Hey Everybody! Welcome to our 40th HackerKast! Thanks for listening as always and lets get to the news!
Our first story to chat about this week was news bubbling up still about the recent OPM breach. This time, the news outlets are latching on to the fact that data encryption wouldn’t have helped them in this case. Jeremiah poses the question “Is this true? And if so, when does it protect you?” Robert and I go back and forth a bit about layers of protection and how encryption in this regard will only help with host layer issues. Some other ideas come up about data restrictions being put upon the database queries as they are taking place so that the crown jewels can’t be stolen via one simple hole.
Next, we moved on to a story Robert was drooling over about Google’s new pet project company, Sourcepoint, which exists to stop ad blocking. Apparently they originally launched to detect when ads are being modified, which was apparently an issue in the SEO world. However, the way the tech worked, monitoring the DOM allowed them to pivot a bit to detect ad blocking by users. This could be leveraged to stop the user from blocking, or could alert the user and ask really nicely for them not to block ads which could be harming some sites’ revenue. We then all made the comparison here that the modern age of ads looks a lot like the age of Anti-Virus with the whole cat and mouse game of writing signatures to catch which domains are serving ads.
On the topic of ad blockers, AdBlock Plus added a feature which would allow enterprise level IT admins to roll out the browser plugin to an entire company. We need to remind people that AdBlock Plus also is the ad blocker on the market that will allow ads that pay them to be whitelisted. This means the more computers their software is on, the more they can ask to be whitelisted.
Jer couldn’t wait to talk about this next story about the NSA reverse engineering AV software. He starts by giving us all a quick history lesson of his interest in AV being the ironic attack vector for hackers to get into systems. The current story is about a recently leaked Snowden document that outlined an NSA program which reversed AV software — including Kaspersky — to utilize it to track and monitor users. Not a good week for Kaspersky coming off the heels of Duqu 2.0 recently.
Our transition from one virus propagator to another here brings us to our next story: Adobe Flash. The initial story that made our list was Brian Krebs talking about detoxing from Flash for 30 days with it completely removed from his system. He gives some good advice about disabling flash, removing it altogether, or enabling click to play. While editing this story though, he had to add a note at the top which proved his point that the day it was published there was an out-of-band Zero-Day patch Adobe released this week. The Zero-Day was identified by some ridiculously named FireEye report of an attack being used in Singapore from a Chinese hacking group they call APT3. We have a good conversation about Flash and what a huge target it’s been and what a nightmare it is to get users to update.
The icing on our cake to go back to ragging on Google is a story that hit the privacy community this week of Chrome listening to you via your computer microphone. For some reason, the initial group they decided to test this with was Chromium users on Debian who noticed the silent update start to log this audio information. Apparently there is some legitimate purpose behind this, like saying “Hi Google” to your computer and giving it voice commands. They then send this audio to their servers to do analysis to improve their service. They double, triple, super duper promise they aren’t logging it or sharing the audio. We went off on a tangent here on how awful of an idea this is. I brought up how we’ve got a nice diagram from the NSA showing how they strip HTTPS at the Google layer to monitor users so it really doesn’t matter if they log or store it if the NSA can just snoop on the wire there. Who knows where this is going to go, but now you might have an always on microphone in your house.
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Notable stories this week that didn’t make the cut: