(Greek: κρυπτεία / krupteía, from κρυπτός / kruptós, “hidden, secret things”)

Archive for August 3rd, 2010

Project Vigilant: Quisnam vigilo vigilo

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In the fight against terror, the U.S needs all the help it can get, even if that assistance comes from unpaid volunteers.  For the past 14 years, a significant volunteer group of U.S. citizens has been operating in near total secrecy to monitor and report illegal or potentially harmful activity on the Web.

Flying “under the radar” and carefully discouraging any press coverage that focused on the group, Project Vigilant has quietly operated in the eddies and whirlpools of Internet research, feeding tips and warnings to federal, state and military agencies. The group claims over 500 current members, although their names and identities are still mostly secret.  Their members comprise some of the most knowledgeable experts in the field of information security today and include current employees of the U.S. government, law enforcement and the military. . . .

Project Vigilant

Last year I ran into an incident that made me wonder about murmurs I had been hearing within the community about “Citizen Hackers” or Patriotic Hackers. It seems that this has come to fruition with this “Vigilant” group that popped up at DC last week. Of course I and everyone else in the infosec community are somewhat incredulous about this group in the first place as we have never heard of them but also if you listen/read about them they become even more “spooky”

  • They allege to have tacit “high level” approval of what they are doing and connections
  • They claim to have access to ISP data that really should be protected but seem to have some sort of out on that
  • Claim they are monitoring 250 million IP’s and can track anyone (#LIGATT anyone?)
  • Outed themselves at DEFCON to recruit for their super secret work? Huh?
  • Chet Uber’s LinkedIn is reminiscent of Robin Sage’s except it has even less data than hers did
  • Is seeming to claim a large involvement in the Wikileaks case

When I first heard about this “press conference” and the content of it, my spidey sense went off right away. Not only does it sound ridiculously bogus, but it also sounds really scary in a Babylon 5 “Night Watch” kind of way. What it really means is that if this group has been around a while, they just got the go code to begin a larger collection mandate. It also means that the worries of many post the Washington Post’s reporting on “Secret America” (blog post here) is coming true before our very eyes.

To whit: “Who’s watching the watchers?”

If their claims have any merit, then these guys are a civilian “group” of volunteers who are accessing data and watching people online without any oversight. They are not duly appointed officers of any agency, and they are in effect, more like a McCarthy-esque cabal no matter the ostensible “good intentions” that they may have. With or without oversight, it would seem that with a tacit approval by the government and the agencies, we now have a civilian spying arm that would have a type of Carte Blanche to watch anyone they feel like watching.

I would also take up the fact that really, no one has heard of these people before in the community as well as their ranks (those named so far) have not been stellar names in security as far as I am concerned. So, just what are the aims here? Is this some new fangled version of the Idaho militias with computers instead of guns?

A cyber-militia so to speak?

Now, back to the start of this little diatribe… I had heard murmurs and allegations that the military types were lamenting not having a force multiplier in the cyber offensive like that of China’s “Citizen Cyber Army” that they have been developing. It would seem that this may in fact be the answer that they were looking for.. Or maybe started huh? But again I ask this question:

Why announce yourselves at DEFCON? If you are so secret and super dooper why not just scout people out and talk to them in private? Go through an interview process as a cutout company perhaps and get volunteers that way? Also, why volunteer? Why not take this baby IPO and make your own company there Mr. Uber? Just the type of thing the Beltway seems to be eating up lately since 9/11.

You could make Billions Muaa muaaaaa muaahahahahahahaha

Nope, it just rings… Well it smells is what it does… Like old cod on a hot day.

If indeed an approved group and mandated this bodes ill for all of our rights. It bodes ill for the country, and it should scare the shit out of people.

On the other hand.. This could all just be another #LIGATT huh….

Time will tell… Read up and decide yourselves… Attrition is looking into them… So am I.

*EDIT* As just pointed out by @theintersect their spelling in the logo is wrong too! It’s VIGILO not VIGLIO! Whats that as in Don Viglio is watching you? BAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


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Written by Krypt3ia

2010/08/03 at 13:41

Top Secret America: The Fifth Column, Uncontrolled and Unaccounted For

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The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

From Secret America in the Washington Post

PBS Frontline report coming this fall

When this article came out there seemed to be just a collective murmur as a response by the masses. I figured that either people just didn’t care, didn’t get it, or were just too stunned to comment about it. Upon reading up some more and seeing the Frontline piece, I have decided that most people just can’t grasp the sheer import of this report. What this all says to me is that the government has no idea of just who is doing what and how much money is being spent. What’s more, the people certainly have no idea (the people as in the voting public) whats really going on either.

Another factor here I think is that many people just have too much faith in the government and in the corporations. When you really look at it though, once you have worked in the sausage factory and have seen how its made, you really never want to eat sausage again. Its like that with working for the government and or corporations really. Having spent all these years in the information security business working for fortune 500 companies as well as the government, I can say I do not want to “Eat the sausage” Of course perhaps the better thing to say is that I do not trust the government nor corporations because they both are comprised of inept people and red tape.

By far though, the concerns that I have are something a bit more ominous in nature. I fear that these machinations will only lead to greater abuses of power by not only the government but also the corporate entities that they have tasked with performing all this secret work. It used to be that there was government oversight on the intelligence community, but you knew that there was some off books things happening. Now, we have post Iraq and still ongoing in Afghanistan, a contractor proxy war that now includes a civilian intelligence element. An element that now seems to be even more “civilian” because it is being operated by corporations and not wings of the government. It gives a new meaning to “black ops”

Another interesting turn in this “secretification” to steal a Bush-ism is the whole issue of just how far the pendulum has swung from the nations not caring so much about HUMINT and intelligence to suddenly being even more fervent about it it seems than they were during the cold war years. I might also hazard a statement to say that since 9/11 it has generally felt more and more like the 50’s again where paranoia is concerned about the “enemy threat to the homeland”

Are we in danger? Yes. Do we need to have to go back to the 50’s mentality of us and them with a McCarthy-esque twist? No.

Of course all or most of this is aimed at Jihadi terrorists and not a governmental body like the Soviet bloc and this is where the disconnect seems to be the largest for me. It’s rather ironic actually that all this effort is being predicated on fighting a group of people who are not generally known for being easily infiltrated nor as easy to get a grasp on as the Sov’s were. People just knee jerked after 9/11 and really, they have only created even more bureaucracy in which the real INTEL will get lost and another attack likely happen because of it.

Welcome to Washington’s dementia…