Krypt3ia

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

Archive for February 2011

Operation: NIGHT DRAGON Nothing New, but It Bears Some Repeating

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Night Dragon Chinese hackers go after energy firms

Latest revelations from McAfee highlight large scale covert attacks emanating from the region
Phil Muncaster, V3.co.uk 10 Feb 2011

Just over a year after the Operation Aurora Chinese hacking revelations shook the world, security vendor McAfee has uncovered another large-scale, covert and targeted attack likely to have originated in the region, dubbed Night Dragon.

Dating possibly as far back as four years ago, Night Dragon attacks are aimed specifically at global oil, energy and petrochemical companies with the aim of harvesting intelligence on new opportunities and sensitive operational data which would give a competitive advantage to another party.

The attacks use methodical but far from sophisticated hacking techniques, according to McAfee’s European director of security strategy, Greg Day.

First the hackers compromise extranet web servers using a common SQL injection attack, allowing remote command execution.

Commonly available hacking tools are then uploaded to the compromised web servers, allowing access to the intranet and therefore sensitive desktop and internal servers.

Password cracking tools then allow the hackers to access further desktops and servers, while disabling Internet Explorer proxy settings allows direct communication from infected machines to the internet, said McAfee.

The hackers then use the specific Remote Access Trojan or Remote Administration Tool (RAT) program to browse through email archives and other sensitive documents on various desktops, specifically targeting executives.

Night Dragon hackers also tried spear phishing techniques on mobile worker laptops and compromising corporate VPN accounts in order to get past the corporate firewall and conduct reconnaissance of specific computers.

Although there is no clear evidence that the attacks were carried out by the state, individuals or corporations, there are clear links to China, said McAfee.

For example, it was from several locations in China that individuals ” leveraged command-and-control servers on purchased hosted services in the US and compromised servers in the Netherlands”, said the security vendor in a white paper entitled Global Energy Cyberattacks: Night Dragon (PDF).

In addition, many of the tools used in the attacks, such as WebShell and ASPXSpy, are commonplace on Chinese hacker sites, while the RAT malware was found to communicate to its operator only during the nine to five working hours of Chinese local time.

McAfee said that researchers had seen evidence of Night Dragon attacks going back at least two years.

“Why is it only now coming to light? Well, the environments and security controls these days are so complex it is very easy for them to slip under the radar of visibility,” Day explained.

“Only really in the last few weeks have we been able to get enough intelligence together to join the dots up, so our goal now is to make the public aware.”

Day advised any company which suspects it may have been targeted to go back and look through anti-virus and network traffic logs to see whether systems have been compromised.

Low level day-to-day problems can often be tell-tale signs of a larger, more concerted attack, he added.

William Beer, a director in PricewaterhouseCooper’s OneSecurity practice argued that the revelations show that traditional defences just don’t work.

“The cost to oil, gas and petrochemical companies of this size could be huge, but important lessons can be learned to fend off further attacks,” he added.

“More investment and focus, as well as support and awareness of the security function, is required from business leaders. Across companies of any size and industry, investment in security measures pays for itself many times over.”

Lately there has been a bit of a hullabaloo about Night Dragon. Frankly, coming from where I do having been in the defense contracting sector, this is nothing new at all. In fact, this is just a logical progression in the “Thousand Grains of Sand” approach that the Chinese have regarding espionage, including the industrial variety. They are patient and they are persistent which makes their operations all the more successful against us.

The article above also has a pdf file from Mcaffee that is a watered down explanation of the modus operandi as well as unfortunately, comes off as a sales document for their AV products. Aside from this, the article and pdf make a few interesting points that are not really expanded upon.

1) The attacks are using the hacked systems/networks own admin access means to exfiltrate the data and escalate access into the core network. This has effectively bypassed the AV and other means of detection that might put a stop to a hack via malware.

2)  The data that the Chinese have exfiltrated was not elaborated on. Much of the data concerns future gas/oil discovery. This gives the Chinese a leg up on how to manipulate the markets as well as get their own foot in the door in places where new sources of energy are being mined for.

All in all, a pretty standard operation for the Chinese. The use of the low tek hacking to evade the tripwire of AV is rather clever, but then again many of us in the industry really don’t feel that AV is worth the coding cycles put into it. Nothing too special here really. Mostly though, this gives more insight into a couple of things;

1) The APT wasn’t just a Google thing

2) Energy is a top of the list thing, and given the state of affairs today with the Middle East and the domino effect going on with regime change, we should pay more attention.

Now, let me give you a hint at who is next… Can you say wheat? Yep, take a look at this last year’s wheat issues.. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of the larger combines didn’t have the same discoveries of malware and exfiltration going on.

K

Anonymous: Headless, Herd Mentality, or Convergence Theory Driven Entity?

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In my last couple of posts I took a look at what has been going on with Anonymous and HBGary Federal. Within those posts, I began musing on just how decentralised Anonymous really is. By looking at the overall picture of how Anonymous seems to work on the face of it, you might think that they are just a fluctuating group of online personae who sign up for certain operations that they desire to devote time to. However, no matter how many times I look at the big picture, I still see an underlying structure(s) that potentially have more static features that can be analysed and thus, allows for the potential of there being pseudo-anonymity.

Now, this may rankle some within the anonymous camp and likely will cause some comments here but, this is something that interests me as well as really is an academic thought experiment as opposed to Aaron’s little projects. So, you anon’s out there, take this post and my musings as food for thought as you go on about your anonymous lulz. I am not searching you all out to “out” you, just looking at an interesting problem.

With that said, lets move on to my theories.

Motivations, Drivers, Flocking, Herding, and Convergence Theory:

Before I go into the infrastructure of Anonymous as I see it, let me first go into the psychology behind the human side of Anonymous. This bears directly on the infrastructure due to the fact that humans online comprise the entity known as Anonymous. It is the psychology behind that human element, that give rise to the means by which they are carried out in a social media format. (i.e. the internet/IRC/Social media)

Human motivations can and are myriad, however, there are some basic desires that are fulfilled by action as a cohesive group. These desires or goals take shape in differing ways. In the case of Anonymous, they have aligned themselves with a “swarm” mentality, and I ascribed to that at first, but, after thinking about it quite a bit, I have come to the conclusion that a swarm does not really fit the patterns of behaviour exhibited by Anonymous. A swarm implies lack of thought and instead just reaction. The examples used before of bee’s or ants are good ones to use to show in fact, Anonymous does not resemble them. Instead, the Anon’s all have motivations as a whole and on their own individually that motivate them to act as they are. In this simple fact, the aspect of having self awareness and motives, shows that the allusion to swarming is a fallacy.

Instead, I propose that since humans are behind the actions of anonymous, and comprise its ranks, that other theories apply to them that come from a more humanistic approach, much of it being from psychology. The following theories apply as I see it.

From Wikipedia

Herd behavior in human societies
The philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were among the first to critique what they referred to as “the crowd” (Kierkegaard) and “herd morality” and the “herd instinct” (Nietzsche) in human society. Modern psychological and economic research has identified herd behavior in humans to explain the phenomena of large numbers of people acting in the same way at the same time. The British surgeon Wilfred Trotter popularized the “herd behavior” phrase in his book, Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1914). In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen explained economic behavior in terms of social influences such as “emulation,” where some members of a group mimic other members of higher status. In “The Metropolis and Mental Life” (1903), early sociologist George Simmel referred to the “impulse to sociability in man”, and sought to describe “the forms of association by which a mere sum of separate individuals are made into a ‘society’ “. Other social scientists explored behaviors related to herding, such as Freud (crowd psychology), Carl Jung (collective unconscious), and Gustave Le Bon (the popular mind). Swarm theory observed in non-human societies is a related concept and is being explored as it occurs in human society.

Information Cascade:

An information (or informational) cascade occurs when people observe the actions of others and then make the same choice that the others have made, independently of their own private information signals. Because it is usually sensible to do what other people are doing, the phenomenon is assumed to be the result of rational choice. Nevertheless, information cascades can sometimes lead to arbitrary or even erroneous decisions. The concept of information cascades is based on observational learning theory and was formally introduced in a 1992 article by Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer, and Ivo Welch.[1] A less technical article was released by the authors in 1998.[2][3]

[4][5]

There are two key conditions in an information cascade model:
1. Sequential decisions with subsequent actors observing decisions (not information) of previous actors.
2. A limited action space (e.g. an adopt/reject decision).[6

Classical theories
The main idea of Sigmund Freud’s crowd behavior theory is that people who are in a crowd act differently towards people from those who are thinking individually. The minds of the group would merge to form a way of thinking. Each member’s enthusiasm would be increased as a result, and one becomes less aware of the true nature of one’s actions.
Le Bon’s idea that crowds foster anonymity and sometimes generate emotion has become something of a cliché. Yet it has been contested by some critics, such as Clark McPhail who points out that some studies show that “the madding crowd” does not take on a life of its own, apart from the thoughts and intentions of members. Norris Johnson, after investigating a panic at a 1979 Who concert concluded that the crowd was composed of many small groups of people mostly trying to help each other. However, ultimately, leaders themselves identify themselves to an idea.

Theodor Adorno criticized the belief in a spontaneity of the masses: according to him, the masses were an artificial product of “administrated” modern life. The Ego of the bourgeois subject dissolved itself, giving way to the Id and the “de-psychologized” subject. Furthermore, the bond linking the masses to the leader through the spectacle, as fascism displayed in its public representations, is feigned:

“When the leaders become conscious of mass psychology and take it into their own hands, it ceases to exist in a certain sense. […] Just as little as people believe in the depth of their hearts that the Jews are the devil, do they completely believe in their leader. They do not really identify themselves with him but act this identification, perform their own enthusiasm, and thus participate in their leader’s performance. […] It is probably the suspicion of this fictitiousness of their own ‘group psychology’ which makes fascist crowds so merciless and unapproachable. If they would stop to reason for a second, the whole performance would go to pieces, and they would be left to panic.”[1]

Edward Bernays (1891–1995), nephew of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was considered the father of the field of public relations. Bernays was one of the first to attempt to manipulate public opinion using the psychology of the subconscious. He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he felt was irrational and dangerous.

Convergence theory

Convergence theory holds that crowd behavior is not a product of the crowd itself, but is carried into the crowd by particular individuals. Thus, crowds amount to a convergence of like-minded individuals. In other words, while contagion theory states that crowds cause people to act in a certain way, convergence theory says the opposite: that people who wish to act in a certain way come together to form crowds. An example of convergence theory states that there is no homogeneous activity within a repetitive practice, sometimes observed when an immigrant population becomes common in a previously homogeneous area, and members of the existing community (apparently spontaneously) band together to threaten those trying to move into their neighborhoods. In such cases, convergence theorists contend, the crowd itself does not generate racial hatred or violence; rather, the hostility has been simmering for some time among many local people. A crowd then arises from convergence of people who oppose the presence of these neighbors. Convergence theory claims that crowd behavior as such is not irrational; rather, people in crowds express existing beliefs and values so that the mob reaction is the rational product of widespread popular feeling.

My money though is on Convergence Theory. While herd mentality works in many respects, the herd seems less actively motivating the outcome as it is reacting to external stimuli or a certain single entity moving them to “herd” in a specific direction. In Convergence Theory however, we have a more nuanced approach to understanding that like minded individuals congregate together socially and then as a crowd, act out on their collective consciousness. I believe that all of these behaviours and observations play a role in the macro-verse of Anonymous.

I also believe that at times, there are leaders who take up the issue that they feel needs redress and then start that herd moving toward a goal by beating the drum. Thus you have the chats and the boards where people take their digital soap boxes out and speak on the target, the reasons, and the method of attack. If the idea gets enough traction vis a vis the oration of the de facto leader at that time, then, a movement begins. Which brings me to the next topic.

Cells vs Spontaneous Headless Entities:

Anonymous has said many times and rather vociferously, that they are a headless organisation. I have always been of the opinion that no matter how many times they make that claim, it is functionally impossible. There will always be a core group of individuals that will be leading an operation. It is also the case that Anonymous is predicated on infrastructure that must be maintained. The IRC rooms, the servers, the web servers etc, all have people who operate them and manage them. In this respect, those persons would be the holders of the keys to the kingdom would they not? If a person in charge of such functions were to turn (or be turned) on the organisation, they could do massive damage to the org by being in charge of key assets.

I would further like to posit that for each “raiding party” as they may be called, would also have de facto leaders. An incidence of this can be seen in the WBC debacle in the response to WBC that claims 20 people had worked on the document. Those twenty people would nominally be leaders of that cell or operation by my accounts. So, to extend this further, for every operation there must be a division of roles and responsibilities doled out to function, it is just our nature to do this. If Anonymous were truly a chaotic system, nothing would get done effectively.

Cells however, also fit as an modus operandi for Anonymous. When I say cells I mean this from the perspective of cells in terrorism. Al Qaeda, as a functional operation has been winnowed down to the point of only being a titular entity in the jihadi movement. Due to the war on terror, AQ has shifted their operations from being rather linear to a cell mentality. All of the cells out there are pretty much self formed at present. The cells consist of like minded people who get subtle and not so subtle information/mandates from the AQ HQ via things like “Inspire Magazine” or the jihadist boards. The same can be applied to the structure of Anonymous. There are still those people who are making suggestions and or are outright perceived leaders, that can be singled out as targets of interest. This may not be the case every time, but, by using the information above on motivations and crowds, you can infer that it is the case more times than not.

Nick Re-Use as De-Anonymization:

Now, once you consider the motivations and the structures that are created or used, one must then consider how would someone go about trying to determine targets of interest. In the case of Anonymous this allusion had been made (poorly) by Aaron Barr. He went after certain parties that he claimed were in fact the core leaders of Anonymous. I can’t say that any of those names were in fact core leaders, however, I will say that the nicknames themselves could have been used to gain intelligence on said users and indeed prove their affiliation.

My premise is this;

1) The more unique a nick is the easier it is to track

2) Nickname re-use on other sites in tandem with uniqueness makes tracking and expanding on social connections easier

3) With the right foot-printing, one can potentially get enough information not only to see affiliations and actions, but also real names of individuals

So, if you are on the Anon boards and you re-use your nick, AND it is unique enough, I know that you can be tracked. Add to this the notion that you use your nick as an email address, then you are adding even more context for someone to search on and cogently put together patterns for recognition. So, the more data points, the more coherence to the picture if you see what I mean. By using tools like Maltego or even Palantir correctly, one can make those connections. In the hands of a trained analyst, the data can really show a person’s online personae and lead to enough data being revealed to have law enforcement breathing down your neck with warrants.

In looking at the Anon sites, one can see regular names turning up. Using Maltego on some of those names have also given returns that would be a good start on locating those people because the used the same nickname for other uses that are inherently insecure. Which is ironic as Anonymous is supposed to be just that. In fact, one can log onto their IRC session just as “anonymous18457” etc. I would do this every time I wanted to go onto their servers so as not to have too much residual data for someone to mine.

Aaron was right in that people are inherently lazy at times. We as a species are also ill equipped to delineate long term threats as opposed to near term. In most cases though, many of the Anon’s are in fact young and likely inured to the idea that the Internet is in fact an anonymous space.

It isn’t, unless you take pains to make it so.

Conclusion:

So there you have it. I have been pondering this for a little while now. I am sure there will be more as I think about it a bit. Aaron was a fool, but let me tell you, there are others out there in spook country who aren’t. These techniques are no secret nor are the theories of behaviour. These are common ideas that are used within the psyops realm and you, “anonymous” legions must take that into account. If the authorities cannot get the core members, they will eventually get round to going after the low hanging fruit.

However, with these techniques, even someone diligent about their anonymity can be defeated. Everyone makes mistakes…

Keep your wits about you.

K.

SPOOK COUNTRY 2011: HBGary, Palantir, and the CIRC

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The establishment of a Corporate Information

Reconnaissance Cell (CIRC) will provide Hunton &

Williams LLP with a full spectrum capability set to

collect, analyze, and affect adversarial entities and

networks of interest.

From: Team Themis pdf


CIRC: The New Private Intelligence Wing of (insert company name here)

The HBGary debacle is widening and the players are beginning to jump ship each day. The HBGary mother company is disavowing Aaron Barr and HBGary Federal today via twitter and press releases. However, if you look at the email spool that was leaked, you can see that they could have put a stop to Aaron’s game but failed to put the hammer down. I personally think that they all saw the risk, but they also saw the dollar signs, which in the end won the day.

What Aaron and HBGary/Palantir/Berico were offering was a new kind of intelligence gathering unit or “cell” as they called it in the pdf they shopped to Hunton & Williams LLP. Now, the idea and practice of private intelligence gathering has been around for a very long time, however, the stakes are changing today in the digital world. In the case of Hunton, they were looking for help at the behest of the likes of Bank of America to fight off Wikileaks… And when I say fight them off, it would seem more in the sense of an anything goes just short of “wet works” operations by what I see in the spool which is quite telling.

You see, Wikileaks has made claims that they have a certain 5 gig of data that belonged to a CEO of a bank. Suddenly BofA is all set to have Hunton work with the likes of Aaron Barr on a black project to combat Wikileaks. I guess the cat is out of the bag then isn’t it on just who’s data that is on that alleged hard drive huh? It would seem that someone lost an unencrypted drive or, someone inside the company had had enough and leaked the data to Wikileaks. Will we ever really know I wonder?

Either way, Barr et al, were ready to offer a new offering to Hunton and BofA, an intelligence red cell that could use the best of new technologies against Anonymous and Wikileaks. Now, the document says nothing about Anonymous nor Wikileaks, but the email spool does. This was the intent of the pitch and it was the desire of Hunton and BofA to make both Anonymous and Wikileaks go away, for surely if Wikileaks were attacked Anonymous would be the de facto response would they not?

A long time ago William Gibson predicted this kind of war of attrition online. His dystopian world included private intelligence firms as well as lone hackers out there “DataCowboy’s” running the gamut of corporate intelligence operations to outright theft of Pharma-Kombinat data. It seems that his prescient writings are coming into shape today as a reality in a way. With the advent of what Barr and company wanted to offer, they would be that new “cowboy” or digital Yakuza that would rid clients of pesky digital and real world problems through online investigation and manipulation.

In short, Hunton would have their very own C4I cell within their corporate walls to set against any problem they saw fit. Not only this, but had this sale been a go, then perhaps this would be a standard offering to every other company who could afford it. Can you imagine the bulk of corporations out tehre having their own internal intelligence and dirty tricks wings? Nixon, EH Hunt, and Liddy would all be proud. Though, Nixon and the plumbers would have LOVED to have the technology that Aaron has today, had they had it, they may in fact have been able to pull off that little black bag job on Democratic HQ without ever having to have stepped inside the Watergate

The Technology:

I previously wrote about the technology and methods that Aaron wanted to use/develop and what he was attempting to use on Anonymous as a group as the test case. The technology is based on frequency analysis, link connections, social networking, and a bit of manual investigation. However, it seemed to Aaron, that the bulk of the work would be on the technology side linking people together without really doing the grunt work. The grunt work would be actually conducting analysis of connections and the people who have made them. Their reasons for connections being really left out of the picture as well as the chance that many people within the mass lemming hoards of Anonymous are just click happy clueless folks.

Nor did Aaron take into account the use of the same technologies out there to obfuscate identities and connections by those people who are capable, to completely elude his system altogether. These core people that he was looking to connect together as Anonymous, if indeed he is right, are tech savvy and certainly would take precautions. So, how is it that he thinks he will be able to use macroverse data to define a micro-verse problem? I am steadily coming to the conclusion that perhaps he was not looking to use that data to winnow it down to a few. Instead, through the emails, I believe he was just going to aggregate data from the clueless LOIC users and leverage that by giving the Feds easy pickings to investigate, arrest, and hopefully put the pressure on the core of Anonymous.

There was talk in the emails of using pressure points on people like the financial supporters of Wikileaks. This backs up the statement above because if people are using digital means to support Wikileaks or Anonymous they leave an easy enough trail to follow and aggregate. Those who are friending Facebook support pages for either entity and use real or pseudo real information consistently, you can easily track them. Eventually, you will get their real identities by sifting the data over time using a tool like Palantir, or for that matter Maltego.

The ANONYMOUS names file

This however, does not work on those who are net and security savvy.. AKA hackers. Aaron was too quick to make assumptions that the core of Anonymous weren’t indeed smart enough to cover their tracks and he paid the price as we have seen.

The upshot here and extending what I have said before.. A fool with a tool.. Is still a fool.

What is coming out though more each day, is that not only was Aaron and HBGary Fed offering Palantir, but they were also offering the potential for 0day technologies as a means to gather intelligence from those targets as well as use against them in various ways. This is one of the scarier things to come out of the emails. Here we have a company that is creating 0day for use by intelligence and government that is now potentially offering it to private corporations.

Truly, it’s black Ice… Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of their 0day offerings wasn’t already called that.

The INFOSEC Community, HBGary, and Spook Country:

Since my last post was put on Infosecisland, I had some heated comments from folks who, like those commenting on the Ligattleaks events, have begun moralizing about right and wrong. Their perception is that this whole HBGary is an Infosec community issue, and in reality it isn’t. The Infosec community is just what the shortened name means, (information security) You all in the community are there to protect the data of the client. When you cross the line into intelligence gathering you go from a farily clear black and white, to a world of grays.

HBGary crossed into the gray areas long ago when they started the Fed practice and began working with the likes of the NSA/DOD/CIA etc. What the infosec community has to learn is that now the true nature of cyberwar is not just shutting down the grid and trying to destroy a country, but it also is the “Thousand Grains of Sand” approach to not only spying, but warfare in general. Information is the currency today as it ever was, it just so happens now that it is easier to get that information digitally by hacking into something as opposed to hiring a spy.

So, all of you CISSP’s out there fighting the good fight to make your company actually have policies and procedures, well, you also have to contend with the idea that you are now at war. It’s no longer just about the kiddies taking credit cards. It’s now about the Yakuza, the Russian Mob, and governments looking to steal your data or your access. Welcome to the new world of “spook country”

There is no black and white. There is only gray now.

The Morals:

And so it was, that I was getting lambasted on infosecisland for commenting that I could not really blame Anonymous for their actions completely against HBGary/Aaron. Know what? I still can’t really blame them. As an entity, Anonymous has fought the good fight on many occasions and increasingly they have been a part of the mix where the domino’s are finally falling all over the Middle East presently. Certain factions of the hacker community as well have been assisting when the comms in these countries have been stifled by the local repressive governments and dictators in an effort to control what the outside world see’s as well as its own people inside.

It is my belief that Anonymous does have its bad elements, but, given what I know and what I have seen, so does every group or government. Take a look at our own countries past with regard to the Middle East and the CIA’s machinations there. Instead of fighting for a truly democratic ideal, they have instead sided with the strong man in hopes of someday making that transition to a free society, but in the meantime, we have a malleable player in the region, like Mubarak.

So far, I don’t see Anonymous doing this. So, in my world of gray, until such time as Anonymous does something so unconscionable that it requires their destruction, I say let it ride. For those of your out there saying they are doing it for the power and their own ends, I point you in the direction of our government and say this; “Pot —> Kettle —> Black” Everyone does everything whether it be a single person or a government body out of a desired outcome for themselves. Its a simple fact.

Conlcusion:

We truly live in interesting times as the Chinese would curse us with. Today the technology and the creative ways to use it are outstripping the governments in ability to keep things secret. In the case of Anonymous and HBGary, we have seen just how far the company was willing to go to subvert the laws to effect the ends of their clients. The same can be said about the machinations of the government and the military in their ends. However, one has to look at those ends and the means to get them and judge just was it out of bounds. In the case of the Barr incident, we are seeing that true intelligence techniques of disinformation, psyops, and dirty tricks were on the table for a private company to use against private citizens throughout the globe.

The truth is that this has always been an offering… Just this time the technologies are different and more prevalent.

If you are online, and you do not take precautions to insure your privacy, then you lose. This is even more true today in the US as we see more and more bills and laws allowing the government and police to audit everything you do without the benefit of warrants and or by use of National Security Letters.

The only privacy you truly have, is that which you make for yourself. Keep your wits about you.

K.

HB Gary: Hubris, Bad Science, Poor Operational Methodology, and The HIVE MIND

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Algorithms, Social Networks, and COMINT:

When I had heard that HB Gary had been popped and their spool file was on PB I thought that it was unfortunate for them as a fairly well known company. Once the stories started coming out though with the emails being published online, I began to re-think it all. It seems that Aaron Barr really fucked the pooch on this whole thing. He primarily did so due to his own hubris, and for this I cannot fault Anonymous for their actions (within reason) in breaking HB Gary and Barr’s digital spine.

It seems that Barr was labouring not only a flawed theory on tracking social networks, but also in that he planned on selling such a theory and application to the government. One notion was bad, and the other was worse. First off though, lets cover the science shall we? Barr wanted to track users on social networks and show connections that would lead to further data on the users. The extension that he was trying to make was obtaining actual real names, locations and affiliations from disparate sources (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, IRC, etc) While this type of data gathering has been done in the past, it has not usually been culled from multiple sources automatically electronically and then strung together to form a coherent pattern. In short, Barr was wanting to create software/scripts to just scrape content, and then try to connect the dots based on statistics to tie people to an entity like Anonymous. The problem, and what Barr seemed to not comprehend, is that the Internet is a stochastic system, and as such it is impossible to do what he wanted with any kind of accuracy. At least in the way he wanted to do it, you see, it takes some investigation skills to make the connections that a scripted process cannot.

This can be seen directly from the article snippet below where the programmer calls Barr on his flawed logic in what he was doing and wanted to do.

From “How one man tracked down Anonymous and paid a heavy price

“Danger, Will Robinson!”

Throughout Barr’s research, though, the coder he worked with worried about the relevance of what was being revealed. Barr talked up the superiority of his “analysis” work, but doubts remained. An email exchange between the two on January 19 is instructive:

Barr: [I want to] check a persons friends list against the people that have liked or joined a particular group.

Coder: No it won’t. It will tell you how mindless their friends are at clicking stupid shit that comes up on a friends page. especially when they first join facebook.

Barr: What? Yes it will. I am running throug analysis on the anonymous group right now and it definately would.

Coder: You keep assuming you’re right, and basing that assumption off of guilt by association.

Barr: Noooo….its about probabilty based on frequency…c’mon ur way smarter at math than me.

Coder: Right, which is why i know your numbers are too small to draw the conclusion but you don’t want to accept it. Your probability based on frequency right now is a gut feeling. Gut feelings are usually wrong.

Barr: [redacted]

Coder: [some information redacted] Yeah, your gut feelings are awesome! Plus, scientifically proven that gut feelings are wrong by real scientist types.

Barr: [some information redacted] On the gut feeling thing…dude I don’t just go by gut feeling…I spend hours doing analysis and come to conclusions that I know can be automated…so put the taco down and get to work!

Coder: I’m not doubting that you’re doing analysis. I’m doubting that statistically that analysis has any mathematical weight to back it. I put it at less than .1% chance that it’s right. You’re still working off of the idea that the data is accurate. mmmm…..taco!

Aaron, I have news for you, the coder was right! Let the man eat his taco in peace! For God’s sake you were hanging your hat completely on scrape data from disparate social networks to tie people together within a deliberately anonymous body of individuals! Of course one could say that this is not an impossible feat, but, one would also say that it would take much more than just gathering statistical data of logins and postings, it would take some contextual investigation too. This was something Barr was not carrying out.

I actually know something about this type of activity as you all may know. I do perform scraping, but, without real context to understand the data (i.e. understanding the users, their goals, their MO, etc) then you really have no basis to predict what they are going to do or really their true affiliations. In the case of jihadi’s they often are congregating on php boards, so you can easily gather their patterns of friendship or communications just by the postings alone. Now, trying to tie these together with posts on other boards, unless the users use the same nick or email address, is nearly impossible.

Just how Aaron Barr was proposing to do this and get real usable data is beyond comprehension. It was thus that the data he did produce, and then leak to the press enraged Anonymous, who then hacked HB Gary and leaked the data in full claiming that none of the data was correct. Either way, Aaron got his clock cleaned not only from the hack (which now claims to have been partially a social engineering attack on the company) but also from the perspective of his faulty methodologies to harvest this data being published to the world by Anonymous.

OSINT, Counter-Intelligence, and Social Engineering:

The real ways to gather the intelligence on people like Anonymous’ core group is to infiltrate them. Aaron tried this at first, but failed to actually be convincing at it. The Anon’s caught on quickly to him and outed him with relish, they in fact used this as an advantage, spurring on their own efforts to engineer the hack on HB Gary. Without the right kind of mindset or training, one cannot easily insert themselves in a group like this and successfully pull of the role of mole or double agent.

In the case of Anonymous though, it is not impossible to pull this off. It would take time and patience. Patience it seems that Aaron Barr lacked as much as he did on scientific and mathematical method where this whole expedition was concerned. Where his method could have been successful would have only come from the insertion of an agent provocateur into the core group to gather intel and report back those connections. Without that, the process which Aaron was trying would have yielded some data, but to sift through it all with interviews by the FBI and other agencies would have become ponderous and useless in the end.

It is my belief that there is a core group of Anon’s as I have said before. Simply from a C&C structure, there has to be an operational core in order for there to be cohesion. This can be seen in any hive structure like bees, there are drones, and there is a queen. A simple infrastructure that works efficiently, and in the case of anon, I believe it is much the same. So, were one looking to infiltrate this core, they would have a bit of a time doing so, but, it could be done. Take out the core, and you take out the operational ability of the unit as a whole to be completely effective. To do this though, one should be able to understand and apply the precepts of counter intelligence warfare, something Barr failed to grasp.

In the end.. It bit him pretty hard in the ass because he was in a hurry to go to press and to sell the ideas to the military industrial complex. Funny though, the real boys and girls of the spook world would have likely told him the same thing I am saying here… No sale.

Oh well… Arron Icarus Barr flew too close to the anonymous sun on wings made from faulty mathematical designs and burned up on re-entry.

K.

Ligatt, Moralism, The Law, and The Batman

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Recent events have brought some interesting ideas to the fore as well as situations that some are grappling with. The catalyst for all of this is the Ligatt hack. Ligatt, for those of you not playing the home game, is the name of a company in Atlanta GA who’s CEO is named Greg Evans.

Evans has for a long time, been a joke in the security community at large, but this last year, he decided to up his game and put out a book called “How To Be The Worlds #1 Hacker” This title of course got people interested and Ben Rothke, a security researcher decided to review it. What he and others found was that great swaths of the book had been plagiarized from other researchers books and articles across the security sphere.

What has commenced since then has been a free for all of litigiousness as well as outright lying and machinations on the part of Evans to bully those who called him on his plagiarism. The height of which was a law suit against 25 ” stock bashers” as he and his lawyer termed it. That suit was a tort suit and was aimed at silencing his critics. This however did not work. The suit was lost by him and all that remains now is a decision on how much Evans will owe in legal fees for the defendants lawyers fees.

But… Evans would come back again and again. He would perniciously attack those same people he had tried to sue with more threats of legal actions as well as physical threats. He then turned to making t-shirts with “I’m a Racist Hacker” on them with Chris John Riley’s picture on them. Lastly, he bought the domain names of whoever he could, and re-directed their domain names to his personal site where he had created pages for each person/personae. What was worse, was that each page claimed that the individual “recommended” him as the worlds number one hacker or as an infosec speaker.

There were other antics and much bloviating but, you get the point. It had become plain to us all that nothing we could do to Evans would change his ways. Nothing we could say or do would stop him being who he is.. He is the equivalent of the infosec worlds Joker. Not the joker of the Dark Knight films, but more like the goofball on the animated series. Just dangerous enough, to be a threat to the community but not one that would kill us all.

And that’s where we were until the escalation started.

First there was Ligattleaks. A novel idea, but one that has been done. Ligattleaks encouraged the insiders to leak the real story behind the facade that Evans put out unceasingly on YouTube and in endless press releases. It had seemed that Ligattleaks was starting to get people to talk, but wasn’t coming up with any real data. Until recently, when an unknown finally had had enough and leaked his email spool file.

Was it hacked? Or was it a leak? What would the data within the file hold with regard to Evans’ wrongdoings? The file was released on the internet in torrent form and began to be downloaded and seeded. It was out, and the leaks began showing up on pastebin with more rapidity. Ligattleaks took on the role of being the single location for anyone to look to find all that data that had been posted and something amazing happened…

Evans has been silent.

Blissful silence, no videos, no press releases, and no more escalation on his part claiming to be suing everyone in a higher Federal court. Perhaps his time is up we all thought, and then the Twitter feeds started up with the moralizing about the ethics of what had been done and what was happening post the leak of his data. The hand wringing had begun and to that I must respond.

Ligatt will not change. Ligatt will continue on his way and he will only become more bold with each success he has. Legal means have been sought as a remedy, but this guy has used the system so well and so long, that it is impossible to make things stick to him. He is in fact the civil court version of the “Teflon Don” Sure, he loses many of his cases that he brings to the court, but in the process he harms those he decides to use tort law against for his own personal goals. He just keeps on with his criminal behaviour and there is nothing the police can do. In fact, in this case, Ligatt/Evans have skated for quite a long time. Not even the FBI or the SEC could get the dirt on him… Yet.

Sometimes it takes extraordinary means to effect the ends for the good of others. In this case, someone either leaked that data to the Internet as an insider, or, someone hacked Greg and Ligatt and put the data out in the open. Either way in my eyes, the ends justified the means. In as much as has been leaked on the Internet so far, some interesting patterns of behaviour have turned up. More litigation manoeuvres  have been released and we all have seen just how well he uses the system to cause others pain. So, if that data, now out in the open, prevents him from doing more harm, so be it. No matter what means the data was obtained. What we can hope for though, is that those who are in possession of the data do the right thing and redact information that will harm others, even those he does business with.

So, for those who are hand wringing about the hacking that may have gone on and the ethics within our community as we laud whoever it was, let it go. It’s done and it has possibly put at least a temporary stop to the particular brand of crazy that is Gregory Evans.

Sometimes the world needs a Batman.

K.

 

Written by Krypt3ia

2011/02/07 at 02:00

Posted in LIGATT

Nuclear Jihad: AKA, Is That A Dirty Bomb In Your Pocket? Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

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Al-Qaida is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build “dirty” bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.

A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a “nuclear 9/11”.

Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing “workable and efficient” biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.

Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.

Full article HERE

So, the Wikileaks strike again eh? This is news how exactly though? I mean, the state of nuclear affairs let alone biological has been such that since the break up of the Sov state, we have had a huge problem with missing materials. So, lets break it down shall we?

    • AQ’s stated goals have always included nuclear and biological ambitions
    • Since the collapse of the USSR nuclear and biological materials have been for sale
    • Our own methods of protecting high value targets other than actual U235 have been lackluster
    • Our BSL4 labs in some cases included weaknesses that would only require a rock through a window to release toxins
    • If you wanted to make a read dirty bomb in downtown Cambridge, you just have to get a bomb close enough to the reactor at MIT

There are more, but do I really need to go on? So, we have been lucky so far that the Jihadists have not been that serious so as to have already gotten the materials and used them. The moral of the story? Keep up with the interdictions. Keep setting up radiological detectors at the ports and the like. Just keep vigilant really. As for the biological materials, I would suggest that we protect them all with due care.

Krypt0s

Written by Krypt3ia

2011/02/02 at 00:30

FUD! GET YER FUD HERE! : AP Exclusive: Report warns of Iran nuke disaster

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VIENNA – The control systems of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant have been penetrated by a computer worm unleashed last year, according to a foreign intelligence report that warns of a possible Chernobyl-like disaster once the site becomes fully operational.

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, also has raised the specter of the 1986 reactor explosion in Ukraine, but suggested last week that the danger had passed.

The report, drawn up by a nation closely monitoring Iran’s nuclear program and obtained by The Associated Press, said such conclusions were premature and based on the “casual assessment” of Russian and Iranian scientists at Bushehr.

With control systems disabled by the virus, the reactor would have the force of a “small nuclear bomb,” it said.

“The minimum possible damage would be a meltdown of the reactor,” it says. “However, external damage and massive environmental destruction could also occur … similar to the Chernobyl disaster.”

Full article HERE

Alright enough already with this talk about Stuxnet causing an Iranian Chernobyl! Look, Stuxnet was programmed in a VERY specific way to work its voodoo on the processing of Uranium, NOT on the management of the rods being excited within a reactor! The program attacked the PLC’s for specified Siemens controllers that worked with the centrifuges that spun the Uranium into fissile material.

So, who now is thinking that perhaps this little piece of reporting might be a red herring huh?

Yep…

Of course the Iranians at this time are so freaked out that they will not patch the systems that have been infected with patches from Siemens because they are too paranoid! God, I love that! Well played USA/UK/Israel for even after Stuxnet has been outed and much research has gone into it, Iran still is totally fucked! Well done! The Iranians have been a paranoid group for a long time, now they are just totally unhinged I suspect with all of the Stuxnet hype and their own brand of internal denial and heads in the sand.

Psssst hey Iran… Jester also infected your LOIC too!

Hey.. Hey now don’t cry…

Krypt0s