Can You Trust COVIDtests.gov?

The COVIDtests.gov site has launched ahead of schedule and right at the top it has a “Here’s how you know” link to explain why you should trust this “official website“:

Does it seem safe? While they make a couple sound points, there’s more to it.

Do you also trust that a .gov was developed using a secure lifecycle, is operated safely and that it hasn’t been compromised by commercial motive? In other words, is there high integrity of the data on the pages as much as there may be integrity of the source identity?

I strongly recommend developing quality measures for the former (hard) much more than the latter (easy).

It reminds me of another .gov launch not so very long ago that was subjected to extreme partisan yet technical bickering…

The “healthcare.gov” website at the end of 2013 was ruthlessly attacked by Republican lobby groups and “experts” such as TrustedSec. Here’s a good example from headlines in early 2014:

Source: WFB, 2014

Someone barking that the healthcare.gov site is “100 percent insecure” and trending worse seems factually false, no? It was a gross misrepresentation for political gain if not an outright lie.

In fact, while TrustedSec used the press to spread a rumor that healthcare.gov was 100% unsafe they were actually telling congress in testimony

It is accurate that no system can ever remain one hundred percent protected against threats.

Could this kind of absolutism fallacy and obvious gaslighting be grounds for being disbarred from practicing security though?

No, because let’s be honest the security industry has no baseline of integrity for meaning being delivered in a message.

Sound harsh?

Consider that the TrustedSec CEO Dave Kennedy was on a highly-politicized PR campaign to discourage people from getting health insurance, mugging with Michele Bachmann (infamous religious extremist who advocated for dropping bombs as “one of the greatest acts of peace” while simultaneously trying to block peace agreements because she believed they could usher in World War III and the horror of… dropping bombs).

Source: Twitter

Kennedy’s obvious political self-promotion at this time went from hugging the extremist bomb-advocate Bachmann back stage at FOX news to literally spreading “100 percent” nonsense and FUD… claiming even healthcare.gov would hack anyone who dared to use it for their life-saving healthcare needs.

…saying vulnerabilities remain on “everything from hacking someone’s computer so when you visit the website it actually tries to hack your computer back, all the way to being able to extract email addresses, users names—first name, last name—[and] locations.”

“Actually tries to hack your computer back”?

This is nails-on-chalkboard stuff, only made worse by him saying the threat scale goes “all the way to being able” to know your name. So your name has been leaked proving that you’re in America and need healthcare insurance just like everyone else? That’s “all the way”?

And then there was the false claim made on FOX news that large numbers of probes of a .gov website indicates it already has been hacked or will be soon.

Source: Fox News, 19 Nov 2013 (via Utah’s Senator Mike Lee)

And this nonsense of course had the expected reaction putting people in a frothy partisan panic:

…you couldn’t pay me a million $ to go anywhere near that website #FullRepeal #ImpeachObama #MakeDCListen

That’s a 2014 reaction tweet from @livinbythelake. Today that same account is retweeting the wife of the Executive Editor for the Washington Examiner that COVID19 is a communist plot.

While clearly a “poison squad of whispering women” show they are coordinated in amplifying a fear narrative from TrustedSec as right-wing misinformation, the actual flaws were being misrepresented.

Probes ought not be directly correlated to breaches without some intelligence. That’s like saying evidence of water around a floating boat means you should guess it soon will spring a leak.

FUD.

Here was another clear sign TrustedSec’s Kennedy was speaking completely out of his mind on this issue.

His examples of “models” were sites later breached at FAR WORSE scale than healthcare.gov.

When it comes to securing personal information online, Kennedy cited Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter as models for the industry.

Facebook?! Are you FFFFFing kidding me.

FACEBOOK and AMAZON?

More than 540 million records about Facebook users were publicly exposed on Amazon’s cloud computing service…

Remember this was TrustedSec CEO testifying to Congress in November 2013 that Facebook should be held up as a model for the industry to protect privacy. This is literally what he said to Congress:

…the federal government isn’t known for having super secure web sites or even having adequate security to protect U.S. related sensitive data.

Oh really?

Facebook had just been breached in June 2013 leaking 6 MILLION records for over a year when this highly politicized testimony was filed alongside a poisonous PR campaign.

Does Facebook ever sound like any sort of real “model” for an industry to you? Facebook always has been known for failing at security and being a threat to U.S. data. It’s almost inconceivable that someone in 2013 was recommending them as a model, and it’s incredibly suspicious for anyone claiming the title “TrustedSec”.

Come on people, let’s look at this in context.

TrustedSec’s CEO was spreading on partisan news campaigns that the US government website is “100 percent insecure” and that everyone instead should carelessly put their data in Facebook (foreign adversary) hands?

Here’s how I described Facebook to everyone reading this blog in 2011 why I deleted my account in 2009:

…private company funded by Russians without any transparency that most likely hopes to profit from your loss (of privacy)… if Facebook is dependent on Zuckerberg their users are screwed.

That’s a full two years before the “TrustedSec” CEO was on TV telling Americans to hand their most sensitive data to the Russians instead of their own government.

Facebook’s massive unprecedented failures of safety (gross negligence if not incompetance) were never hard to find, and have only worsened over time:

Am I missing some? Surely this alleged “model” couldn’t have been any worse of a recommendation.

The icing on this history cake is that TrustedSec’s testimony gave milquetoast recommendations for fixing healthcare.gov that read like they were pulled directly from a 2-minute introduction to information security.

Fix the current security problems on the web site, which pose a high or critical risk… Develop a security operations center and ensure effective controls are in place… Perform end-to-end testing to benchmark the existing risk towards the healthcare.gov infrastructure and take appropriate action…

It’s so vague and generic as to be completely unhelpful.

Here’s what the TrustedSec guide to marine safety probably looks like: if you see or hear water you must be sinking, take appropriate action.

Let’s recount.

After five years healthcare.gov reported about 10 million people had received health-care coverage (essential to quality of life) while only as many as 75,000 people may have had sensitive information breached. Even that amount is disputed, so where’s the giant disaster predicted?

Headlines by 2017 were “Obamacare is working well” no thanks to TrustedSec doing its best to tell people to stay away.

Healthcare.gov popularity increased dramatically to 56%, no thanks to TrustedSec doing its best to tell people to stay away.

So, will the right-wing lobbyist “hackers” put on suits and ties to be wined-and-dined by FOX news again to spread FUD about this new health-oriented .gov site being a threat?

Facebook, the darling of the Republican lobbyists and extremists intent on destroying Obamacare, over the same time delivered the worst security practices and breaches in history (on top of destroying quality of life and being implicated in atrocity crimes).

Why so bad?

Basic American history offered us a good insight into “experts” like Dave Kennedy stumping in 2013 for the Confederate Party, even predicting escalation to the violence seen last year.

ObamaCare cannot be accepted. No matter that it was passed by Congress, signed by the President, found constitutional by the Supreme Court, and ratified by the people when they re-elected President Obama. It cannot be allowed to stand, and so the tactics for destroying it get ever more extreme. The point of violence has not yet been reached, but the resistance is still young.

How dangerous was it in 2013 for a security “expert” to tell people not to sign up for healthcare from a .gov site?

Very dangerous, made far worse by telling them to trust Facebook instead. We can think of extremists like Bachmann telling us that dropping bombs was her model for peace like Kennedy telling us that using Facebook was his model for privacy.

So back to today, how dangerous will it be if someone says avoid .gov and don’t get test kits or vaccinations during this pandemic?

Read more 2014 analysis of history for the answer.

Our modern Confederates are quick to tell the rest of us that we don’t understand them because we don’t know our American history. And they’re right. If you knew more American history, you would realize just how dangerous these people are.

So it all begs the question who do you trust and what does it mean when you see that you are using a .gov site? History has the answers.

Related: Timeline of Amazon breaches and timeline of Twitter breaches, neither doing nearly as well in trust as healthcare.gov has this whole time.

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