Tag Archives: Cybersecurity

What You (and Your Boss) Need to Know About the Facebook + WhatsApp Merge

Things have changed. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when companies and organizations felt confident and secure in communicating via email. As technology developed, many of those entities supplemented their communications by adding text messaging to send quick updates or transmit time sensitive information.

These days, most enterprises know that email comms lack security. And even text messages are subject to phishing attacks. To keep private information private and to remain in compliance and avoid regulatory fines, savvy leaders are looking for more secure solutions.

…and some of them have settled on WhatsApp.

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The Comms Tool I Wish I Had in US Nuclear Operations

Better. That’s how RSA wrapped up the main idea for their 2019 conference. How can we communicate safer, faster, better?

Thinking about this theme made me reflect on my time as an Army Signal Officer with the Joint Nuclear Operations Center (JNOC). It was me, my Platoon Sergeant, a couple squad leaders, and 20 brand new soldiers operating one of the few Joint Defense nuclear command and control (NC2) satellite terminal posts in the world.

And while this was one of the most rewarding positions I’ve ever held – in and outside of the military – it came with a lot of challenges.

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HighSide Open Sources its Encryption Code

Here we open source the encryption modules used in the ClearChat client. We share it under the MIT license in the hope that it will be of use to the public.

AESEncryption.py does authenticated AES256 encryption and decryption.
highlevelcrypto.py does public key operations like encryption and signing.
example.py shows how to use them. It runs under Python 2.7 and there are two prerequisites: pyelliptic and OpenSSL.

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Forget Apple vs FBI, Slack & Gmail already have Backdoors

Apple vs FBI should be the least of your concerns, because right now your emails, chats and files are not private, and they’re certainly not secure.

Not at home, and not at work.

If you’re like most internet-goers there’s a good chance you’re using some combination of Slack, Gmail, Dropbox or one of the many other popular message and file sharing apps on a daily basis; so why worry about Apple building backdoors into the iPhone if you’re perfectly content sharing your most sensitive messages and files through apps that already have the equivalent of built-in backdoors?

Value your privacy and security? If the answer’s yes, then you’re going to want to keep reading. And buckle up, because you’re in for a few surprises.

In this post we’re going to talk about how the communication, file sharing and file storage layers have become a huge security vulnerability for individuals and organizations of all sizes, why, and what you can do about it.

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How HighSide Works

ClearChat is the name of our company and also the name of a stand-alone desktop (and eventually mobile) client. The client encrypts messages so that only people participating in a group can read them. Here we discuss how that works.

This is a technical overview of how ClearChat works for those who are interested in specifics. You do not need to read or understand any of this to use ClearChat correctly unless you are the admin for your company in which case you might choose to just read the section on authentication.

TL;DR  Each message is encrypted then HMAC’d with a randomly generated unique 256 bit key using AES-CTR, hereafter the “AESEphemKey”. Then, for every participant who must receive the message, the AESEphemKey is encrypted with the participant’s 512 bit secp256k1 elliptic curve public key and that encrypted AESEphemKey is added to the top of the ciphertext as a header. The whole thing is signed using ECDSA and SHA256, and then the information is sent to the server and relayed to the receiving clients. Each receiving client checks the signature, finds their header, decrypts the AESEphemKey using their private key, and then decrypts the main ciphertext using this AESEphemKey. Sending files works similarly except that files are split, compressed, encrypted, and sent in pieces to speed things up. Key authentication is taken care of by an admin at your company; if users trust the admin then they do not need to all verify each other’s keys.

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