activation system which means the program sits silently in your computer until you actually want it to run. If so, it gathers all the information and sends it to your Prey web control panel or directly to your mailbox. The thief will never know his movements are being watched.

image

There is no guarantee that even with Prey on board that a stolen, or lost Laptop, will be recovered – but it seems sensible to make every effort to increase that likelihood. Prey, may be just the solution you’ve been looking for.

Fast facts:

Wifi autoconnect – Prey checks if there’s an active internet connection to send the information.

Geo-location aware – Prey uses wifi hotspots to locate devices geographically. This not only includes lat/lng coordinates, but also an altitude indicator.

Lightweight – Prey is written in bash which means it has virtually no dependencies, only what it different modules need to work. This also means Prey is portable and should run in just about any computer.

Modular architecture – You can add, remove and configure the different parts of Prey as you wish. Prey is composed by modules, each one performing a specific task.

Powerful report system – Get the list of current running programs, the recently modified files, active connections, running uptime, take a screenshot of the running desktop or even a picture of the guy who’s using the computer.

Messaging/alert system – You can alert the thief  he’s being chased at by sending messages which will appear on screen. You can also trigger alarms to make the message clear not only to him but also to whomever is nearby.

Module auto-installer – You don’t have to reinstall Prey to keep up with the latest and greatest modules. We keep a repository from where Prey will fetch what it needs to get the job done.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP & Vista, Mac OS, Ubuntu Linux, Linux – other distributions.

Download at: The Prey Project

For a review and download links to free encryption software please read “Lose Your USB Stick and You Lose it All – Encrypt Now with Free Software!” on this site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

5 Comments

Filed under downloads, Free Laptop Tracking Software, Freeware, Laptop recovery, Open Source, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Prey – A Free Stolen Laptop Recovery Solution

clip_image001You’ll never lose your Laptop computer, and you take particular care to ensure it won’t be stolen, right? Of course you do. But does loss, or theft, of laptops happen? You bet.

Recent survey results from the Ponemon Institute, indicate that more than 10,000 laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports. Are you as surprised as I am?

Not surprised? Well, how about this astonishing statistic from the same survey: 65% of those lost or stolen laptops are not reclaimed, despite the fact that half the laptops contain confidential corporate information.

One can only hope that the data on these laptops was encrypted, although it seems when we read news stories about a lost or stolen laptop, the pattern seems to be as follows; – 200,000 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on an unencrypted laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

Other available statistics indicate that a laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds and 97% of stolen laptop computers are never recovered.

So what can you do to increase the probability that should your laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you?

One solution is offered by Prey, an open source application, that can enhance recovery chances significantly.

Prey web service

According to the developer:

Prey helps you locate your missing laptop by sending timed reports with a bunch of information of its whereabouts. This includes the general status of the computer, a list of running programs and active connections, fully-detailed network and wifi information, a screenshot of the running desktop and – in case your laptop has an integrated webcam – a picture of the thief.

Prey uses a remote activation system which means the program sits silently in your computer until you actually want it to run. If so, it gathers all the information and sends it to your Prey web control panel or directly to your mailbox. The thief will never know his movements are being watched.

Stolen laptop recovery is always a hit and miss proposition, but without an application such as Prey on board the chances of recovery, at least statistically, are virtually nil.

There is no guarantee that even with Prey on board that a stolen, or lost laptop, will be recovered – but it seems sensible to make every effort to increase that likelihood. Prey, may be just the solution you’ve been looking for.

Fast facts:

Wifi autoconnect – Prey checks if there’s an active internet connection to send the information.

Geo-location aware – Prey uses wifi hotspots to locate devices geographically. This not only includes lat/lng coordinates, but also an altitude indicator.

Lightweight – Prey is written in bash which means it has virtually no dependencies, only what it different modules need to work. This also means Prey is portable and should run in just about any computer.

Modular architecture – You can add, remove and configure the different parts of Prey as you wish. Prey is composed by modules, each one performing a specific task.

Powerful report system – Get the list of current running programs, the recently modified files, active connections, running uptime, take a screenshot of the running desktop or even a picture of the guy who’s using the computer.

Messaging/alert system – You can alert the thief  he’s being chased at by sending messages which will appear on screen. You can also trigger alarms to make the message clear not only to him but also to whomever is nearby.

Module auto-installer – You don’t have to reinstall Prey to keep up with the latest and greatest modules. We keep a repository from where Prey will fetch what it needs to get the job done.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP & Vista, Mac OS, Ubuntu Linux, Linux -other distributions

Download at: The Prey Project

If you enjoyed this article, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

5 Comments

Filed under downloads, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Laptop recovery, Open Source, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Stolen or Lost Laptop Tracker Software – Adeona Free

stolen-laptopYou’ll never lose your Laptop computer, and you take particular care to ensure it won’t be stolen, right? Of course you do. But does loss, or theft, of laptops happen? You bet.

Recent survey results from the Ponemon Institute, indicates that more than 10,000 laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports. Are you as surprised as I am?

Not surprised? Well, how about this astonishing statistic from the same survey: 65% of those lost or stolen laptops are not reclaimed, despite the fact that half the laptops contain confidential corporate information.

One can only hope that the data on these laptops was encrypted, although it seems when we read news stories about a lost or stolen laptop, the pattern seems to be as follows; – 200,000 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on an unencrypted laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

Other available statistics indicate that a laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds and 97% of stolen laptop computers are never recovered.

So what can you do to increase the probability that should your laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you, than the above statistics indicate?

adeona

Adeona (named after the Roman goddess of safe returns), is a recently released small software client for tracking the location of a lost, or stolen laptop, that does not rely on a proprietary central service, but instead, is offered free by the Open Source community.

This powerful free software has been developed through collaboration involving the University of Washington, the University of California San Diego and the University of California Davis.

The developer’s website describes the application as follows:

Adeona is designed to use the Open Source OpenDHT distributed storage service to store location updates sent by a small software client installed on an owner’s laptop.

The client continually monitors the current location of the laptop, gathering information (such as IP addresses and local network topology) that can be used to identify its current location.

The client then uses strong cryptographic mechanisms to not only encrypt the location data, but also ensure that the cipher texts stored within OpenDHT are anonymous and unlinkable. At the same time, it is easy for an owner to retrieve location information.

Quick facts:

Private: Adeona uses state-of-the-art cryptographic mechanisms to ensure that the owner is the only party that can use the system to reveal the locations visited by a device.

Reliable: Adeona uses a community-based remote storage facility, ensuring retrievability of recent location updates. (See caveat)

Open source and free: Adeona’s software is licensed under GPLv2. While your locations are secret, the tracking system’s design is not.

The Mac OS X version can capture pictures of the laptop user, or thief, using the built-in iSight camera.

System Requirements: Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X, Linux

Download at the developer’s web site: Adeona

A caveat: According to the development team, “OpenDHT has been experiencing some problems. We are working on a new private version, that does not depend on OpenDHT”.

For a review and download links to free encryption software read “Lose Your USB Stick and You Lose it All – Encrypt Now with Free Software!” on this site.

5 Comments

Filed under Free Laptop Tracking Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Open Source, Software, Surveilance Tools, Windows Tips and Tools

Adeona – Free – Stolen/Lost Laptop Tracker Software

You’ll never lose your Laptop computer, and you take particular care to ensure it won’t be stolen, right? Of course you do. But does loss, or theft, of laptops happen? You bet.

Recent survey results from the Ponemon Institute, indicates that more than 10,000 laptops are lost, or stolen, each week at U.S. airports. Are you as surprised as I am?

Not surprised? Well, how about this astonishing statistic from the same survey: 65% of those lost or stolen laptops are not reclaimed, despite the fact that half the laptops contain confidential corporate information.

One can only hope that the data on these laptops was encrypted, although it seems when we read news stories about a lost or stolen laptop, the pattern seems to be as follows; – 200,000 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Security Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on an unencrypted laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

Other available statistics indicate that a laptop is stolen, not lost but stolen, every 53 seconds and 97% of stolen laptop computers are never recovered.

So what can you do to increase the probability that should your laptop be lost or stolen, you can increase the chances that it will be returned to you, than the above statistics indicate?

Adeona (named after the Roman goddess of safe returns), is a newly released small software client for tracking the location of a lost, or stolen laptop, that does not rely on a proprietary central service, but instead, is offered free by the Open Source community.

This powerful free software has been developed through collaboration involving the University of Washington, the University of California San Diego and the University of California Davis.

The developer’s website describes the application as follows:

Adeona is designed to use the Open Source OpenDHT distributed storage service to store location updates sent by a small software client installed on an owner’s laptop.

The client continually monitors the current location of the laptop, gathering information (such as IP addresses and local network topology) that can be used to identify its current location.

The client then uses strong cryptographic mechanisms to not only encrypt the location data, but also ensure that the cipher texts stored within OpenDHT are anonymous and unlinkable. At the same time, it is easy for an owner to retrieve location information.

Quick facts:

Private: Adeona uses state-of-the-art cryptographic mechanisms to ensure that the owner is the only party that can use the system to reveal the locations visited by a device.

Reliable: Adeona uses a community-based remote storage facility, ensuring retrievability of recent location updates.

Open source and free: Adeona’s software is licensed under GPLv2. While your locations are secret, the tracking system’s design is not.

The Mac OS X version can capture pictures of the laptop user, or thief, using the built-in iSight camera.

System Requirements: Windows XP/Vista, Mac OS X, Linux

Download at the developer’s web site: Adeona

For a review and download links to free encryption software read “Lose Your USB Stick and You Lose it All – Encrypt Now with Free Software!” on this Blog.

2 Comments

Filed under Free Laptop Tracking Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Software, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools