Patriot COMSEC

Encryption offers valuable security for many things in daily life.  In fact, encryption is vital, but we may not always know how to make it work. This site hopes to make strong encryption easy, especially for communication:  it offers free professional advice on how to protect yourself and your information. We also talk about wider security issues, such as physical security and national security  vis-à-vis information technology.  But  our focus is on helping people keep their communications and other data private.  In today’s interconnected world, that is not an easy task.
We hope to get people jazzed about cryptography.  Cryptography has a fascinating and curious history, and its modern methods are central to our lives. 
Everything on this site is free, and it all comes from publicly available information.  We will help you make informed decisions as to which security products and encryption methods to choose. We will also show you, step-by-step, clearly and from the beginning, how set up and use strong encryption so that it actually works.
Trust and privacy do not have to go out the window in our connected world.  The main ideas that you will find on this site are that all internet-connected devices are fundamentally unsecure and unsecurable; that security is relative and not absolute; that big companies such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft want to deceive you, which is dangerous now and could be very dangerous in the future; that you must have a secure device that never touches the internet– is air-gapped; and that simple means exist which will enable you to enjoy a high expectation of privacy and anonymity on the big collection platform and gladiator’s battlefield that we all love, the internet.
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Why Johnny Still, Still Can’t Encrypt: Evaluating the Usability of a Modern PGP Client

Why Johnnie Still, Still Cannot Encrypt

 

Here is an excerpt:

In our study of 20 participants, grouped into 10 pairs of participants who attempted to exchange encrypted email, only one pair was able to successfully complete the assigned tasks using Mailvelope. All other participants were unable to complete the assigned task in the one hour allotted to the study. This demonstrates that encrypting email with PGP, as implemented in Mailvelope, is still unusable for the masses.

How to Delete Facebook: to Not Have and to Not Hold and Forever Do Us Part

So, you finally got tired of bambi-eyed Zuckerberg and his hyper-aggressive machine of lies and tricks whose one goal of existence is to grab your data?  Good for you.

1.  Get rid of what devices you can and wipe the ones you cannot.

2.  Delete your Facebook account–after you stick some fake information on there. Facebook does not make it easy and fast to delete your account.  They would prefer that you deactivate it.  It is not obvious at all how to delete your account.  You actually have to go through several menus such as “learn more” and one in which you request to be deleted.  They give you 14 days to decide if you really want to go.  Aw, shucks…  they love you.  Well, not really.  They love selling you as if you were a product.  Bambi/Zuckerberg is not the most honest guy on the planet, and saying adios to his deception feels good.

3.  Start with a new or wiped desktop/tower computer/laptop/notebook.  This device is going to be the one you connect to the internet.  Wipe it again.  Download the latest version of Fedora or TAILS.  Fedora is very intuitive, and you can put it on your hard drive.  Or you could start using TAILS as a live USB and leave the hard drive empty.  The point here is to use a linux-based OS that does not collect on you or otherwise link to a big company.  Puppy Slacko is also a very good option.  What is not a good option is anything with Microsoft or Google written on it.

4.  This computer is not going to be used for any social media whatsoever, except perhaps Keybase.

5.  Verify your Fedora download.  Put it on your HHD.  Purchase ProtonVPN and a Protonmail account for your email.  Their servers in Switzerland are recommended.  Use Mozilla as your browser, with the following add-ons:  TrackMeNot, uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, and User-Agent Switcher.  All of these are fun to play.  You can also use NoScript, which is actually a very good idea, but it does require some attention.  It will give you a very clear picture of how web pages are tracked, and how you can stop it.

Most importantly, you want to use the add-on for Mozilla called “Multi-account Containers”–this is easy to use, and it effectively stops tracking from website to website.

6.  In Fedora, under software, you can download and use BleachBit, to delete cookies, empty the Firefox Cache, and clean up disc space.

7.  That’s it.  From then on, avoid Facebook, avoid liking stuff on other websites, use the containers, use your VPN, and you just got your privacy back.  Spend some time to learn the details of using NoScript, a powerful tool for your browser. Again, use the containers, and make it a habit.  Congratulations!

Speaking of Security: How Can the USA Better Protect its Classified Information?

Strictly speaking, putting a label on classified information does not protect it. In fact, the appearance of protection may be one part of the problem–unless the label and the efficacious protection were to go together. As a theoretical construct, such a system looks doable.

Make the container match the level of classification.  Labels with different colors do not actually protect anything.  The strength of the container should be consonant with the level of classification of the information inside, and it could have other important features such as tracking who saw it, where it was, when it was viewed, etc.

In the case of paper, instead of merely having a file on a desk, one could have a file that is a container which offers different levels of protection and also records metadata.  It might look like a file, but it would be more secure:  papers won’t fall out, the location of the file could be tracked very easily.

Electronic files with varying levels of encryption, physical security, and information collection capabilities, might be better than having loose papers and terabytes of downloadable information floating about.

Security is Relative, not Absolute

Many security products promise the moon and stars with ridiculous statements such as “stop hackers” and “100% safe”–which are misleading at best and dirty lies at worst. No one likes to be uncomfortable about security, but the truth is very uncomfy indeed:  there is no such thing as absolute security in information security, especially on the leakiest of untight and unwieldy ships, the U.S.S. Internet.

Kleptography is the new reality, and kleptotrojans in random number generators/compilers/key generators are a lethal threat.  What is kleptography you ask?  Kleptography is using encryption to steal everything on your computer without your knowing.

Getting on the internet means being open to the delivery of kleptographic tools.  Almost as bad, we now have the internet of things (IoT), another series of threats.  What is the solution?  For the information that you want to keep private, you must go off-line.  If your life depends on it, air gapping is the only solution.  If you are using a computer, as you probably are at this moment, everything on that computer is up for grabs.  That is fine, as long as you know it and you don’t mind that what is on there can be lifted very easily.

But there is strong security and near-absolute security for all levels of information.  We can have a high expectation of privacy, anonymity, or both, with good products and best practices.

Using a product such as Protonmail for your email provider is an instance of employing strong security to ensure privacy.  Encrypting a file off-line with a symmetric cipher such as CAMELLIA256 and hashing it with SHA512, and sending that over Protonmail would be even better.  Using a one-time pad, encrypting it with an appropriate public key or a symmetric cipher, and sending that over an end-to-end encrypted provider like Protonmail is near-absolute security (NAS).  NAS is as good as it gets. Done properly, such a message will remain unter vier Augen, and will have never really existed once the key to the one-time pad is destroyed.

That said, one must be careful to be aware and to follow the laws that apply to cryptography in your area.  For example, in Thailand it is illegal to destroy keys.  In Thailand, you can use symmetric keys, but you must keep a copy because that is the law.  Find out what the laws are for cryptography in your jurisdiction.

Can One Use Numbers as a One-Time-Pad Key? (a question at Cryptography Stack Exchange)

Yes, you can use numbers as a one-time-pad key. In fact, the CIA used to do it all the time, as did many.

When you use numbers the plaintext becomes letters by referring to a conversion table such as the venerable “Tapir” used by the STASI.

enter image description here

Here the addition will be modulo 10. Vernam Cipher, or the one-time pad (OTP), can also be done modulo 2:

SENDING


message: 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 … pad: 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 … XOR ————————— cipher: 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 …

RECEIVING


cipher: 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 … pad: 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 … XOR ————————— message: 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 1 1 …

Or it can be done modulo 26 (with English letters, for example):

Plaintext: DARLING THE NIST CURVES HAVE BEEN COMPROMISED AND MY RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR HAS A KLEPTOGRAPHIC BACKDOOR I FEEL SAD

Key: NLQVT ZBOFW MFAVS RJMDE PGNEX GGQMU VOFNE PBWXT ICDWK VEEYL EGVWS ZRDKD IDJGO HWKFF MBEGA KEUNQ BEYDO


Ciphertext: QLHGB MHHMA ZNSOU LAHHW WGIIY KKDOI HDWBQ XTAAT VFPUB VRHMX RAHXW QXHXH ZDCUF OWCFP XFTZO QVUCX JGZDQ MUYBN VQUZE RBR

Here is one example of what a CIA one-time-pad key looked like during the Cold War:

enter image description here

End-to-end Encryption is a Threat to Democracy?

A new campaign in the crypto wars is now afoot.  Today, if you have read the international news, you know that Great Britain, Russia, and China have all made some kind of announcement about the dangers of VPNs and end-to-end encryption.  Your privacy has now been put on notice.

The British Foreign minister says that no one needs strong encryption.  She insists that it only benefits bad people such as terrorists.  Bullocks.

Well, if Great Britain had the guts to expel Jihadists, and if it were not so namby-pamby, cotton candy as to actually finance people living in their country who hate Great Britain and its values, that would go a long way towards making their country safer.

Take the Manchester bomber for example:  the British government facilitated a terror attack on British soil.  Talk about astonishing!  It challenges belief.  So you hate Great Britain, have dropped out of college, and you want to go to Libya for some Jihadist training?  Need some money?  Here you go! We simply can’t wait for you to come back!

As far as Air Strip One goes (Orwell’s name for Great Britain in 1984), INGSOC is not yet running the show. Some buffoons are in charge, yes, and they should not be allowed to make slaves out of the whole population.

Free people deserve the right to use encryption and have privacy.  The government in Great Britain has failed miserably in allowing jihadists to live and thrive in their country, and they have ignored many hate-filled rants from people who later killed others on British soil.  What is therefore the reasonable conclusion to this appalling situation being allowed to exist and fester?  The only reasonable conclusion is that their government simply does not care. Equality at all costs.

The Brits need to first expel the nutcases who have openly spoken against their country and the West.  That would be a good start.

Encryption is valuable.  Many end-to-end encryption services are available right now.  Tutanota and Protonmail come to mind:  http://www.protonmail.com and http://www.tutanota.com

But there is an enormous fallacy about E2E systems.  Yes, Protonmail is very nice, but I would not bet my life on it.  First, of course, it does nothing for your anonymity.  You still leave a trail of metadata (metacontent).  But, for the average user, Protonmail or Tutanota will serve you well because it does give you a high expectation of privacy.  Just remember one thing:  these email systems do not supply absolute privacy because the end points (the iPhone, computer, smartphone, etc., are not securable).

The only way to get near-absolute security (NAS) is to encrypt offline on an air-gapped computer that is never compromised (no movement of USBs or discs, etc., from anything that has touched the internet).  Then use you Protonmai, Hushmail, Tutanota, etc., as a wrapper.

Anyone on the earth can take a pencil, a piece of paper, and two dice, and make a code that no one else on earth can break.  This is what should give human beings hope against any future INGSOC and its cronies.  Unweakened PGP probably still works with large key sizes and proper variables, etc. Wrapping different kinds of PGP inside other kinds, and using symmetric systems and asymmetric systems together, is highly recommended for someone who wants real privacy:  a lawyer, a business negotiator, a clergyman, someone in law enforcement, someone running for office, etc. The amazing truth is that national-level players and sophisticated criminals can be stopped with simple, cheap encryption and true air-gapping.  Real defense works, and it is cheap.

Those of us who still live in free societies must stand up for our rights as patriots and law-abiding citizens.  Just because governments fail appallingly on the issues of controlling classified information (the OPM disaster, Snowden, Shadow Brokers, etc.) and controlling immigration (Germany in particular, Belgistan, etc.), does not mean that we must accept the numbskulls of INGSOC and the enablers of the West’s decline who want to take away the God-given freedoms of decent people.

People like Amber Rudd need to be run out of town because they are doing nothing effective against the real problems of (1) creating terrorists, (2) facilitating terror, and (3) not controlling immigration.

Punycode and Homograph Attacks

From Xudong Zheng, a Web application developer:

 

“Punycode makes it possible to register domains with foreign characters. It works by converting individual domain label to an alternative format using only ASCII characters. For example, the domain “xn--s7y.co” is equivalent to “短.co”.

From a security perspective, Unicode domains can be problematic because many Unicode characters are difficult to distinguish from common ASCII characters. It is possible to register domains such as “xn--pple-43d.com”, which is equivalent to “аpple.com”. It may not be obvious at first glance, but “аpple.com” uses the Cyrillic “а” (U+0430) rather than the ASCII “a” (U+0061). This is known as a homograph attack.

Fortunately modern browsers have mechanisms in place to limit IDN homograph attacks. The page IDN in Google Chrome highlights the conditions under which an IDN is displayed in its native Unicode form. Generally speaking, the Unicode form will be hidden if a domain label contains characters from multiple different languages. The “аpple.com” domain as described above will appear in its Punycode form as “xn--pple-43d.com” to limit confusion with the real “apple.com”.

The homograph protection mechanism in Chrome, Firefox, and Opera unfortunately fails if every characters is replaced with a similar character from a single foreign language. The domain “аррӏе.com”, registered as “xn--80ak6aa92e.com”, bypasses the filter by only using Cyrillic characters. You can check this out yourself in the proof-of-concept using Chrome, Firefox, or Opera.

Visually, the two domains are indistinguishable due to the font used by Chrome and Firefox. As a result, it becomes impossible to identify the site as fraudulent without carefully inspecting the site’s URL or SSL certificate. This Go program nicely demonstrates the difference between the two sets of characters. Safari, along with several less mainstream browsers are fortunately not vulnerable.”

 

See:  https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/04/chrome-firefox-and-opera-users-beware-this-isnt-the-apple-com-you-want/

Veracrypt is Your Friend: Cascading Ciphers

Veracrypt does good work, and they have excellent documentation.  Their discussion of cascading ciphers is shown below.  Veracrypt offers one the ability to store information in a highly encrypted partition, even a hidden partition on a USB stick.  The also enable one to choose the hash function for the encryption process.

From:  https://veracrypt.codeplex.com/wikipage?title=Cascades

Cascades of ciphers

AES-Twofish

Two ciphers in a cascade [15, 16] operating in XTS mode (see the section Modes of Operation). Each 128-bit block is first encrypted with Twofish (256-bit key) in XTS mode and then with AES (256-bit key) in XTS mode. Each of the cascaded ciphers uses its own key. All encryption keys are mutually independent (note that header keys are independent too, even though they are derived from a single password – see Header Key Derivation, Salt, and Iteration Count). See above for information on the individual cascaded ciphers.

AES-Twofish-Serpent

Three ciphers in a cascade [15, 16] operating in XTS mode (see the section Modes of Operation). Each 128-bit block is first encrypted with Serpent (256-bit key) in XTS mode, then with Twofish (256-bit key) in XTS mode, and finally with AES (256-bit key) in XTS mode. Each of the cascaded ciphers uses its own key. All encryption keys are mutually independent (note that header keys are independent too, even though they are derived from a single password – see the section Header Key Derivation, Salt, and Iteration Count). See above for information on the individual cascaded ciphers.

Serpent-AES

Two ciphers in a cascade [15, 16] operating in XTS mode (see the section Modes of Operation). Each 128-bit block is first encrypted with AES (256-bit key) in XTS mode and then with Serpent (256-bit key) in XTS mode. Each of the cascaded ciphers uses its own key. All encryption keys are mutually independent (note that header keys are independent too, even though they are derived from a single password – see the section Header Key Derivation, Salt, and Iteration Count). See above for information on the individual cascaded ciphers.

Serpent-Twofish-AES

Three ciphers in a cascade [15, 16] operating in XTS mode (see the section Modes of Operation). Each 128-bit block is first encrypted with AES (256-bit key) in XTS mode, then with Twofish (256- bit key) in XTS mode, and finally with Serpent (256-bit key) in XTS mode. Each of the cascaded ciphers uses its own key. All encryption keys are mutually independent (note that header keys are independent too, even though they are derived from a single password – see the section Header Key Derivation, Salt, and Iteration Count). See above for information on the individual cascaded ciphers.

Twofish-Serpent

Two ciphers in a cascade [15, 16] operating in XTS mode (see the section Modes of Operation). Each 128-bit block is first encrypted with Serpent (256-bit key) in XTS mode and then with Twofish (256-bit key) in XTS mode. Each of the cascaded ciphers uses its own key. All encryption keys are mutually independent (note that header keys are independent too, even though they are derived from a single password – see the section Header Key Derivation, Salt, and Iteration Count). See above for information on the individual cascaded ciphers.

Signal Does Not Work

If the end points are not secure, it does not matter how pretty the code is or how strong the cryptographic primitives are.  So what is the use of pretending to offer people real privacy?

These people need to start over and get away from the iPhone and from Android as the places to encrypt and decrypt.

Yes, Signal has done impressive work, they have been repeatedly recommended by Snowden, and we even hear, from illegally-disclosed NSA documents, that the NSA regarded Signal as a major threat in 2012. From those same documents we learned that TAILS, TOR, and TrueCrypt were regarded as even more dangerous, as catastrophic. So why the difference in threat level? What is the difference between “major threat” and “catastrophic”? Isn’t it reasonable to guess that it’s the difference is between subvertible and we-can’t-own-it? In other words, if it were an inaccessible system to the U.S. in its actual employment, I think we would be hearing the FBI scream.

Saliva-inducing code and hard encryption do not matter if the end points are compromised or accessible.  The world has been flooded with classified documents from several countries–none of which we know are real or not, by the way–but taking them as genuine we get a sudden realization about the importance of end points.

What can a business negotiator, politician, clergyman, lawyer, journalist, or whistle blower do?  If you want to be secure you must start offline and encrypt there.  Encryption works, that is the good news–if it is properly employed.