Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The real forces behind Snowden? Big Tin Can industry!

We have learned a great deal about insecure communication. Insecurity has many faces, like the red hued face of  an official talking insecurely about security before a parliamentary committee.

Wikipedia can help you understand this aspect of insecurity.

Another aspect of insecure communication has to do with cookies.

In an ironic twist of fate, the cookies we eat and the cookies web sites pour over our online existence have met.

The latest low-tech defense against high-tech mobile phone surveillance is the cookie can fashioned out of rolled steel.

Meetings in some German workplaces feature cookie tins as storage containers for the participants' gadgets.

This is the clearest indication so far of the real forces behind the Snowden revelations!

There are those who claim experience shows the Russians are behind it. Unless there is hard proof, they are wrong.
Don't misunderstand this as dismissing experience. I value experience.

My experience, for instance, shows I'd make a great astronaut: I can fly without any gizmos or propulsion. In my dreams, kind of like the guys dreaming up a Russian conspiracy without proof.

Big Tin Can, the obscure manufacturers of cans for cookies are the true winners of the past year. For decades, they have been virtually powerless to stop the advance of plastic packaging. If you are old enough to remember the losing battle of the grocery store shelves, where a single metal box store brand cookie remained after Big Oil had its way with packaging, you may have noticed a recent uptick in larger size metal cookie boxes.

This realization, of course, opens a whole new can of cookies. Chinese manufacturers have a huge share of the market.

Government officials and terrorists all over the world do not realize that a cookie can in itself creates new security risks, says an unnamed expert. First of all, the physical integrity of the can is important. We know of cans that lost their tight seal against electromagnetic interference because of over enthusiastic eaters. So, you should remove all cookies as soon as you buy the can and then store the can securely, if possible use a bigger cookie can as storage. Cans may also be tampered with by intelligence agencies intercepting a shipment. So, do not buy empty cookie cans online. Buy them at a local store with their original content. This ensures that the bad guys cannot be certain: are you buying just for the cookies or for security? The folded edges along the top and the bottom create hollow spaces which can be used to hide spy equipment. Unrolling and then refolding the edges is tedious and error prone, so we suggest you fry any electronics hidden in the can.
Your security experts should hook the empty can up to a car battery before the first use as a security box. In some jurisdictions, security people have lots of spare car batteries, in others they are easily available at an auto parts store.

And lastly, never keep the box with the cell phones inside the meeting room. The common way of having the box next to the entrance for easy drop off and pick up is not recommended. Office personnel or cleaners might wander off with the box thinking they are liberating cookies. Putting a sticker on the box, on the other hand, is tantamount to telling an insider threat "take me".

An office fridge is the best place to store the tin once all attendees have put in their phones. Experience tells us that the office fridge it the single most closely guarded item in any office even before the coffee maker.

Good luck!

Our next office security post will be about turning a Nespresso capsule into a listening device.

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