The EFF’s privacy agenda


With a new administration coming into power, the Electronic Frontier Foundation feels that it’s time for a change (see what we did there). They’ve posted an agenda that covers fixing privacy issues that have come to the forefront in the last eight years. It involves repairing amendments that prevent corporations from being sued for warrantless wiretapping. They would also modernize the Electronic Communications Privacy Act so that it would cover modern technology. The heavily abused State Secrets Privilege needs reform as well. Their final issue is with REAL ID and datafarming that many state governments have already rejected. If even a bit of this gets fixed, we’ll be happy. In any case, it’ll be good to have a more tech focused administration that doesn’t need the internet explained to it in terms of dumptrucks and tubes.

[photo: Jake Appelbaum]

Homeland Security issues policy on laptop seizures

The US Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed a new policy that allows agents to seize laptops, or anything capable of storing information, “for a reasonable period of time”. Okay, so this seems normal; A government agency is declaring they may confiscate personal property. However, the strange part of this story is that under this policy, federal agents can confiscate these things without any suspicion of wrong doing or any reason what so ever. So what happens to your personal data after they seize your laptop? Apparently they share the data with federal agencies, and in some cases the private sector, as additional services such as file decryption or translation are needed. While this may seem like a major violation of privacy, it is important to note that this policy only applies to people entering the United States. However given the direction that our federal government is moving in the area of security, it wouldn’t surprise me if this policy will soon apply for domestic flights as well.

[photo: postmodern sleaze]


Black Hat 2008: EFF Coders’ Rights Project announced

The EFF has just announce the creation of the Coders’ Rights Project website at the Black Hat conference. The sites’ main goal is to centralize legal information for coders, and to help protect important security work from legal actions that may be taken against them with the DMCA and other legal black holes. While this is in no way a fully comprehensive list of everything you need to know, it looks like a good place to start, and provides a few FAQs for suggestions on how to stay in the legal clear as much as possible. At numerous points the documents suggest you speak with a lawyer, if you have any deeper questions, which you absolutely should. This can be very helpful if a person or group finds a security risk, and wants to publish it, or just wants to start looking into possible security risks.

Detecting ISP throttling

ISPs have recently become very aggressive towards their customers. They’ve been blocking or altering traffic to prevent you from using specific programs or protocols. Google’s Senior Policy Director recently stated that they’re developing tools to allow people to detect ISP interference. A couple other groups have been building tools as well: The Network Neutrality Squad just released the second beta of their Network Measurement Agent. The tool currently detects spoofed packets by monitoring the round trip time of the connection; early reset packets will have lower than average RTT. If you want to go more in depth, the EFF has published a guide for using Wireshark to do the detection. We’ve even heard rumors of people building tools to tunnel a session inside of one that looks completely different.

[photo: nrkbeta]

Maker Faire 2008: Schwag

As our final Maker Faire post, we thought we’d talk about some of the curious items that were handed us during the event.

While checking out Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories‘ latest generation CandyFab were given their AVR business card breakout board.

[Garrett] gave us a handful of ShiftBrites to play with in a future project.

We donated to the EFF, as we’re wont to do, and received a super bright blue flashlight for spotting the yellow tracking dots on color laser printouts. If you’re not familiar with this topic, you should check out bunnie’s blue light scanner.

Our final stop was at ifixit to pick up a free set of spatulas (spudgers?) for popping open iPods. All around a decent haul.