Maintenance of Clearnets

Maximum Security Prison

In order to understand how we can break out of Prison, we must first understand how the Prison operates, how the Guards spot means of Breakouts (Tools, Weapons), how they rotate their watch shifts; and how they generally behave and react to things that are going on inside the Prison.

The same applies for a Breakout of the Clearnet. In general, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use a couple of techniques in parallel to make your experience of the Internet as bad as possible.

When we talk about how they operate, we must assume that the ISP is always the Man in the Middle (MITM) and can read, understand and manipulate any unencrypted data that is transferred between you, Alice, and Bob, the server that you're communicating to.

Operating System

In general I'd recommend to use an up-to-date Linux Distribution for means of access of the internet. Network behaviour on MacOS and Windows cannot be guaranteed anyhow; therefore it is heavily disrecommended if you're serious about your Privacy.

And you should be, because Governments have lots of Exploits already available that are automatically installed on your Computer; no matter if you're the bad guy or a nice guy. They don't care.

General Hints for Dealing with Customs

There are a couple of rules on how to behave with Customs. Since a while ago they're looking for suspicious things, so while you're still under oath you can still plausibly deny what they're suggesting.

Additionally I'm using some special techniques that have been proven to work so far. I also generated a custom initramfs which removes the Password Dialog and prints out nothing, while waiting in the background for a password for 30 seconds until it boots up.

This way when I try to bootup the machine with Customs watching me, I can deny knowing about the Encryption of the HDD/SDD and can say that it was working before and that the Laptop is broken now.

If they don't see hints about a password, they ain't gonna ask you about it.

What's also very nice is when you travel with a Dog or Cat that comes with a Necklace. There are lots of Nano USB thumbdrives that perfectly fit in the Necklace of a Dog Tag or a Pet's name sign. Alternatively lots of people use thumbdrives hidden in a Wedding-Ring as I've seen.

Remember that an X-Ray scan will be done in case things go wrong, so a Dog Tag can easily be denied and you can say it's something like a Dog Tag with a GPS in it or you can hide the keyfile as a RETURNME.md that has your address in it.

Note that Customs has an NTFS-Stream detecting Forensics software, so the cheap tricks ain't working here and you gotta go the steganographic way with an audio or raw camera image file (the bigger the better). The Entropy gets better if you hide a keyfile within another file and make that file your keyfile.

If you can, you should use LibreBoot compatible Hardware, which means it is a bit outdated by modern performance standards though the benefits of the better UEFI replacement far outweight Customs having a Super Password to bootup your Laptop even when UEFI is locked.

In times of Bugs, Backdoors and Exploits in more modern Intel processors I'm quite happy with that decision.

You'll be amazed how often Customs will ask you whether your Laptop is broken or not when they cannot boot it up ... which should give you a hint that they unsuccessfully tried to invade your Privacy, and tried to install Spyware on your Computer without your permission.

The OSI Model

In order to understand how the Prison operates, you have to understand how the internet and its underlying network infrastructure works.

When talking about the Web, most people understand it as E-Mail and Websites , maybe even VPN but not nerdy things like IRC or ICMP.

Therefore this Guide will focus on the problems of TCP and UDP based internet connections.

When talking about Network Protocols, they are divided in different OSI layers which each add different capabilities to the network protocol. These days the lines in between blurr up a little, but the basic principles are the same.

The OSI Layers that are interesting to us are :

  1. The Physical Layer connects machines via a transmission medium, like a network cable (or Wi-Fi or radio).
  2. The Data Link Layer links specific machines together, which are addressed via MAC addresses (also known as hardware addresses).
  3. The Network Layer links specific network sockets together, which are addressed via IP addresses .
  4. The Transport Layer defines the network socket data frames and its contents and mechanics (like TCP or UDP ).
  5. The Session Layer defines ids and temporary sessions. In our case this is only interesting for the SOCKS proxy routing protocol.
  6. The Presentation Layer defines encryption/decryption, for example an SSL or TLS session.
  7. The Application Layer is the high-level network protocol that Applications work with, for example HTTP/HTTPS or SMTP/IMAP .

Usually when network administrators talk about broken infrastructure, they tend to talk about which OSI layer is affected by the Bug. This helps them to identify the Bug more quickly and to trace down the broken Hardware or Firmware/Software.

A broken OSI Layer 1 means that a Network Hub or a Network Cable is broken. When OSI Layer 2 is affected, it concludes that a Network Switch or a piece of software (Firewall) that knows things about MAC and IP relationships is not working. When OSI Layer 3 is broken, it usually means that a Router or Gateway doesn't work as intended.

This goes on and on for each OSI Layer, in our case only these three layers are generally interesting when breaking out of the Clearnet (Censored Internet).

Blocking Techniques

There are several ways on what is actually done in order to block as much "unwanted" Network Traffic as possible. Most of the time, only one of the following Hurdles is actually necessary; but most Governments have multiple ones in place to achieve maximum control of their Zombie inhabitants.

MAC Address Blocking (Layer 2)

In general, network connections are automatically tagged by ISPs. If they can see your MAC address, they'll also identify you by your MAC address. Many "Free Wi-Fi" Router Firmwares actually report the contents of their Network Address Translation Table (NAT) and therefore the MAC and IP addresses back to the ISPs.

That's why it's important to randomize your MAC address not only for Wi-Fi connections, but also for cable connections.

# Assumes enp3s0 is your cable connection
sudo macchanger -r enp3s0;

# Assumes wlp3s0 is your wifi connection
sudo macchanger -r wlp3s0;

Deactivate all Wi-Fi autoconnect features in order to prevent being traceable by the Wi-Fi networks that your Wi-Fi card tries to ping when being disconnected.

In Network Manager Profiles, you can add these settings to your connection that is located at /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/*.nmconnection .

Edit the file as root (meaning su - and not via sudo ) and keep the chmod of the file identical. Otherwise NetworkManager will forget the connection settings and mess things up.

; Generate mac-address via macchanger -sr wlp3s0

[connection]
id=Example-WiFi
(...)
type=wifi
autoconnect=false

[wifi]
mac-address=00:01:02:03:04:05

[ipv4]
dhcp-send-hostname=false

[ipv6]
dhcp-send-hostname=false

TCP RST Injection (Layer 4)

TCP is a very nice Network Protocol, but it has an essential flaw which is called Fragmentation.

The underlying TCP data frame starts with a so-called FIN flag, which represents whether or not the data frame is finished and can be processed by the software that receives it.

If the FIN flag is set to 0 , it means that the software will continue to wait until new data arrives; and try to put the upcoming chunks together when they arrive; into this big, locally maintained history of past uncomplete chunks.

Additionally, TCP has a feature called RST which is vulnerable to a so-called TCP reset attack .

The important part here is not the attack scenario itself and that it kills the TCP connection, but the behaviour of the software using a TCP socket.

Generally software tries to recover from reset or timed out connections, so in the Web Browser scenario (producing the most internet traffic from an ISPs perspective) the network implementations will steadily try to reconnect and load the next part of the file with mechanisms like Partial Content or Range Requests .

All the ISP has to do to slow you down is listen for connections that try to connect to a list of known CDNs or video delivery networks and modify the FIN flags and RST flags of that particular connection.

Usually they also time their attacks based on known software, so they test against commonly known Browsers (read as "Blink", "WebKit" and "Gecko"). That means in the real world scenarios they just mess around the socket for the first ~30 seconds until the actual payload arrives at the Client.

This might not seem long, but have you seen a Website and its resources lately? Hundreds of resources easily multiply to half an hour per-refresh where due to the FIN flag (and DNS which I'll explain later) local caching is completely disabled.

This is exactly what happens on throttled "Flatrate" 3G/4G connections.

The bandwidth of HSPA+ or LTE is too fast to send just 48kiB/s (kiBi Bit), so the ISPs use this technique to slow down to minimum speeds until all software (read as Web Browser) breaks. Literally everything else like an IMAP based email client will break all the time and throw an absurd amount of errors.

VPN Connections (Layer 2/4/7)

VPN connections that are based on TCP are also affected by the FIN and RST flaw and therefore cannot be relied on as a stable transport layer.

VPN connections are auto-tagged and auto-throttled when they do connect to certain networks or IP ranges in specific geolocation areas.

If Sweden or Switzerland comes up via GeoIP the connection is usually off limits and is throttled to the max.

Additionally popular VPN providers usually are auto-blocked via an IP-based blocklist which means that everything above Layer 2 will not work and they're basically just a big waste of money.

SOCKS Proxies (Layer 5)

Telephone Operator Lady

SOCKS Proxies are a different story and they are hard to explain as a Network Protocol, because SOCKS itself is actually not a real network protocol but rather something like a connection delegation protocol.

What SOCKS does is basically have a Client > Proxy > Server connection, whereas the Proxy itself can be abused for blocking purposes or as a connection handler that sits in the middle.

A SOCKS Proxy can be imagined as the Telephone Operator Lady that you could call when you had no idea what the Number of the person was you were trying to call.

The function of a SOCKS Proxy is similar in the sense that it does the connecting and forwarding part when only the Proxy is reachable, but not the Server that you're trying to communicate to.

Anyhow SOCKS is unencrypted (below Layer 6) and therefore can be easily manipulated, and connections can be blocked as well. That's why it's just a matter of time before the new server pool behind projects like shadowsocks won't work anymore.

SSL/TLS Certificate Injection (Layer 6)

Most people assume that when there's the Secure Icon in the Web Browser that it means the connection is secure, private, and safe.

Guess what, usually, you're wrong.

SSL was broken on uncountable accounts.

... and that's just for starters.

The new all-new implementation is TLS ( Transport Layer Security ) and Web Browsers have realized that it's a good idea to deprecate everything as fast as possible, so the current standard that I'm focussing on is TLS 1.2 and only its specific attack vectors and exploitable bugs that still work today; just for the sake of argument.

There are lots of other MITM attack scenarios for outdated banking websites, but they are honestly too much to count or remember. Just assume that banks want to support grandmas using IE6, so they use the weakest encryption possible because they're idiots.

That pretty much sums it up, especially in Germany or the European Union.

3SHAKE Attack

The 3SHAKE attack allows a malicious MITM to reuse the client's credentials to make intermediary requests to another third-party (or the same server) that uses the same credentials, which basically means an MITM scenario where Bob can make requests on behalf of Alice even when Alice disconnected from the server.

LOGJAM Attack

In the LOGJAM attack a TLS connection is downgraded to a 512-Bit encrypted connection which is using weak Diffie-Hellman groups.

Note : This will be fixed in TLS 1.3 once it is released.

FREAK Attack

The FREAK attack abuses Factoring RSA Export Keys in order to trick servers into negotating a connection with a previous version of TLS such as SSL v2 which then will use cryptographically weak 512-Bit encryption keys.

Note : This will be fixed in TLS 1.3 by disallowing protocol downgrades, but at the moment it's pretty much optional. So most real-world websites are actually vulnerable.

ROBOT Attack

This is in my opinion most likely what spy agencies are using in the wild. The attack is called Return Of Bleichenbacher's Oracle Attack as the attack was initially discovered in 1998 . Yes, freaking 1 9 9 8 .

Basically ROBOT allows to forge signatures so that the website that says it's Facebook actually isn't Facebook.

Note : This will be fixed in TLS 1.3 by disallowing insecure key transport mechanisms (as RSA-PKCS v1.5 is considered unsecure, like, forever).

LUCKY13 Attack

The LUCKY13 Attack is a timing attack against TLS up to and including TLS 1.2 . This attack already has been proven to work against AWS aka Amazon Web Services, so it's pretty likely that this is in use in the wild, too. Oh, and it's from 2013 , so it's actually been a long time ago by now.

BEAST Attack

The BEAST Attack is primarily a client-side attack vulnerability in TLS 1.0 , so depending on your Operating System this attack might still work. Yes, I'm looking at you, Apple and Microsoft, specifically.

The attack allows the attacker to obtain authentication credentials, session tokens or even authentication cookies, so it's the real deal in terms of "Is it actually being used?". You bet it is.

CRIME and TIME

The Compression Ratio Info-leak Made Easy attack allows to using a side-channel attack against HTTPS . It analyzes information that is leaked by TLS compression in messages sent from the client to the server, so it can recover parts (if not all, given the attacker is the actual MITM) of the unencrypted messages.

Note : CRIME will be fixed in TLS 1.3 by disabling TLS-level compression completely. In the wild though, many, many, _many_ webservers still have compression enabled, so they're vulnerable to this attack method.

BREACH Attack

The BREACH Attack is similar to CRIME , but it abuses HTTP compression to read out a Client's session secrets. In the Proof of Concept they were able to exfiltrate CSRF tokens, and it works even with TLS 1.3 and is effective against any cipher suite.

As HTTP is above the TLS layer, TLS cannot ensure the prevention of this attack method. Literally all servers that I've encountered have compression enabled, so they're vulnerable to this attack.

TIME to HEIST

The HEIST Attack abuses TCP windows in order to steal encrypted HTTP messages, specifically. This side-channel attack leaks the exact length of the unencrypted messages of any cross-origin response, so the attack does not actually allow to see the plaintext messages, but it allows ISPs (aka MITM) to see what specific resource the client downloaded from the website through a simple map of byte length - URL .

Note that this attack affects all TLS versions, and is also affecting both HTTP/1.1 and HTTP/2 based connections.

The attack is known among BlackHat DC visitors and very sophisticated but doesn't have a website, so you gotta download the heist-attack.pdf directly. The original paper is available at blackhat.com

SNI Attack

With the letsencrypt initiative the usage of the SNI field got so popular that now ISPs are meanwhile regularly abusing it to infiltrate encrypted connections on a large scale.

The SNI stands for Server Name Identification which basically allows a web hosting provider to have a single server that has multiple domains pointing to it; and that its software can deliver the correct encryption certificate for the currently requested domain.

But, as you might have guessed, SNI before TLS 1.3 was transferred unencrypted and lead to plain-old unencrypted DNS request for that very domain.

As the DNS protocol is unencrypted, it lead to ISPs being able to manipulate that result; and therefore legitimize otherwise invalid certificates.

TL;DR

Always check for TLS 1.3 and above; and assume that TLS 1.2 and below are insecure. As TLS 1.2 and earlier is not really deprecated it will continue to help exploit users for a long time to come and it will take an even longer time to upgrade all those legacy websites running on legacy software.

The only Browser that currently fixes all of the above issues is the Stealth Browser.

Yeah yeah, I know, shameless plug, but it's just so that you actively keep in mind that other Browsers aren't as secure as they claim to be; even when not talking about their always-active and not-really deactivateable tracking mechanisms.

DNS Time-To-Live Manipulation (Layer 7)

First Time

Even when your network connection is encrypted, your network might be compromised. Your Computer doesn't understand what cookie.engineer or github.com means and needs a translation back to the underlying Layer 2 with an IP address that represents that domain.

In order to do so, there's DNS . Probably one of the oldest Network Protocols designed by ARPA. The important part here is that the DNS Network Protocol itself is unencrypted and that ISPs therefore abuse and manipulate it.

Imagine you're an ISP and you want customer data insights about how much you can charge for an unlimited YouTube connection (yes, this is currently the case even in Germany, how's that for Net Neutrality).

In that case you need to know how many of your customers are surfing how often on YouTube (or the Google Video CDN domains).

What you, as an ISP, can do is pretty simple. The DNS Protocol has a so-called Time-To-Live field inside it, which means that the receiving Computer should forget about the Domain in X seconds (quite literally) and Computers will gladly do so. ISPs abuse that and set the TTL field in the response to 0 seconds .

A visit of searx.me then typically looks like this :

Browser:  DNS request with What is the IP of searx.me?
Internet: DNS response with It's 1.2.3.4! Forget about it in 0 seconds!
Browser:  Gotcha, already forgotten.
Browser:  HTTP(S) request to website
Internet: HTTP(S) response from website

Browser:  User clicks on link to searx.me/somethingsomething

Browser:  Damn, what was that IP again?
Browser:  DNS request with What is the IP of searx.me?
Internet: DNS response with It's 1.2.3.4! Forget about it in 0 seconds!
Browser:  Gotcha, already forgotten.

(...)

And this continues, again and again... again and again. So even if the ISPs don't know the exact data that was transferred, they can basically log all the domain requests and times (and bandwidths of that internet connection) and then correlate back with their own downloaded versions of the website.

This is literally how they know you've visited that exact Google Search Page already and how they know you've visited this particular Web Page on a specific Website... because usually, each Web Page has a unique amount of JavaScripts, CSS files and other media included (which will lead to DNS requests and is therefore trackable by ISPs).

HTTP Payload Manipulation (Layer 7)

An also quite popular mechanism of ISPs to infiltrate your connection is a so-called HTTP Downgrade Attack that works usually in Firefox or (not-so-recent) Chrome versions.

An HTTP Downgrade Attack is pretty simple. The Web Browser has a serious flaw : It requests websites first via HTTP and only then (optionally) upgrades the connection to HTTPS .

- Connection: Upgrade
+ Connection: Downgrade

ISPs manipulate the very first request, and basically remove the Connection: Upgrade instructions inside the Response in order to force the Web Browser into thinking that the Webserver only supports unencrypted connections.

This method is used at least in North Korea, Myanmar, Thailand and China (judging from personal travel experience). I've also seen it in some networks in eastern parts of Ukraine, but I'm not sure whether or not that was ISP or Public Wi-Fi specific.

Nevertheless this is the reason why HTTPS Everywhere should be mandatory for every Web Browser installation.

Breakout of Clearnets

Now that we know how the Prison operates and how the Prison Guards rotate their watch shifts and where they stand guard, we can now discuss the Tools we need in order to breakout of the Prison.

The follow-up article is Breakout of Clearnets and writes exactly about that.

Download Website

Usually, a Web Browser's Save functionality is severly broken and it auto-formats and auto-craps up all the HTML, CSS and JS.

This website includes Print Stylesheets, so you can also print it out by using [Ctrl]+[P] or the print feature of your Web Browser.

This website's source code is Open Source and can be downloaded from either of these repositories:

GitHub or GitLab