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Basic Security Guide Introduction

Basics[edit]


Users need to understand that Whonix and all general software cannot guarantee absolute anonymity or security; 'perfect security' is a mirage. The reason is flaws in hardware and software are ever-present, as continual upgrades and patches inevitably introduce further coding [3] or design errors which attackers of varying skill can profit from. As a consequence, the best approach is to try and mitigate risk exposure and provide defense in depth. [1] [4]

With this understanding, a material improvement in security and anonymity requires 'raising the bar' against potential attackers and eavesdroppers: [5]

Security is a process, not a product. It is also about economics. Briefly explained, each attacker has a set of capabilities, privileges, and a certain amount of budget, time and motivation. Given enough of these resources, security of any process will fail; the goal when securing a system is to add layers of security that make attacks too expensive. Nation-state actors have massive budgets, and no single system can be made secure enough against targeted attacks. However, if widely deployed, systems that cannot be compromised with automated attacks, increase the attacker's cost linearly and thus force the attacker to pick targets. Such systems are the only way to make mass surveillance infeasibly expensive.

In the case of Whonix, users can increase their relative security and anonymity by utilizing the Whonix split-VM design (particularly Qubes-Whonix), hardening the platform as much as possible, and adopting online behaviors which minimize the threat of deanonymization. If users are unfamiliar with Whonix / Linux or have limited knowledge of computer security and anonymity topics, then it is recommended to first read these resources:

If users have more time available, it is recommended to read the Documentation widely.

Motivation[edit]

If you need motivation to secure your computer, refer to these articles:

If the reader is time-poor, then just review the Hacked PC or Hacked Email figures, or briefly scan the summary tables below.

Hacked PC[edit]

US journalist and investigative reporter Brian Krebs notes there are a large number of malicious uses for hacked PCs, including ransomware, bot activity, stolen account credentials, webmail spam and much more.

Table: Value of a Hacked PC [6]

Category Attacker Activity
Web Server Phishing, malware download site

Warez/privacy, child pornography server
Spam site

Email Attacks Webmail spam

Stranded abroad advance scams
Harvesting email contacts and associated accounts
Access to corporate email

Virtual Goods Online gaming characters, goods/currency

OS and PC game license keys

Reputation Hijacking Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google
Bot Activity Zombies: spam, DDoS extortion, click fraud and CAPTCHA-solving

Anonymization proxy

Account Credentials eBay/Paypal fake auctions

Online gaming, website FTP, Skype/VOIP credentials
Client-side encryption certificates

Financial Credentials Bank account and credit card data

Stock trading account
Mutual fund / 401k account

Hostage Attacks Fake anti-virus

Ransomware and email account ransom
Webcam image extortion

Hacked Email Account[edit]

Krebs also notes the significant value of a hacked email account. Just one breach of an online email service permits the theft of valuable personal data, account/contact harvesting, re-sale of retail accounts, spam and much more. An email account is a particularly weak link, since once under the attacker's control they can reset the password, along with the passwords of many linked services and accounts.

Table: Value of a Hacked Email Account [7]

Category Attacker Activity
Privacy Your messages, calendar, photos, Google/Skype chats

Call records (+ mobile account)
Your location (+ mobile/itunes)

Retail Resale Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Macys, Amazon, Walmart

i-Tunes, Skype, Bestbuy, Spotify, Hulu+, Netflix
Origin, Steam, Crossfire

Financial Bank accounts

Email account ransom
Change of billing
Cyberheist lure

Spam Commercial email

Phishing, malware
Stranded abroad, email signature and Facebook/Twitter scams

Harvesting Email, chat contacts

File hosting accounts
Google Docs, MS Drive, Dropbox, Box.com
Software license keys

Employment Forwarded work documents and work email

Fedex, UPS, Pitney Bowes account
Salesforce, ADP accounts

Advanced Security Guide[edit]

After reading this chapter, users are recommended to refer to the Advanced Security Guide section for even more security advice.

Stay Tuned[edit]

It is recommended that users read the latest Whonix news to stay in touch with ongoing developments, such as notifications about important security vulnerabilities, improved Whonix releases, other software updates and additional advice.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 https://www.schneier.com/essays/archives/2000/04/the_process_of_secur.html
  2. Similarly, anonymity is a continual process -- not an end destination -- that is informed by new knowledge that is constantly gathered.
  3. Security bugs generally fall into two categories: those which pose a passive threat due to eventual erroneous behavior, and the introduction of accidental vulnerabilities that are exploitable with malicious inputs.
  4. Schneier also notes several other security principles: limit privilege, secure the weakest link, use choke points, fail securely, leverage unpredictability, enlist the users, embrace simplicity, detect attackers, respond to attackers, be vigilant, and watch the watchers.
  5. https://github.com/maqp/tfc/wiki/Threat-model
  6. https://krebsonsecurity.com/2012/10/the-scrap-value-of-a-hacked-pc-revisited/ Figure 1.
  7. https://krebsonsecurity.com/2013/06/the-value-of-a-hacked-email-account/ Figure 1.

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