Public Intelligence got a hold of some interesting slides that Microsoft seems to present to law enforcement personnel. Microsoft explains the weaknesses in their privacy/security functions and how law enforcement et al. can leverage them best.
Here are some highlights:
A benefit to law enforcement of InPrivate is that website data for sites added to favorites will be left alone if a box remains ticked.
Not surprisingly, The Tor Project comes up in the presentation (because anyone using Tor must be doing something bad!!), associated with the user name ‘bad guy’.
Common uses of the InPrivate mode include checking e-mail on public computers and “shopping for gifts” on family computers.
In a plea to not lose their law enforcement buddies because of the inclusion of these inconveniencing features, Microsoft says that they’re not alone including private browsing functionality, ie. they were forced to do this because the competition was doing it (good job Firefox and Chrome).
Microsoft says that it’s not all bad, BitLocker isn’t available to any commoner, it “has a number of ‘Recovery’ scenarios that we can exploit”, and that users are scared of encryption.
“We are the good guys!” Who are the bad guys then? The people using encryption/BitLocker?
Virtual PC Undo Disks
Virtual PC Undo Disks are scary for law enforcement.
Not with Photoshop (and apparently Paint Shop Pro), or your printer, anyway.
The counterfeit deterrence system
If you try to open an image of specific currencies (and I assume at a specific resolution or higher) in Photoshop, you’ll receive the same error message as above. It’s interesting to note that New Zealand’s money isn’t blocked from being opened. Probably because we’re too busy trying to stop our passports from being counterfeited.
So what if your counterfeiting plans were going well so far, and now you’re at a standstill because of Adobe? You can use Gimp. It opens banknotes without trouble. So do old versions of Photoshop. And Microsoft Paint.
Why did Adobe think it was a good idea to add this? Counterfeiters will already know that they can use an older version of Photoshop, or use other software to get around this additional ‘feature’ and will be doing that.
All Adobe is doing is pissing off people who are trying to use Photoshop for a legitimate reason.
The Rules For Use website the dialog box directs users to even lists situations where you can reproduce banknotes legally (e.g. at a certain size), but Photoshop blocks opening banknotes full stop.
Why is it included?
Adobe will have had to spend time and money on including this system, with no returns in the form of additional sales. I assume they were pressured to include it, or even paid to include it by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.
“The inner workings of the counterfeit deterrence system are so secret that not even Adobe is privy to them. The Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group provides the software as a black box without revealing its precise inner workings, Connor said.”
If you’ve bought Photoshop, were you aware of this system at the time of sale? You bought the software to open and edit images, but there are limitations you wouldn’t have been told about.
Here’s the two places where this system is talked about on Adobe’s website. A forum post and the information post linked to above.
Where’s the information page linked to from on Adobe’s website? My guess is not very many places, because they should have come up in the search too.
Printers are in on this too
I tried to print United States banknotes from Banknotes.com too. And the job failed. Here’s a New Zealand banknote that printed (and scanned) fine, with one of the United States notes below, which stopped printing halfway through.
Here’s the error message in the print dialog.
Error 9707 seems to be specific to the counterfeit deterrence system, but is only described as “reading pixels failed”.
BNZ specifies an interesting use for your Eftpos card PIN that’s not permitted in their newest card terms and conditions – using it for the lock code on your phone.
1.5 PIN selection
… Your PIN should not be used for any other purpose including your lock/unlock code for your mobile phone.
In the new card letter they also make an interesting comparison of PINs to electronic signatures. But I think their next sentence shows why this is a potentially confusing example to give:
“When selecting a PIN please remember that this is your electronic signature. You must not keep a written record of your PIN, give your PIN to any other person or select a PIN that can be readily associated with you such as birth dates, addresses, parts of telephone numbers, car registrations, sequential numbers (eg 1234, 9999) or any other easily found personal information.”
Signatures are often written down, given away and are made up of personal information. Perhaps there is a better comparison available?
This made me think about the personal information that I have in my email account.
The library here in Christchurch includes users’ addresses in the header of all emails that they send out automatically (reminders about due books, holds, etc). I gather libraries around the country do this.
This always struck me as strange, because there’s no need to include this information.
An address isn’t the most private information in the world, but if someone broke into my email account, it’s something I wouldn’t like them to have.
So I asked the library about it. Here’s their response:
“Thank you for your recent query as to why postal address details are included in Christchurch City Libraries customer email notifications.
SirsiDynix, the integrated library system provider used by Christchurch City Libraries, have responded that identical address information is shown on both notification options [email and snail mail] because the reports draw on the same User Address information. Their opinion is that modifying the script to suit emailed notices would harm the report’s ability to print the needed addresses for mailed notices.
Unfortunately in-house report customisation is not currently a viable option because of time and financial constraints but we would certainly re-evaluate should there be further customer demand. We are not aware of any likely changes to the SirsiDynix system in the near future.”
Update 28 September 2012: This post was written before I started working for a bank (who I love dearly), and at least some views expressed in this post have changed since then (eg. case-insensitive passwords (and ASB isn’t the only bank that does this) are irrelevant when users are locked out after three incorrect login attempts–Facebook does something similar to this, accepting the actual password, the password with the first letter capitalized (to account for automatic capitalization on mobile devices), and the password with the case of letters reversed (to account for the caps lock key being on), and that a charge for a bank cheque is not so unreasonable in the context of a lot of bank cheques being for a large amount). Also some bank policies have changed since this post was published (eg. ASB no longer charges $2 for automatic payments added/amended online–progress!) There is, however, no way of getting around ASB’s $0.20 fee for a Netcode over-$500-transfer-authorization if you don’t have a token–it is charged even if you call the 0800 number and ask them to release the payment. Except for a note regarding the previous sentence, this post hasn’t been edited from the original form.
And useful (see: next day bank transfers).
I’m with ASB and they are great, however no one is perfect. Here’s some things that I hate about banks in New Zealand. Many of these problems are shared by the entire industry.
Or the fact that ASB keeps trying to convert me to one even though I’m not allowed one.
Here’s mailer number one, received the week of my 17th birthday:
And mailer two, from today:
Irrelevant: check. Impersonal: check. You know how to make a guy feel special ASB. (Case in point: I’m not 18 so they couldn’t give me my own credit card even if they really really wanted to).
This is upsetting because I have a feeling tertiary accounts have less fees than youth accounts. At least, it isn’t emphasized that service fees apply to tertiary accounts like it is for youth accounts on ASB’s fee exemption page. Service fees apply for everyone, see comment from ASB below.
Stupid bank fees
ASB isn’t the only bank that charges stupid fees, but here are some examples of theirs:
$2 to set up or amend an automatic payment or add a person you might want to transfer money to again (like the power company, or mum). Online. On the internet. Changing an entry in a database. By yourself.
20 cents for each time you use Netcode, ASB’s text verification service, which you can choose to happen on login. Google, who isn’t even in New Zealand doesn’t charge for this (see below). Probably get charged 20 cents again by your mobile service provider for receiving the text. Some sort of verification is required for some transactions that take you over a $500 daily transfer limit, or if you’re sending money overseas. Alternatively, you can ring their call center to get transactions verified for free11@!! I wonder if the time of the person you speak to on the phone is worth less than 20 cents?See update at top of post–20 cents is charged even if you call the 0800 number.
Alternatively you can pay $12 a year for a physical Netcode token, which you’d need if you are regularly out of cellphone reception and probably if you travel overseas. RaboDirect provides these for free. BNZ provides the NetGuard card for free.
5 cents for each email alert. For the virtual stamp. Or the person who licks it. Or something.
20 cents for text alerts and text banking. I think they charge you when they receive a text banking message from you. Plus you probably get charged to send texts to them by your service provider. In contrast, Westpac provides a certain number of text alerts free per month as long as you log in to online banking that month.
$5 for bank cheques. Plus because you probably have an “electronic” account, and if you’re not a youth/student, a fee of $3 because that’s a manual transaction.
“Please note, your password must be eight characters long, and contain at least two letters (a-z) and at least two numbers (0-9). For example, redbus73 and 8cube224 are valid passwords.”
This is ASB’s. I assume other banks are as ridiculous. Would you like a nine character password? YOU CAN’T. MUST BE EIGHT.
Microsoft’s (now defunct) password checker says both of their examples are weak. ASB lets you use both of their examples as real passwords, because security.
Here’s an entry form I picked up from BNZ’s tent at The Show:
Note the classy clause at the bottom: “By providing your details, you consent to use contacting you about our products, services and promotions, from time to time (including via text message without an unsubscribe facility).”
Once you’re in, they have you.
I guess if you rang them they’d remove you from their text messaging scheme, but really, why not let people unsubscribe via text using common keywords like stop, or unsubscribe?
Visa Debit cards
And their annual fees. $10 a year for having the card. National Bank got half of the memo and isn’t charging the annual fee if you have their Freedom account. But you have to be earning $30k+ a year and pumping it into that account. Anyway, I like the image they’re using in their ads for it (see top image).
Sure, debit cards are great if you are under 18 or don’t trust yourself with a credit card. But really, if you can, you should just get a credit card.
Banks (looking at you Westpac and BNZ) seem to love converting people to these debit cards, even if the person already has a credit card with the bank. I don’t understand. Family members have received Visa Debit cards in the mail from Westpac, even though they have a credit card with Westpac. If you already have a Visa or credit card, why would you want a Visa Debit?
It’s a bit of a have, because people naturally think this is their replacement EFTPOS card and start using it, probably not realizing that once they start using it they’re going to be charged an annual fee. If they’re lucky, maybe the fee will be waived for a year or two!
When you go into BNZ to request an EFTPOS card, the tellers like to order you in a Visa Debit card instead*, because, you know, they know best.
*May have happened just once.
Lack of security
That’s Google’s 2-step verification programme.
There’s a number of ways to use it. I have the Google Authenticator application on a couple of devices (it works without needing an internet connection), I can get a code sent to me by text (for free!!@@) if the application isn’t working, I can use the backup codes if I have to, and I can tell Google that it doesn’t need to ask me for a verification code on the computer I’m using for another 30 days if I trust it.
It works, it’s good, it’s free. And it’s not even protecting my money.
Side note: security has to actually be built-in by design and be compulsory for it to be useful. Kerry Thompson points out that security conscious people probably have limited use for 2-factor authentication systems, because they already take precautions. The people who aren’t security conscious are also the people who don’t think they need 2-factor authentication, they think they’ll be covered by the bank, or won’t use it because of the cost (hi ASB’s 20 cent per text charge).
See also: Google doesn’t have an eight character password policy and Google gives a detailed account of recent account activity (ASB shows the last time I logged in, but I rarely look at it, and out of context it’s kind of useless).
How about encouraging people to set up an automatic payment to a savings account every pay period and sign up for Kiwisaver?
Also, you would think an application that consists of one button would be easy to set up, but Westpac’s Impulse Saver requires you to apply to use it, and makes you wait for a callback from a customer service person.
Phone banking on mobiles
Westpac and BNZ seem to be the only two banks who try to ban calls from mobile phones to their phone banking numbers. It’s trivial to get around this with Westpac, just call their main 0800 number and press one to get to phone banking. On BNZ it seems like that works too, at least after their call center hours.
Visa and MasterCard undermining credit card PINs
Visa and MasterCard aren’t banks, but whatever.
McDonald’s, in association with Visa and MasterCard has the policy of not requiring a PIN or signature for credit card transactions under $35.
How they can guarantee security, I’m not sure, because they just took away the only security of a PIN or signature. I’m not sure why Visa and MasterCard don’t make this opt-in or opt-out.
Zero liability can’t apply if you don’t realize there’s a fraudulent charge on your statement, so good luck everyone.
Next day bank transfers
Or please stop relying on a cron job for transfers.
10 years after one-off payments were introduced, they still take up to the next business day to go through to accounts at other banks. I realize this might require some consultation with the People In Charge Of The Money, but can we please get rid of this? Thanks. Also, could we please do transfers on non-business days to accounts at other banks and get rid of the 10pm cut off for not-my-bank transfers?
When you visit this website, like most others, analytics software on this end records some information about you, including what website brought you here.
Someone visited here by following a link from an email which they accessed using Clear/TelstraClear’s webmail (thank you person who shared my blog with someone, hopefully this post isn’t too discouraging against sharing). With other webmail services, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. However with Clear, it is. Or was.
The Clear referring URL let me access the customer’s emails by clicking on the link (until, I assume, the session is logged out, timed out or the customer’s password is changed). I then had the ability to navigate through the entire folder of emails, see the person’s address book and see their recent contacts.
This isn’t limited to my site, but applies to virtually any site visited through TelstraClear’s webmail.
What’s in your emails?
This becomes a very big problem when you think about what someone keeps around in their emails. Google wants to encourage its users to archive everything. Perhaps this post contains a very convincing argument as to why you shouldn’t archive everything, and instead make liberal use of the delete button (or move the emails to your computer).
Here’s some examples of information contained in that email account that would be very useful to someone with bad intentions:
Unencrypted payslips, with IRD and bank account numbers (Ministry of Education)
Shipping notifications, with addresses, phone numbers and courier tracking codes (Apple)
Work emails that have made it into a personal email account
Information on utilities like address supplied from power company e-bills (Meridian)
A broadband activation email, containing username and plain text password to webmail and probably internet access (Hi TelstraClear, again)
The Ministry of Education never got back to me (nor did Apple, however the information in a shipping notification wouldn’t cause the end of the world). Meridian did and the information contained in their e-bills isn’t all that private. They said that their customers like the convenience of not having to log in to access their bill and that they consider all feedback on their services.
TelsraClear said that the issue has been fixed, that “this was the first time the issue has been raised” and that they “take security very seriously”.
Not sure if they still send passwords in their broadband activation emails.
Understandably TelstraClear were “not too keen” on this post going ahead as “it might encourage attempts to hack the webmail application” which “might still cause service problems for legitimate users if such an attack was to take place”.
However, maybe a real life example will hit home with people, even if they’re not with TelstraClear.