Computer security

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The term computer security has several meanings. For boylovers it most often refers to the need to prevent hostile authorities from tracing your boylove Internet activities back to you. Also, you need to be sure that your computer, if seized and searched, does not reveal anything illegal under the laws of the country in which you reside.

100% security is impossible. It may take the resources of law enforcement in multiple countries (if your Web pages are routed through Tor or a similar router), but truly being safe in this sense, so you can relax about it and stop being careful, is impossible. Your protection is to make it more difficult for authorities to trace you, so they'll go bother somebody else. Like installing an alarm system in your house - it guarantees nothing, but it makes breaking in riskier, so the would-be burglar goes to a house with no alarm.

"Security is a function of the resources your adversary is willing to commit," said Julian Sanchez, a policy expert with the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.[1] Because terrorists are perceived as a bigger danger than boylovers, the bulk of the computing power available in the world (always finite) is focused on them.

Internet security

The Internet was originally built with no security, as it came out of a military environment in which all participants are known and trusted. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wikiArpanet]]. Anonymity and security (privacy) have been grafted onto a platform which officially ignores security (except

The Internet security situation is always in flux. Privacy enthusiasts like Apple Computers, and many others, are constantly trying to make you safer: hidden identity, with no foreign access to the contents of your computer, phone, or tablet. Law enforcement and governments operate various forensic computer labs trying to penetrate the progressively better security. Though hopefully what follows is correct as of today (2016), it may soon be out of date.

Web browsers

A Web browser is a program that runs on your computer/smartphone/tablet and is used to access the Internet. It has the function, among others, of taking the data received — most of it strings of characters which are meaningless if not processed — and transforming it into a form meaningful to a human, while formatting the whole so it will display optimally on your computer/smartphone/tablet. The most popular browsers as of this writing (2016) are Firefox, Google's Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Apple's Safari, and Opera.

When your browser sends a request for a page to a web server, it goes first to your Internet Service Provider (in some countries a government agency), which records it and sends it on its way on the Internet. Together with the name/address of the page desired, the request includes information about you. Most important is your IP (Internet protocol) address, a string of numbers that identifies the requesting computer, so that the desired data can be sent to it. It also includes the browser and operating system used, and sometimes the hardware used. To see what information your browser sends out, go to http://whatismybrowser.com.

IP Address

While you are connected to the Internet you are identified by a unique number known as an IP address. (IP stands for "Internet Protocol".) The number takes the form n.n.n.n (such as 127.1.67.235). It may be different each time you connect. Your Internet Service Provider assigns these numbers, and knows the history of each IP address it uses and can provide law enforcement with the name and location of each user. Your Internet Service Provider routinely logs each page a user visits. Thus no Internet activity can be anonymous, unless specialized software, discussed below, is used to conceal it.

In some countries this information is passed on to police routinely, or the government has direct access to all servers in the country. In others it receives some protection, but little in practice. A search warrant signed by a judge, required in the United States, is easy to obtain. National Security Letters, authorized by Congress and used by federal agencies such as the FBI, do not require a judge's approval. Under the guise of protection from security threats to the United States, they require Internet Service Providers to release to them all data they have about any user: Web sites visited, purchases made, your name and address, your email address, your credit card numbers. Furthermore, the Internet Service Provider is prohibited from informing you that a request for information about you has been received; it would be a crime to notify you.

Given the recent history of misconduct by the FBI and similar agencies, it would be naïve to assume that all of these warrantless, secret searches are for legitimate national security purposes. It is well documented that if evidence of any illegal activity is found in the data gathered using a National Security Letter, even if it has no relevance to national security, that data can be and is legally used to bring criminal charges.

In addition to your ISP, Web sites routinely log the IP address of every visitor, together with the browser they are using and operating system. This information may also be retained indefinitely. While a subpoena is usually necessary for law enforcement to obtain access in the United States, a subpoena may entail little more for the requesting agency than filling out an online form. In many countries law enforcement has total access to servers within its borders.

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

A Virtual Private Network, often used in business and government, and by terrorists, connects you with a proxy server. The proxy server will receive your request for an Internet page and forward it using their IP address instead of yours, then forward the data received back to you. Many claim they keep no logs, or keep them very briefly. A proxy server located in a foreign country, simply because of the hassle of dealing with an agency of another country, can provide more protection than a domestic one. The client software running on your computer/smartphone/tablet will encrypt your request for a Web page, so even if your data is being monitored, all the monitor can tell is that a certain IP address (you) sent a request to a VPN, but what page you requested is not visible. The page sent back to you is similarly encrypted; the client software on your computer decrypts it.

In most Western democracies using a VPN is completely legal and there are many "legitimate" purposes to use one, such as secure access to a stock market account. However, if authorities are investigating someone, the use of a VPN will look suspicious, even if it is legal.

The Onion Router (Tor) is a chain of cooperating proxy servers, usually in multiple countries.

What information does your browser store?

Most web browsers store a great deal of information every time you visit a web page; law enforcement accesses it by running the program Browser Postmortem. This storage is intended to make it easier for you to later find and reload already visited Web pages. What information is stored, how and where, depends on which browser you use, which version you have, on what platform or operating system you are running it, and your personal security settings. Some of the items a browser may record are:

  1. All Web page addresses (URLs) you entered into your browser's address bar to tell it which sites to go to. This is found in your browser's History, with links to the pages you visited.
  2. The page itself in your cache.
  3. Any embedded elements, such as graphics or scripts, saved separately in your cache.
  4. Cookies.
  5. Search history (terms searched for by search engines).

Address Bar and History

Both the browser history and address-bar list make it easier to access recently-visited sites by storing the addresses of any site you visit. These effectively leave a breadcrumb trail for others to find and follow your activity on the Internet. Anyone else who uses or has access to your browser can easily look at your recent internet activity. Many browsers allow you to change your settings to not store this information. All major browsers have a menu command to delete the history; but this is no protection to law encorcement, which can easily recover it. Youhave to secure erase it. Since it is not always obvious where each browser stores its history, the safest way is to delete or uninstall the browser, wipe (secure erase) the free area, then do a new installation of the browser. Future data is retained until the process is repeated. A better choice is to install the browser on a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/flash_drive

The Browser Cache

The browser cache is designed to make loading frequently-accessed pages quicker. Downloading a page from the internet takes time, so the cache is designed to store entire pages from sites which you visit. Some browsers create a single cache file, while others may store embedded elements such as images, stylesheets or scripts separately. When you type an address into your browser it will check with the server to see if the page has been modified since last accessed and if there are no changes it will draw the page from the cache rather than from the server. The browser cache is a record of the sites you have visited and can easily be accessed by others. Major browsers have a menu selection to erase the cache. However none does a secure erase and the data is still recoverable by law enforcement. The solution is to get secure erase software, easily found by a Google search, and have it wipe all "blank" areas of the disk, which is full of your discards.

Cookies

Cookies are small files used to by web sites to either store settings or track what you do online. They are sent to your computer and stored by your browser when you visit a site.Not true of all browsers. Cookies are necessary for innocent purposes such as automating log-in and storing preferences, and providing targeted advertising, but they too leave their footprints for others to follow. If someone can look at what cookies you have stored in your Internet browser they can find out what websites you visited and the associated usernames.

Inside your Internet browser settings you can manually erase cookies but this will not be done safely unless they are overwritten with specialist Internet privacy software that stops computer forensic tools from unerasing them.Not true of all browsers.

"Private" or "Incognito" mode

Modern browsers often have what is called "private" or "incognito" mode. When activated, no history or cache is kept, search terms are not saved, and cookies are not accepted. Once all tabs are closed, all session information is discarded. However, it does not conceal from your Internet Service Provider which pages you visited, or which terms you searched for.

Hardware

The iPhone/iPad

Recent versions of Apple's iOS operating system, used on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, encrypt all information on the device. A user-chosen 4- digit (later 6-digit) passcode must be created when the phone is first used, and it must be entered each time the device restarts (after complete shutdown). The passcode is also required when a screen lock activates after a certain (adjustable) period of inactivity; this feature is on by default, though it can be turned off.

Finding the 4-number passcode by the what cryptographers call the "brute force" method (trying all 9999 possible codes) is almost impossible, because the iPhone only permits 10 attempts to enter the code. After that the phone is frozen, and a setting, not enabled by default, will cause all data on the phone to be erased after 10 unsuccessful attempts.

This encryption on the iPhone has never been defeated by either thieves or law enforcement. Police and similar agencies have hundreds of seized iPhones, which cannot be accessed without the passcode. Apple itself cannot break the encryption.

In theory, Apple could assist law enforcement by writing a new version of the iOS operating system, which could defeat some or all of the security that makes it impossible to break into an iPhone. As of this writing (March 2016) the FBI has, through a court, ordered Apple to write this software. Apple is fighting this in the courts, saying they have already turned over all the information they have on the phone in question, and a search warrant cannot compel them to write software that does not exist. This has provoked a considerable debate in the United States about whether, in principle, encrypted information should be decryptable by police and other government agencies. While the FBI says they are only seeking to access one phone, other agencies, such as the New York County District Attorney's office, are lining up to have many other phones decrypted if the FBI prevails. Apple claims that the software, if created, would be impossible to control, and repressive governments, such as China's, would use it against political dissidents. The FBI-Apple case will probably not be resolved until 2017. Congress may try to arrive at a policy, which would be addressed in new legislation.

All of the data on the phone is backed up onto servers operated by Apple, which are easily accessed by law enforcement. This backup can easily be turned off by the user. If this is done, the iPhone is at present the personal computer which, as sold, has the greatest privacy protection.

Erasing history, cache, and cookies

All major browsers offer the user the means to easily erase the information the browser has stored: Web sites visited, search history, cookies, passwords. However, like any erased file, it is only invisible, and is not really gone until the file is overwritten.Not true of all browsers. Specialized but inexpensive software will overwrite the "erased" data multiple times. However, all or most of this information is retained by your Internet service provider (ISP), where law enforcement can easily access it through a subpoena.Not true of all browsers.

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your Internet activity from your Internet service provider

[Comment by another Editor at BoyWiki who disputes the accuracy of this section: Using a VPN service is not necessary if you already use the Tor browser bundle. In fact, depending on a private company to protect your security could be very dangerous, and could defeat the anonymity that Tor provides by your making payment for the service under your real name! End Comment.]

[Comment on previous comment by another editor: use of TOR does not make a VPN unnecessary. TOR security has been broken. To the present writer's knowledge, and I pay attention to the news on this, VPN security has not been. Any VPN is better than none. The best are those that claim to keep no records of who requests what page. Using a VPN in a different country is recommended. Some VPN's are free. The Opera browser includes a VPN, although obviously it only deals with material that comes through Opera (not e-mail). If one uses a paid VPN, and pays for it by any electronic method, the fact that you are using a VPN cannot be kept secret. Your Internet Service Provider will know anyway. Using a VPN is not illegal in the US, and many businesses use them routinely.]

An easy way to greatly increase your Internet privacy is the use of a VPN or proxy server. Encrypted requests go to the VPN, which in turn requests the Web pages you specify, but with its own IP address instead of yours. Web sites send the VPN the pages you request, and it forwards them to you.

All your ISP knows is that you sent encrypted data to the proxy server and received different data back. Proxy servers, which necessarily know what pages the user wants, and the IP address of the user (you), usually make a point of not storing this information, so there is nothing to subpoena.

In picking a VPN, choose one located where privacy protections are strong (primarily Western democracies, not including the U.S. and U.K.) Choosing one in a different country may make it more difficult for law enforcement to access it.

Some VPNs are free, although they are not expensive to pay for and get additional features. Research your VPNs through articles and reviews of them. It is not impossible that a phony VPN be set up to collect your data instead of protecting it.

Computer Safety Tools

1. General Computer Security and Cleanup Tools

There are two good tools, "CCleaner" and "BleachBit". Both get rid of browser histories, clean up cache files, and much more. Well worth having and running frequently. They can also clean out chat history files (but of course you have that turned off, right?) and a lot of other stuff. The only limitation are their claims to eliminate thumbnail images… they work sometimes on some files, but often fail to find everything. Use ThumbPrints Wiper (below) for that.

Works with: Windows 7, 8, 10 Price: Varies. Free and premium editions available. Ease of use: Fairly easy. Recommendation: ESSENTIAL. https://www.bleachbit.org/ https://www.piriform.com/ccleaner


2. Visualize and Wipe Thumbnail Images

Thumbnails are snapshot images of the files you browse. They don't get removed even after you delete or wipe files, which can be a really serious issue for some people. This tool lets you visualize them (to see if you have a problem), and optionally wipe them. It finds stuff the above cleanup tools totally miss.

Works with: Windows 7, 8, 10 Price: Basic edition is Free. Premium edition is $9.95. Ease of use: Very easy. Recommendation: ESSENTIAL. If you do nothing else, get this. Run it frequently. Free: https://merlin.world/get-thumbprints-viewer Premium: https://merlin.world/get-thumbprints-wiper


3. Disable WebRTC

WebRTC is an acronym signifying real time communications, embedded in your web browser to support voice calls. The problem is, it transmits your actual IP address even if you are using a VPN.

Check if your WebRTC is leaking: https://www.browserleaks.com/webrtc

Works with: FireFox, Chrome. Price: Free Ease of use: Very Easy. Recommendation: ESSENTIAL, if you use a VPN.

- Firefox Disable WebRTC: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/happy-bonobo-disable-webrtc/

- Chrome WebRTC leak prevent: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/webrtc-leak-prevent/eiadekoaikejlgdbkbdfeijglgfdalml


4. Virus Protection

There are many good anti-virus tools, and each person will have their favorite. What matters is not so much which one you choose, but that you use one.

Works with: All platforms Price: Ranges from free to about $50 per year. Ease of use: Easy. Recommendation: ESSENTIAL

A few links (in alphabetic order, not in order of recommendation):

Avira: https://www.avira.com/en/free-antivirus-windows Eset: http://www.eset.com/ Bitdefender: http://www.bitdefender.com/ AVG : http://www.avg.com Kaspersky: http://www.kaspersky.com/kaspersky_anti-virus

MalwareBytes: https://www.malwarebytes.com/

5. File Erasing (Wiping)

Perhaps the best is a product called "Eraser". It's easy to install and use, and is well thought of by many. Some of the general cleanup tools also securely erase (wipe) files, and that's fine too.

Works with: Windows 7, 8, 10 Price: Free. Ease of use: Easy. Recommendation: ESSENTIAL. https://sourceforge.net/projects/eraser/


6. ShutUp 10 (Disable Windows 10 Privacy Intrusions)

Free program to disable many privacy intrusions built into Windows 10. Notice that Windows 10 comes with OneDrive built in, a Microsoft cloud service that will scan all the files you upload to detect child porn. Using cloud services there is the risk of a false report that could ruin lives.

Works with: Windows 10 Price: Free (tool). Ease of use: Easy. Recommendation: IMPORTANT. https://www.oo-software.com/en/shutup10


7. How to Get Rid of Old Hard Drives

Works with: All physical hard drive units, but not solid-state drives (SSDs).

Price: Free (tool). Ease of use: Advanced. Recommendation: ESSENTIAL. Never throw or sell a computer containing a hard drive without wiping it. http://dban.org/


8. Disable Advertising

Instructions for disabling ads in Windows 10. Mostly these appear in the panel of the re-designed Windows 10 Start Menu.

Works with: Windows 10 Price: Free (not a tool; instructions only). Ease of use: Moderately easy. Recommendation: OPTIONAL. http://www.zdnet.com/article/how-to-disable-windows-10-start-menu-ads/


9. Disable Cortana

Instructions for disabling Cortana, which can actually monitor conversations in real time happening in the vicinity of the computer.

Works with: Windows 10 Price: Free (not a tool; instructions only). Ease of use: Moderately easy. Recommendation: OPTIONAL. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Au0Ewl446HQ


10. Disable Windows Telemetry

A great tool to turn off the "telemetry" that Windows reports back to Microsoft. Telemetry includes low-level details about how Windows is behaving, and is ordinarily not supposed to include user data such as the content of files. Ordinarily.

Works with: Windows 7, 8, 10 Price: Free. Donations requested. Premium edition is about $14.00. Ease of use: Very easy. Recommendation: OPTIONAL. https://www.safer-networking.org/spybot-anti-beacon/

See also

References

  1. "Beat the FBI: How to Send Anonymous Email Without Getting Caught", by Ben Weitzenkorn,http://www.tomsguide.com/us/-anonymous-email-how-to,news-17511.html, consulted June 23, 2016.


External links

Have two computers, your normal everyday one you use for everything NOT BL related ... THEN a secret weapon. A laptop WITH NO HARD DRIVE IN IT. Just slip in a 'Tails OS CD', boot from that and you are up and running on a secure Tor system that does not leave ANY history at all about you.

You may want to look into that here:

https://tails.boum.org/