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
Overcoming the Challenge of Shorter Certificate Lifespans
Mike Cooper, Founder & CEO of Revocent,  10/15/2020
7 Tips for Choosing Security Metrics That Matter
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  10/19/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How IT Security Organizations are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
The COVID-19 pandemic turned the world -- and enterprise computing -- on end. Here's a look at how cybersecurity teams are retrenching their defense strategies, rebuilding their teams, and selecting new technologies to stop the oncoming rise of online attacks.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-27621
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
The FileImporter extension in MediaWiki through 1.35.0 was not properly attributing various user actions to a specific user's IP address. Instead, for various actions, it would report the IP address of an internal Wikimedia Foundation server by omitting X-Forwarded-For data. This resulted in an inab...
CVE-2020-27620
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
The Cosmos Skin for MediaWiki through 1.35.0 has stored XSS because MediaWiki messages were not being properly escaped. This is related to wfMessage and Html::rawElement, as demonstrated by CosmosSocialProfile::getUserGroups.
CVE-2020-27619
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-22
In Python 3 through 3.9.0, the Lib/test/multibytecodec_support.py CJK codec tests call eval() on content retrieved via HTTP.
CVE-2020-17454
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-21
WSO2 API Manager 3.1.0 and earlier has reflected XSS on the "publisher" component's admin interface. More precisely, it is possible to inject an XSS payload into the owner POST parameter, which does not filter user inputs. By putting an XSS payload in place of a valid Owner Name, a modal b...
CVE-2020-24421
PUBLISHED: 2020-10-21
Adobe InDesign version 15.1.2 (and earlier) is affected by a memory corruption vulnerability due to insecure handling of a malicious .indd file, potentially resulting in arbitrary code execution in the context of the current user. User interaction is required to exploit this vulnerability.