Last week we covered the latest 0-day from NSO group, BLASTPASS. There’s more details about exactly how that works, and a bit of a worrying revelation for Android users. One of the vulnerabilities used was CVE-2023-41064, a buffer overflow in the ImageIO library. The details have not been confirmed, but the timing suggests that this is the same bug as CVE-2023-4863, a Webp 0-day flaw in Chrome that is known to be exploited in the wild.
The problem seems to be an Out Of Bounds write in the BuildHuffmanTable() function of libwebp. And to understand that, we have to understand libwebp does, and what a Huffman Table has to do with it. The first is easy. Webp is Google’s pet image format, potentially replacing JPEG, PNG, and GIF. It supports lossy and lossless compression, and the compression format for lossless images uses Huffman coding among other techniques. And hence, we have a Huffman table, a building block in the image compression and decompression.
What’s particularly fun about this compression technique is that the image includes not just Huffman compressed data, but also a table of statistical data needed for decompression. The table is rather large, so it gets Huffman compressed too. It turns out, there can be multiple layers of this compression format, which makes the vulnerability particularly challenging to reverse-engineer. The vulnerability is when the pre-allocated buffer isn’t big enough to hold one of these decompressed Huffman tables, and it turns out that the way to do that is to make maximum-size tables for the outer layers, and then malform the last one. In this configuration, it can write out of bounds before the final consistency check.
Famed whistleblower [Edward Snowden] has recently taken to YouTube to announce Haven: an Open Source application designed to allow security-conscious users turn old unused Android smartphones and tablets into high-tech monitoring devices for free. While arguably Haven doesn’t do anything that wasn’t already possible with software on the market, the fact that it’s Open Source and designed from the ground up for security does make it a bit more compelling than what’s been available thus far.
Developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Haven is advertised as something of a role-reversal for the surveillance state. Instead of a smartphone’s microphone and camera spying on its owner, Haven allows the user to use those sensors to perform their own monitoring. It’s not limited to the camera and microphone either, Haven can also pull data from the smartphone’s ambient light sensor and accelerometer to help determine when somebody has moved the device or entered the room. There’s even support for monitoring the device’s power status: so if somebody tries to unplug the device or cut power to the room, the switch over to the battery will trigger the monitoring to go active.
Thanks to the Open Source nature of Haven, it’s hoped that continued development (community and otherwise) will see an expansion of the application’s capabilities. To give an example of a potential enhancement, [Snowden] mentions the possibility of using the smartphone’s barometer to detect the opening of doors and windows.
With most commercially available motion activated monitor systems, such as Nest Cam, the device requires a constant Internet connection and a subscription. Haven, on the other hand, is designed to do everything on the local device without the need for a connection to the Internet, so an intruder can’t just knock out your Wi-Fi to kill all of your monitoring. Once Haven sees or hears something it wants you to know about it can send an alert over standard SMS, or if you’re really security minded, the end-to-end encrypted Signal.
The idea is that phones are increasingly complex and potentially vulnerable to all kinds of digital surveillance. Even airplane mode is insufficient for knowing that your phone isn’t somehow transmitting information. The paper looks at the various radios on the iPhone, going so far as opening up the device and reading signals at each of the chips for cell, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and NFC to determine whether the chip itself is doing anything, regardless of what the screen says. This introspection can then be used to be confident that the phone is not communicating when it shouldn’t be.
The paper goes on to propose a device that they will prototype in the coming year which uses an FPC that goes into the phone through the SIM card port. It would contain a battery, display, buttons, multiple SIM cards, and an FPGA to monitor the various buses and chips and report on activity.
Significant hacking of an iPhone will still be required, but the idea is to increase transparency and be certain that your device is only doing what you want it to.
Love him or hate him, Edward Snowden knew a thing or two about anonymity. In June of 2013, he blew the whistle on the NSA’s out-of-control programs that can target virtually anyone plugged into the digital age. The former CIA employee was working as a contractor for the NSA, where he had access to highly classified documents for many of these general populace surveillance programs. He eventually took off to Hong Kong and released the documents to a handful of reporters. One of these documents was a power point presentation of the NSA complaining about how the TAILS operating system was a major thorn in their side. Naturally, Snowden insisted that the reporters and himself only communicate via the TAILS O/S. He used PGP, which is an encryption method with the highly sophisticated title of “Pretty Good Privacy”, and asked not to be quoted at length for fear of identification via stylometry.
In this article, we’re going to go over the basics of anonymity, and introduce you to methods of staying anonymous while online.