it-sneak

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Germans to avoid spying eyes with typewriters

22 Jul 2014

Typewriter Man Smoking Pipe

Sneak is working on a novel. It's a labour of love that is so complex, clever and cunning that it makes Game of Thrones look like Spot the Dog. When it's ready, and yes Mum it will be, the world will proclaim the greatness that is Sneak.

So good is this work that Sneak has always been concerned that writing it in the traditional method – on Microsoft Word on a laptop – posed the risk that if someone got wind of it and hacked into his machine, they could steal the idea and make gazillions.

To avoid this fate, Sneak has for many years used an ancient, bashed-around typewriter left to him by his great grandfather (the dapper chap pictured above).

Yes his friends mock him when they come round (OK, see it over his shoulder on the webcam) but it’s a trusty machine and no-one’s going to hack into it, that’s for sure. In fact, he often wondered why other security-conscious organisations don't have the odd typewriter kicking around for important intel.

Well it appears the Germans are catching on after Sneak read that the German government is considering using the old-fashioned machines to help stop spies, such as those from the US, from accessing, intercepting and reading the country's most secret data.

The Guardian reported that Christian Democrat politician Patrick Sensburg, after being asked, as a litte joke, if the country was considering typewriters to avoid spying that, "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either."

"Really?" came the response (in German though, no doubt). "Yes, no joke," Sensburg said back. He never jokes.

Good for you Germany! Let’s see you crack a unnetworked, decades-old, ink and ribbon typewriter, NSA. As for Sneak, he's off to write chapter 247 of his novel. It's an exciting bit, as the Orc King Gringarlos battles the Dragon Wizard Zilarbeth in the Moon Palace of Zingador. Excited? You should be.

Central Intelligence Agency joins Twitter and Facebook

09 Jun 2014

Sneak finally has some decent people to talk to on his social networking accounts, the venerable chaps, and ladies, at the US Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA to close friends.

Sneak is often found to be on the receiving end of a mute or blocking order, he hopes that the new social CIA will embrace him and his own brand of unclassified disclosure.

Certainly it looks like the CIA is open to the social experience and it has promised to share outwards. Sneak hopes that it will be equally open to responses.

While looking at the CIA account Sneak realised that other people have the same hope, and he noticed that a chap called @Wikileaks has promised to respond to official disclosures with some of its own. Sneak is looking forward to that.

However, while he is hoping for messages that are juicy like so many peaches, the truth is probably - and this is often the case - that things will be very boring indeed.

Take the CIA on Facebook. Sneak was expecting to see a video of a monkey sniffing something, a picture of some lunch, or hell, even a selfie, but none of that is in place. Instead there is a message that promises no fun at all.

"CIA welcomes your comments, however we wish to maintain the decorum appropriate to a taxpayer-funded organisation, we will moderate, and delete as necessary, comments deemed inappropriate. Failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in the author(s) being blocked from this page without notice," it says in a cat-free early post.

"Do not post graphic, obscene, sexually explicit or racially offensive comments or content. We also will not tolerate comments that are abusive, hateful, slanderous or that are intended to defame anyone or any organisation. All content must be unclassified. Do not post any content that may be considered classified, sensitive, or that would cause immediate and undue harm to a person or organisation."

FBI gets confused on pot-smoking hackers stance

22 May 2014

Cannabis plant

Sneak was reasonably excited this week. He heard that the FBI would possibly be interested in hiring ‘stoner' hackers and immediately recognised an opportunity to clear out some rooms in his bedsit.

Yesterday, having walked through a fug of smoke to his ‘home office' Sneak read on the BBC that the FBI was facing up to a skills shortage that could possibly only be filled by the tie-dye munchie brigade. Reasonably confused, thanks to the local atmosphere, we was consoled to see that it was the FBI's director, James Comey who proposed the far-out motion.

"I have to hire a great workforce to compete with those cybercriminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview," he was reported as saying at an event attended by the Wall Street Journal.

The Beeb reports that Comey was pushed on this by an attendee who asked whether a bud head 'friend' should apply for a position at the FBI. "He should go ahead and apply," he said.

The comments were surprising as the FBI usually has a no-drugs-in-the-system-for-at-least-three-years hiring policy, something of a hindrance to those who enjoy the odd doobie.

However, the headlines the comments elicited has prompted something of a turnaround from the Feds as Corney later said he was joking, a classic symptom  of pot smoking. We do not know if he added, ‘Maaaaan...'.

It reported that during a Senate hearing Corney went further, adding, "I don't want young people to use marijuana. It's against the law. I did not say that I'm going to change that ban. I said I have to grapple with the change in my workforce."

It ain't easy being green.

John McAfee: The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated

10 Sep 2013

mcafee-and-dogs

Sneak was alarmed to read that his favourite travel blogger and security expert John McAfee is no longer of this earth.

Thank the antivirus heavens then that reports of his demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Sneak knows this because he has seen the proof and read the evidence. He is looking at a picture of McAfee – and two canine friends – now, and you can take it from us, this is no Weekend at Bernie's style jape.

McAfee, who has carved out a niche as an on-the-run virus expert to watch, has tweeted the proof himself.

"I felt fine when I went to bed last night. I had such great plans. ‘RIP John McAfee'," he said.

"For those wondering if im dead the answer is... 'The Media is killing me, but somehow im still tweeting" #NotDeadYet," he posted.

The more keen-eyed among us might notice the expression on the darker dog's face. Let's assume it's all in good fun.

While he was "dead" McAfee was the subject of an online report that claimed he had died after a cocaine binge in a casino.

Sneak was stunned to hear this – since it does not sound true to form for his security hero – and almost updated a McAfee subscription in celebration after hearing he was indeed alive and well.

McAfee has added another update. Having completed his daily check he is happy to assure us that, thankfully, all is still in working order.

Government COO goes to dangerous lengths to prove PC boot up claims

12 Jun 2013

Like many wage slaves, Sneak has a morning routine that involves nipping off to make a cuppa while waiting for the office PC to boot up. But while this strikes Sneak as a bit of productive time management and multi-tasking, Sneak was shocked by V3 revelations of the IT woes that befall many civil servants. Apparently, Whitehall workers have time to cook and eat a full English before their computers are ready to use.

But not everybody was so shocked. Indeed, one Daily Telegraph columnist sniffed that her sources had cast doubt on the claims made by Stephen Kelly, the government's chief operating officer, that it takes him seven minutes to boot his computer.

Clearly Kelly is not one to let such slights pass without comment. So on Wednesday he got colleagues to video him logging on to his laptop and posted the results on YouTube. However, by Thursday the video had been removed, no doubt after Kelly was taken to task by his seniors for posting a video showing his PC logins, and yet again criticising public sector IT.

For those with more pressing things to do with their time than watch seven minutes 18 seconds of inactivity, Sneak can provide an abridged version: it took more than three minutes before Kelly could log in, and a further four minute pass while his personal account is loaded. Meanwhile, his iPad is timing the log on attempt.

“The iPad's losing the will to live,” he notes at one point. We feel its pain, we feel its pain.

So in many ways, it's good to see that Whitehall mandarins have a good grasp on the IT issues affecting their users. However, Sneak looks forward to the day they have similar levels of awareness over the wisdom of videoing inputting your log credentials to highly sensitive government computer systems and posting it on the internet.

Pranksters warn of zombie apocalypse in TV station hack

12 Feb 2013

zombie accountant

It would normally take nothing short of the apocalypse to drag Sneak away from US syndicated talk show, The Steve Wilkos Show. After all, when the former head of security at The Jerry Springer Show gets his own programme, it's gotta be must-see TV.

So it's lucky that Sneak doesn't reside in Montana, where local station KRTV had its ground-breaking episode 'Teen cheaters take lie detectors' rudely interrupted by a honking siren and panic-inducing announcement that the dead were rising from their graves to attack local residents.

“Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous,” viewers were warned by a computer-like voice.

Luckily for Montana residents, the zombie apocalypse had not broken out – after all, Sneak's pretty confident that when it happens, Stoke-on-Trent is first in line. As it turns out, pranksters had hacked the station's emergency alert systems, and issued the fake zombie alert.

“Someone apparently hacked into the Emergency Alert System and announced on KRTV and the CW that there was an emergency in several Montana counties,” the station subsequently announced on its website, pointedly making no reference to zombies, in case fears were inflamed further.

“This message did not originate from KRTV, and there is no emergency,” it added.

Unfortunately for Sneak, there's no word yet on whether the teen cheater passed the polygraph test.

Developer outsources own job to China but VPN logs give the game away

16 Jan 2013

lazywork

Like many workers, Sneak struggles to manage his Facebook, eBay and Reddit commitments with the drudgery of his day-to-day job. But now Sneak has realised the secret to striking the perfect work-life balance. 

Verizon's latest security blog posting details a great story about a worker at an unnamed firm working in US critical infrastructure. It had installed a VPN service to allow some of its staff to work from home for a couple of days a week, and all was good. Or at least it was until they started checking the logs.

It appeared they had an open and active connection to Shenyang, China. Given the VPN needed two-factor authentication, this had all the hallmarks of a sophisticated malware attack on their infrastructure – and given the nature of their work, that set the alarms bell ringing.

Having drafted in Verizon Wireless to help out, the firm soon discovered that one of its developers had been compromised. Not by a group of nefarious Chinese hackers, but by an affliction Sneak knows only too well: lazyitis.

The developer in his mid-40s had been hiring a Chinese consulting firm to do his job for him. He'd simply FedEx his security token over, and sit back and enjoy his pay cheque – as we all know, offshore workers can be much cheaper. In fact, as the investigators discovered, it looked like he'd been running the same scam with a number of firms in the area.

Still, it's not all bad news. The developer in question had quarter after quarter been rated as the best in the firm, so at least the firm was getting good coding for its money.

French thieves smash and grab Paris Apple store

02 Jan 2013

paris-web-2012

Zut alors! Le Sneak was shocked to zee zat thieves in ze French capital of Paris (That's enough faux French accents now - Parisian Ed) have stolen around £1m of Apple goods in a New Year's Eve heist.

The Gallic assassins used the cover of fireworks and drunken revellers to mask their thieving ways and cries of, "Quick, grab the Pomme iPads and iPhones!" (see those French lessons stuck!), to make off with some serious loot.

"They were well prepared," said the brilliantly-named Christophe Crepin from the police union UNSA, according to numerous reports.

"As the majority of police were busy watching the Champs Elysees the robbers took advantage of this opportunity."

The heist is estimated to be worth around £813,000 which given the pricing of Apple goods means they probably got three iPads, four iPhones and five new iMacs in total.

According to the French newspaper Le Parisien (no idea what that means) the thieves were able to first gain access by threatening a security guard at a back entrance.

Typical, a back-door exploit; see those closed ecosystems aren't as secure as you think.

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