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Will ParanoidLinux Protect the Truly Paranoid? 236

Posted by kdawson
from the tinfoil-laptop-carrying-case dept.
ruphus13 writes "There are still places on the world where having anonymity might mean the difference between life and death. Covering one's tracks is considered to be of such paramount importance that we are now witnessing the rise of a Linux distro catering to the most paranoid. The 'alpha-alpha' version of ParanoidLinux is now out. But is this the best way to protect oneself? Couldn't it be easily circumvented? The article asks, 'Why is it necessary to put the applications and services designed to protect anonymity, to encrypt files, to make the user nameless and faceless, all together, in one distribution? Let's think in a truly paranoid manner. Wouldn't it be far easier for a nefarious government organization to target that distribution's repositories, mirror that singular distribution's disk images with files of its own design, and leave every last one of that distribution's users in the great wide open?' What should truly paranoid user do?"
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Will ParanoidLinux Protect the Truly Paranoid?

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  • Suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:32PM (#25258245)
    The truly paranoid user should get some help...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:46PM (#25258365)

      Are you talking about me?

    • Re:Suggestion (Score:5, Informative)

      by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:55PM (#25258455)

      Just because you're paranoid
      doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

      Remember, this is the same "they" that
      are responsible for every negative thing
      that affects you. They are very powerful,
      and pretty much omniscient, and although
      you are boring, they are not bored
      observing and foiling your every move.

    • They are a part of the conspiriakii! They are trying to lull you into false security! GET OFF THE GRID! Burn your credit cards! Burn your drivers license! Burn your birth certificate! GO FAR AWAY!!!!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:05PM (#25258549)

      The truly paranoid user should get some help...

      So says one of the brainwashed masses. Have you considered that perhaps the only reason you don't believe that the government is reading and writing your thoughts is because you have been programmed to think that way? And have you considered that perhaps the paranoid aren't crazy but they only appear that way because you have been programmed to think that way?

      Of course not! This level of introspection would require you to break free of your programming. And even if you were able to independently do so, without wearing a psychotronic radiation deflector beanie you would just be reprogrammed in an instant.

      For the rest of us 'paranoids' I recommend that we hunker down and reinforce each others 'crazy' ideas. After all, we are the only ones who recognize our thoughts for what they are: sanity. And no, we don't consider our criticizing of the lack of introspection of the brainwashed masses to be hypocrisy because we *know* that we are right, unlike the brainwashed masses who are programmed to think that way.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Actually, I know for a fact that it is you who has been brainwashed into that state of paranoia: I work for a government agency which does that to people, simply for the entertainment value. Nice to see our out work here too: I rarely get to interact with our subjects!...

        Where do you think those 700 thousand million dollars are going to? The whole crash thing is just cover up: that money is coming directly to us. I'll look up your file on Monday first thing in the morning.

        • I'm sorry, but i can't tell you... that the 700 billion (as in 700 thousand million for the non-retarded) go into our new project, to brainwash you into thinking you are brainwashing others, while in fact you live in gel filled containers in giant towers, with a giant probe up your ass. I heart it's for "power" or something. But I'm not sure what kind of "power".

          Oh well... I have to take my blue pill and get started working. See you later...

          • by ozphx (1061292)

            You know how you take that blue pill and wake up 8 hours later with your hair smelling slightly of faeces?

            Yeah, its not for power. One things for sure, its goddamn funny!

            Back to tracking down that guy who leaked images to goatse.cx! Cyas!

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        >... Have you considered that perhaps the only reason you don't believe that the government is reading and writing your thoughts is because you have been programmed to think that way?

        No. I never drink tap water.

    • by houghi (78078) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:23PM (#25258707)

      The truly paranoid user should get some help...

      I would love to, but who to trust ...

    • I've tagged the story "thetrulyparanoidusershouldgetsomehelp".
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ciderVisor (1318765)
      Ceiling Cat is watching you masturbate.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Pathwalker (103) *
        Ahh - but who watches Ceiling Cat while Ceiling Cat is watching you?

        Actually I'd probably be better off not knowing - it's probably someone from /b/.
  • well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fractic (1178341)

    What should truly paranoid user do?

    get help?

    • Re:well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NFN_NLN (633283) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:24PM (#25258713)

      What should truly paranoid user do?

      get help?

      get BSD?

      Seriously, there is already an OS aimed at security... OpenBSD:

      "Our efforts emphasize portability, standardization, correctness, proactive security and integrated cryptography."

      "Audit Process:

      Our security auditing team typically has between six and twelve members who continue to search for and fix new security holes. We have been auditing since the summer of 1996. The process we follow to increase security is simply a comprehensive file-by-file analysis of every critical software component. We are not so much looking for security holes, as we are looking for basic software bugs, and if years later someone discovers the problem used to be a security issue, and we fixed it because it was just a bug, well, all the better. Flaws have been found in just about every area of the system. Entire new classes of security problems have been found during our audit, and often source code which had been audited earlier needs re-auditing with these new flaws in mind. Code often gets audited multiple times, and by multiple people with different auditing skills."

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by H3g3m0n (642800)
        That is for security *NOT* anonymity, those are completely different things.

        Paranoid people need to ensure that things like Banshee in Gnome don't perform the "Similar Artists" lookup in case the RIAA is watching, or they are in a place where the internet is restricted, or where there taste in music could get them in trouble.

        Then there is the issue of cached files, Gnome by default keeps a listing of all the files you open, it keeps a thumbnail of image that appears in Nautilus. You need to disable a
      • Someone could resurrect the Anonym.os [sourceforge.net] project, an OpenBSD live CD with anonymity tools.

  • It sets up fairly easily and once you've got it running no one will ever come near you again ... to harm you.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It sets up fairly easily and once you've got it running no one will ever come near you again ... to harm you.

      They just want you to think that tinfoilhats protect you. Actually, they work as antennas.

  • by jalefkowit (101585) <jason@jasonlef k o w i t z . n et> on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:34PM (#25258265) Homepage

    What should [the] truly paranoid user do?

    Trust no one?

  • Hermit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by el_chupanegre (1052384) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:38PM (#25258297)

    A truly paranoid person would be suspicious of absolutely everyone and everything. That would mean writing your own OS on your own hardware etc etc.

    Since this is impossible, go and live in hiding with no human contact or chance thereof.

    Why would you download this 'super-safe' OS from some people you never met, through a public unencrypted network, if your life depended on it?

    • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:16PM (#25259601)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_H._Moore [wikipedia.org] designed his own language (Forth), an OS, chip design software and designed his own CPUs.

      I'd say he's well on his way to achieving this.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_H._Moore [wikipedia.org] designed his own language (Forth), an OS, chip design software and designed his own CPUs.

        I'd say he's well on his way to achieving this.

        You would still be communicating through someone else's network though.

        Are you relying on any chips from anyone else or are you constructing all the hardware yourself (including RAM, hard drive, network card etc)?

        Point is, unless you build everything in the entire loop (including the machines on the other end of the link) you can't know that there aren't secret backdoors built in or eavesdroppers on your network. Even then, who says that what's on the other end of the link is the person you were supposed to

    • by xant (99438)

      This one? Probably not. Maybe a later version. Trust in software and systems is built the same way trust in people is built: with time to wait for failures and exposure to the principles. Casual people will try it out first, find the problems, and then maybe in 5 years it'll be trustworthy enough to use.

      Nothing is 100% trustable. There is a nonzero chance that your perfectly secure software will spontaneously reconfigure itself into a spying device for the Chinese, just based on the laws of probability

    • Re:Hermit (Score:4, Informative)

      by Phat_Tony (661117) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @08:38PM (#25260185)
      This is obviously not aimed at the truly paranoid, though. Paranoia is a psychological disease that makes people irrationally believe that everyone's out to get them. The paranoid would probably be particularly suspicious of any product aimed at paranoid people, and they really won't trust this product at all, because they are irrationally afraid of everyone and everything. Even if a bunch of well-known security researchers with good reputations had audited the source code and said it's a great implementation, and the principles leading the project were well known people with a good reputation, the truly paranoid would still fear it, because there is no limit to the scope of a conspiracy they'll believe in.

      But there's no reason to ask whether or not the truly paranoid would be willing to use Paranoid Linux, because it's not aimed at them. It's just a clever name. It's aimed at people who actually have a rational fear that someone's out to get them. (Note that, if everyone really was out to get you, and you knew that they were, it would be impossible for you to be paranoid. The following is not an actual instance of Godwin's Law because I'm not using this to counteract anybody's argument, it's just an actual good example: while Hitler's often been described as paranoid, it would actually have been impossible for him to have been paranoid. Nearly every person in the world really did have potential reasons to be out to get him.)

      So this is aimed at people like political dissenters in oppressive countries. They aren't paranoid, but in many ways they act like paranoid people, because it truly is possible, or even likely, that someone really is out to get them.

      The main thing I worry about is that the mere presence of Paranoid Linux installed on your machine will be grounds for prosecuting you in the places where it's most needed. Is Paranoid Linux paranoid enough to make itself appear indistinguishable from Windows? Can Paranoid Linux run in the background as a stealth rootkit on Windows that you can't even find or access without secret, user-specifiable knowledge?
    • Why would you download this 'super-safe' OS from some people you never met, through a public unencrypted network, if your life depended on it?

      As opposed to downloading (or buying) an OS from some people you never met through a public unencrypted network?

      Seems like if my life depended on privacy this would be a pretty viable choice (at least once it's out of alpha).

    • by Petrushka (815171)

      Surely the person who truly wants to preserve their privacy, whether for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, would not want to draw attention to him/herself by using an OS that less than 1% of the world population uses?

      Seems to me that using a homegrown OS, or even Linux, is tantamount to waving a big red banner labelled "Hey! I use a non-orthodox OS and am technically competent! I am likely to have secured my data in a comparatively unusual fashion!" Sure, technology lik

  • by Phyrexicaid (1176935) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:39PM (#25258301)
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow uses this idea (and name), and the distro was started based on that.
  • So, you'd like me to THINK I should post me extensive array of opinions on this distribution here? Well you're not so smart after all! ha-ha! You'll never get me, you hear me?! neVERE!! hahahahahhahahhahahaahaaaaaa.....
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:41PM (#25258327) Homepage

    If you do not examine the source, how can you trust any piece of software? You are in effect agreeing to trust the unknown people that have looked at the source. Except in the case of a smallish distribution nobody may have actually looked into that particular distribution in any detail at all.

    Of course, there is a greater issue of trust. If you accept chips made by unknown fabricators, do you know what microcode has been implemented? If you cannot examine the "source code" of the chips being used how can you actually trust that these chips are not doing things behind your back to reveal your identity and files?

    So without a truly "open" computer, you are trusting a whole raft of unknown individuals and companies with your identity, your data, your reputation.

    Moreover, if you are not knowledgeable about programming languages, using any computer is an act of utter faith with plenty of reason to not be so trusting. It is like climbing a mountain with a guide that only lost "a few" parties last year.

    • but how can you know the source code your running is what youve been shown?
      even if you compile it all you have to assume your using a clean compiler.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zxaos (910908)

        You implement your own compiler in assembly, on open chips, and then you compile a checked version of gcc with the compiler you built and go on from there.

        Obviously. :p

    • by cdfh (1323079) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:16PM (#25258653) Homepage

      Ken Thompson talks about using untrusted compilers in his lecture, "Reflections on Trusting Trust" [bell-labs.com].

      (See also: this [scienceblogs.com])

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by slimjim8094 (941042)

        Great, and really cool, thought experiment. However, you can hand-assemble fairly easily (I wouldn't, though) and then you don't even need to trust so much as an assembler.

        For the paranoid but lazy - check the C source for spies, compile to assembler, check the assembler and make sure it matches the C code, then hand-assemble.

        Or write your own quick and dirty C compiler, use it to compile GCC, then compile it with itself so you get the nifty optimizations.

    • by westlake (615356)
      If you do not examine the source, how can you trust any piece of software? You are in effect agreeing to trust the unknown people that have looked at the source.
      .

      It gets even better:

      You've read the source.

      Do you trust the people who taught you how to read the source?

      Do you really understand what is going on here - not only on paper but in the real world?

      For example: the code implements a cryptographic or routing algorithm that looks sound or at least plausible.

      But you were never that strong in math or t

  • easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnikies79 (788746) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:42PM (#25258329)

    "What should truly paranoid user do?"

    Stay off the internet.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:49PM (#25258383)

    1. Always borrow random open wifi access points,
    in a geographic pattern not centered around your habitual location
    2. Get a new unknowing assistant to type in roughly what you want to say each time. There are pattern detectors for your ways of expressing things.
    3. Establish online identities such as gmail that have no tie whatsoever to any of your identity info or financial info

  • What do do? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rick Zeman (15628) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:49PM (#25258385)

    What should truly paranoid user do?

    Pull the tinfoil hat down tighter....

  • by eclectro (227083) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @04:51PM (#25258411)

    This slashdot story was posted to get us to use Paranoid Linux, which can only mean that some one planted a backdoor in it.

  • Paranoia (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Renraku (518261)

    The truly paranoid are irrational and contradictory.

    They do things like refuse to fly on planes because the government obviously staged 9/11 and killed all of those people on the planes, so they don't want to become a part of that. But they'll work in the same areas that would be likely targets if another round of 9/11-esque hijackings occurred. They do things wrap everything in tin foil to keep the mind control/thought reading beams out, but happily sit in conspiracy theory forums all day, and go to work

  • by RockoTDF (1042780) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @05:13PM (#25258623) Homepage
    The truly paranoid user should get use a liveCD with a mac address scrambler off of a wireless connection that does not belong to them.
    • by caller9 (764851)
      I was going to suggest a LiveCD but you beat me to it. I'm kind-of surprised that nobody else mentioned it.

      Wasn't this the idea behind the OS agnostic peekabooty, Tor, et. al.

      Then again ctunnel rolled over faster than an SUV with Firestones [tgdaily.com] and their site still says "Ctunnel is here to protect your anonymity online!" Even though their approach, technology, and the fact that they even keep logs is pretty freaking stupid.
  • Forget Linux, throw away all electronic devices, and follow these handy tips:
    1. Preferably find a wife/husband related to you (the closer the better, because you can trust your blood kin more, but avoid anything closer than 3rd cousins if possible).
    2. Squat on a large remote property you don't own (preferably somewhere considered by other folk to be inhabitable).
    3. Have 10-50 kids (more than that and you might just be inviting mutiny).
    4. Teach kids to how to hunt, fish, and guard the perimeter of the proper

    • by Daimanta (1140543)

      "3. Have 10-50 kids (more than that and you might just be inviting mutiny)."

      4. Let each of those kids have another 10-50 kids.
      5. Outbreed the rest of the country eventually(or settle in Liechtenstein for quicker results)
      6. Elect yourself as head of state or use your numbers to start a rebellion
      7. Use your country to take over the world
      8. ??????
      9. Profit
      (10. Realise that being paranoid pays off)

  • In any case an effort like this is, for the truly paranoid, feeble. The mechanisms available, proven mechanisms, are well known.

    First of all you cannot trust any binary which was compiled with a toolchain which is not itself trusted at least as much as the code you are compiling. It is a well known fact that Ken Ritchie (IIRC it was he) added a block of code to pcc (the portable C compiler) which detected the compilation of the 'login' program and added a back door to it. Then he also added a piece of code

    • "It is also possible to create a backdoor without modifying the source code of a program, or even modifying it after compilation. This can be done by rewriting the compiler so that it recognizes code during compilation that triggers inclusion of a backdoor in the compiled output. When the compromised compiler finds such code, it compiles it as normal, but also inserts a backdoor (perhaps a password recognition routine). So, when the user provides that input, he gains access to some (likely undocumented) asp

    • There is a workaround: Make your own compiler. It can be as slow as you want, but the important thing is it cannot be targeted by a nefarious compiler. Now compile gcc with it. Then use your new gcc to compile gcc. This newest gcc should be the same as the starting gcc. If not it was tampered with. You can even use an untrusted compiler if it has a different hack in it. For CPU's you can trust that no one in Intel understands the thing well enough to do that, or use a simple CPU like a MIPS or a SPARC. Take
    • by ezzzD55J (697465)

      "Ken Ritchie (IIRC it was he)" - haha that's funny :)

    • by ezzzD55J (697465)

      "It would be at best VERY difficult to know that some similar technique was not used on any given distribution."

      here is an interesting counter:
      http://www.dwheeler.com/trusting-trust/ [dwheeler.com]

  • In these jurisdictions.. wouldn't the fact that you've downloaded/used ParanoidLinux suggest you have something to hide, and hence need to be sent to a re-education though labour camp?

  • by Lord Ender (156273)

    I'm really disappointed this story was not submitted by Anonymous Coward.

  • Wouldn't it be far easier for a nefarious government organization to target that distribution's repositories, mirror that singular distribution's disk images with files of its own design, and leave every last one of that distribution's users in the great wide open?' What should truly paranoid user do?"

    If you don't or can't trust the single distribution's integrity, there's an easy alternative that no one seems to have mentioned. You can always check which tools ParanoidLinux includes and how they are conf

  • It's worth pointing out that the USA and Canada are among jurisdictions where having anonymity might mean the difference between life and death, thanks to the existence of Extraordinary Rendition (for example the cases of Maher Arar, [www.cbc.ca] and other Canadian citizens who have been kidnapped and tortured at the US/Canada border) and Guantanamo Bay (where due process is suspended, and several inmates have died).

    • by toby (759) *
      I did not mean "tortured AT the border" - obviously what occurred is he was kidnapped on arrival in the US, and deported by US authorities to Syria (in Arar's case) where he was tortured. Unfortunately his case is far from unique.
  • Any tampering such as that mentioned by the OP would be ridiculously easy to detect and correct. This is simply not an issue.
    • by MulluskO (305219)

      Yeah, remember when some bozo was doing static code analysis on Debian's SSL implementation?
      He removed a 'finding' that resulted in Debian generating very weak keys.
      The flaw has been attributed to incompetence, but who is to say it wasn't malice?

      I think there was another story that had something to do with some dirstro leaking the password to their package respository. Actually, I think that may have also beeen Debian.

  • by xant (99438) on Saturday October 04, 2008 @07:08PM (#25259563) Homepage

    I think a lot of people misunderstand the concept of "single point of failure". With all of this stuff in one place, yes, there's only one place that attackers need to attack. But there's also only one place that defenders need to defend. The alternative is that all these security programs remain scattered in lots of places on the Internet. True, attackers probably won't be able to subvert more than a couple of those, but it only takes one flaw in your security for them to get you. If you subverted GPG, it doesn't matter much that TrueCrypt is still working for you. If someone subverted SSL, or DNS, and it doesn't matter much that the Linux Kernel is still secure. Best to get everything from one place, and make sure that one place is really, REALLY damn secure.

  • What paranoid person uses a Beta let alone an Alpha? What is an alpha alpha anyway?

    My understanding is:
    - Beta = feature complete but bugs mean it's not to be relied on in a prod environment
    - Alpha = not yet feature complete, no where near ready for prod

    So does Alpha alpha mean vaporware?

  • What should truly paranoid user do?

    Write your own apps. Well, you better write your own OS too. Come to think of it, the compiler could easily have been compromised, better write your own one of those too. From scratch.

    Well hang on, why are we trusting the hardware here? Better build your own storage media, who knows what off the shelf HDs store without you knowing. Put together your own cpu (we will trust off the shelf ram.....for now), probably be easier to start with opensparc and move on from there. Ok,

  • The truly paranoid don't trust any code they can't verify themselves. Linux is too big to be secure.

    • Why stop there? Why assume that your CPU is secure? The truly paranoid don't trust any computer they didn't build themselves from transistors.

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