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WordPress Multisite on the Darknet (Mercator .onion alias)
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Introducing BusKill: A Kill Cord for your Laptop
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Michael Altfield's gravatar

New Thumb Drive Encryption Procedure

In this article, I'll describe a procedure for preparing a brand-new USB flash drive for use. First we'll securely erase all the data on the drive, then we'll encrypt the entire drive, and--finally--we'll check the drive for bad blocks.

Ah, remember the good-ole days of spinning disks? When your OS could tell your hard *disk* to shred a specific sector? Like it or not, those days are gone in the land of USB flash volumes.

There's a lot of great reads on the complications of securely erasing data on a USB thumb drive. Unfortunately, a lot of the techniques are not universal to all technologies or manufacturers. Consequently, my approach is more ignorant, straight-forward, and broad (at the risk of causing these cheap usb drives to fail sooner & the process taking longer):

First, I make sure never to write any unencrytped data to the disk Second, when I want to wipe the disk, I fill it entirely with random data

Below are the commands that I use to prepare a new usb drive for my use immediately after purchase. These commands are presented as a rough guide; they're mostly idempotent, but you probably want to copy & paste them
. . . → Read More: New Thumb Drive Encryption Procedure

Michael Altfield's gravatar

GPG Key Transition Statement

After 8 years, I've decided to transition from my original GPG key and replace it with one that uses a stronger master key that meets NIST guidelines.

. . . → Read More: GPG Key Transition Statement

Michael Altfield's gravatar

How to check the Public Key Algorithm used for a given gpg key (ie: RSA vs DSA)

Today I discovered how to validate the Public Key Algorithm that's used for a given gpg key. Unfortunately, it's extremely unintuitive & took quite a bit of digging to figure out how. So I'm leaving this here in hopes it helps someone in their future searches.

. . . → Read More: How to check the Public Key Algorithm used for a given gpg key (ie: RSA vs DSA)

Michael Altfield's gravatar

HPKP Best Practices for Let's Encrypt

This post describes how to generate a few backup public key hashes to add to your HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP) config that might save you from bricking your domain if Let's Encrypt ever gets untrusted like StartCom did.

If you have a healthy distrust of the X.509 PKI trust model, then you've probably heard of HPKP (and probably also HSTS & CAA). Website certificate pinning was a trend first started by google, who hard-coded a pin of their certificates in their Chrome browser. Eventually, google helped build a more standardized pinning method under RFC 7469. And today, it's supported by Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Pinning is a great TOFU improvement to https, but--if misconfigured--you could "brick" your domain--making it so that your client's browsers will refuse to let them access your site for months or years (interestingly, this has also caused some security experts to think of how HPKP could be abused in ransom-ware). Therefore, it's a good idea to follow a few HPKP Best Practices.

. . . → Read More: HPKP Best Practices for Let's Encrypt

Michael Altfield's gravatar

Howto Guide: Whole House VPN with Ubiquiti + Cryptostorm (netflix safe!)

This post will describe what hardware to buy & how to configure it so that you have 2 wireless networks in your house: One that seamlessly forces all of the traffic on that network through a VPN--and one that connects to the Internet normally . When finished, the internet activity for any device connected to the first network will be entirely encrypted so that the ISP cannot see which websites are visited*, what software you use, and what information you send & receive on the internet.

* Assuming your config doesn't leak DNS; see improvements section

Update 2017-08-25: Added "kill switch" firewall rule that prevents LAN traffic from escaping to the ISP unless it passed through the VPN's vtun0 interface first. Following this change, if the VPN connection is down, the internet will not be accessible (as desired) over the 'home' wifi network (without this, the router bypasses the VPN by sending the packets straight to the ISP--giving a false sense of privacy).

Update 2021-02-01: Fixed GitHub URL of cryptostorm's free OpenVPN configuration file Update 2021-02-14: Fixed GitHub URL of cryptostorm's paid OpenVPN configuration file

Update: I wrote this guide in 2017. It's intended for an audience that has
. . . → Read More: Howto Guide: Whole House VPN with Ubiquiti + Cryptostorm (netflix safe!)

Michael Altfield's gravatar

Using uBlock Origin to Whitelist

As some mega websites deploy APIs that are used nearly ubiquitously on most of the Internet's websites (I'm looking at you Facebook & Google), I've begun to compartmentalize my browsers to "jail" specific website usage to a single, sandboxed browser (profile). This is sometimes referred to as a Site-Specific Browser (SSB).

Besides making sure that your SSB is isolated in that it cannot access your regular browser's data (a configuration I plan to document in the future), it's essential to block all network traffic from/to your SSB and all websites, except a whitelist. Unfortunately, getting block-all-then-whitelist functionality in uBlock Origin was annoyingly not documented, so I decided to publish it.

If you want uBlock Origin to block all traffic, add the following line to the textbox in your "My filters" tab of uBlock's Dashboard.

. . . → Read More: Using uBlock Origin to Whitelist

Michael Altfield's gravatar

Let's Encrypt!

Finally, this website is (only) accessible over https!

Michael Altfield's gravatar

Tor->VPN in TAILS to bypass tor-blocking

This post will describe how to route outgoing traffic in a python script running on TAILS first through Tor, then through a SOCKS proxy created with an ssh tunnel. This is helpful when you want to use the anonymizing capabilities of tor, but you need to access a website that explicitly blocks tor exit nodes (common with sites running CloudFlare on default settings).

. . . → Read More: Tor->VPN in TAILS to bypass tor-blocking

Michael Altfield's gravatar

pycurl through Tor without leaking DNS lookups

This article describes the correct way to use pycurl over Tor, such that both DNS lookup data and HTTP(S) traffic is sent through Tor's SOCKS5 proxy.

If you google "pycurl tor", one of the first results is a stackoverflow post that describes how to configure pycurl using the pycurl.PROXYTYPE_SOCKS5 setting. Indeed, even the tutorial To Russia With Love on the Tor Project's Official Website describes how to pass pycurl through Tor using the pycurl.PROXYTYPE_SOCKS5 setting.

However, using pycurl.PROXYTYPE_SOCKS5 will leak DNS queries associated with your HTTP requests outside of the Tor network! Instead you should use pycurl.PROXYTYPE_SOCKS5_HOSTNAME.

The --socks5-hostname argument was added to libcurl v7.26.0. The pycurl.PROXYTYPE_SOCKS5_HOSTNAME argument wasn't added to pycurl until pycurl v7.19.5.1, which (at the time of writing) was less than 2 months ago!

This article will describe how to install pycurl v7.19.5.1 onto the latest version of TAILS at the time of writing, which is TAILS v1.2.3.

. . . → Read More: pycurl through Tor without leaking DNS lookups

Michael Altfield's gravatar

Eavesdropping Analysis of PGP Metadata

This post attempts to answer the following question: If an evesdropper intercepts a message encrypted with gpg, how much information will they be able to extract from the message without a decryption key?

I will show the unencrypted metadata added to a GPG-encypted message, and I will present commands that can be used to extract this unencrypted metadata.

. . . → Read More: Eavesdropping Analysis of PGP Metadata