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Posts in 'Security policies' category

Protecting network neutrality: both important and hard

The term “network neutrality” is mentioned very often lately; also in the context of FCC ruling, such as here, and here. Since the definition of net neutrality is not always clear, this topic is not subject to as much public debate as it probably should. Here is my take of what network neutrality is, and why it is difficult to regulate and enforce. I will start with my proposed technical and service-related definition of “network neutrality", and will follow with a brief explanation of why this is both difficult and important.

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Bitcoin does not provide anonymity

When people discuss Bitcoin, one of its properties that is often considered is its presumable anonymity. In this respect, it is often compared to cash. However, it shall be recognized and understood that Bitcoin is not as anonymous as cash; far from it, actually. Its anonymity relies on the concept of pseudonyms, which delivers some (unjustified) sense of anonymity, but very weak anonymity in practice.

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Book review: Little Brother

I have just finished reading Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. This book presents the story of a typical but tech savvy teenager who falls victim to harassment by the Department of Homeland Security and the police state, where every citizen is constantly tracked and monitored as a potential terrorist. The story is fictitious, of course, but those who follow the reaction of some nations to the terrorism threat and the ever increasing amplitude and sophistication of wholesale surveillance, cannot miss that while the story is factually fictitious, it is not at all implausible.

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Protecting private data: with law or with technology?

There is an ongoing debate on the need for new regulations that protect individuals’ personal data. Regulation is said to be required to protect the personal data of citizens, consumers, patients, etc., both against corporate service providers as well as against governments.

There is a growing concern about the implications of the data collection habits of social network operators, such as Facebook, as well as other service providers. Even those individuals who claim to not see any tangible risk behind the massive collection of data on themselves by service providers, still feel unease with the amount of data available on them, and on which they have no control.

On the state side, knowing that your government may monitor every single email and phone call reminds of George Orwell’s book “nineteen eighty-four". It is largely agreed that this practice, if not outright eliminated, shall at least be better controlled.

This essay discusses the two possible domains for such better control:
technology and regulation, arguing that the former is tremendously more effective than the latter.

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The difference between Cyber Security and just Security

The concept of “Cyber Security” is surely the attention grabber of the year. All security products and services enjoy a boost in their perception of importance, and sales, by merely prepending the word “cyber” to their description. But how is cyber security different than just security?

It differs, but it is not an entirely different domain, at least not from the technology perspective.

Security protects against malicious attacks. Attacks involve an
attacker, an attack target, and the attack method, which exploits one or more vulnerabilities in the target. When speaking of cyber attacks, it is common to refer to a nation state attacking another, or to an organization attacking a state. Referring to unorganized individual hackers as executing “cyber attacks", while being a common trend, is a blunt misuse of the “cyber” term in its common meaning. And still, cyber security is not as dramatically different than traditional security.

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Against the collection of private data: The unknown risk factor

I bet there are thousands of blog posts advocating privacy and explaining why people should resist governments and companies collecting personal data. I dare to write yet another one because I would like to make a couple of points that I have never seen made before. This post will discuss one of these two points: the unknown risk.

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Tips for Submitting Proposals to EU FP7 (now H2020) and Others

Among the work I do is the evaluation of research proposals for the Framework Program 7 (FP7), and now H2020, of the European Commission. I review research proposals that are submitted in response to calls that are related to information security. Truthfully, this work is among the more interesting of projects I am involved with.

On account of this occupation of mine, for a few years already, I consider myself authoritative to bring up the following tips to whoever intends to submit a research proposal for European, or other, funding.

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Companies collect data on us --- so what?

It is very common among security people to take privacy issues seriously. When we hear that a particular service collects personal data on us, we get extremely anxious. We will not use services that collect personal data that are not necessary to render the service. Sometimes we will forgo using a useful service, just because it requires that we feed in personal data, or because we do not like the wording of the privacy policy, of its lack of…

To us, security people, having a company collect personal information on our shopping habits, surfing habits, reading habits, or eating habits, is just wrong. Technologists like
Cory Doctorow call to treat personal data like weapons-grade plutonium, because data that is collected never vanishes. Others, like Bruce Schneier, write essays on why the average (that is, non-criminal) citizen should not agree to being watched, although he did nothing wrong. All is true, and having governments collect too much data on individuals is risky. Such data, if available, is likely to be abused at some point in time, a point which is probably closer than it appears.

It is easy to explain why one would not like the government to have too much data on himself. I would like to discuss another type of data: the commercial data that privately held companies such as Amazon, Google (on Google apps users), and Facebook, collect. Why should I care about having my personal data on-line?

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On the Purpose of Security Standards

An interesting article was published in Information Security Resources, titled: “Payment Card Industry Swallows Its Own Tail”.

The author seems to claim that PCI DSS may not survive for long, because the various stakeholders are too busy blaming each other for security breaches instead of trying to make the ecosystem more secure. Also, organizations that are PCI DSS compliant still suffer from security breaches, what seems to indicate that the standard is ineffective.

There are two questions that need to be asked:

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