SPOOK COUNTRY 2011: HBGary, Palantir, and the CIRC
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Written by Krypt3ia
2011/02/19 at 20:45
Posted in 1st Amendment, A New Paradigm, Advanced Persistent Threat, Anonymous, APT, Business Intelligence, Business is war, CAUI, Chiba City Blues, CIA, Codes, COMINT, Commentary, Corporate Intelligence, CounterIntelligence, Covert Ops, CyberSec, CyberWar, Digital Ecosystem, Dystopian Nightmares, Espionage, Hacking, HUMINT, Infosec, Infowar, INTEL, Maltego, Malware, Narus STA 6400, Neurobiology, OPSEC, OSINT, Panopticon, PsyOPS, Recon, Security, Security Theater, SIGINT, Social Engineering, Subversive Behavior, Surveillance State, Tactics, The Five Rings, Tradecraft, Weaponized Code, Wikileaks
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