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    • New note by bobjonkman 8 November 2019
      Elois and Morlocks, from another work of fiction co-opted into a user manual for the 1%
    • Favorite 8 November 2019
      bobjonkman favorited something by inkslinger: The fan theory that the Jetsons and the Flintstones are actually contemporaneous to one another -- the Jetsons' sky cities being the land of the wealthy (or formerly wealthy, perhaps, since capitalist wage relations still exist, even in a world with literal robot servants) and the Flintstones being the descendants […]
    • bobjonkman repeated a notice by inkslinger 8 November 2019
      RT @inkslinger The fan theory that the Jetsons and the Flintstones are actually contemporaneous to one another -- the Jetsons' sky cities being the land of the wealthy (or formerly wealthy, perhaps, since capitalist wage relations still exist, even in a world with literal robot servants) and the Flintstones being the descendants of the poor […]
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      bobjonkman favorited something by ericxdu23: Hi. I'm still here.
    • Favorite 1 November 2019
      bobjonkman favorited something by hubert: ♲ @cryptpad@social.weho.st: Exactly 5 years ago at 16:42, was the first CryptPad commit by @cjdelisle, the start of a very ambitious project to restore privacy in collaboration tools. We believed in it 5 years ago and we thank the 200 supporters and 10000 weekly users from 150 countries that have […]
    • New note by bobjonkman 24 October 2019
      Best thread in a long time! nEVILle Park's ( @nev ) #Arachtober: https://social.coop/@nev/102887815460533048
    • Favorite 24 October 2019
      bobjonkman favorited something by phooky: Borough Pluralization Chart:ManhattaBrooklynsBronxiiQuinoaStatins Island
    • Favorite 20 October 2019
      bobjonkman favorited something by banjofox: Middle Earth actually had a second set of well-known rings. Although not as powerful at the main set, these were certainly nothing to shake a finger at. Silver in color, they, like their gold counterparts were usable by anyone. Their only real power was the ability to provide near instant […]
    • Favorite 14 October 2019
      bobjonkman favorited something by thj: Cool teardown video from Applied Science that reveals how analog era snapshot cameras printed the date on the film negative:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezME4_xMMnkWith the segmented digits, you'd think it's a tiny fluorescent display, but it's actually more interesting that that.
    • New note by bobjonkman 6 October 2019
      And now I've discovered your website, and I'll be rabbitholing for the rest of the afternoon... @mattskala

Google Spyware considered harmful

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 16th April 2012

Google wordmark in a "No" symbol

No Google

One day I was asked:

Hi IT Peeps,

I was wondering if I would cause major havoc if I downloaded google chrome? Will it mess anything up? Any recommendations?

My answer:

What problem are you trying to solve? What’s the question that gets answered “Install Google Chrome”?

Google the company is becoming ever more pervasive in our Internet lives. Google’s business is not providing a search engine for free; Google’s business is to sell our demographic information to advertisers. They gather that demographic data by luring us in with relevant search results, free e-mail and slick looking browsers.

Google collects personal information, including information that was voluntarily given to Google (for instance, by signing up for GMail or Google Plus; posting a video on YouTube), information that was collected anonymously (eg. when you perform a Google search or watch a YouTube video and Google records the search terms, your IP address, and leaves a cookie on your computer), and information that Google collected as it does its web indexing (comments you’ve left on a newspaper site, Tweets you’ve made, messages you’ve posted to public mailing lists). Google then correlates all this data based on IP address, cookies, e-mail addresses, your name, geo-location (finding out where you are based on your WiFi connection or IP address).

As of 1 March 2012 Google changed its privacy policies to combine data mining from all its holdings – the search engine, YouTube, Picasa, Google Maps, Google Plus, Google Mail, &c. I didn’t think too much of that, since I had thought that Google had always aggregated its data. According to an article I read[1] that’s actually a new development. Google used to keep all its data mining separate, in fact, kept it so separate that it didn’t even correlate its adwords between different messages in GMail. With the new privacy policy that’s all changed, and everything is now aggregated, correlated, and retained to be sold to the highest bidder. Google says we’ll never sell your personal information or share it without your permission, but you grant that permission every time you agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policies when you sign up for Google’s services.

Remember the Google Toolbar? Every search request, every URL, and every local file you opened in a browser with the Google toolbar installed was sent to the Google servers. There was a report of someone who opened confidential company documents with IE and the Google toolbar, only to find those reports cached on Google’s servers. Google Chrome is far more invasive than a mere toolbar.

Google Chrome does not have the same set of security-related add-ons that Firefox offers. For your best privacy protection and security, use Firefox with the NoScript, AdBlock Plus, HTTPS-Everywhere and Force-TLS extensions. See my article on Browser Security for details on installing and configuring them.

–Bob, who will be getting fitted for a new tinfoil hat at lunch…

Footnote 1: I wish I knew what article that was. To my recollection, the author said he wouldn’t trust Google with his data again. He had visited the Googleplex some years earlier, and was told how Google kept the data from its different projects in separate silos, so that profile aggregation was next to impossible. Data silos were so extensive that although one GMail message might trigger certain AdWords, there was no tracking between messages. I read the article in March of 2012; if you can provide me with a link let me know in the comments.

Update 8 Nov 2012: A similar quote about data silos from Google’s Vic Gundotra appears in the CNN article Google exec: We won’t break users’ trust.


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Posted in considered harmful, Google, Google Free, Internet, privacy | 2 Comments »

What to do about compromised Hotmail passwords

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 18th November 2010

autoroute à emails

autoroute à emails by Biscarotte

I administer a number of e-mail systems, and I’ve been seeing a lot of spam coming from Hotmail accounts recently. And both friends and clients have been telling me that it’s not them who are sending spam from Hotmail (and ending up in my e-mail systems), their accounts have been hacked. One person asked me:

Is it just Hotmail? What else could I use? Can’t I just change my password?

Changing passwords is only an effective solution if the account was compromised by social engineering, eg. the legitimate user giving out the password in a phishing attempt or other direct means, or if a simple password was guessed or cracked.

There is evidence that Hotmail and Yahoo’s password recovery mechanism is flawed (eg. the Sarah Palin breach), so that malusers can acquire a new password for an account. I don’t think this is happening, because victims are not reporting being locked out of their accounts. Of course, if the service merely sends out the current password then this may be what is happening, and no amount of password complexity will protect the account.

If the passwords were compromised by an automated password cracker then I would expect only simple passwords to be breached, and accounts with strong passwords would be safe. I do not know what kind of passwords were in use by the people who have compromised accounts, but it is likely they were simple passwords.

While I have no evidence, I think the current rash of breaches is due to a more systematic attack by URL munging, or fuzzing the inputs on a POST request, or some other attack vector. These attacks do not require an authenticated login, and in that case no amount of password complexity will provide security either.

I haven’t heard of similar compromised accounts in Gmail, so that may be a suitable alternative for now. I’ve been recommending that people use the mail accounts provided by their ISPs, largely so that they can make use of the ISP’s technical support if their accounts do get compromised. And, of course, if they’re paying their ISP for a mail account then there may be immunity from liability (“My mail account was compromised and I was paying my ISP for security, so all this spam is their fault”).

–Bob.

Update 5 Feb 2012: I retract the first sentence in the last paragraph. E-mail Administrator friends have been telling me that Google Mail is just as vulnerable as Hotmail and Yahoo. Having just read “Hacked!” in The Atlantic I’m convinced the problem of compromised mail accounts is worse than I thought, and that no online providers (especially the “free” ones) adequately protect the e-mail of their users.

autoroute à emails by Biscarotte is used under a Creative Commons by-sa-v2.0 license.

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Posted in email, Internet, spam | 1 Comment »

 
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