Category Archives: News

GPG Signatures on Press Releases & Verifiable Anonymous Factions

Found the below on (here’s a reddit). As a proponent of public key cryptography, I whole-heartedly agree. If the groups used cryptographically secure signatures on their publications, anonymous would no longer be at risk of having members jump to fight in fabricated battles. This would do away with the potential for the Anonymous Hoax that seems so easy to create at the moment.

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Hello Anonymous,

Every time the core group puts out a press release or replaces website content with a message to the owners, it does so in the form of an image. I’ve been musing on the idea that internally these images must have a deeper purpose than simply acting as a style standard–maybe they have some steganographic messages hidden in the pixels to communicate within the inner circle. Maybe somewhere embedded is a forgery-proof watermark or a signature (beyond the famed logo)… but I haven’t found anything (not that I’ve looked too terribly closely) and I’m starting to wonder if it’s because nothing is there.

It’s obvious at this stage that there is a ‘usual’ press release team, no matter the ethereal, leaderless form in which anonymous supposedly exists–and I doubt it’s the only group acting as a team within anonymous. So here’s my suggestion:

Individual groups within Anonymous adopt a standard for communication that involves setting up a GPG encryption key ( for the faction and then using that key to sign whatever image/message are published by that faction. This is really what Public-Key Cryptography ( was created for–a public key that anyone in the public can use to verify message origin authenticity, with a secret key, physically protected by the owner (or owners).

If the core group wants to exist in a form that it can be ‘in charge’ of press releases and going on air on the David Parkman show and the like to verbally combat the rantings of lunatics, it would be great to create a public key for the group so the next time someone claims to have received a message from anonymous, that group can say, “Show me the signature? Does it verify against our public key? No? Then we didn’t sent it. Because we have a standard.”

This would also help anyone interested in following different factions in identifying which faction put out which message. If you find that there is an anonymous faction (or even a third party group like the WBC, FBI, etc) acting out against the core values of anonymous or pretending to be a member of an influential group, you can be sure that their messages are not mistaken as coming from any of the groups who accept the GPG signing standard.

Granted, it should be advised that holding a private encryption key belonging to a faction acts as physical proof that you are a member of that faction (in the event that your equipment is seized or accessed by an opposing force)–so this key needs to be treated with the utmost security in mind.

You’ll note that this message is signed by, which has a public key published for anyone to use to verify that this message was sent by the Anonymous Zombies faction: (forgive us Sven/–but your domain just seemed the most apropos for using as our identification source since you are the closest thing we know to an official anonymous domain besides 4chan, LOL).

You are Anonymous
You are Legion
You do not Forgive
You do not Forget
I Expect you… to cryptographically sign your messages
Version: GnuPG/MacGPG2 v2.0.11 (Darwin)


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Ad Blockers: Making the Internet Better

I just stumbled upon this opinion column in Smashing Magazine, which claims that Web Designers should not use ad blockers. Along with a bunch of lousy arguments, the author fails to account for my two biggest reasons for using ad blocking:

  • Resource Consumption (time and bandwidth) – it makes the web faster
  • Ads Mostly Suck (and are equally ineffective)

First, let me say that rather than adding adblocker software or plugins, I use Dan Pollock’s host file: Instead of blocking ads directly, it redirects ad server domain resolution to localhost. It’s fast, it’s free, and it doesn’t take up resources running any extra processes.

A note from his file explains a bit of why it’s useful:

# Use this file to prevent your computer from connecting to selected
# internet hosts. This is an easy and effective way to protect you from 
# many types of spyware, reduces bandwidth use, blocks certain pop-up 
# traps, prevents user tracking by way of "web bugs" embedded in spam,
# provides partial protection to IE from certain web-based exploits and
# blocks most advertising you would otherwise be subjected to on the internet.

I started using this when I moved to Germany and ended up with a mobile internet connection for my main line, which is dirt slow. I couldn’t afford to waste my 5GB/month capped usage on ads–or slow down my general use with waiting for all the analytics and ad servers to resolve and load (yes, I block analytics too but that’s another post with a whole new topic).

But now that I’ve been using the hosts file for a while I’ve started to think that this is like when I abandoned television in favor of the internet for viewing videos. I got sick of the commercials. So much that I joined a revolution in a new medium that allowed me more fine-grained control over what I consume and how I consume it. I can’t watch TV anymore–the commercials are insufferable.

Yes, I’m a Web Developer, and yes, I use ad services on my sites–and I feel genuinely icky about it (but it pays for my hosting and gives me pet-project freedom). So, please, block my ads. If you don’t want them, I don’t want you to have to suffer them. You probably aren’t the person who makes me money on my ads anyway.

But here’s the kicker: When I find that there’s an ad company I like, who does things right, I allow them through my hosts file filter. Sadly, I haven’t found a decent service for sporting ads that don’t suck on my websites.

Commercials need to be better. Ads need to be better. Ad services need to be a hell of a lot better. A few ad agencies have caught onto this, creating viral advertising that people actually WANT to consume. I’m sure you remember the Sonia Bravia superball video. People didn’t block it. Instead it got passed around.

Here’s another ad-woth-watching by Nokia that gives me goose bumps, which I found at the end of a talk:

In closing, if you don’t want people to block your ads, make them not only worth consuming but sharing, make the ad servers fast and don’t put them in the way of what users actually want to consume. Make your ads into content that is served with the other content users want–so they can’t block it without blocking everything else they came to see (all of it hopefully as good as the rest). If your ads are the content that consumers want, consumers won’t worry about blocking it. Besides, if consumers want to block your ads, face it, your ads suck.

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Passwords: How Websites Do it Wrong, Triaging Services and Memorizing

I was just reading LifeHacker and ran into an old article they linked on “How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords” by John P. It got me thinking that it’s high time I write up some thoughts of mine on the topic.

Website Passwords

If a website ever sends you an email with your password in it, they are doing something very, very wrong. Actually, they might be doing more than one thing wrong–but I’m just going to focus on the biggest issue:

The fact that the website/company has the ability to show your password to you in any form means one of two things (either are very bad):

  1. Your password is being stored unencrypted, in plaintext, in the database.
  2. Your password is being stored encrypted in the database but can be unencrypted (back into what you type in your keyboard) using a key that is stored somewhere in the website code.

Obviously, the first case is worse–but I’ve seen it in small startup companies.

In either case, anyone with access to the database (and, for #2, the codebase) will have the ability to see your email address, username, password and any other information you’ve given the website. Generally, with web startup companies, this means anyone who works at the company–at the very least it means that the development team has access to it.

This is really bad for you if you use the same password for all websites–especially if you use this password for your email account, which is part of the plain data available. If you are this kind of person and you sign up for a site that treats passwords like this, a malicious (or curious) worker or data thief can simple see your current username,email,password combination, then go to Facebook, Twitter, or any other service they think you use and try those same credentials.

Website Triage

When creating accounts on the web, which is something I do quite a bit, I triage sites like so:


Your email account is the primary gateway to almost all of your other online accounts. If you lose your password (or claim to have lost it), most sites will send instructions to your email account with a simple way to reset your password–often times without needing to supply any other information.
Thus, your email account needs to be hyper secure:

  1. Always use https:// when checking webmail and always use SSL to connect to your email server from clients like Thunderbird, Outlook or Apple Mail.
  2. Make a really strong password for your email account–and make it totally unique! Do not use this password for anything else!

Personally Identifyable + Financial

This includes Facebook, Twitter, Banks, Credit cards, Investment sites, Amazon, LinkedIn… basically, anything that either identifies you to your social groups, work, etc or has the ability to cost you money if compromised.

These accounts need to be extra secure. Unfortunately banks and credit card companies tend to restrict the security of passwords for no good reason. However, luckily, they employ other authentication mechanisms for login and password retrieval.

Now you might think, “What? You treat Facebook with the same password security requirement as your bank?” But I assure you, that doesn’t mean I let my bank password slip, it means I keep my Facebook password strong. It’s bad for someone to compromise your finances but it can also be a nightmare to have someone impersonate and damage your identity.

Everything Else

These would be sites that would only have my email, username and a password but no more personal information–generally services that mean very little to me and would be very easy for someone to forge on my behalf anyway (so I’m not concerned about someone getting in–or of a password leak from another low level site exposing access to this site). An example might be creating an account for a forum or a gaming site, where you need to login to get some info or post a comment. These are throw away accounts that all share the same login information.

Creating Strong Passwords

Gibson Research has an online password generator, along with information regarding the purpose and use:

After generating passwords of this size, which are generally absurd to imagine memorizing, you can store them in a password keychain. There are many desktop and mobile applications available for this. However, I’ve always been weary of using these programs because essentially, you are putting all of your passwords in a single location, protected by one single password, which is usually weaker than the passwords you can’t be bothered to memorize.

How to Remember a Unique Password for Every Service

If you don’t trust storing all of your passwords in a password keychain tool and you also have trouble remembering passwords, there’s another way.

Consider this simple algorithm for creating decent passwords, which involves only memorizing a single string that you can reuse for generating all of your passwords:

  1. Generate a random character string (6-8 characters is good enough)
  2. Take some portion of the name of the service
  3. Combine


  1. e$L9wa
  2. – taking ‘book’ (but you could take Face, face, Book, b00k, B00k, cebo, etc)
  3. Password possibilities:
    • e$L9wabook – one after the other
    • booke$L9wa – same as above but reversed
    • eb$oLo9kwa – the every other letter method (a little more difficult for a password thief to realize what your password might be for other services)

Now, when you go to, you can remember your generic random string, look at the name “Facebook” and think about what part of the name you would have used, then try the combination tactic that you think you probably used to create your password. If one doesn’t work, try another. Generally, you will find that it is incredibly easy to recall your password with ease–and after a few times of doing it, you will have effortlessly “memorized” your unique password.

NOTE: if you use an algorithm like this, you run the risk that if someone gets one of your passwords, they can infer a password for another service.

and using numbers and special characters to replace parts of the service name, which will make it much more difficult from a brute force perspective. Even so, this is way better than using the same exact password for every service, which would automatically allow an attacker to steal all of your online accounts. But there are ways to mitigate the risk of one password leak exposing your other accounts.

For more security:

  1. Generate a longer random string
  2. Change that random string regularly (once a week, once a month, your call–but more often is more secure, up to a point)
  3. Choosing odd parts of the service name (rather than “Face” or “Book”, choose “cebo” from the middle to make your algorithm less obvious to someone who captures one of your passwords)
  4. Come up with different rules for each service for integrating the name with your memorized string

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