While it’s not always a focus area of my PhoneBoy Speaks podcast, I do occasionally cover Information Security topics on my podcast. It happens often enough that I decided to create a dedicated RSS feed just for these topics: https://phoneboy.com/ps/infosec.xml

If you subscribe to the regular PhoneBoy Speaks feed, you don’t need to subscribe to this one as this is merely a subset of the episodes that appear on my regular feed. This is only for people who are interested only in the Information Security topics I cover and not some of the other stuff I prattle on about.

I know a few articles have been written about this topic already elsewhere. That said, I sometimes will do a blog post so if I need to find something again, I know it will exist on my own blog.

For a while I had been using WhiteHat Aviator, which is a fork of Google Chrome that has many privacy options enabled by default. Since, at the time of this writing, it is currently five major versions behind mainline Chrome, it’s gone Open Source, and there doesn’t appear to be any recent checkins on the GitHub project, and there will likely be some difficulty updating the existing browser, I’m guessing we probably won’t see an update unless someone undertakes a major effort.

With that in mind, I’m looking to try and configure Google Chrome as securely as possible. There is the Google Chrome Privacy Whitepaper and another independently maintained page on Privacy and Security Settings in Chrome. You could also use something like the Disconnect Search plugin. However, none of these pages solve one feature I really enjoyed about Aviator: starting up the browser in Incognito Mode. This does two important things:

  • Doesn’t log website browsing history at all

  • Clears all cookies on browser exit

However, Google Chrome does not offer an easy way to do this, but it can be done in two specific places: The shortcut you use to start Google Chrome on your Windows machine and the Windows registry. 

First, the shortcut. Find it on your computer, right-click on it and select Properties from the pulldown menu. Add a –incognito to the end of the Target field (note, it’s a space, two dashes, then incognito) and click Apply.

This will cause Chrome to start in Incognito Mode when launched from the shortcut. However, this will not cause web links you click on in other apps to also launch into the Incognito Mode. To do that, you need to edit the registry as follows:

  • Open Regedit (From the Start Menu, type regedit)

  • Find the following registry key: HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command

  • Edit the registry string (double click on “(Default)”), adding a –incognito to the value data between the quote and the double hyphen and click Ok.

Congratulations, you’re now permanently incognito in Chrome. Note if you want to use some of your extensions in Chrome, you will need to manually enable them for Incognito Mode by clicking on the hamburger menu in the upper right corner of the browser window (the three vertical lines), selecting Settings, and then clicking on Extensions. Check the “Allow in Incognito” checkbox for each one.

While it’s all fine and good that I can configure this stuff by default, I really wish Google had a one-click option that just enabled all this stuff by default.

To do something similar on the Mac, try the Google Chrome Incognito app. For Linux, it will likely be a distribution specific answer, but this should work for recent versions of Ubuntu.

I was listening to Episode 395 of the Security Weekly podcast when I heard one of the guys say that Information Security is often The Department of No. As in, no, you can't use that device. No, you can't use this new technology. Why? Because we can't secure it or control it. Because the risk of data loss is too great. Because NSA. Or whatever boogeyman The Department of No can come up with.

There are points on both sides of this debate. Anytime a new device connects to a network, regardless of what it is, there is always additional risk. If that device is controlled by the company, the risk is significantly less. If they don't control it, and there are inadequate security measures built into the network they connect to, it's another potential member of a botnet or worse. 

Despite all these risks, people want to use whatever device they want wherever they want and still get to and work with corporate data. Most users have zero clue about the potential information security implications of this, and even those that do--often those folks who sign paychecks--don't care because they want what they want, implications be damned.

So what's a poor information security professional to do? How can they become The Department of Yes while minimizing the associated risks these new technologies present?

First, we should ask the question: what is it we're trying to protect, anyway? Certainly an unmanaged devices presents a risk and should be connected to an untrusted network, such as a guest WLAN. You have your network properly segmented to allow this, right?

Next, you should ask the question: what is it that device needs access to? Certainly not the entire internal network, but some subset of it. Common items include Email, some intranet sites, their home fileshare, and maybe Salesforce. 

Of course, the minute you provide access to that data to an unmanaged device, there's a risk for that data to be lost somehow, which should raise the hackles of any information security professional. The common reactions to this phenomenon are to not allow access to any data, only allow access to very limited, harmless data, or to allow it only on condition of managing the device (i.e. with a Mobile Device Management solution). Users, on whole, like none of these options.

Another option is available, and that's the concept of a secure container. This allows an unmanaged device to access sensitive data within a container that is secured and controlled by the business. The user can do what they need to do, the data only stays inside that container, that data is stored securely on the device, and the business can revoke access to that data at any time without managing the entire device. 

The challenge with any container-type solution, of course, is doing this without compromising the end user experience. The users still need to be able to access and potentially manipulate this data in an intuitive manner. If adding a container-type solution degrades the end user experience, end users won't accept it and will demand a less secure solution. 

There are a number of different solutions that operate on this principle. The ones I am most familiar with are the ones Check Point sells. Given I work there, that should be no shock to any of you. They include:

  • Mobile Access Blade, which provides a way for unmanaged desktop/laptop systems to access corporate and manipulate documents within a Secure Workspace. This workspace is encrypted and disappears from the local system when the end user disconnects from the gateway.
  • Capsule, which enables similar access on mobile devices, as well as provides a clean pipe to mobile and desktop systems that are off your corporate premises by routing traffic to Check Point's cloud where traffic is inspected using Check Point's Software Blades using the same policy you've already defined for your enterprise environment.

Regardless of whose solutions you choose, they allow you to be The Department of Yes. Yes, you can access that data with your chosen device without the enterprise losing control of the data. Everyone wins.

While I don't typically read End User License Agreements, I was pointed to the following phrase that exists in the End User License Agreement for Palo Alto Networks equipment:

1.3 License Restrictions: End user shall maintain Products in strict confidence and shall not: [...] (d) disclose, publish or otherwise make publicly available any benchmark, performance or comparison tests that End User runs (or has run on its behalf by a third party) on the Products;

I trust you can think through the implications of this restriction on your own. It certainly adds additional color to the recent public spat between NSS and Palo Alto Networks.

A lot of noise has been made recently about some nude celebrity photos that have made their way around the Internet, such as those of Jennifer Lawrence. Initially it was thought to have been a compromise of Apple's iCloud service, but, really it was because Apple failed to properly rate-limit an API that allowed rapid brute-force guessing of passwords. Apple claims it was a targeted attack on these specific users and tells users to enable two-factor authentication and use a strong password.

Getting someone's iCloud credentials, either by brute force or guessing the answers to security questions, is all well and good. It certainly explains these photos were acquired and posted. It doesn't adequately explain how supposedly deleted photos from a celebrity's iPhone were posted online. 

Moti Sagey, whom I work with at Check Point, actually came up with the idea of how this might have happened. He discovered a tool called dr.fone that can "recover data from iOS devices, iCloud backup, and iTunes backup." Curious, Moti and I downloaded and installed the tool, attempting to recover data from our own iCloud backups. Lo and behold: there they were. Up to 3 iCloud backups for each device we own

A note about the way iCloud backups work: they will only happen from your iOS device if the device is on WiFi and is plugged in--usually at night. They could also be triggered manually, but let's face it: how often do regular people do that? Almost never. 

While the majority of my devices have 3 consecutive days of backups, one in particular had quite a gap in their backup dates. Which, for most celebrity-types, may be pretty common. Movie stars are like normal people: they rarely charge their phone and are rarely on WiFi outside of their own home. Given how busy some celebrities are, it doesn't seem inconceivable that they could go months without being at home on their WiFi and charging their iPhone at the same time.

What's in an iCloud backup, you ask? Quite a lot, as it turns out, including the camera roll:

A popular celebrity with easy to guess iCloud username and password plus a rarely backed up iPhone plus a tool like dr.fone equals access to potentially naughty photos the celebrity thought were deleted months ago. Voila!

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what criminals do in order to get illicit photos and videos from celebrities, but let's be honest: why go through the trouble of social engineering, installing illicit remote access tools, and stealing authentication keys when you can take the much easier route of brute force guessing a weak password and/or easily answer their password reset questions?

People are blaming Apple here, when, last we checked, you had to opt-in to iCloud backups. Even if you choose to opt-in, you can choose what elements of your phone to back up. The fact that Apple keeps a few of them on-hand is, in fact, a good thing. Good backups are just as important as choosing a strong password or using two-factor authentication when its available. While there is some inherent risk in backing stuff up to the cloud, doing so is a greater good than never backing up your device, which is what would happen for most people without iCloud doing it for them.

Since it appears iCloud only keeps the last 3 device backups, ensuring that iCloud backs up your device regularly will also reduce the risk someone might "recover" an old nude photo you thought you deleted. Of course, if you want to reduce the risk even further, don't take the photos with your mobile phone, or at least don't do it with the default camera application. Use an ephemeral messaging app like Wickr or Telegram, at least until phones get an incognito mode similar to browsers.

Authorship Note: If Posthaven would let me mark more than one author, I would credit Moti Sagey as one. Especially since this was his idea, which I put a few refinements on.