Hijacking a Drone

droneDrones are unmanned flying vehicles which are controlled by operators from thousands of miles away. They are used extensively in Afghanistan to track the Taliban’s activities. There has been increase talk among law enforcement in the United States that using drones might be useful in fighting crime. There is a Federal mandate that would permit drones to be used in US airspace. There are many questions involving the use of drones including privacy rights, lack of search warrants …. There are also technical questions. Right now the biggest problem that the DHS and the FAA are facing involving drones are jammers which don’t control the drones but simply jam the signal. This is the way the Iranians insist they were able to bring down a drone in 2011. Although that is still disputed by the US who insist it was operator error and not Iranian jamming that caused the drone to land off course.

However solving the jamming problem maybe easy compared to the problem of spoofing. Spoofing is where the drone is actually controlled by a third-party. In order for spoofing to be successful the drones GPS system must be hacked. That is what the University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering did under Assistant Professor Todd Humphreys when it hijacked a drone using $1,000 worth of equipment and custom software. These drones were using unencrypted software that the University of Texas team was able to hack. Their signal was more powerful than the GPS signal that the drone was receiving from the satellite that was originally controlling it. They were able to over ride that GPS signal sending the drone where they wanted to. As you can image this is a huge potential problem. Imagine what would happen if a terrorist group was able to hack a drone and send it where ever they wanted it to. They could control it from anywhere and sending it crashing into buildings with no risk to themselves.

Right now the DHS is still working on the jamming problem through the Patriot Watch and the Patriot Shield programs but the programs are underfunded and haven’t even started looking into the spoofing problem. Before we allow drones to fly above US cities we might want to find a solution to both jamming and spoofing first.

Battle For The Internet Looms

Image - BigStockPhoto.com

With the perpetually refreshed glut of information available on the Web, it’s rare to find a thoroughly researched, thoughtful and meaningful piece on – of all things – the State of The Internet. In the May issue of Vanity Fair, contributing editor Michael Joseph Gross writes a captivating article, “World War 3.0,” that is both rich with history and chilling in his description of the challenges facing a tough-to-tame digital behemoth.

In this lengthy (by Web standards, anyway) piece leading up to a December conference in Dubai where the world will meet to discuss and renegotiate a UN treaty – International Telecommunications Regulations – as it relates to the Internet, Gross pens a somber outlook on where things are headed with the Web. Crisis, Gross asserts, is in store for the Internet and its users because of four main issues:

Sovereignty – the Internet was created and has developed specifically to exist outside or above the worldly territories we’ve mapped out

Piracy and Intellectual Property – the battle between freedom of information and folks wanting to protect their work and, more importantly, get paid

Privacy – the incomprehensible mass of information on the Internet and our ability to contribute and participate with relative anonymity is great for creativity and freedom, but it’s also awesome for criminals and folks who want to use your information for nefarious purposes.

Security – Code written is code hacked. It’s all just a matter of time and effort. With so much at stake and with so much money being made from the Web, how on Earth do we protect it all?

Four main issues – each extremely difficult to solve. In most cases, it’s damn near impossible to get consensus on the terms of each of these issues. You’ll have to read the article to see how Gross places this all in a context that makes the battle over the Internet one of the most important showdowns we might ever see.

The chill-factor for me comes from the last paragraph of his article – discussing the options for achieving security in such a connected world:

Aside from wealth or arcane knowledge, the only other guarantor of security will be isolation. Some people will pioneer new ways of life that minimize their involvement online. Still others will opt out altogether—to find or create a little corner of the planet where the Internet does not reach. Depending on how things go, that little corner could become a very crowded place. And you’d be surprised at how many of the best-informed people about the Internet have already started preparing for the trip.

Image: Blue Digital Background by BigStock

GNC-2012-02-23 #744 Listen and Win!

Unexpected Trip to Washington DC next week. I get back to Hawaii on Thursday, will make a decision on Monday show in next day or so. Listen today to get your name in the hat for the show 750 giveaway.

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GNC-2012-01-27 #737 Shame on Hawaii Legislature!

Going to be implementing some Studio upgrades in the next couple of weeks should be fun. I go after a couple of my state legislatures pretty hard tonight on two idiotic bills that they introduced. Also hope I was not to punchy on the last show notes. I am feeling much better by the way and although the voice is not a 100% I feel a 100% better.

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GNC-2011-12-01 #725 Foot in Mouth

Between the phone ringing, computers rebooting and me sticking my foot in my mouth 2-3 times I have a great show for you.. Back for one show here in Honolulu and off to Austin next week. Then home for Christmas and to prepare for CES 2012!

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The War in Cyber Space

Cyber Security

Symantec's report on a recent wave of cyberattacks includes the geographic breakdown of computers used in the attacks.

What do these four articles have in common.

They are all signs that cyber espionage is growing as a threat in today’s increasingly interconnected world. Not only for the U.S but for other countries and groups around the world. Many believe that most attacks are coming out of China and Russia. Countries like the U.S., Israel also use cyber espionage when it is to their advantage. The use of infected machines by hackers often makes it difficult to know where the attacks actually originate from.  Attacks maybe either done by nation-states, private groups or individuals and telling the difference is very difficult. Some hackers may try to attack defense targets, but most target businesses and involve attempts to steal intellectual property, including design documents, formulas and various manufacturing processes. How many attacks occur yearly is unknown, since many companies do not report such attacks publicly.

The critical importance of the fight against cyber espionage was underscored by retired four star Marine Corps general James Cartwright, in an interview with Reuters. He believes that we should be more public when it comes what general deterrents we have and are willing to use. He said “You can’t have something that’s a secret be a deterrent. Because if you don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t scare you. Many experts believe that a deterrents policy needs to be created to indicate the threat of possible action without being too specific. For now U.S officials are silent on the type of deterrents that the US has, however it is assumed that it has both defensive and offense ones it can use.

The Obama administration is currently crafting rules of engagement in cyber space after releasing its general policy earlier this year. Many see cyber space as the fifth pillar of defense, which had been land, sea, air and space. The one thing that is clear cyber espionage is only going to increase in sophistication and intensity as cloud computing becomes more popular.

GNC #697 Police State?

Meetup in Albuquerque is on for next week if you want to attend please email me ASAP. We are also collecting prizes for show #700 if you would like to donate a product or service drop me a line. This show gets very serious almost out of the gate we all need to make sure we protect our freedoms.

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How To Hack Mobile Phone Voicemail

As the fall-out from the News of the World scandal continues, many sources continue to inaccurately refer to “mobile phone hacking”. The truth (as far as is known) was that it was the voicemail of the mobile phone that was hacked rather than the phone itself. There are two ways to do this – the first is to simply guess the PIN of the voicemail and the second is to use Caller ID spoofing.

In the mid-2000s, most mobile phone voicemail systems were poorly protected as they typically came with a default PIN which was often easily guessed and only varied  according to the mobile phone company. Most users didn’t bother to change the PIN. Say the phone was on Orange, then the default PIN was 1234. If it was Vodafone, then 0000.  Typically, the villain then makes two simultaneous calls to the victim. One will be picked up, the other will go to voicemail.   By then pressing “*” or “#” while listening to the voicemail prompts, the individual can gain access to the voicemail system using the default PIN. Computeractive has article covering this scenario and how, in theory, it would be harder (but not impossible) to take this approach today.

As for Caller ID spoofing, this technique makes a call look like it’s coming from a different number than it actually is. It can be used legally to make someone calling from a mobile to actually appear to be coming from a company office, so that the person’s mobile number is not divulged. However, in some instances it has been used to gain access to voicemail boxes as many voicemail systems do not ask for further identification if the system recognises the inbound Caller ID as one of its own. PC Mag and c|net have short articles on how this is done and worryingly, this is still a threat. The Wall Street Journal covered the problem in 2010 before the current scandal broke.

It would appear that the best protection to both these attacks is (a) to change your PIN on your voicemail and (b) require your PIN even when calling from your own mobile phone. That way, even if your Caller ID is spoofed, the caller can’t get in without knowing your PIN.

“News of the World” Phone Hacking Scandal

News International today announced that this Sunday’s edition of the News of the World newspaper would be the last edition and that the newspaper was closing down. Ostensibly the reason is that a phone hacking scandal had a irretrievably stained the name of the newspaper but the suspicion is that there’s far more to the closure.

For non-UK residents, it’s an astonishing story that involves several alleged crimes and some disgraceful behaviour. First of all, News of the World (NOTW) is one of the biggest selling Sunday newspapers with around 40% of the market and 2.8 million readers. It’s been going for 168 years and while considered a tabloid paper, it has been instrumental in revealing other scandals involving politicians and other well-known figures.

The scandal itself is that around six years ago, a private investigator used by the newspaper is alleged to have hacked into the voice mailboxes of over 4,000 people, including royal aides, sports stars, celebrities and politicians. Even worse, it is further alleged that the mailboxes of soldiers killed in Iraq and murder victims were hacked into. In particular, the alleged deletion of messages on Milly Dowler’s phone is suggested to have given hope to her parents that she was still alive when she had been killed.

Rumours of the hacking arose when the newspaper published stories that could only have been discovered from personal messages. The private investigator and the journalist involved were sent to prison back in 2007 and at the time, a police investigation suggested that the two individuals involved acted alone. In 2009, the Guardian newspaper claimed that thousands of mailboxes had been hacked and that the practice was well known and routine. The Metropolitan Police refused to re-open the investigation. It has also now been alleged that NOTW made payments to the police in return for information. The hacking of the mobile phone’s voice mail was not sophisticated. The private investigator simply relied on the fact that most people did not bother changing the default PIN on their voice mailbox.

Over the past week, as the revelations of the alleged hacking continued, public opinion turned against NOTW. Major advertisers in the paper withdrew their contracts, unwilling to be associated with the unfolding scandal. It was perhaps inevitable that the NOTW would have to close but it seems harsh to punish the current staff for the activities of their predecessors.

The intrigue continues as the parent company, News International, is keen to buy out the remaining shares in BSkyB. However, this had raised concerns that one single company would own too much of the UK media – News International owns the The Times too. The suggestion has been made that by closing one newspaper, NOTW, this will reassure the regulatory authorities but there are also now questions about whether News International is fit and proper to take over BSkyB. It is rumoured that News International will launch a Sunday edition of a sister newspaper The Sun. The domains “TheSunOnSunday.co.uk” and “TheSunOnSunday.com” were registered two days ago, though it’s not clear by who registered them

It’s an amazing scandal and totally despicable – some of the stuff you couldn’t make up. If there’s one thing to be learnt from the scandal, it’s make sure you change the default PIN on your mobile phone’s voice mailbox.

 

GNC #678 Do they Want Control?

Geek News Central Podcast Congrats to our winner! I give you all some insight into what has been happening physically with me, I am on the mend hopefully and back to normal activities. I know your going to love the show lots of high charged tech tonight.

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Show Notes:
Chromebook Unboxing.
Apple Blinks.
Can he help Internet Television?
IPV6 Overview!
IPV6 Thougths.
Can they tame the wild West?
Microsoft has to pay up.
The Wii U?
NBC Universal Olympics.
Web Video World at CES 2012.
GMediaFinder.
Boxee UK.
Panasonic and AT&T Team Up.
App Forensics!
How did she get Elected?
Groupon Loyalty Cards.
WP7 to beat iPhone?
120,000 Promoted Tweets.
Tweets Decline after Weiner.
Texting on Decline?
Skype + Canada + New Int Rates = Savings!
Anon threatens NATO!
iOS 5 Features you may have missed.
Judges Revenge Saves P2P Victims.
CitiGroup 200k Accounts Hacked.
Chrome New Security.
Chromebook Teardown.
Google Cloud and Trust.
Academic Copyright Lawsuit.
Weird ICE PSA Ads.
NASA needs Cash.
Soyuz Arriving.
Android Market Phone Matrix.
At&T Most Calls Dropped!
Kiddie Porn or Freedom of Speech Domain Seizure?
Reasons to like HTML5.
Windows Phone App Porting made Easy.
Bing Webmaster Tools!
Skype Savings!
Gaming Tower.
Ultimate iPhone Accessory.

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