A recent case forced us to put together a coherent list of utilities everyone should be using to avoid internet problems.

The first and most important utility is LastPass. LastPass is a container for passwords. You use it on your phone, tablet, and PC. You make up one really good passphrase you can remember easily, and let it take care of the horrible complicated passwords that keep your bank account safe. Nobody likes to type in a complicated password, so they don’t use them, and their accounts are at risk because of weak password choices. LastPass does the hard work for you.

Next, we pair LastPass with Google Authenticator. Authenticator is a free utility for two factor authentication, probably installed on your phone already, or available from either the Android appstore or iTunes. Two factor authentication means you have something in addition to your password. You can use it with all your social media accounts and probably your email. Without your password AND your Authenticator token, nobody can access your stuff, which is great! You’re safe!

Next, set up LastPass to use Google Authenticator, and viola! You are a hard target for internet criminals!

The last piece of the puzzle is integrity, or proving you are you, not some imposter. For that you need to set up an account at Keybase.io. In keybase, you set up a key pair for encryption and digital signing. Sounds way more complicated than it is. Plus, once you have a keybase account, you can prove you are you on all your social media and websites like 9gag.

A fringe benefit of keybase is the ability to send encrypted messages.

As with all security utilities, ensure you have your data backed up before you turn on security features, especially encryption! And be sure to read the fine instruction manuals.

Now, what’s a good passphrase for LastPass? Not your favorite movie quote, at least not without some extra work. Here’s some examples of high quality pass phrases, none of which you should use, because they will all now be publicly known!

  • Ferry my horse sun* 2 the far shore for $5.
  • Left. No, right. No, left! YOUR OTHER LEFT!!
  • I had a gr8 password, but i forgot it. :,-(
  • Tension, apprehension, and dissention have begun! Not!

And that is the only thing you’ll need to remember, from now on.

Most forensic shops have several very powerful machines for the business. Much of the time, these machines sit idle, doing nothing in between cases. Consider putting those thoroughbred boxes to more profitable use by mining virtual currencies. The additional income can smooth can flow curves, be used in purchases, and help heat the office in Winter.

Seriously. 

Mining operations can be run from different boot disks while the machines aren’t doing anything. It’s pretty easy to set up, and the heating benefits are no joke.

You could cut your office heating bill and get some coins out of the deal.

Besides, virtual currency forensics is going to be huge business. Get involved now.

When we first started helping litigants with electronic evidence, there was a lack of paying clients. This was because few lawyers then had any grasp of tech who weren’t actively in tech, and courts had even less. Strange, isn’t it, that cases that could have benefitted from electronic evidence failed to capitalize on it, because the people responsible for litigation didn’t grasp is importance. Like only eating the same fast food because you don’t know there’s a restaurant one block over. But gradually it crept in. It took literally decades, but here we are. Now only the very rural or new do not grasp the import of electronic evidence materials.

For the past decade we’ve had a labor shortage, which has worked out well for us, providing a stable enough demand to operate as an independent consulting group, but that is changing.   As the lawyers have become more knowledgeable, demand for technical expertise and billable hours have shrunk, while more professional consultants crowd the field. Fortunately, it is not exactly a commodity service, so we have not suffered a drawdown, but it has limited growth. We see two areas of interest in the near future.

One, is the typical business Oroborus cycle of acquisition and merger. We will likely meet this fate within several years, being small and specialized. Not a problem except as it leads to stagnating methods and standardized responses with higher costs. Sorry, consumers.

The second area is far more dire, and that is the advent of expert systems, or what the ignorant refer to as AI. Experts systems are codified judgement engines that modify their rules based on results. They “learn” from outcomes. Where an expert now collects, processes, and constructs affidavits or testimony, eventually 95% of that work, and the lawyer activity surrounding it, will be done by a supervised expert system.

At which point our job, the technical consultant, turns to criticizing and improving those systems. But it will drastically alter the legal playing field. Especially where one side can afford it and one can’t. We will likely need to extend the right to counsel to include the right to expert system advice. 

One day there will be a public defender computer made of old code and rusty hardware trying to keep up with too many cases and the shiny new Wall Street supercomputer expert system.

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords as they can be mathematically proven to be fair and unbiased and mistake free. But that’s still at least a decade away, more likely two. 

to the big man himself for passing the HCISSP exam on the first try! Liticode considers the HCISSP a necessary standard for working on HIPAA and hospital security and litigation consulting. No cert is too much of a reach for our valued clients.

Corporate documentation is a multifaceted pyramid structure.  It begins with the business plan and statement of purpose.  The departments are chartered to spell out purpose, responsibilities, and control.  The charters are supported in policy.  Policy is frequently interdepartmental in reach.  Nothing is done in a vacuum.  The policies are detailed in procedures, standards, and other documents.

Everything fits into the structure, which makes it strong.  Errors in the documentation expose a company to risk from a variety of sources.  Every action taken by the company should be traceable back to one of the documents.  The documentation exists to protect and guide the actions of the employees.

It shouldn’t just be a bunch of paper in a binder that gets reprinted once a year for auditors.  It shouldn’t be a stick used only to discipline.

If policies aren’t the inspiration for action, they’re in need of overhaul.  You can tell the vitality of a company by its policy manual.  Is yours a lighthouse in the storm, or a pair of handcuffs?

As of June 1, 2016 Liticode has never received a National Security Letter, an order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or any other classified request for user information.

One of the nice things about electronic evidence is that it is relatively trivial to create a “provable” methodology to refute any complaints regarding evidence veracity.

For example, assuming you collect widely and preserve broadly, when it comes time to cull and produce materials for review, this should be done using scripts (small computer programs rapidly written by professional resources) which remain with the culled materials for later review, should there be any doubts.

Provided with both the original sources and the cull scripts, the production materials should always be the same. Providing the opposition approves of the scripts written, there can be no doubt about the veracity of the materials produced.

While scripts remain largely unchanged between cases, a general search for strings is simple enough, narrowing the cull intelligently requires more skill, and true targeted refinement requires pattern manipulation skills not commonly found amongst technicians. Yet these culling scripts can drastically reduce the size of the evidence for consideration, and simplify case dynamics.

GIven the sizes of preservation sets, the key to a quality case, is the speed with which it proceeds and the quality of the interaction. Good culling improves the legal experience and is best done using a combination of standard process and expert eye, depending on the complexity. Spending money on expert assistance such as that provided by Digital Trust® results in saved money over the life of the case, frequently drastic savings.

Using and providing scripts for review ensures the materials produced are incontestable.

In late May of 2014 the developers of Truecrypt posted version 7.2 with some issues that caused a flurry of concern and activity ultimately resulting in the developers attempting to shut down the product.  It appears as of now that there may be some shenanigans going on in the code, but nobody knows for sure at this point.  All we know is that 7.2 was compromised and should be avoided.

However, if you are considering abandoning TC altogether, you might want to delay a bit until more is known.  First off, the program has not been abandoned by the community and is hastily reforming in what is hoped will ultimately be a clean version thoroughly examined by the open source community.  Second, many clients have a tremendous investment in the program, and change will be expensive.  Third, it still works as far as anyone knows.  There has been no “skeleton key” disclosure, and as of now it seems at worst that a large government agency can read the files, but they are not a threat to most people’s use.

Digital Trust’s guidance on the software at this time is: if you are traveling with highly sensitive material and relying on Truecrypt to avoid compromise by another agency, (you’re a fool and) change those travelling devices to another form of encryption.  If however, you are in a relatively safe security environment and relying on Truecrypt to protect basic privacy and legal confidence, take no action at this time, unless you are using version 7.2, in which case we advise immediate downgrading and cleanup.

The cost of converting existing business assets to a new program should be weighed against the likelihood that all of this ends benignly.  For the majority of our clients we are advising you to remain with Truecrypt and simply not upgrade to 7.2.  Should the situation change, we will recommend further action at that time, but for now, just keep working with what you have.

To be as clear as possible: those clients currently relying on 7.1a or lower should continue to do so and not upgrade past 7.1a.

“Keep calm and don’t upgrade.”

Core business management is not an IT function.  Even if you’re a “systems” shop, like Cisco, the people responsible for uniting your business personnel in cyberspace aren’t the ones directing business operations.  They do not get to steer the ship, and if they do, you can be sure it will be a rough crossing.  IT can no more make core business purchasing decisions than HR can.  These are support functions in an organization, but sometimes that gets forgotten.

The problem being that IT doesn’t know the business.  No matter how hard they try they can not share the exact same viewpoint nor face the same risks as a core business unit, and any direction comes from self-interest.  This is normal, natural, and nothing to be upset about.  It is upsetting when reality is ignored, and systems are purchased by people who aren’t the responsible business unit.

We’re not saying that IT shouldn’t make IT purchasing decisions, because that’s the exact opposite problem.  But they need to simply be advisory when it comes to core business systems and the business unit responsible needs to be the one making the ultimate decision, even if it goes against IT advisement.

The rub being that this only works if the business unit is in capable hands and held responsible for any mistakes in decision making.  In many cases it isn’t, and this leads to a clash of wills when there’s a senior IT person that really does genuinely know better and advise against it.  Of course, such a senior mind should be capable of persuading any recalcitrant business unit, but sometimes things don’t work out, and the business pays the price.

At any rate, as much as reasonably possible, the business needs to decide what to buy and IT’s role is to support it and advise during purchasing.  This has a beneficial effect for IT by removing them from the decision, almost entirely, and leaving the responsibility with the business where it belongs.

What’s important from the 20,000 foot view is that no sabotage come into play.  If IT implements something the business didn’t want, they need to support it and not undermine the effort.  The reasons for implementing it were solid or it wouldn’t have happened, and if that’s not the case, there’s bigger problems than the failed system.  The opposite also holds: IT must support the business purchases wholeheartedly.  Any whiff of antagonism must be rooted out and squashed or the blight may persist and grow.

Business cannot ignore IT input.  If IT makes a case for cost effectiveness over form, then it’s real and it goes into the profitability model.  It cannot be disregarded or IT ends up covering hidden costs that undermine success.

So purchasing delineation needs to be clear.  Business systems are the responsibility of the business heads and IT is the responsibility of IT, and business cannot make decisions without IT.  IT can make decisions on IT purchases without the business, unless it impacts them.

Keeping the purchasing in line and distinctly defining responsibility is critical to accountability and success, and muddying the waters by having different business areas intermingle purchasing decisions with IT is a guaranteed path to failure.

What’s this got to do with security or forensics?  Well, there’s the policies that get generated which end up being reivewed as part of the audit process, but more importantly, inefficiency and waste in a business, as characterized by poor purchasing habits, leads to system duplication and financial difficulties.  More systems equals more attack surfaces and more potential forensic sources.  Financial difficulties means security needs get cut (second only to training).  So in a roundabout way, purchasing has a real, discernable impact on security and forensics.

So don’t neglect those purchasing policies during your next non-financial regulatory inspection.  They’re important.

Fear and greed.  That’s all.  Governments hate hackers with an intensity reserved for the most heinous of criminals, because they know that if the hackers want they can cause massive damage.   Governments hire them to do these things to other governments, so they know what they are capable of.  When resources or motivation are high enough, hackers can do pretty much anything you can imagine with computers.

This has resulted in governments treating hackers with some heavy hands; treating them worse, even, than violent offenders.  Something, in a number of cases, which we here at DT find deeply disturbing, and which is why we support various charitable organizations that provide hacker’s legal defense.

Here at DT, we think that a man robbing a bank with a gun deserves a harsher sentence than a man robbing a bank with a computer. Period.  Most citizens would agree with that view, we think.  Only the banks are going to be seriously biased against the hacker, because the hacker is harder to stop and poses a greater risk of loss.  The robber gets only what he can carry, but the hacker gets everything he can transfer.  Nobody can physically rob a bank and walk away with $1B, but a hacker can do it digitally.  That frightens financial types.  One hacker can, and has, destroyed thriving businesses by emptying their bank accounts, which the banks are reluctant to pay for, even if their security is negligently low.  Insurers have been abysmally slow to catch on.  And what the banks hate, governments are instructed to hate.  And it is a war of fear and oppression.  How else does one explain crack smoking government officials remaining in office while hackers are jailed and physically assaulted by Federal government agents over minor offenses?

Going after criminal hackers instead of violent offenders is disgusting.  Truckloads (hundreds of thousands) of sex trafficked children are driven nearly unimpeded throughout the world, human slavery runs more rampant than ever in history, and financial fraud and white collar crime are secondary to a bunch of guys with computers stealing from poorly secured corporations.  Let the corporations and businesses look after their own and let law enforcement return to protecting the people first, and the corporations second.  Businesses make profit and they can defend their own interests and if that adds to the cost of a song or a banana, then so be it, because it means it won’t get added in as a hidden cost in taxes or insurance.  Who among any of us would claim that stealing music is a worse crime than rape and kidnapping?  It’s absurd and insulting to people who are real victims.  To do otherwise is to admit wholeheartedly that the business interests are more important than the people, yet music pirates get more attention.  And that, as intelligent and responsible people, we cannot stand for.