Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

6/30/2009
06:22 PM
David Maynor
David Maynor
Commentary
50%
50%

'Net Parrot Effect

Iran. You remember the place? Before several celebrities died in the past week, Iran's election aftermath gripped national attention. The more I found out about the election situation, the demonstrations, and the crackdown, the more I felt as if I were reading a political thriller. That's when the ugly side of our hyper-connected society reared its ugly head.

Iran. You remember the place? Before several celebrities died in the past week, Iran's election aftermath gripped national attention. The more I found out about the election situation, the demonstrations, and the crackdown, the more I felt as if I were reading a political thriller. That's when the ugly side of our hyper-connected society reared its ugly head.People started passing information around the Twitter/blogger/Interweb superconnect highway about how to help the Iranians/bloggers/Tweeters who were being censored.

Make no mistake: The information passed around about ways to help bloggers was not helpful and, in most cases could actually aid Iran in censoring free speech. In general, this gives rise to what I call "the parrot effect," or just repeating information you hear or read without actually understanding it. In this case, high-profile technology gurus, including Tim O'Reilly, were guilty of spreading misinformation (RT @JoeTrippi: Change ur twitter time zone to GMT+3.30 (Tehran) Security search location & time. If we are all Iranians it will help 9:29 AM Jun 21st from Seesmic Desktop).

I sympathize with the Iranian citizens and think censoring speech is horrible. But to understand why the information being sent to "help" them wasn't useful at all, burn this phrase into your brain: "nation-backed resources." That means the resources of a government budget can be brought to bear. For instance, in Iran monitoring all Internet traffic in and out of the country would be as simple as a trip down to a monitoring center that has eavesdropping capabilities.

Let's look at a few of the parroted suggestions and why they would result in a visit from Iranian police. The most popular suggestion involved changing your location on your Twitter profile to say you were in Tehran and to set your time zone appropriately. At first I thought this suggestion was to show solidarity, but it turns out the friendly Internet parrots thought this would confuse the Iranian government censors since they would have to search through a wave of Twitter users claiming they are in Iran, allowing legitimate information to slip out unnoticed.

While I am sure there were noble intentions, no one seemed the vet the technological premise behind it. Silly smokescreens don't hold up when nation-backed resources can allow you to write a simple filter to show anybody going to Twitter.com from inside Iran. This would be as simple as writing a Wireshark filter to capture traffic going to cnn.com from inside your home network. With power like that, nobody looking for Twitter traffic would care about a profile location. I was accused of being antifree speech when I asked some people passing around the Tehran Twitter-location tip that if a Twitter profile location would actually help, then hy don't the people inside Iran just change their location to somewhere else?

People also suggested that the Iranians use proxies outside of Iran or Tor. While these ideas seem to have more merit, they still show a government that controls all Internet traffic in and out of the country that you are doing something suspicious and should get a visit from people with batons. I didn't see a single suggestion that would actually help free speech advocates. If I wore a tinfoil hat, then I could even go as far as to say that this disinformation was planted by the government of Iran because, in the end, all it did was show them exactly who they needed to arrest. But I don't have a tinfoil hat.

David Maynor is CTO of Errata Security. Special to Dark Reading

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Commentary
Ransomware Is Not the Problem
Adam Shostack, Consultant, Entrepreneur, Technologist, Game Designer,  6/9/2021
Edge-DRsplash-11-edge-ask-the-experts
How Can I Test the Security of My Home-Office Employees' Routers?
John Bock, Senior Research Scientist,  6/7/2021
News
New Ransomware Group Claiming Connection to REvil Gang Surfaces
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  6/10/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
The State of Cybersecurity Incident Response
In this report learn how enterprises are building their incident response teams and processes, how they research potential compromises, how they respond to new breaches, and what tools and processes they use to remediate problems and improve their cyber defenses for the future.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-0532
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-21
In memory management driver, there is a possible memory corruption due to a race condition. This could lead to local escalation of privilege with no additional execution privileges needed. User interaction is not needed for exploitation.Product: AndroidVersions: Android SoCAndroid ID: A-185196177
CVE-2021-0533
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-21
In memory management driver, there is a possible memory corruption due to a race condition. This could lead to local escalation of privilege with no additional execution privileges needed. User interaction is not needed for exploitation.Product: AndroidVersions: Android SoCAndroid ID: A-185193932
CVE-2021-26461
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-21
Apache Nuttx Versions prior to 10.1.0 are vulnerable to integer wrap-around in functions malloc, realloc and memalign. This improper memory assignment can lead to arbitrary memory allocation, resulting in unexpected behavior such as a crash or a remote code injection/execution.
CVE-2021-0478
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-21
In updateDrawable of StatusBarIconView.java, there is a possible permission bypass due to an uncaught exception. This could lead to local escalation of privilege by running foreground services without notifying the user, with User execution privileges needed. User interaction is not needed for explo...
CVE-2021-0504
PUBLISHED: 2021-06-21
In avrc_pars_browse_rsp of avrc_pars_ct.cc, there is a possible out of bounds read due to a missing bounds check. This could lead to remote information disclosure over Bluetooth with no additional execution privileges needed. User interaction is not needed for exploitation.Product: AndroidVersions: ...